Does the silent treatment work well in relationships? There’s often been a long drawn battle between whether it’s good to cut off and take time away from your partner or is it better to stay put and work things out, when something goes wrong. Different people have figured out different ways of dealing with their relationships and cracked the code of what works best for them. So there is no sure-shot answer to what is the better and right away. The thing about the silent treatment is that it does have tremendous benefits if used correctly. It all depends on when it is used, how it is used and why it is used.
Radhika Sapru (name changed) discovered the benefits of silent treatment early on in her relationship with Rohit. That was the only way she could tackle her hot-tempered boyfriend who was actually a gem at heart, she felt. But when Rohit got angry there was no point trying to show him any kind of reason. Usually at times like that Radhika chose to stay silent. Sometimes on a date or even on the phone, if Rohit flew off the hook, Radhika just kept her mouth shut letting him cool down first.
“I realized if I started talking as well we would end up in a heated argument and the situation escalated badly,” said Radhika, adding, “I realized the benefits of silent treatment in dealing with Rohit. If he didn’t get any reaction from me he would automatically cool down. Then come around and even apologize.”
Does The Silent Treatment Work?
As you can see, the silent treatment can be beneficial in certain situations, as long as it is being used as a way to diffuse tensions and not a tool of control. So the answer to ‘Does the silent treatment work?’ is a yes. To use it the right way and really enjoy the benefits of the psychology behind the silent treatment, it’s imperative to understand when to use the silent treatment and how as well as how long should the silent treatment last.
Prolonged silent treatment in a relationship where a partner does not talk for days on an end and looks through a person when they try to communicate can be a harrowing experience. This is what we call stonewalling and is totally uncalled for. But spurts of silent treatment when you want to convey to your partner that you are upset is not a bad thing.
When should I use silent treatment in a relationship to really make it work? This might be a question that is on your mind. Some people use silent treatment all the time and that has an adverse effect on a relationship and on your loved ones. Using silent treatment in marriage is also more common than you think. However difficult, if you use it once in a while it could be beneficial to your relationship.
Why Is Silent Treatment So Effective?
The silent treatment is a controversial topic, there is no denying that. On one hand, prolonged silent treatment could lead to emotional abuse and is said to be as lethal as physical abuse having long-term psychological effects, and on the other, it is often regarded as an effective tool for conflict resolution. While communication is the key to a fulfilling relationship, sometimes silence is also needed to put across a thought.
Paul Schrodt, Professor of Communication reviewed 74 relationship studies and the findings of his in-depth analysis revealed that silent treatment could be tremendously damaging to a relationship and it diminishes feelings of intimacy and reduces healthy interaction, says this article.
But there are some benefits of silent treatment if used intelligently, says psychologist Kavita Panyam. What makes silent treatment so effective? She says, “The silent treatment can help revive connections that have been fairly healthy, in that it allows both partners to list out their differences and introspect. When communications are laced with more opinions and fewer facts in healthy connections, giving each other space for a while may help in rekindling the connection and setting a new equation. But this is about giving space and not shutting down on your partner. It may help bring about effective communication and has to be used carefully, being aware of the goal at all times.”
It is often said that giving someone the silent treatment speaks volumes about your character. However, a more apt statement would be that how you give someone the silent treatment speaks volumes about your character. When used as a means to convey displeasure, work through one’s own difficult emotions, cool off tempers, fleeting spells of silent treatment will be effective.
Related Reading: 8 Conflict Resolution Strategies In Relationships That Almost Always Work
How Long Should The Silent Treatment Last
Considering that the silent treatment can be an effective tool in diffusing tensions and resolving conflict, provided it is used correctly, you may find yourself wondering how long should the silent treatment last. And with good reason too. Figuring out the answer to this question is crucial as the duration of the silent treatment can be a key determining factor between whether it is being used to end a deadlock or a tool of emotional abuse.
The silent treatment will be effective only and only when used as a means to create just enough space for allowing both partners to work through their own emotions, gather their thoughts and revisit a point of contention more pragmatically. When used to force the other into submission, the lines between silent treatment and emotional abuse can quickly become blurred.
As with anything else involving human emotions and relationships, it’s hard to put a definitive timeline on how long should the silent treatment last. But if you often find yourself wondering, “Will he come back after the silent treatment?” or “Am I pushing her away by giving her the silent treatment?”, then these broad timelines can be helpful:
- Don’t let it stretch: Silent treatment will be effective only when partners reconnect quickly and make an effort to work through their issues. So, one clear answer to how long should the silent treatment last is to not let it stretch for days, weeks or months. If you hold off communication in a bid to get your partner to submit to your will or apologize, then you’re venturing into the tricky territory of silent treatment and emotional abuse
- Break the silence in a few hours: How long should the silent treatment last? The answer to this question also depends on your circumstances and the issue at hand. If you’re together at home and have a showdown over something routine, don’t let the tension simmer for too long. The best way to use the silent treatment effectively in this situation is to end it after a few hours
- Need more time? Communicate: However, if you and your partner are struggling with some serious issues, then either one or both of you may need more time to make sense of your emotions and figure out how best to deescalate the tensions. Even so, distant and withdrawn durations can make your partner insecure. “Will he come back after silent treatment?” “She won’t talk to me. Is the relationship over?” Doubts like these can begin to plague their mind. So, if you need more time, reach out to your partner and communicate this to them, calmly, clearly and without blame or accusations
- Factor in the distance: When trying to figure out how long should the silent treatment last, the physical distance between you and your partner is also an important factor to consider. For instance, if you’re in a long-distance relationship, long spells of silent treatment can do more harm than good. Likewise, if you’re both busy and unable to be together, prolonged silence can drive a wedge between you two. In such a situation, the silent treatment will be effective only if lasts no longer than a day
Related Reading: 11 Relationship Arguments That Spell Doom For Your Bond
8 Benefits Of Silent Treatment
Does the silent treatment work? Can silent treatment in a relationship be justified? It can only work and be justified if it brings any positive returns to the relationship. There are certain times when silence speaks more than words. If a partner is willing to listen to this silence, you both can reap the benefits of the silent treatment.
Amelia, a resident doctor, found that her partner was sleeping with an intern in his office. From wanting to smash things to biting his head off, Amelia’s instinctive reaction was driven by rage, anger and hurt. However, after a screaming match with her boyfriend, she realized that it wasn’t going to do them any good.
“I gave him the silent treatment after he cheated because at that point I couldn’t even bear to look at him. This also gave him the space and time to introspect, and see what a grave mistake he had made. Though it wasn’t easy, we were able to heal from the setback of infidelity and stay together,” she says.
As Amelia’s story tells us, silent treatment can prove to be beneficial for a relationship. But what makes silent treatment so effective? We list these 8 benefits of the silent treatment to help you understand the same:
1. Silent treatment could dissipate tension
Silent treatment in marriage is thought to be a way of punishing a partner and is akin to passive-aggressive behavior. But it is not always as mean as it is made out to be. When there is heightened tension and one person is extremely angry and aggressive, then silence on the part of the other person can help to dissipate the tension.
Many people say they just leave the room and lock themselves in the bedroom telling their partner that they would only interact when they are in a better situation to talk. This helps to diffuse the aggression that one person is feeling. Yes, giving someone the silent treatment speaks volumes about your character, but not always in a bad way. It also shows that you are a person with resilience and self-control.
Related Reading: How to respond to the silent treatment – Effective ways to handle it
2. You can understand your partner better
People who use the silent treatment as a method of punishing their partner can stay silent for days, building a wall around them and behaving that their partner doesn’t exist. This is terrible for a relationship. If you’re wondering “does silence hurt a man?” or “will the silent treatment make a woman chase you?”, then you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. There is no hope that the silent treatment will be effective in this case.
But if a partner becomes silent after you came home really late after an office party or forgot your partner’s birthday, then it’s their way of conveying that they feel hurt. Maybe an apology or a tight bear hug could bring them around. Sometimes silence teaches you more about your partner’s feelings than then screaming and shouting and them telling you that they feel hurt.
This is the biggest benefit of silent treatment. You get to understand your partner better. Reema says that as she starts fighting with her boyfriend over the phone she makes an excuse and hangs up but she usually calls him back within half an hour and she apologizes if she is wrong. “He calls up too, within 10 minutes often, saying where he had gone wrong. Silence does work for us, always.”
3. Treat silence with silence
A narcissist uses silent treatment to abuse their victim. This is one of his most preferred methods of harassment. But if you are using the silent treatment back on your partner who is trying to use it as a weapon on you, then silent treatment is actually beneficial to you.
Instead of fretting over why your partner is silent and racking your brains about what you could have done to push them into that kind of behavior, you can also ignore them. You may wonder thy silence is powerful with a man or a woman who uses it as a tool of emotional abuse. Well, simply because by going silent, you’re giving them a dose of their own medicine.
Every time a narcissist uses silence on you, use it back on them. And see the results. It would tire them out and they would want to open a dialogue. And if you want to end the relationship, then just use the silent treatment as an opportunity to move on.
4. Why the silent treatment works with an ex? It helps you two to process your own feelings
Sometimes when you go silent, especially with an ex that you have some painful history with, it helps you to process your own feelings. Instead of accusing your ex of upsetting you, you can introspect about why their actions upset you. Dialogues don’t help in every situation but silent treatment on the self could have a more positive effect.
The silent treatment will be effective if you’re using it for taking some time off from your partner and trying to look deep within yourself. Most people realize the mistakes they are making this way. Sasha and her ex boyfriend did not talk for a whole week after they had broken up.
“But in that week we went back to all the good things about us and realized we were being extremely immature. When we made up after a week, our relationship was much stronger than before. Silent treatment had benefited us, we felt,” she says. That’s the thing about using the power of silence the right way; you won’t be left wondering, “Will he come back after silent treatment?” if you play your cards right, then things could actually go really well for you.
Related Reading: How To Respond To The Silent Treatment – Effective Ways To Handle It
5. Does the silent treatment work in long-distance relationships?
Some believe that in a long-distance relationship silent treatment is even more detrimental to the mental well-being of the partners, but in my view, it could have a positive effect if used over a short period. Angry hurtful words and fights over Skype could be worse than silent treatment in a long-distance relationship.
“We developed such instincts that through a single message we would know that there is something wrong at the other end. The dead giveaway would be the monosyllabic answers on text, the silent treatment of a long-distance relationship I would say. Then we would try to resolve the issues,” says Adam.
6. Silence can be a good response to hurtful comments
Does silent treatment work on guys? And why silence is powerful with a man? These questions can have you confused if you’ve experienced that silence is more effective than communication in resolving certain issues. Well, the effectiveness of silence isn’t gender-specific per se. It can work on everybody but the extent of this treatment should be managed effectively.
Sometimes saying hurtful things can damage a relationship more than the silent treatment. Because once the words are uttered it cannot be taken back. So the hurtful things being said keep building can be terrible. But if you respond to hurtful words with silence then it will help you disengage. No matter how much you are provoked if you decide not to retaliate with hurtful words no one can force you. Retaliating with silence is a good idea in a situation like this.
7. Silence can help you do away with the negative emotions
The psychology behind silent treatment is that it lets you manage your feelings in a much more rational manner. If you feel negative emotions about someone instead of shouting back at them or coming up with counter-allegations, you use your silence to focus on positive things. While your partner might try to suck you back into negativity you could focus on positive things if you are silent. This will be better for your mental health and you will reap the benefits of the silent treatment.
There are people who become silent when in a negative environment and transport themselves mentally to a serene place like a meadow or a beach and deal with their negative emotions accordingly. Sometimes this kind of silent treatment is used by kids who are surviving toxic parenting.
8. Reach a compromise through silence
Why is using silent treatment in a relationship so effective? Because it helps you to reach a compromise often. If one person falls silent and disengages from the argument this not only helps in breaking away from the cycle of angry arguments it also helps to open a dialogue and reach a compromise.
When one partner wants to resolve the situation you should readily get out of the silence and start talking about the issue. If you do not, then your silent treatment will become abusive.
Silent treatment in marriage or in relationships does have its benefits if used in the right way. But ensure that silence does not get prolonged then it will become detrimental for the relationship. But the benefits of silent treatment are many and by now you know how to work on the benefits.
Related Reading: How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?
How to give silent treatment in a relationship?
The key to giving silent treatment in a relationship is to manage and balance it perfectly. While you want to disengage and let the bad feelings dissipate, you also do not want to hurt your partner in an irrevocable way.
The silent treatment is not a war of egos but is rather a conflict resolution strategy. You must use this technique effectively so it does not cause more harm than good. Dissociating is not always a bad thing as long as you have the right boundaries and reasons for it.
The silent treatment can work wonders in relationships but interestingly it can resolve tensions with exes too. Why the silent treatment works with an ex is something you might be wondering. When one has newly broken up, there are abuses and blames that are hurled at one another without a second thought.
Why the silent treatment works with an ex is because it gives both people time off to think about the consequences of their decision. The no-contact rule after breaking up can do wonders. When one can step away and view the situation more holistically, one processes it much better and can make peace with it.
The silent treatment is a slippery slope. If used at the right time in the right way, it can solve a lot of your problems with your partner. However, if prolonged too much, it can be aggressive and hostile which will not end well.
If someone has committed a mistake, the silent treatment helps them take a step back and process the situation. It allows them time to reflect and think about the actions that they have committed. A lot runs through one’s head during this time.
For some time, it may appear so. However, the one undergoing the treatment may eventually realize that this time off is essential and actually helpful. Be careful about who you use the silent treatment on because not everybody may understand it.
Couples Therapist Talks About The Pros And Cons Of Open Relationships