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How to Become Comfortable With Silence in a Relationship

by C. Giles

Silence can have many different meanings, which may not be immediately apparent. Without words, it may be difficult to interpret your partner's moods and emotions. He may be content, angry, frustrated or unhappy. The secret to becoming comfortable with silence is learning how to interpret it correctly and use it to benefit your relationship.

Ditch the Assumptions

One of the most common misinterpretations of a partner's silence is that it is all about your relationship, says psychologist Suzanne Phillips in the article "Understanding the Sounds of Silence in Your Relationship" for "Psych Central." Instead of automatically assuming the silence is directly related to you and giving in to your natural impulse to find out what is "wrong," let your partner speak up in his own time. Assume the best rather than the worst, suggests Phillips. If your partner is silent and you ask him if he is OK, accept his response and carry on as normal.

Leave the Past Behind

Previous relationships and past experiences may affect how you respond to silence in your relationship. Be careful not to project the qualities and behaviors of an ex onto your current partner, warns Phillips. Try to leave the past where it belongs and focus on the present. It may help to write down your concerns, fears and insecurities in a journal or to share them with your partner, saying something like "I feel anxious when you are silent because I associate silence with punishment." Professional guidance may be required to help you break your negative thought patterns if they are deep-rooted or linked to a particularly traumatic time in your past.

Embrace your Differences

Learning to accept the differences between you and your partner often includes considering how you use and react to silence. Gender is not always a factor, but men are often more reticent than women, says psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith in the article "Men, Women, Emotions and Communication" for "Psychology Today." For example, you may like to share every detail of your day as soon as you return home from work in the evening, but your partner prefers to take some time to unwind with a beer and some quiet time. You may deal with conflict in different ways: perhaps you tend to verbalize your feelings while your partner keeps his emotions to himself. These differences don't represent insurmountable problems in your relationship. With a little understanding and compromise, you can respect your differences and grow more comfortable with silence in your relationship. So agree to give your partner half an hour to relax when he gets home from work, then spend some time discussing the day's events.

Surrender the Silent Treatment

Silence can be a negative force in a relationship if it is used as a means of punishment. If you or your partner is silent because you are angry, harboring a grudge or trying to teach the other a lesson, the likely outcomes are fear, confusion and resentment. If your partner refuses to talk even when you are making a genuine attempt to apologize or taking positive steps to address unhealthy aspects of your relationship, professional guidance may be necessary.

About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."

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