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How to Perfect the Silent Treatment in a Relationship

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The silent treatment is bad for love. But if you’re too mad to talk to your lover, here’s the right way to use the silent treatment in your relationship. By Alison Ricard

silent treatment

When you’re upset with your partner, it’s never easy to choose the right words to express yourself.

Instead of explaining yourself, your mind would instinctively choose all the wrong words.

And almost all the time, these wrong words you use in an argument would be the most hurtful ones.

A relationship, as happy as it can be, can also have its painful moments.

But how you deal with those bad moments with your partner will determine the longevity and happiness in your relationship.

[Read: How the power of words can make or break your relationship]

Sometimes, do you find it easier to just walk away from an argument, slam the door on your partner’s face and give them the silent treatment?

Of course, it is an easier alternative than having to endure all the yelling and the blinding rage you have to experience when you’re face to face with your lover slash enemy-for-the-moment.

But you do know that the silent treatment is never the answer to the problem, don’t you?

[Read: 7 secret signs of a relationship that's about to go bad]

What is the silent treatment?

Anyone who’s ever been in love would have experienced this at some point in their relationship, where one partner walks away in the middle of an angry conversation and doesn’t answer back to any question or remark.

By a simple definition, the silent treatment is the refusal of one person to talk to another person, especially after they’ve had an argument.

The duration of the silent treatment varies from one relationship to another, and could even last for days, and at times… years! [Read: The 80 20 rule in relationships and your love life]

Why is the silent treatment bad for relationships?

Giving the silent treatment to a partner may seem like the perfect thing to do, to hurt them and get away from them at the same time.

But no matter which way you look at it, it’s always terrible for the relationship.

#1 Fear in love. When you use the silent treatment on your partner because they hurt you by doing something, you’re not helping your relationship. You’re not letting your partner know what really hurt you. And most importantly, it would leave your partner feeling afraid and confused because they don’t really know what’s on your mind.

#2 More and more lies. The silent treatment may feel good, because you have the power to inflict pain on your lover. But your partner isn’t really going to understand what upset you. So instead of stopping the behavior that upset you *which they don’t know because you haven’t told them*, they’d start to lie about everything. And that’s all because they’re too afraid to say something that would offend you.

#3 Loss of trust. When you give a partner the silent treatment, they’d lie more to avoid angering you in any manner. But every now and then, you may sense a sneaky suspicion in the air or even catch your partner red handed *which would probably lead to more silent treatment*. And eventually, both of you would stop trusting each other. And why is that? Well, because there’s no communication in between all that silent treatment! [Read: How to build trust and improve communication in a relationship]

How to use the silent treatment the right way

At times, the silent treatment in a relationship isn’t all bad if you know to use it well.

After all, it’s not really easy to plaster a happy smile on your face and talk to your partner calmly when you’ve just caught them with their knickers in a twist around their ankles and their legs in between someone else’s.

Sometimes, the silent treatment is a perfect solution to angry arguments in love. But you need to know how to use it effectively.

The duration of the silent treatment

Most silent treatments stretch on for days, especially if one partner is waiting for the other partner to apologize. But what do you do if both partners think they’re the one who’s right?!

In a happy relationship, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Both of you have to shed your egos, and make the effort to make up to each other. Yes, even if it’s not your own fault in any way! [Read: 30 questions for couples to keep the romantic spark alive in love]

Use this basic duration guide to get a better idea on how long the silent treatment should last.

#1 When you’re together at home. Don’t let the silent treatment last for over an hour. Even if you’re seething on the inside, calm yourself and communicate with your partner.

#2 When you’re away from each other. If you’re at work or in a long distance relationship, don’t let the silent treatment stretch for over half a day.

#3 If you’re too mad and need to be by yourself. Be frank and tell your partner the truth. Let them know that you’re hurting or annoyed, and as much as you’d want to sit down and talk to your partner, you’re just not in the right state to talk about it. Tell your lover that you need some time to clear your mind because it’s just too much to take in right now. And as soon as you feel calmer, call your partner and talk about it.

Just don’t take days to calm down though, because that’s just stupid. It only means you’re trying to hurt your partner. And that’s not the point of using the silent treatment at all. [Read: 12 reasons you're walking on eggshells in your love life]

So why use the silent treatment if it’s bad?

If your partner just doesn’t understand your words, or if they keep repeating the same hurtful behavior all the time, it’s definitely time to give them a taste of your silent treatment.

After all, sometimes the only way to help your partner realize that they’ve done something hurtful is by hurting them just a bit, even if it’s only for a moment. It’s definitely wrong to stretch the silent treatment for more than a few hours, because that would convince your partner to become a liar in future. But by using it for the right duration, you’d let them know that you’re really upset.

You’d know the value of safe driving only when you have a near death experience on the road or a close shave with an accident. But you did know all about safe driving already, didn’t you? But you still needed a reminder.

Likewise, at times, you need a bad reminder to see a taste of what could happen if you hurt someone you love. And that’s what the silent treatment should do. [Read: How taking a break from the relationship really works]

When the silent treatment goes wrong

Don’t use the silent treatment all the time. It should be a very rare occurrence if it has to hold any significance in your relationship.

If you constantly use the silent treatment once every few months, instead of looking at it as a regrettable incident, your partner’s regrettable sorrow would turn to rage for being treated this way. And instead of changing their behavior, your partner could actually end up repeating their behavior *even if they don’t tell you* just to get back at you! [Read: 15 types of toxic romances you need to watch out for]

Things you shouldn’t do while giving the silent treatment

Here are four things you need to know if you intend to use the silent treatment in your relationship at some point of time.

#1 Don’t ignore your lover. Don’t lock yourself in a room with no access to anyone. And if your partner knocks on the door, just tell them you need some time. Don’t ever ignore your lover completely when you’re giving the silent treatment.

#2 Don’t leave your partner in the dark. Tell them what you think is bothering you even if you need some time alone. It’ll help your partner contemplate over what they did wrong and how they can make up for it.

#3 Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away before hearing what your partner has to say. Listen to them, tell your partner you need to be alone and excuse yourself. If you cut your partner in the middle of their confession, you’re only going to build an emotional block between the both of you. [Read: How to react to a confession without losing your mind]

#4 Don’t attack your partner, verbally or physically. Don’t get violent or insult your partner before you hear them out. Don’t urge your partner to go on, and then yell at them because they’re going into the details. As much as it hurts, listen to their side completely.

How to end the silent treatment in a relationship

If your partner tries to make up with you after a while, or if you decide that you’re calm enough to make up with your partner, don’t just accept the apology and walk away.

Sit down together, and talk about how both of you feel about what happened. Ask your partner to explain themselves to you, even if they’ve done something terrible and has hurt you a lot. Get to the core of the issue, because somewhere deep inside, you’d see that a mistake in love is usually never one sided.

And once you hear your partner’s views, tell your partner about how you feel and mention everything you feel. It’ll help your partner understand you a lot better.

And at the end of it all, both of you should apologize to each other *even if you feel like have no fault in it*. Giving the silent treatment to them deserves an apology, don’t you think? [Read: How to fight fair in a relationship and get better in love]

Learning from the silent treatment

When you give the silent treatment to your partner, it’ll give you the time to reflect on the situation and also give you the time to think of the right questions you need to ask, and the right things to say about how you feel.

Don’t ever stretch the silent treatment just to hurt your partner for what they did. The silent treatment should only be used to reflect on the incident, and should never be used to hurt someone you love.

After all, when you hurt your partner, you’re hurting one half of your relationship. And that means your relationship would be hurt and affected by it too. Is that what you really want, to rip your relationship from the inside? [Read: Reasons why you may be falling out of love]

There is no winning partner or losing partner in love. Both of you can only win together and lose together in love.

So instead of indulging in power struggles or petty fights to win an argument or prove a point to your lover, learn to use bad situations and silent treatments as learning lessons. It’ll bring both of you closer, and help understand each other better.

[Read: 9 relationship stages that all couples go through]

The next time you’re too furious to see past your blind rage, use the silent treatment if you must, but use these tips on doing it the right way. It’ll surely help your partner understand your mind, and bring more love and respect into the relationship with every argument.


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Have your say!
  • jequato
    February 7, 2013 | Permalink |

    If you say the silent treatment is never the answer to the problem, why is the title of your article “How to Perfect the Silent Treatment in a Relationship”?

  • Luke
    May 6, 2013 | Permalink |

    I’m glad someone can see that the silent treatment is not completely evil. Jesus. It’s called, growing together. You can’t grow without conflict.

  • kate
    September 3, 2013 | Permalink |

    one thing I ve learnt in marriage is dat there is no perfect ways to manage ur home I.e, wat work for ur home may nt work for my home n as such I would tell u dat silent treatment perfectly works for me n am nt suggesting u adopt it cos it may nt work for u.

  • Tori
    October 22, 2013 | Permalink |

    I wonder, how do other people deal with the silent treatment being used on them?
    I’ve tried talking to my partner about it, but he says he just wants to be alone when he’s upset. But when he won’t talk to me for days because of some stupid argument, there has to be a problem right? What do I do?

  • princess
    November 21, 2013 | Permalink |

    For me many issues in relationships happen because of differences in opinions. For example, you may think that the law of attraction is real and want to live by its rules, and your partner may think that the law of attraction is hooey and laughs at you when you mention it. There is no right or wrong person.

  • Ale
    December 9, 2013 | Permalink |

    I have received the silent treatment for up to a month. I still don’t knwo what caused him to be so angry, he still has not told me, by the end of the month I was looking for a place to live, I could not take it anymore, so I called him and let him know that I was moving out and taking my stuff and furniture. He asked me to wait, when he got home he gave me a kiss and asked me for coffee, he never said anything else. He has done it a few times after that, but only for weeks, not months, ajajaja, I do believe it is emotional abuse.

  • sandy
    January 7, 2014 | Permalink |

    My husband thinks only he is right, and I must submit to him because in the Bible the wife submits to her husband. Well, not for me, I have my say, and I do what I think is right for me. Why should any man have the right to control his wife if its not right for her. God gave her a brain to think with, surely her decisions should stand ground. Never marry a man who is indoctrinated by his church, your life will be hell. Run, run and get far away from men like this. In today’s world, women make more money than their husbands, why should she say “yes Sir and no Sir, never! What makes men any cleverer than women that they should rule the roost? Marriage should be an equal input, or nothing! If my husband sulks, I leave him to sulk as long as it takes. I concentrate on my life.

  • Danielle
    February 2, 2014 | Permalink |

    My husband is giving me a silent treatment after I told him “I don’t trust his PA”. I think she has a crush on him”. I found a message (Skype) from his PA said that she missed him, she feels comfortable talking to him, etc. (she tells my husband about her personal life, it’s like she talks to her personal therapist). My husband hired this new PA in September 2013. His PA surprised to have learned that I was not a Caucasian, she then, asked my husband “does it work, Caucasian married to non Caucasian? I was furious when my husband told me about it. My husband is such a nice person (forget about he is the project manager) of course he answer her questions and told her “he sees me as an equal person and no different to any race. But, it doesn’t stop there. There more personal things came up and I got fee up with it. I told my husband that he should not let her talk about unrelated work issues. Especially, our personal life or hers! husband is Caucasian). He should just ignore her. My husband agreed to and is now giving me a silence treatment.

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