My husband and I have been married for 6 years now and have known each other for double that time. So yes our journey together so far can be divided into exactly two halves – before our wedding and after. Quite often I catch myself telling him, how lovely it feels being married and how I can’t believe we’ve been together so long because it feels like we’re still in our dating days.
The truth is while we enjoy a joyful married relationship, we have had our share of hiccups along the way. I’d like to share one of those here and how we worked through it. Have you ever experienced the ‘silent treatment’? If you haven’t, all I can say is… LUCKY YOU! Actually, wait, I don’t believe in luck, so it would be BLESSED YOU!
I love my parents, but the one thing I didn’t like as I grew up was witnessing and experiencing the ‘silent treatment’. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to (again…blessed you!), here’s my attempt at defining it: It is the choice to remain silent with a sulky attitude, when a dispute arises, rather than hash it out, until the other party being unable to bear it any longer caves in with an apology irrespective of whether they are in the wrong or right.
The reason behind remaining silent is usually because of the following perspectives: the person feels there is no point in talking as they will not be understood; or they feel the other should know them well enough to not require any explanation. In both cases the underlying notion is that they are right and eventually the other person will realise their mistake (thanks to the silence, of course!).
The dispute remains unresolved, buried in the recesses of the relationship, ready to rear its ugly head in the future, when the whole drama is repeated again. When a dispute arises, resorting to silence is not a bad idea. In fact, most times it’s the best thing to do as it helps you calm down, collect your thoughts and feelings before attempting to address them.
This kind of silence lasts for only a short time, never more than a couple of hours. Whereas the other silence spills over to days and ironically, the SILENCE is DEAFENING! It creates a negative environment and hurts the relationship. So back to my story. Having experienced the negative effects of the ‘silent treatment’, I had made up my mind not to bring it into my marriage.
Therefore, you can imagine how thrilled I was when one of the first things my husband (actually, back then he was still my fiancé) asked of our relationship, was that we sort out any issues that arise, the same day, never letting them darken the light of a new day. He quoted a lovely sentence from the Bible – ‘Do not let the sun go down on your anger’.
I was glad we were building our marriage on the foundation of such wisdom. But soon enough I realised it was ‘easier said than done’ because apart from witnessing and experiencing the ‘silent treatment’, I had inherited it too. So every time an issue arose my default response would be to put up an invisible wall and remain quiet.
However, kudos to my patient and pursuing husband who wouldn’t let me remain quiet nor leave me alone to sulk away. He would persuade me using a calm and loving tone (this was key!). It really helped me to let my guard down. Also, being influenced by romantic films, where the hero knows exactly what his heroine is thinking and feeling (of course the director has told him that! ), I expected my husband to understand me in a similar manner.
My husband, very bluntly (yet maintaining a calm and loving tone) told me that it was impossible for him to know unless I told him. That was an eye opener! (Yeah, some of us still believe all that happens on-screen!) I had to wilfully counter my feelings and choose to ‘not let the sun go down on my anger’. Initially it was hard but every time I practiced it, it became easier.
Through prayer and the support of my husband, I have put behind me, that unfruitful habit. There are many other facets of ‘dispute resolution’ which is beyond the scope of this article, but starting to talk about your issues in a calm manner, is a good place to begin and that’s the focus here. Today, more than 6 years later, my default response is no longer silence.
Although we know and understand each other much better now (we could be that hero and heroine now, without the director!) we continue to express our feelings, explain our views, listen to each other, understand perspectives, find common ground, resolve our issues and…..we ‘do not let the sun go down on our anger’.