You can come together and move forward as a family.
Parenting has evolved since I was a kid. But not necessarily because of cultural shifts as much as access to information. Research, blogs, and social media have made it easy to access information about how our parenting impacts kids. This information can help us to better understand the long-term impact of our parenting. It also reshapes what this generation sees as good or bad parenting. Parents often search for information to help them when they view their spouse as a bad parent.
Before we look deeper into this, let’s clarify what a “bad” parent looks like.
★If your spouse is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to your child (or you), this article isn’t for you. I strongly urge you to stop reading and seek help. Contact the National Children’s Advocacy Center. The following information is not intended for your situation or to condone that type of parent.★
For our purposes, let’s take a look at the parenting styles to define what a bad parent looks like. There are four main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. An uninvolved parenting style is typically characterized as being distant with little communication. They may ensure their child’s basic needs are met but are involved little beyond that. An uninvolved parenting style is considered bad parenting.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent, you may feel like they:
Show little or no affection to their children.
Don’t provide emotional support for their children.
Don’t set rules, boundaries, or expectations.
Don’t know their child’s friends.
Have no involvement with their child’s education.
We have to acknowledge that parenting, like life, has seasons. You may look at this list and say, “Yep, my spouse isn’t involved with our child. They’re a bad parent.” I would ask you two questions first.
Is this a busy season?
Do they have a desire to be more involved?
Your spouse may be in a busy season due to work or life demands. I don’t want to justify their actions, but there is a difference between a bad parent and a busy parent.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent and you’re reading this, you know something needs to change.
How do you help them become a more involved or better parent?
→Open the lines of communication.
You recognize there’s an issue. You may have to take the first step toward your spouse. A good rule is not to bring up these issues when frustrated. An argument isn’t going to bring resolution.
Schedule a coffee date with your spouse. Let them know how you feel without being accusatory. It may be challenging, but using “I” statements to express your feelings is an excellent way to discuss frustrations in a relationship.
Perhaps you could start the conversation like this: “Lately, I’ve noticed some distance between you and our son. I want to ensure that you’re getting the time with him he needs. Is there something I can do to help us get on the same page?”
→Seek to understand.
Our parenting style is often a result of how we were parented, good or bad. Your spouse parents the way they do for a reason. Discuss these questions to dive deeper:
What were the parenting styles in each of our homes?
Which patterns do we want to change about how our parents raised us?
What healthy habits do we want to maintain?
This conversation is as much about your parenting as their parenting. You may gain insight into why your spouse parents the way they do. You may learn something about yourself. This may open up some emotional wounds. If so, don’t be afraid to seek help from a coach or counselor.
→Find common ground.
Look for good parenting resources that you can discuss together. Identify the common parenting values in your family. Do you both value responsibility, hard work, or helping others? Establish goals for your parenting. What do you want your parenting to result in? Write down the positive parenting contributions from your spouse. Build on these positives.
→Avoid good cop, bad cop.
There will be disagreements over how you both parent, but those are conversations for the two of you. As you and your spouse become better parents together, try to avoid fighting in front of your kids. Present a united front. Remember, you’re a team. Your child needs to see that the two of you care for each other and them.
Just because you think your spouse is a bad parent doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. You can come together and move forward as a family. It’s gonna take work, some compromise, and lots of conversations. The process is worth it for your kids, your marriage, and future generations of your family.
**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/multiethnic-family-spending-time-together-on-couch-with-4545968-scaled-e1596213559366.jpg220500Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2022-06-22 04:14:002022-06-22 13:14:55What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Untitled-1-01.png5001200John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2021-10-28 09:20:102022-09-23 11:57:34Are You Married To A Narcissist?
I think one partner in every marriage has heard or thought the phrase, “You don’t care.” I’ve learned to interpret that in my own marriage like this: I’m not showing any compassion.
Compassion is where empathy meets action.
It’s the difference between caring and showing care. You want your spouse to know you can feel their pain, and you’re willing to do something about it. And studies show that you’re better off for showing compassion whether your spouse acknowledges it or not.
Do you want to be more compassionate to your spouse? Sure you do! Here are some tips.
Put your energy into understanding.
Compassion starts with listening for understanding. Listen, not for how you can fix it or be right, but to understand your spouse’s thoughts, emotions, and desires. The Gottman Institute’s research tells us, “Most of the time, when your mate (or anyone) comes to you with an issue that has made them upset, they don’t immediately ask for advice. They are silently asking for your understanding and compassion. They want to feel that you are on their side.”
Action: Respond in a way that demonstrates you understand or that you want to better understand. Avoid trying to fix the issue.
Step outside of yourself.
Things affect people differently. You may not react to disappointment, pain, or betrayal the way your spouse would. If you respond differently than your spouse, try laying your preferences down and allowing your spouse to be true to themselves. Accept them as they are and support them.
Action: Validate your spouse through words, physical affection, and comfort.
Never forget: your spouse is human, too.
He’s your husband. She’s your wife. The parent of your children. Your knight in shining armor. Your queen. All that may be true. But they are also a person with emotions, ups and downs, disappointments, and unrealistic expectations at times. They make mistakes, and they might have a lapse in judgment here or there. In other words, we all have our imperfections. Treating a spouse as though they shouldn’t make mistakes will block compassion.
Action: Give your partner space to be human. Give them grace when things don’t go their way. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations of perfection on them. Don’t treat them like a title: husband/wife, parent, provider. Instead, treat them like they’re your favorite human on the planet.
Stop what you’re doing and go “all-in.”
Sometimes when your spouse is having a difficult time, you have to just turn the TV off. Silence those cell phone notifications. Cancel a social outing. Remind your spouse that the world can go on, but right now, “my world is stopping until you get what you need from me.” Do this before there’s a panic attack, nervous breakdown, or an explosion of pent-up anger.
Action: Ask, “What do you need from me at this very moment?”
Each of you brings different strengths and tendencies to the relationship. Our tendencies can sometimes leave us vulnerable to mistakes. For instance, your go-getter spirit can cause you to overcommit your time, which causes stress. Your kindness can allow others to take advantage of you. You often have the choice to criticize or be compassionate toward your spouse.
Criticism will help point out all their “flaws.” Compassion will look for ways to cover their blind spots.
Action: Be the spouse that recognizes blind spots. And with a generous spirit, help fill the gaps. For example, be the friend to your spouse that they are to others. Do a little more housework when your spouse is stressed.
Pillow talk and morning coffee…
Compassion is at its best when we intimately know the recipient of our compassion, a.k.a. spouse. We don’t learn them through osmosis. Sometimes the only way to get the answer to being more compassionate is to talk about it. This is the perfect kind of conversation to have at night while lying in bed.
Action: Give your spouse undivided attention before bedtime or during morning coffee. Ask, “What does the word compassion mean to you?” What does compassion look like to you? What do I do that makes you feel cared for or understood?”
Sometimes we can be our kindest, most understanding selves toward strangers, but I’m here to tell you: it should be the other way around. The ones closest to us should be the first recipients of our compassion. Admittedly, it takes intentionality. Remember that your favorite human is the one you said “I do” to. And now that you remember it, treating them like it will help them believe they really are your favorite.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-1.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-08-10 09:30:092021-12-10 09:23:34How to Be More Compassionate to Your Spouse
Jealousy is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and we often treat jealousy like it’s something to be proud of. For instance, if you think you have something that others want to have, you might say things like:
My sister is jealous of me because I’m our Mom’s favorite.
My friend is jealous because I went on a fabulous vacation.
In reality, jealousy is an insidious feeling that can take over how you feel about, see and interact with those around you. At its core, jealousy is created from someone’s fear and insecurity. Fear tells them that someone can take away the most important people or things in their life. Insecurity means someone thinks that you aren’t good enough. And when you combine those two feelings, it’s a recipe for disaster.
It may be easier to handle when you’re the object of someone’s jealousy, but…
What happens when the shoe is on the other foot?
How do you handle it when you are the jealous one?
How hard is it to control jealousy when you’re jealous of that person you promised to love, honor and cherish — your spouse?
Yep, believe it or not, there are times, even in marriage, when jealousy rears its ugly head. And it can become unhealthy pretty fast if you let it.
Maybe your spouse is getting out more than you are and you’re jealous of the time they’re spending at work, with friends, or enjoying their hobbies. You want what they have.
Perhaps you feel like you need some time alone, you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate and your mate just seems to have it easier than you do. You want to be able to relax, too.
Or maybe you really want to be at home with your family but you have to be gone a lot, and it’s hard to feel like you’re missing out on the things you enjoy. You want to be there, too.
It could be a ton of other things you wish you had that you don’t or that you wish you didn’t have that you do. And it can be SO hard to live with that day in and day out, especially if you’re trying to hold it all in. The struggle is all too real.
If you are struggling with jealousy and want to stop being so jealous of your spouse, take a look at these tips. I hope they can help you out.
Look at what scares you.
Fear feeds jealousy, so it’s essential to explore what scares you. Are you afraid that your spouse will be negatively influenced by his or her sizable social network? Are you afraid that your kids like your spouse better because they are the fun parent? When you get to the core of what makes you afraid, you can start to get a better handle on your jealousy.
Discover and deal with your insecurities.
Everyone has areas in their life where they feel less than confident or uncertain about their capabilities. They’re the places deep within where insecurities reside. It’s vital to know what those areas are so you can find ways to minimize your insecurities. Talking to friends or a professional can help you build up your personal confidence. True confidence is a remedy for jealousy.
Understand the impact of jealousy on your marriage.
Jealousy can harm your relationship in big and small ways. It causes your perspective on your spouse to change so that you no longer see them through the eyes of love. Instead, your view is clouded by anger and disappointment. In your mind, they go from a loving spouse to someone who only cares about themselves. It can cause mistrust, misunderstandings, and disconnection.
Talk to your spouse about what you are feeling.
This is an opportunity to share with your spouse about your jealousy. Tell them about your fears and insecurities. Say to them, “I’m jealous of this, and I own it.” Ask them for what you need so they can support you as you work toward a solution together.
In so many relationships, being jealous is bound to happen at one time or another. Some people even view jealousy as a way to prove how deep their love is for someone. Instead, focus on creating an atmosphere of love, trust, and understanding in your relationship. That way, you can both be your best selves and keep jealousy from driving a wedge between you and your spouse.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Untitled-7-01.png5001200Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-06-25 12:20:032021-07-16 12:34:11How to Stop Being So Jealous of Your Spouse
When you both bring your whole and best selves to the table, your relationship benefits.
When I first sat down to write this blog, I asked myself, “Why me? Why am I writing a blog on how to understand a strong-willed spouse?” The answer followed quickly: “YOU ARE A STRONG-WILLED SPOUSE.”
I must confess this is true. I was a strong-willed child who now is a strong-willed spouse, and I want to give you some tips for understanding your strong-willed spouse.
Often at the beginning of relationships, it’s the differences that attract. You must admit that your spouse probably didn’t become strong-willed overnight. When you began your relationship, they may have exhibited strong-willed qualities that benefited your relationship. They were firm and steadfast in their beliefs and in their decisions. They were transparent with boundaries and expectations.
But now, their being strong-willed has become a problem to be solved. However, your strong-willed spouse doesn’t see themselves as having or being a problem. They are being themselves. As such, your spouse sees themselves as determined, passionate, self-assured, confident, or knowing their own mind.
How do you learn to understand, appreciate and respect your strong-willed spouse?
Here are 5 tips for you to keep in mind.
1.Your approach to them matters.
When you have a topic to discuss or a problem to solve, how you approach it makes a world of difference. If you want your spouse’s input, invite them into the conversation. For example, “I would love to get your feedback on this issue. When do you have time?” This provides the strong-willed spouse the opportunity to choose to join instead of feeling like there is no choice or that they are minimizing their will to you.
2.Give them space to figure out their point of view.
Strong-willed people often have to experience things to figure out what they think or how they feel about situations. They are not likely to “just take your word for it.” Giving your partner the time and space to come to their own rationale before you have a conversation will allow for better communication and/or problem-solving.
3.They have feelings beneath the surface.
It can become easy to believe that a strong-willed partner doesn’t have any feelings. Everyone has feelings. However, we express them differently. Help your partner feel safe to express emotions by asking questions. Becoming a “compassionate detective” with your spouse shows them that you care about what is happening inside them.
4.Timing is key.
Everyone has their own sense of timing. You have to learn the timing of your strong-willed spouse. You may even ask, “Is this a good time? If not, then when?” Suppose your strong-willed spouse happens to be a sports fan (like me). In that case, they may appreciate you waiting to ask a question or waiting until a commercial or halftime to ask for help.
5.You’re on the same team, yet have different (roles, positions, responsibilities).
There are 11 offensive players in football, 11 players on defense, and 11 players on special teams. For the team to be successful, each player needs to know their position and responsibilities. On the football field, the center gives the football to the quarterback. If there’s a mix-up, the quarterback can’t say, “Move out the way, center. I’ll do your job and my job.” Likewise, in your relationship, you each play different roles/positions. Your relationship can flourish when you both embrace and see the positives of how you each play your part.
Marriage is made up of two different people walking through life together. Once you begin to see your spouse’s strong will positively, it will enhance your relationship.
I’ve been married for 27 years as a strong-willed spouse. It hasn’t always been rainbows, glitter, and unicorns. It wasn’t easy learning to help each other be the best we could be, especially with our differences. What helped us was fully embracing the idea that different is not deficient. When you and your spouse bring your best and whole selves to the table, your marriage benefits.
Let’s be clear about one thing: It’s inappropriate to talk negatively or disclose sensitive personal details about anyone behind their back. We have words for this sort of behavior: Gossip. Slander. Badmouthing. Talkin’ sh… mack. When your spouse does this to you, it feels extra hurtful and violating.
When your spouse’s words find their way back to you, you have every right to feel hurt, angry, and betrayed. It’s completely understandable. Now, it’s time to make it relationally productive.
We expect our spouse to have our back, not talk behind it.
Even if your spouse believes what they said to be true, or if it’s their personal opinion, this kind of behavior cannot be justified. (I will give two exceptions to the rule later, but for now, we’re still kinda stingin’ over this.) And, oh boy, if your spouse is saying things about you behind your back that are not true (exaggerations or misrepresentations), that feeling of betrayal is probably dialed to 10. Nope – 11.
If this happens on social media, it makes matters worse. Those words are out there for the whole world to see.
★ Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
You’re sure your spouse was talking about you – and it wasn’t good. How do you talk to them about it? (Take a look at the links for Effective Communication at the bottom of this blog, too)
Wait until you know you’re calm, cool, and collected. Real Talk:When we’re angry, we say and do stupid stuff. We make matters worse. We don’t solve anything. This is simple brain chemistry.1
Pick a good time to talk privately. Leave enough time for a solid conversation, not a rushed one. Minimize distractions – kids, phones, televisions, etc. Don’t ambush your spouse. Tell them there is something you’d like to speak to them about, then set a time to talk.
Organize what you want to say around your TED. These are your: Thoughts, Emotions, and Desires.
See the conversation through to the end, but take a timeout if you sense things escalating.
How do you begin?
Clearly state what you heard they said. (If it’s a pattern, share several examples.) You can communicate without attacking. Remember that your spouse isn’t the enemy, although their behavior is out of line. Your mindset should be to fight to improve your marriage and relationship with your spouse. It’s not about fighting with your spouse. (Pro-Tip: Going in, make room in your heart and mind for the real possibility that this is a big misunderstanding. Take a look at the links at the bottom of this blog about constructive conflict for more.)
Start the conversation with, “It bothers me when I hear that you tell your friends I’m ______________.”
Share what you think when you hear they’ve said negative things about you. For instance, “When I hear you’ve said bad things about me, it makes me think you are _____________ (unhappy, untrustworthy, two-faced).”
Share what you think they’re saying about you. “To me, it sounds like you think I’m __________?”
Share your emotions. If you felt betrayed, disrespected, or humiliated, say it. Try, “When I heard some of the things you said, I felt __________________.”
Share your desire to deal with the issues or grievances together. “I wish we could work out our issues together. How can we do that?”
So, you’ve got the convo rolling in a healthy, solution-oriented way. You’ve been transparent about your thoughts, emotions, and desires. (Keep those emotions in check even if you hear excuses, rationalizations, or blame-shifting.) You’ve given your spouse a safe context to explain, inform, own, and/or apologize.
Work toward mutual understanding. Try to get into each other’s shoes and trade perspectives with an open mind.2
If this conversation is going well, move to Phase Two:
Time to set some boundaries and reach an agreement on what’s over the line over-sharing. Be sure to include social media.
✓ Apology accepted, or misunderstanding cleared up.
✓ Boundaries agreed upon and in place.
✓ Time to move on with a clear understanding and a clean slate.
This is relationship growth! It might have stung a little or a lot. It may have been a hard conversation. In fact, some challenging issues may have surfaced. If handled well… totally worth it! Maybe this is enough for one day, and you agree to tackle any bigger issues that surfaced (as a team) in the next couple of days. [If this did NOT go well, take a look at the links at the bottom of this blog for some guidance.]
You could stop here, and it would be all good – mission accomplished by incredibly mature relationship work. You could grab some snacks, curl up on the couch together and see what’s on Netflix. It might be time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or are you interested in some more profound exploration into your marriage?
Time for the two exceptions mentioned earlier…
If your spouse was talking about you to their mentor, doctor, counselor, therapist, or clergy, you might need to pump those brakes. (Most of those conversations are privileged, meaning I don’t know how you heard what was said about you unless your spouse straight-up told you what they told them.) Let’s put a pin in that and come back.
Everybody sometimes needs a trusted friend they can vent to.3 Ideally, this friend isn’t a gossip-monger, knows there are two sides to every story, fully supports your marriage, listens, and gives wise advice. Let’s put a pin here, too.
Gut Check Time. Are you up for this?
I’ve had a couple of questions on my mind, and I wonder if they have crossed yours, too. Regardless of what your spouse said and to whom they said it, whether it was true, false, or somewhere in between, I’m wondering about some stuff, and you should be, too. Let’s go there.
Has your spouse tried to talk to you about this stuff before? How’d it play out?
How is your communication, in general, and about tough topics?
If what your spouse said about you behind your back is accurate, are you gonna own it even though your spouse didn’t handle it correctly?
See, now we’re going from Relationship Checkers to Relationship Chess.
Wanna go for the dub and do some significant relationship work?
Try this out on your spouse and see what happens:
“Can I ask you something, and you understand that you can be completely honest with me? I’m not going to react. I’m just gonna listen.” (And you have to now, ‘cuz you just said it.) Is there a reason you feel like you can’t talk to me about this kinda stuff?” Then. Just. Listen.
Look, if your spouse talked about you behind your back, you should call your spouse on it because it is not helpful for your relationship. But. [Dramatic Pause.] But, in reality, marriage isn’t like checkers or chess. It’s not about who wins and who loses. Being wronged can position you to do something more meaningful than being right. Sometimes, there’s a deeper win for your marriage that’s waiting to happen. Just sayin’.
2McDonald, J.E., et al. (2018). Effects of Religiosity, Forgiveness, and Spousal Empathy on Marital Adjustment. https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2017.1403992 3Eldemire, A. (2019, May 30). Why friendships are vital to the health of your relationship. Psychology Today. Source
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/GossipySpousePic-01-2.png10722048John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2021-05-27 10:08:012022-08-25 14:44:43What to Do When Your Spouse Talks Badly About You Behind Your Back
Communication is the lifeline of any relationship. —Elizabeth Bourgeret
We have all seen the sitcom where one spouse is talking, and the other one seems zoned out. And maybe you laugh as your friend rolls their eyes while making a talking motion with their hand as their spouse repeats that “same old story.” However, it’s not so funny when someone does it to you. Perhaps you’ve tried to engage your spouse in conversation. But now you are at your wit’s end because you just can’t figure out why your spouse won’t listen to you.
When someone (especially your mate) won’t listen to you, you may feel unloved, disrespected, and confused. I don’t know you or your situation, but thinking about these things may give you insight into what’s going on.
Here are some reasons why your spouse may not be listening.
Past conversations have been less than fun.
We have to be aware of our tone and nonverbal communication with our spouse. Are you curt or dismissive in your tone? Does your nonverbal communication say that you don’t want to hear what they say? Do you have a habit of cutting them off when speaking? Do you tend to monopolize conversations? These things can impact the level of communication between the two of you.
It can be hard to listen if you feel lectured.
Communication is a two-way street. Being open to hearing an opinion that varies from yours can make the conversation richer. However, if you only want your spouse to agree with you, it can make them feel unnecessary in the conversation. Lecturing creates an atmosphere that gives one partner the power of knowledge while minimizing the other’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And sometimes people don’t listen or engage because they want to avoid conflict.
The conversation started at the wrong time. (Your spouse may not be tuning out on purpose).
Before beginning a conversation, ask your spouse, “Is this a good time?” In past discussions, you may have chosen to talk when your spouse was distracted. Sometimes your spouse has so much going on that they just can’t keep up with all the information coming at them.
Yes, you need to communicate. It’s also respectful to ask if this is the right time for the conversation. The key is to get your message to be heard and understood by your spouse. Finding the right time enhances the chance. (And writing friendly reminders down can’t hurt!)
Complaining takes over conversations.
We all have bad days and bad interactions. It’s normal to share those things with your spouse. But frequently complaining can be a problem. If your spouse has offered ways to alleviate complaints to no avail, continuing to listen can be challenging. A friend shared with me that she complained about her job and boss excessively. Her spouse eventually said, “I’m tired of hearing you complain. If you aren’t going to do something to change the situation, I am unwilling to listen about that subject anymore.” I don’t think that my friend was aware of how much she seemed to complain.
The conversation revolves around one person.
Your spouse cares about you and what’s important to you. But only talking about yourself can make your spouse feel that you don’t care about them and what’s going on in their life. Your discussion should be reciprocal.
Many of us are guilty of being so focused on ourselves that we exclude those we love. It’s not easy to accept that we help foster an unhealthy environment for communication. Once you recognize this, you can take steps to reinvigorate the way you communicate. Acknowledge any mistakes, and be mindful of bad communication habits you might have.
But there’s one more BIG reason your spouse may not be listening to you.
It may not be about you at all.
It could be any number of things. Your spouse might have a short attention span, OR they may not care. They may not like what you have to say, or they’re thinking about what they’re going to say while you’re talking. Your spouse may even have a hearing problem. And it’s possible they have other issues they need to work through, either alone or with a counselor.
Author Elizabeth Bourgeret says, “Communication is the lifeline of any relationship.” When each spouse seeks to create open and mutual communication, the relationship is strengthened going forward.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pexels-ketut-subiyanto-4308042-1-scaled-e1616678463284.jpg436900Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-03-25 09:21:152021-03-25 16:14:39Reasons Why Your Spouse Won’t Listen to You
Here's some help for those times when silence is NOT golden.
When your spouse gives you the silent treatment, it can be frustrating, painful, and confusing. It happens when one spouse refuses to communicate, ignores, withdraws from, or totally avoids their partner. It may not mean there’s absolute silence. You might still talk about daily tasks like who’s picking up the kids, who’s handling laundry, or dinner. The silent treatment shows that one person is unwilling to address an issue or connect in any meaningful way.
If you’re getting the silent treatment, what do you do?
Process On Your Own
What triggered the silent treatment? When did it start, and what were you discussing? Did something happen that may have been viewed negatively? You may not even know, but thinking about it can help you understand your partner’s perspective.
What’s the goal? Is my spouse trying to punish me, hoping I’ll feel the pain they feel? Are they withdrawing so they can process their own thoughts and emotions? Are they trying to protect themselves?
Processing can help you listen to and better understand yourself and your spouse, but try not to let it cause you to look down on your spouse.
Address it Carefully
Start with Compassion. Often, we use silence when we don’t have or can’t use healthy conflict resolution skills to deal with issues.
Is the silent treatment a healthy approach? No. Especially when it’s used to control or manipulate. It can be abusive. (More on this later.)
Provided this situation is not an abusive use of the silent treatment, remember, this is your spouse — and something sparked the treatment. This doesn’t mean you justify or excuse the behavior. It’s purely recognizing that something caused your spouse emotional pain. And different people respond to pain in different ways.
Speak directly to the issue. You might say something like, “I know you haven’t been talking to me lately. I’d like to discuss what started this. Can we talk?”
Never forget, your body language and tone of voice communicate 93% of your message to your spouse. Getting the words right isn’t as important as having a healthy attitude toward your spouse.
Be Willing to Listen and Understand. When your spouse is ready to talk, put your energy into understanding their thoughts and emotions first. Some people give the silent treatment because they feel unheard. Let your spouse know you want to understand their thoughts, feelings, and their desires.
Model Healthy Skills to Resolve issues. You can’t change your spouse, but you can control yourself. Demonstrating respect, openness, and transparency while working together to resolve conflict can paint a picture of the kind of communication many people crave.
Things to Think About While Talking
Don’t play the blame game. Focus on the ultimate goal: resolving the issue in a healthy way. Using lots of “I” statements and as few “You” statements as possible can keep you from blaming each other and getting distracted.
Own your contributions. Frame it this way in your head. “I understand that I hurt you when I did or said _______.” This focuses on the pain without justifying their response to the hurt. And when appropriate, apologize for the pain you triggered.
Be self-aware of your emotions. Your spouse may express a lot of pent-up emotions. They may flood you with more than you were expecting, but try to keep your emotions from controlling you. Be aware of your feelings as they share. At an appropriate time in the conversation, share. Remember, though, one of the reasons for the silent treatment could be they don’t feel heard.
What if the Silent Treatment Continues?
Know what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how your spouse responds to emotional hurt. But you can control how you respond. You can gently let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. And you can choose to acknowledge the issue without letting it control you.
Don’t badger or nag.You can’t force someone else to talk. Don’t try.
Seek help. If you need to talk to a trusted friend or seek a counselor for your own mental health, it’s worth the effort. If you don’t go together, going alone can be helpful.
When is the Silent Treatment Abuse?
Consistently using silence to control someone can be abuse. Healthline lists the following signs to look for:
It’s a frequent occurrence and is lasting for longer periods.
It’s coming from a place of punishment, not a need to cool off or regroup.
It only ends when you apologize, plead, or give in to demands.
You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.
I don’t recommend the silent treatment as a strategy for solving marriage problems. But a good starting point is to talk with your spouse about how you can resolve conflict in healthy ways. Your spouse may feel like you haven’t heard other attempts to solve problems, and understanding that may help you find better solutions together. It may be something as simple as asking for a timeout and agreeing to discuss later. Or it may take some effort for them to feel you’re an emotionally safe person to talk to. Whatever the case, learning to be compassionate without excusing the behavior may be the trick to eliminating the silent treatment in your relationship.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at:1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pexels-alex-green-5700173-1-scaled-e1616678141136.jpg371900Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-03-25 09:16:212021-03-25 10:28:16What To Do When Your Spouse Gives You The Silent Treatment