Silent treatment occurs in a relationship when one person ignores the other person, especially after an argument.
The silent treatment also known as withholding happens when one partner pressures the other with requests, criticism, or complaints, and the other responds with silence and emotional distance.
Silent treatment if not dealt with early enough has the power to destroy or cause a toxic relationship among partners.
While silent treatment is a learned pattern of communication that isn’t easily admitted or healed, you do have the power it takes to unlearn it and create a healthy relationship.
Here are some tips to help you:
1. Learn why your partner uses the silent treatment
Sometimes people can’t express their thoughts or feelings, so they clam up. Other times their emotions – anger, hurt, fear – are so strong that they simply can’t talk about how they feel because they think there are no words to express it. Sometimes people may also feel that they aren’t a match for their partner verbally, so they shut down.
This type of passive-aggressive communication might be all your partner learned as a child – it may be how your partner controlled his world as a little boy.
2. Avoid letting the silent treatment get the best of you
One way to cope with silent treatment is to act like it doesn’t affect you even when it does. Yes, it might sound like pretense but it sure works.
Remember that men who give the silent treatment are looking for ways to get a particular reaction out of you. If you refuse to play into their hands, they’ll know better than to try to get you into the game next time.
3. Learn the pattern of the silent treatment
Sometimes people who give the silent treatment need their partners to make the first move towards reconciliation.
After you’ve given your man time to cool down, maybe you have to be the first to apologize. It doesn’t seem fair, but often the giver of the silent treatment is the one who needs to be approached.
What’s the pattern of the silent treatment in your relationship? If you can identify it, then you’re in a better position of dealing with it. If your partner needs two days to cool off, then don’t approach him before that.
If your partner refuses to talk until you apologize first, then you need to meet him where he wants to be if you want to stay in your relationship.
4. Talk to him kindly about how silent treatment makes you feel
At some point, you will have to confront your partner, even if your partner doesn’t want to be confronted. When that time comes, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and ask your partner to talk in a private, comfortable place.
Then, use the “sandwich method” of offering feedback. Start off with a positive, factual statement. Be specific and matter-of-fact about the things your partner does to hurt you, and use “I” statements to express how you feel. Make an offer of reconciliation and see where that takes your relationship.
Share how it feels when you get the silent treatment, and how it affects your relationship. You might even discuss other examples of verbal abuse in relationships, so your partner sees how serious it is.
5. Take care of yourself
When someone gives you the silent treatment, it’s easy to get thrown off balance.
You might feel like you’re grasping at straws and start beating yourself up for not being able to know what your loved one is thinking. The moment you start to feel like that, please stop.
Stop reprimanding yourself for not being a mind reader. Stop thinking it’s your responsibility to help an immature person mature.
If someone gives any indication that they want to change, offer to help them. Otherwise, let them be.
Also, surround yourself with positive people. Keep your diet balanced, and exercise as regularly as you can.
Practice positive affirmations daily. Remind yourself that you’re not a terrible person for being in a relationship with someone who gives you the silent treatment.
6. Know when it is time to move on
If your relationship has gone sour because of the ongoing silent treatment method you may want to state your boundaries and consequences plainly before you decide to end things.
You might say something like this to your man, “I can’t be in a relationship with someone who manipulates me and shuts me out. If you insist on giving me the silent treatment whenever we have issues, I’ll have to break things off between us.”
Your partner might not like this last statement but it will make him see that you are no foot mat to be walked on.
It is then left to you to decide if you want to stay and give them another chance or if you want to walk away for good.