The Silent Treatment: How Choices You’re Making are Hurting Your Marriage

Posted on Jan 25, 2013 by Katie Carter

It’s so true that men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. The way we think and act is completely different, and sometimes incredibly frustrating. What seems like a nonissue to a man may be something World War III worthy to a woman—it’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way we’re built.

When we get mad, we often handle our anger differently than our husbands. One of the tactics that women, especially, tend to employ is the silent treatment. It may seem like, once he’s done something wrong, he needs to figure out how, where, and why he went wrong. It may seem like, if we tell him exactly what he did, that it somehow takes way from the “aha!” moment he might have when he figures it out himself—and then apologizes profusely for being such an ignorant ape. It may even seem like it’s a form of punishment he deserves for being so pigheaded, immature, or tactless. In our heads, we can justify giving him the silent treatment for a number of different reasons, but the bottom line is that the silent treatment is abusive.

I know, I know—you don’t mean to hurt anyone. Not really. You just want him to realize what he’s done. But the fact remains that your actions can cut far deeper than you realize, and ultimately harm your marriage in ways you didn’t expect.

The silent treatment is ultimately a form of manipulation, and it can result in your husband feeling unloved, confused, frustrated, and unimportant. By being silent, you intend to make him feel bad about what he’s done. By withdrawing from him, you expect him to restore communication with you. It’s a passive aggressive way to harness the power in the relationship, and force him to respond to you on your terms. You expect him to feel a sort of helplessness, a desperation, that makes him more keen to re-establish communication and fix the relationship without having to do any of the work yourself. It’s a way to shirk responsibility, to place all the blame firmly and squarely on his shoulders, and let him work out the solution.

We’re all guilty of it sometimes. It’s easier to be passive aggressive than outright aggressive, but ultimately our behavior can be destructive to our most important relationships. When you’re in the heat of anger, it can seem like a cop out to have to feed him the puzzle pieces that explain your anger—after all, sometimes it does seem like after having several fights over the same issue, he should probably understand what the heck he did wrong. Ultimately, though, it’s far better for you, him, and your relationship if you sit down and talk about the problem, rather than imposing a period of stony silence. After all, one day he might just walk away—silently.