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Stop Silent Treatment

Stop Silent Treatment

How to End the Suffering When Your Husband Won’t Speak to You

When your husband is giving you the silent treatment, it hurts. A lot.

I still remember how lonely it was when we had cold wars in my house.

Your brain goes into an endless loop of thinking about how to get him to talk to you again. It gnaws at you and colors everything else in your world.

You’ve already tried begging and pleading and confronting. None of that works. And giving him the silent treatment right back just creates a cold war.

So how can you ever connect again?

How do you stop these endless hostilities?

Here’s how to end a marital cold war in a hurry. Click To Tweet

Step 1: Examine Your Side of the Street

Of course, the breakdown is his fault too. He’s definitely responsible for his part.

But to break the ice, a great question to ask yourself is, “What can I see on my side of the street that contributed to this cold war?”

You then have the key to the door you’ve been pounding on. When someone doesn’t want to talk to me, it’s usually because I’ve said too much or said it too forcefully.

I failed to listen and understand first, or else I got very attached to my view of things. In other words, I was disrespectful.

For instance, when my nephew wanted to quit a job I had helped him get through a friend of mine, I told him he was free to leave if it didn’t fit for him and that I trusted him to know what was best for him.

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So far, so good.

But after that, I listed all the resources available to him that he hadn’t taken advantage of, like speaking to his manager or to my friend about the challenges he was facing.

I assured him he didn’t have to suffer in silence or give up.

I reminded him it was a good opportunity.

The first part of the message was “I trust you,” but after that I wandered off into “But
you’re making a mistake.”

I’m embarrassed to admit I was not expecting the best outcome from his choices–I was
expecting the worst. How disrespectful!

So it should have been no surprise that once he quit that job, he completely avoided me.
He probably feared my judgment or hearing that I was disappointed.

I’d have avoided me too.

And I was disappointed, but not in him.

I was disappointed for myself. I wanted to be the smart, important person who had helped him get an internship that would be a springboard to even better opportunities in the future. I was quite pleased with myself about that, while it lasted.

But of course, what I want most of all is for my nephew to be happy. And he wasn’t happy at that job.

Or with me. That’s because, instead of hearing what he was trying to tell me, I stuck to my agenda for him. In other words, I wanted to be right, and it cost me connection with my nephew, which was a very high price.

As a result, someone I’m crazy about was not speaking to me.

Just like the cold wars I had with my husband in the old days.

And looking at my side of the street, I could see where I had something to clean up–if I was ready to admit that maybe I’d been a tad bit disrespectful.

If you find any mess on your side of the street, here’s what to do with that (and what I finally did with my nephew to thaw the ice):

Step 2: Issue an Apology

You might wonder about how you can get your guy to apologize when there’s a cold war.

In the bad old days, when my husband and I were enduring wall-to-wall hostility, that’s what I was waiting for too.

Or, I would attempt to halt the hostility (read: make him talk to me again!) by saying “sorry” repeatedly without saying why I was sorry.

I was like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind when Rhett Butler tells her: “You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”

I didn’t like to be in silent treatment jail. I felt like the victim of his abuse, but now I can
see how I was also the perpetrator.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was often disrespectful to my husband too.

He was my mirror in those moments–responding to me with defensiveness because he was so hurt and looking for ways to avoid further pain from the woman who vowed to love him but used her words to slice and dice.

In other words, he didn’t feel safe around me. Yikes!

And to be fair, I didn’t feel so warm and fuzzy about him either. But since I couldn’t make him apologize for his part, all that was left was to look at my side of things. That’s where I found I had the most power to improve the atmosphere in my home.

These days I’m much safer to be around, and we haven’t had a cold war for years.

That’s partly because I’m quick to scan my side of the street for respect slip-ups and to apologize for my specific transgressions.

So instead of saying “I’m sorry if I upset you somehow” and then getting a negative reaction to that and insisting “I SAID I was sorry!” these days I use my trusty formula and refer to exactly what I regret, as I recently did with my husband:

“I apologize for being disrespectful when I asked you when you were going to hire a new
contractor.”

I deliver the message just one time. I also leave out the word “if,” which is like saying
“I’m not saying I did it. You’re probably overreacting.”

Finding the humility to admit I was disrespectful and making amends for it can feel
uncomfortable, but the results are empowering.

I immediately feel more dignified and shiny. Instead of wallowing around in the dirt, I’m
doing what’s in my power to clean up.

That feels surprisingly freeing.

And it seems to just melt my husband every time. Once he hears those words, the safety
is restored for him and the good times can roll.

There’s no need for him to stonewall.

Or my nephew, who seemed relieved when I apologized and showed up at my house shortly afterward.

But there’s more…

Step 3: Become a Safe Haven

Author John Harrigan wrote, “People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.”

When your husband is actively shutting you out, it means he’s angry.

Under that anger is hurt. Always.

In other words, he needs loving because he’s hurt.

The most loving thing you can do is show him you respect him in words and deeds.

Haley and her husband were talking about their son struggling to study vocabulary words
over the summer. “Maybe it’s because he’s in summer vacation mode and he’s used to
playing all the time, which makes it tougher,” her husband suggested.

Haley thought to herself, “Nuh-uh. He’s like that during the school year too.” In the past,
she would have said just that.

But this time, she took a breath and said, “Hmm. That could be.”

Then, something shocking and sad happened.

Her husband’s entire demeanor changed. His shoulders relaxed, his eyebrows lifted, he
smiled and said, “You like my idea?!”

“Oh, man! That about broke my heart,” Haley confessed. “These moments are helping
me see that being right is just not worth the pain it causes him.”

Had Haley argued with her husband in that moment, it might not have caused days of
silence, but it could have created the kind of pebble that stonewalls are made of.

Respect happens in ordinary moments like that.

It’s like putting intimacy in the bank.

The safer your husband feels with you, the longer you’ll go without a cold war.

Before long, you’ll realize you haven’t had one in a very long time.

Your relationship will seem much warmer, the conversation easy and relaxed.

Here’s to keeping your home fires burning bright with your formidable power to choose
respect.

How have you chosen respect in your relationship? I’d love to hear your comments below.

 


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35 thoughts on “Stop Silent Treatment”

  1. Respect is all for both of us adults! I realise that now, and step back if I feel like controlling the situation selfishly. It’s true that we women are the keepers of the relationship, and we can offer a ‘safe haven’ to our adult men.

    Listen, not bluster and criticise, talk back and shout !

    Nothing is gained…if anything he is distanced further and silenced in the process.
    Quiet respectful consideration is needed to address his hurt and anger, needs and ideas, ahead of our own.
    Respecting him, and a sense of one’s own self-caring individualism opens doors to more meaningful exchanges, and dynamically changes the relationship to a better desirable one.
    This individual freshness is what he saw in you at the start.
    How eroded that can become over time.
    But it is possible to retrieve that freshness with the six intimate actions recommended. They work. I am trying them every day, and am grateful.

    Reply
  2. wow.. so husband wins regardless of whose fault it is .. so he continues the silent treatment because it’s always the wife’s fault and she’s always wrong and SHE has to apologize everytime. It’s easy for him now.. he has arsenal at his hand because he knows now that if he POUTS , the wife will breakdown and apologize. WORST ADVICE ever. Unfollowing.

    Reply
    • Sagarika, I respect that this approach doesn’t fit for you. To clarify, I’m not suggesting the wife is at fault or that she break down in defeat. Rather, as the wife, I have the power to stop a cold war by cleaning up my side of the street. That’s not to say there’s no garbage on his side! But for me, it’s not worth the intimacy it costs to insist that I am right. In other words, being right at the expense of continuing the war does not feel like a win to me.

      In my experience, doing what I can to restore respect does not encourage further pouting on his part but stops such arguments before they even begin! I hope you find tools that do work for you because I know how painful it is to continue the bloodshed–or the silence.

      Reply
      • But Laura, what about efforts?………….dont they have to come from both sides. How long can one person do the sacrifices, adjustments, just to …….not spoil the intimacy.

        Reply
        • Great question, Rashmi! I acknowledge you for the effort you are making, and I hear how hard it is when the other person is not doing his part.

          I used to feel so overwhelmed thinking I was the one who had to make all the effort. It turns out that practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills was really for me, to cultivate my own happiness. That’s when the magic happened and my husband started making an effort and doing his part to nurture our marriage–and making me feel cherished, desired and adored.

          I’d love to show you how to get there without it being hard work for you. I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at lauradoyle.org/swewtraining

          Reply
  3. The article is great as well as others by Laura. Simple and clear message. It’s a real revelation for me. It’s so hard for me to admit my own mistakes, but I’m so quick at finding faults with someone else. I’m ‘amazed’ with my stubbornness to persist in creating my suffering instead of just admitting my fault.
    Thank you, Laura!

    Reply
    • Kate, I love how receptive you are. I completely relate to how much easier it is to find fault in others than to see my own shortcomings! I admire your awareness and accountability. You sound ripe for further revelation and ready to end the suffering, so I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
    • Hi how can you bring back what you once had when your husband tries to sabotage everything that you have done . Then have to fix it when it blows up in his face and he blames you for it. I have never with held intimacy from him he has done it to me. So what can I do when I have tried everything and he does not even want to touch or talk to me. And behaves when people are around that he loves and cares for me. When it is farther from the truth. What am I to do????

      Reply
      • Nat, I’m sorry to hear you’re receiving blame instead of the intimacy you crave. It’s heartbreaking that he does not act like he loves or cares for you. I love your vulnerability and hear your deep commitment to your marriage.

        I remember how painful it was when my husband did not seem attracted to me. I’m so grateful to have found the 6 Intimacy Skills, which got me feeling cherished, desired and adored.

        If I can do it, you can attract your husband back too, along with his affection and respect. I’ll give you the tools in my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

        Reply
  4. Hi I’m Cheryl,

    My Husband and I are in COLD war mode, He doesn’t give compliments to me very often without a prompt.
    And I just got a Cut & Color and he walked in the room and I gave a look and pose
    “a silent “Well what do You think w-smile”??? I ‘m hurt because I ask for compliments.
    When I shared it doesn’t feel good to ask ? How do I Look? How does Dinner taste? How does house look I just cleaned all day?
    He said that’s the way he was raised. ??? and he feels criticized for me asking .
    It feels demeaning to me.

    So I waited awhile and said I understand , some people don’t compliment others and I noticed he doesn’t with others also.
    Hubby gets hurt and pouts, I leave him alone. Then he becomes defensive and says
    ” I don’t feel it so that’s why I don’t compliment you. “OUCH”!
    I finished up with well I will compliment and praise you because I Do.
    And off to work he went .

    Reply
    • Cheryl, that is an ouch! I can see why you’re feeling hurt and demeaned not receiving the praise you deserve without having to ask.

      I remember when I stopped getting the attention and affection I wanted. I didn’t feel very dignified having to ask for it and just drove my husband further away. The 6 Intimacy Skills attracted him back, along with abundant compliments, help and intimacy!

      I’d love to empower you to feel cherished, desired and adored too. I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  5. Thank you so much for this.. could you also post about how to avoid chasing behaviour.. i.e. When my hubby ignores me I feel so lonely and then chase him by following him around the house, crying etc .. then finally lashing out to get attention ..how can we avoid this

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Rebecca. Thank you for the great topic idea, which I’ll add to my list. That sounds so painful. I used to chase my husband in tears, lashing out as well. The 6 Intimacy Skills restored my dignity and happiness, attracting my husband to me instead. I know you can receive the attention you deserve without having to chase after it. I’d love to see you get the 6 Intimacy Skills and experiment with them. You can get them from my book The Empowered Wife. Here’s a free chapter: http://getcherished.com

      Reply
  6. Doesn’t agreeing in front but disagreeing in mind create ..emotional turmoil inside myself..
    Am I not being liar to myself.

    Actually what I see is looking to ur husband as a kid…and for their love ignore their faults forgive them everytime even if they don’t understand their mistakes..
    Just as a kid would show and be angry where u r wrong or disrespectful keep cleaning ur side..
    And when they buy or do anything for u show ur gratitude..
    Patience patience is what is needed..and u r a life time mom..except yes maybe ur mom and friends are constant help and relief

    Reply
    • Madhavi, thank you for such an insightful question. I hear how challenging it is to take action that seems in conflict with what you’re feeling. In my experience, my thoughts tend to follow my actions, so practicing respect, even when I’d rather lash out, creates internal (and external) harmony rather than turmoil. Deep down, I want to show respect to the man I love, so acting accordingly feels honest to me. It does take patience at times, but the rewards of feeling cherished, desired and adored are well worth it! And it’s such a relief not to have to treat him like a child anymore.
      If you’re curious how this approach would work for you, I invite you to experiment with all 6 Intimacy Skills. You can get them from my book The Empowered Wife, starting with a free chapter here: http://getcherished.com

      Reply
    • Desi, that sounds hurtful to have suffered his horrible words. I acknowledge you for your commitment to restoring the intimacy.

      We are kindred spirits! I remember when withholding my affection was the only way I thought I could get what I wanted from my husband. Unfortunately, withdrawing more intimacy only drove him further away in the long run.

      I love having such a faithful blog reader. I’d love to have you at the Cherished for Life Weekend next month to share your wisdom and experience with other women!

      Reply
      • Well, he is such a know it all. Books hold all the answers, Life is coming with a manual and he is King. A lot of former friends told me that they cut contact because they felt preached to and seen as dumb. I have almost no respect anymore, his arrogance led him to make some very costly mistakes. But he refuses to see the damage he did. I am busy correcting the damage he did, pacifying angry neighbours, paying those we owe and generally keep the home running. The kids see it and know that I am the Queen of the home and the king is passed out.

        Reply
        • Ouch, Desi. You have been through so much, and you sound so strong. And yet you have this beautiful vulnerability and amazing commitment to your marriage and your family. It has to be exhausting having to keep all these plates in the air yourself. How can I support you?

          Reply
  7. Men are not taught to apologize. One of the most dire neglects parents can do. Cause it is not only the words, it is the admission of having f***** up. My Son´s are taught that they are not the best. That Women are equal in worth and dignity. I tell them and show how love and respect need to be mutual and how communication is an asset. I expect apologies from my husband when he did wrong, I expect the respect I pay him to be returned as well. All good I do for the family is valued. But all this is not achievable by simply letting the man rule over you but by being the Queen of the house.

    Reply
    • I love that you are queen of your home! I feel the same way. It is wonderful how the 6 Intimacy Skills have created that culture of mutual respect and gratitude in my home. Your sons are fortunate to inherit that as well.

      Reply
  8. Laura,
    I get what you’re saying. I also get how it can sound like always being the one who apologizes and the husband gets a free pass (as people have noted above.) It is a bit complicated. This is how I see it: you look at your side of the street first (people, in general, just don’t do this. Defensiveness is so easy to become default mode for anyone.) You don’t ignore his. Instead of tallying up “points” on both sides in a cold war, you stop with your part of accumulating points. You don’t play that game. You end your part by refusing to continue it. You apologize for your part ONLY. That usually will initiate a change in your husband. If it doesn’t, then it really is his issue at that point. I think perhaps you are saying that very often if you take the initiative (instead of stonewalling yourself) that your husband might come around. This seems especially true if the wife might be starting (without realizing it) the mess in the first place (as you did with your nephew.) Clearly that was your issue to deal with, not his. When the husband is truly at fault—if he has said something hateful or done something hateful with really no instigation from the wife, why apologize? State your feelings in a nonthreatening way, and in a concise, way with appropriate tone. If husband doesn’t respond to that, seems he has to deal with his own narcissistic stuff. We can’t solve all for our husbands and shouldn’t or we’ll end up co-dependents.
    I certainly agree 100% that it is our side of the street that has to be the focus for us. Then if that is cleaned up and his side stays in disarray and rudeness, well, that’s not a cool thing at all. His issues. Which only he can change. My thoughts, obviously.

    Reply
  9. This is so timely for me. We have been going through a difficult family decision, and my husband has been angry and cranky. I’ve been workin’ the 6 skills hard, tending to self care and the other skills to keep my side of the street clean. When my husband was finally ready to talk I restrained my usual tendency to correct all his “mistakes” with my “superior” knowledge. I tried to leave gaps of silence, letting his words echo before I gave my 2 cents. Tried to listen to and show more respect for his ideas. It paid off!! He felt listened to. We resolved the issue and the chill is beginning to thaw. YAY! Relief.

    Reply
    • DR, good for you! I’m delighted to hear that you are thawing the chill with your cranky husband. I acknowledge you for being so respectful!
      I hear how committed you are to practicing the Intimacy Skills! If you’d like a little boost, I’d love to support you. Check out my upcoming webinar if you haven’t seen it yet: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  10. I like Susan’s comment. Made me think of a metaphor. The normal, bad ole communication style is like the two of you shoving in junk food and having food fights. One side, tired of the drama and bad nutrition, decides to start eating wholesome food in a quiet, dignified manner. The other side is surprised and now has to decide how to respond.

    Reply
  11. Cold War is reigning here at present. Yesterday I overheard my husband confirm my suspicion that he was going to spend a weekend away with his mistress and her children (he won’t have anything to do with his own). I was upset & rather than confront him with what I overheard I walked away & went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea and a cup of coffee for him. Whilst making the drinks I made a louder Grrr noise than I wanted to which he heard. He demanded in a loud voice that I tell him what I said as he heard the sound. I brought the drinks upstairs & replied that I hadn’t said anything. He called me a liar and he repeated his question. I responded saying I had made a noise but I hadn’t said anything. He has said he won’t speak to me until I tell him what I said. This is common. I have apologised for the noise and the silence still reigns over 24 hours later. During this period answers to questions such as would he like a coffee or what does he want for tea are a grunt or ‘whatever’. So, how does respect work in this scenario? What am I to say? Any help would be gratefully received. Am a new member and just read the sample empowered wife last night which gave food for thought.

    Reply
    • Marguerite, I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with cold wars on top of your husband’s infidelity. That is devastating. I am amazed at your commitment to practicing the Intimacy Skills, especially showing respect, as you did when you walked away and even made him coffee and later apologized.

      I remember those cold wars all too well. When I learned the 6 Intimacy Skills, I found there were so many ways to end a cold war and take care of myself in the meantime. Now, in place of a cold war, I get to feel cherished, desired and adored.

      I’d love to empower you with all those tools not only to end this cold war but to have your husband and happy marriage back. I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  12. Hi , I have been married for 41 years and my husband has always been good to me and taken very good care of me and our 3 kids. At the age of 63 you begin to wonder why you never hear the words “I love you”. There is really no affection on his part. Don’t really know what it feels like to be cherished. I have loved, honored and obeyed my husband and have been a biblical submissive wife for 41 years. What could I possibly be doing wrong. I take care of all responsibilities, caring for my home. I have unconditionally loved him and served him all these years. When do I get to feel loved. I agree if you have to ask for affection, who wants that. Marriage is give and take on both sides. I am truly blessed, because my relationship with Christ has grown stronger thur these 41 years of marriage.

    Reply
    • Pat, I am awed by your commitment to being a good wife! It is so painful not to receive the affection you deserve after your decades of wifely devotion.

      I remember how baffling it was not to get the affection I craved when I thought I was doing everything right as a wife. I was exhausted having to do everything myself. Then I found the 6 Intimacy Skills. It was counterintuitive to put my own happiness first and say “I can’t” to anything that would get in the way of that. Amazingly I started to feel cherished, desired and adored.

      You can have the affectionate marriage you’ve always wanted too. I’ll show you how in my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  13. Laura, I’ve been married for 36 years. My husband grew up in an alcoholic home and has trust issues. I feel he has transferred his mistrust towards his mother to me. We are practicing Christians and I have done everything I can think of to help him and to be a good wife. He’s never trusted me and has had intimacy and lack of sex issues since our wedding day. I respect him, I trust him, I’m playful with him, we don’t argue or fight. We have a very nice life with the exception of very little sex and no intimacy. I don’t want a divorce but I’m dying inside. I’m working on filling my life with good friends, family, classses for myself. I’m fading fast.

    Reply
  14. Can this also work on a new relationship, our first fight?
    My boyfriend, hes a great guy, but after the fight it has been 2 weeks and the silent treatment continues. he asked for space in which i agreed.

    Reply

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