Silence Is Gold? When Unspoken Rules Harm Relationships

Silence Is Gold? When Unspoken Rules Harm Relationships
Silence Is Gold? When Unspoken Rules Harm Relationships

Video: Silence Is Gold? When Unspoken Rules Harm Relationships

Video: Silence Is Gold? When Unspoken Rules Harm Relationships
Video: Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (Official Video) 2023, May

“You don't even need to say some things”, “Everything is clear without words”, “We have established an unspoken rule that …”. Everyone probably uttered such phrases at least once in his life, talking about his relationships with close people: family, friends, partner.

It may seem that unspoken rules are a sign of mutual understanding and a high degree of empathy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Tacit agreements can be symptoms of hidden problems and become a source of unjustified expectations.

The most striking example is the reluctance to discuss the future with a partner. One may not do this, because he does not see this future or does not want to take on obligations. Another is afraid of upsetting the delicate balance in a relationship and losing a loved one. At the same time, both can interpret the silence in different ways and build their own scenarios for the development of events.

Quiet contracts are more prosaic and imperceptibly embedded in everyday life. "Mom criticizes my wardrobe, but I never argue with her." “My child gets good grades from school, so I don't meddle in his affairs.” "My friend and I never talk about finance." "In our couple, I'm in charge of travel planning." Some of these agreements are harmless and can even act as rules of good form - for example, when in the company of friends it is not customary to criticize each other's lovers. Others are toxic and act like a time bomb.

To figure out whether an unspoken rule is a danger to relationships or your mental health, you need to honestly analyze it and understand whether it contains one or several destructive components at once: fear, layering and static.


What's happening. Often, we are motivated to remain silent by the fear of saying too much, being misunderstood, upsetting the balance, losing something or someone. We are silent instead of expressing our dissatisfaction, and gradually an unpleasant situation becomes the norm: we are overwhelmed with additional work, loaded with household chores, criticized, ignored, chosen for us, or, conversely, forced to make difficult decisions. Or you, without noticing it, are stressing a loved one. Let's say you and your partner recently started living together, but you still follow the unspoken rule - he pays for you everywhere. Perhaps your partner would like to suggest running a joint budget, but is afraid that you will take his desire to share the costs for weakness and become disappointed in him.

What to do. Try to remember as many of the unspoken rules that are in your relationship as possible and understand why you did not say them. If fear is at the root of the silence, it makes sense to discuss the tradition. Don't attack the other person, but share your concerns.

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

© Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash


What's happening. Some quarrels end in nothing and literally hang in the air when none of the participants is ready to make concessions and change their principled position. In this case, many resort to the help of unspoken rules, with which it is convenient to cover up everything that is difficult to understand: overdue disagreements, cooled feelings and strong resentments.

For example, you had a fight with a friend. After some time, you began to communicate again, but did not discuss the quarrel, that is, you established an unspoken rule not to raise a topic that was difficult for both. Perhaps this trick will not affect the quality of your friendship in any way, but, most likely, the understatement will create distance. Usually, in such cases, they say: "We made up and communicate normally, but not so close."

What to do. Talk. Try to at least bring up an uncomfortable topic. Even if you yourself are not ready for a discussion, it is worth saying it out loud, for example: “I am very sorry that we had a fight then. I myself am not yet ready to return to this topic, but I think at some point we should discuss it again in a calm atmosphere. What do you say?" So you let the person know that they are important to you, and agree to solve the problem.


What's happening. "Healthy" unspoken rules are dynamic - they change with the development of relationships and you as a person. Once you and your older sister lived in agreement that she is the main one in your tandem (she chooses games, makes decisions, protects). But in adulthood, you can easily switch roles or choose a completely new scenario of relationships.

Problems begin if one of the couple or even both parties to the agreement do not understand that it is out of date. Vivid examples: when in the family an adult is still mistaken for a "junior" (and he tacitly agrees with this, although he feels extremely uncomfortable), or when partners cannot separate for the weekend, because they retained the old habit of spending every free minute together and they are afraid to admit that this is not necessary when living together.

What to do. Recall when a specific unspoken rule appeared and analyze it for relevance. It is possible that everything is in order with him: you are comfortable in the chosen role and the current scenario. If not, it is better to talk over the situation with the second participant in the relationship. It is enough to discuss the issue straightforwardly once (literally - to announce a new rule or slightly change the old one) in order to avoid misunderstandings and frustrations for a long time.

In the end, “healthy” unspoken rules grow precisely from conversations - when we like a person, we are happy to discuss issues on which we completely agree, and between the lines we read each other's values and interests.>

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