Why The Silent Treatment Never Works And 6 Ways To Communicate Better


Why The Silent Treatment Never Works And 6 Ways To Communicate Better

Your silence says more than you realize. And everything it says is hurtful.

Does your partner just stop talking to you when you have a dispute, or when you do something he or she isn’t happy about? How is that working out for your relationship? When your partner gives you “the silent treatment” to show disapproval, they’re broadcasting so much more about themselves.

But is there a reason why partners do this to each other?

  • She wants to demonstrate power in the relationship (It doesn’t!)
  • He thinks you’ll give in without him having to do or say anything (Not likely!)
  • She’s willing to punish both of you by withholding love and/or intimacy (Ouch!)
  • He lacks the skills to communicate, and won’t risk trying (Buck up!)
  • She remembers a previous argument that didn’t go so well (So what?)
  • He’s afraid he’ll lose the argument if he opens his mouth (Get better skills!)

And you have a part in all that, too. Apparently, you two didn’t learn how to communicate better, especially when things don’t go well. Always look at your part first when troubles arise; don’t resort to blaming as your default.

A man in my anger management class asked me, “How long does ‘the silent treatment’ usually last?” Interesting question, as I just taught how the cold shoulder is one step toward escalating anger and violence, and he really sat up and took notice.

I asked him, “So how long does your wife go without speaking to you?”

“Six weeks.”

“Oh, that’s the more than the cold shoulder AND the silent treatment. That’s being frozen out completely.”

He needed to know that this was probably because she did not know how to communicate better about difficult things. She may feel afraid to bring things up because it previously didn’t go well with him. Or, she learned to bottle things up when she was still at home with her family, and now doesn’t trust that things with him will turn out any differently.

I suggested that she probably wanted to talk with him, but needed to feel very safe doing it. She probably longs for real partnership and feels very cheated that she can’t safely share her feelings with him. That would be a good thing to talk about very soon.

Was that their issue? Did he want to listen? Was he able to really listen? Or, was he afraid of hearing that he was failing in some areas and that possibility scares him?

It’s common for folks to get scared, and then get very defensive. That often even escalates into anger.

It’s very touchy. People can react in out-of-proportion ways when they feel that someone is attacking their self-worth, but it’s likely that’s not what’s going on at all.

One couple I worked with finally admitted — not easily — that no matter how gently the husband tried to bring up things they really needed to talk about, the wife shut him down and made him wrong. She could not tolerate the idea that there was anything wrong with her, her approach, or her style.

It scared her to her core to think she was still thought of as not good enough. She lived with that her whole life. So, when her husband wanted to resolve things, she took it as a personal blow and reacted with verbal violence. She shut down so she didn’t have to risk.

Her husband decided to suffer in silence. Finally, he could not. It wasn’t until it was clear she was losing him that she was willing to work towards real communication. That took work, but we made it.

Here are a few ways to communicate effectively without using the silent treatment:

1. Calm down before speaking about the issue.
2. Ask for time to talk about what you are feeling, without interruption or debate.
3. Be willing to listen to your partner, without judgment or defensiveness.
4. Take responsibility for your feelings and refrain from blaming your partner for them.
5. Ask for what you want from your partner.
6. Be willing to hear “yes” or “no.” There are no “have to’s” in relationships.

That sounds peaceful, right? It sounds grown-up, and that’s exactly right. Real grown-ups have conversations that solve problems; kids fight and take their toys and go home. The silent treatment is the adult version.

Grown-ups talk things through, learn about each other, and make mutual, positive decisions about their relationship. That takes skills. The good news is that those skills are learnable.

Written by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

The Relationship Help Doctor
Relationship Consultant. Mediator. Speaker. 
Urgent & Ongoing Care for Relationships in Crisis…including the one with yourself.

You may also like

Why The Silent Treatment Never Works And 6 Ways To Communicate Better

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

The Pebbling Love Language: Inspired By Penguins To Transform Relationships

What Is Pebbling Love language? Tips To Spark Love

For some people love doesn’t mean big actions and expensive presents, but rather small things matter the most to them. So here’s pebbling love language – inspired by penguins. Let’s find out if you have this language of love without even knowing it.

What Is Pebbling Love language?

To attract a partner, male Gentoo penguins offer female penguins little stones or pebbles, to help build their nests.

Although humans don’t exchange rocks as a token of love, but the idea of penguin pebbling love language operates on the same basic principle of making someo

Up Next

Can TikTok’s ‘Meeting Someone Twice Theory’ Really Lead To Love?

Meeting Someone Twice Theory: Best Examples

Has a person ever crossed your path and then reappeared at another point in your life, causing you to feel like you have some kind of unexplainable bond with them? According to the newest idea from TikTok, Meeting Someone Twice Theory – is a meaningful thought that says love often needs a second chance.

So let’s learn how the universe might be making these things happen on purpose.

What Is The Meeting Someone Twice Theory?

You meet someone in passing at a coffee shop, party or on the street. You exchange fleeting pleasantries, maybe share a laugh or a conversation, and then life goes on as usual.

But then, weeks or months or years later, you cross paths again and th

Up Next

How To Forgive A Cheater And Move Forward: A Relationship Guide

How To Forgive A Cheater And Move On: A Relationship Guide

Trying to forgive a cheater can be one of the toughest challenges in a relationship, but it’s not impossible. Here’s a guide to help you heal your heart and move forward with confidence, grace and peace.

Did you know that around forty percent of unmarried relationships and twenty-five percent of marriages have at least one instance of infidelity?

If your partner has cheated on you, you’re not alone. Betrayal can be one of the most painful experiences in a relationship.

But it’s important to remember that forgiveness is not about excusing the behavior or forgetting what happened. It’s about letting go of the hurt and anger so that you can move forward.

In this guide, you will learn practical steps for how to forgive a cheater, inc

Up Next

7 Common Trauma Beliefs Preventing You From Finding Love

Common Trauma Beliefs Preventing You From Finding Love

Are you still single, even after putting in a lot of effort to find love? The answer might lie in your trauma beliefs. Yes, you heard me right. Trauma beliefs are the deep-seated, often subconscious notions formed from past painful experiences that shape how you see yourself and relationships, in general.

Beliefs caused by trauma can act as invisible barriers, keeping you from finding and maintaining love. If you are tired of feeling stuck in the same old patterns, it’s time to dig into these 7 trauma beliefs that might be sabotaging your love life.

So, are you ready to know all the ways trauma is keeping you single? Come on, let’s find out together.


Up Next

3 Relationship Check In Questions On Love, According To A Psychologist

Relationship Check In Questions For Couples In Love

It’s common for us to push relationships down our list of priorities when we get busy. We think we’ll make up for lost time later, assuming everything will be fine. But what if everything isn’t fine? Below are 3 crucial relationship check in questions for couples to make life simpler!

According to a recent publication of Current Issues in Personality Psychology, discussions were shown to be an effective strategy for solving disagreements and improving the quality of relationships.

So, a monthly relationship relationship check in questions can help keep your love boat afloat. Once a month, you and your partner can sit across from each other and talk. It isn’t about pointing fingers or finding fault; it’s about feeding the connection

Up Next

8 Clear Signs Someone Cares About You (Even If They Don’t Always Express It)

Unmistakable Signs Someone Cares About You

Are you confused about whether they genuinely care about you? Well, this article will take you through 8 unmistakable signs someone cares about you deeply, even though they do not always express it.

There is an ancient saying that actions speak louder than words. An expression like that tends to stick around for a reason, and this one does make a lot of sense. In our increasingly chaotic and noisy world, it’s easy to forget that some people struggle to verbalize their feelings. But remember, still waters run deep.

Just because someone struggles to express their feelings in words doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. Actually, the real clues are buried within their actions. Look out for these telltale signs to know if someone cares about you genuinely:

Up Next

Codependence and Interdependence: What Truly Sets Them Apart?

Codependence and Interdependence: What Truly Sets Them Apart?

The question ‘What is the difference between codependence and interdependence?’ In reality, it asks whether a relationship is dysfunctional or healthy. Well, in today’s Best Day Blog, I will be taking you through the differences between the two and how to recover from codependency.

Dysfunctional Relationships

I talk a lot about what dysfunctional relationships can look like, but how do you develop a healthy relationship, and what does a healthy one look like?

Unfortunately, the idea of relationships we all grow up with from movies and TV is unhealthy. The relationships shown are romanticized