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Hear Me Out!
with Sam Garanzini, LMFT & Alapaki Yee, LMFT

It’s My Way or the Highway — Stop the Silent Treatment

Are you and your partner sick of the silent treatment?

Bryan and Ernesto are.

I want to help you discover something amazing about your relationship situation through the help of Bryan and Ernesto’s story. Take a look.

Every time they have an argument, it often ends up with them giving each other the silent treatment. This is painful and causes more resentment than they anticipated.

Who are Bryan and Ernesto?

Bryan and Ernesto are a couple who recently took our Communication Style quiz and found out that they are both what we call, “Referees.”

Who is a “Referee”?

During an argument, do you and your partner find yourselves more focused on fairness? On who is “more right” than the other?

Then it is likely you are a “Referee.”

Don’t panic, this is a good thing.

This communication style indicates that you both value each other’s opinions. Unfortunately, it also means that many times there is no way of resolving the conflict. In fact, conflict resolution is not even the goal you should be working toward.

Where does that leave you and your partner?

Like Bryan and Ernesto, it means you…

  • Debate when you should be listening to one another
  • Focus too heavily on problem-solving during the argument
  • End up giving each other the silent treatment

This leaves you unable to talk to the person you really love.

This would hurt, right?

It hurts Bryan and Ernesto, too. But fortunately, I’m going to show you how they figured out the key to stopping this dynamic.

What Does Research Say About Healthy Conflict?

Over 45 years of observational research shows us that long-lasting gay and lesbian relationships are generally made up of couples who make a strong team.

One of the first questions you should be asking is how strong of a team you and your partner are when we’re not having a conflict? The first goal would be for you to feel connected when not actively in a conflict.

The second question you should consider is what kind of team are you while actively having a conflict.

During the conflict, are you the type of teammate who strategically but playfully kicks the conflict over to your partner for them to respond to?  

Or do you throw that ball when issues arise, hurling it painfully at your partner while avoiding getting hit? Or does your partner do this to you?

This is exactly what we’re trying to avoid. If your Communication Style is that of “the Referee” then figuring this out is even more important than the other three Styles.

What’s The Silent Treatment All About?
The silent treatment happens when one partner tries to talk about issues while the other partner becomes quiet and defensive.

This silent treatment shuts down the conversation and makes it difficult to work through conflict.

Silence is a defense mechanism. It shuts the door on perceived criticism and prevents past issues from resurfacing. It often means that you’re overwhelmed, and your body is trying to protect yourself.

Now that we’ve laid the foundation for healthy and unhealthy conflict, let’s take a look at Bryan and Ernesto.

Ernesto recently brought up their finances. Bryan had been spending a little more than usual.

Bryan’s guard immediately went up, and he became upset at this perceived criticism and asked why they always have to talk about money. He then angrily and sarcastically asked what Ernesto wanted.

By throwing this ball back at Ernesto, he became defensive, and any chances of successfully talking about the issue were shattered.

Do you or your partner retreat and leave each other to figure out issues alone?

When fights end like this, it may leave you feeling as if there’s no solution. Like you’ve been left to deal with the initial problem on your own.

Luckily, I can help you navigate the murky waters of conflict so you can settle your issues positively and bounce back stronger than ever.

Becoming a Pro at Conflict
Hand the ball back and forth to one another. Don’t throw it!

What Ernesto does not know about Bryan is that his mom and dad often fought about money. His goal should be to avoid repeating that cycle.

Ernesto, on the other hand, grew up in a family that struggled with money. Frequent spending makes him anxious and he may react too quickly.

Like Ernesto and Bryan, the key for you and your partner is to move from:

When you and your partner navigate through the conflict, you learn more about each other at a deeply intimate level.

Understanding where your fears and triggers stem from will help you relate better and build empathy.

Should We Work Towards Compromise?


Shocking? I know.

However, 45 years of research has shown us that compromise is inherently lose-lose.

True compromise means you both give up something. If you’re already feeling like adversaries, and not on the same team, your efforts at compromise are premature.

What Are Two Things You Can Do Now To Get Better At Conflict?
The trick is for you to avoid provoking defensiveness in your partner by doing two things:

  1. Talk about what you want instead of what you don’t want.
  2. Talk about yourself rather than your partner.

These strategies de-escalate the situation and clarify your needs.

For Ernesto and Bryan, they realized that once they started using these strategies their conflicts were much less defensive. They could talk through heated issues and still feel as though they were on the same team. Coming up with a compromise or temporary solution happened much more frequently than their previous strategy.

It is truly the difference between throwing the ball AT your partner, versus handing the ball TO your partner.

Turns out all that, “I” not “You” talk is actually true.

These are fundamental skills for the most successful “Referees” in our program. You can figure out your Communication Style right now, just by taking this short quiz and receiving your results.

Figuring out your preferred communication style can help you turn a ‘my way or the highway’ relationship into an ‘our way all the way’ relationship.  

Are you a Referee, Connector, Sensualist, or Guardian most of the time?
Let’s help you find out!

Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.

For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit:

It’s My Way or the Highway — Stop the Silent Treatment

Sam Garanzini, LMFT

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APA Reference
Garanzini, S. (2019). It’s My Way or the Highway — Stop the Silent Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Apr 2019
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