And yet, what they likely want most at that point isn't usually silence in return from their partner or to avoid the issue. What they usually want is for it to stop hurting. The difficulty with the silent treatment is that the underlying problem lingers, probably festers, and a person may be causing additional harm to their marriage or relationship when they do it.
How do you stop getting into the Silent Treatment cycle?
If you are the one doling out the silent treatment, spend some time thinking about your deepest feelings at that moment and what it is you really want your partner to do. If you feel your partner is blaming, nagging or criticizing you, what usually happens when you go into silence? Very often, a partner receiving silence will only try and push harder to get their needs met. They more they push, the more you might retreat. Couples can truly get stuck in this painful pattern of retreat and pursuit, which they were likely trying to avoid in the first place. Try telling your partner that it is really hard for you when they continually try to engage or argue with you. Tell them you need a little time to think and will come back to talk about it soon. Then, follow through so they know they can count on you not to just disappear.
If you are receiving the silent treatment, try to identify your underlying feelings. Most likely, you are experiencing a great deal of anxiety and fear about not reaching your partner, and sadness or hurt at their apparent lack of response to your needs. Before you continue to pursue, plead or yell at your partner, ask yourself what usually happens when you do so? Chances are, your partner will typically pull even further into their silence, like a turtle into its shell. Try softening your approach, and be prepared to listen and honor their request for a little space.
To learn more about how to get out of the cycle of this and other unhelpful relationship habits we tend to develop, contact me today for a couples counseling session. Schedule online or call 303-513-8975.