Why the Silent Treatment Really Doesn't Work

Why the Silent Treatment Really Doesnt Work

Photo: Getty Images

When your fiancé really pisses you off, do you ever: stop making eye contact with him? Get quiet? Shut down? Get to a point when you refuse to talk about it anymore? Ignore his attempts to reconnect? Leave the room (or house) because you're feeling hurt, angry or really frustrated? Does a chill come over your relationship for a few hours (or days)?

You know it's totally mean-girl to treat him this way; it makes him feel small, hurt, and about as valuable as a worm. His hurt feelings alone are good enough reason to stop doing it. Still sometimes you get so exasperated, you don't see any other way but to check out of the relationship. In an intimate relationship, uncomfortable, hurtful silences like these are so destructive that marriage researcher John Gottman (who calls the silent treatment "stonewalling") has found it to be highly predictive of divorce.

So cut it out, if you want this marriage to last. Stop putting up that stone wall when you get into a fight with your fiancé. Instead, stay in the relationship.

See More: Tips for Fighting Smarter with Your Fiancé

What does that look like? Take a moment when you're not in distress (such as right now) to take a look at your behavior: Do you stonewall? If so, why? Do you get overwhelmed by emotions? Are you afraid you'll say something you'll regret? Is this how you learned to fight in your family or origin? Spend some time identifying what happens within you during a conflict. Own your behavior.

Then, figure out how you can soothe yourself in those emotionally charged moments. What words or approach (hugs? Space?) can your fiancé use to help you stay connected to him and in the relationship? Then go home tonight (before the next fight) tell him what might work better in those moments.

In the heat of the moment, when your instinct is to shut down, take a new approach of 'fessing up. Talk about your desire give him the silent treatment — don't just do it. Talk about how hard it is to tolerate your feelings of discomfort, anger, frustration. Let him know you needsome time to calm down and recenter yourself. This way, you're telling him what's going on and staying connected, not shutting him out completely. And when you stay in the relationship, you can learn and grow together from the experience.

Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is a bridal counselor, cold feet expert, creator of How Brides-To-Be REALLY Feel videos, and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life.

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from brides.com