How the Silent Treatment is Killing Your Marriage

The “Silent Treatment” destroys the ability of spouses to communicate and resolve conflict.  That is why we have called it a “Marriage Killer”.  It is an expression of stonewalling.  Stonewalling is just as it sounds: anything we do that is building a stone wall between us and our spouse. Stonewalling means refusing to communicate or cooperate.

Stonewalling is common, although it takes many different forms. Slamming the door as you walk out of the room or pealing out as you leave the driveway. Using the “silent treatment” to be present and talk to everyone else except for the person with whom you are upset. It can look like diving into a book, your cell phone, electronic device like an iPad or laptop, or television. It can also look like hiding out in the “man-cave”, having to work late, or doing a lot of household chores.

Stonewalling is placing something between you and your spouse for the purpose of getting away from them or distancing yourself from them. Stonewalling is a Marriage Killer because if we cannot talk about the issue, we cannot solve the issue. The more we do not talk about the issue, the more we repeat it and the more negative interactions we have. Eventually the negative interactions overcome any and all positive interactions. We begin distancing ourselves until we are living parallel lives. The end is soon near.

What Can I Do About Stonewalling?

Stonewalling is about creating some space. Usually a spouse who stonewalls does so because they are triggered and it is perceived as the lesser of two evils. In other words, they are attempting to stay away from their spouse and stonewall instead of lash out.

If you are the victim of stonewalling, you are likely doing something that is triggering you spouse. Frequently, criticism is one of the things that triggers stonewalling. If you notice your spouse is stonewalling, make it safe to connect by using your Speaking and Hearing Truth skills. Instead of criticizing, employ the Complaint Formula. When that does not work, use the Crucial Conversation skills will help you say what you need to say. You can learn about all of these rules in “The Secret to Lifetime Love”.

If you notice that you are the spouse who stonewalls, try using Time Out instead. Following the Time Out rules, notice that you are being triggered and request a Time Out focused on when (in the next 24 hours) you and your spouse can speak about the issue that triggered you. Using Time Out keeps your spouse from wondering if the issue will ever be addressed and lets them know that you care enough of about your marriage to have the issue resolving conversation.

This article is written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”.  Learn more at  © Roy and Devra Wooten 2014. All Rights Reserved.  You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution.  Written permission for other use may be obtained at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One thought on “How the Silent Treatment is Killing Your Marriage