When your wife won’t speak to you. How to handle the silent treatment. Transcript of Episode.

Intro: You ask, we answer. Welcome to Can This Marriage Be Saved, where we go against common relationship problems and help you determine if this relationship should stay or go.

Rivka: Welcome to another great episode. Today we are going to talk about what to do when your wife won’t talk to you, whether she’s giving you the silent treatment or you just have no idea what’s going on, but she is not responding to you. What can you do? So, Shlomo you’re the marriage counselor I’m your wife, take it away!

Shlomo: When your spouse is not talking to you or giving you the silent treatment, it can be extremely uncomfortable to say the least, and it’s always a question of what do I do? Do I reach out? Do I try to engage? Is it better just to give space? I think that you probably know your history in your relationship. How things have worked and normally what happens when a person is in the space where they don’t want to talk. So it could be they’re upset about something, they’re not feeling safe. There could be a lot of anger pent up, so, in the past, what have you done? Sometimes it’s better just to give a little space until things cool off. At the same time you’re trying to be friendly, trying to be nice but not expecting any kind of change in return. And then for others, you may need to actually pursue your spouse and try to engage and ask them what they need and ask if they want to talk.

Rivka: I’m just realizing that I think….

Shlomo: What I do with you?

Rivka: OK, I think you do that with me sometimes. I mean I really, really try to never get in this state because with all the work that we’ve done on our marriage over the last almost nineteen years. I know it’s not good to give someone the silent treatment when you’re angry, and it’s good to use your words and it’s good to communicate in a safe way. But, sometimes if I get extremely angry, I do know that in that moment, I do not want to talk to you and I know in the past that’s when you started to sort of pursue me like when you say, “Can I get you hot drink? Would you like a tea?” And then sometimes I just {laughing} you keep asking and then I sort of melt because I can’t resist a hot cup of tea when I’m feeling very emotional, very moody so I realize I’m laughing because in the advice you’re giving it’s kind of describing me.

Shlomo: Personal version, so it’s spoken from experience.

Rivka: But it works, I mean ….

Shlomo: I find that….. first of all to defend myself is not going to make it better. It’s going to make it worse so what I typically do is I kill it with kindness. Doing acts of service, being kind, being nice, doing things trying to go out of the way. To be helpful with the hope that at some point the mood will change and inevitably the mood does change. And at some point you realize that because usually people aren’t going to give you the silent treatment permanently.

Rivka: Hopefully not.

Shlomo: Hopefully not, though it does sometimes happen and once that’s the case then ultimately if you’re in that situation it’s important to be able to work on your relationship and learn how to be able to communicate better, because you don’t want to get to a place where there’s silent treatment. So, sometimes when I’m working with couples they’ll say, “You know since we began this process with you it used to be that we would have a fight and we wouldn’t speak for a week and now it’s like two hours so it’s progress.” So the idea is working on your relationship- being able to work through the issues, learn how to communicate more effectively so you feel heard and understood. Helps change the dynamics. So that you’re not having this kind of acting out and….

Rivka: Right, and if you’re the person that is giving the silent treatment, ignoring your spouse for weeks on end- that’s not okay and if that’s happening… you know, of course you have a reason to be angry. And I’m sure that whatever you feel absolutely make sense but in the end that behavior does not help you in the long run and it behooves you to learn how to express your feelings in a safer way but on the flip side it can be hard because in the past maybe the person listening hasn’t listened to you in a way that made you feel safe so it’s kind of like a chicken or egg, which comes first? Do I take risk and share when my partner may not in a safe way. Who should go first?

Shlomo: That’s why you need a process. One of the things that we did was learn the Imago dialogue when we first got help seventeen years ago, when we started going to counseling that gave us a tool so that we know we can have that to fall back on. We can know how to listen to each other or the person who’s less triggered can listen to the angry partner but if you don’t have any support in that way then it can become very challenging and it’s confusing. But I would say it’s always important for us and for everyone to be more conscious about their emotional reality. What bothers them and be able to articulate it in a safe way. Say what you’re feeling as opposed to lashing out in rage or anger or just ignoring the other person. It’s not helpful in the long run for your relationship. It kind of tears a relationship. When you’re having those outbursts or ignoring and giving the silent treatment, the stonewalling it really tears the relationship apart and you can keep fighting and coming back if you’re really committed. But the less committed you are it’s going to be hard to give you that motivation to keep fighting after a while. You can get to a place where it’s kind of just like, I love you, I care about you, but I’m not really so connected with you anymore. Because of all of these repeated occasions where there’s been this ignoring and silent treatment.


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Rivka: So you’re saying, over time, this really is the type of thing that will eat away at a couples connection and ability to connect. And so really the couple needs to learn these safe ways of communicating using the Dialogue Process. We’re talking about the method that we learned seventeen years ago called the Imago dialogue. And we do talk about that in some of our past episodes as well as videos. If you have any questions you can always reach us on our website themarriagerestorationproject.com You can contact us. You can ask us more about it. But when a couple meets with Shlomo he leads them in this structured way of communicating. And it’s very safe because one person will share and the other person cannot respond. The other person merely reflects back what is being said until they have deeply heard and understood it. And it’s such a relief for couples because they don’t need to have to keep going back and forth anymore or the stonewalling or the silent treatment but they can both show up for each other in a way that is safe and communicative and it’s a game changer. So if you haven’t looked into Imago therapy, we definitely recommend that you do. We have tons of resources for you. Starting from free to our private couples retreat which Shlomo does online with couples. But we definitely have lots of options for you along the path.

Shlomo: We also have a diy course where you can actually see videos of us practicing the dialogue and learn the steps on your own.

Rivka: Yes, so we hope this was helpful for you. If you’re wondering what to do if your wife won’t talk to you and you’re walking on eggshells not really knowing what to do, Shlomo mentioned killing with kindness, being the more mature one to show up and and do some caring behaviors for the partner even if she doesn’t respond.

Shlomo: Just keep it up and know it can be lonely path. But if you can be the one that’s going to be the best that you can be in a relationship you kind of hold the space for both of you until your partner gets back on board.

Rivka: Yeah, and healthier. I think you can also say maybe a week later or a few days later when you’re having date night or when it’s a good time say, “Honey, remember that time we didn’t speak for two days, that made me feel really sad and I really like to work with you so I can be a better husband to you, would you consider going on retreat with me? Like specifically an online couples retreat? Or would you consider working with a therapist too so we can work together so I can show up and be a better husband to you.” That might work later, not obviously in the moment.

Shlomo: And even if you are not trying to ask to go to therapy, even just, “I want to work on this with you, I want be able- this is really painful for me. When you ignore me, I want to understand what you need so that we don’t have to get to this place. So what could I do to be able to be there for you when you’re in that space so we don’t have to have that silent treatment?

Rivka: I think that’s really helpful. So thank you, Shlomo. Thank you listeners. Thank you for listening to another episode of Can this Marriage Be Saved and watching videos over at the Marriage Restoration Project. Looking forward to hearing from you and as always send in any questions that you like to us to cover for a future episode at themarriagerestorationproject.com. Take care!

Shlomo: Bye bye!

Outro: We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to today’s topic. We’ll be back again to focus on another topic to help you with your marriage. For any questions or concerns, please email us. With best wishes for your relationship success.

Shlomo & Rivka Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is an Imago relationship therapist and certified (master level) Imago workshop presenter with over 20 years of experience hosting couples therapy retreats in-person and online. Contact info@themarriagerestorationproject.com or