What To Do When Your Spouse Goes Silent On You

When my wife gets upset, she gets quiet and distances away from connection.

When I get upset, I tend to get vocal and pursue connection.

Before we knew how to handle these differences, it was superfrustrating.

For the first few years were together, I used to hate it when she got quiet.

I thought she was punishing me with the silent treatment.

And because I saw it this way, I’d go bonkers. Grrrr… I would get so frustrated. I didn’t know why it pissed me off so much, but it did.

Of course, I’d make it worse by demanding that she talk to me. “Just tell me what’s going on already dammit!”

I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to just put words to it and say something, anything…

Sometimes, I thought it was because we had a fight, other times there wasn’t even a fight and so I had no idea what was going on with her.

In fact, one time, I threatened her, “If you don’t go to therapy and get that issue resolved, I’m not sure I can be with you.” Gulp.

I said that a few years into our marriage and I felt so confident I was right and she was wrong.

Did my approach work?

No, it shut her down even more.

Doah!

So, you might be making the same dumb mistakes I was making and driving your partner further into their shell.

If you are the person who prefers to “talk about it” and your partner is the one who struggles to communicate, you’re going to find these steps very useful.

You see, the more I did some “inner work” on myself, the more I realized her silence was triggering some old wounds in me that I previously hadn’t dealt with.

Once I started to see how her shut down was helping me, I began to figure out that my way was more damaging to our connection than it was helpful, even though I thought my way was awesome because I was advocating for us to “talk it out” sooner rather than later.

So, instead of making your silent or quiet partner wrong, try this instead as it may just help you get the connection back you so desperately want.

  1. Stop doing your habit of pursuing connection. Don’t try to talk it out. Do the 5 step process mentioned in this blog post: “Stop, Drop, Feel, Deal, Get Real.”
  2. Start learning how to give him or her space.
  3. Work with your upset so you can be calm and caring toward your spouse. Practicing simple mindfulness or a listening to a guided meditationsilent treatment (free download here), can be very helpful so you can “be with” your own upset and not act out from it.
  4. Let them know this is hard, but that you are working on giving them space.
  5. Let them know you are available when they are ready to process or talk about what happened and then drop it.
  6. Notice how much you are “tracking them” and keep coming back to yourself
  7. Don’t take it personal. It’s not. Yes, your way triggers them, but it’s still not about you.
  8. Contact a friend, journal your feelings, and get support on why this is driving you mad.
  9. Allow more space. If 24 hours has gone by, check in with them and say something like “Hey, how are you over there? I’m noticing I miss you and our connection.” Chances are they may soften with this type of statement.
  10. Let them initiate the reconnection process. Once you’ve tried Step 9, if they are still distant, just keep giving them space. Send the message with your whole being “I’m here and available when you are ready sweetie…”

Watch closely, eventually your partner will come around. Space does wonders. Pressure doesn’t.

I remember the moment I finally “got it” years into my relationship with my wife.

An entire week went by and I was super loving the whole time and just gave her space.

She approached me one day after days of very little talk (only about the kids) and she reached to me and gave me the most amazing hug and said “Thank you.”

We both teared up and agreed I had never quite given her space like that. It was a powerful moment and our dynamic shifted that day.

Plus, I felt CONNECTED to her again! YES!

So, remember, your job is NOT to do your habit of chasing your partner down. It’s to relax, step back, and give him or her space. 

Relax, you will be okay. Keep giving space and see what unfolds.

 

 

 

11 Comments

  • Christine Baese

    Reply Reply November 29, 2015

    Great advice. This happens in our house, and it is a struggle for me to give the space and feel whole, but I know that the wholeness is my own. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply November 29, 2015

      Awareness is a great start. Now practice!

  • maria

    Reply Reply January 28, 2016

    This is definitely an issue in our relationship. It is hard for me to feel rejected, feels like i am powerless and the other person decides when to check back in.

  • Malin

    Reply Reply July 5, 2016

    Thank you, a good reminder.. Lately I’ve been hit by major hormone stormes as I’m 6 months pregnant, and probably have demanded more from him than I “should” have, feeling that something has been wrong and wanting to talk it out – because it’s of course the only “right” thing to do. its been driving him mad. Bah.

  • Monica

    Reply Reply November 15, 2016

    Hi, it’s been 6+years in my relationship. It has been complicated since married. Disrespect, humiliation, fights, finances n then there was time when I could not respond on any humiliation coz it became habit. I went thru physical & emotional trauma , depression every year but he could not do anything for me. Later I went into eggshell n stopped communicating, demanding anything, household or personal. He never spoke to me about any issues or personal life in 6 years. I was going thru councseling n medical treatment for stress n he could come with me but never understood the problem. He went abroad coz of financial crises not for us but always for his family. I visited him abroad after 1 year n all of sudden realised that I m no more connected to him. I tried to communicate but he did not listen to me n said talking about past mistakes is my favourite topic rather I wanted to tell him what caused me. Without further or detailed discussion every thing fell apart…..2 people in one relationship but one struggles mentally n physical trauma n other spouse does not take out time from games n TV but thinks till yesterday everything was fine….

  • A2

    Reply Reply December 2, 2016

    I will help you out folks; this is emotional abuse – plain and simple. Been there, done that. There’s nothing hard about a grown up asking for space if they need especially when they know the toll it’s taking on you! It is all a cry for attention and a form of gaining control. The earlier you realize this; the better it is for you.

  • Sarah

    Reply Reply February 7, 2017

    This is spot on and what I am trying to work on right now but I still feel lost. A guy I’ve been dating for 2 months wants to call it quits because he is going through something personal. His exact words were “I just can’t do it and I don’t want to drag you through the mud “. Seems like he can’t focus on both us and his situation. I don’t know what this is, he feels he can’t tell me. As he even said about breaking up was he doesn’t want to do this but has to. After that we went one day with no contact then the next day we had a short conversation, seemed so natural. Then a week of nothing from him, I reached out once. Then, when I saw he had to deactivate Facebook because of this situation as he told me might happen, I shot him a text asking if he was ok. Finally I got a response of “I’ve been better.” Now, at this point I let him know how glad I was to hear from him, I’ve been worried and let him know I’m here if he needs anything whether it be a coffee or something stronger, a tslo not necessarily about this but just talk and know I’m here and the response was thank you.
    Today I reached out without a response, I’m going to try and not contact him again for 24 hours.
    Here’s another problem I face, I feel very strong about him, I can’t explain why exactly but just in this short time we’ve become so connected and have so much in common with plenty of differences that it makes life enjoyable. I have a birthday gift for him, I’ve had it alost a week before he wanted to call things off. He said he would let me know when he can get them as it would mean a lot to me to give them in person. They were very thoughtful. I don’t know what to do, I feel I should give him his space as he wants, he said he needs to be alone before he broke it off and I can’t believe we are broken up. He even said he wanted us to work but right now we can’t, I want him to know I’m not going to leave him in this time, I’m here through thick and thin. Maybe exes have left but I don’t scare away that easy… I need help on how to approach this, I dont want to mess anything up, my feelings for him run deep…. thanks for your time …

  • Lani

    Reply Reply May 6, 2018

    Ha HA! There’s silence and then there’s deafening silence. And, waiting it out is destructive for both in a marriage. The absolute WORST feeling to cast onto someone you love is for them to feel alone when you’re in the same room with them. Maybe, this method worked for you in your situation. I’ve tried to work with a disconnected spouse for 20 years. You know where it’s gotten us? He’s even more disconnected and my spirit has been crushed beyond repair. I was once confident, happy and on top of my game. Now, I don’t even keep tally any more; and, I’ve allowed my own happiness, confidence, strength – everything of my core essence to be destroyed. Your advice is situational; please, don’t put it out there as a solution for all. Because someone like me will read this early on in a struggle and waste DECADES of their life and lose themselves in the process. Silence is never, NEVER a compromise for happiness.

  • yodit

    Reply Reply July 30, 2018

    thank you i think this is a good advice my husband get quite and distance connection from me.
    am worried that our marriage gets gap.i feel uncomfortable and unhappy the moment i weak up i feel unhappy…..
    i always try to talk to him but he choose to get silent i feel ignored.
    and am a type of person talk everything clearly give my opinion i believe in discussion especially with husband.
    discussion is akey for everything.

  • Anthony

    Reply Reply February 22, 2019

    Idk what’s wrong with my woman but none of that doesn’t work if I speak to her about communicating she gets more irritated and then I feel like I’m talking too much if I don’t then she blame it on my saying I’m the one not talking, if I get mad at her she says I don’t understand her it’s just so confusing and about to go crazy literally . Is just that every handle of approach is still the same irritation…

  • Paul Veerman

    Reply Reply February 23, 2019

    This…is possibly the worst advice in the world. 2 married couples-more than 38 years of marriage between us and almost of these steps sound like terrible suggestions, you’re only missing “tell her to calm down.” This sounds like how you handle a girl going through puberty that just lost her kitten.

    Just sayin’

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