Every couple disagrees, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to argue.
The silent treatment may be a common response to conflict in relationships, but it is also one of the most destructive, according to a paper published last year in the journal Communication Monographs. The analysis examined 74 studies that looked at the effects of an overarching behavior called the demand-withdrawal pattern.
The silent treatment is one form of “withdrawal” in a demand-withdrawal pattern, which occurs when one person asks or demands something, for example attention or affection, and their partner rejects these requests by refusing to engage or ceasing communication all together.
“Marital therapists and clinicians have been dealing with this issue since the 1930s, but … it has only been since the late 80s that researchers have studied it,” Texas Christian University professor Paul Schrodt, the study’s lead researcher, told Business Insider in an email. “And most of the research that we cited mentioned it as a pervasive and/or common struggle for married partners.”
Schrodt’s study shows that demand-withdrawal, including the silent treatment, can lead to relationship dissatisfaction and even be a factor in divorce. “The more polarized the partners become, the more difficult it is for them to stop engaging in the behaviors,” Schrodt told The Wall Street Journal, where we first learned about the study.
Past research has shown that, compared to other couples, those who practice the silent treatment are:
– less satisfied with their relationship
– less intimate with one another
– poorer communicators with their partners
It’s a bad habit that must be abandoned if a relationship is going to thrive.
Why We Go Silent
“The silent treatment is caused by a combination of hurt feelings and an inability or unwillingness to talk about them,” Tina Gilbertson, who was not involved with the study, told The Chicago Tribune. Gilbertson is a counselor in Portland, Oregon and author of “Constructive Wallowing: How To Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them.”
Schrodt’s analysis encompassed studies on over 14,000 participants. In heterosexual relationships, he found, women were usually (though not always) the demanders while men were the ones who tended to withdraw from their partner’s demands, or responded with silence.
Read More: Here
Related: The Coward and the Silent Treatment