How are you managing a partner that goes silent when they are angry?

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What you need to know:

If silent treatment is being used by your partner as a tool for emotional control and manipulation, you may want to evaluate whether or not you are in a toxic relationship.

You have not been talking with your partner or friend for a month. Maybe they did something you disprove of and despite repeated reminders that you get ticked off by their behavior, they do not seem to change. So you decide to give them the silent treatment. Or are you the one receiving the silent treatment?

The deliberate refusal to communicate with someone for some time, often as a form of punishment, control, or manipulation is known as silent treatment. You can identify silent treatment when your partner or friend shuts you out of conversations yet they talk to other people. Your partner is not talking to you for an extended period.

You feel you are being punished for something you did or did not do. You are ignored even when you attempt to communicate, so you feel lonely. You feel manipulated or controlled by their silent treatment as if you must do something they like to appease them.         


In interpersonal relationships, conflict is inevitable. Some people choose to coil in their shells like tortoises and hide rather than confront the issue and address it. Others are overwhelmed by emotions and they just shut down or repress them.   For some, one partner speaks, but the other does not listen, so they resort to silent treatment to get their point across.

Some partners use silent treatment as a manipulative tactic to get their partners to bow to their demands. It is a way to catch their attention. Others could have learnt silent treatment approach from their primary caregiver, when they were growing up.

Some people are not good communicators. Others believed they cannot be heard and understood often as a result of an avoidant attachment style so they try to meet their own needs without communicating them to the outside. Some people want to be in control of their partner in a relationship because they are insecure so they will use the silent treatment to get it.      

 1. Talk with your partner

If you are being given the silent treatment, you may want to break the ice and start the conversation. Get to know what’s on their mind and if there is a sticking issue, resolve it. “My wife is not good at expressing herself because of some past trauma she experienced. She is an introverted kind.

I think giving silent treatment is her primary coping mechanism. So when she goes into silent treatment, I stay calm and give her a bit of time, and gently raise the issue which I think may be the problem. Surprisingly, she is always willing to talk, so we resolve the matter and move on.          

2. Ignore it

Some people, for no reason at all, like to hide in their shells or stone walls and only come out when they like. or it may be about them than about you, or they have set emotional boundaries they don’t want to fall over the cliff, or it is probably the way they manage their overwhelming emotions. Such people should be left alone for a time. You should not follow them in their shell but give them time and space to come around. Sandra explains it this way:

“Robert was always hiding in his man cave whenever we argued. He would take a week or two without talking to me. Several times I would be tempted to go into his cave and I did on some occasions but it would always turn out to be worse; we would go another two or so weeks without talking. So I learned to leave him alone and as a result, he would come back to the table to talk with me on his own.”

3. Consider the big picture

Emmy says: “I always went silent whenever we had an issue, but I realised it was not taking our relationship anywhere. This is my person and choosing peace even amidst disagreements is what we needed as a couple,” He says. Arguments or disagreements are short-term moments that every couple encounter.  “Watering seeds of anger usually suffocates any relationship,” he adds. 

4. Carry their burden

      James on his former boss: “I worked with a supervisor would shut down because of the overwhelming tasks. Whenever he was stressed over work schedules and deadlines, he would become moody and give us silent treatment.

I noticed he would be struggling, but would never ask for help (as is common for men) because he feared exposing his incompetence to us. So I would volunteer to help and he would accept. Eventually, the silent treatment would end because his work would have been done.”

5. Evaluate the relationship

If silent treatment is being used by your partner against you as a tool of emotional control and manipulation, you may be in a toxic and abusive relationship. You may want to evaluate whether to continue with it or quit. Signs to help you evaluate the relationship include:

If they are giving you the silent treatment for very long periods if you are forced to submit to their whims or reconcile or apologise even if you do not agree, if they take pleasure in tormenting you with their silent treatment of you… then you may call it what it is and consider quitting.

6. Take care of yourself

If you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, you may feel lonely, abandoned, and ignored but it is important you do not let these negative feelings get to your head and heart. Instead, go out with your friends, watch movies, play a sport, and enjoy yourself…this is good for your mental health.

7. Seek counselling

Some emotional issues emanate from childhood and are deep-seated pains, injuries, and traumas that may affect how you relate and respond to situations.

Maybe the person whose primary response is silent treatment needs to seek individual counselling to overcome this behaviour. But also the person receiving the silent treatment may need some counselling. Maybe they feel worthless and their sense of belonging has been eroded they need someone to affirm them.                                   

Unless it has been agreed upon by both partners that they need time and space alone to rest and recalibrate, every effort should be put into the relationship, so silent treatment does not break it.