Dysfunctional Relationships: Emotionally Withholding

iStock_000020769810Small_0In romantic relationships, we would like to think that it’s always going to be filled with passion and romance, but typically relationships go through phases where the passion and romance seems to die off.

Some of this is natural which is why relationships take work and both individuals have to work on keeping the fire going, but other times this can be deliberate.

Sometimes in relationships, one person will decide to emotionally withhold and this can border on the line of emotional abuse.

I’m not talking about when your partner is upset with you so he or she may not talk to you for a few days, may not want to be touched or gives you the cold shoulder until they get over whatever upset them. I’m talking about something that is much more long term and damaging to a relationship.

Thomas G. Fiffer, in his blog post  described emotional withholding as:

Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect.Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we’ve done something wrong or failed or worse, that there’s something wrong with us.”

How Can You Tell If Your Partner is Emotionally Withholding?

If you are in a relationship where you often feel alone, there is a good chance your partner may be emotionally withholding.

There is a difference between someone who is emotionally withholding (a deliberate behavior used to control a person/relationship) and someone who is out of touch with their own feelings due to stress, trauma or other issues.

People who emotionally withhold are purposely withholding love, affection, support and attention in order to control a relationship.

The other person in the relationship may find themselves always pursuing their partner in search of the love, affection and attention that they want. They may find themselves always trying to prove that they deserve love.

People who stay in these types of relationships often do so because it is familiar.

Maybe they grew up in a family where they never felt like they deserved love, were always rejected or felt abandoned. To them, it may feel natural to pursue love and affection, even if it’s painful, because they are not used to it being freely given and without conditions.

Holly Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist suggests:

Ask yourself how generous your partner is. How invested does he/she seem to be in your well-being, in making sure that you feel positively about yourself? Or is it the opposite–that he/she is maintaining the upper hand by ensuring that you continue to seek approval?

The person who is emotionally withholding is always trying to keep the balance of the relationship in their favor. They give you just enough to keep you interested. Just enough to keep you searching for the affection that you want and deserve so that you get stuck in this vicious cycle of searching out for their affection.

Most people are not ALWAYS emotionally satisfied in their relationship 100% of the time, but think about how much you feel emotionally satisfied versus how often you feel emotionally starved.

If you feel like you are continuously starving for love, affection, attention and support, then you may have a partner who is emotionally withholding or at the least, emotionally unavailable.

If your partner is emotionally unavailable, consider if this is because he or she is stressed, depressed, going through their own issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, or if it is more malicious and planned out to achieve a power balance in the relationship that benefits them and not you.

Being in this type of relationship can cause the person who is constantly seeking affection to have multiple issues from low self-esteem to anxiety, depression and even sexual dysfunction.

Outside support from friends, family and even a professional may be needed in order for that person to maintain healthy self-love and self-care. It is crucial that you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who know your worth and value you.

If you are in a relationship where the other person is emotionally withholding then it’s important to remember that you deserve and are worthy of love and it should come freely.

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