How Silent Treatment Affects Relationship With Spouse and Kids

You must have heard that silence is golden, but with time, you must have realised that it is only partially true. People should speak up when the situation calls for it, but there are days (and there will be days) when being silent is the best answer. Although considered a sign of weakness by many, silence is a powerful tool of communication. Silence can save an argument…silence can save a relationship.

But when someone gives silent treatment to their spouse or kids, is it acceptable? Why do people give silent treatment? What could be the consequences of the same? Let’s find out!

Silence is often healthy irrespective of any relationship. When you are not able to convince the other person to respond to you, you have most likely experienced the silent treatment. It can happen in any relationship, from romantic to parenting or between friends. Sometimes Silence can also be used to avoid conflict. But the form and duration of the silence in a relationship decide if it’s healthy or not. It is healthy till it does not start affecting the relationship. Everyone around must have experienced some form of silent treatment in their life. It can even cause emotional pain that is more similar to enduring physical pain.

What Is Silent Treatment?

The silent treatment is when people avoid any type of verbal communication. Sometimes, the person who is giving the silent treatment even refuses to acknowledge the presence of another person nearby. Although there is no verbal communication in between, it conveys many things that may anger, disappoint or frustrate a person who is at the receiving end. Silent treatment is known as stonewalling, which means a person is like a stone wall that does not respond to any kind of communication. Sometimes, the silent treatment is used to avoid conflicts or to avoid saying anything that can cause regret later, but it can affect a person who is at the receiving end. There are many reasons why people may prefer to use silent treatment in a relationship or marriage. Let’s try and understand these reasons in detail in the next section.

Reasons Why People Use Silent Treatment in Marriage

There are many reasons for giving a silent treatment that may or may not be from a view of giving punishment. Some of the common reasons are explained below.

1. To avoid saying things that might hurt someone.

When you are in a relationship, you do not want to say certain things you think might the person you care about and love. Conflicts and disagreement are common in any relationship, and people often end up saying things that they might regret later or hurt the other person. To save arguments and to not say things that might hurt the other person in the relationship, one may give the silent treatment. 

2. To show control.

Sometimes, a spouse or a parent may use the silent treatment to exercise control over the other person or to manipulate them according to their wishes. 

3. To avoid responsibility.

Some people may resort to silent treatment to ignore their spouse’s words or to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or any wrongdoings. 

4. To use it as a tool.

They can also give the silent treatment to hurt other people or use it as a passive-aggressive tool to punish their spouse.

Silent Treatment vs Silence

Silence is good sometimes, but silent treatment is a different concept from the word silence. While silence can be positive, it might be a step taken by any person, whether a spouse or parent, to take some time off from a heated discussion, think about it, and form a proper view to look at the discussion or issue. While silence can be positive, treating another person with silence for a longer period of time can be treated as a silent treatment when they refuse to talk even after multiple attempts.

A person may resort to silence if he or she is trying to avoid an abusive situation from escalating. This generally happens in case of an abusive relationship.

When Does Silence Become Abusive?

Sometimes silence can be good to avoid conflicts, but when a person gives silent treatment to another as a means to show their control over their spouse or children, and it becomes their regular habit to convince you of anything, it can be abusive. If a wife is receiving silent treatment from her husband for weeks, it can be considered abusive. Look into the situations where you can understand that it is abusive:

  • When you receive it every time when your spouse is disappointed or upset with you.
  • When they refuse to acknowledge you or talk to you until you agree to their demands or plead to them to talk to you.
  • When they just turn silent till you apologize.
  • When you start feeling that it is a punishment for you, you do not do things as expected.
  • When you choose to give in or change your behaviour in order to avoid getting those treatments.

How to Identify That You are Getting Silent Treatment in a Relationship

When your partner is taking some off time to look into the solution and resorts to silence, it’s okay. But when they resort to the silent treatment every time you are not agreeing with their opinions or ideas or do things their way, it is a sign that you’re getting the silent treatment from your partner. If your partner gives you the cold shoulder after an argument or not listening to any of your advice or suggestions, they might resort to silent treatment to either control the situation or expecting you to agree to their point. While it leaves important issues to be unresolved, it can also affect the emotional stability of the other person.

What If Your Spouse Is Giving You Silent treatment?

If you think that your spouse is giving you a silent treatment, try to understand if it is temporary or if it can last long. You need to be aware of the situation. Wait for some time to see if they are thinking about the issue or just giving you a cold shoulder to everything. Try to empathize with the partner if they are also feeling abandoned or lonely, and they do not understand how to handle the situation. However, if you are receiving silent treatment when you don’t do as they say or listen to them, then it is suggested that you do not follow as they say as it will only encourage such kind of behaviour and make them feel that are in control.

Ways to Respond to Silent Treatment From Your Partner

Since silent treatment can be brutal to you and your mental and emotional peace, it is necessary to find some ways to respond to this behaviour. There are a few things that you can try to do when you are getting the treatment.

1. Emphasize with them.

If you think they may be hurting and hence giving you the silent treatment, try to emphasise with them and tell them that you acknowledge their silence and want to understand the reason. Tell them that they can tell if they want some time alone to think about it and you will understand it.

2. Give them space.

Try giving them some space to understand their feelings or calm down to think about it.

3. Tell them how you feel.

Be honest with your partner, and tell them how you feel when they ignore you or give you the silent treatment. They love you, and they will understand how you feel. So be open in your discussions!

4. Confront them.

Ask them to tell you directly that their behaviour is wrong and that instead of giving you a silent treatment, they should make an effort to talk about the issue and find a solution.

5. Hold them accountable

Hold them accountable for giving a cold shoulder and not trying to resolve the issue.

6. Ignore.

When you know they are trying to ignore you on purpose, try to ignore their behaviour and do something that you find peaceful and fun till they come back to you on their own. And when they do come to you to talk about their problem or the reason for their distant behaviour, listen and talk to them gently.

8. Stand up for yourself.

If the treatment is turning into abuse, it is better you take a stand for yourself and set clear boundaries on how you want to be treated.

9. Consider counselling.

If you think it is not going anywhere, it may be a good idea to seek professional advice.

10. Reconsider

If you have tried every possible solution and feel drained every time in the relationship, try thinking of reconsidering the relationship.

What Are the Alternatives to Silent Treatment in Marriage?

When some partners choose silence over any kind of punishment or an escape from the argument, they can try some alternatives to the silent treatment. Without giving your partner a silent treatment, you can:

  • Inform them to give you some time to think it off.
  • Talk to them about the issue and try to find out the solution.
  • Try to understand their needs and figure out a middle solution that can suit both.
  • Take the initiative to tell them that both will follow one step towards each other.

Should You Use Silent Treatment to Discipline Your Children?

Silent treatment is often used by many parents to discipline their children. Although silent treatment is not the best solution for a relationship or while raising kids, when used the right way, it can help discipline kids. But it should be used carefully, and only when needed.

  • In order to discipline a child, silent treatment should not be used out of anger. It should be used to modify the child’s behaviour.
  • You can use the silent treatment to let your child know that you did not approve of their certain behaviour and want them to work on their behaviour. If you don’t talk to them for a day, they will make an effort to work on their behaviour.
  • If you are noticing their bad behaviour and trying to correct them, it is important that you notice their good behaviour and reward them also.
  • If silent treatment is not effective, do not continue with it and think of other ways to communicate and correct them. If it is not effective, then maybe continuing for a longer period of time may increase the resentment and distance you from your child.

Silence as a form of communicating can be romantic as well as devastating. While nothing can be said as accurately good or bad in a relationship, you should make sure that you report to silence if there’s no better option. While being silent to avoid an argument is fine, giving silent treatment to your spouse or children is not. There are other methods better than silent treatment to resolve issues, so consider them.

Also Read:

Tips to Become Spouse’s Best Friend
Ways to Handle and Fix Family Estrangement
Signs of Toxic Relationship With Spouse

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.