Relationship Advice: 8 Times When It Pays to Keep Your Mouth Shut

Some people live life reacting to conflict as it arises. When you’re angry, you yell, and when you’re hurt, you redirect that hurt toward those you’re closest to (namely, your partner). As you can imagine, your reactions to certain situations and events can make or break your relationship. Relationships are all about communication, and while most people think that means more talking, there are times you’re better off keeping quiet.

Still confused? The fine line of when to speak your mind and when to stay silent can be a hard one to define, which is why we’re here to help. Here are eight times it actually pays to keep your mouth shut for the sake of your relationship.

1. When your partner is talking

lesbian couple laughing together

Give your partner space to speak their mind. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Your parents may have taught you it’s impolite to interrupt someone when they’re speaking. But as an adult (who thinks he or she always know best), those rules often go out the window, particularly when it involves your partner. Whether done in public or in the privacy of your own home, Tips on Life & Love writes that interrupting says one thing: You don’t care about what your partner is saying. This means when your partner is telling your friends about work drama and you interject your opinion, you are showing your partner (and your friends) that your opinion is more important than what they are saying.

Keeping quiet really does pay off

young couple in the morning

Your relationship will be healthier in the long run. | iStock.com/Ivanko_Brnjakovic

This nasty habit can get even worse behind closed doors. Whenever your partner expresses his or her feelings, do you just berate them by constantly interrupting? Well, these kinds of contradictions and interactions can further create some serious tension. Regardless of the specific situation, remembering your manners and waiting your turn will show your partner you respect them, eventually providing you with well-earned floor time later on.

2. After an apology

Frustrated Couple Sitting On Couch Quarreling

Speaking too soon after an apology could spark another argument. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

If you’re the sort of person who always likes to be right, you may find delivering a sincere apology nearly impossible. This is not a time to keep your mouth shut, as Psychology Today says apologies can restore hurt feelings and repair a damaged relationship. But even if you’re able to squeak out those two, hard-to-say words, you may immediately find yourself backpedaling with an explanation as to why you did what you did.

While explaining the situation may be helpful, using this time to defend yourself or your reasons for performing the wrong will only devalue your apology. A simple apology should be just that: simple. When you blurt out an “I’m sorry” and then follow it with reasons validating your action, you may as well have skipped the apology all together.

3. When you want to criticize

Couple fight hard

Pointing out your partner’s shortcomings won’t make for a healthy relationship. | iStock.com/oneinchpunch

When you’re sad, angry, or jealous, you may want to lash out and hurt your partner emotionally, The Relationship Specialist says. This can be done passive aggressively by making your partner feel stupid, ugly, or insignificant in public or even in private.

Criticizing can also happen in the midst of your most heated arguments. Before you know it, statements like “you’re selfish” and “I hate you” have already left your lips. These proclamations may not reflect your true feelings, but they will inflict lasting pain on your partner well after the fight has ended. Rid your relationship of this emotional abuse by avoiding hurtful “you” statements. Pointing out your partner’s shortcomings will get you nowhere.

4. When your partner is vulnerable

young couple not speaking after an argument

Sometimes, it’s best to keep quiet. | iStock.com

There are moments in every relationship when the walls are broken down and you see your partner’s most basic insecurities and fears. When your partner trusts you enough to show you their deepest emotions, The Huffington Post suggests listening and responding in a careful manner.

Your blabbering mouth can get you into trouble here. Instead, use this intimate moment as a chance to listen wholeheartedly and understand your partner on a deeper level. By hearing them out before you respond, they’ll feel heard and validated. Doing so will foster trust and intimacy between the two of you.

5. When your partner has just received disappointing news

sad woman grasping her head

Receiving bad news can take time to process. | iStock.com

Not every stressful situation calls for immediate sympathy, nor does it warrant unsolicited advice. For example, say your partner comes home after a long day of work and is upset. He’s highly frustrated because he just heard he won’t be getting that promotion he’s been banking on. Well, nothing can be done at this exact moment. A scenario like this, which is discussed on Oprah.com, requires silence, not a doting partner.

What you should do instead

a male couple sits on the stairs while having a serious talk

In this situation, silent encouragement is best. | iStock.com

In this situation, lending a listening ear and subtle words of encouragement is definitely the way to go. Allowing some time to pass will empower your partner to process everything as they need. Keeping your mouth shut will show your partner you have faith in their decision-making skills and overall good judgment.   

6. When you’re unsure of what to say

couple on therapist's couch

If you can’t find the right words, just keep quiet. | iStock.com

In some situations, it can be difficult to find the right words. You just don’t know what to say. You want to be there for your partner, but nothing you’re thinking would be an appropriate response in that particular moment. In this instance, it’s best to keep your lips sealed. According to Lifehack, “If you are confused about your own feelings concerning a matter, it’s best to stay quiet until you are more certain because more harm can be done by revealing false or exaggerated feelings.”  

7. When something sparks a potential argument in public

couple in bed having a discussion

Save the arguing for behind closed doors. | iStock.com

The only thing worse than fighting with your partner in the first place, is arguing in a public setting. And what’s even worse than that? Having a crowd of onlookers, or bothering your friends with your relationship woes and making everyone around you uncomfortable. Hard as it may be, bite your tongue until you’re in a quiet, safe, private space.

8. When they say nothing’s wrong

angry couple in bed

Instead of pressing the issue, give your partner some space. | iStock.com

OK, hear us out on this one. When your partner says, “I’m fine” it’s natural to push for a better answer. After all, you know something’s up, and you want to get to the bottom of it. But resist the urge to poke and prod, and instead, give them the benefit of the doubt. For instance, as Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., suggests on PsychCentral, it’s best to drop the assumptions. “Once you ask your partner if he/she is OK and your partner reports ‘fine,’ assume the best, give him/her the space, then proceed as normal.” Once again, giving your partner space to process their emotions on their own, before discussing anything with you, will help make for a happy relationship.

Evie Carrick also contributed to this story