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Ask Allison: 'When we fight, my boyfriend gives me the silent treatment'

Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships

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Allison Keating

Allison Keating

Allison Keating

Q: When my partner and I have an argument, he gives me the silent treatment afterwards. Sometimes this can go on for days, and the disagreement doesn't have to be very serious for him to do so. When I'm angry, I can usually get over it quite quickly and I don't understand how he can manage to keep giving me the cold shoulder, especially as we live together. He says it's how he processes things, but it's horrible for me to experience this and I don't know how to deal with it. What do you suggest?

A: You are being stonewalled. This is an awful, isolating feeling and such a lonely place to be within a relationship. The question we need to ask is 'what behaviour is behind his wall of silence?' and 'why is he shutting down?' One of the hard parts of being in a healthy, connected relationship is to take responsibility for things that on the surface look much easier to blame on someone else's behaviour, such as being on the receiving end of a cold shoulder.

I fully acknowledge to you, that it must be so painful to be ignored by the one you love. However, blame, anger, resentment and a sense of injustice over how you feel you are being treated will not help either of you. So in that vein, I am going to come at this from a scientific viewpoint as to why he is stonewalling and then look for its solution to bring understanding and connection back or in the least to start talking with each other again.


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