Relationships & Love

The Silent Relationship Killer

If you have engaged in relationships of any kind, you have experienced and likely battled against “silent agreements.” While most people have never used or even heard of this term, silent agreements are present in our everyday lives where they lurk in the shadows of our relationships—at home, in social circles and in the workplace.

They are those unspoken “rules” of our relationships that grow from the topics we don’t talk about—the needs, wishes and expectations that we don’t share but hold others accountable for, anyway. Most often the other party is doing the same thing, which adds layers that make these silent agreements even more complicated to uncover and deal with.

Sometimes the unspoken expectations of two people are in agreement, and when that’s the case, the relationship can hum along without drama, stress or misunderstandings. But many silent agreements can be completely out of line, and that causes problems in the relationships.

Silent expectations cover all areas of life: money, commitment, intimacy, kids, jobs and careers, health issues, technology and social media connections. Unawareness of these expectations can result in problems and even chaos.

“Whether in alignment with others or not, in many cases the silent agreements we have with one another, or towards another, are not acknowledged or openly discussed,” notes clinical psychologist Michele L. Owens, Ph.D. “This is largely due to the fact that we, ourselves, may not be consciously aware of the expectations we harbor. Other times, we feel that we have too much to lose if we talk openly, or, we regard silence as less frightening than what would happen if we tell the ‘real’ story about what we are thinking and wanting from another person. So, we avoid discussing the real issues because we are afraid to upset the status quo.

“Each of these scenarios creates the opportunity, and some might say the likelihood of disappointments, misunderstandings, distortions, false assumptions and resentment between individuals. The more a relationship lacks awareness of these silent agreements, the more pervasive the silent agreements are, and the more likely we risk losing authentic communication.”
Clinical psychologist Linda Anderson adds, “Often we erroneously believe our silent agreements with others to be understood or implied, thinking we share the same understanding or meaning of an unspoken expectation. “One person can have a particular perception about an unspoken issue while the other is experiencing something entirely different. The result can be debilitating and downright deadly for relationships.