Does Your Partner Often Get Angry and Shut Down Emotionally?

Relationship Trouble

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~Carl Jung

Three years ago I was on top of the world after realizing I had fallen in love with my best friend. Relationships this rare are beautiful, until one vital piece of them breaks down: clear communication.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, when my ex and I came together as a couple, rather than being in love, we were both just mirroring each other’s deep unconscious pain; his mother had walked out on him at a young age, and my mother had unconsciously shut me down emotionally at a similar time in my life due to her pain and frustration with the reality she had created.

I was not my most wise when I was with my ex, and I certainly wasn’t connected to my highest self. Instead, I was living from my mother’s pain, which I had taken on as my own. And I was putting undue amounts of pressure on my partner to step up and be the man I was waiting for him to be instead of accepting and loving him for the one he already was.

So many of us do this, but it’s not our fault. If our parents only ever show us how to behave in childish or selfish ways, then that’s what we’re going to default to when we’re under pressure in our own relationships.

I watched my mother behave resentfully toward my father on a regular basis when he did something that in her eyes was inherently “wrong.”

I watched her shut him out for working late or not living up to her expectations, because she was struggling but unable to communicate how she was feeling.

Then, whenever my partner did the same thing to me and I also considered it unjust, I activated my mother’s pain and everything she had taught me as a child. Consequently, I did the exact same thing to him, toxically damaging the trust between us.

What I didn’t realize was that I needed to fully heal the wounds of my past. Without first doing my own healing work around my relationship with my mother and really understanding what she was going through, I could never fully love or trust a man, whether that man was my best friend of fifteen years or not.

It appears that most people are recovering from a broken heart caused by one or both of their parents.

I was broken hearted not from the so-called flaws in my partner and our relationship (although there were many issues), but from the deep, unconscious sadness that stemmed from never experiencing real love.

If our parents are never educated on how to show us love, how can we hope to give that to ourselves and then create a strong foundation on which to meet a partner?

It’s hard to show our true feelings to the person closest to us in our adult life if, as kids, we were repeatedly told to “shut up” every time we started crying.

My mother’s behavior, learned from her own mother, made me numb and often terrified. She taught me that I needed to be perfect, and I unconsciously expected that same perfection of my partner.

Because my mother had exhibited cruel behavior toward me when I was a child, I often didn’t feel safe to express myself around my partner and just be who I really was. So I often activated pain and anger that wasn’t mine, but was actually hers. I didn’t feel permission to ask for what I really wanted in my relationship, or anywhere else in my life.

My ex and I were products of loveless marriages full of fighting, anger, and emotional numbing. That’s the education that many of us receive on relationships as kids, and so that’s what many of us perceive as “normal.” Then we carry that education into our own adult relationships and interactions.

My ex’s stories and mine matched; neither of us had parents that showed us what it really meant to feel safe and secure.

If we could all learn how to tap into and release our subconscious pain and understand each other and our differences, our relationships would take on a completely different form.

I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings without my partner feeling judged or rejected because I had such a backlog of unprocessed emotion. In the same way, he didn’t know how to fully let me know he loved and supported me without feeling that he had to risk his masculinity and pride by being intimate and letting me into his heart.

If we misunderstand each other and make assumptions that our partners don’t want to support us, we continually shut them down emotionally.

So here’s what we need to understand and remember when our partner seems to be shutting down or struggling.

We’re not angry with you. Our hearts were broken at a young age, and we’re not always aware of how deep that pain goes or how to communicate that to you.

We don’t require you to troubleshoot for us when we’re struggling. We simply long for you just to listen to us talk about how we’re feeling and hold us in your arms when we’re not feeling good enough.

We don’t mean to take our frustration out on you. We’ve just forgotten how to really love and nurture ourselves because we were never shown how to connect to ourselves on a deeper level and put ourselves first; you can remind us that it’s more than okay to do that at the times you can see our strength wavering.

When we pull away, it’s not really the person you can see in front of you that’s doing this; it’s the terrified little child inside of us who has been frozen in time, and who’s still scared of getting their feelings hurt. Sometimes that child just needs a reassuring hug.

There’s no doubt that our parents can mess us up emotionally, but it’s up to us to change the stories we have been conditioned to believe are our reality.

Really, all that was playing out in my relationship was the result of what both of our parents had shown us. I denied the painful feelings of my parents’ divorce and played that story out unconsciously with my partner.

Most people exist in relationships unconsciously, but if we’re serious about creating real and healthy partnerships, we need to become conscious. It’s about finding the best in each other every single day and co-creating an epic and expansive life together that allows two people to grow as individuals, as well as together.

It’s time for us all to wake up and do the necessary work to understand each other so that we can coexist on this planet without pain, and learn to live only from love.

About Natalie Edwards

Natalie Edwards is a writer and speaker focusing on love, relationships and masculine and feminine energy. She inspires others to tap into their truth and learn how to authentically connect with one another. Find out more about Natalie on her website.

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  • Mark

    Really nice article 🙂 But how do we make that unconscious pain, conscious? I’ve found that practicing compassion (to self and others) brings me closer…Any other practices? Journaling is also good…

  • Vanaja

    It’s high time we stop blaming our parents for everything wrong in our livesand start taking ownership for our behaviour,this is my personal opinion.

  • Tamara Rant

    I didn’t take this as “blaming” anyone, but rather acknowledging the fact that our core beliefs ARE formed as young children, DO come from our parents, elders, role models, teachers, etc. and DO affect how we ultimately become as adults. Yes, some people will hang onto the pity party game their whole lives and point fingers rather than look at their trauma and do the work required to heal it so they move on and have healthier relationships (with others and themselves), but many people DO want to heal and take ownership of their lives. So, while I agree with you (and the author), I’d like to just remind everyone we are all big kids who’ve been hurt and until we heal those pains we’re all going to act in ways in that inevitably hurt ourselves and others. Some of us are aware of this, some are not. The best we can do is our best to become aware and help others to do the same…all in love. <3

  • I couldn’t agree more Vanaja, that’s why I reiterate that we are here to CHANGE those stories and take ownership of our mindset and the course of our lives. Thanks for sharing.

  • So true Tamara, awareness is the key here and in keeping us awake as we move through life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Good question Mark. I agree journaling is extremely beneficial and has completely changed my life. That and meditation. Most importantly though, it’s a willingness to face and investigate our dark side and as has been said above, take ownership of our feelings.

  • Paula Grasel

    Everything you say about childhood pain is valid but if it is true that we plan each incarnation as a karmic (balancing) experience, then we must recognize that we chose the very parents that caused the pain. When we have recognized and accepted this, we begin the important healing work that is our soul’s purpose for being here.

  • Vanaja

    Well put,Tamara.

  • Absolutely Paula – I chose not to dive into the area around the fact that we choose our parents since it’s a tough concept for some of grasp depending on views, but you’re right, and as I say in the article, we’re here to change the stories we might have accepted as concrete. Thank you for commenting. x

  • LovenoLimit

    I think I’ve allowed a broker person to break me. Instead of accepting accountability, he blames and redirects everything at me. Everything that went wrong is my fault. And he’s so sure and confident when blaming me, that I end up feeling like I am responsible for the failed relationship. But when my right mind takes over, I know I’m not solely responsible. I do take accountability for my wrong doings, cause I’m aware that there’s no innocent 1 in this game of 2. But he doesn’t. Maybe that’s his way of coping. By passing the blame. He have in the past expressed issues towards his mother. Things like he’s not close to her cause she wasn’t there for him and what not.

  • Pearl Davis

    I’m going through this now. I’m an only child and he was an only child, from similar broken single parent homes, we became each other’s cheerleader and best friend. We both were hurt internally and expecting the other to fix it, to the point that I’m thinking we became codependent of the other. We’re going through a terrible break up right now and I shut down emotionally and he’s the one with abandonment issues, reaching out to anyone/anything (drinking) that will make him feel better. All this knowledge had to come with research. This article really brought some things to light for me and what I need to do to take ownership of my part in the decline in our relationship. He’s my best friend too and the damage is too much for us to heal, but the least I can do is own up to my childhood trauma in order to grow in my next relationship.