I was a repeat offender. Even before my husband and I got married, I struggled with giving him the silent treatment. You know what that is, right? When he would do something that hurt or upset me, I would go silent for days. Some people use the silent treatment deliberately to get revenge on the other person. I think my response was involuntary; it was a defense mechanism. While others might lash out, run off, or break down as a way of protecting themselves from further harm, my body responded by “choking up.” My earnest desire would be to discuss the matter and move forward, but I couldn’t. I was physiologically paralyzed. This would last for several days –no talking and shallow breathing caused by a huge ball of anxiety lodged in my throat. Imagine the tension in the relationship and in the house.
It took a few years for me to realize why I choked up and what I needed to do to respond more productively to disappointment. I’m happy to report that I no longer respond with the silent treatment for several days now; usually it just lasts an hour or so. But I use this time to process what’s happening and to find the right words to respond to my husband in love. So, that’s the negative application of the silent treatment. Here’s the positive.
After 15 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned to communicate with each other without using so many words. I’ve heard from other married couples who say after 30 or 40 years, words just aren’t as important anymore. Sure, they talk to each other, but they know each other on a much deeper level than words are able to express. They have a true spiritual, emotional, and physical connection that the dictionary can’t define. I believe that type of connection comes from repeated application of the silent treatment the right way, which involves expressing your love and appreciation for each other through nonverbal acts of communication.
Sometimes you need to take a vow of silence and say, “Let’s make love, let’s learn more about each other ““without using any words at all.” Instead of tearing down the marriage and disrupting communication for days, it makes the marriage stronger and teaches each person how to be intimate with and attentive to the other person without being stressed about finding the right words to say. The silent treatment the right way includes:
…Spending time just holding each other.
…Playing footsie under the sheets.
…Giving each other a massage.
…Slow dancing in the living room.
…Holding hands while walking in the park.
Let’s take it even further: Imagine an evening alone with your spouse. The rules are simple ““ no talking. Begin by gazing into each others’ eyes. When you are tempted to look the other way, force yourself to focus, to stay connected. Speak with your eyes. From the eyes, move to the touch. Don’t use your hands just yet. Start with the feet. Actually, just the toes. Make every part of you, no matter how large or small, talk through touch. Make each toe kiss and caress. From there, you can move to other areas of the body. Pay attention to the pinky finger, to the knee cap, to the ear lobe. Every once in a while, go back to the eyes. Focus on each other and allow the energy between the two of you to do all the speaking. There’s no telling where this silent adventure may lead, but it is all good because you and your spouse are drawing closer together rather than pushing apart.
If you are single and dating, don’t think you can’t apply the silent treatment the right way. Although I don’t recommend taking it to the degree a married couple would go, it is important that you are comfortable being silent and present with your significant other. There’s something wrong if the two of you have to be in constant verbal communication in order to feel secure in the relationship. In particular, if you are dating someone and he/she can’t look at you in the eyes, then you might want to look elsewhere for a significant other.
The difference between the negative silent treatment that punishes and disrupts communication and the positive silent treatment that builds intimacy and deep connection is pretty clear. More of the positive and less of the negative could lead to you and your spouse still “making eyes” at each other after 40 years of marriage. The key is to understand that sometimes words just get in the way of expressing our love for each other. Every now and then, give each other the silent treatment the right way. I guarantee you won’t need so many words to express how you feel once you truly connect with each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Has the silent treatment been an issue in your relationships? Do you have any plans to implement it the right way?