She Shuts Down and You’re Shut Out

(Check out the first part of this article here: “He Shuts Down and You’re Shut Out.”)

Women often say that men are “off in their own world,” or “acting like they’re on another planet.” What they mean is that men don’t tune in to conversations about feelings. When a woman senses that, she’ll shut down as tight as a new pair of jeans. She isn’t getting the response she needs, so why share? If men figure out how we communicate and what women want, we can all come down to Earth.

Women learn a couple things early on. We learn to connect with girlfriends by sharing secrets, and we learn that nice girls don’t feel anger, let alone express it. Media expert Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor at Georgetown University says that little girls use secrets to cement relationships.

“Women regard (intimate) conversation as the cornerstone of friendship. So a woman expects her husband to be a new and improved version of a best friend. What is important isn’t the individual subjects discussed, but the sense of closeness, of a life shared, that emerges when people tell their thoughts, feelings, and impressions,” Tannen says.

Experts say that when men communicate, they hand over information. That’s about it. When women communicate we’re handing over info, but we’re also building connections.

But what’s going on when we won’t talk? If your lovely woman isn’t talking, it might be more about old baggage than it is about you. Most of the time, women have a pretty easy time letting people know how they feel. Here’s what the pros think makes some women clam up:

– Previous abuse, emotional or physical

– Unresolved childhood issues surrounding parents

– Poor self-esteem

– Lack of closure in past relationship

– Fear of being hurt or abandoned

– Feeling disempowered

These issues can make us stop trusting – we conceal our real feelings. Some women fear rejection – we worry that our feelings will seem silly. Some might not want to burden their busy man. Many of us feel angry and don’t know why. Anger can cover other feelings. A report from the BBC says that when women conceal their true feelings, for whatever reason, all those feelings can quickly turn into anger, and lots of us are afraid to talk about anger.

Little girls learn to conceal anger, and from puberty on women get harassed about how hormones play in to our emotions. Past experiences can make us afraid to trust or share. If we’re afraid to say we’re mad, and we aren’t sure what else we’re feeling, how can we talk to you? If everything we feel is chalked up to hormones, because that’s just easier, how do we get things off our chests? Why bother?

When men talk, you present headlines, and then maybe, answer who, what, and where – and you’re done. Women are wired exactly the opposite way. We want you to know backstory, details and headlines as a gift from us to you. We give our time, feelings, thoughts… and then data. If we fear that you’ll shut us down in mid-thought, we don’t want to play. To have a successful relationship and really cool conversations, both sexes have to give a little, take a little.

Men, can learn to slow down, accepting a little more detail. You might mellow, react more patiently, and come to a style compromise. Encourage your partner to trust your responses. Invite her to relax and do it her way. Teach yourself to pay attention and make eye contact.

Women could learn to cut to the chase a tad sooner, give important points first, and ask how much detail is comfortable. If your woman has old issues she hasn’t dealt with, and who doesn’t, she might think about some counseling to work through it.

When she feels safe and comfortable in a moment with you, she can stay in the moment as you welcome her need to talk. Then, the sexes are much more likely to live in harmony here on Earth, without anyone having to be off in another world.

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10 thoughts on “She Shuts Down and You’re Shut Out

  1. Hurtinghubby

    Shutting down shows that you most likely lack the emotional maturity and emotional intelligence to be in a relationship.

    If you care, work on it. This behavior is nasty and very immature. Deal with your issues, BOTH of you.

    Emotional maturity and emotional intelligence can be built on by those willing to learn.

    If shutting down is your go to every time you get uncomfortable, You will NEVER be successful in a relationship.

    If you are not willing to change this response(SHUTTING DOWN) it’s because you think it’s doing something to benefit you when it’s really hurting you……

    Find a healthy way to deal with conflict

    1. denis

      for me i’ll move on. i tried everything. But when you keep getting sent down dead ends. you just have to finish it.

  2. Blackguy

    Yes but the “Silent treatment” is the worst and most subtle form of Manipulation…..This is one of the reasons women dig themselves into there own emotional graves….by shutting out the one person who cares. Call it what you want its manipulative!!! I’m not a “male chauvinist” or anything…Just tired of that crap …its the emotional equivalent of physically grabbing your husband by the neck and forcing him to see things your way.

  3. Marc


    I am trying to understand this more so I can deal with it better.

    I understand and accept what everybody is saying. Unfortunately, I am on the receiving end of this right now and trying to understand more. In my case Daija has taken a lot of abuse from an outside source, and she has shut down. I am the recipient of the cold shoulder, and tremendous heart ache.
    She tells me that she needs down time and can’t talk, she also tell me that that she will call me when she figures everything out. I told her that I understood and didn’t want to make things harder for her, so I am accepting her wishes and not contacting her. Before this we were openly communicating our love for one another, now she doesn’t feel anything and is questioning our relationship. This is so hard for me, since I thought we had a very special relationship.

    Thank you for your help,

  4. Donna Alvarez

    When there’s no communication, I clam up. When I’m not being heard, I clam up. When I don’t get any confirmation, I feel disrespected, I clam up. If it happens continuously, I know it is over.

  5. Jacqueline

    Hi Taryn,
    One other trait that I have noticed why woman clam up, is trust, often woman feel like if they open up they may not be accepted, or that they may be perceived as creating drama, unfortunately this stems back to the old ways of the 50s and 60s where woman were not encouraged to openly talk for fear of rejection from men.

    So glad times have changed.

    Blessings and Big Holiday Hugs!
    Jacqueline x9472

  6. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that many women, when they feel as if they are not being heard, will shut down to get their mate’s attention. Knowing that their partner can’t stand the ” silent treatment”. And many men know that they are ” in the doghouse ” when their partner shuts down.
    And the cycle goes round & round !

    This is a great article about the art and skill of compromise and communication.

    Happy Holidays to All.
    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500


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