No matter what, resist the urge to ask what’s wrong and steer clear of chattering to fill the silence. At this point, any attempt to engage may push him to retreat further, says relationship psychologist Jeremy Nicholson, Ph.D. Experts agree it’s best to take a break, so give him some time to chill by running an errand or going for a walk.
When you get back, seek him out and breezily ask if everything’s okay. “If he says yes—especially if it’s a rare occurrence—take him at face value and drop the subject,” suggests Smith. He’s sorted things out on his own and decided that he isn’t upset. Really. Pushing for more will only create a problem where there isn’t one.
But if he pulls this move a lot, you have to address it head-on. At a time when you’re both relaxed, let him know how hard it is for you to feel like you can’t be there for him when he’s upset, then ask what he needs from you. “Bringing up the issue outside the moment is non-threatening yet makes it clear that you’re not willing to put up with the silent treatment anymore,” says Nicholson.