"I'm not talking to you!" — if you hear these words from your partner too often if they are followed by many days of silence. As a result, you have to justify yourself, beg, ask for forgiveness. Still, you don't know why it may be time to think about the fact that your romantic relationships are in the high-risk category due to the silent treatment in a relationship and are about to fail.

romantic relationships

Silent Treatment Definition

The silent treatment is defined as ending a relationship or communication with someone to protest against something or someone's behavior. A relationship boycott is considered a form of psychological abuse. Its most widespread forms are ignoring, avoiding a conversation, sabotage, and rejecting physical intimacy.

Each of us has the right to any feedback relationship. If your partner refuses it to you, it means he/she is using one of the cruelest manipulations that sociopaths and abusers adore. Refusing to explain the reason, pausing conversations, leaving without saying goodbye, ignoring calls, playing silent games are examples of boycotts that disorient the victim and drive him or her crazy. Run before it is too late for you, as ignoring is a meaningful and cruel manipulation method.

The Origin of Silent Treatment and What It Tells About a Person

Why do people boycott their partners in relationships? First and foremost, for control. To control the situation and the person. In this case, it implies primarily the task of putting the person in the right place. Namely, to the place that the abuser will point to. Sounds cruel, doesn't it? But unfortunately, it is.

When you are ignored, it is a sign of impending conflict. Although often the victim of this game of silence isn't even aware of it, nobody talks to him/her and makes any claims. 

Psychologists note, "Giving someone the silent treatment speaks volumes about your character." The silent treatment is a strategy used by people who imagine themselves to be superhuman, with powerful self-control and rational thinking. Emotions are certainly not their element. Still, that's not as harmless as it may seem at first glance. People don't explain the reasons for their behavior, assuming that you should know your "sins" or try to avoid you so that you feel like a real criminal.

silent treatment in a relationship

Why Is It Harmful: Negative Effects of Silent Treatment in Relationships

Is silence in dating and marriage so helpful? Is it possible to prevent conflict by simply shutting down and boycotting your partner? It turns out that intentional silence has many negative aspects that affect our health.

It Is a Part of Emotional Abuse that Can Transform into Physical

Many people in families take the silent treatment as a manifestation of bad character, but unfortunately, that can be greatly exacerbated. If your couple likes to see you suffer because you are blaming yourself for something and cannot solve the current problem, thy start feeling their power over you and may soon begin to use physical force against you to prove themselves.

It Leads to Tension and Anxiety

People, who are so ignored, are just dragged down because of the tense atmosphere in the relationship and the inability to fix and clarify things. They are overwhelmed with despair and sadness, which often leads to depression. They feel anger, fear, and guilt at the same time. That's why this kind of strategy is an unhealthy way of dealing with conflict.

It Is Not Healthy for Developing a Relationship

Every game of silence brings you closer to an imminent breakup. If your partner used to go first to dialogue with you after a quarrel, getting tired of the same scenario, they will accept your tactics the next time. As a result, the growing anger and resentment will burst out, and your relationship will end with a grand scandal.

It Develops PTSD

The victims who have no idea how to respond to silent treatment are miserable and upset. Moreover, they can't even ask why they're being treated this way. They go through hundreds of options to find out what's wrong with him or her. They go over their words, their actions, and they don't find an answer. That's the worst part. Thus, a boycott is the ultimate abusive behavior. Yes, there is no screaming or physical violence, but mental torture is more powerful.

It May Transit to Other Life Aspects

No matter how much psychologists teach us that relationships, jobs, and friends should be separated and that we should never transfer problems from one area to another, it's still the case when all of these are closely interconnected. Being depressed because of difficulties in your couple and having a lack of ideas on how to handle the silent treatment, you are unlikely to smile at your colleagues. Your nervous system can fail, and all your negativity will hit innocent people.

How to Recognize Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a kind of terror game that takes place between two people, where the ignored party is tortured with the question, "What have I done wrong?". In doing so, self-esteem is devastated, until the blaming party says, "I'm so horrible," and walks up to the one who is silent with the words, "I'm so sorry." How do you recognize a boycott in time to take action to address it?

In Your Partner

By ignoring you, your partner shows his/her disdain. They clearly show that they don’t appreciate you and tries to bend you to his/her will. For example, it’s as if you do not exist, pretending that your partner does not hear your words, "forget" about the joint plans, etc. Sometimes your partner doesn’t ignore you completely, but carefully avoiding communication. For example, he/she gives one-word answers to all your questions, gets off with general remarks when you ask about something specific, mumbles, or gets away from the answer, abruptly changing the subject. 

In Your Own Behavior

You reject affection and love from your partner. As a rule, that happens without words: you avoid their touch or kiss and any physical intimacy. If you are often offended without any reason and walk around with an unhappy face and no intention to clarify the situation — this is also one of the signs of a boycott. You don't recognize your partner's achievements, don't let them do their duties, change your demands suddenly, and are constantly dissatisfied with the way he or she does something. Instead of starting a dialogue, you give up as you are sure that the conversation won't have successful outcomes. 

dating and marriage

How to Deal with Silent Treatment

Quite often, the partner doesn't want to discuss existing problems, have their origins in childhood, but unfortunately, not everyone is ready to talk about it when you need to solve the problem here and now. How to talk to your partner who isn't eager to clarify the relationship?

Start the Conversation the Right Way

Since you took responsibility for harmonizing communication in the relationship, start by conveying the importance of discussing what is going on in your couple. That might sound like, "I love you, and I'm sorry you shut down when I bring up certain topics. I also want us to have a close and lasting relationship, but our relationship could crack if we keep shutting things out. Our communication can help both of us." 

Explain How You Feel About Being Ignored

Tell your spouse how you feel when you can't make your views clear. Explain that you don't know how to handle silent treatment with dignity and would like to understand why all of this is happening, but if the behavior doesn't change, you have no desire to be around.

Respect Your Partner’s Personal Space

If your beloved one reacts negatively to your calls to talk, he or she just lacks personal space. Even at the beginning of a relationship, you should set boundaries right away if such manifestations exist. You should tell each other what you can and can't do. Everyone needs personal space, and this need should be respected.

See a Therapist

When your couple still closes off from the conversation and cannot give in, you may make an appointment with a psychologist and in a preliminary conversation to describe the situation. Don’t be afraid, quite often these kinds of problems are solved in one or two sessions. In couple’s therapy, a good specialist is sure to show you a way to communicate that will suit both spouses and help open up to each other. 

Don't Shut Down If You Feel Ignored

You should have a balance in the relationship. When someone keeps on ignoring you, they always decide whether or not to allow communication. This behavior is very offensive. Set reasonable boundaries on what you are willing to agree to in your relationship, and let the person using the maneuver know that you will not continue the relationship that way.

Main Donts in Dealing and Reacting to the Silent Treatment

  • Don't aim for negativity. You need to solve the problem, not make it worse.
  • Don't take an example from your partner in hopes of keeping silent more than your spouse and getting him/her to say, "I was wrong."
  • Don't get angry. Be clear about the situation you want to discuss.
  • Don't accuse him or her of anything.
  • Don't push your partner into describing the terrible consequences of his/her behavior.
  • Don't blame yourself for everything and get rid of the guilt (if you already have it).
  • Don't expect it to be easy, and you'll solve everything in one conversation. You may or may not get lucky.

Silence is good when it’s in joy — enjoying nature together, watching a sunset, or just lying in silence. Silence, the cause of which was a grudge, will lead you to disharmony, to tension in the relationship, to disconnection, even more misunderstanding, and most likely will end in a scandal. Not many people can get into your thoughts and feelings and read them. If you want to live together, in love and understanding, then use your speech.