3 Steps For Overcoming The "Silent Treatment"


3 Steps For Overcoming The "Silent Treatment"
What do you do when your lover turns to stone? Understand why and follow 3 steps to overcome it.

The "silent treatment" is an unpleasant dynamic that brings anger and despair to many couples. They often give up trying to achieve satisfactory communication and live lives of frustration and loss of love. See if you identify with these couples.

Terry was dealing with issues of low self-esteem and trying to figure out why she had so much trouble finding a happy relationship. She was depressed because, when she and Eddie had been dating for a month or so, they were sitting in his car after going out to the movies and something went wrong. They were discussing the film and started to disagree about what the scriptwriter’s message was.


As the argument intensified, Terry felt pressured and criticized. She discovered that although the words she wanted to say were inside her head, she couldn’t say them out loud. She became frozen. Eddie was confused by her silence. He tried to get her to reply, and when she didn’t, he just shrugged and drove her home. He never contacted her again. She shared with me that this wasn’t the first time a relationship fizzled because she went silent.

Dave, a short, slim man had been married for over five years to Alicia, who outweighed him by 30 pounds. They wanted marriage counseling because they were having trouble communicating. Apparently there were times when they argued that Dave became sullen and wouldn’t speak. When this happened Alicia became irritated and escalated her demands. Then Dave would blurt out, "I have to get out of here." At that point Alicia would say, "You can’t go until we finish this discussion!" She would then block the doorway so he couldn’t leave the room. At times this standoff culminated in a physical fight that left them bruised and unhappy.

Pauline and Frank had been living together for seven years and were constantly rubbing each other the wrong way. They maintained that they loved each other, but they were continually angry with the other. When Pauline would say something critical to Frank, he would become defensive. When Frank criticized Pauline, she tried to share her side of it but there was never a satisfactory conclusion. After a short time Frank would simple clam up, purse his lips and glare at her.

When that happened, Pauline became more forceful to no avail. The more Frank withdrew, the louder Pauline’s voice got. As she screamed at him, Frank became frantic but couldn’t express himself. He just wanted to escape. Pauline was at her wits’ end and was furious with Frank since he had turned into a solid wall and did not appear to hear her or be able to explain what was happening inside of him. Keep Reading...

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Article contributed by

Gloria Arenson

Marriage and Family Therapist

Gloria Arenson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Diplomate in Comprehensive Energy Psychology and author of 7 books. She is passionate about helping people help themselves to be free of negative emotions and compulsive behaviors. 


Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Credentials: DCEP, EFT-ADV, MFT, MS
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