You and your girlfriend are having an awesome night together, and then you say something offhand that clearly annoys her. How can you tell? She hasn’t said a word for the last 20 minutes, even though you’re practically begging her to talk to you.
This can be incredibly frustrating in relationships. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re not being heard, or like your partner is purposely trying to hurt your feelings. While this article is written for men and their girlfriends, know that both sexes equally employ the silent treatment. So what do you do when your loved one suddenly stops communicating?
We’ll start first by understanding the unconventional reasons why your girlfriend may be keeping quiet, and what you can do to break the silence.
Why she’s giving you the silent treatment
It’s easy to blame the one giving the silent treatment as someone who is selfish or controlling. However, as someone who has dished out the silent treatment on several occasions before her marriage I can tell you that besides doing it just to hurt you or be difficult, silent treatment can be brought out for the following reasons:
#1 She doesn’t know how to communicate what she wants. This one was true of myself when I began my relationship with my husband. I thought I was a great communicator before I met my husband. I thought I was a pro in relationships. However, the first time I pulled out the ole’ silent treatment on my now-husband, I realized that I wasn’t doing it to be mean, I was doing it because I didn’t know how else to communicate with him. A lesson learned.
#2 She thinks you aren’t listening anyway. If you’re not hearing what your girlfriend’s saying, or if you have the bad habit of changing the subject in arguments or trying to spin your side of things, she may just give up on arguing with you altogether. Combat this by zipping your lip the next time your girlfriend is trying to tell you something, instead of getting defensive. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
#3 If you don’t have anything nice to say… You know the old adage: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” That may be true in your spouse’s silent situation. While you may think she’s just being cruel, the truth is, sometimes she may just be so infuriated that she thinks it’s better to simmer down in utter silence, so that she doesn’t say something she’ll regret.
What’s a guy to do when he gets the silent treatment?
The silent treatment doesn’t have to ruin an otherwise acceptable evening together. There are ways to handle those who prefer zipping their lips when it comes to arguments.
#1 Ignore her right back. If your girlfriend thinks she’s punishing you by keeping quiet, show her she’s wrong and give her a taste of her own medicine. If you simply go about your day like her silence doesn’t have you suffering, she may come to the conclusion that such childish behavior isn’t going to work on you.
After all, if you’re not affected by her not talking to you, why should she bother continuing? Beware that this doesn’t turn into a battle of who can avoid the other the longest, because likely she’ll win, and your small battle will officially have turned into an all-out war.
#2 Don’t grovel. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t apologize if you’ve done something to upset her, especially if it has her so broken up that she can’t speak to you any longer. But know that if she’s simply being spoiled or blowing a small situation out of proportion and you come begging and pleading back to her, it will only lead her to believe that she can continue this behavior and get exactly what she wants.
#3 Remain calm, and keep trying to talk to her. This is the smartest thing you can do in this situation. My husband can’t stand the silent treatment, and he let me know it immediately. As I froze him out, he badgered me in person with very calm, very reasonable questions on why I was behaving the way I was, would I please talk to him, and why wouldn’t I just tell him what was wrong. It was incessant.
I was taken aback at how patient he was being with me. It made me wonder: if he wasn’t acting childish in our argument, even though I knew he was incredibly bothered by my behavior, then why was I?
After he broke my silence, he let me know that my freezing him out genuinely hurt his feelings and made him feel disrespected, when all he wanted to do was talk it out and make things right again. “Have I ever, even at my angriest, stopped talking with you?” He asked simply. “No,” I pouted back. “Then please work with me when we’re having a problem, not against me.” He was right. Damn.
Note: This option does not work if she is legitimately staying silent because she needs time to cool off, or needs time away from you. You’d do well to come out and simply ask if she needs time. Odds are, she will break her silence to answer you.
#4 Explain the effects of her behavior. As my husband did, you need to explain to your girlfriend that freezing you out isn’t doing either of you any favors. Calmly explain to her that you find it disrespectful and show with honesty that you want to work out any and all situations with her maturely. Reiterate that you can’t work things out if she won’t talk to you.
#5 Use some humor. This only works with certain personality types, but if at all possible: get her to laugh. Nobody can stay mad after a good laugh!
#6 Offer an alternative to silence. The obvious alternative would be talking, but if that isn’t your partner’s strong suit, offer her different options such as taking 10 minutes in a room away from you to gather her thoughts, or communicating via text message.
Unfortunately, some in this day and age feel more comfortable expressing themselves through technology. If your girlfriend doesn’t know how to express herself during an argument, tell her to text it to you until she feels comfortable speaking again. So long as your communications open, it shouldn’t matter the venue in which you accomplish it.
Receiving the silent treatment can be a hurtful game, but if your partner has a reasonable side and truly loves you, you will find a way to convince her not to continue with her childish behavior. Remind her that your relationship will be stronger when you’re open with each other.