16 reasons why guys give the silent treatment (and what to do about it)

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Being on the receiving end of the silent treatment is never pleasant. You don’t know what you’ve done wrong because all your guy does is give you the cold shoulder.

But why do this in the first place?

See, there are 16 reasons men give the ‘silent treatment.’ But don’t worry, for I’ll also give you tips on how to deal with it.

Let’s begin.

1) He is terrible at communicating

When it comes to communication, the adage ‘men are from Mars, and women are from Venus’ holds true.

According to The Guardian:

“The sexes communicate differently (and women do it better) because of the way their brains are wired. The female brain excels in verbal tasks whereas the male brain is better adapted to visual-spatial and mathematical tasks. Women like to talk; men prefer action to words.”

In other words, women are genetically blessed to talk like experts. Men, on the other, fare better with actions – which is why they’re not good at communicating.

So, instead of saying something that could get him in trouble, he’d rather stay quiet and unknowingly give the silent treatment.

What to do

As a Healthline article quips, “Simply avoiding conflicts won’t help. Ignoring issues just gives them the space and time to build up into something larger down the road.”

So if you want to prevent your relationship from imploding, you both need to learn how to communicate better.

A simple way of doing this is checking in on them whenever possible.

According to a Bustle article, “Asking “How are you? How was your day?” will not only keep you in touch and in sync, it’ll help keep you in the habit of communicating with each other.”

2) He’s a sensitive guy

As my co-writer Pearl Nash explains in her article:

“Sensitive men may also find it a bit hard to want to open up sometimes…

It’s sometimes because that’s the way they protect their emotions and stay feeling upbeat.

Many men have been burned when they opened up to a woman or started communicating too much. They’re scared of inviting a problem, so they keep their mouths shut.”

What to do

A sensitive guy who likes you needs to feel secure. It’s a matter of letting him know that nothing bad would happen should he choose to communicate with you.

On top of that, Times of India’s Shikha Desai recommends being “open in expressing your feelings for him. If you love him and care for him, let him know that you do. It will not only make him feel secured but he’ll also enjoy the fact that you’re really into him and that you’re so open about it.”

3) He’s craving some attention

He’s tried everything to get your attention, but you’re just too busy with work (among many other things.)

As a result, he ends up using a strategy that he knows will definitely make you notice him: giving you the silent treatment.

What to do:

This is a no-brainer: you must give him the attention he needs. Explains psychologist Alice Boyes, Ph.D.:

“You’ve been ignoring their requests for attention, and they’ve escalated into annoying behaviors. Ways to show your partner they can get your attention include responding with eye contact, physical touch, or by communicating.”

4) A relationship coach will know why

While I really hope the reasons and tips I list my article will help you figure out why your guy is giving you the silent treatment and what you can do about it, nothing beats talking to a relationship coach, one-on-one.

I suggest that after you finish reading this article, you reach out to the folks at Relationship Hero.

People can be tricky and relationships are complicated, that’s why it’s always a good idea to get professional advice. Relationship coaches deal with people like you and your boyfriend every day – it’s literally their job – which is why I’m sure that they’ll be able to give you insight into your guy’s behavior and advice on dealing with it.

Stop trying to figure it all out by yourself and get in touch with professional today

5) He thinks he won’t win anyway

Giving the silent treatment may be your guy’s way of waving the white flag during the fight. For him, there’s no sense talking. He’ll be shunned down anyway.

Think of it as mental conditioning. He knows he will not win the argument anyway, so why even bother?

What to do

In this case, it’s not the guy’s fault. He’s giving you the silent treatment simply because you’re too overbearing.

What you need to do in this case is do some mindful listening. Don’t always assume that he’s wrong and you’re right.

Take time to hear his case. Don’t formulate answers in your head while he’s still talking.

If you keep shutting him down, it will only make him unhappy in your relationship. He might leave you soon if you’re not careful!

6) He’s mad, and he’s afraid he’ll burst out into flames

Some men have got quite the temper. As psychologist Seth D. Meyers, Psy.D. explains:

“Far higher rates of men have a self-described ‘bad temper’… What’s more, I have found that many men who have a bad temper unleash the worst of it on their girlfriend or wife, especially if they live together.”

So instead of bursting into flames, some men choose to do the opposite – staying mum during fights (even conversations.) In his mind, it’ll keep him from doing something he’ll regret.

What to do

If your man has a temper issue, Meyers recommends “sitting the person down and seriously describing how the tantrums affect you.

Explain that you are willing to work together with that person to help him find better ways to cope when he feels overwhelmed.

Have a mental time limit in your head of how long you are willing to give him to change and stick to it.”

7) He refuses to take responsibility for his actions

You fought, and he knows it’s his fault. But instead of owning up to it, he’ll do the silent treatment.

He knows it’ll create tension and prevent him from admitting his mistakes – at least for the time being.

According to a report:

“Their silence deflects the conversation and communicates that the issue is off-limits.

“Sadly, the person receiving the silent treatment must continue to wrestle with their pain and disappointment alone. There is no opportunity to resolve the issue, compromise, or understand their partner’s position.”

What to do

If your man is using the silent treatment as a means of deflecting, make sure to remain calm.

As Pearl puts it:

“Try to remember that the more you lose your cool, the more their walls are also likely to come up. Keep calm and rational.”

If keeping peaceful is not your thing, looking at this list of what calm people do should help you out.

8) He wants to make you feel excluded

See, we all have an innate drive to be loved and accepted. Giving the silent treatment will make you feel otherwise. It can make you feel excluded, ostracized even.

To make matters worse, a report has shown that “Being excluded activates the same areas of the brain that being a victim of physical violence activates.”

Twisted as it may seem, but he’s doing this to push all your buttons – without necessarily placing a hand on you.

Such a clever (and evil) trick, if you ask me.

What to do

Have faith in yourself. I know it’s easier said than done, but positive affirmations will help you deal (and feel) better following your guy’s silent treatment.

Explains a Cleveland Clinic article:

“Positive affirmations are phrases you can say, either aloud or in your head, to affirm yourself and build yourself up — especially in the midst of difficult situations. They’re a way of helping overcome negative thoughts that can sometimes take over and make you doubt yourself.”

Here are some excellent examples:

“I am comfortable in the silence.”

“There is nothing wrong with me.”

“I am never alone, for I am always surrounded by love.”

9) He wants to control you

Yes, a guy can control you simply by NOT talking to you.

When your guy chooses to keep mum instead of talking to you, your self-worth will eventually suffer. This, in the long run, can make you more dependent on him.

And, because you’re reliant on him, he can easily control you – and your actions. For example, he won’t talk to you until you apologize (even though it wasn’t your fault.)

Having this power over you basically makes him invincible in your relationship.

What to do

It can be hard to deal with a controlling partner. That’s why psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. recommends following through.

“Leaving a relationship — or even just trying to make changes within one — is a dynamic and continuing process, not a singular event. It takes care, planning, and multiple steps.

If your first attempt to make changes or get out has failed, take a breath and give yourself a break. Then start again,” she asserts.

10) He’s trying to manipulate you

Similar to his attempt at controlling you, your guy may give you the silent treatment to manipulate you.

For example, he’ll give you the cold shoulder until you budge to his request for sex – or money. Then, he’ll do it repeatedly, for he knows you’ll consent to everything he asks you to do.

What to do

When it comes to handling manipulative people, it’s a matter of holding your ground. As HackSpirit founder Lachlan Brown explains in his article:

“If you find yourself confronted with a true manipulator who is going to great lengths to make your life miserable, you’ll need to hold your ground when you confront them about it.

This means that no matter what happens, you will stand up for yourself and be clear about what you will and will not put up with.”

11) He wants to hurt you

It’s easy to get over physical pain. Just a few bandages and pills, and you’re good to go.

Mental anguish, however, is another thing.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why he’s giving you the cold shoulder. He wants to hurt you deeply.

See, a prolonged silent treatment will make you doubt everything you hold dear. You begin questioning where you went wrong and if you truly deserve what has come to you.

What to do

According to my fellow writer Felicity Frankish, it’s crucial to recognize where the hurt originates. She explains:

“Not all hurt is intentional. It might be unintentional or even a simple misunderstanding. This doesn’t change how you feel about the pain but will change how you approach the situation. So dig deep and trust your gut instinct.

“It can be easy to think the worst of someone who has caused you pain. Instead, look at the situation objectively to consider whether or not they meant to cause you pain.”

But, if he’s hurting you intentionally, you may want to consider getting out of the relationship – while you still can!

12) It’s out of spite

Maybe you’re not taking everything he’s telling you seriously. Or perhaps you ignored them, albeit unintentionally.

See, some guys end up harboring spite because of these events. And, as revenge, they think of doing a cruel thing that’s only short of physical violence: the silent treatment.

What to do

When it comes to dealing with a spiteful guy, it’s a matter of ‘rising above and avoiding getting sucked in.’

As Lachlan explains in his article “Evil people: 20 things they do and how to deal with them”:

“Evil and toxic people can drive you mad because their behavior doesn’t make sense.

“So remember, when their behavior has no logical reason, why would you let yourself get sucked into it? Get away from them emotionally. You don’t need to respond.”

13) It’s his knee-jerk reaction

Maybe you said (or did) something that took your man by surprise. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to react to it, so he decides to do the easiest thing: stay silent.

What to do

Don’t panic. If it’s a knee-jerk reaction, his ‘cold shoulder’ will turn warm soon.

Just be patient and give him space. See, you have to respect your differences.

Explains Lachlan: “Recognize them for what they are. It doesn’t mean you’re not compatible. It simply means that you’re human. Try to appreciate the positive sides of personality traits that you consider negative.”

14) He just zoned out

There you were, talking about the bad day you had at work. You’re asking for his opinion, and he was just mum about it.

You asked him several times, and there he was, glued to the football game he was watching.

Again, it’s all about the fundamental differences between a man’s and woman’s brains.

According to a WebMD report:

“The male brain goes to a rest state to rejuvenate much more than the female brain. So to build brain cells and restore himself, a man needs to ‘zone out.’ That’s why he channel-surfs or stares at the computer.

“On the other hand, women have all that oxytocin that makes them “want to bond at the end of the day in order to rejuvenate.”

What to do

You could be a talkative girlfriend, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And if you want to avoid fighting over a mistaken silent treatment, it’s crucial that you discuss your varying communication styles.

Explains Pearl:

“You need to try and bridge the gap.

“Some people love to talk and can do it constantly all day, every day. Other people get quickly exhausted or frustrated by a lot of conversation.

“You need to have a chat… that means talking about both your preferences and telling each other what you need.”

15) He’s tired

Your man had a long day at work and is flat-out tired. You try to engage in conversation with him, and he just nods (or shakes his head, perhaps.)

See, he’s not giving you the cold shoulder because he’s mad at you. He’s just tired, and he’d rather have a silent few hours for himself.

What to do

Let him be silent! After all, it can help bring about:

  • Mental clarity
  • Improved decision-making
  • Better emotional processing

It’s also a good mechanism for healing (especially after a long tiring day), explains Piedmont Healthcare life coach Dennis Buttimer.

“When you are under stress, your body’s natural repair mechanisms are disabled. When you can cultivate silence and stillness, clarity develops in your mind and has a settling effect. Your body is not independent of your brain, so it will relax as well.”

“In other words, when you’re relaxed, your body’s natural repair mechanisms are enabled, and you’ll heal faster.”

16) He’s just busy

Truth be told, your man may not be giving you the silent treatment – at least intentionally. He may be busy with work, that’s all.

As to why this happens, Boyes believes that “If you’re overworking, your brain might be fully tied up thinking about your own priorities, to the extent that you don’t even know what your partner’s priorities are. What’s important to your partner currently? What have they attempted to talk to you about, but you’ve brushed them off?”

What to do

First and foremost, you need to determine if he’s really busy – or if he’s just not interested in you. If he contacts you (when you least expect it) and sets up a date to see you, it’s a good chance that he was just buried in work.

Additionally, Boyes suggests that you “Create a behavioral habit that gives you a chance to talk to each other.”

She recommends talking while walking, for “neither person is physically trapped in a confined space like they are in a car. Talking while walking can make it emotionally easier to have in-depth conversations.”


Now you should have a better idea of why guys go silent sometimes. But, regardless of the reasons, there are plenty of things you can do about it.

Since every relationship is unique, in addition to taking my advice, it’s also a good idea to get in touch with a professional at Relationship Hero. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to get your guy to open up and talk to you.

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