Posts Tagged ‘silent treatment’


If there’s one thing we women aren’t equipped to navigate, it’s a one-sided conversation.  This feels about as natural to us as strapping on that delicate sexy bra over, rather than under, our favorite baggy sweatshirt.  It just doesn’t make sense to us.  Women need feedback.  We crave it.  We respond to it.  But according to men, conversation simply isn’t a valuable commodity.  However, if he knew the trade value of conversation with women, he may be eager to buy more stock.

She asks, “How was your day?”  He responds, “Fine.”  She waits for him to elaborate…fill her in.  She’ll be waiting a while.  He’s done with this conversation and is oblivious to her curiosity.  He walks away, moves on to another task, and leaves her feeling “left out” of his life.  She may push, but it’s unlikely she’ll get much more information than the mind-blowing ear-full she got the first time.  Still, she hopes.  To her dismay, her hopes are dashed by his complete disinterest in hashing out his day with her.  Resentment follows.  She may hold onto that resentment for later, more convenient use during a fight over something totally unrelated…or she may confront him immediately.  Disappointment makes for a good boomerang.  She’ll just hurl it right back his way.  But he’s blindsided by the boomerang.   He now knows that she’s angry, but left wondering “what about?”  He has no clue that she NEEDS to hear the details of his day.

Attention men:   she DOES…

Women exchange details of their lives as a means of connection.  If you’re not communicating your daily details with her, you’re not connecting with her.  Men, on the other hand, only speak with purpose.  If there’s no reason to give details, he won’t.  Ladies, it’s not personal…it’s just pointless to him.  He doesn’t need it, and he’s completely unaware of the fact that you do.  So, tell him.  Tell him that you need to know what’s going on in his life…not because you want to “control” him (which is what so many men choose to think), but as a way to stay connected to him.  Tell him…enlighten him.  He needs you to tell him what you need.  Otherwise, he’ll never figure it out…he’s not a mind reader, obviously.  Explain to him what you need…or forever hold your “peace.”

Aside from the fact that men just don’t have a need for excess talk, he may also feel intimidated by talking to you.  Let’s face it, sometimes we possess the uncanny ability to take in the things he says, swallow them, twist them, turn them, completely reconstruct them in the most negative way possible, and then regurgitate them in all their glory… right in his unsuspecting, utterly confused  face.  Poor guy.  Once we do that a time or two, he may – being the logical thinker he is – decide less is more…and be very careful about sharing his details, or feelings, the next time around.

And how many times have we asked his opinion about something, thought it over, and then proceeded to override his opinion with our own?  “Honey, what do you want for dinner?”  He replies, “Chinese.”  You come back with, “Really, I was thinking burgers?”  Now is this really a question?  Not a chance.  Burgers…it’s what’s for dinner.  😉  So, yet again, he realizes there’s no point in his expression of thought, as it will be vetoed anyway.  Guys are linear thinkers.  So, once he figures this out,  he’s no longer interested in engaging in the “What do YOU think?” game.

There may also be a neurological reason men don’t share feelings or daily details.  Our brains are divided into left and right hemispheres.  The corpus callosum is a white matter tract connecting the two.  It’s this connecting tract, or bridge, that allows for cross-talk between hemispheres…. Studies have shown that a woman’s corpus callosum is wider than that of a man’s.  This may be why women aren’t able to compartmentalize…we can think AND feel at the same time.  Having a more narrow “bridge” for cross-talk between hemispheres may contribute to his tendency to compartmentalize…separate his feelings from his thinking.  And consequently, engage in much less conversation about how this, or that, makes him feel.

No wonder he’s not as enamored with all the mushy talk as we women are.

So, if you want to know what he’s feeling, but he’s not volunteering…be more direct.  Men don’t respond well to vague questions such as “What are you thinking?”   Rather, asking a question like, “Do you think _____?”  or “Do you feel _____?”  will draw his details out front and center.  It’s not that he’s deliberately withholding his life.  He simply doesn’t know you need to connect in this way.  Volunteering the details of who said what at the office, which project isn’t going well, and what he ate for lunch doesn’t come naturally to him.  But with the right prodding, he’ll open up…all you have to do is listen.

Because of the communication gap between men and women, we tend to think men are distant and uncaring.  But upon closer inspection, you may discover that men are quite vulnerable and full of emotion…they’re just encouraged both by nature AND nurture to hide it well.  And hide it well, they do.

Tell him what you need.  Men need AND want to know how to make you happy.  Speak his language.  “Sweetie, you need sex.  I need connection to have sex.  Connect with me…and I’ll ‘connect’ with you.  Tell me all about your day.”  You put it in those terms…you won’t have to ask him twice.  He’ll be OH so happy to oblige.  His daily details will erupt forth like lava from a volcano after a multi-century long dormant spell.  You may have to go dominatrix to shut him up and tame his “volcano.”  🙂

Chick Hughes

Part of the reason that men seem so much less loving than women is that men’s behavior is measured with a feminine ruler.  ~Francesca M. Cancian

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.

Chick Hughes

“Silence propagates itself, and the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find anything to say.”
Samuel Johnson