Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, April 27, 2009

Couples Communication: The Silent Treatment Is A Problem

My last post related to whether arguing is a healthy function of intimacy, and I want to continue with this theme here. The truth about how couples argue is that couples argue in many different ways. While your association to the word “argue” may involve yelling or curse words, I believe that giving the Silent Treatment to your partner when you are upset is yet another version. Though the Silent One may not be shouting, he speaks volumes by shutting down and saying nothing at all.

Let’s be careful to name the problem and call it what it is: The Silent Treatment is a form of punishment. This is not to be confused with feeling unsure about your feelings and going to your own corner to get a break – that is understandable and normal. Sometimes, however, you may feel angry and take it out on your partner by shutting down completely and not letting him or her in at all. You might be so angry, in fact, that you will hardly say a word.

Often men and women who issue the Silent Treatment know it hurts their partners – and that’s part of why they do it. They shut down to express their anger rather than express it fairly, through words and mutual, intimate communication. In other words, when the Silent One shuts down, he doesn’t even give his partner a chance.

If you are guilty of resorting to the Silent Treatment, I must call a spade a spade –it’s a cheap and easy way to hurt your partner. All the while, it turns you into a child who is incapable of communicating in your relationship like a grown-up. If you’re in a relationship, do the honorable, adult thing and give your partner a chance to talk to you. Talk to your partner – share – and work productively on your relationship.

Shutting down by means of the Silent Treatment is simply acting out and you can do better than that. Relationships are risky business and everyone stands to get a little hurt from time to time. The test of a strong person and relationship comes down to effort – will you be someone who truly tries and fights for a quality relationship? Are you really willing to go out on a limb and sacrifice a little vulnerability for the greater good?

1 comment:

KaliKross said...

Why are you presuming that the other person is a saint of a communicator? This is a very faulty presumption that people make about people who use the Silent Treatment (ST). You are assuming that the other person isn't yelling, using verbal assaults, and issuing character assaults. Who wants to sit for that? It is more often than not that verbally destructive people are the ones met with the ST. And how can you confirm people's behavior once they leave your office? Instead of denigrating people who use ST, you could try giving them tools for communicating with someone who is shouting and making personal attacks. Until then, I'm not talking or listening to them because rarely do they want to hear in return what I have to say about THEIR behavior.