The silent treatment occurs in a relationship, when one person ignores the other person, refusing to acknowledge them verbally or through any other method. This usually happens after an argument, but it can also happen when the silent partner is angry and the other person doesn’t know why. It’s a form of ostracism in a relationship.
If you are on the receiving end of being given the silent treatment, it can be is very frustrating. It can feel like a punishment or even a form of pressure to get a response to reproach or submission to a request.
It’s important to note that no one should accept the silent treatment as an acceptable behavior. No one ever deserves to be ignored, and you needn’t agree to this type of passive-aggressive communication.
The silent treatment is a common pattern of conflict for committed, romantic couples, and it can lead to irrevocable damage to a relationship if left unaddressed for too long. It is important to break this communication pattern, and there are constructive ways to respond and, hopefully, find a way to move forward that both of you can agree on.
Here are some ways to respond to the silent treatment.
Take time to cool off
Both partners should reflect individually on what led up to the silent treatment episode during this period of silence, especially if it was preceded by an argument, fight, or emotional outburst. If you’re on the receiving end you may feel frustrated and angry, so take a time off to get a breath and calm down.
Don’t apologize unless you’re truly sorry
Don’t apologize for something when you believe you are innocent, it would only make you vulnerable. How can you have an authentic, connected relationship by being false? Instead, try to relate to your partner that you understand that they’re upset and that you would like to bridge the gap that has been created between you. However, if you know you are at fault, then think about what you really may have done or something you said to hurt your partner. Admit any wrongs that may have caused offense and sincerely apologize.
Give your partner space to think
Avoid trying to figure out what your silent partner or spouse is thinking. You’re not a mind-reader. The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive form of communication. If you do their thinking for them, they may not be direct when sharing their feelings.
Ask yourself whether it’s a personality difference
Is your partner an introvert while you are more of an extrovert? Introverts need more time to process their emotions, especially when things get extreme or they feel that they’ve been attacked in some way. In this scenario, tell your partner that you’ll give them a certain amount of time to themselves and that you’ll be back after the time is up to talk. If they agree to this plan, then it’s alright.
Set Rules for Healthy Communication
Communication is essential for any relationship to work. During a fight, we feel waves of rage, anxiety, or panic – our bodies become saturated with adrenaline. This is called “flooding,” and it happens when intense feelings, thoughts, or sensations are just too much to assimilate in the moment. So, give your partner and yourself time to calm down, so as to allow for a more healthy communication on how to resolve the issue(s) between you.