Listen to this email I received from a reader and see if you can relate.
We are in week 2 of the silent treatment! It all started over something so little and ridiculous! We are both adults, old enough to know better than this! He is a judge, I am a social worker! He won't budge! I need help!
The dreaded silent treatment. The big stand-off. You know it, don’t you? Horrible, isn’t it?
The most intense prayers in a household come during these silent treatments: “Oh God, I hope that’s not him/her pulling into the driveway.”
Or, “Oh God, when will he/she go upstairs already?”
Sometimes you feel like you could explode, right?
Most silent treatments start like Jodie’s started; with something “little and ridiculous.” Most couples can’t remember what the impetus was. And if they could, they’d be too embarrassed to admit that something so small blew-up into something so big.
So what are these silent treatments or stand-offs REALLY about? And how can you avoid them or end them soon after they begin?
It’s interesting that Jodie made a point in her email to say that she and her husband “know better.” In other words, they’re intelligent, educated, and accomplished people. Jodie’s husband is even a judge, an expert in distinguishing between right and wrong. They know that treating each other this way doesn’t make sense. They know IT is wrong. But they also know that THEY are right.
And that’s exactly the problem!
Silent treatments ensue when both people feel they’re RIGHT. And the more intense each spouse’s conviction to their perspective, the longer the silence lasts. And, ironically, the more intelligent and the articulate the couple, the MORE LIKELY they are to endure silence between them. Because intelligent and articulate people have confidence in their position and justification for holding their ground.
Although Jodie is surprised that her and her husband, intelligent people, could be so petty; the fact is that one reason they’re holding their silence for so long is BECAUSE they’re intelligent. In other words, intellectual capacity and marital satisfaction can be INVERSELY related. Let me say it another way: When it comes to your marriage, you can be right or you can be happy. But sometimes you can’t be both.
In a courtroom, a hospital, or an office, right and wrong determine success or failure. The decision to prescribe the right medicine, for example, could be the difference between life and death. The relationship between the doctor and the patient is secondary. Being RIGHT is what matters and what is rewarded.
But in marriage, being right has no value. All that matters is the relationship.
Sometimes you have to choose. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happily married?
Just because you’re right/wrong paradigm works at the office doesn’t mean that you should bring it home. “He who is a hammer thinks everything is a nail.” Some things work perfectly in one area of life and fail terribly in another. In marriage, you have to be like a carpenter and know which tool to use. The right/wrong mode is the WRONG tool to use in your marriage.
The more you insist on being RIGHT, the more you will be miserable in your marriage. Don’t go for RIGHT; go for LOVE.
Jodie expects that because she and her husband are “intelligent,” they shouldn’t find themselves in these petty stalemates. But just because Jodie and her husband have a high IQ, doesn’t mean they have a high EQ.
IQ is a measure of your INTELLECTUAL intelligence. The higher your IQ, the better your ability to process information and determine what’s “right.”
EQ is a measure of your EMOTIONAL intelligence. The higher your EQ, the better your ability to connect with people and succeed in relationships.
Just as some athletes are strong but not fast, so too many people have a high IQ but a low EQ.
Bottom line: Intelligence, in the way Jodie means it, has little bearing on her and her husband’s ability to succeed in their marriage. In fact, a high IQ coupled with a low EQ can be a disastrous combination for a marriage.
The good news, however, is that EQ can be developed. Anyone can increase their EQ and learn to make their marriage RIGHT.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness