The silent treatment. Need we say more? Most of us have experienced this at one time or another – either as the giver or the receiver. Spouses can become out of synch; one is ready to tackle the issue, while the other has completely backed off to the point of silence. Regardless of who is the culprit, the silent treatment can be devastating and may feel like an impossible feud to handle. After all, silence makes no sound – but says so much.
So what should you do when your spouse gives you the silent treatment? How should you respond? It’s important to look deeper into the issue and understand where both of you are coming from, and then take steps to solve this hurdle. Today, we are discussing the silent treatment and ways to overcome this.
Don’t use the silent treatment as punishment
The silent treatment is often used as a tool for punishment. This by no means should be used for this purpose. When one person is withholding themselves and their words intentionally to hurt someone, they are essentially saying “I don’t want to connect with you.” The silent treatment sends all kinds of negative messages. On your spouse’s end, it’s hurtful and hard to process. Especially if they are ready to talk.
There is a difference between needing time to process before you speak, and not speaking to punish someone. Arguments can strike up all sorts of negative messages, and if you are punishing your spouse, you are only adding to the fuel.
If you need a moment to cool down before you speak, then communicate this with your spouse. You can simply say, “I need to cool down first before we talk” and then remove yourself from the situation or room altogether.
It’s essential to recognize that each of you are coming from a different problem solving standpoint. Your approaches may not completely align. The silent treatment is hurtful, but it may also be your partner’s way of saying they need some time alone to ponder and not talk.
Some people have a more aggressive approach to problem solving. They want to jump in and solve the problem – urgently and now! Other people are more passive and need events and thoughts to unravel over time before they are ready to hash out the situation. Passive people often need clarity and thought before they speak.
Recognizing personality differences is key. If your spouse is passive, the silent treatment may not necessarily be intentional punishment, but rather their way of handling an argument. It’s important to understand and know this about your partner, and provide them some space until they are ready to talk. However, it’s ok to express that this is hurtful by saying something like “I know you need space now and this is painful, but I am feeling sad as well and would like to discuss this when you are ready.”
If you are passive and your spouse is not, it’s crucial to let your spouse know that you are needing space to process; that you are not trying to intentionally hurt them. Be sure to have a conversation with your spouse once you have processed things. Sweeping things under the rug is no way to solve an issue, and having productive conversation is likely on your spouse’s mind as well.
Putting it together
The key is to communicate, even if it’s a few short words. Needing space before you speak is by all means ok, and is how many people are been hard-wired by God. But by using silence as a tool for punishment, or not communicating your intentions, you are only relaying an intense negative message. This makes situations worse.
Be sure you are communicating your silence before it sets in by clarifying your intentions. And if you are a spouse who is ready to talk “now”, respect that your spouse needs space when they relay this message to you. Don’t blame or guilt your spouse, simply acknowledge the situation and clarify content until you are ready to have a productive conversation.
If you want to learn more about your talk-styles and communication as a couple, check out our Better Love Assessment here!
Have you been a victim of the silent treatment? How did you feel, and how did you handle this? We’d love to hear from you!