If you are in a relationship of any kind, at one point or another you are going to encounter it!
It is not: Time Out, Giving some space, lay off, Cooling off or any other fancy description, It is a form of abuse called: The Silent Treatment,
Do not let the name fools you though; this is one serious relationship breaker that keeps bugging you or your partner until one of you cannot take it anymore and call it quits. It is a form of social rejection that affects couples everywhere and everyday, at its worst; it is Continual Silent Treatment, where the person gives a partner utter silence for days or weeks on end, and some will make the effort to avoid being in the same room!
Every relationship is composed of Passive and Aggressive partners with a variation in the degree of aggression. Which in turn reflects in the way each of them uses the silent treatment:
- The passive partner uses silent treatment as a form of defense: Ignoring the problem will make it go away, or as a reaction to a hurtful situation which demands some space to think things over.
- On the other hand; the aggressive partner uses silent treatment as a measure of control, or as a punishment for something his or her partner did. Now we are talking about Abuse!
- Physical: Silent treatment triggers what is called “Social pain” in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex of your brain, the very same location of actual physical pain.
- Emotional: Since it is a form of social rejection; it affects the caudate nucleus of your brain provoking a mix of negative emotions including: Frustration, intense anger, and eventually, resignation and despair.
- Psychological: You will suffer from low self esteem, a sense of loss and not belonging, increased stress and loss of control.
- Behavioral: The constant fear of receiving the silent treatment casts a shadow of uncertainty in your life, you begin to watch closely for every word and action on your part and you second-guess yourself: Am I doing the right thing? Am I saying the right words? In other words: You try hard to avoid it, which changes you onto a person that is no longer YOU.
How to deal with it:
Keep your anger in check:
Reacting to silent treatment in anger reinforces the abuser sense of control over you” Hey, it works! I’ll use it again” and the episodes keep on coming.
Apologize first, ask WHY later:
You cannot read minds so might as well start a conversation anyway; apologizing for something you did (or did not) is the softer approach in any conflict. And then ask why, you have the right to know if that person is giving you the cold shoulder for a reason. If your apology or question falls on deaf ears; do not blame yourself and start looking for a way out of that relationship.
Express your feelings:
Admitting to your partner your pain as a result from him/her giving you the silent treatment is not giving up control, it is simply putting the issue up front and center, it shows your intent on keeping that relationship going.
Have an open mind:
To what your partner has to say about his/her reasons that ended up with the silent treatment. Make sure you do not ridicule them no matter how trivial they sound; after all, we all have different personalities.
Do not fight silence with silence:
That would make things even worse, it leads to a complete breakup in communication, besides, one of you has to be the grownup!
Explore the alternative:
Ending an unhealthy relation is far better than staying in it and ”biting the bullet”, life is too short to spend in hate, anger and daily turmoil.
© 2011, M Z. All rights reserved.