How to react to the silent treatment?

man thinkingAre you getting the cold shoulder from your partner, or the silent treatment, but you don’t know or understand why? Is he suddenly keeping your conversations at a minimum, giving you a little word here and there only to isolate himself? When this comes from your partner, from whom you expect a loving connection, this can be hurtful, frustrating, and confusing.

This facet of passive aggressive behavior is difficult to deal with. When you’re sad, it can be tempting to say whatever you can think of until he talks to you again. When you’re hurt, you may just slam out of the room, leaving him to sulk in his own silence.

What is the best course of action, in either case? What will effectively show him the consequences of the silent treatment, without making you stoop to his level or act out of anger?

Our recommended tactic is this: assert yourself. Remember that his silent treatment is a choice, that he could have behaved differently and didn’t. You are not under any obligation to give him what he wants or give in to his “punishment.” His treatment does not prove or confirm anything about your value; it simply shows that he can’t handle conflict.

Because you are not responsible for his behavior in any way, you can make your own decisions about how to react. If he decides to be distant, show him that you can do the same. Detach yourself (gracefully) by having your own projects and friends, beyond his influence. Not only will this allow you to have an environment away from him, it will allow you to think clearly, have a new perspective, and feel stronger the next time he tries to manipulate you with silence.

When both of you have had your time alone, you will be better prepared to look at what happened and consider the impact his behavior is having on your relationship.

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