When your spouse grows silent and refuses to continue a discussion in the heat of the moment, it can be upsetting and infuriating. Ignoring loved ones, walking away without an explanation, and ultimately stonewalling any attempts at reconciliation is a destructive pattern of behavior that needs addressing for the health and longevity of a relationship. 


You CAN learn to discuss and disagree in a healthier way! However, these behaviors won’t improve without effort from both parties. Ultimately, adjustments must be made in the way that you communicate and respond to one another. 


Before proceeding, if your partner habitually rebuffs your attempts to communicate or resolve issues, it is important to consider the reason behind this behavior.


1. Examine his/her upbringing. It’s possible that your spouse learned to suppress and avoid strong feelings as a child. Such habits can stunt emotional maturity and discourage communication.


2. Search for other signs of controlling behavior or even abuse. The silent treatment can be a form of manipulation, utilized to hurt you or force your hand.


3. Allow healthy space. Your partner might simply take brief breaks in arguments for the purpose of calming down and thinking through the problem at hand. This can be both beneficial and productive, rather than detrimental to a relationship. 


It can be difficult to respond appropriately when you feel a freeze from your partner. Rather than reacting in frustration or bitterness, try utilizing one of the following strategies:


1. Demonstrate compassion. Although you may be hurting at the moment, recognize that your partner is most likely in pain as well. Reaffirm him/her of your love in the face of disagreements. 


2. Invest in your relationship. Tabling the issues at hand temporarily to intentionally enjoy time together may foster a deeper bond, lessen insecurities, and improve communication in the long run. 


3. Show patient flexibility. Give your spouse breathing room and let him/her know that you are available once (s)he is ready to continue the discussion. 


4. Respect boundaries. Exasperating as it may be, pestering, demanding, or shouting will only escalate the matter, causing your loved one to further isolate.  


5. Establish new habits in communication. Practice listening attentively, responding with respect and honesty, and making note of your body language. 


6. Offer grace. Make the decision together to forgive past offenses and refuse to rehash previous wrongdoings in current arguments. 


7. Prioritize your health and wellbeing. Relationship troubles can weigh on you mind as well as your body. Be sure to get enough rest, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. 


8. Identify hot button issues and tend to them. If it seems financial problems are a primary stressor, perhaps tightening your household’s budget or finding an additional source of income would relieve an unrelenting burden. If you and your spouse often argue over parenting choices, find common ground to establish guidelines by which you both can abide. 


9. Seek outside assistance. Individual or couples counseling may help you to address core issues in a safe space, while exploring new patterns to develop for the future. 


When a loved one is holding you at arm’s distance and refusing to engage, you may be left feeling hopeless. However, you CAN learn to adapt, to engage in healthier conversations, and to better interact with one another. Reconnect by utilizing the tools above and build a stronger relationship that will last a lifetime!


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