by Dr. Gary Chapman
Jill had told her husband that she wanted to spend a weekend at the beach with the girls who work in her office. Her husband Mike had responded with silence. No explosions, no loud words, no arguing, no nothing – just silence. He had been silent four days when Jill talked with me.
When your spouse gives you the silent treatment there are always reasons; usually a historical reason, an emotional reason and a contemporary reason.
The contemporary reason is that something has just happened that the spouse finds objectionable. For Mike, it was Jill s announcement that she was going to spend the weekend at the beach with her girl friends.
The emotional reason was that Mike did not feel secure in Jill s love. He reasoned, If she loved me she would want to be with me.
The historical reason was that Mike had learned the silent treatment in his childhood. His parents would not allow him to argue with them, so when he felt hurt or angry, he learned to be silent.
If you have been given the silent treatment by your spouse, here are the three questions you need to answer:
1. What have I done or failed to do that my spouse might have found objectionable?
2. Have I been speaking my spouse’s love language lately?
3. What do I know about my spouse’s childhood that might help me understand his silence?
What to Do
When your spouse gives you the silent treatment , you feel helpless. But you re not! You can help break the silence of your spouse. Think about your spouse’s emotional needs. When our emotional needs are not met, we misbehave. Silence is a form of misbehavior. If I can meet the need, the behavior will change.
The silent treatment can be very frustrating, but it is not a barrier that cannot be removed. The silent partner really wants to talk, but often fears that talking will escalate the problem into a full fledged war.
Sometimes this conclusion is based upon history: marital history, or childhood history. The silent partner usually does not like verbal battle, and silence is a way of avoiding it.
If we create a climate of friendly dialogue, we can discuss our hurts, needs, and desires and then seek for workable solutions. Once the silent partner realizes that talking does not lead to battle but to peace, the silent treatment will be left behind. The silent treatment is never an acceptable way to build an intimate marriage.
From Sarah: Dr. Gary Chapman invented the concept of the “Five Love Languages” – if you go to his site you can take the test for free – I found it extremely helpful in my relationship – and he had fun taking it, too! Just go to the love languages.