Bird in the Bush
There are some bushes outside our home. When we walk by them, often we hear something rustling. We canâ€™t see anything, but we know something is going on. After some time passes, a bird flies away. There are some couples who use the Bird in the Bush method of fighting. Our partner appears to be angry because he/she is demonstrating the cold/ silent treatment, the stiffness, the short answers, the facial expressions, and the slamming of the drawers. We know there is something wrong, but our partner refuses to talk about it. The conversation might go like this: â€śIs there something wrong?â€ť
The icy reply: â€śNo. Iâ€™m fine.â€ť
â€śBut there seems to be something wrong.â€ť The reply, which is a little louder, â€śNo.â€ť
Our response: â€śIs it something I did or said?â€ť
The quick reply: â€śNo. I told you Iâ€™m fine.â€ť
We cannot deal with the issue
if we cannot face it...
The unresolved issues
will create distance in our relationship.
We know our partner is angry and even though they say they are not mad, it is hard to believe because their body language is screaming: â€śI am furious!â€ť Later, after we have suffered long enough, the partner tells us what they are angry about. Often it is something we have done or said.
The Silent Treatment as a Solution
When asking women, â€śWhat is one thing that men do during an argument that drives you crazy?â€ť the number one answer has been: â€śClose down.â€ť This is frightening for the woman because she doesnâ€™t know where her partner is relationally. â€śIs he about to leave me or what?â€ť
We cannot deal with the issue if we cannot face it. Just because we do not talk about it doesnâ€™t mean that it has gone away. The unresolved issues will create distance in our relationship. It is like the old story of an elephant in the room. Everyone knows it is in there but no one wants to discuss it. We just keep stumbling over it and walking around it â€“ like walking on eggshells. Even though we donâ€™t talk about the elephant, it still affects our relationship. It reminds us of the observation: when we go to a restaurant, how can we tell which couples are married? It is the ones not talking! Why donâ€™t married couples talk? Maybe it is not because they know everything the other partner knows; maybe it is because of the elephant of unresolved issues. We are afraid of what we need to talk about but have not been able to resolve.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700