The silent treatment is an act of completely ignoring your spouse as a means of expressing contempt or disapproval for what they said or did.

What Married Couples Need Know About the Silent Treatment

In our marriage the silent treatment was common place for many years. A disagreement would occur and BOOM Alisa would go into silent mode. Truthfully, it was her default mode to anything she didn’t agree with.

The silent treatment may come about when you or your spouse shuts down emotionally, your overwhelmed with the conversation, or you have a physiological response (blood pressure rises, sweaty palms, stomach turning, etc).

Each of these are indicative of a pattern that needs to be addressed.

You shut down, you don’t talk about the topic/subject and you hope it goes away… leaving a huge elephant in the room.

Some common topics that may lead to the silent treatment are:

  • Finances
  • Kids
  • Sexual intimacy
  • Who you’re spending time around
  • Work (hours, expectations, other co-workers)

Each of these if not addressed will cause distance in your marriage, unhappiness, loss of emotional intimacy and frustration.

Watch the video below to learn what you can do to end the silent treatment in your marriage.

Want to learn more?

Listen to the ONE Extraordinary Marriage Show on one way you can avoid the silent treatment at the end of the day after walking in the door.

Other resources:

13 Phrases That Turn Your Spouse Off

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  1. I feel like there are two different kinds of silent treatment that are important to differentiate. There is the manipulative silent treatment that is a punishment to your spouse when you aren’t happy about something, a silent treatment that is a diliberate choice on your part and continues for hours (or days), similar to moping, that causes your spouse to walk on eggshells around you.

    But there is another kind that happens during a heated argument or discussion that John Gottman calls “flooding,” where one person (usually the husband) genuinely cannot keep up with the conversation and emotions involved and he physiologically shuts down. It’s not really something you can choose not to do, like the above example. The only thing you can do is prevent it.

    I think the distinction is important because my husband grew up in a very calm and collected family whereas I grew up in an emotionally abusive family, and while I have come a long way, when I become visibly upset, he very easily gets flooded and I used to get so angry at him for “giving me the silent treatment,” and so I would chase after him and try to make him talk to me. After reading John Gottman’s book, I finally understood what was going on, so now I try very hard not to get to that place when he gets flooded, but if he does, I immediately back down, give him a smile and a gentle kiss, and kindly say we can talk about it later. He needs time to process and gather his thoughts, and he can’t when he is flooded. I then ask a while after (my rule is it must be before bed the next day, cuz sometimes we need to sleep on it) what was happening there, and he usually surprises me with his insight as to what happened that made him shut down and what was really going on there.

    The moping, the punishing, and the manipulative kind of silent treatment needs to stop. It is immature and can even be considered emotionally abusive. But the silent treatment that comes from getting flooded is different and needs to be identified and accepted with grace, and hopefully with time and practice the other spouse can catch the warning signs in time to diffuse the tension before the other spouse gets flooded.