When you first start dating someone, things can seem perfect. This is referred to as the 'Honeymoon Stage' — the time of the relationship when you want to scream from the rooftops how much you like your new partner. If your partner is ignoring you, though, you've likely exited said-stage just in time for reality to set in.
To get a better grasp on why you you might be being ignored by your boyfriend or girlfriend post-Honeymoon Stage, I reached out to relationship experts Aimee Hartstein, a relationship psychotherapist, and Chris Armstrong, the relationship coach behind Maze of Love.
First off, if your partner's giving you the silent treatment, know you're not alone — this isn't a rarity for relationships by any means. Armstrong said that when a problem arises, ignoring it is simply instinctual for many. He said, "People are non-confrontational by nature, and we draw an immediate conclusion that any time a problem is discussed in a relationship, the conversation will become confrontational."
Armstrong added, "We often know there is a problem, but we do not know the source of it or how to resolve it, and thus we feel as though the conversation itself will be meaningless." So, what can you do to avoid being ignored and communicate better in your relationship? First, get to the root of the problem. These were the most important things to know, according to experts, about what to do when your partner starts ignoring you.
1. Make Sure You're On The Same Page When Communicating
Armstrong and Hartstein both told me that people will often try to communicate with their partner, but they may not interpret the conversation in the same way. To get a better idea of what your partner may be saying, consult this entertaining guide by New York Times best-selling author and communication expert Deborah Tannen. This book helps you better understand what you're saying to others and how you say it, in order to actually say what you thought you were saying the whole time. One reviewer, who said they teach conflict management, said, "The content is so enlightening; I am convinced that her work could save many a marriage, if studied. "
After all, two partners can be a part of the same conversation, but come away with two different impressions of what actually happened or what was said — leaving you thinking you're being ignored, while your partner may think the issue's resolved.
2. Stop Avoiding Confrontation
Relationship Psychotherapist Aimee Harstein said the most effective method for making a partner stop ignoring you is to simply talk to them. She said, "Truly the best way to help alleviate the problem of a partner ignoring you is to talk to them. You can’t just pretend it isn’t happening because the relationship isn’t going to be able to function and move forward under these circumstances." So, what do you do? Go ahead and break the ice.
Invite your partner to stop avoiding confrontation by introducing a fun game during a shared meal at home. Tableropics for couples is a box of questions to start easy conversations, which can break the ice before you get into the deeper conversation about what might be bothering your partner. It pairs fun and silly questions with some harder ones to get you thinking. It helps you say what you might not be able to say on your own. Start playing, and see where it takes you.
Or if you know right away that you need to have a difficult conversation, and it looks like you and your partner don't know where to start, reach for a book that can be helpful.
How To Have That Difficult Conversation You've Been Avoiding by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Towsend is a practical handbook that will encourage confrontation in a positive way. You can present your feelings in a direct conversation to avoid any feelings of fear or discomfort, using the book's real-life examples of conversation strategies to avoid coming off as hurtful or getting off track. One reviewer even said, "This book gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to have difficult but vital conversations with people you are in relationship with."
3. Learn How To Communicate Effectively
A common problem for people is that they often don't know how to effectively communicate. Hartstein told me, "Sometimes people don’t know how to put things into words and have to resort to ignoring the other person. They either don’t know what the problem will be or has little experience talking about their feelings." Communication Miracles for Couples by Jonathan Robinson is a really great book that teaches you simple methods to help you and your partner feel loved and hear each other, among other things. One reader said, "Now, instead of just fighting over our respective positions on subjects, we can actually communicate effectively and get past our egos to get things accomplished and move on to the fun parts of life!"
4. If You Know You've Done Something Wrong, Apologize
Hartstein told me that being direct and asking open-ended questions is the best way to figure out whether or not you're in the wrong. If you find out you are, do something really nice for your partner to show that you care.
Give your partner a massage during your next at-home date to show them you appreciate them. This massage oil has the aromatherapeutic scent of lavender, which will help relax your partner and soothe away any lingering tension from your conversation.
Or, try cooking a meal specifically for two to show you took the time to do something kind for your partner.
This cookbook has more than 235 recipes that are made specifically for two people. Most of the recipes take less than an hour, but they serve up delicious meals. Plus, you'll end up sitting at a table together, talking. Perhaps it will inspire the two of you to cook together next time. One pleased fan of the book pointed out, "The introductions, the asides, the explanations, all combine to make me feel like I am sitting in a friend's kitchen, watching a master cook, sharing a glass of wine, talking about food and recipes. "
5. Reassure Your Partner That You Are Serious About This, Too
Hartstein told me that sometimes when people are starting to feel close to their partner, they may find it threatening, uncomfortable or scary, which could cause them to revert back into their shell. Reassure your partner that you are just as serious as they are about taking things to the next level. A thoughtful way to remind them when they least expect it? Write a few love letters that they can "open when" they may be feeling insecure about the relationship. Let them know that they can trust you, and that they can count on you.
6. Do Silly Things Together That You Did When You First Started Dating
When a partner starts ignoring you, it could mean that they no longer feel the connection that they once did when you first started dating, explained both Armstrong and Hartstein. Lighten the mood with some matching T-shirts. You may feel silly, but doing something that you would have done together during the honeymoon stage (even wearing ridiculous matching T-shirts) can make your relationship stronger. It's important to reintroduce those activities that made you feel really special. Some of the best conversations you can have with your partner take place in bed, before you go to sleep (hello, pillow talk). They are the conversations that end up lasting for hours.
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