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is an Advice Column for Humans by One Human. We want to hear what you’re struggling with these days. Relationships? Breakups? Family? Friends? Jobs? Mental health? Anything.
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I have been dating this guy for over 5 years now. Whenever we have a misunderstanding he goes quiet then he will come back again. This is a pattern that has been going for some time now. I like him but his behavior scares me and makes me question if this is the guy I want to end up with. We have talked about it over and over again.
Dear Human w/ The BF Who Goes Quiet After Conflict,
I’m sorry you’re going through these periods of silence when your boyfriend. It’s hard when we’re willing to communicate and get to the “bottom” of an issue and the other person refuses. No matter how calm or kind we talk, sometimes the people we’re with aren’t open to conversation.
The first thing I want you to know is that you needs are normal. When we get into misunderstandings, we should be able to talk with our partners. Although it’s okay to take space to decompress and come back to the situation later, going quiet isn’t healthy.
If he doesn’t think he needs to change, ask him to consider how a relationship like that will play out long term. Be vulnerable; tell him that you don’t feel secure in the relationship when that happens. If you don’t talk about issues, resentment will grow and he won’t like that outcome either. Be clear about what you need to change.
You can try laying out the boundaries with your partner. For example, let him know that it’s okay if he needs to take time away from you to regroup and talk later. This is especially important if he gets upset, overwhelmed and if it gets heated quickly. However, ask that he lets you know when he will return to talk about the issue. This should be a few minutes or a few hours, not “going quiet and coming back again” for a longer period of time. In essence, draw perimeters around his “silence space” about what’s okay and not okay. Try to communicate that speaking about issues is important, even though you both think it sucks.
But it sounds like you’ve talked about similar things plenty of times. It’s difficult to have people change their behavior unless they want to. In some cases, people don’t see the issue and therefore won’t change. We can try to point out where they’re wrong, but sometimes people will never agree.
I was dating a guy who refused to make simple changes in how he talked to me in some situations. These changes would take almost no time or effort. Yet, he would rather spend 10X time arguing about how he didn’t need to change anything.
“If everyone has a problem with him, that’s their problem,” he’d confidently pronounce, each time he was confronted with even a minor issue or misunderstanding. It was infuriating. But nothing I could do. But breakup and cry. A lot.
If you learn this is your situation—that your partner doesn’t think he needs to change—know that somewhere inside of you is the strength to walk away. It’s different if someone is actively taking steps to improve the communication. Effort and progress count a lot. But if you’re having the same conversation with similar results each time, how many more angles can you approach it from? As much as we wish that part of his personality could be transplanted, it can’t be.
Especially that you’ve been together for 5 years, you should be able to expect your partner to try to resolve issues. You should feel safe and secure with him—knowing that he will communicate, even when it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. You should feel confident that a long future is a possibility.
But you don’t. And you deserve to feel that way. And you will eventually. But maybe not with him.
A Human ❤️