Why the Silent Treatment Doesn't Work
By Jennifer Waddle
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone’s silent treatment, you may have been left wondering, what on earth have I done? Unless the problem is apparent, it’s impossible to read someone’s mind and figure out the reason for their silence.
That’s how it used to be in my marriage. I would internalize things that my husband did—big and small—leaving him to wonder what was bothering me. Not only was it unfair to him, it never worked in solving our problems.
Here are a few reasons why silent treatments don’t work:
1. Silent treatments build insecurity.
It wasn’t until years later that my husband was completely honest with me about my silent treatments. He admitted that they made him feel terrible and caused him to experience a lot of insecurity in his role as my husband.
Hearing how he felt made me regret all the times I stewed about things, pushed him away, and even slammed a cabinet door or two. Once I realized the negative impact my silent treatments were having on him, and our marriage, I started handling my frustrations in one of two ways.
- If the issue was trivial or unimportant, I would simply let it go.
- If the issue needed to be addressed, I addressed it as soon as possible.
If your silent treatments are building insecurity in your spouse, I encourage you to reevaluate the way you handle your frustrations. Seriously consider how you can let trivial things go, and address the more important issues as they arise.
2. Silent treatments build resentment.
Fortunately, I am married to a man who doesn’t let bitterness take root. However, I know that if I would have persisted in my silent treatments, I would have risked pushing him to the point of resentment.
On the flip side, every time I held things in, instead of communicating how I felt, I built up a measure of resentment in my own mind. Since then, I’ve realized it’s much better to speak up about an issue, and even disagree about it, than to hold things in and let resentment build.
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Ephesians 4:26)
3. Silent treatments create distance.
The more often one person uses silent treatments to “get back” at their spouse, the greater a chasm is built. Not only do silent treatments create distance, they may eventually lead to a breach in the relationship. It’s best to allow marital conflicts to draw you closer in the end, not drive you apart. This means getting things out in the open, not holding them in.
For more help in this area, check out the article, Are You Disconnected from Your Spouse?
4. Silent treatments lack maturity.
Ultimately, my bad habit of offering silent treatments, instead of healthy communication, was an indication of immaturity. When couples struggle to communicate effectively, it’s usually because they lack the experience and maturity to address issues properly.
Here is a terrific article with expert tips for communicating with your spouse.
Whether you’re on the receiving end of your spouse’s silent treatments, or the one giving them, they simply don’t work at resolving problems in marriage. With wisdom and truth, speak up when necessary and let the trivial things go
Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.
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