The Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment – a Relationship Killer or The Best Way to Solve a Conflict?

The Silent Treatment - a Relationship Killer or The Best Way to Solve a Conflict?

Even though all couples fight from time to time and it’s natural to face disagreements in a relationship, sometimes it might seem like the best idea to distance yourself instead of resolving the conflict. A refusal to communicate with another person is called a silent treatment. The question is, is it helpful or is it damaging?

How Does Silent Treatment Work?

The silent treatment is a way to avoid conflict and let your partner know that they hurt you. You might rely on it because you don’t know how to approach the issue in a healthy way or you might find it difficult to express your emotions.

The silent treatment can also be a form of emotional abuse.  In some cases, you might not only want to communicate to the other person that you’re upset but also punish them for it and make them reach out to you first.

But whatever the reason behind the silent treatment is, it’s a hurtful practice that negatively affects the other person’s sense of belonging and self-esteem. [1]  

How to Approach a Conflict Without Using Silent Treatment

A healthy way to approach a disagreement involves direct communication. If you choose to use silent treatment instead, the feeling of resentment between you and your partner will build up and you’ll never solve the conflict.

1. Take time to understand your emotions

The first thing you should do is sit down with your emotions and figure out why you feel the way you do because sometimes there’s more to the problem than it seems at first. For example, you might think that you’re angry because your partner went out with a friend of the opposite sex without letting you know. In reality, you might be feeling hurt because it triggers your fear of abandonment. The more you understand yourself, the easier it will be for your partner to accept and respect your boundaries.

2. Choose the right place and time

Even if you’ve been seeing your partner for a long while, having an honest conversation about your feelings can be scary. However, don’t be tempted to get it over with when other people are around or when your partner is visibly distracted. Instead, make sure you both have enough time to spare and that no one will interrupt you.

3. Use ‘I’ statements

Remember that your partner can’t read your mind and might not always be aware of how their behaviour affects you. When you speak about how you feel, avoid accusatory language and use ‘I’ statements instead.

4. Listen

Take time to listen to your partner’s point of view. The only way to resolve a conflict is to see each other as equals and not treat the conversation like a debate you can win. Remember, the goal is to reach an understanding.

5. Try to reach a compromise

The key to a healthy relationship is compromise. Even if you’re compatible, you might still have to learn how to accept some aspects of each other’s behaviour and boundaries. For example, your partner might still want to see their friends, except next time they’ll tell you about it in advance.

If you and your partner struggle to communicate with each other, it might be time to consider couples therapy. Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat


If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.

You can contact the My Family Psychologist Offices between 8 am and 8 pm to book an appointment.

Get in touch to see how we can help.

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