Silent Treatment In A Relationship: How to Respond

Gwen Adams

Silent treatment in a relationship

Are you a victim of silent treatment in a relationship and you are clueless about how to deal with it? If so, don’t worry we have got you covered. For some people, silent treatment in a marriage or relationship is a communication tool, but it’s pretty ineffective in relationships.

Some people use silent treatment as a psychological tool to manipulate others in the relationship. People often use it as a means of punishment against their partner because of some argument or disagreement.

What Is the Silent Treatment in a Relationship?

Silent treatment in relationships means a shift from regular communication and engagement to no or minimal communication. It’s more than just a normal “cooling-off” period between partners. Most of the time it happens after an issue or argument between partners. During silent treatment in a relationship, one partner might show that he/she doesn’t care about the relationship.

What Is the Silent Treatment in a Relationship?

A partner might not talk at all in the relationship and may show with his actions and attitude that she/she isn’t interested in talking at all. It can happen both in person or even if someone is in a long-distance relationship. While many partners have been on both ends of the relationship silent treatment, there are still questions about whether it’s right from a psychological perspective.

Reasons for Silent Treatment

Partners in a romantic relationship can use silent treatment for multiple reasons. We have mentioned the 3 very common reasons below among many others.

  • To Punish: One can use silence as a tool for punishing their partner or to get control over their partner. It can result from some arguments and disagreements between partners.
  • To Avoid: Sometimes, people don’t understand how to react and what to say in certain situations. So, to avoid any conflict they prefer to be silent.
  • Communications Gap: Any communication gap due to lack of understanding in an intimate relationship can also result in silent treatment. In such situations, a partner might express that he/she is upset by being silent.

How to address silent treatment behavior in your relationship

Silent treatment in a relationship can be very harmful, it’s not good for multiple psychological reasons as well. So it is very important to address this issue if anyone is facing it because it can become frustrating to deal with. Before addressing it, you need to understand a few basic things. Otherwise, it may lead to just another baseless argument between partners if your partner is already giving you a cold shoulder. To help you out with this we have mentioned a few things that you can look out for before you go forward with it.

How to address silent treatment behavior in your relationship

Identify it as an issue

The very first thing that you need to do is to address it as an issue. You would need to understand what are the downsides of this. Without showing your concern you might not be able to convince your partner that it is affecting you. You would need to make sure that it’s not getting ignored by your partner. For this, you would need to understand how you can deliver and communicate with your partner.

To understand this well, you can look out for a common pattern that your partner is following. You would need to point out a real issue that you have been facing because of the silent treatment given by your partner. Talk it out with your partner and tell them how it can be the reason for ruining the relationship. Unless you won’t figure it out yourself and won’t show it as an issue, it would be very difficult to address it.

Know your trigger and name it

Tell them exactly what triggers you and how it triggers you. For this, you need to identify your triggers and name them out specifically. Give it a thought on how you can express this to your partner precisely without being vague about it. Being vague would not help the cause because it can lead to poorer communication between you two. If the communication is not effective, then you won’t be able to express your partner.

You can also point out triggers when it happens. You can say how it has affected you and tell your partner that you need time to recover from that. If you are leaving because you are triggered, tell your partner when will you be back to discuss the issue.

Use the time apart to both calm down

Sometimes it’s better to take time off if you cannot find a solution for the situation. Don’t try to push the argument unnecessarily if you are not sure what to say and how to give closure. If your partner won’t be able to understand you well, then there is no point in arguing. You would just be wasting your time and might feel emotionally and mentally exhausted because of the situation.

You can take time off from each other and then you can introspect on things that need to talk about. Make things clear in your head and be ready, work on things that you think can help in addressing the situation better. You can tell your partner when you are thinking of coming back, don’t do the mistake of not communicating.

Seek professional help

When you cannot cope with the situation and there is a repetitive pattern of conflict, it would be better to consult a professional therapist. You may not be able to solve all the underlying issues and it could keep disrupting your relationship. It would be better to look for professional help in such a situation, otherwise, the situation would only get worse. You may not even realize that you are in an abusive relationship because you were already so concerned about other things in the relationship.

A relationship therapist can be very helpful and can give you a different perspective on the issue that you are facing. Therapists can provide you with solutions that are backed by scientific studies and with a professional therapist you can talk about the situation comprehensively. A therapist can point out the key things that you would need to look for in the relationship to avoid silent treatment.

Silent Treatment In A Relationship

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Why the Silent Treatment Is So Harmful?

Silent treatments are rooted in the same principles that support abusive behaviours of control. Here, the control is not through physical intimidation but it can have some negative psychological effects. If you have ever suffered silent treatment, then you would know how painful it can be. From here on, you start evaluating what are the things that you might have done wrong. This keeps happening until the uncertainty creeps in and poisons the relationship with paranoia.

A silent treatment may not be your first choice to handle a disagreement, but if it has become a regular part of your relationship, you need to change it. Sometimes people use it unconsciously to control their partner (which should be done with empathy).


Silent treatment in relationships should never be used to overcome a disagreement or argument between partners. Whoever is on the receiver end of this can feel very overwhelmed and they may even feel anxious because of the uncertainty. If you are facing it, then you must point it out to your partner and tell him/her how it is affecting you. Don’t be vague about the issues and if you cannot figure things out by yourself, consult a professional therapist.


How to End the Silent Treatment for Good?

You can end by addressing it as an issue to your partner or you can also seek professional help from a relationship therapist.

Is silent treatment a form of abuse?

Yes, as per experts, silent treatment in a relationship is a form of psychological and emotional abuse.

How long does the silent treatment last?

There is no specific time limit for which it can last. It can take a few hours or years for it to end depending on how soon the abuser acknowledges it as an issue.

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