Silence Is Golden…Sometimes

It is often said that silence, or rather the silent treatment is one of the biggest killers of a relationship. That type of silence that’s heavy with emotions; mostly a mix of anger, pain and revenge. It is one way to  register displeasure more than anything else.

Jide went off for a weekend work program; he and his wife had scheduled an out of town time-out for themselves but Jide got an impromptu call at the last minute to represent his organization at the workshop. His wife was mad that they were missing the weekend getaway, and was angry, no matter Jide’s genuine reasons. For the duration of the weekend, she did not pick his calls nor reply to his messages. They reconciled when he returned that Sunday evening but those two days that unable to talk to his wife were pure torture to him. He barely concentrated at the workshop he had gone to attend. In fact, it was a bit challenging for him to come up with a convincing report of the outcome of the workshop for his presentation at work, the following Monday.

On the other hand is Dele and his wife, Beatrice  who needed to learn the virtue of keeping quiet and have lots of silent moments, if they were to co-exist peaceably. Quarrels could quickly get out of hand with the duo. From a simple statement, mountains woukd be made, castles built out of a B/Q. You get the scenario? Eventually, Beatrice learnt the beauty of silence to survive. However, she did not always succeed as she had limits to which she could bear Dele’s baiting statements. He sometimes went overboard  and pushed her buttons whenever the silence got to him. This was usually counter-productive as he would say just about anything to get a rise out of her and when Beatrice reacts, they would have their usual burst up and even more silence follows.

Dele thrives on quarrels; he is a man with strong emotions, strong opinions, strong choice of expressive words. He had no problem saying whatever was on his mind and, incidentally, so was his wife. To make peace, she soft pedalled and kept quiet, albeit a swollen silence. But a silence all the same.

Different strokes for different folks you would say.In fact, there are different types of silence, even from the stories above. Silence is golden when its a means of connection, of saying, I might not understand your hurt, but I want to. This kind of silence means being willing and able to give the other person your full attention.  This includes appropriate eye contact, and gestures like nodding, leaning forward, smiling, frowning, and other facial expressions which let the other person know you really hear them. This is not a case of hearing the other person talk while you marshal your comebacks in your head.

Being quiet and not saying anything gives the other person, the required space and uninterrupted time to talk about whatever is on their mind.  When another person has a decision to make, a problem to solve or simply a need to express themselves ( plenty of which occur in relationships) silence can provide the opportunity for them to have time to talk, reflect and decide without outside pressure.

And there, there is the awkward silence. Very uncomfortable but we have all experienced this type of cricket chirping quiet. You are scraping every nook and cranny of your brain to find something interesting to talk about to fill up that emptiness, yet for some reason, all you can think about is how painful the awkward silence is! This kind of silence is only acceptable on the first date.

It’s part of the first date curse. Any guy who is kind enough to take a girl out on a nice formal dinner and any girl who takes the time and effort to primp herself before the first date is bound to experience this most unfortunate curse. I don’t know why it happens. It just happens but there are ways to overcome it, with questions you need to ask on the first date.

However, if you have been dating for years, or are married to someone who shares in this uncomfortable silence and you are still experiencing the awkward silence routinely…then, it does not say much about your relationship. Looks like that relationship is on shaky grounds. Not too worry, it is still salvageable.

Finally, the comfortable silence you have with that one person. With this person, you give no thoughts to emotions, there is no rush to shorten the silence, it can last the duration of a movie. It can withstand disagreements without turning toxic. If you can maintain a comfortable silence with someone and enjoy their company without fidgeting or worrying about what they are thinking, your relationship will stand the test of time. That’s the ultimate silence; silent but communicating good vibes.

Now, you know the right kind of silence to look out for in your relationship, as not all silence is golden.


Kristine is a straight-talking woman. She has had a three-year stint as an agony aunt with a national daily, dealing with varied relationship issues.  She is married with kids and ultimately believes that fear and pride are the Achilles heels of relationships.

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