What you need to know:
- Refusal to talk to your spouse is psychologically traumatising. It is actually classified as a form of intimate partner violence.
- Just like other forms of gender-based violence, it is important to face and solve the silence treatment when it happens.
It had been more than a week and still Rose and James, her husband, were not in talking terms. What was anticipated to be a great holiday season was turning out to be hell on earth.
“It is so stressful and of course for that whole duration when we are nil by mouth we are not intimate, he pushes himself on me without uttering a word. I think that is what you call marital rape?” Rose quipped.
Trouble started when Rose came home at 10 pm. Her office had a dinner party to mark the end of the year. Although she had mentioned that she would be late, she did not expect to reach home at 10pm.
James had a rule that everyone should always be home by latest 8pm. To add insult to injury, Rose had taken a glass of wine at the function.
“You come home late and smelling alcohol?” James shouted at her. “Who are these men who you are having a good time with? Have you also had sex with them?”
Rose was hurt and unable to talk back. She could understand that James was unhappy but the allegations he was making and the insults were unwarranted. She chose not to answer.
But that marked the end of their talking. James went quiet and would not answer her whenever she talked to him. He even refused to take meals she made.
As they clocked a week of silence, Rose just could not bear the stress anymore. The distance between her and James was growing by the day. And, to her amazement, James would still jump on her and rape her in the night. She abhorred it.
“So this is the reason I am here, I need a key to unlock this man to talk again, I need intimacy, not rape, to be loved and not sneered at,” Rose explained when she came to the sexology clinic, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Rose’s situation is a typical example of what many couples go through. One or both partners just go silent! In some cases, they will be silent and distant emotionally but at bedtime want sex. It is common.
Refusal to talk to your spouse is psychologically traumatising. It is actually classified as a form of intimate partner violence, the psychological pain being more intense and harder to bear than physical pain. The longer the silence lasts the more the suffering.
Incidentally, this is the only form of intimate partner violence in which the offender also suffers. Nobody can remain happy by not talking out their problems.
“Very true, the guy seems to be losing weight faster than me,” Rose interjected.
Just like other forms of gender-based violence, it is important to face and solve the silence treatment when it happens and also seek to prevent recurrence. Sometimes counselling may be necessary to break the impasse.
Lessons on communication in marriage also help. Further, couples undergo sex coaching to prevent marital rape. They need to learn that psychological preparedness is important in healthy sexuality.
“Sir you can only counsel and train people who are ready to seek help,” Rose said.
“My husband is not that kind of a person and things can get worse if I go home with such a suggestion.”
I advised Rose to write down her feelings about the situation. Among other things, she wrote that she felt hurt, mistreated, angry, frustrated, sexually abused and of course, unloved. She had been unable to eat. Her holiday season was messed up.
I asked Rose to choose from a range of actions on how to solve the problem.
She opted to take a break from the marriage and move to her mother’s house at least to enjoy part of the holiday season. She added this to her write-up. I told her to take the write-up to James.
“And even if you decide to open up and talk now, just know that it is too late, you will have to come to my parents so that we discuss this issue of always going quiet on me once and for all; and accusing me of having a good time with other men is hurtful and you will need to apologise in front of my parents,” Rose added to the write up.
Two days later Rose called to report that James pleaded all the way having read her note, and followed her to her parent’s home.
It was then that he realised the harm that his behaviour had caused. He was forgiven on condition that he should never ever resort to silent treatment again. And, of course, to avoid marital rape.