So, you and your partner had a fight and woke up with no desire to speak to each other. If you’re both proud and unwilling to be the one to approach the other first, silence is likely to kick in for a while. The silent treatment may arise in a relationship, it cre- ates distance, and wrecks comfort and joy so much that couples that are fond of each other drift apart. It is believed that even seemingly perfect marriages face rough patches. Although “silence is golden,” this does not always work in relationships. Experts say that the only time that is advisable to go silent is when you’re in a heated argument, and just want to cool off. This can save someone from saying statements that they may regret later. According to Very Well Mind, a mental health information platform, silent treatment is a manipulation tactic that can leave important issues in a relationship unre-solved. It can also leave the one on the receiving end feeling worthless, unloved, hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, and unimportant. “People use the silent treatment to control the situation or conversation. They also use it as a tool to avoid taking responsibility or to admit wrongdoing. Silent treatment is a flat-out refusal to ever discuss the issue—now or later.” Researchers have found that the silent treatment is used by both men and women to halt a partner’s behaviours or words rather than to provoke them. In abusive relationships, the silent treatment is used to manipulate the other person and to establish power over them. “I believe each of us has experienced silent treatment, and it is very hurtful. I recall how small things used to put me off way back when I had just started dating my boyfriend. I remember this particular day, I was so furious that he always threw his wet towel on the bed. “Even when I found it and put it in its place, he did the same thing again, including leaving his shoes everywhere. This time around, I was tired of babysitting him, he didn’t do anything to be better. I was annoyed and didn’t talk to him for two days,” says Amelie Iradukunda, a resident of Kibagabaga. The danger about silent treatment is that one party could be hurt, but not willing to have a conversation. This doesn’t solve the issue, but worsens the situation, she adds. She notes that she realised that keeping quiet wasn’t the solution and so she decided to have a proper conversation with her boyfriend, and explained that his behaviour was tiring and nagging and requested him to change. If she hadn’t opened up, she has no doubt that the silence would have continued. Iradukunda highlights that some people decide to activate the silent mode just to punish their partners, usually out of selfishness and are not bothered about others’ feelings, and may not respect them. She adds that people who feel ignored by their partners start to question and second-guess themselves and others, or think that they are a burden, a thing that could push them to act differently just to be accepted. “When people find themselves drawn apart by the silence, the one in the wrong should be willing to throw the ego outside the window and apologise, but most importantly, be able to communicate and be kind and patient with their partner. That way, you can discover the root cause of the problem,” Iradukunda says. Experts emphasise that when people are ignored, they develop an immense range of compulsive emotions, feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and despair. The effects of silent treatment as abuse can also result in depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia (a chronic long-lasting disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as fatigue and trouble, and others). Elizabeth Kaitesi, a lawyer, explains that although you may want to break the silence, or can’t wait to talk to your partner, know if you aren’t being taken for granted. This is because you may be dealing with a narcissist that sees no issue in ignoring you. If it turns abusive, and toxic, it might be time to end the relationship. She adds that sometimes silence is the best thing, in such scenarios, allow your partner to think and come back to you with a clear mind, and calm tone. Some require some space if they’re emotionally overwhelmed. Kaitesi is of the view that when you sit down to settle your issues, it’s necessary not to point fingers, blame or accuse one another. A 2022 study highlights how he use of the silent treatment is evident worldwide, in all cultures and manner of relationships. According to Psych Central, a mental health platform, people not only feel emotional pain when given the silent treatment but also a certain level of physical pain. This can lead to damaging physical side effects if someone is repeatedly ostracised by someone important to them. “Have a conversation about how to better handle conflict when it arises. Setting boundaries will help both sides understand what behaviour will be accepted and what won’t. Seek help if the problem persists, keep in mind that couples counselling may not be helpful for abusive relationships. But individual therapy can help you learn to set boundaries and strengthen your relationship,” Psych Central notes.