Is emotional cut-off damaging your relationships? Maybe it is, but you don’t even realize that you are doing it!
Emotional cut-off is an all too common, primitive mechanism we use to deal with a mass of pain that we can’t handle. It is both unhealthy and ineffective as it temporarily breaks our connection to those we love and want to be loved by. Until we learn what it is, see that we are doing it, and understand how damaging it is to our relationships, we will continue to do it!
Emotional Cut-Off can range anywhere from silently passive aggressive to outright aggressive and violent! Here are some examples:
- Emotionally shut down (i.e., reverting to one word answers).
- Hang up on someone.
- Stop returning calls or texts.
- Sleep in another room.
- Take off your wedding ring (or worse – throw it at your partner!)
- Storm out of the room.
- Slam a door.
- Peel out of the driveway.
- Walk out of the room in the middle of a conversation.
- “Unfriend” someone on Facebook.
- Not say goodbye before you leave.
- Go to sleep without saying goodnight.
- Silent treatment.
- Refusing to make eye contact.
- Refuse to speak to someone for months or years.
- Threaten separation, divorce, murder, or suicide.
Why are these behaviors a problem? Emotional cut-off damage our relationships because your partner learns that they can’t trust their connection with you. It is subject to be broken at a moment’s notice, with or without provocation. Over time it is like striking your relationship repeatedly with a hammer. It is going to be pretty scarred!
Secondly, emotional cut-off is actually a manipulation. Basically it is saying, “I don’t like what you are doing, so I’m going to try to manipulate you into behaving the way I want you to so that I can feel okay.” Seriously, we’re adults. That is the behavior of a 3 year old! It puts our needs far ahead of our partner’s and leaves them alone to deal with the pain of cut-off. Don’t sound so good now, does it?
Thirdly, think about it. . . what you really want is your partner to draw close to you. What you are effectively doing, however, is punching them in the nose in the hopes that they will come towards you in response. Doesn’t work so well, does it? This insidious tool disguises itself as protection and safety to us, but it actually damages the very relationships we want to feel safe and loved in!
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself, I implore you to get to work on removing this primitive coping mechanism right away! If you don’t find a more mature way to communicate, you’re going to have a pretty lonely life! No one likes to be on the receiving end of emotional cut-off. Often times, I see partners match cut-off for cut-off and it just escalates into an awful mess. And if you are in a relationship with someone who has abandonment, you’d better believe the damage done will not soon be forgotten. If you use this behavior with your children, you are setting them up for a lifetime of worry that every relationship is going to cut-off and they will live their lives constantly on the edge! Yuck!!
Watch for these behaviors in yourself. Ask your partner if they see any of these behaviors. If you are using them, imagine how painful it feels to repeatedly be on the receiving end of it. Work towards staying in the conversation just a little bit longer, or better yet, if you just have to get away from your partner, tell them you need a minute to calm down before you just walk away or hang up. Finally, if you catch yourself doing it, go back to your partner and apologize ASAP. If they see that you are working to change it, they will be more likely to be patient with you as you learn new, healthier ways to communicate when you are in pain!