There is a phenomenon in male/female relations that has had drastic impacts upon relationships. It effects how a couple communicates and ultimately the trust we have in one another. I am talking about the silent treatment.

Exposition of the Silent Treatment (title sounds serious’)

Let’s take a look at a model conversation (or a lack thereof):

[Man] ‘Honey, I thought maybe we would go to Chili’s tonight.’

[Female] ‘Yeah whatever.’

[Man] ‘Would you like to go somewhere else?’

[Silence ensuing]

[Man] ‘Honey’?

I like the definition provided by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition on the silent treatment:

Maintenance of aloof silence toward another as an expression of one’s anger or disapproval.

What went wrong in this conversation? I have spent much time questioning women as to why they feel it is necessary to use such drastic measures in communication. I get answers like, ‘they wouldn’t understand, I was too frustrated, I was too embarrassed, or it wasn’t anything important.’ The problem with this thinking is that women assume right away that all men have no concern for their thoughts and feelings. Let me dispel that rumor right now. Yes, there are some men out there who deserve to be single for the way they treat women; but most men do actually consider and value the input of their significant other.

The worst part is when the frustration that a women experience gets buried by a silent treatment and then comes out at a later time. Let’s revisit our conversation one month later:

[Man] ‘Sweetie, I thought it would be good to go to T.G.I Fridays with the Smiths tonight.’

[Female] ‘YOU NEVER CONSIDER ANYTHING I WANT. THIS IS JUST LIKE THE LAST TIME. WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS NOT LISTEN TO ME.’

[Silence ensuing]

[Man] ‘Sweetie?’

The man is then left in a perilous state of confusion because nothing was brought up originally. The worst part is the woman then expects the man to remember the incident that she is frustrated over.

It needs to be clarified that I am not picking just on women. Men can act the same way, but they aren’t nearly as effective as women are. Men do things to inhibit communication as well in their own ways, but for now I’m concentrating on the drastic need to address this particular issue.

Dealing with the Silent Treatment

I have not been in many relationships, but I have had enough experience to be the recipient of the silent treatment from a few different character types. It’s always been the same process, but some deal with it in different ways. I had one girlfriend whose idea of a silent treatment was silence following excessive yelling. I had one girlfriend whose idea of a silent treatment was not saying anything at all, and then bringing it up months later. I’ve had yet another that was silent, but then opens up shortly after a little prodding.

I can offer a little advice to men and women alike (and I’m always open to some).

For Men

Remember men that most of the time the woman just wants to be assured that you notice that she is frustrated. Through gentle examination you can get most women to open up. Don’t be overly forceful, and whatever you do don’t call her stupid for not talking. Yelling accomplishes nothing.

If you have one of those women that harbors stuff—get rid of her.

For Women

You have to understand that most, if not all the time, the man has no conception of what has made you upset. So please don’t assume that we will always know. It also helps to acknowledge that if you are so upset you can’t talk about it, just let us know. A good man will give you your space to work it out, and then both of you can talk about the issues later.

If you have one of those men who is inconsiderate of youget rid of him.

The Medical Implications of the Silent Treatment

There are actually medical implications of giving your significant other the silent treatment.

[A] study of approximately 3,000 married or cohabitating men and women revealed that married men were half as likely to die during a 10-year period compared to unmarried men. While marital status did not correlate to mortality rates in women, women in the study who held back their feelings during conflicts with their spouses did have a higher mortality rate.1

The research focused around coronary research, and it showed that restricting feelings resulted in stress which led to a higher level of mortality in both men and women. That should be a quick motivation to either (1) stay single or (2) talk about stuff as soon as it comes up. If not, you could die early!

Psychological damage is also known to come about from restraining frustration. I think there is a very real relationship between the increase of divorces and the rise of the silent treatment (although I can’t prove it, but who really believes statistics anyway?).

Building Bridges

Let’s work together, both men and women, on improving communication through the reduction and hopeful elimination of the silent treatment. It really does no one any good, and it only causes frustration and sometimes even death (I’m not playing around)!

[Man] ‘Darling, what’s wrong?’

[Female] ‘You did not consider my choices for dinner tonight, and it hurt my feelings.’

[Male] ‘Ok, that’s fair; let’s go ahead and go to your favorite restaurant then.’

[Female] ‘I love you.’

[Male] ‘I love you too darling.’