Dealing with the Silent Treatment

I like to look at my website statistics, to see how people find this site.  The keyword phrases can be pretty interesting- I get many people looking for “Zacatecas ice cream.” Many people are also looking for help with finding love, keeping love, and navigating relationships.  While I can’t really offer much help in the department of Mexican ice cream, I can address the topics having to do with the emotional realm.

Recently, someone found me by searching for how to deal with a romantic partner giving them the silent treatment.  My first reaction was just to feel the pain of this unknown person somewhere out there in cyberspace.  Getting the silent treatment from the person closest to you can be hurtful and frustrating.  The silent treatment is a manipulative tool often used by the more passive partner in the relationship, usually as a form of punishment for something that the more assertive partner is supposed to puzzle out.  This way, the more passive one takes no risk while their partner squirms and tries to please them, figure out the mystery, pull them out of their shell, grovel, apologize, etc.  It is a very hostile maneuver, and a classic in the relationship dynamic I call underwatering/overwatering .

If you are being given the silent treatment, you are being punished for something, but you are not actually being told what that something is and how you can make up for it. The first step is to notice how you are feeling in the moment- do you feel pulled out of yourself, trying to read your partner’s mind?  Are you angry?  Apologetic?  Scared? Notice just how much you feel hooked into trying to work out this puzzle.  It is not your job to read your partner’s mind.  It is not your job to fix something for someone who isn’t using their words.  Give yourself permission to stop trying.  Take the focus off of your partner’s puzzle, and bring attention to your own feelings.

Next, you can let your partner know that you care, and can see that something has upset them.  Invite them to tell you what has upset them, and let them know that unless they tell you, there is nothing you can do for them- they may not be talking to you, but their ears are working just fine.  Then, let it go as best you can.  Every time you notice yourself trying to read their mind and “fix” the situation, remind yourself that it is not your job to figure this out, and let yourself off the hook.  When you refuse to play games, the games tend to fall apart pretty quickly.

More posts on the Silent Treatment:

When the Silent Treatment Feels Like Your Only Option

Ending a Relationship by Using the Silent Treatment

Communicating about Taking Space in a Relationship- An Alternative to the Silent Treatment

More on the Silent Treatment

Why Do People Give the Silent Treatment?

The Silent Treatment vs The Cooling-Off Period

Disengaging from the Silent Treatment

The Pain of the Silent Treatment and What It May Be Telling You

Not All Silence is the Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment vs Stonewalling

Is It Okay for Parents to Give the Silent Treatment?