I once went 3 months without saying anything meaningful to my wife. 3 months! Can you believe it? Of course you can because a lot of you have gone a lot longer than that without saying more than the bare minimum to your significant other. It's the silent treatment. And it's a weapon. A powerful weapon that cuts deeper and deeper with every passing moment. You know the feeling and you know that it hurts. A lot. But did you know it's hurting your relationship a lot more than you could ever imagine?
Communication is the most powerful asset to any relationship, whether it's family, intimate, friendship, business or any other kind of relationship and whenever we fail to communicate the relationship is weakened. Many times that lack of communication is accidental or unintentional, but in the case of "the silent treatment" it is deliberate and purposeful and that purpose is to hurt someone. And in the case of an intimate relationship that purpose is to hurt your spouse. You want to make them feel bad because they made you feel bad. You wanna "get back at them." You want them to feel the same frustration you felt. You want... REVENGE!
Do you remember the very first time you exacted revenge on someone? It wasn't during your first "real relationship." It wasn't in college or highschool or during your first job. It wasn't in grade school or middle school. It was when you were 3 or 4 years old and some other little boy hit you. Or it was when you were in preschool and some other little girl took the doll you were using. Do you remember what you did? Oh, you don't? I can tell you! You hit that little boy back - that's what you did. Or you told that little girl that you didn't want to be her friend anymore. And you told other little girls not to be her friend. Or worst yet you tattle-taled. You went and you told your teacher or another adult that someone had wronged you and made you feel bad. Trust me, you were not doing your duty as a fellow student - you were trying to get that other kid in trouble. You wanted that adult to come down hard on that child and exact the revenge you were either unwilling or unable to carry out yourself. You wanted that kid to be sat in a timeout and feel shame and hurt and have privileges taken away from them. And in the end if that child was crying because of their punishment then THAT was the ultimate revenge! The eye-for-an-eye revenge you were thirsting for. Am I right?
Revenge. It's how preschoolers operate. And the vast majority of us never totally outgrow that way of operating. Then we deem ourselves mature enough to handle an intimate relationship and guess what happens when the very first sign of trouble arises? We revert right back to our preschool selves and start exacting revenge on our spouses. Seriously?
I didn't speak to my wife for three months because of an argument we had over something so stupid I can't even remember what it was. What I do remember is that she absolutely destroyed me in this argument. She dominated me. Beat me from pillar to post. Every point I made, she countered it. Every reason I presented she presented a better one. And it wasn't that she was right (she's a doctor - she's usually always right) - it's the fact that she was so merciless about the whole thing. Or at least in my eyes she was merciless. In my eyes she was lording it over me, gloating about it. I saw a smug look on her face. I felt she had humiliated me and worse yet, she was proud about it; wearing my shame around her neck like a medal. Wearing it around her waist like a championship belt. One of those big leather and gold belts like boxers, MMA fighters and professional wrestlers. She didn't just defeat me. She stood over me with a foot on my broken ego and raised her hands to the heavens while "We Are The Champions" played from her iPod.
I hated that feeling, although she probably never intended for me to feel that way. I don't believe my wife wanted me to feel like that Detroit Lions team a few years ago that went 0-16, but the bottom line is that I did feel that way. And since there was no teacher to tell, I immediately set out to "hit her back." I was gonna have my revenge. So I locked myself into the silent treatment. I only said the relevant things to her. The hi's and bye's. The requisite "I love you's." The stuff about our schedules and places we had to be and bills that had to be paid and stuff about the kids we both needed to know. But seriously, that was about it. Even during our intimate times! How in the world can you be intimate with someone you're giving the silent treatment to? You can't! Being physical and being intimate are two totally different things. It's actually a very interesting experience. But since this isn't a 50 Shades of Grey expose, I'll save that scene for another article.
I exacted cold, calculating revenge on my wife and guess what - it worked! Haha! Yeah! I got her! She was all disappointed and depressed and feeling frustrated that she couldn't get more than two words out of me! Awesome! Round 2 goes to me.... Wait a minute. It worked? No, this is wrong. I'm not supposed to rejoice in my wife's sorrow. I'm not supposed to wish on her the same pain I felt she gave to me. I'm not supposed to "hit her back" like I did with little Tommy in Baychester Preschool way back in '85 (Tommy, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I hit you). I'm NOT supposed to exact revenge on my wife!
But how many of us do? How many of us take some perceived wrong done to us by our spouses and immediately begin plotting how to get them back? How to hurt them in the same way they hurt us. How many of us try to hurt them worse?
How many of us have used the silent treatment?
Revenge. It is the ultimate sign of immaturity in a relationship. It's what preschoolers use because they are too young to have the vocabulary or cognitive development to express themselves and communicate. And it's not the only type of revenge we use. Think about it.
A few more tactics:
Hurtful words: We insult our spouse or significant other or say things we know that they are sensitive about because we want them to feel hurt. That just seems mean :/
Gossiping to Friends: We call up a friend and start badmouthing our spouse to them. Why would you want your friends to think you're in a relationship with a total loser? But we do it because we know that if we can get more people to be on "our side" it will isolate our spouse and hurt them. It's just like that little girl who tells all the other little girls not to be your friend. It's a powerful passive aggressive tactic we use to get revenge.
Small Inconveniences: During my three month silent treatment I also did a few other things, like leave the toilet seat up. Yeah - seriously - I did that. Just because I wanted to make her uncomfortable for making me uncomfortable. And that was just one example. What a jerk move!
And there is much more. I'm sure that if you did a little reflecting you'd come up with a dozen more revenge tactics that you yourself have used in relationships over the years. I'll wait while you think....
Take a few more minutes...
See? I told you! Isn't it frightening how vindictive we can be? Isn't it frightening how immature we can be?
We have to stop using revenge in our relationships. Who cares if they made you feel a certain way. The best way to destroy a relationship is to reciprocate that feeling. 90 percent of the time your spouse did not mean to make you feel that way. So try the opposite of the silent treatment.
It's the number one advice given by relationship counselors the world over. Talk to your spouse. And especially talk to them when you feel they have wronged you. I'm not saying argue and blame and shout and scream. I'm saying talk. Talk about why you felt wronged and that you understand they may not have intended to wrong you and ask them (nicely) to consider your feelings next time they say what they said or do what they did. That is the sign of maturity. That is the sign of being an adult.
I would be lying if I said the silent treatment thing never creeps into my marriage anymore because the bottom line is sometimes it does. But it never last longer than the time it takes to collect my thoughts and express why i felt wronged or slighted.
Talk it out. Forgive. Forget. And leave the Revenge Tactics to Kung Fu movies and Preschoolers.
My Legend Grows, Dr. Phil! HUZZAH!!!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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Firoz from India on July 08, 2013:
Impressive hub on Immature Relationship. Voted up.