Is Silence Sounding a Distress Signal in your Relationship?
Silence in a relationship can be deafening – drowning out the ability to listen to and hear your partner. If you and your partner have shut down, excluding any type of meaningful communication, you are at risk for a break-up or separation.
Many people don’t understand how they have arrived at the need for therapy. In fact, they point proudly to the fact that they and their spouses never argue. So, does that mean they are in agreement 100% of the time? Or, are they just not being honest about their true feelings by saying nothing?
The Warning Signs of Silence
You know that your relationship is suffering from silence if you haven’t discussed a topic, or introduced a conversation about something important to you because you don’t want to deal with judgments, criticisms, and other negative conversation killers. Instead, you have chosen silence and now you are disconnected.
The High Price of Silence
When a couple is engaged, they may have strong, even intense debates, explaining and defending their point of view about a topic. You each have an opinion and want the other person to understand it. Each person knows where the other stands. But in silence, this is missing and often replaced with guessing and assuming the other’s position. This can lead to even greater chasm between couples because they now base their reaction on their assumptions instead of an actual discussion.
Breaking Through the Silence
Just start talking. Then start listening. Then hear what the other person is saying. The biggest barrier is who takes the first step, especially if silence has become an ingrained habit. Try to understand why you both shut down to begin with. What was the last important discussion or argument you had? What was said and what were your feelings about it? Sometimes just asking yourself what you are afraid of if you do demand to be heard can help uncover the reason for retreating into silence. What is the worst case scenario of expressing your opinion?
If neither person can figure out how to break the silence but they want to, then find an impartial person such as a mediator, religious leader, or therapist to help you recapture the ability to listen and hear each other in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way that re-opens you to honest, candid communication.