Living in the Deep Freeze

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic


When my wife gets annoyed or angry with me, she gives me the silent treatment. Sometimes it lasts just a day, sometimes for days on end. Eventually she’ll start talking again, but I get tired of being told “nothing is wrong,” while feeling this deep freeze emanating from her. What’s the best way to respond?

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The “deep freeze” is a common way many people respond to stress. People typically either “fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “flow” when faced with challenging situations—and the first three are unhealthy if used consistently.

To live with a wife who “freezes and flees”–that is, avoids any serious issue—is to live alone. Not only is her behavior hurtful to you, but she’s sabotaging the intimacy in your marriage. If this pattern continues, your marriage could die a slow, painful death.

In your emotional pain you may be tempted to focus on her behavior, wishing to change her. Avoid this temptation; instead, switch your focus on you and on the aspects of your relationship you can effectively manage.

Let me give you some additional suggestions:

First, try to understand why she withdraws. Remember that I said people respond to stress in these unhealthy ways. Consider why she pushes away from you. Are there some aspects of your behavior your wife finds overwhelming? Is she in some respect afraid of you?

Second, seek information from her. If you are genuinely curious about really understanding your wife, ask directly if there’s anything you’re doing she finds offensive. It’s likely your mate will tell you what’s bothering her. Listen intently, because she’ll be giving you the missing information you’ve needed.

Third, make her relationship with you safe. Use any information your wife gives you or has given you previously to make changes in yourself. Small changes can cause huge improvements in a relationship. Ensure that you do everything possible to create a safe relational environment in which to share her thoughts and feelings. Avoid any form of criticism with your wife.

Fourth, seek a new heart for your wife. While you want her behavior to change, start with changing your heart. Scripture tells us, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). While you want your wife to have a warm heart toward you, it may begin with you having a warm heart toward her.

Finally, be consistent in your changes. Small changes over time become big changes. Seek a series of corrective emotional experiences, and before long, she’ll experience you differently. These will likely lead to her trusting you and ending the “deep freeze.”

If you’re experiencing the “deep freeze” in your marriage, try these suggestions and let us know how they work with you and your mate. As always, we’d love to hear from you and any suggestions you might add to mine.

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