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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Mirsakova

Ignoring in a Relationship

Reader asks: Should a woman ignore a boyfriend who is ignoring her or are there other ways to handle the situation?

The sense of feeling unheard and invalidated in a relationship is a painful and damaging experience. Although it may be tempting to react and escalate when one is ignored, consider these options instead:

1. Give your partner space: your partner may be feeling overwhelmed and has not been able to communicate how they are feeling in a conducive manner yet.

2. Self-soothe: practice taking a step back and self-soothe. This can include distraction, mindfulness, going for a walk, and so on.

3. Make sure your partner knows you care about them, and that you’ll listen when they are ready to reach out. “I can see you need some space right now. Let’s take a break and talk when you’re ready.”

4. When you and your partner are ready to talk, use “I” statements and describe how you are feeling: “I feel so scared and hurt when I am ignored because it’s so important for me to feel close to you. How can we make things better?”

5. Avoid blame, accusations, and pointing fingers. Statements that begin with “you” often quickly escalate into greater arguments. Continue to focus on your feelings and empathy for your partner.

6. For future conflicts, create a “safety word” with your partner that signifies when you or your partner are feeling overwhelmed and need a break. This will grant you and your partner a mutual agreement to later reconvene when you are both ready.

According to John Gottman, stonewalling (withdrawal, ignoring, shutting down) in a relationship is considered one of the “Four Horsemen” that slowly disintegrates a relationship. Ignoring, whether it’s used as a power play, a punishment, or a method of disengagement, is never advisable in a relationship. It can have significant psychologically damaging effects. It does not serve to resolve conflict and may lead to resentment and a sense of insecurity in the relationship.

Always keep in mind that you and your partner are a team. How can you and your partner find healthier ways to communicate and solve problems together? Rather than working against one another, communicate with honesty and empathy. Remember that the idea isn’t to fully avoid arguments – but rather learning how to navigate conflicts in a way that promotes understanding, mutual respect, and the feeling of being heard. This will promote a sense of security, stability and safety in the relationship.

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