With-Holding Communication: The Poison of Kindness, Connection, Compassion & Love
Updated: Mar 13
When I started writing this blog, I intended it to be a short one, but, as I continued to write, I came to see that it needed to have the detail and depth to explaining this in its entirety.
I have titled this as With-Holding Communication - The Poison of Kindness, Connection, Compassion and Love in all Relationships. When you think about that, it just seems to relate to verbal communication doesn't it, but communication as we know is never just verbal. Apparently studies show that 7% of communication is verbal and 93% is non-verbal. Amazing to believe isn't it...
With-Holding is the behaviour of giving someone the cold shoulder, shutting them out, ignoring, or being dismissive with no valid reason or explanation behind it as to why.
In the most serious cases, it is the deliberate and malicious attempt to withdraw and hold back positive feedback, agreement or acknowledgement and overall acceptance of another. It is probably one of the most nasty forms of behaviour. Face to face, it can be seen as a punishing or disapproving blank expression along with disapproving body language.
Online social media, is also now a method as to which this behaviour can be noticed and carried out, especially if we look at Facebook with how we now associate feedback being positively or negatively received through content shared, information and whether it is "Liked" or not.
The intention and purpose behind With-Holding behaviour is to somehow create an emotional upset or suffering for the other person, in order to gain or access power or authority by any means possible. Over time, depending on the type of the relationship, it can grow into emotional abuse.
So What is the Difference Between Healthy Withdrawal Non-Communication as Opposed to Malicious / Deliberate Non-Communication?
Often people can be forgetful, or not necessarily have the response formulated to provide you. They may be dealing with a personal issue, looking after the children, or actually be in a personal space themselves of feeling a need for personal time out.
In some cases, it is important to remember that time apart or periods of non-communication can be healthy as it allows for each person to reflect on things for inner processing and personal growth.
There are also dynamics, where a person subconsciously withdraws because of the way another is unconsciously communicating or behaving. This is often from a place of self-preservation, with the intention to open up a different form of communication that allows for balanced self-expression between the two.
With-holding is a controlling behaviour placing the one doing the ignoring in control of all aspects of the relationship by denying any form of relationship with the person who they are with-holding from.
There are different levels of intent associated with With-Holding. As an example, let’s look at the dynamics between two friends.
Friend One finds that her attempts to reach out to Friend Two are met with the very basic interaction as opposed to the past. It seems there is no effort responded from Friend Two, that shows they wish to reciprocate the contact forward. Any attempts are one-sided to connect and communicate. Therefore there is a deliberate with-hold in their communication from Friend Two.
Often the person who is doing the with-holding will make it about the person they are with-holding from, however, the one who is doing the with-holding, will either have a deeper personal reason as to why, such as trying to hide something from this person, or it will be that something about this person, is confronting them to see something they don’t like in themselves. In this case, this can either keep the dynamics between the two parties the same with no real change in the openness of communication unless, one of them chooses to confront and open up and share that these dynamics are no longer working in the relating of their friendship, and seek to bring it to a more harmonious level between them. This will either propel the friendship forward to expand with a healthy negotiation between the two or it will be the point of dissolve. Both parties must want a healthy balanced free-flowing dynamic between the two and be willing to communicate to let go of that which is preventing it.
Another example is “filtering” of interactions between parties. One person is choosing to respond on their terms only, often these types of with-holding have unspoken "niggles" or irritations that have formed between the parties involved.
It too can be from self–preservation, but one must identify the supposed threat to their being as being real or made up. This type of With-holding can be cleaned up by the willingness to discuss what has been bothering them and clear the space between them to move on and into more free flowing balanced communication.
In More Serious Cases With-Holding Can Become Destructive and Abusive...
Below is a made up example of how subconscious with-holding can become emotionally abusive.
For the purpose of this example I am going to use a woman and man who are in a relationship. They have been together for some time. In the beginning they were both sexually active with each other, and then as the relationship progressed, the female started to notice changes in her partner’s behaviour, she may not know exactly what it is but emotionally she feels it. He is showing signs of being controlling.
She then notices there are health issues she is dealing with in her body that may not have been so prominent before, but are now. This then has her not want to feel like having sexual intercourse any more, using the health issues as her reason. This would seem appropriate at first on the surface level; however, the health issue is providing a comfortable alibi for her. He, being controlling, will then search for resources to "fix" his partner.
The with-holding behaviour is taking place under the surface. She is now with-holding sex as a communication between them as an attempt to regain a sense of power from her controlling partner. The Male then becomes resentful towards her for with-holding sex. This then creates the emotional abuse dynamic between them.
Conscious with-holding is the immediate "shutting down" or "cut and run" techniques, which are usually used by the ones with the most intent to do damage. On the external they will appear quite rational and just with their reasoning to it, but within there are other agendas taking place.
These people often act with no real warning and no explanation to the person that they are with-holding from. This is why it can be so emotionally impacting to another person especially if you have had constant or regular interaction with them in life to withdrawing completely.
Often associated with this behaviour is that information, or a situation, or a response has not "gone their way" or “a need is not being met” or “the dynamics of interactions have changed” and they will not accept anything less than the interaction format that has already been set up between the two.
So How do you Handle Conscious With-Holding With Another?
This can be a challenge.
Somewhere along the way in society, we have learnt to tolerate, or develop by-stander apathy in regards to dysfunctional behaviour, which can enable more of it.
At times we will turn our heads the other way, as to just "get on with things" or "not rock the boat even more" or even worse, fear that we won't be liked, especially when we begin to require respectful interactions and communication rather than abusive, dismissive or disrespectful interactions.
We also may not want things to change if we address it. It seems even those with spiritual views, overlook this particular behaviour, naming it as being in alignment with “higher objectives” and using it as a scapegoat as to not having to be responsible for the behaviour or acknowledging it.
There may be energy dynamics involved, but still we need to be self-aware also.
The first thing is to be aware of the fact that the person doing the with-holding, is accustomed to behaving this way, as it is a behaviour that works well for them, so if you confront them, they first, will not like that you are calling them on it, and may not necessarily respond to healthy balanced, communication responses. Instead it may provoke them to arc up, or continue to with-hold. Confronting them on the behaviour is the first option. This may be a one off thing or may need to happen a few times until a healthy balance of exchange takes place.
The second option is to shift our direction of focus, and bring it back to ourselves, and get back to our own honouring of self.
To recover and be able to respond or manage this type of behaviour does really take something, even with the person of the best of a skill set. Therefore working on building and educating and empowering self and others is the key.
Other Reasons Why Couples With-Hold
We all have a variety of values and needs. Often in some coupled relationships, people become involved with each other for the wrong reasons instead of the right ones. Many do not go into relationships understanding their needs and values, therefore are not able to negotiate prior to making the commitment.
When the expectations of the need are not being met, the blame tends to set in, and a punishment towards someone for not giving something that they are not ready or willing to give. Withholding of loving communication and connection within a relationship is a form of emotional blackmail and abuse.
It is the worst kind of poison that exists in relationships.
Healthy communication is one that has love and affinity present to one another. Where there is a mutual ebb and flow of the interactions. (This is not about morality or what a person believes is right or wrong.)
Caring, love, compassion, connection, communication, warmth, affection, is not something to have “conditions” placed upon, and causes great amounts of damage when it is willfully with-held. Often this is a symbol of a relationship being over or in its final days, but, sometimes, it is a signal that for the relationship to either be salvaged, there is more that needs to be addressed and dealt with.
So Why do People With-Hold?
1. They with-hold out of fear of being vulnerable. Fear that there is something to lose. Fear of love, fear of connection, belonging, and to even experience a deep love with someone, as these may seem unfamiliar to us and we think we may become entrapped and lose our power. 2. They with-hold out of loss of control. A lot of with-holding is an attempt to regain power and authority over a situation or person and retain superiority and be “Right”, therefore choosing self-righteousness over balance. 3. They with-hold because it is learnt. Most dysfunctional behaviour has been passed down through family templating and patterns. It has never been addressed or confronted. This is where we have our first concept of relationships. Therefore, people will with-hold as a way to prevent themselves from being with-held on. 4. They with-hold due to deep unresolved emotional triggers. Often the fight-or-flight response kicks in perceiving a threat, and the defence mechanism is to cut, run and with-hold. 5. They with-hold as there is an aspect within themselves that they are not connected to.
Are you with-holding from areas or a person in your life? Is there a relationship that you are not honouring?
When a person with-holds, in any way, they are literally cutting energy off from aspects of themselves and are not in alignment with their authentic self. Education and self-awareness is the key to break this cycle down. Looking at where there is a disconnect of power in your life and around you.
So ask yourself, is being “right” more important, than love, connection, communication and happiness? Let’s start empowering your relationships today!
This write up is designed to create awareness to recognising dysfunctional patterns of communications and relating, as we cannot change another’s behaviour, but we can change our own and what we will tolerate in future and that is a step to empowering self and creating healthier balanced relationships.
If you would like to find out more on how to shift dysfunctional behaviour patterns, and create new ways of better interpersonal dynamics in your life, please contact me for a session on: