Why Does He Shut Down When I Express My Feelings?

Why does your man shut down when you express your feelings?

When a man shuts down communication, he cannot meet the emotional needs of a woman anymore. 

If your man is shutting you out and distancing himself, it’s not too late to figure out what’s happening.

Conversely, as a man, you could be wondering “Why do I shut down emotionally in relationships?” Is your partner to blame?

Why do guys shut down when stressed?

Gender stereotypes affect both women and men. Where women are expected to be nurturing and obedient, men are required to be brave and strong. It’s funny how as a society we manage to segregate virtues according to sex. Today, in a more progressive world, we understand that these virtues are admirable in any human being, regardless of gender. But a culture that has survived many centuries will not go away after a single generation. This could explain why guys shut down when stressed because society discourages men from expressing emotions. It’s undesirable when a woman shuts down emotionally, and taboo when a man expresses his feelings. But what if he was raised in a progressive family? Does he shut down because you express your feelings too dramatically? 

Signs of your man shutting down emotionally

Being in a relationship feels great during the early stages because we put our best selves forward.

The idea is to make the other person like us, so we focus more on creating happy memories.

After spending considerable time, we begin to trust each other. That’s the cue for sharing the not-so-good parts of ourselves.

You may find it easier to share your feelings but your man doesn’t.

If your man is shutting you out and distancing himself, look for these signs to be sure: 

  • He spends more time on his own or with his friends.
  • When he is around you, he is usually doing something else instead of talking to you.
  • Your partner chooses not to engage in serious discussions.
  • He seems numb.

One reason for his behavior could be stress. But why do guys shut down when stressed?

What causes a man to shut down emotionally?

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Men and women can both develop emotional maturity. The trick is to find it within you!

When a woman shuts down emotionally, it could be because she doesn’t feel secure with her partner.

Or perhaps she’s upset with her partner and, thus, is choosing to shut down to either not feel more hurt or in the false hope of teaching her partner a lesson!

But when men seem unresponsive to emotions, it could be because they were taught to do so.  

Societal pressure

If you are a man reading this and wondering, “Why do I shut down emotionally in relationships?” Ask yourself, “Do I feel comfortable with expressing my emotions”?

Boys are taught from a very young age to be “strong”. Crying is labeled as a sign of weakness.

When they face a problem, no matter how hard, they need to suck it up and power through.  

Those boys grow up to be emotionally reserved men.

But they are human and do feel emotions. The problem is they get confused by how they feel. They don’t know how to handle it.

So they tend to ignore their feelings

When you freely express your emotions to such men, they can’t think of a correct response.

To them, emotions are not to be shared but dealt with on your own. The emotional needs of women are lost on them.

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How do you “express” your feelings?

Perhaps your partner knows the answer to “Why do I shut down emotionally in relationships?” Could it be your behavior? 

When a woman shuts down emotionally, or a man for that matter, she may have outbursts that can seem too dramatic to their partner.

The partner then might choose to back off because they know you’re in a frenzy.

On the other extreme, you perhaps lack emotional skills. So when you express yourself, you can sound overbearing.

If you stick together long enough, you may develop an unhealthy pursuer-distancer relationship dynamic.

In such relationships, the man is more likely to distance himself and the woman is more likely to pursue. 

You end up playing a cat-and-mouse game where one party wants to confront and the other chooses to withdraw. 

What to do if your man is shutting you out and distancing himself?

Let’s say you express your emotions in a healthy way, but your partner continues to be emotionally distant. 

Remember they are human too and capable of experiencing and managing emotions. They may just need to learn how.

The 5 reasons your partner doesn’t apologize & 3 important things to consider if you’re the one struggling with apologizing.

If your partner is shutting you out and distancing themselves, here are some suggestions:

Don’t blame yourself

When you express emotions and your partner gives you the cold shoulder, it’s not always your fault. 

As we have discussed, they may not know how to respond to you.

It’s them who lack the skill, and it’s an opportunity for you to help them learn it.  

Now that you know you are not the problem, you can team up to tackle the main issue. 

Encourage them to express

Create a safe space for your partner to express their feelings.

They may not be interested in the beginning but if you dedicate enough time together they should warm up to you. 

When they finally let go of the tightly guarded walls, they will realize how good it feels to have someone listen to them.

Then, they may even want to return the favor!

Interestingly, have you not seen male athletes and sports players crying, that too on camera?

Research suggests that it is socially acceptable for men to cry in stereotypically masculine contexts, like a sports event.

Maybe you two can break the taboo on crying in other contexts!

If you’re looking for a framework to express your emotions and improve your communication skills in your relationships: Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (amazon affiliate link) has been a life savior for me – it transformed the way I thought about relationships and communication!

Discuss your expectations

Your partner may have your best interest at heart. But when you are vulnerable they might be afraid of saying the wrong thing and upset you further.

Sharing your expectations is the way to go. Together, you two can design the right approach to debates and discussions that work for both of you.

Also, it is important to know when to disengage from an argument.

In the heat of emotions, we are capable of saying hurtful things we don’t mean. So avoiding that situation is in your best interest.

It’s NOT your work

By all means, help your partner process and share their emotions. But please do not think it is your responsibility to completely heal them. It is your partner who needs to put in the work.

However, you must work on yourself to support & nourish your relationship better and lead an overall more fulfilling life. 

If you’re ready, willing, and want to go deeper, resolve emotional and relational entanglements, and cultivate the grounded, wise anchor within, then Rooted In Chaos might be apt for you.


  • Why do guys shut down when stressed: Men may shut down emotionally because they don’t know how to manage their emotions. 
  • What causes a man to shut down emotionally: Societal teachings that encourage men not to show their emotions are primarily at fault among other things.
  • What to do if your man is shutting you out and distancing himself: Understand that you are not the problem and that you can support him to explore the solution. 

Hopefully, this article gave you a fresh perspective on why guys shut down when stressed.

What is the most powerful emotion you feel when your partner doesn’t respond to you? If you are a man, why do you shut down emotionally in relationships?

I’d love to hear your views in the comments below!

P.S. Society may not approve of men expressing their vulnerability, but it’s okay if they express anger? Is anger hard to control? Find out more in Why Is Anger Such A Hard Emotion To Control?

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