Silent Treatment

Harmful and destructive, communication is what’s needed 

The cold shoulder, the silent treatment; the punitive act of “freezing” someone out of your presence; this is a tactic used to punish and alienate someone in the midst of a conflict. This is one of the most harmful and destructive behaviors that exists between two partners in a love relationship.  To isolate or pull away as a form of protection is not uncommon, but to punish the person you profess to love by steeling yourself against them and not interacting as an angry gesture is another. By refusing to address or resolve your issues using the silent treatment, you do a great deal of harm to your relationship. Communication is what’s needed. 

Instead of the cold shoulder, try open arms. The cold shoulder never works. It only serves to further drive a wedge between you and your partner. The anger you carry is harmful and destructive and is only making things worse. If you’re unable to continue a discussion or argument and you feel you’ve reached an impasse with the situation and the only thing happening is escalation, it is sometimes good to take a pause; take a breath, be silent and ratchet things down a few notches. Don’t freeze out your partner. Instead, hold them, hold their hand and admit you’re feeling powerless or afraid. That you feel like you’re not any closer to being heard or understood. Don’t punish your partner and your relationship by shutting off those emotions. Instead, do something that will flip the script and bring you back to a neutral space where you’re both not pushing so hard. 

Take a break, make a pot of coffee. Offer to start again on a different track. The more you give to your partner in terms of communication and options for them to feel heard and understood, the more you validate their feelings the closer you’ll be to resolving whatever it is. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling with communication and that you are feeling like you’re getting nowhere. The love that you and your partner share can allow you both to be that vulnerable with one another. 

If you’re unsure how to do this, get some help from an objective third party. A relationship counselor can help you to sort out emotions and communicate more effectively. The main thing is to keep the communication flowing and not to give your partner the cold shoulder, simply because you cannot agree or find your way through the situation together. All that will accomplish is they will feel abandoned and what is the good in that? 


About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.