One of the most destructive behaviors in a relationship is withholding sex, intimacy and touch in response to disagreements or arguments. Yes, when we are mad at our partner, intimacy is likely one of the last things that sounds appealing. But it is that touch, that closeness that helps us heal our wounds and become ready to start working on the relationship again.
I think women tend to do this more than men do, but we men aren’t immune to withholding touch and affection as a way of punishment.
Refusing to touch your partner (or not allowing them to touch you) starts a very bad precedence, which is the idea that you have to submit to my will on another subject before you are allowed back into my good graces. It is the definition of conditional love.
The hurt that someone feels when they are rejected physically cuts right to the core of who we are, or how we perceive ourselves. If your partner does this, you can’t likely fix it yourself and will need professional help. Find a qualified counselor and stop the cycle. In the mean time, there are things you can do.
Don’t EVER make negative comments about your partner’s appearance, weight, hygiene etc. Try to at least allow yourself to be touched, hugged etc even when you’re really mad. It is hard to be mad at someone you’re holding in your arms! Try it. The next time you have a fight, just walk up to them and give them a hug. Hold them and say that you are mad, or know that they are. But that doesn’t mean you don’t LOVE them any less. Disagreeing is normal. It is HOW you disagree that determines whether the relationship is likely to succeed, or likely to fail.
If your spouse won’t co-operate in de-escalating the disagreement you will probably need to find a neutral party to help. We see counseling as a last-ditch now-or-never proposition when in reality MOST couples could benefit from having a referee once in a while! And it should be mandatory before anybody gets married. Not likely, but I bet it would help save a ton of relationships before there are children and common property to divide. Think about it. Would YOUR relationship improve with a little professional help? People will hire psychologists for their PETS before they will for their spouse. No wonder the divorce rate in the US is so high! But at least the pets are fine…