Silence in a relationship? There are times in relationships when being silent is acceptable and even productive. For instance, a couple, or even just one partner, may take a thoughtful timeout from a heated argument to cool off or gather their thoughts. The timeout is mindful and there is an assumption or agreement that they will revisit the topic again later.
“I need some time to gather my thoughts. I’ll come back to this soon.”
“I don’t want to say something I’ll regret. I need some time to cool down.”
On the other hand, silent treatment is a flat-out refusal to ever discuss the issue—now or later. When one or both partners sulk, pout, or refuse to talk, they are exerting a cruel type of power in the relationship that not only shuts out their partner but also communicates that they do not care enough to try to communicate or collaborate. The silent treatment is a manipulation tactic that can leave important issues in a relationship unresolved. It also can leave the partner on the receiving end feeling worthless, unloved, hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, and unimportant.