Monday, June 27, 2011

Silence Isn’t Always Golden



by Kate Collins

I was raised in a home where relationship problems were dealt with – I mean NOT dealt with – by going silent. When my mom was hurt by or angry at my dad, she stopped talking. For days, most often. My dad responded by ignoring the silence. Eventually, Mom would have to ask Dad something, and gradually they’d start talking again. The unfortunate thing is that those problems were never resolved, so they came back again and again, causing my mother to have a lot of bitterness and a host of physical ailments. Simmering silently, it seems, isn’t good for the insides. That anger has to come out somewhere. Eventually, my parents divorced.

But Mom was my role model, so that’s how I dealt with issues in my first marriage. And like Mom and Dad, my issues never got resolved and led to growing resentment on my part, a bout with fibromyalgia, and finally divorce. Not so with my second marriage. My Greek taught me how to deal with troubles openly and honestly. His advice was to come from the heart. Make “I” statements, as in, “I felt hurt when you….”

It took me years to master it, but after I got over the fear of making him angry by telling him how I felt, I was amazed at how successfully it worked. I only wish I’d learned it much sooner.

How do you handle problems at home? Are you the silent simmerer or do you let it out? If you let it out, does your temper get the best of you, or are you able to keep it in check? If you keep it bottled up, do you suffer physical ailments from it? Do you feel you learned this behavior from your parents?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kate,

Are you sure you and I weren't separated at birth? There are too many similarities in our lives. We had the same problem in our house while I was growing up. My dad was also a cop, btw, and my parents got divorced--eventually (Translation: They split when I was 20.). It was quiet, too, when they weren't getting along. My mom and I were very close when I was growing up. Whenever my dad and I got into an argument, I used to storm off to my room and not talk to him. Even now, I go months without talking to him (He sometimes forget he has 2 children).

Unfortunately, as I have gone through life, I have had the same pattern. I am terrible at confrontation, so I just always get quiet and don't talk to the person forever. Heck, my mom has been with her SO for over 20 years now, and I only speak to him when necessary--and we live in the same house! And when he's in a room, I won't go into it. And trust me...he always manages to be where I need to be when I need to be there.

Honestly, I have found that the silent treatment works for me. I have tried to talk things out calmly by pointing out what is upsetting me. But that always ends in an argument. I've tried just arguing outright, too. Either way, I'm accused of being wrong and being the bad guy and it ends up that it's all my fault. So I have just learned to shut up and stay out of the way. Unfortunately, my self esteem has suffered a lot.

P.S. I do, however, know how to write one heck of a poison pen letter. :)

Dru said...

I learned from my mother to let it out. Many of times my father never came home and what I do differently from my mother is I give it a week and if nothing is resolved, we'll have that conversation and it will be the calmest you've ever seen but very caustic (hmm, is that a word).

Barbara said...

My father used to go silent when angry and it drove my mom nuts. Now my husband does the same thing to me with the same result, but fortunately this is a very rare occurrence because Dave and I are so sympatico. When it does happen, I eventually force him into a conversation and we settle it.

Aurian said...

I have trouble telling my boyfriend right away, and bottle it up. But the next day or so it will come out, when I can talk rationally about it.

Kate Collins said...

I'm all for getting it out but in a calm, rational manner, not a heated argument, which only makes all parties defensive. Good to wait until both sides have cooled. Sometimes, as First of May pointed out, there is no arguing, so at least they found some way to deal with issues. It's important to deal with them so they don't keep cropping up. That's the big lesson I learned.

Mandy said...

My parents always discussed things, so it was really a shocker for me the first time my husband ignored me for days on end and then erupted a week after the fact for something I don't think I could really remember. I like to talk too much I think to bottle things up. He's getting a little better about the talking part, but it is a bit like pulling teeth at times!

Sarita said...

I very rarely get angry. No shouting or simmering here.

Danielle (The Reading Grove) said...

I have no problems speaking my mind, espeically with my husband. If I can't be open with him than who can you be open with? That said, I have to admit its not always civilized. Most times I can stay calm but their are those times when I don't feel like he is listening and I can get very angry.

Vickie said...

Since I don't like confrontation, I keep it inside and work it out on my own. I do not have a poker face, so DH does know when I am upset and works it out with me.
Thankfully, DH doesn't do much to make me simmer. Part of the gold that makes me glad I met my soulmate when I was in my late 30s and didn't marry until early 40s.

Michelle said...

The silent treatment is better than someone constantly yelling. When my mother gets mad she keeps talking and won't shut up. She'll complain and say "You did (whatever)." I'll tell her to shut up or "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." After she gets tired of yelling, eventually she'll resort to the silent treatment and sometimes I don't know when it's safe to start talking to her again. She could be mad for a week.

My mother is mentally ill and complains all the time. In addition, she is delusional and paranoid. She refuses to believe that she has these problems and won't seek help. Her mental illness and bad behavior has affected all of us and ruined our lives.

Because of her constant complaining and always making a mountain out of a molehill (or flat land, even), I have anxiety and am always nervous. I get irritable easily but I usually tend to keep it inside. Sometimes I feel like I'll turn into the Incredible Hulk, I get so mad. My anxiety makes me procrastinate and I'm not very efficient. If I didn't have this anxiety I would be a better person. Sometime I'll have to go to the doctor and get some anti-anxiety medicine.

Kate Collins said...

Michelle, you are indeed in a bad situation, and your mother, sadly, uses both the silent treatment and angry ranting. I hope when you have the money, you will seek help so you can learn healthy ways of coping with your anxiety. Anti-anxiety pills are just band aids. They don't address the underlying trauma you and your family have suffered, and that would be counter productive to a happy future. My prayers are with you.

Michelle said...

I do need anti-anxiety pills because I always have this nervous feeling in my chest and nothing else helps, not even yoga. I don't need therapy because I have figured out why I have these problems and why my mother has hers. I do try to be happy and the nervousness is my main problem (and trouble sleeping). But like I said, there is no way to get rid of this nervous feeling without medicine. Some people do actually need it. In Prevention magazine a few months back in Dr. Weil's column it said to try things such as yoga, etc., but if your anxiety is really severe to see the doctor. I tried Citalopram once. It didn't get rid of all the nervousness, but it did help with the newer nervous feeling in the right side of my chest and got rid of that in less than a week. So sometimes it helps.