How to Deal With a Lover Who Sulks

The moment you discover that you are going out with or living with a lover who sulks is a monumental turning point in your relationship. The problem with people who sulk is that it is a form of manipulation to get other people to conform to their wishes. And should you give in, it's going to keep on going on. Perhaps these suggestions will help you change things for the better.


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    Recognize a sulking type. The sulker can be male or female; they tend to be people who resolve conflict by avoiding it and hiding away somewhere or putting on a look. Everyone has heard of the archetypal man who runs off to the garden shed or the woman who pouts and sighs as she sits restlessly in view of the person she'd like to wound; these are sulking stereotypes with some truth to them. Some signs include:
    • Hiding away or retreating to the cave
    • Refusing to speak to you all day/night/whenever specified period they feel is appropriate
    • Looking like a toddler in demeanor; pouts, sighs, folded arms, perhaps even a stomp here and there
    • Icy, cold attitude, and a refusal to reciprocate feelings and affection
    • They place objects between themselves and you, such as a newspaper or book, a TV, a crossword puzzle so that in your presence they can continue to ignore you, even in public
    • They defrost momentarily when someone else comes near them but you still get the sulks thrown your way and they return to total frostiness the moment the other person is out of earshot. This last sign is a true warning signal – if the sulker can switch the charm on and off like that, it's likely they've learned this habit to perfection and know how to push buttons and disrespect those who fall for it.
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    Don't take it to heart. What is happening is that Mr. or Ms. Sulky is trying to make you take the responsibility for their emotional immaturity. Unfortunately, if you do fret and worry on their account, they've won and they've learned that they can do it again with the same win for them. Instead, see this as an issue of their hurt self being unable to reconcile with itself and taking it out on you, trying to shed their emotional immaturity and leave you feeling bad. If you realize this isn't about the need to respond but the need to wait out their rudeness, it'll be much better for you.
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    Don't put up with it. By reacting as if they need mollycoddling, assuaging, and sucking up to, in order to smooth over the silences, hissy-fits, and tantrums, you permit it to happen around you and they end up controlling you. The more you put up with a sulker, the more it is you who walks on eggshells around them. Instead of running after them apologizing for existing and nervously tiptoeing about them, try the following:
    • Ignore the behavior and get on with your day as if the sulking isn't occurring. As said in the previous step, if you don't take it to heart, this will be much easier to do. Think "So what if they want to blame me. They have some serious internal soul-searching to be getting on with."
    • Expect the sulker to take responsibility for their emotions while you take responsibility for yours.
    • Expect the sulker to honor your presence. They are being truly rude by withdrawing, behaving cold, and trying to control you in this manner. It denotes an enormous lack of respect and that is no basis for a loving relationship.
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    Expect changes. When a sulker sees that their manipulative ways don't work on you, it's likely that they'll gradually put a stop to the behavior and realign their estimation of you. Either they'll deal with it, or they may leave you because they're not keen on being in a position where they cannot control. That's a risk you'll need to take. It's better to be respected and treated like a whole person than to be belittled into behaving like a doormat.
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    On the other hand, if they don't change their ways in response to your behavior cues, move on. If you've tried ignoring the sulks and demanding respect but it's still happening, take a deep breath and really consider if it's worth living with this adult-child in your life. Most likely it's not, and because you can't (and shouldn't try to) change another person, you'll find that if they are so stuck in the pattern of seeking to control you in this manner, then perhaps they won't stop, no matter how definite you are about refusing to accept the sulks. Stop letting their moods control your life; tell them it was interesting knowing them but you've got plenty else to be doing.


  • When you two are in a talking mood, tell the person you want to understand what happens when he/she goes quiet, ignores you or goes into their cave. There is no right or wrong, and you are not asking them to defend their actions. Just be clear you are trying to understand so that you can work out your coping mechanism.
  • Avoid confusing an occasional need to withdraw emotionally for the sake of space and self-time with a regular need to sulk. All of us need time out from one another now and then; the telling sign should be that this isn't attempted continuously as a way of "relating".


  • Matching a sulk with a sulk makes things a lot worse and proves that both of you have emotional immaturity issues. In this case, it's not a good idea for either of you to be involved in romantic liaisons until you've sorted yourselves out!

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Categories: Maintaining Relationships | Relationship Issues