Dealing with a silent partner
They say silence is golden. Yet, it may be expensive if you feel your partner will not talk to you about the problems in your relationship.
Healthy two-way communication is at the heart of good relationships, allowing us both to express affection and talk about problems. Where one partner is silent and won’t talk about the relationship, it can be isolating and lonely. Often, clients say it’s like talking to a brick wall, showing the level of frustration at trying (and failing) to engage their partner in a dialogue about their relationship.
If you find your relationship in trouble and your partner won’t talk, here are five things you can do to make a difference.
Try to choose your time to talk
There are times that will be better than others. Taking your frustration out with sarcasm or irony (especially when in the company of others) is unlikely to bring about the result you desire. Similarly, talking when tired or when under the influence of alcohol will be less than helpful. Perhaps choose a time when you both have a little downtime, over a meal or instead of watching a TV programme.
Express how their silence makes you feel
You can express how you feel about their behaviour, perhaps going on to make a constructive suggestion e.g. “I feel alone and abandoned when you sit in silence and won’t tell me how you feel about our relationship.”
Be respectful and try to offer empathy to your spouse e.g. “I know you find this difficult, but I feel we need to sort this out together and I really need your help.” Be congruent about the threat you feel the silence has to your relationship.
Don’t mind read
One of the problems with long-term relationships is that we get to know our partners. We then begin to believe that we know our partners very well, to the point that we know how they are thinking and feeling. Yet, if there are problems in the relationship, this clearly isn’t working.
It’s important to keep asking and keep saying what your feelings and thoughts are because you are not in a place where telepathy works.
Do not repeat yourself
You have stated your case and you get no response. Perhaps your partner has listened. Avoid restating or adding to your case in the hope of a response. Instead, ask questions that follow up on your point. Ideally, open questions (ones which cannot be easily answered by yes and no) e.g. “What do you think about it?”
Remember the positives too
When your spouse does engage, remember to say that you liked that. Affirmation is a good way to build the positive aspects of good communication. If a point is made you agree with, remember to acknowledge it.
How can therapy help?
It may be that you feel you need professional help for your relationship and counselling is a good start. Couples counselling could help you both to improve your communication or you may decide to seek counselling individually - to work on how you deal with a relationship in which you feel so isolated. There is hope, and there is help.