What you will learn from this blog:
- Having a cold war with your partner after an argument is a normal thing that many couples go through
- Reconciliation is possible if partners use their time apart consciously to reflect rather than indulge in negative thoughts and emotions
- Learning patience and being present with discomfort and tension is important in a cold war; this builds resilience
As relationship therapists, we at Intracresco see many individuals and couples seeking couples counselling to resolve a silent war they are having with their partner. They feel sad that:
- They are living together but only interact on tasks related to the kids and household
- There is no longer any connection; they only talk about practical matters, avoiding sensitive topics
- They tell extended family members and friends that all is fine at home, but in reality, they feel alone and don’t feel a sense of belonging
Are you going through the same? Here are three tips from two relationship therapists to resolve a cold war in a relationship:
Spend your time apart wisely
Time apart can be unhealthy for the relationship if partners use it to indulge in more negative thoughts – replaying all the times your partner made you angry, thinking of stronger counter-arguments to “defeat” your partner or make them feel guilty, or gossiping or complaining to others about your partner.
On the other hand, time apart and individual space can be healthy if partners use it to work towards resolving the issue by:
- Regulating your emotions
- Reflecting on why you felt angry
- Taking responsibility for your part in the healing and forgiveness journey
- Empathising with your partner’s perspective and the impact of your words and actions on them.
Reaffirm your commitment to the relationship
In a cold war, you may not be able to fully share your feelings as both sides are still hurting. But it is important that partners reaffirm their commitment to each other.
Partners could say, “I know we are both hurting and taking time to process, but I just want you to know that I am committed to you and am willing to stay and figure this out.”
This builds safety and security, prevents alienation, and gives both sides the confidence that the relationship remains strong no matter what happens.
Reach out and recognise when your partner is reaching out
In a state of conflict, reaching out to your partner can be extremely difficult because you are afraid of being vulnerable and you don’t want to be hurt again. Partners usually feel more comfortable reaching out in subtle, rather than obvious, ways.
To the ego, getting rejected for reaching out in a subtle way is less threatening.
When you feel ready and calm, find a way to reach out to your partner. This could be through a text message, post-it note, letter or email.
I (Kester) remember being very touched when I received a note from Kavitha saying: “Even though I am angry with you, I still love you.”
It is also essential to recognise and respond kindly to the ways your partner is reaching out.
For example, a partner might reach out by sending a text about how they feel. It might sound angry but that may be because they do not know how else to reach out, and they are afraid to be hurt again.
A partner might offer to send you to work or pick you up from work because they want to spend more time connecting with you.
When we facilitate communication between couples through our couples counselling sessions at Intracresco, couples often realise that they actually care deeply about each other. It’s just that the mind misinterprets the intention of each other’s gestures.
From our experience as relationship therapists, love and connection is an innate need present in all people. No one can be completely selfish.
If you are in a cold war situation with your partner, know that it is very likely that your partner does not like being in that situation too. They are likely seeking connection too.
When you recognise this, it becomes easier to focus on all the ways your partner is trying to reconnect, rather than interpret their actions as hostile.
Differences and emotions are a part of human relationships. As much as we would like things to be happy and smooth all the time, it is important to build resilience by learning how to be comfortable with tension, and not try to fix things immediately.
Sometimes time and space are needed for us to process and resolve our feelings and differences fully. Trying to fix them prematurely risks sweeping issues under the rug and missing the opportunity to understand each other better, and grow stronger in your relationship.