Whether you have been married for decades or you are recently starting a life together as a couple, how you handle difficulties in your marriage can mean the difference between a happy, safe, and intimate relationship and a frustratingly distant one.
William Glasser, MD, creator of Choice Theory, says that when we are unhappy with our situation, we attempt to change it by looking outside of ourselves to seek the cause of our troubles. In practical terms, way too often we look for the culprit in our spouse.
In doing so, we use the Seven Deadly Habits of External Control. These are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding or bribing to control. Choice Theory teaches us that the only person whose behavior we can control is our own, so these Deadly Habits are misguided attempts to control others in our lives.
This article focuses on the Deadly Habit of punishing. One of the very destructive habits we may use to try to fix our spouse is to employ silent treatment. If you have ever experienced silent treatment, you know how it strikes at your very soul. People who use silent treatment to control, fix, change, or in any way "teach their spouse a lesson" are violating their spouse's individuality and boundaries.
Silent treatment sends the message that the target is unworthy of being noticed and is beneath contempt. It is abusive behavior which undermines trust in a marriage. If it is used regularly in a marriage, it will erode all intimacy and feelings of good will toward the spouse who employs this Deadly Habit.
This behavior is often learned in childhood and may be modeled by a parent. A child may figure out that using silent treatment is a very effective tool for getting his way. The problem is that this immature behavior, when carried into adult relationships, has the potential to cause great and sometimes irreversible damage.
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