The Some partners get very quiet, and non-reactive and non-emotional in the face of their partner’s anger and hurt feelings being expressed.


Withdrawal Can Be Hostile


I did a phone session with a couple that I’ve worked with before.  The husband holds in his bad feelings and resentment for days and even weeks, then finally when he says what he’s feeling, his wife is very angry because she believes that she has suffered unnecessarily. She would have listened to his concern or his resentment at the time, but because he withheld talking about it he grew increasingly irritable and hostile during the period of his withdrawal. Usually these incidents did not even involve his wife’s behavior.  For instance, he has strong feelings of shame, guilt, and anger about his relationships with his family.  He got a phone call from a brother who said things that triggered his feelings of vulnerability, shame, and pain.  He did not share this with anyone and slowly became irritable and angry and eventually hostile with his wife.  Finally, he shares this with her and she is reasonably upset because had he talked about it sooner she would not have to endure his abusive irritability, hostility, and withdrawal.


                        But, Anyone Would Be Angry in My Situation


How does negative thoughts about how you were wronged affect you?  A majority of people, including myself, can empathize with immediately feeling the need for revenge and justice right after someone has wronged you.  Let’s look at what the experience of replaying the wounding incident, thinking about what you could have, or should have said or done.  Also thinking about what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to influence and affect the offending party.  All these thoughts are experienced as continued assaults on your nervous system; as far as your body is concerned.  Test this for yourself by thinking about a very bad incident of abuse or mistreatment.  Of course, as you replay each sentence or each experience you start to feel anxious, scared, mad, disturbed, or sad.  The incident is not happening now, and yet your body is reacting as if it is.  As far as your body is concerned, you are re-experiencing the traumatic wounding again.  The adrenaline begins racing through your veins, your muscles tighten, and your body gets ready for battle or for fleeing.  But, it’s only happening in your mind.  This is what happens when you harbor resentments; and keep replaying what the other did and how you’re going to make it right.  Your adrenal glands activate and you become unable to take responsibility for your part in a problem or to have any empathy for your partner.