If you’re familiar with my works or have been following my blogs for a while, you’ll have read about the three pillars in your relationship.
Quality Time, Talking and Sex.
You’ll also be familiar with my stance that ongoing communication is one of the keys to a life-long relationship. I often ask couples that have been together a long time, let’s say fifteen or twenty years – “What do you think the secret is for long-term happiness?”
And their answer is usually something like “we talk about everything”.
So what do you do when the communication has stopped between your partner and you at some stage, or worse yet, if the communication has broken down completely after an argument? How do you break the silence?
It is not easy to start a conversation when there is already a palpable distance between you and your partner, and the difficulty only intensifies the longer you are closed off to each other.
You might be thinking,
“I’m not going to be the first to give in! That would make me look desperate. Not this time, it’s always me!”
Or maybe your thoughts sound more like this –
“She/he ran away slamming doors in their wake, she/he needs to apologies first”.
And so, the inevitable happens. You both end up tiptoeing around each other and you can feel the tension and supressed aggression rising. The nerves are lying bare.
With each day that passes in silence, this whole situation becomes more surreal and fixated.
Let me tell you something I know for sure – the earlier you can break the deafening silence, the easier it will feel and the better it will be for your relationship. One of you needs to step up.
You could ask your partner the following, and try to master a normal voice –
“Could we maybe sit together for 10 minutes? I’d love to have a tea with you.”
This is a clear and open question without any threat. You are not imposing any further outcome from these 10 minutes, you just give a strong offer and show your willingness.
Your partner could reject you and say “No”.
In this case you could then ask “When would be a good time then?”
This is an open ended question – not just asking for a yes/no answer, it looks into the future and is positive. If you were to respond with “Why not?!,” you might go further down the rabbit hole of an argument or a battle of the wills.
On the other hand, your partner might be relieved and grateful that you spoke up and that the silence is broken. Your partner may be looking forward to finding time to sit together over a cup of tea.
It is crucial that you try to ensure your part of the conversation is as non-threatening as possible. Instead of revisiting the topic that brought you to this wall of silence (e.g. “We need to talk about how you did that thing that upset me…”), it is more productive and less confronting to address the fact that you haven’t been communicating in the last couple of hours, days or weeks.
Try something like “I’ve noticed we haven’t been talking much in the last couple of days and I just want to change this. What do you think?” And you take it from there.
Usually you both are relieved that the silence is broken and that you can begin to open up to each other as a loving couple again.
Please try remember that it might not be the right time to talk about the underlying issue as yet. I say this because I’ve noticed with many couples that the inevitably end up going around in circles and talking over the same issue again and again.
I see it often. There is usually one partner who feels that a particular topic had been clarified and put to rest, while the other is still holding on to it and who still finds the topic very much at the forefront of their minds. It may be unconventional advice, but sometimes, reviewing that topic too soon might just get you back to square one and back to giving each other the silent treatment.
I see this “going around in circles” as a big challenge in many, many relationships. No matter which one of the two ‘typical partners’ you are, talking about the same topic – sometimes even with the same lines of dialog – is just frustrating for you both. And it easily results in heated arguments like “how often do I need to tell you…?” or “you’re just not listening to what I am saying…” or other phrases which are just fuelling an argument and not helping to resolve an issue.
Please remember that a relationship between two loving people living together is a constant negotiation and a mix of compromises. It can be just as unhealthy to fixate on an argument as it can be to totally ignore it.
The biggest danger in any relationship surfaces when we let an unresolved argument hang between you for days or even weeks, inviting an awful silence between us that leaves us feeling disconnected and distant. This disconnection can be threat to the very core of your relationship. That’s why I recommend to all couple never to go to bed with an unresolved argument.
If you are in the situation right now and you and your partner are tiptoeing around each other, or are trying to stare each other down like in the old western movies, please take the first step and call or text your partner and ask for some time over a cup of tea and break the silence.
If you want to discuss this further with me, why not book yourself an obligation free call with me. https://calendly.com/relationship/free-evaluation