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How toxic can silent treatment get

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Some couples work around relationshps based on fiction. PHOTO/COURTESY

When Davis Julian Jr thought he was in a relationship that was good for him, a major misunderstanding between him and his significant other proved to differ. And when the silent treatment came knocking, things fell apart.

“I was always there for her and never thought otherwise. When we got into a misunderstanding, I was tired of apologising over and again even for things that were not my fault, so I kept quiet,” Davis says, adding: “It helped me to think through the pros and cons of our relationship; where I went wrong, what exactly was happening, and analyse what was happening behind my back.”

During that time, Davis realised that he had become her pastime and nothing more when she did not make any effort to reach out and maybe apologise, or say anything. 

Feeling like he was always the one putting in the effort to make it work, slowly drained him and their relationship ended there.
“I have never felt better than I do now,” he says.

Silent treatment can help one realise many things because in that time, one looking through things and the mind is trying to help the person as much as possible by bringing forth possible pieces of evidence. things they may have taken lightly could turn out differently.

In silent treatment, however, there is no guarantee that things will get better in most cases.

According to Evelyn Kharono Lufafa, a counsellor at Makerere University, it is mainly true in cases when someone has gone silent and is angry. There are toxic thoughts that keep piling up and the longer it takes, the more resentment it carries along with it.

By the time one is over it, if not interrupted, they have all the negative reasons to discontinue the relationship.

Silent treatment is one of the most dangerous tactics to be used on a person, according to Kharono.

“It is, however, a case-by-case scenario and not a usual happening and it also depends on one’s personality. An introvert, for example, may use it as a protection tool and they decide to shut down if something they are addressing is misunderstood, or they realise nothing will change,” she says.

When one has overly talked about certain things and there is no change, or effort to change from their significant other, they tend to withdraw and just keep quiet. That, however, is okay, unless it takes more time than it is supposed to take. This is mostly termed as planned silent treatment, which in most cases can be controlled.

Although it is never healthy to do silent treatment, one may do it because they have nothing more to add to an existing situation.

“When someone over complains, they turn out as nagging. A self-aware person will decide to just be silent on certain things,” she says.

The counsellor also says that there are also people who are just withdrawers and will want to avoid confrontation or arguments as much as they can, and falling silent seems like the only way out.

She says that there will also be people who will withdraw just to hurt the other person or invalidate their claims.

A healthy silent treatment can take about six hours or even overnight but is not supposed to take more than three days.

What it does
The recipient of the silent treatment, according to Medium, experiences several negative effects, including feelings of confusion, hurt, and rejection. They may struggle to understand why their partner is avoiding them and feel uncertain about how to respond.

This uncertainty can lead to a decline in self-esteem and self-worth, as the recipient questions their value within the relationship. Prolonged exposure to silent treatment can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, further impacting the individual’s wellbeing.

Beliefs on silent treatment

It takes two to tangle
Isabella Cheptoek Rukundo believes it is important to note that it takes two to tangle and silent treatment only throws shade at loneliness, depression, frustration, and rejection.

She adds that this puts one in a situation where they cannot express their feelings openly, thus creating a big gap between the couple which in most cases leads to a breakup or misunderstandings getting thrown out of proportion.

On the brighter side, Rukundo believes silent treatment allows both parties to reflect on their thoughts and feelings. It can also create an opportunity for introspection and self-awareness.

“This space is very important and can be a likeable solution to the relationship. All in all, silent treatment should not be longer than it is supposed to be,” she says.

It affects both parties
Shadrack Kithama, says silent treatment has nothing but a negative impact on relationships, affecting both parties. It creates a barrier and closes communication, leading to unaddressed issues that will intensify conflicts that can lead to the termination of the relationship.

It pushes a couple to find comfort in other people

Manuel Nyero, says it is likely to push someone to find emotional support outside and from the same sex as their partner. 

God forbid that the people they approach out there are willing to accommodate and listen to their troubles.

The friendship and trust between the two people will grow and one thing will lead to another. Before you know it, feelings have developed between these two ‘new friends.'

“If the bank that has been offering financial assistance frustrates you, do you not jog on to the next bank? You most definitely will,” he says.

What to do
Focus on other things

Use other resources to release your energy on other than your significant other. We spend more time on people and how they act, do or relate with others. When you put a person under much scrutiny, you end up getting even the slightest things – and some of those things may not please you.

You can do an exercise programme to keep your mind off certain things or give your significant other ‘time to breathe’, read books, and join different clubs, among other things. This will keep your mind healthy as well.

This is because when something annoys you, no matter how small it is, the first instinct will be to confront and that never works. It gets worse when you are in the wrong.

Think things through
Make yourself feel better before you say anything, especially when you are angry. This will help you make a well-informed decision, or even help you articulate well the words you are going to say. And when you start speaking about what was troubling you, you start doing retrospection on what went wrong in the first place.