She’s slamming doors, giving you one-word responses, and refuses to look at you. Obviously, something’s wrong. But you can’t figure out what you might have done to warrant such anger, and apparently she has no intention of telling you. So what now? You can’t possibly hope to resolve an argument when you don’t even know what the argument is.
As is the case with most challenges, the most important thing you can do to get past the silent treatment is to understand the root of the problem. Why does your generally chatty girlfriend go dead silent in her fits of anger?
Here are a few possible reasons and some suggestions to help you help her open up.
She doesn’t want to turn you off with her anger
Generally speaking, women learn early on, that society finds female anger unattractive. A football coach reaming out a player for a bad decision is giving tough love and motivating him to better things. Meanwhile, when a female college professor is stern with a disruptive student, there are bound to be a few whispers that involve the phrase “PMS.”
The problem here is that women do experience anger. They just tend to suppress it to keep up the appearances of peacekeeping angels. Sometimes, however, the anger is too real and too strong to totally disguise. This might be what’s going on with your girl.
So then what?
Try letting her know that you can deal with the heat in the room by saying something like, “It’s cool that you’re angry; I can deal with that. I just need to know why so we can handle the problem.” When she does open up, avoid responses that involve phrases like “that time of the month” and “moody.” (When you toss off her anger as a chemical response, it will only hurt your communication in the future, since she’ll assume that you won’t take her frustration seriously.) If you think she’s out of line or you need to have a fight, have it. Just remember that she’s entitled to her anger, and the more your actions reflect that you believe that, the likelier she’ll be to be upfront with you in the future . . . which means a quicker resolution for all this drama.
She thinks you’ll think what she’s upset about is stupid
She doesn’t understand why you got so worked up over that game last week. You don’t get why she should be steamed that her friend hung up on her to take a call from someone else. That’s fine. You don’t have to comprehend each other’s reactions, but it is in your best interest to let those weird reactions be what they are. Stereotypically speaking, men tend to be “fixers,” which sometimes leads to a well-meant impulse to help your girl lose the anger by telling her it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way anyway. Problem? She does feel that way, whether you get it or not. Telling her, her feelings are irrational is like telling someone their face is stupid—you’re insulting something that they can’t (easily) do anything about. Your girl might be keeping her mouth shut now because she doesn’t want to make her bad mood worse with an accusation of insanity.
So then what?
Explain both her and yourself to understand that it’s okay if you don’t get each other’s feelings. When her frustration seems uncalled for to you, swallow the instinct to tell her she’s acting crazy and let her vent. This doesn’t mean you have to accept unjustified abuse. If she falls into a wild rage because you forgot to wipe off the kitchen counter, you have every right to remind her that you deserve more patience than she’s giving you. But to encourage open communication now and in the future, let her know that you’re trying to understand why the matter is a big deal to her. If, when it’s all said and done, it still seems insane, accept that she is the way she is, and gently request that she do the same.
She thinks what she’s upset about is stupid
Sometimes we really hate the fact that we’re angry about the stupid thing we’re angry about. It happens to you, too . . . like that time you saw your ex-girlfriend out with that bodybuilder, even though she’s bat-spit crazy and the last woman on earth you’d ever want to be with. This might be what’s going on with your girlfriend.
So then what?
If you’re lucky enough to get a response from her along the lines of, “I don’t want to tell you, it’s stupid,” first ask for clarification. “Do you think it’s stupid? Or do you think I’ll think it’s stupid?” If she thinks it’s stupid, you have options. First, you can ask her to talk about it, anyway. Then try to keep your cool if it really does turn out to be stupid. If you keep talking, you may discover that it’s really about something else . . . either an issue that she’s had for a while but has been afraid to bring up with you or a string of bad events that have nothing to do with you; she just snapped when you innocently mentioned that you wanted to spend Saturday night playing poker with the guys. The other option is to offer her space. Some women appreciate a little time alone to let the anger settle so they can see the situation with a clearer mind. However, some women prefer that you offer to help them work things out. This has to be your call; you know your girl better than I do.
She’s punishing you
Yeah, it happens, and you’re right, it’s cruel and kinda unfair. If she’s going to sting you with her cold, cold silence, you might as well know what you did to deserve it, right?
So then what?
If you know that she’s only trying to hurt you with her silence, let her know that you can’t resolve anything until she’s ready to speak to you. You don’t have to sit in her den of silent rage, offer to give her some space while she deals with her anger, and tell her you’ll be happy to work out whatever’s wrong when she’s ready to talk. When you finally do get her talking, remind her that you’re a partnership and that you’re willing to make an effort to understand where she’s coming from as long as she’ll let you in.
She’s just not communicative
Stereotypically speaking, it’s the dudes who aren’t great at discussing their emotions. But that doesn’t mean your girl can’t be conversationally challenged as well. And this is the one issue that doesn’t take any fancy decoding to figure out. If she has trouble expressing other intimate feelings like fear, sadness, or affection, chances are she’s keeping quiet because she just doesn’t know how to talk about what she’s feeling.
So then what?
Time, patience, and openness. The more you’re upfront about your insides, the likelier it is that she’ll learn to be open, as well. This will be a process, and each time she bottles up, you will probably have to work to get to the bottom of it. But with time, your communicative nature will help her see that it’s safe to be human in your relationship, anger is perfectly acceptable.
It’s never fun to be the focus of someone else’s anger . . . especially when that someone else is pretty important to you. But the sooner you get her talking, the sooner you can clear the tension and get back to the fun stuff.