Silent Treatment Spells Danger For Your Marriage

Silent treatment is a destructive habit that your spouse may be using to control you.


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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If you have been the target of this particular type of Deadly Habit, you know there is little you can do to make the person who started this "Silent Siege" talk to you. But you can take care of yourself. Remember, the only person who you can change is yourself.

Use the time to do some self-care. Spend time with friends and family. Take yourself to the movies, go to the library, walk in the park, write letters to friends, get plenty of rest, get a massage, take regular bubble baths, and so on. Get creative when you do your self-care.

Abusive behaviors thrive in silence, so if your friends or family ask how things are going or where your spouse is, you do not have to "tell all" but you can say, "Oh, my husband/wife isn't speaking to me." Remember that you are worthy of respect and although you probably want to scream at your spouse when s/he does this, maintain your self-respect and act civilly to her/him. This way you are modeling the respectful behavior that you desire in your marriage.


If you are experiencing any of the Deadly Habits and want extra support, I offer relationship coaching and marriage therapy. I invite you to get my free report on the Seven Deadly Habits at