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Can a Relationship Survive the “Silent Treatment?”

I recently read an article about a married couple who, for the past twenty years, the husband refused to speak to his wife. Despite this epic silent treatment they remained married, in their home, raising their three children, and going about their day-to-day lives. Did I mention that they apparently did this all while not speaking? After twenty years of witnessing their parents not speaking to one another the couple’s three children arranged with a talk show for them to meet in a park and finally resolve their issues. As their three children watched, the parents sat silently side by side on a park bench until the husband finally spoke and explained why he hadn’t exchanged more than a grunt or head nod in the past two decades.

He explained that when he and his wife were first married she doted on him making his happiness her sole purpose in life. Then came the babies…

With each child he felt as if she paid him less and less attention until he finally shut down altogether and decided to go for the Olympic gold in the sporting of event of silent treatment.

Now, as I read this article three things went through my mind:
  • Dude, what the fuck!?!?
  • Obviously at some point they figured out the non-verbal communication thing, because they managed to have two more children.
  • Well, see #1.

I read this article to my husband and his response was, “Obviously this guy is a bit of an extremist, but I get it. Is it so far fetched to believe that a husband feels shafted when his wife, his partner, his lover becomes a mother?”

He definitely had a point (Don’t ‘tell him I said that!).

When my husband and I were newlyweds he was my focus and to be fair I was his as well. Once our son was born all that changed. My husband was pushed to a far second position and I was all in on being a mom. Besides, I had all the faith in the world that my thirty-four year old husband could feed, clothe, and maintain himself unlike our newborn son who became my prime responsibility. Whether it was right or wrong that’s what happened. I was a mom. A job that I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle but I knew it required all of my energy and focus. Besides, the breast feeding, sleepless nights, and complete mental and physical exhaustion depleted my desire to do anything even remotely romantic. As our son got older it became easier to focus on our marriage and finding our new normal as parents and as a couple. We were able to schedule date nights, we rushed home from the office to have afternoon sex while our son was in school, and we booked couples only vacations. Then our daughter was born…

The disconnect was real and to be honest, it was harder the second time around.

Add all of the things that I mentioned from the birth of our first son and then add the shit storm of managing two children instead of one and a battle with postpartum depression. I felt like a stranger in my own body and the only thing that I could manage to focus on was being a mommy. My husband and I developed a “divide and conquer” approach to parenting. In the beginning this seemed like the way to go, especially given the fact that he couldn’t breastfeed our infant daughter and she refused to let anyone except me take care of her, we thought that we had figured out the parenting formula. We were so fucked!

Flash forward a bit and I begin to see a change in my marriage. Since the beginning we have always done pulse checks on our relationship. Taking time to make certain that we are both feeling loved, appreciated, and heard. Somehow along the way we had stopped checking in until we realized one day that we had stopped communicating with one another. Nothing as drastic as the above mentioned couple but let’s just say there were days when I felt like we barely spoke and when we did it was about the kids. However, unlike this couple, we didn’t let it get out of hand. Although, we both knew we were in a bad place.

One morning as I was stepping out of the shower my husband was standing there with my towel, “We need to talk.”

Everyone knows these four words can make your heart stop. I didn’t know what he was going to say but I didn’t expect anything good.

Clearing his throat he said, “We’re in a bad place. We have to get out of this before we fall too far down the rabbit hole and we have to do this together.”

The wave of relief, frustration, and love that washed over me was beyond overwhelming. I’ve never felt it before and I have not felt it since, but looking at my husband pleading with me to save our marriage was enough to make me realize that being a mother, a good mother, didn’t mean just putting all of my energy into my children. It meant that I also needed to put my energy into our marriage.

Now, I know that there are women out there that are groaning going, “Really?!?!” but yes, really, our marriage is a priority. When I say OUR marriage, I mean both of us. Our children were created from the love that my husband and I feel for one another.

Our love is what sustains this family setting the example for our children of what a positive, reliable relationship can create. If we don’t maintain it the rabbit hole will suck you in and then you wake up one morning wondering what even brought the two of you together.

So the work began. I would love to say, IT was hard. But, I have to say IT IS hard. We have to work at it every day and some days we lose. Some days we kiss in the morning, hold hands while we’re in the car, and I fall asleep in his arms. Some days we rise silently, exchanging snarky comments because we’re both tired, and fall asleep with our backs turned to one another. P.S. That bullshit about “Don’t ever go to sleep mad.” – Is just what it sounds like – BULLSHIT! Sometimes shit just doesn’t get resolved before bed and I am too tired to deal with it until the morning. But, I digress…

So, after 15 years together we’re still a work in progress. Adding kids to our relationship caused a shift in priorities, as it should.

Think about it this way, under what circumstance could you add one or two more people to an intimate relationship and not expect some issues to arise? Yeah, I’ll give you a minute…

Bottom line; make your relationship a priority! The children reap the benefits of your love!

About the author

Diedre Barksdale-Garcia

Host of the "Let's Just NOT..." Podcast

Diedre is known for sharing relatable and funny stories about Life, Mommyhood, Marriage, Relationships and SEX! She has helped so many women find balance in the most un-balanced times, become more confident in who they are and challenge the motherhood taboos.

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