You had an argument that ended with no real resolution, just fatigue.
You want to go into another room, watch TV, read a book, take a shower, go to bed… whatever.
You want to do something – anything – to get away from your partner in that moment, if for no more than an hour.
You just want a break from the back and forth.
They start with the passive aggressive silent treatment again.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? How about this one: You’ve won the argument, but you are still not satisfied. The apology didn’t feel genuine; it felt more like an attempt to pacify.
Or maybe this passive aggressive silent treatment scenario:
You planned a lovely day out, but something got in the way. Something often gets in the way, it seems, and this makes you really upset. You haven’t spoken with your partner about it, at least not in great detail, but the missed outings and broken promises are starting to impact the way you feel about the relationship. When you are together you think about addressing the situation, but can’t seem to make yourself open up. Your anger is coming out in different ways, like snide comments and cutting sarcasm and that is uncharacteristic.
We may not be aware of why we have the feelings we do during these tumultuous times, but we know they are there. Knowing how to control those emotions and take actions that will help rather than hurt is an important skill to learn.
In all the instances discussed, there is a choice to be made. What do you do when all you want is a little peace and quiet or when you didn’t get exactly what you wanted out of an exchange? Do you begin the conversation again in the hopes that you can make your needs more clear, or do you give them the silent treatment?
Both options have consequences (as do all actions), however, some are more detrimental than others. Giving someone the silent treatment does more than buy you time or help you organize your thoughts. It impacts the person on the receiving end far more than you might think.
Passive aggressive silent treatment is a common practice in relationships, and is also the source of deep rooted problems. The interesting thing about passive aggressive silent treatment is that it is a function of low self-esteem and interpersonal communication skills, not the result of an argument. While the problem might have stemmed from a misunderstanding, a slight, or any variety of issues, handling the discussion that occurs with silent treatment is a direct result of poor communication skills.
Don’t worry. With a little effort on your part, this is something that can be fixed.
Think about the reasons you choose the silent treatment. In most relationships, the drive to go quiet is avoidance. You think if you don’t say anything, the other person will walk away, giving you the reprieve you desperately want. Avoiding further conflict gives you the instant quiet that you are looking for to either gather your thoughts or calm down.
The first reason is followed very closely by the desire to control the situation. The desire to revisit the discussion on your timeline or using the silent treatment to get what you want, whether gifts or affection, is an attempt to manipulate your partner.
Finally, there is another driving force that makes us choose the silent treatment: fear. Voicing an opinion that is contrary to your partner’s can be a scary thing to do, especially if you are uncomfortable with conflict. The fear that the argument could challenge the stability of the relationship is very real for some people.
When we engage in passive aggressive silent treatment, we create uncertainty for the other person. When we are part of a relationship, we seek validation, approval, security, and love from each other; it is the basis of the connection. There is no other time than during and after an argument that we need this connection with our partners. Removing it and putting up a wall between you, effectively ostracizing them from your emotional presence, if not the physical, strips away at their sense of acceptance. Over time, this effect can be damaging to your partner’s psyche and to the relationship.
To avoid giving your partner the silent treatment, trust the bond that you have is strong enough to withstand conflict. If you want time away, tell them you need to process the problem alone. If you don’t think the apology was sincere, tell them what you think and why. If you are afraid to speak up about something that is bothering you, trust that your partner cares about your feelings and wants to make changes to ensure your happiness. Choose talking instead of the silent treatment and enhance your emotional connection.