Do you live with someone who responds to conflict with the silent treatment? John Gray taught us that men tend to go into their caves when they are mulling something over in their minds. John Gottman’s studies of couples in conflict found that men tend to “stonewall” when they become physiologically and emotionally overwhelmed.
We know that it is more common for men to do this than women. What happens when “going into your cave” for a few hours or even an entire day turns into a hostile, silent retreat that lasts for days, weeks, or even months? How do you know when you are the object of the dreaded silent treatment?
- When it lasts for more than a day
- When he will not look at you in the eye
- When he looks at you with daggers in his eyes
- When he limits his interaction with you to a few short, unavoidable words
- When he interacts in a perfectly normal, friendly manner with everyone else but you
- When your attempts at interacting with him are met with passive resistance
If you are a woman dealing with a man who uses this destructive behavioral pattern, here are some things for you to do immediately:
- If you are badgering him, criticizing him, or belittling him in attempt to make him talk, you are doing more of the same. Stop this behavior immediately!
- Examine your own behavior with a critical eye. Ask yourself what you are doing to contribute to the problems in your marriage.
- Talk to him as if he is behaving normally.
- Let go of your need to be right. This is destroying your connection with your husband.
- Tell him how much your relationship means to you and how you do not want to continue to be disconnected from him.
- Avoid blaming him for the conflict.
- Accept your part of the responsibility for the conflict without telling him that he is responsible also.
- Ask him what you can do that will help.
What I am suggesting is not easy. I am asking you to do something different from what you have been doing all along. Is it worth it? You have to decide if your marriage is worth doing something new to reconnect with your husband. If you and your husband have been going down this rocky path for a long time, you may find that you cannot do this alone. Relationship coaching can help you get back the connection you had when your love was new.