Overcoming the Silent Treatment


Is your spouse or romantic partner giving you the silent treatment? The cold shoulder is a hard nut to crack. They act as if nothing is happening, dealing out passive-aggressiveness nonchalantly, telling you everything is fine when it obviously isn’t. It can be extremely frustrating when your partner has shut you out. Every effort you make seems to have no effect. How do you get them to calm down and open up? If you approach the situation in the wrong way you may even prolong or worsen the problem. Even though it seems futile, there are ways to overcome the silent treatment and get back to being the happy-go-lucky couple you generally are. First, determine if this person is really giving you the silent treatment or if there is something else going on in their life that is making them act this way (wikihow.com). If this is a new relationship or the person is very private and keeps their feelings to themselves, you may not be the target of this but merely the one enduring it. Family problems, personal issues, something that happened at work or at school, troubles with a close friend all can make a person quiet and withdrawn. Depression can make someone act this way, too. Think about what is happening in this person’s life. Most importantly, determine if you are the only target of this behavior. If he or she only gives you the silent treatment, chances are the problem is with you.

If you know what you’ve done to hurt or offend this person, that is one thing. But if you truly don’t know what you did, then you need to carefully evaluate this relationship. Is this person manipulative or controlling? A relationship should be a 50-50 give and take. But if you are always doing things to satisfy them, and you think they overreact to small issues, perhaps it’s time to move on. Look at your own behavior next. What actions have you done to cause the person to act like this? When were they last happy and when did you notice the change? A few things should stick out as the point of contention. Now it is time to confront your partner. Hopefully, you at least have some idea what the issue is. Contemplate what you want to say to them. Don’t get defensive, angry or judgmental. Practice ahead of time if you are worried about not getting it right.

Make sure you speak to them privately when there is little chance of being interrupted. If you can, try to use a little humor to lighten the mood. However, if the person hasn’t reacted favorably in the past, or you fear you won’t do it right, you may skip this part. Begin then, by apologizing. Just say that you are sorry for hurting their feelings, or if something that you did or said hurt them in some way. If you know the reason, state what it is. But if you can’t remember or don’t know, be honest. Tell them that you value the relationship and don’t want them to be hurt or upset. Watch your tone. Avoid confrontation. Let them know how the cold shoulder makes you feel. If they still don’t respond, walk away. Don’t try to initiate again. You’ve done what you needed to do. Now it’s up to them if they want to carry on the relationship, or not. The ball is in their court. If you two are meant to be, then it’s time for them to come out of their shell and start communicating.

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