What is Withholding?

[Updated as information is found; last update 20, Jul. 2011]

Withholding is defined as an emotionally abusive behaviour or tactic. These are some definitions or descriptions of withholding:

1. Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the ‘silent treatment.’

2. Withhold: Definition – Hold or keep back, refuse to give, deny, refrain from granting, giving or allowing. If a spouse withholds information and feelings, then the marriage bond weakens. The abuser who refuses to listen to his partner, denies her experience and leaves her isolated. Withholding occurs when one partner withholds affection, information, thoughts, and feelings from his partner. When one person in a relationship withholds, intimacy cannot be created.

3. Withholding (also called “Depriving”) is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusal to listen, refusal to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. A relationship requires intimacy and intimacy requires empathy. If one partner withholds information and feelings, then the relationship bond weakens.

4. Examples of withholding might include: Refusing to give you information about where he is going, when he is coming back, about financial resources, and other forms of information. Refusing to answer questions, make eye contact, etc.

5. The truth is, there is absolutely nothing you can do to please your abuser to get him to quit withholding from you. Withholding, like all other abusive behaviors is about power and control.

6. When a man refuses to empathetically listen, validate, or share information and emotions, he’s destroying the core of what sustains an intimate relationship. He’s withholding. For a relationship to be truly intimate, it requires mutual and empathetic listening, validation, and sharing.

7. When an abuser refuses to listen, appears to misunderstand what he is completely capable of understanding, or declines sharing his emotions, he is “withholding” a part of the essential intimate actions of the relationship. (When a partner really does not understand the other, then at least the intent to understand and compromise should be there, with perhaps a request for the partner to help them understand somehow.) But when Gaslighting is the main technique and “withholding” is the tool, the abuser feigns confusion or a lack of understanding […] Also, when withholding information, the Gaslighting abuser prevents all possibility of coming to a fair resolution, or in giving comforting knowledge to his spouse/girlfriend.

8. Deep emotional distance is often an indicator that there is no turning back in a relationship, that on an unconscious level your partner has already created an alternate private reality. Once this has happened, they also stop consulting you about creating a joint reality that serves both of your needs. The recognition of an emotional separation is often very painful and is frequently accompanied by feelings of shock that are similar to those people feel when they are notified of a death. “Suddenly, he wasn’t there anymore.” There’s a feeling of loss. It’s as if someone with whom you had dreamed your whole future has, without your quite knowing it, been taken away.


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