How The Silent Treatment Is Damaging Your Relationship And What To Do About It
The most dangerous issue to have in a relationship is one you don’t know is a problem. I often see couples resorting to habits they think are serving their relationship in a positive way, but are actually doing more damage than they know.
One of those habits I see all the time is giving each other the silent treatment.
When your partner does something to upset you, it’s easy to resort to ignoring them for however long it takes to get passed how you feel about them.
What’s often difficult to see is the negative impact is has on your relationship over time.
You might think you’re sending your partner a message that says whatever happened isn’t okay and that it matters to you.
That’s understandable but what’s essentially happening is your partner isn’t being given a chance to work through the issue with you. You’re building a habit of choosing to disconnect in times of conflict, when those are the moments most important to connect and work through your issues together, as a team.
You might be ignoring them because they get on your nerves and you don’t want to see their face while you’re upset.
That’s understandable too, but withholding your love from your partner for hours or days on end because there was an argument isn’t conducive to the goal you have of seeking understanding and finding common ground.
All it ends up doing is creating distance and resentment within your partner for being punished every time something doesn’t go your way.
You also might be ignoring them simply because you don’t know what to say or how to handle the situation.
While again, it’s understandable, it’s not excuse. The solution isn’t to keep ignoring your partner. The solution is to seek help from someone who can teach you strategies for how to handle conflict and your partner in stressful situations.
Regardless of the reason why, it just doesn’t help to give your partner the silent treatment. So here are a few ways to handle the situation instead:
1. If you need space, just tell your partner you need it.
There’s nothing wrong with “being in your feelings” and wanting time away from the situation to process and work through them.
But there’s a big difference between giving your partner the silent treatment and just needing some quiet time to process your thoughts and feelings privately.
The silent treatment is something you do to your partner by ignoring them. Quiet time is something you do for yourself, by taking some time alone.
If what you need is some quiet time, don’t just withdraw into it. Let your partner know. “Hey, it would really help for me to take some time to myself to think through how I feel about the situation right now. Let’s reconvene later when I’m in a better space.”
It’s a simple request and lets your partner know what’s happening so they’re not left in the dark to figure it out themselves.
2. Find constructive ways to work through your feelings.
It’s easy to hold onto your feelings when you don’t know how to process them and move on. [Read: Why “Getting Over It” Is The Wrong Way To Deal With How You Feel]
Being upset, frustrated or angry is normal; you have every right to feel how you do. However, having certain feelings is no excuse for suspending your participation in the relationship for long periods of time.
Everyone processes their feelings differently. For me, writing down how I’m feeling or what’s bothering me in the notes app on my phone works wonders. For someone else, it might be talking it out or going to the gym.
Find out what works for you and put it to use so you can get back to your relationship.
This leads to my next point...
3. Minimize the time spent silent
I’ve learned to shorten my quiet time down to an hour or less. Anything more than that is unnecessary, in my personal experience.
It’s not fair to just have your partner waiting around for you to come back to the relationship whenever you feel like it.
Some people go a week or even longer not talking to their partner after an argument.
Time is the most valuable thing we have in this world. Every moment you spend holding onto a grudge is a moment taken a way from time you could be spending enjoying each other.
4. Come back and address the issue
Just because you’re over your feelings of anger or frustration and are ready to be friends again doesn’t mean the issue is resolved.
If it’s important enough, be sure to intentionally address it, talk about what led you both to feel the way you did and find common ground on how to move forward.
In the moment when you’re upset, the silent treatment always seems like a good idea, but it isn’t. It just does more damage than good to an already stressful situation.
Focus on finding ways to connect and support each other through your difficult times. It won’t always be the easiest thing to do, but in the end, it will be worth it.
So what are your thoughts? Do you struggle with the silent treatment in your relationship? How are you handling it? Leave a comment and let me know!