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What Might Be Silently Killing Your Marriage


The silent treatment hurts.

It may seem like a safer option than exploding in anger or having the same old argument again, but it starves your marriage through neglect.

Like a siege against a city, a silent treatment cuts off a marriage’s supply of love, affection and communication. Whether you’re on the receiving end of the silent treatment or the giver, the heart of a marriage withers when silent treatments become the norm.

First, let’s address those of you who commonly receive the silent treatment.

I’ve suffered through many silent treatments. Some came without warning, and I didn’t understand why. Others came as a direct result when I set a necessary boundary. I have suffered for days and sometimes weeks in total silence of no regard, or partial silence of one-word answers.

For most of my marriage, I’ve handled the silent treatment the wrong way. I badgered my husband to open up before he was ready. I pleaded, nagged and threw vocal pity parties. This only pushed him further into silence and left me feeling even lonelier than before.

In the past few years, I learned that many counselors call the silent treatment a form of emotional abuse. When I began studying it in this light, I adopted ways to protect myself from further harm. 

First, I began respecting his need for a time of processing. I began giving my husband space for the first few days. If he did not respond after that, I would say something like this: “During several days in a row when we aren’t talking, I feel distant from you. When you are ready to talk with me, I’m ready to listen.” This non-confrontational approach usually helped my husband resume talking. 

Secondly, I also learned to lovingly detach from him and practice intentional self-care until he was willing to connect again. By taking good care of myself, I was able to manage the hurt the silence caused.

Finally, in times of unwanted silence, I began to lean on the Lord as my ever-present companion. I poured out my heart to him in prayer, and took comfort knowing that I could freely converse with him, day or night. He would not only listen to me but respond with the lovingkindness I craved. His warm presence filled me up, so I wasn’t as desperate for my husband’s love. If you suffer from receiving the silent treatment, God’s arms are wide open to you.

For wives who have fallen into a pattern of using the silent treatment before, please hear me out. When you withhold words from your husband, you give Satan a foothold in your marriage. In the space created by silence, he builds brick walls in your marriage. The longer the silences last, the higher the walls become. These walls get harder to tear down the higher they go. If left unchecked, they can cause insurmountable damage.

The sooner you can break the silent treatment, the better. No matter how offended you are as the silence-giver, take the high road and speak first. You’ll open communication doors by using “I feel” statements rather than “You are” statements. Your husband will appreciate your efforts to reconnect with respectful tones and words.

Ask God to give you the courage to break the silence. Look at your husband through God’s eyes of love, compassion and understanding. Pray, asking God to help you voice your feelings and concerns in a way that builds bridges rather than walls. Resolve to stop using the silent treatment as punishment. Speak up with self-control, and your marriage will be nourished.

 

Wife Step: Ask God to help you make healthier choices, whether you are the recipient or giver of silent treatments.

Sarah Geringer writes about Finding Peace in God’s Word at sarahgeringer.com and is the author of three self-published books. Her book on Christian meditation will be published by Leafwood in late 2019. When she’s not reading or writing, Sarah enjoys painting, baking, gardening and playing the flute. She lives in her beloved home state of Missouri with her husband and three children, right in the heart of prime viewing for the Great Eclipses of 2017 and 2024.

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