We’re all familiar with the dreaded “silent treatment,” but do we really take into account the damage it can do to our relationships? It’s one thing to step away from a confrontation to let your temper cool, but it’s a much larger problem if communication is shutting down entirely.
This tactic of shutting down and/or walking away from an argument or a problem is all too common, and typically happens for one of two very serious reasons:
Sometimes we simply don’t speak to our spouses because we’re too uncomfortable with the conversation we know we’re about to have. It might be a lack of confidence in our personal stake in the issue, fear of our partner’s reaction or anger, or general discomfort with opening up emotionally.
We may sometimes choose not to speak with our spouses because we are angry, and unhealthily express this anger with the “silent treatment.” Whether we are aware of it or not, this is an act of punishment – we are intentionally shutting out a loved one to show them how upset we are. Again, while we may not be aware of it at the time, this is absolutely a claim of power over our spouses. We keep them on the ropes, waiting for us to decide to speak – and that simply isn’t fair (or healthy communication).
- Communication is key in any marriage.
So what can we do about it?
First, you’ve got to make sure you aren’t guilty of employing the silent treatment – especially for the sake of punishment. Preempting this problem with open approach to communication may help you both understand the negative consequences of blocking each other out – and there are plenty to consider.
Now, if you’re the perpetrator of this kind of treatment, some self-evaluation can help you overcome it and break the habit. That may come in the from getting past some anger and recognizing the problems you create by “punishing” your spouse with silence, or, on the other side of the coin, it may take bolstering some of your own confidence and recognizing that you simply have to express the way you feel to make improvements in your marriage.
If you are on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, however, it can be awfully challenging to stop it from happening. First, it will take the bravery required to say something, and the strength to keep a cool head about it. To open the channels of communication in your marriage, try to lead by example.
When you can tell your spouse that you see what’s going on (the silent treatment), and understand some of the causes behind it, you can begin to address the underlying problems in the behavior. Is it discomfort? If so, you can take steps to establish trust and let your spouse know that they need not be afraid of opening up to you. Control your temper, stick to the topic at hand, and even in the toughest conversations, remember that communication is a two-way street, and integral to the success of your marriage.
If the silent treatment is coming as “punishment,” then you need to be able to not only face this head on, but also be equipped with information about how this type of behavior creates imbalance in your relationship.
This video is a great place to start if you’re having this type of trouble in your marriage, and remember – communication is one of the most important aspects of your relationship. Addressing the problems and bad habits that hinder communication with your spouse is one of the first steps toward a stronger marriage.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com
have a question regarding the silent treatment...what to do when they are ignoring you while separated?
I have the same problem. I have tried e-mailing/texting and get no response. I asked him to move out 11 weeks ago. He has basically given me the silent treatment for almost 1 year. This is a form of emotional abuse. So what should I do?
Hi Mary! Thanks for your comment! Dealing with the 'Silent Treatment' can be very frustrating and hurtful, here is a great video on "What To Do When Your Spouse Won't Talk To You", it will give you tips on how to overcome these frustrations: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-spouse-wont-talk/ Best of luck!
Hi Rob, Great question! Being separated in itself can create a different set of issues. Please watch this video "How To Save Your Marriage On Your Own - It Is Possible!" https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-possible/. Thanks!
What can I do when he is not talking to me. And when I asked him what the problem is, he will say " nothing. No problem". But the silent treatment continues. Day after day, weeks after weeks.
Rose, Have you watched the video "What To Do When Your Spouse Won’t Talk To You?" https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-spouse-wont-talk/ Hopefully this video will help you find some answers. If you think the problem is not a communication problem and instead he has just "checked out" then this video may be helpful as well: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/how-to-save-your-marriage/#Checked-Out-Partner-Video.
my spouse and I have been separated for 15 months and soon the divorce WILL BE FINAL he has tried to communication through his mother who is totally the wrong person , what is wrong with us is that his mother is apart of the problem as well as communicating with me!
Sharon, I am sorry that your spouse is using his mother to communicate with you. Here is a video with helpful tips when your in-laws are against you: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-what-laws/