It’s expected that you and your older man aren’t always going to see eye to eye; it’s completely normal in any relationship to disagree every once in a while. But it’s how you handle these types of age gap relationship issues that really matter.
If you’re the type of person who deals with conflict by giving your partner the silent treatment, you might want to rethink that technique, because studies have shown that it’ll actually do more harm than good. According to a research paper published in the academic journal Communication Monographs, silent treatment falls under the behavior category called demand-withdrawal pattern, meaning that when one partner wants something, like affection, the other partner responds by shutting them out and refusing to engage.
Shutting down is a common way to respond to age gap relationship issues. But according to this new research, withdrawal behavior like the silent treatment will lead to less intimacy and greater dissatisfaction with your May-December relationship, because it will set in motion a vicious, never-ending cycle. The more you pull back, the more frustrated he’ll get. As a result, he’ll make more demands, and you’ll shut down even more. “The more polarized the partners become, the more difficult it is for them to stop engaging in the behaviors,” says the lead researcher, Paul Schrodt. At the end of it all, the original issue you were fighting about isn’t even the problem you’re addressing anymore.
The trick to nixing the bad habit of silent treatment is to figure out why it’s your go-to defense when age gap relationship issues arise. Is it because you’re genuinely feeling hurt, or because you want to punish the other person? Is it because you want time to cool down, or because you just don’t know how to address the problem? Understanding why you do it (or why your partner does it) will help you to more effectively deal with age gap relationship issues, instead of prolonging them and making them worse.
Once you’ve figured out why it’s happening, the next step is to take steps toward more constructively addressing and dealing with age gap relationship issues. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
• It’s perfectly fine for you and your older man to take some time apart to cool down and collect your thoughts, as long as you both agree to come back to the table at a certain time to discuss the problem at hand.
• When you do start to discuss your age gap relationship issues, be conscious of what you’re saying and the language you’re using when you’re communicating with them. Speak openly and honestly, but avoid attacking your partner by accusing them or talking down to them. It’s important to be respectful, no matter how upset you might be.
• It’s always a two-way street, so be aware of your role in it all. If you’re on the receiving end of the silent treatment, use the time to think about how your actions have affected him. If he sees that you understand the situation and that you want to take responsibility for part of it, there’s a better chance that he’ll open up and start addressing your age gap relationship issues. And avoid pestering him, because that’ll only frustrate him more. Just go about your day as usual and when he’s ready to come around, he will.
• Once you’ve overcome the current issue and you’re back to a happier, more stable state in your May-December relationship, it might be useful to address the silent treatment if you’re the one getting shut out. Explain to your older man how it makes you feel—he may not even realize how much of an impact it’s actually having on you and your May-December relationship. If he sees how much it upsets you when he’s in a better frame of mind, he’s more likely think twice next time.
Orwig, J., “Why You Should Never Give Your Partner The Silent Treatment,” Business Insider web site, January 14, 2015; http://goo.gl/huhckd.