Male/female arguments will sometimes be worked out quickly and rationally due to give and take. But often times, the argument will stop dead in its tracks and she’ll walk away in silence. This is when a man knows (or should know) that all hell is about to break loose. One of two things can happen from here: he can go after her and try to diffuse the argument (this I strongly suggest) OR he can be stubborn, let if fester, and allow his accounts payable to double with each stomp through the house, eye roll, tear shed, and huff and puff she utters. Any of this sounding familiar?
I’ve read, and heard, many thoughts by men on exactly why women give them the silent treatment during a fight. Most of them are wrong. From my understanding, men think that women are just being juvenile, throwing a “tantrum” to get their way, and simply need to get over it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This hypothesis should be scrapped and more thought applied. Women are much more complicated than that. Let’s examine a man’s perspective…A fight has erupted. You have your opinion, she has hers. The two are on tracks on the opposite sides of town and have no chance of meeting. You argue relentlessly for a short while. Then you realize you’re talking to yourself. She has disappeared before your very eyes. She’s now busying herself-probably cleaning something-with a look of disgust on her face, possible tears blurring her eyes, but not a word escaping her lips. Your thoughts are likely somewhere along the lines of “What just happened?” “Why did she leave?” “I wonder how long this will drag out.” You try to speak to her and ask her what’s wrong (never ask this!). She refuses to answer, just stomps around staying busy-ignoring you. Or she may answer “Nothing.” Nothing is ALWAYS something. After a few minutes of trying to figure out what happened, you decide (being competitive by nature) that you are perfectly able to reciprocate. “You don’t want to speak to me. FINE, I can play that game too.” So, now the dead silence begins. Hours, sometimes days, go by-neither side is giving. The silence is having no effect on you any longer. It’s just a waiting game…she can’t hold it in much longer…she’s bound to come around soon. Right?
Now, let’s look at it from the woman’s perspective. Same fight has just erupted, two completely different viewpoints, no way of meeting. She tries desperately to get you to see her side, but soon realizes that it’s impossible, useless. Do you know why it’s useless? Because you don’t understand her. If you can’t understand her view, then maybe you don’t really “know” her as well as she thought you did (Admittedly, this is somewhat irrational, but still exists in her thought process). She’s beginning to feel emotionally disconnected from you. “How could he say that to me?” “Why won’t he listen to me?” “How could he not feel the same way I do about this issue.” “He won’t even try to see my side.” “Has he always been this ‘mean’?” That’s it. She’s left the conversation. She is now hurt, no longer just mad. Because she’s hurt, her anger is growing. Becoming silent serves 2 purposes: (1) she can now think this through without your input (2) She’s giving you a chance to prove that you do, in fact, care that her feelings are hurt. Take this chance and run with it. If you don’t, she’s now thinking…”If he really cared, why would he ignore my pain?” If you come to her affectionately and try to somehow validate her feelings (you can validate without agreeing–this simply means telling her that you understand..”I can see how you would feel that way. I feel this way”), she will see that she was wrong. You will resume your place as hero in her heart. WARNING…the longer you wait to do this, the deeper your hole becomes. With every moment you remain stubborn and insist that she’s being childish, you’re confirming her worst fear…You DON’T care after all. This gives the disconnect a license to dominate. I hope you enjoy your hole.
Maybe if men and women understand where the other is coming from, the silent treatment would be drowned out by apologies, kisses, and make-up sex (by far the best part of the fight). When fighting, both of you want to be heard, understood, and validated. “I understand how you feel. Here’s how I feel. Maybe we can find a middle ground.” This will steer you down the desired road during a fight. “You’re wrong! Why don’t you listen to me? This is the way it IS.” This will dock you in silence harbor until further notice. Men are able to have an argument completely void of emotion…women, unfortunately, are not. Emotion is her ever-present companion. Women do not become silent to “punish” you–at least I hope not. Women become silent as a defense mechanism to deal with the pain of disconnect. Note to women: The silence is more painful for you than it is for him. Men can compartmentalize the fight and put it away until you come around. Women, on the other hand, can’t and will continue to convince themselves what a jerk they married. This, of course, is not the case–just a reminder of nature’s colossal joke-men and women will come together, but speak completely different languages in order to complicate life. Marriage is about give and take. When fighting, men get stuck in “being right” mode and refusing to “let her have her way.” While women would undoubtedly like to have their way (as is human nature), it’s her perception that he has disconnected from her that induces the silent treatment. So, next time a fight erupts in your marriage, listen, validate, and meet in the middle. Remember to ban the power struggle from your fight and focus on validation…unless you prefer the icy silence.