Silent treatment – the typical reaction of a wounded female soul.
At least, it was my default as a newlywed wife. I have since come to see the futility of silent treatment. All though to be honest, the discovery hasn’t stopped me from wanting to slide back sometimes (though the desire isn’t as strong as it used to be!)
To illustrate the folly of silent treatment, here is an article I wrote a few years ago. We’ll glean some lessons at the end, including what the Bible has to say about it.
“Your similarities, not your differences will create some of your greatest marriage riots.”
I remember hearing the words before I got married and thinking “Ridiculous!”
In my mind, I thought the more similar Tommy and I were, the happier we would be! However, two weeks into marriage and in the middle of “honeymoon”, reality came knocking.
Part of our honeymoon itinerary included a 2-night romantic getaway in a lodge, tens of miles outside the city. On the morning of our departure, something descended on my brand-new beloved husband.
A cloud of stillness.
It enveloped Tommy like a sheer curtain. He went quiet. Detached. Dead silent. On Me!
For a newly wed girl who had been living on a steady diet of sweetness, chivalry, and words, the abrupt switch was hard.
I found myself responding swiftly, the only way I knew how.
I reckoned that if BNBH (brand new beloved husband) could serve “attitude” aka silent treatment, I could serve it right back to him in style.
After all, I had the gift of goodbye – rejections and heartbreaks skimmed my back like water on a duck’s back. (Not true, but it was a great rhyme at that time.)
I burned with indignation and pride at his treatment, and I purposed to run him to the hills – “punish” him with icy brooding silence aka a more severe form of silent treatment.
But Tommy, (who later confessed to going through serious inner adjustments to having a woman in his house, his bed, his life) did not fathom the depth of my confusion, bewilderment or fear.
He did not notice my “punishment” either.
Suffice to say, the ride to our romantic getaway wasn’t pleasant.
A newlywed husband glued to his phone, a new bride staring blankly out of the window – I was praying we wouldn’t bump into any of our friends. Because we were not looking like the giddy couple of two weeks before.
Somewhere between the city and the jungle, God began to get a hold of my heart.
I would later admit that when I was burdened or anxious, I behaved the same way my husband did that morning. I zoomed off to outer space and cut off communication with my surrounding but for civil niceties.
What Tommy later called sickening-nice, where a person gives enough of themselves to keep the engine running (barely) but not enough to make the car move.
Still, BNBH won, hands down. He was much better at the brooding business than I was. Even in my detachment, I still liked a little fussing here and there.
Except for simple niceties, Tommy fixed a big “Do Not Disturb!” sign on his door!
Clearly, his calm and collected exterior, the same that had drawn me like a magnet had another side! One that I did not particularly enjoy.
As the public service vehicle whipped through the countryside, God made headway in my heart.
I found myself thinking of the ways Tommy and I were alike; so human. Which was like code for selfishness. In His mercies, God brought us together, so “iron could sharpen iron”.
Two hardy imperfect hearts = lots of teachable moments.
That day many years ago, God illustrated the futility of silent treatment.
1. Chances are the spouse being served silent treatment doesn’t “get it.” My husband didn’t know what had hit him.
2. Men are not naturally inclined to hug or poke ticking time bombs a.k.a a brooding wife.
I am not letting husbands off the hook of course. They have the same responsibility to nurture harmony. But I speak to wives. So.
3. Tommy’s original silence had nothing to do with me. He was simply in a “nothing box” moment. I made up reasons as to why he was suddenly silent, instead of asking “hey, what’s going on?”
Again, he probably should have tended to his wife before taking off. But since we are all about going the extra mile, I am giving you tips, so you know what to do when your husband “disappears” without warning.
4. Once God got a hold of my heart, I was able to ask the all too important question “Are you okay?” And we started talking. We had wasted hours brooding and tip-toeing around each other.
So, why is silent treatment wrong?
Glad you asked!
It is unBiblical.
Maybe that just makes you want to hop and scream, especially if you have a silent treatment tournament going on in your house right now.
But it is true. If you want to quit the foolishness now and forever, you have to look at it from God’s point of view.
Often our emotions persuade us that silent treatment is the best way to solve marriage issues. But emotions and logic lie.
Here’s what the Bible says;
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens and pays attention to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile (unbeliever) and a tax collector. Ma
thew 18: 15 – 17 (Amp)
*By the way, your husband is your brother in the Lord; so he’s included in this scripture.
There’s nowhere in the Bible that says silent treatment is a good way to resolve chronic relational issues.
Instead here are the steps as taught by Scripture;
1. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private;”
Try and sort it out between the two of you. The “sorting” must be done properly of course. Like, employ the right tools for proper communication for example. Read this post.
2. “take along with you one or two others,”
If # 1 doesn’t work, talk to your trusted inner counsel. The emphasis is “trusted” and “counsel.” Broadcasting your issues on social media, is not it. Neither is talking to people to collect sympathy and make your husband look bad.
Instead, talk to someone who is in a position to help; like a mentor couple or a gentleman that your husband respects. Be ready to receive help; that means taking personal responsibility for your own issues and a willingness to love sacrificially.
3. “tell it to the church.”
If #2 doesn’t work, go higher still. Approach spiritual authority; talk to your pastor or an elder in the church.
4. If he won’t listen to them, the Bible says “let him be to you as a Gentile (unbeliever) and a tax collector.”
What does it mean to treat your husband as a Gentile unbeliever and a tax collector?
Well, we know it does not mean serve up silent treatment! Or mistreat him or have nothing to do with him or have him sleep on the couch until he comes to his senses.
It means to treat your husband as if he’s no longer a believer, no longer having a relationship with God. Cos really, that is where he is at at this point, if he has refused to listen to you, his friend or his pastor.
The MSG paraphrase of the Bible reads “If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”
That is what we signed up for when we said: “I do.”
Not to resort to silent treatment when we run into trouble, but to continually look for ways to overcome challenges, though offering God’s grace, taking personal responsibility and going the extra mile.
Question: Have you been tempted to give your husband the silent treatment (please tell me I am not the only one!) How do you work through it and what lessons have your learned? Let’s talk in Comments on the blog!
*Please note that I am talking about everyday challenges that come with a growing maturing relationship. Marital issues like adultery or abuse will call for more action (a pastor/Christian counselor can provide leadership here) even as you offer grace and forgiveness.
*I understand that sometimes we need a “time-out” as I talk about it in this post. But we should not allow time out to degenerate to silent treatment.
If you are struggling with taking personal responsibility for your emotions and actions or simply want to learn how to create a better foundation for your marriage, my book Blues to Bliss might help. Click here to learn more
And the winners are..
Shay Love and Tanya Knepp are the winners of the Bridal Tips giveaway! Yay! They each get a copy of my book, Blues to Bliss. I’ll be getting in touch with you next week! Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey!
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