A new study that looks at data spanning from 1987 to 2011 on 14,000 participants has made a shocking discovery: the silent treatment in relationships isn’t a good thing. I know! Pick your jaw up off the floor and get a load of this: “a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University says nothing good comes from the silent treatment because it’s ‘manipulative, disrespectful and not productive.’” If that doesn’t blow your mind enough, there’s this, too: Les Parrott, co-author of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring you Closer, says that “the more this [silent treatment] pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety.”
Ok, so how about something you might not already know? Apparently, couples who get locked into a pattern of cold-shouldering can experience physical problems as well as emotional issues. Some of the research found that other effects of the silent treatment included urinary, bowel or erectile dysfunction. Yeah, not good. But! If you’re in a relationship where the silent treatment is a tactic used in your arguments, it’s not completely hopeless. While the silent treatment is closely associated with divorce, there are ways you can break the pattern and save your relationship. A few tips below:
How to break the pattern of the silent treatment
— Become aware of what’s really going on. The person making demands feels abandoned; the silent person is protecting himself. Each needs to ask: “Why am I behaving this way? How does my behavior make my partner feel?”
— Avoid character assassination. It will do more damage to label your spouse as “selfish” or “rude.”
— Use the word “I,” because the more you use “you,” the longer your squabble will last. You can say something like, “This is how I feel when you stop talking to me.”
— Mutually agree to take a timeout. When the cycle emerges, both partners need to cool their heads and warm their hearts before engaging. And some people just need a bit of time to think before they speak.
— Genuinely apologize as soon as you are able.
Also: therapy. Lots of it.