Silent treatment in marriage can be an auto-response when a spouse feels wounded.
At least, it was my default as a newlywed wife. But as I have matured in marriage, I have come to see the futility of silent treatment.
Yes, the discovery hasn’t stopped me from wanting to hide in my woman-cave as retaliation sometimes. But now I now better.
Silent treatment in marriage – the lesson
Years before I got married, someone said “your similarities, not your differences will create some of your greatest marriage angst.”
In my mind though, I believed the more similar my husband and I were, the happier we would be. So I did what any single and sassy woman would do when given some bit of married information they completely disagree with; I ignored it.
Years later, I would get married and two weeks into the marriage and in the middle of “honeymoon”, reality came knocking.
Part of our honeymoon itinerary included a 2-night romantic getaway in a lodge, some miles outside the city. On the morning of our departure, something seemed to descend on my brand-new beloved husband.
A cloud of stillness.
It enveloped my 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 knocked the air out of my lungs.
It also “inspired” a swift response, the only way I knew how.
I reckoned that if BNBH (brand new beloved husband) could serve “attitude” aka silent treatment in marriage, 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 silent treatment, and decided to run him to the hills – “punish” him with all the icy brooding I could muster. As in, serve him a more severe form of what he was dishing out.
But Tommy, who later confessed to going through serious inner adjustments to having a woman in his house, his bed, his life, didn’t fathom the depth of my confusion, bewilderment or fear.
He did not notice my “punishment” either.
Suffice it to say, it was an unpleasant ride to our romantic getaway.
A newlywed husband glued to his phone, a new bride staring blankly out of the window – we were a sight sore for the eye.
In fact I found myself hoping that we would not bump into any of our friends because we were not looking like the giddy couple of two weeks before (the wedding day)
Mercifully, somewhere between the city and the jungle, God began to get a hold of my heart.
It occurred (much later) to me 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 – barely – running but not enough to make the car move.)
Turns out BNBH was “much better” at the brooding business than I was. Even in my detachment, I still liked a little fussing here, conversation there.
Except for simple niceties, Tommy fixed a big “Do Not Disturb!” sign on his door.
But God spoken to my heart. I started thinking of ways Tommy and I were alike; human. Code for selfishness. Two hardy imperfect hearts = lots of teachable moments.
So here’s what God illusted to me
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.
Not letting husbands off the hook, here; they have the same responsibility to nurture harmony. But this is what God showed me. And I speak to wives. So.
3. Tommy’s original silence had nothing to do with me. He was simply in a “nothing box” and processing being married. I made up reasons as to why he was suddenly silent, instead of asking him “hey, what’s going on?”
Again, he should have tended to his wife before taking off (and eleven years of marriage later, he does!) 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 responsible to obey. He went ahead and helped me 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 not Biblical.
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 games now and forever, you need to look at it from God’s point of view.
Because your emotion will persuade you that silent treatment is the best way to solve marriage issues. But emotions and ungodly logic lie.
Here’s what the Bible says to do;
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. Mathew 18: 15 – 17 (Amp)
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;
When you feel like shutting down and giving your spouse the cold shoulder;
1. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private;”
Talk about “it” i.e his sin. “Sin” is a strong word to use in this case, but really, the reason you want to shut him out is because you feel offended and sinned upon.
So let him know what’s going on.
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 wise. Neither is talking to people just 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 because 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 and taking personal responsibility.
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, in this post I am addressing everyday challenges that come from doing marriage with another human being. In cases of adultery or abuse where separation is necessary, a pastor/Christian counselor can provide leadership guidance.
*Sometimes we need a “time-out” and I talk about it in this post.
Are you struggling with taking personal responsibility for your emotions and actions? You are that imperfect girl married to an imperfect guy, wondering how to make sense of marriage. My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years might help. Learn how to work out the kinks, find joy in imperfection, positively influence your marriage and create the marriage of your dreams, one intentional choice at a time. Start your journey when you buy the book Amazon Paperback I Amazon Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF