How 'The Silent Treatment' is Damaging Your Relationship

Giving someone the cold shoulder or the silent treatment after an argument is increasingly common, especially among those involved in a romantic relationship. What many of these couples don’t realize is that this method of showing your anger is utterly toxic for your relationship. When you refuse to discuss a problem and avoid any sort of communication, it only creates frustration and resentment. Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher, calls this Stonewalling and one of the 4 deadly horseman to relationships. Save your relationship before the silence becomes a living breathing thing and creates too much space between the two of you, and you forget what it was like to be in an open and honest relationship.

Mother holding child’s hand while father turns his back to them.

4 Effects of Silent Treatment:

Passive-Agressive Rage

Often the one administering the silent treatment believes that they are taking the moral high ground by not yelling and screaming, they are wrong. The silent treatment is not a lack of retaliation, in fact, it is a calculated and strategic move designed to hurt the other person and make them feel unworthy of your words. You may not be screaming and shouting, but your silence is packed full of aggression, and is a manifestation of the rage you feel. It is not the absence of a response, but a response itself, one specifically used to manipulate the partner into seeking forgiveness, even if they were right.

The Power Struggle

Ultimately, this is about winning. You are aware that your silence will provoke feelings of guilt. When you are the one reacting, it automatically signals to the other person that they are wrong, and should be begging for your attention and forgiveness. Your partner may respond with full on aggression to combat it, and the argument worsens. Experts call this demand-withdrawal. One partner demands attention from the one who withdraws, making them angrier and more demanding, which causes further withdrawal from the second partner, devolving the relationship into a vicious cycle of hurt and anger.

Strategic Action

The silent treatment is a strategy, and it can result in the other partner feeling unworthy, invisible, and unimportant. You are telling them, without using your words, that they do not matter to you until they apologize. You are portraying yourself as so hurt and upset that you are speechless, when you are actually calculating coldly a strategy to not engage in finding a solution, but rather your partner having to take most of the blame. The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation, much like intentional crying when it is used to make someone feel guilty. Most of all, the silent treatment is a strategy put in place to divert the attention away from what caused the argument, and onto you and your silence.

Their Feelings

It’s important to consider what this does to the other partner. They are angry and upset because of the argument you just had, and they believe that they were not 100% at fault. They are looking for you to explain what they did and why it upset you, but you don’t – instead you retreat into the deadly silence. Your partner cannot read your mind, and they are frustrated because they can’t understand how to resolve the situation. Now there are two arguments; the one you originally had, and also a second one about how you are being unreasonable on finding a solution. You may both get locked into the position that the other person is at fault, and this will begin to erode your relationship and build resentment, which eventually can lead to the end of your relationship.

Remember silence is not a conclusion to the argument, this is a delaying mechanism, and the fight is sure to resurface. If you turn the other way and hunker down on finding a way to resolve, the issue will only resurface or cause more damage to the relationship.

An argument can only be truly resolved when you communicate. Talk openly and honestly, without holding anything back. Discuss your perspective on the situation, and let them discuss theirs. Maybe one of you will see the other person’s view as reasonable, or you will be able to reach a compromise. But this will be done through discussion and honesty. Nothing is solved by the silent treatment, and it’s time to eradicate it from your relationships.

Couple and family therapy can help improve communication and conflict resolution. Give Jennie Marie a call at 310-853-3638.

Essential Communication Skills for Relationships

In a digital age where we’re all constantly connected to each other via technology, and sending large amounts of information on a daily basis, we may think we are effectively communicating with one another. The truth is, however, effective communication isn’t about presenting the other person with information, but about understanding the emotions behind that information. Communicating seems simple enough, but we don’t always realize how often our words and actions are misinterpreted by others, and how often we misinterpret other people. To combat this, we must all put in the conscious effort to cultivate certain skills essential for communicating and building a healthy relationship: 

Couple communicating with each other as they prepare dinner in their kitchen.

Effective Listening Through Reflection

There’s a difference between hearing what someone has to say, and actually listening to what lies beneath those words. One of the most essential communication skills is the ability to effectively listen to another person, and making them feel heard and understood. This creates a safe environment for people to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of consequences and judgment. By listening to someone, you are better able to understand them, and prevent any misunderstandings that may cause conflict later on during the course of the relationship. Most problems can be solved if the other person feels that their feelings are being valued and considered, and allowing them to talk when emotions are running high allows them to calm down. This is why listening is imperative to effective communication. Communicate you understood by reflecting what you heard, if you partner tells you about their day try to summarize and identify the feelings.  For example, “It sounds like you felt like your co-worker was disrespectful today when they commented on your project, this caused you to feel embarrassed and angry.” Not only does this clarify what you heard your partner tell you about their day, but also creates empathy for their situation.  This will help your partner feel cared for and loved when you listen and reflect what you heard them say.

Nonverbal Signals

You don’t just communicate with words; your actions play a huge part in how you are perceived by others, and how affectively you can communicate your feelings. Body language, such as eye contact, blinking, posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures can give off a lot of information about what you are thinking and feeling, letting the other person know a lot, even things you wouldn’t want them to know. For example, if someone is talking and you’re not paying attention, you may be nodding, but your eye movement and facial expression can give you away. You can use this to your advantage and take on positive language, such as open hands, uncrossed arms, maintaining eye contact, nodding and smiling. Not everybody uses their body language to convey the same emotions, however, and cultural differences, age, gender, etc must be taken into account. You can improve on this skill by observing people when you talk to them and trying to gauge their feelings and thoughts just through nonverbal communication.

 Recognizing Stress

 During an argument, or even a conversation, you may become stressed and overwhelmed by your own emotions, causing you to lash out with anger and aggression. It’s important to recognize the signs of oncoming stress, and prevent it from taking control of you. This will help you remain calm and collected during what could have been an emotionally charged situation. By staying calm, you are able to listen and understand what the other person is saying, as well as better convey your own thoughts and feelings. Everything will be clearly talked out and problems can be solved effectively. Before reacting with anger, clarify what you heard. You might find out that is not what your part intended to convey. For example, you could ask “I’m really upset because it sounds like you thought I was an idiot for moving the bills off the desk and onto the chair, but I was only trying to make room to fix your laptop.”  This conveys your emotion, why you did what you did and clarifies what you thought your partner is saying. This will allow your partner to then clarify their position and attempt to move you to a resolution.

These skills are absolutely essential for communication in relationships, as without them, there can be a high level of conflict which may eventually damage and weaken your bond. By applying these skills, you will see a definite improvement in your personal and professional relationships.

Need further help, therapy can teach you better communication tools. Contact Jennie Marie today for a session at www.Hope-Therapy-Center.com

4 Benefits of Couples Therapy

Couples therapy or relationship counseling is a form of psychotherapy that aims to identify and resolve conflicts and challenges that might be the cause of dissatisfaction between two people.

The most defining four benefits of couples therapy are:

Improved Communication

One of the biggest benefits opting for couples therapy is the improved communication between the two partners. Conflict often arises when either or both the parties are unable to effectively communicate to their partner their deepest wants and needs. Therapy aims to teach both the partners to be more open and honest with one another, establish stronger communication and increase conflict resolution - how to fight right. What’s more, it encourages you to actively listen to what your partner has to say in a calm and collected manner. Finally, couples therapy can help your uncover communication patterns that are destructive to the relationship and replace them with healthy forms of communication.

Better Understanding

By teaching couples how to strengthen their communication skills, therapy also aids in allowing better understanding. When there is a lack of adequate communication, there is a lack of understanding that eventually leads to an emotional disconnect. Therapy can help increase understanding of each others point of view in a way that enables them to effectively realize their partners desires/wishes, worries/concerns, and wants/expectations in a more empathetic manner.

Increased Emotional Intimacy

Unresolved, festering conflicts can drive a serious wedge between couples. Therapy and relationship counseling teaches couples to rediscover one another. Moreover, it allows the couple to repair their somewhat battered emotional and physical connection. By removing the distresses that separate them, therapy allows couples the opportunity to increase emotional intimacy for a deeper connection. Increasing deeper emotional intimacy and increase positive physical intimacy as well.

 Moving Past Lingering Negative Feelings

While most couple still have strong emotional ties to one another, unresolved conflicts tend to overwhelm those emotional bonds to the point that it can feel impossible to reconcile. Therapy can help uncover negativity and unresolved conflicts that has festered and lingered to the point that the relationship has broken down and feelings of love and respect have dwindled. Therapy teaches couples how to understand, accept, and forgive in order to let go of the past and instead focus on the present. This can restore and renew feelings of love and passion for your partner.

3 Tips to Resolving Conflict in Relationships

My Grandmother always said "Kiss me Goodnight Rich" - this was her way of telling Grandpa, she wanted to resolve the conflict.

In a healthy relationship, conflict is bound to arise from time to time, because two people cannot be expected to agree and work cohesively all the time.

If dealt with properly, conflict can provide an opportunity to strengthen the relationship, but when mismanaged, conflict can deteriorate a relationship and make it weaker.

It’s important to understand and learn the skills associated with conflict resolution, in order to manage it properly and come out on the other end with a stronger bond than before.

Here’s how you can effectively resolve conflict in your relationships:

Always Kiss Me Goodnight framed wall art.

Understand the Cause

Conflicts are based on disagreements concerning values, ideas, principles, and opinions. At the root of every conflict there is a difference of needs. Both parties want their needs to satisfied, whether their need is validation, safety, intimacy, support, or respect. When you understand this, you can see that the needs of both involved parties must be met in order to maintain a strong long-term relationship. This will allow you to look at the situation a second time, this time in an environment of compassion, love, and mutual support.  This is how a compromise is reached and a conflict is resolved.

 Recognize Your Own Fear

If you are terrified and threatened by just the thought of a conflict and try to avoid it all costs, you may be damaging your relationship by doing so. The truth is, previous conflicts from other relationships that ended badly may be governing your fear of future conflicts, and so, you go into it thinking that it will be awful and will end terribly. This makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you decide in your mind that it will play out negatively, you will do nothing to steer it in a positive direction because you are certain that the negative vibes have a right to be there. When conflict seems more threatening to you than it actually is, it leads to mismanagement. This feeds your fear, and it allows you to see conflict as humiliating, demoralizing, and more terrifying than it was before. You need to go into thinking that it will okay, and you must train yourself to let go of your fear.

Control Emotion and Stress

Even something trivial can trigger an emotional response which makes the conflict larger than it was. Your reactions play a very important part in how that conflict is resolved. Often, in the midst of a heated argument, people say hurtful things and prey on each other’s weaknesses just to prove a point. This does nothing but exacerbate the situation, and leads to longer conflict time. Avoiding hurtful and disrespectful arguments almost always leads to faster resolution. Let go of the stress and don’t let your emotions take over; by staying calm during an argument you can see both sides of the story much more clearly.  Once you look at it more practically and calmly, a solution will present itself to you. It’s important to understand that all healthy relationships have their fair share of conflict, and you just need to be patient, and communicate openly in order to resolve it.

It’s important to understand that all healthy relationships have their fair share of conflict, and you just need to be patient, and communicate openly in order to resolve it. 

Need help learning how to resolve conflicts and communicate effectively in your relationship? Contact Jennie Marie.