Silent Tantrum

>> Thursday, August 19, 2010

There is one in every marriage. At one time or another, one spouse gets angry at the other for various reasons. Everyone has their own mechanisms for how to handle their emotions and one way is by turning on the silent treatment. Usually someone who can ignore their significant other, as an adult, shows they have had practice at dealing with angry issues-passively. The practice of this behavior, over time, reinforces an unhealthy form of coping. Chances are at this age or stage, shows how this individual has handled their anger as a child, to their parents, with their siblings, at work, and with peers. If you think about it, this silent anger seem to be a good way to handle any escalating dispute. Just not speak. We know the saying, "If you do not have something good to say, don't say it" and "It takes two to dance (argue)". It is then difficult to know how long one should stay silent on the matter. The famous rule of thumb says don't go to bed angry with your spouse. The next day is a new day and should start off fresh. But what if your inside emotional turmoil does not agree with this philosophy?

Sometimes if the original issue is extremely pressing, the silent treatment can lead to a Silent Tantrum. I call it silent tantrum because it is the silent treatment that lasts one or more days. If the original issue is not dealt with it can present itself as an off and on connection, reflecting the person's difficulty to deal with the situation. Of course when presented they may deny it as the spouse may not recognize that they are still upset about the situation. If left, it can go on to really hurt the person and the relationship as Silent Tantrums can go on to become Bitterness. This is the end result and most damaging of any relationship as criticism and demeanorism is bred. With that said, it is important for the other spouse to become proactive, finding a quiet time to allow their partner to speak. It is important to note, as hard as the information being received is, it is important for them to be expressed no matter what is said. It has been bottled up so long that it is expected to be ugly. Be prepared and know that exposure is your friend. It sets both partners free from the bars made during the silent tantrum. Of course the other tool is timing. Timing when confronting the issue and making sure it is during the rule of thumb period.

*The opinions and concepts above are based on observations and counseling sessions of various couples over a 7 year period.