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How to respond to cold shoulder treatment in your relationship

Girl Talk
 Silent treatment is a subtle form of manipulation (Shutterstock)

Unless it is the calm silence that comes when reading a book or enjoying a bubble bath in the company of your thoughts, silence is not always golden.

If you have ever been in a heated argument with your partner or even sibling, chances are you have been on both sides of the silent treatment.

Silent treatment is a subtle form of manipulation, a way out of a bother. It may feel good to ignore someone but this only gives you, as the person who is doing it, a false sense of control.

This feeling can develop into emotional abuse over time if it is not checked.

Unless you are taking some time out to calm down and think through what was said and done then address the issues later, silent treatment isn’t acceptable.

The cold shoulder or silent treatment can become abusive and toxic when the person doing always reacts that way when things don’t go their way. They refuse to make any contact with the other person, go quiet for days, offer no acknowledgement until their partner bends over and pleads, then maybe they will talk to you.

They may take away any efforts to communicate and instead of the problem being addressed, the other person is now left with the daunting task of trying to appease them.

Once the flow of meaningful communication and information has stopped in the name of hurting the other person, whatever is left is abuse.

Here, we look at ways you can respond to this toxic withdrawal.

 If your partner is guilty of this manipulative tactic, it is time you stood up for yourself (Shutterstock)
Take five

If things get to a point where words are being thrown around carelessly and temperatures are starting to rise, it is probably a good idea to keep quiet.

At times, silent treatment may pop up when someone is too angry, emotional, hurt or too overwhelmed to talk. Instead of escalating the situation, you can consider walking away for a few minutes.

Taking some time off during such situations is actually a good idea. Once you are calm and more centered then you can tackle the issue at hand.

Set boundaries

If your partner is guilty of this manipulative tactic, it is time you stood up for yourself and let them know what you will and will not tolerate.

Once your mental and emotional health come to play, you must put yourself first and recognize that you may be in a toxic relationship.

Let he or she know that once certain lines are crossed, there will be consequences. And make sure you follow through when it happens and consider exiting the relationship if they don’t change.

Offer solutions

Attack the situation at hand and not each other. Keep your conversation away from the blame game and keep it simple especially if there was an episode of silent treatment after an argument.

If you’re the one getting the cold shoulder consider the role you may have played and take it as an indication that something needs to change in your communication and offer solutions on how to best tackle similar problems in the future.


A healthy relationship involves two mature adults who understand the importance of not always being right at the cost of their partner’s happiness.

If you know for sure you pushed and triggered them to react that way, do the right thing and apologize to your partner for hurting their feelings.

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