The Silent Treatment: When You Say Nothing at All

They say that when a guy asks his wife the question, “What is wrong?” and the wife answers, “Nothing.”, it means that the guy is in big trouble. What’s worse is if the wife does not say anything at all. Instead, he gets the cold shoulder. The other partner acts as if he doesn’t exist.

The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is one of the weapons in the passive-aggressive arsenal. It is letting the other party know that you are angry or that something is wrong, without telling you why. The silent treatment can be seen as some form of emotional abuse. The person giving the silent treatment withholds something very basic – human interaction.

It is usually used for the following purpose:
  To get attention. “You messed up, and I’m letting you know.”
–  To punish. “I’m not talking to you because you’re late for our date.”
–  To get one’s way. “I will pretend you’re not in the room for as long as you don’t agree with what I say.”
–  To teach a lesson. “I’m giving you the silent treatment so that next time, you will behave as you should.”

The problem with the silent treatment is that no communication is made, thus, the issues that caused the fight in the first place is not resolved properly. Stonewalling communication creates a situation where the spouses withdraw and distance themselves from each other. It results in feelings of anger, resentment and frustration – in a time when both spouses are most in need of each other’s support and love.

More than words. The silent treatment is more often than not, not too silent. It is often accompanied by negative body language – glares, some rolling of the eyes, and crying.

The silent treatment vs. the time out. Please don’t confuse the two – they are very much different. You can take a “time out” to cool down when an argument or a fight gets too heated. You can get out of an argument when you know that the anger will make the conversation degenerate into exchanging of insults that will be hard to take back after the fight. Taking a time out will give both you and your partner time to calm down so that you can communicate more effectively and resolve the issues involved. This is not the same thing with the silent treatment. The effort is not towards effective communication.

Breaking the habit

If you’re the one giving the silent treatment, it is high time to consider breaking this bad habit. Ask yourself, “Is it really working?” Try to delve deeply into the way you feel and make the effort to communicate this with your partner. You may need the help of Provo marriage counseling to enable you to be more forthcoming and expressive about the way you feel.

Responding to the “Cold War”

–  Respond with maturity.  If your spouse is giving you the silent treatment, resist the temptation to do the same. Attempt to talk it out with your spouse by letting him or her know that you’re ready and willing to listen and know what is wrong. During this time, continue to provide acts of love and affection, but make it clear that you will not accept this attitude.
–  Seek to understand. The doling out of the silent treatment stems from feelings of anger, fear or resentment. Try to reach out to your partner and come to an understanding of the reason for their behavior.
–  Ask if he or she needs a time out period. If your spouse is still unwilling to break the silent treatment, ask if he or she needs more time. Again, assure him or her that you’re there to listen when he or she is ready to talk.
–  Get help. While things have not yet flared up, it is good to discuss the possibility of getting Utah marriage counseling. This can help you identify negative behaviors that hinder instead of promote communication and understanding between you and your spouse. An effective Provo counseling session can help equip you and your spouse with effective tools for communicating without having to resort to the silent treatment.

When the silent treatment is a pervasive behavior and if your spouse is unwilling to go for Utah counseling, , you can still go for counseling to help you cope with the tension and stress your situation may bring to you. Counseling will be good for your own mental health.

A good and experienced Utah marriage counselor will be able to provide a “safe place” for you to process your feelings and to help prevent your partner from inflicting more emotional injury to you. Going for counseling will also send a message that you are serious about the situation and the need for it to change for the better.

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