Is the Silent Treatment Necessarily a Bad Thing?

silent treatmentMaybe the silent treatment isn’t such a bad thing sometimes.

In 1995, The Fugees remade Charles Fox’s song, Killing Me Softly, and lyrically reminded the world that it is not always the loudest knife that cuts the deepest.

Sometimes the absence of sound becomes unbearable, and to break an uncomfortable silence people will say anything to fill the void. On the other hand, in the heat of a moment people say things that they may spend the rest of their lives wishing they could take back, but things can never be unsaid.

As we learn more about our partners, we also sadly become much more skilled at twisting the knives that cut the ones we love the most the deepest.

Silent treatment from Husband

Research from relationship therapists suggests that in any troubled relationship it is about equally as likely to find the silent treatment being given by either spouse. The reasons men give for using the silent treatment are most often that its a way for them to gain control of a situation that has seemingly spun out of control or as a preferential alternative to shouting, or from behaviors more often seen as abusive.

Silent treatment from Wife

Women reportedly, use the silent treatment as a way to get the attention of their mate on a topic or subject, they also report using the silent treatment as a form of passive aggression, or as a way to avoid exposing themselves to further hurt or disappointment.

Benefits of Silent Treatment from Husband / Silent Treatment from Wife

There are situations in which emotions are running too high or feelings are too hurt to effectively communicate. In these situations it is wise to take a break and allow the situation to diffuse for a bit before trying to engage a partner in conversation. When a husband cannot see a single positive thing about his wife, he is better off waiting for the mood to cool before he brings up the things on his mind. Likewise when a woman is unable to recall any of her husbands good qualities and can only see the negative thing that is in the way, she would be wise to wait for the tension to pass.

In both cases, people need to be willing to facilitate the release of the stressors, simply waiting or hoping things will get better or at least feel better is more than a bit naive. Couples have to be willing to put in the work in order the really see their relationship grow.

Dangers of Silent Treatment from Husband / Silent Treatment from Wife

There is a point when using the silent treatment as more than a short-term way of dealing with marital strife or life stresses becomes toxic. A marriage is a partnership, and if one person–one half–of the team is checked out permanently and disengaged, then the union is bound to fail.

A marriage that lasts a lifetime, or even just past the first five-year sprint, has to be based on communication. If one spouse cannot approach the other then there will be problems. The silent treatment is a healthy way to cool off and then prepare one’s self to come to the table and talk things out. It is unhealthy if it becomes a way of life or a long-term tool, or worse if it simply defines the relationship norm. Communication is a vital part of any long-term relationship, so using silence as a weapon is a definite issue. Using silence as a tool can be wise, using it to hurt is not a good idea.

After spending months or years with someone, you understand that person’s vulnerabilities. If silence is something that deeply troubles or wounds your spouse, than it is a good idea to use the technique sparingly. If however your relationship at times is like a pot bubbling over and you need a break to see and think clearly before engaging in a meaningful, or even a superficial, dialogue about the matters at hand, then the use of silence can be a helpful thing.

In small doses, the silent treatment can strengthen your relationship because you can avoid the knee-jerk and hurtful things that husbands and wives sometimes say to one another because they know how to get under the other persons skin like no one else in the world does. However, make sure that it is kept to short intervals, and that there is always a conversation afterwards. If the problems are not dealt with and are not talked out, they will never go away and will almost certainly always fester. Silence can help a relationship, but too much can kill one.

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Posted in Communication
10 comments on “Is the Silent Treatment Necessarily a Bad Thing?
  1. amanda says:

    This is not what marriage means or divorce means ! When a marriage can longer work and has come down to the option of divorce I do recommend you do so so no party of each side has to suffer any bad outcome to what may come to if no divorce happens

  2. darelle4 says:

    The silent treatment is not good at all. I mean if you’re trying to avoid an argument them may be it can be done but not for too long. You cannot win someone over or punish them with silent treatment because it doesn’t show what love is. Love is not when all is well but when there are issues as well.

  3. mary says:

    I give my partner the silent treatment when he upsets me but he does not take it seriously, his attitude is ‘here we go l’m getting the silent treatment’ and l do calm down after a couple of hours. Personally l see nothing wrong with it if it is used lightly or in a jokey way, what causes problems is when one person takes it to the extreme.

  4. Julian says:

    To me, as a man, I think the silent treatment isnt so bad, at least up to a point. However, how can you really fix things if you don’t communicate?

    I think of the silent treatment as a ‘time out’ rather than a chance to ignor your partner. I know that I often see that the issue was my fault while using this quiet time. (I hasten to add that not all things are my fault lol).

  5. I wouldn’t call it a bad thing per se, but like all good things, when not used “according to the manufactures instructions” it may end up making things worse. Remember that the other person is someone you love and an extended silent treatment say for over two days, may end up hurting the relationship.

  6. Brian says:

    I definitely think that remaining quiet on an issue can at times be beneficial. I agree that sometimes in the heat of the moment, especially if there are strong emotions attached to the issue at hand things can be said that you may later regret. Sometimes it is helpful to let yourself cool down and examine your feelings and control your emotions. That being said using the silent treatment to irritate your partner is never a good idea. Whatever the issue may be it will not resolve itself. Marriage is about compromise and effective communication and the best way to accomplish that is with a cool head.

  7. Josie says:

    There is a big difference between the silent treatment and taking a breather from the situation. The silent treatment is punishment, which has no place in a healthy relationship. Taking a break from the situation is always a good idea if the alternative is unproductive and could lead to regrets.

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  10. emotional wreck says:

    For a couple of weeks I have been served with the silent treatment, its been a very and disturbing period for me.for me I feel emotionally drained & abused, its been a very humiliating experience. While I used this tactic before I have never allowed it to last longer than a few hours or days,and I also try to make the compromise to initiate reconciliation…i get the feeling that he was looking forward to it, he needed to punish me and loosen the connection so that he has no obligation to share with me….

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