Ever give your partner the silent treatment when you’re upset? There’s no doubt this hurtful emotional response is something many of us have tried. But new research says that this is an impulse we’re going to need to curb if we want to have a healthy and successful romantic relationship.
A recent analysis published in the journal Communication Monographs found that this type of behavior (and the patterns that develop from it) is one of the most emotionally damaging conflict interactions that can occur in a relationship.
The meta-analysis compiled 74 studies, examining information from 14,000 participants, with data spanning from 1987 to 2011. The findings showed that not only is the “demand-withdraw” behavior very damaging to relationships, but also found that the pattern is extremely difficult to break.
As lead author Paul Schrodt, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, told USA Today:
“The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety or may use more aggressive forms of behavior.”
“Each partner sees the other person’s behavior as the start of a fight,” he says. “If you go to him and ask why he’s so withdrawn from his wife, it’s because ‘she’s constantly nagging me and constantly asking a million questions.’ If you ask her why she’s making demands of him, it’s because ‘he doesn’t tell me anything. I don’t get the sense he cares about our relationship.’ Each partner fails to see how their own behavior is contributing to the pattern.”
Shrodt says that frequently, it’s men who give the cold shoulder in a heterosexual relationship.
The study found that in relationships where these types of emotional weapons were frequently deployed, couples experienced less relationship satisfaction and intimacy, greater anxiety and even experience physical side effects such as erectile dysfunction.
We all have our demons, but luckily, in great relationships, there’s plenty of room for healing. Recognizing these patterns may be a first step towards making your good relationship incredible, or towards finding the partner of your dreams.