Did you have a down and dirty, ‘I could just strangle you’ argument with your spouse and he or she is now giving you the silent treatment? How do you guys get back to speaking terms? Should you force your spouse to speak to you when they are giving you the silent treatment?
Well my views on this might surprise you.
The short answer to the question of forcing your spouse to speak to you when they are giving you the silent treatment is: You don’t!
Granted, when you argue with your spouse, the best way to resolve whatever issues you argued about, is to talk it through and come to a resolution that works for both parties. You have to negotiate a compromise. However, the thing about negotiation is you should not negotiate when you are emotionally heated. Ask anyone in business and they’ll tell you their biggest mistakes in business were made negotiating from an emotionally heated position.
The other point to make about negotiation is that people have to be willing to negotiate with you in the first place! And when your spouse is upset with you and giving you the silent treatment, it typically means they are not ready to negotiate with you.
The problem is when we argue we become emotionally imbalanced and this affects our thinking. There is no point trying to solve a problem when you are not thinking with a clear head. I find this is more common with men. Physiologically, men tend to shut down quicker than women during arguments, because they are not as used to dealing with their emotions as women are. They typically need some time to clear their head and their emotions. They need time to get back to the logical beings that they are.
So before we can resolve our problems, it is important we get back to a clear head. It is important to be in a position where our emotional instinct to be upset because of what our spouse did to us can be cancelled out by our intelligence. In marriage, particularly when you are dealing with conflict, it is important that you override your emotional instincts with intelligence (in essence, think before you talk or react). Unless you are able to do this, you both are going to struggle resolving your conflicts.
This is why I would always suggest that when you argue and your partner decides to give you the silent treatment, give them enough time to emotionally calm down to a point where they are ready to be on speaking terms with you. I am not saying this should go on forever, but you should allow them an adequate amount of time to calm down, which may vary, depending on their perception of the severity of the conflict. If this time is more than a couple of hours, then the aggrieved spouse should ask for more time to arrive at a clear head. Just keep in mind the necessary dialogue that must be had in order to tackle the issue at hand.
I find that if you force the issue too early and they are not yet at a point where they are ready to discuss the problems rationally, their emotional decisions might end up being a bigger problem than what you both were arguing about.
Typically when your spouse is so upset with you to the point that they are giving you the silent treatment, they probably initially have thoughts in their head like: “I’m so upset with you and I don’t need anything from you since you can’t provide it to me anyway, which is why we are arguing. So what is the point of talking to you?”
But if they have had a chance to calm down a bit, their intelligence reminds them that they married you for a reason. That you meet some of their emotional needs and if they are to have some of those needs met again in the future, they must reconcile with you.
They might not yet be calm but the conversation in their head has probably changed to;
“The only way this issue can be resolved is if I talk about it. I don’t feel like talking but I’m going to ignore that emotion and talk anyways”.
The point I am trying to make here is, the internal dialogue going on in your spouse’s mind needs to shift from a negative dialogue to a positive dialogue, before they are in a position to negotiate a healthy compromise to the problem you are both having. Since you are not in their head, you are merely interrupting this dialogue if you try to force the issue too early.
If it was a relatively major conflict that led to the silent treatment, the best way to achieve reconciliation is to not have any other fights for a few days, no matter how small. Avoid anything that will actually contribute to the negative dialogue going on in your spouse’s mind. Then little by little your spouse will come out of this phase of withdrawal, as the dialogue in their mind shifts to a more positive one and they will eventually become more engaging in your daily interactions. It is probably safe to broach the subject of the conflict again, at this stage. At that point, it is a bit easier for their emotions to be overcome by their intelligence because their emotions have shifted from “I can’t stand this person so I don’t want to speak to them” to “I want something from this person, some emotional connection and the only way to get it is if I speak to them.”
And once you are able to reconnect emotionally, you are finally in a position to negotiate a compromise to the conflict that led to the silent treatment.
When you are working through the conflict together, be empathetic towards each other, be considerate. In the process of resolving the conflict you’re making massive love bank deposits and re-establishing your intimacy.
So, don’t try and prematurely stop the silent treatment. Doing so just might be delaying the resolution to your marital problems. But if after you have allowed your spouse adequate time to emotionally calm down and they still are not willing to speak to you or you face even more issues, then it might be advisable to seek out coaching or counseling to help you both learn how to efficiently handle conflict.
Always rooting for you,
ZeeZee is a certified Relationship and Marriage Coach who believes her purpose in life is to equip couples with the right tools for a successful relationship. Through her website and YouTube channel she shares practical tips and principles that help couples understand the inner workings of a healthy marriage.