Can The Silent Treatment Go Too Far?

When you and your partner get into an argument, it can be tempting to try to gain control back over the situation by giving your partner the silent treatment. It gives you time to think and ultimately, it keeps you from admitting what is really going on in a particular situation.

When you think about it realistically, the silent treatment really isn’t your best option if you want to solve an argument. How can you learn to communicate without shutting down?

Dear Dan and Jennifer,

Sometimes I give my boyfriend the silent treatment when we get into a fight, but it always seems to make things worse. Am I taking it too far?

–Lisa, Pennsylvania

Protecting Yourself

The silent treatment is ultimately a self preservation technique. It shuts you off from the situation, keeps you from having to admit and talk about what is really wrong and at the same time, puts you in control of what is going on.

People who are afraid to face an argument or people who have to feel in control of any situation with their partner will use the silent treatment. While this is a great way to wall yourself off from the problems that are happening, it’s also a great way to wall yourself off from your partner and make the situation even worse.

The silent treatment is actually emotional abuse. You’re really blocking out your partner and leaving them in the dark. Essentially, you’re punishing your partner and leaving them to wonder what they did wrong and leaving them to fix it.

A problem can’t be fixed this way, so while you may end up working this one out later, it’s always going to come back and escalate into something else.

Instead of giving your partner the silent treatment, ask for a few minutes to compose yourself. Take this quiet time to really think about what you want to say and say it! Communicating with your partner is the number one thing that will help you to solve the issue at hand and strengthen your relationship as a couple.

Learning To Communicate

Without lots of communication, one or both partners are in the dark and are frustrated, scared and angry at themselves and at each other. With the silent treatment, you can take a bad situation and make it much, much worse!

It’s better, and healthier, to communicate to your partner what they did to upset you and talk to them about what you both can do to make similar situations easier to handle in the future.

This is a technique that can take some time to learn, but it is incredibly effective in working out problems and situations that really aren’t that big of a deal – situations that the silent treatment would blow way out of proportion.

Instead of emotionally abusing your partner with the silent treatment, or walling yourself off from the real issue at hand, take some time to think about how you want to communicate to your partner what you’re upset about and what you’d like to see happen in this situation and similar situations in the future.

You might be surprised at how quickly an argument can be resolved this way, especially if your partner is open to listening to you and is honest about their own feelings as well. Communicate with your partner instead of shutting down and you’ll have a happier, healthier relationship in the long run.


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