Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment

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The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising – literally.

Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain.

The best predictor of divorce isn’t whether a couple fights – arguments are inevitable – but how a couple fights. The key to being closer in the good times lies in the way a couple treats each other during the bad.

The silent treatment can tend to present itself as a response more fitting of the ‘high road’, one of grace and dignity, but research has shown it is anything but.

Kipling Williams, a Professor of Psychology at Purdue University who has studied ostracism for twenty years, explains, ‘Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, are used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realise the emotional or physical harm that is being done.’

The ability to detect ostracism is hardwired in us – it doesn’t matter if you’re being ignored by a group or a person you can’t stand, the pain still registers.

The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that detects physical pain. The initial pain is the same, regardless of whether the exclusion is by strangers, close friends or enemies.

The silent treatment happens when one partner pressures the other with requests, criticism or complaints and the other responds with silence and emotional distance.

Paul Schrodt, PhD, Professor of Communication Studies reviewed 74 relationship studies which involved more than 14,000 participants.

Findings from his in-depth analysis revealed that the silent treatment is ‘tremendously’ damaging to a relationship. It decreases relationship satisfaction for both partners, diminishes feelings of intimacy, and reduces the capacity to communicate in a way that’s healthy and meaningful.

‘It’s the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed, established romantic relationship,’ says Schrodt. ‘And it does tremendous damage.’

It’s an incredibly hard pattern to break because both partners lay the blame at the feet of the other.

‘Partners get locked in this pattern, largely because they each see the other as the cause,’ explains Schrodt. ‘Both partners see the other as the problem.’ One partner will typically complain that the other is emotionally unavailable. The other will accuse his or her partner of being too demanding or critical.

When couples become locked in this ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern, the damage can be both emotional and physiological include anxiety and aggression as well as erectile dysfunction and urinary and bowel problems.

It doesn’t matter which partner demands or which one withdraws, the damage to the relationship is the same. It’s the pattern itself that’s the problem, not the specific partner. 

The silent treatment should not be confused with taking time to cool down after heated or difficult exchange. Williams suggests that instead of reverting to the silent treatment, try ‘I can’t talk to you right now, but we can talk about it later.’

Nobody engages the silent treatment expecting it to damage the relationship, and that’s the danger.

Generally, it’s called on as the weapon of choice because it’s powerful and it’s easy to get away with. There is nothing subtle about a physical or verbal lashing, but an accusation of the silent treatment, ‘Are you ignoring me?’ can easily be denied.

Silence can feel like a dignified, high road response but it’s not. It’s a way to inflict pain but without the physical marks. 

Being noticed is so close to being loved, that sometimes they feel the same.

Being ignored is just as powerful.

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213 Comments

Sheneque Alexander

Hello! Please help… my boyfriend of 4 months cancelled on my birthday weekend. I have been talking about my birthday for 2 months and had a whole weekend planned. He came to my birthday party and we hung out with my nice the next day… but the day before and the day off my birthday he cancelled our plans. The morning before he said his sister texted him his mom fell in the snow… he said he was just going to check in her and be back. He then texted me 2 hits later canceling the trip to stay with her at home and we could do dinner for my birthday. Then says he needs to come by and get his bag from my house. Wait….. so I’m tooooo upset at the whole thing. I didn’t like he just casually cancelled. All in all I felt he could of handled the mother / birthday thing better. I did not go to dinner with him and have not spoken to him since. He calls once a day and texts me about us talking but I’m just too mad to reply. Now he asking for this bag…. how long is too long not to speak to him. To me I’m not sure how he can fix this at this point.

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Sam

Give him the bag. Say goodbye. And get on with your life. He is not available to you, and you will cause yourself hurt until you accept this.

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Kelly

You are hurt, you are angry, but please reply to him. Avoiding someone is a pattern that will continue in a lot of other conflicts if you get comfortable with it. You have nothing to feel bad about, these are your feelings…Be angry!! That’s perfectly fine, please communicate your feelings and don’t pretend he doesn’t exist though.

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Katie

Yes, let him have his bag and stop giving him the silent treatment. Apologize for punishing him with the silent treatment. And take your equal share of blame while you are at it, because you seem way out of proportion mad, for the circumstances. So he should have called rather than texted, but who knows what was going on with his mother’s injury; you haven’t given him the chance to talk and explain his concerns for his mother’s fall. You could have used your words to tell him you would like to cool off before talking with him, but by not replying, you punish him with the silent treatment by ignoring his frequent texts and calls. It’s sulking.

Red flags: You knew him two months when you started planning your birthday for the last two months? His mother fell in the snow, presumably she could be seriously injured, but have you called and asked how she is? (* For example, a head injury would be more important than your birthday). Google silent treatment psychology, and narcissism pops up. So in your paragraph, you have exhibited three, possibly four, signs of narcissist behavior. Birthday focus, lack of empathy, silent treatment, possibly blaming. Narcissists are on a spectrum, meaning it’s not a “are you or are you not” a narcissist, but you have narcissistic behaviors.

If you recognize this, there may be hope for you learning, through a counselor, how to show fair and equal treatment of others. It could make a huge positive impact in your life. I say this with kindness, because I think those skills would make you and the people around you alot happier. Good luck.

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Rich

Long story short, my ex wife and I after being together for 8 years 6 of those years married we ended up long distance because of her having to work overseas. We were more than great together but the distance put a big wedge in our communication. We argued about nothing, told her she needed to come home. She refused because she said we needed more money. Soon after she went silent. Didn’t call me or pick up when I called her. Said she wanted to separate which turned into a divorce. To this day she ignores me when I only talk business with her as far as small details that need to be squared away for all the things we accumulated together over the years. Left me with a mortgage, bills, and everything in between to handle by myself. I know its another man but why ignore me like we I meant nothing to her? Three years later Im just starting to get over the pain. Made no sense to just disappear with no explanation.

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Kris

I became silent and numb. My ex always gives me the silent treatment. My heart becomes numb and his abusiveness with my money and silent treatment. After 17 years I left him with 3 kids and everything I know. I m glad, did it! That’s why I m alive today. That made me a happier and healthier mum. I still pay child support and help the boys whenever I can. Silence are the killer of the relationship.

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Rich

Long story short, my wife of 6 years together 9 of those years divorced me because of a break down in communication. She got hired to work overseas which at the time we needed I
the money. The distance destroyed my marriage we argued about nothing which now looking back she resented me for having to be the bread winner. Yes I worked and still do. Have a great job but was laid off before she was hired. Any way, She soon started ignoring me, not helping me with bills, and became very distant. Said she wanted a separation that lead to a divorce. To this day she ignores me when talking business when it comes to small details of splitting our assets up. Makes no sense…. Before she left our relationship was better than ok. Once I was laid off and she left to go work things changed. Thought we were in this together….a few arguments? Was blind sided hard. I even stepped up and paid all the bills sacrificed not eating to do so just to receive the silent no contact treatment because she felt she was in a place of control and power. That shut hurts. I’m a very good man….she was a good wife. Didn’t realize once the down sides of marriage hit she would act like this.

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Silvia

Rich, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know how that hurts cause I’m going through the same.

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Neicey

My guy friend shutdown on me and won’t return my texts or calls.I didnt get no closure.I have other guy friends.I think thats why.He went from nice too mean.Also sending me mixed signals.I miss him so much.I know i need to let go but sumn inside of me needs closure.Is he hurt or he just doesnt care no more.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Neicey you are allowed to have other friends. If there was a problem, it was up to him to talk to you about this so you could reassure him or hear what he needed from you. In any relationship we will do things that hurt the people we love, but the difference with healthy relationships is the way these are worked through. I can hear how much you miss him, but you deserve clarity and the opportunity to put things right if you have done something to upset him. The way he has shut you down without explanation is hurtful and not the way to be in a healthy, nurturing, loving relationship. Keep moving forward.

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Sheri

The silent treatment is a form of AVOIDANT ABUSE. You can read more on it on google search or even facebook. Hope it helps because the ino helped me tremendously.

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Kelly

I think he is hurt. I don’t think that extreme of an action would indicate “Not caring”

It would be a heck of a lot easier if he didn’t care to answer you in trite words or messages. Something is up.

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Elaine

Our son who is a lovely lad, he’s thoughtful, careing, & loving boy, he met this girl in 2012, she has 2 children from 2 different partners, she has alialanated the grandparents of these children, & has done the same to us, she’s controlling & because our son has got to know & love these children he won’t turn his back on them, which we understand, but our son had such a great relationship with his dad it was untrue, he idolised his dad.
We have tried every way possible to keep in touch with him for over 2 years now, but it’s finally come to a stop, we-understand he’s got his own life & as he’s in the forces were very proud of him. But what we carnt understand is why the no contact, they have a son now which was born in Dec. & he didn’t even tell us. He’s also cut himself off from his best friend of 15 years & they went everywhere together. She reads all his text & emails. We just don’t know where to turn. If she carnt have her own way she stops all contact, even her own family & mother. But she says she’s sorry even if she’s got nothing to say sorry about. His dad has been down to see him twice, & he hugged his dad & told him he loved him, but she wasn’t there at the time, he lives in Norfolk we live in Manchester, if they come to Manchester he doesn’t even call. We just don’t know, we met Michelle & her children after they had been going out for a while & we grew to love those children. We did everything for them, & they loved us to. Could you please give us some advice

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

I so wish I could give you some answers. The capacity of toxic people to manipulate and control is vast. It sounds as though you are doing everything you can, but it is your son’s growth now and his lessons to learn. Keep loving him and keep the door open to him.

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Katie

This is so sad. I feel for you. Your son sounds like a victim of abuse, so google words to say to a victim of abuse, etc. Abusers brainwash their victims over time, so their judgement is warped. Basically, your son needs to feel empowered and that he has your unconditional love and support if he ever needs you, you are there for him. You can’t say anything against Michelle, just try to be in his life as much as possible.

Keep a memo of record of any abuse, in the event he leaves, as it could help with his custody of his child.,

So whatever you say or do has to let him feel like he is empowered, so you can’t tell him what to do. If he expresses sadness, or anything like that, do encourage him to seek counseling for it (don’t tell him he is being abused, unless he says it himself. You don’t want to make him feel defensive of Michelle.

The best thing you can do is continue to reach out, and not take it personally if he doesn’t respond. Try FaceTime (almost like being there) with him at times he is likely not with Michelle, and just be a positive source of comfort, there to uplift, so that if and when he is ready to leave, he will know he can turn to you.

It sounds like he had such a loving upbringing, so that gives hope for the future.

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Michael

Great article on the “Silent Treatment”…it is hurtful, and I have been guilty of it myself…but there is another thought to why some may fall into the silent treatment. Survivors of abuse can shut down as a protective mode, so the silent treatment is a ‘defense’. And yes, new ways of coping are needed when in disputes with others, but when one is unaware of why they are shutting down, it is hard to change the pattern. For myself, learning how trauma and abuse impacted my life, helps me to not default to silence with others…still a work in progress. Progress, not perfection…

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Katie

Good for you, Michael, that you recognize and are working on it, and that way you refuse to pay the emotional abuse forward. That takes great courage.

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Sarah

My 13-year-old daughter hasn’t talked to me for a year. Her teachers say she’s like that in class too. Is this ‘the silent treatment’ or ‘select mutism’ or something else?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Sarah it’s impossible to say without a proper assessment. If you are worried, or if her teachers are worried, it would be worth getting an assessment from a doctor or a psychologist. When you have a better handle on what’s going on, it will be easier to give your daughter the support she needs.

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panda

My sister ignored me for years. She deliberately decided to never discuss anything about me , not invir=te me to family get-togethers, etc. All conversation was determined by her. She would not give me her phone # for years. If I needed to contact her, I had to go thru 2 other people who then would decide if my request to speak with her was necessary.If together in public, she deliberately would humiliate me in front of others. Our parents and relatives are now gone, so I no longer have to try to assuage her anger. I completely ignore her. She is very hurt. But I cannot erase 40 years of abuse .

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Diana

Hi I have been married for 13 years my husband and I have two kids. My husband uses the silent treatment on me when ever he gets really mad at me. My husband recently reunited my sister. It felt awesome, so I wanted to return the favor and reunite him and his dad they had had an argument 2 weeks ago and had not spoken . The fight was over something dumb. My father I. Law is ill and almost 70 and my husband loves him very much. So I figured I would try to talk to my father I law which I did to help the situation. My husband got furious with me and is now giving me the silent treatment I. Front of our kids. He will talk and act like nothing is wrong with them by will not answer look or speak to me? What do I do?

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Kim

I’ve been dating a great guy for several months. He has some issues that are deal breakers for me, so I decided we need a short break so he could work on them…..he agreed. Problem is, I feel like I’m being manipulated so he can get his way. Example: he asked for assistance with something (which I was willing to help with) but when I didn’t invite him over to do that, I get the silent treatment. I’m not a mind reader!! I feel like he is using these tactics to get me to do what he wants, which is see him during this break. How do I not play into this game? So far I’ve held firm and pretended I didn’t even notice his silence or short responses.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

You are so right – you’re not a mind reader, but neither is your partner. If you are feeling manipulated by the things he is doing, it’s important to talk to him and let him know so that he can have the opportunity to change it. Describe the exact behaviour you would like to be different, perhaps by telling him that you find the way he ignores you confusng. Also let him know that you’re open to what he wants, but he needs to let you know. Communication is so important.

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Terry

My wife of 7 years has told me she wants a divorce. We have withdrawn from one another and sleep in different rooms. She has refused to acknowledge me on social media and tells me she is to busy to like or comment on posts she is tagged in yet she will like and comment on other people’s posts. She claims she is widling to work things out with me, but it feels like otherwise. What should I do? And why won’t she just tell me outright?

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Louisa

My boyfriend and I were red hot with chemistry and we were literally inseparable. He told me everything and said how lucky he was and he was the luckiest guy on the planet… we went on holiday together and on the last two days (completely out of the blue) he refused to look me in the face, ignored me, insulted my intelligence in front of others and made me look like an idiot and was generally very unpleasant and negative. He avoided me and wouldn’t come within a metre of me. It was like I wasn’t there, like I had to question my own existence. When we got home he desperately got me out of his house and that was it. I’ve texted him asking what was wrong and why he was doing this – no reply. After 2 weeks of being blatantly ignored I went to his house unannounced because he refused to answer me and got my stuff back. He said he needed to focus on work because he was too stressed and couldn’t give me what I needed blah blah blah.. all very complimentary (without me digging) but said in a backwards complimentary way… example “you’re kind, amazing, beautiful, sexy, compassionate, I hope you can fit your head out the door on the way out!” erm wtf? Anyway it’s been a month and I never heard from him again. Very weird… very very weird. I literally have no idea what happened and I’ve thought of everything I could have done to piss him off but tbh I don’t think I did anything to warrant this! Odd.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Very odd! And thoughtless on his part. Even if you did do something wrong, at the very least you dese bed an explanation. Try not to take it personally. I know that may be hard, but it sounds as though there are some confusing things that may have happened that aren’t about you the r your relationship. I hope one day you get some answers, or reach the point where the lack of answers stops hurting so much.

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Why?

This reeks of a psychopath. No normal person builds someone up then totally tears them down for shits and giggles and be considered normal. My heart goes out to you and I know the question of “why?” haunts you daily. Surround yourself with people who love you and use their love to find strength in knowing it very likely has little to do with you or your worth as a human being. You are the blatant victim of cruel abuse or you could be dealing with someone who is bipolar. If he didn’t intentionally plot and plan all of that, then you’re still dealing with someone who can be potentially dangerous as such drastic, violent mood swings and changes in opinion and treatment are definitely red flags of someone disturbingly unstable. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I know you can overcome and know that the only approval you need comes from within and his is worthless.

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Chaos

I come here, and read aricles from time to time just to remind myself that i’m not crazy, i’m not imagining things and that the pain is real.. I met a guy, charming and nice but then he started to try controling me, and i didn’t like it, i kept telling him he didn’t need to control everything but he wouldn’t stop.. He used to ignore me for days..then weeks..and the last time i refused what he wanted he told me he’s going “to ignore ma again” .. !! And that he would hurt me if it’s the only way.. At first I thought i can get over it..have been months now.. the pain increases..all I want is that he talks to me.. I feel so guilty and frustrated for not being able to get over it.. it’s torturing me, everyday.. I don’t eat nor sleep properly anymore.. I can hardly work
I just don’t know what to do, sometimes I just want to do whatever he wants so he just stop doing it, I’m having suicidal thoughts recently
I think the worst part is that no one understands, my best friend tells me to ignore him and get over it, i don’t wanna talk about it to anyone, i know the type of answers i’m gonna get..people don’t seem to understand, “Just get over it” ..

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Why?

You comment spoke to me. You sound just like me and I thought I was the only one who felt this way. My case involves a friendship between two gay men but the details are very much in line with yours and I feel I could relate. I only wanted a friendship but he wanted more even though he has a partner. He tried to control me too and if I defied him I’d suddenly find myself feeling alone and confused. It took several instances of this before I realized this is a punishment for something he is never upfront about but I can usually figure out. The reason I find myself so attached is because we share a bond through trust. I entrusted him with details about my vulnerabilities thinking he’d never use them to his advantage. He is currently using them to his advantage and I never knew how devastating that could be. I don’t think I can ever trust anyone ever again.

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Alex

Dear Chaos,
You are not crazy! Please research narcissistic abuse / narcissistic personality disorder.

Love bombing / silent treatment / devalue and discard / gaslighting are all narcissistic manipulations used by someone with NPD to make you doubt yourself, to completely destroy your feeling of self worth and make you depended on the narcissist to the degree that even do things that are very damaging to yourself. It sounds like that that has happened to you. It is possible to recovered from this sort of abuse but you need to recognize it and and learn about how to protect yourself. I hope this can put you on the right track.

I wish you all the best, take good care of yourself!

Alex

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Lesa G

I’ve been married for 2 years. My husband uses the silent treatment when he feels like he’s not being heard. The first few times he did this, I was a complete wreck. Withdrawn, crying all the time, not eating…it hurt the worst the first few times. No…, when I got pregnant is when it was the worst. He didn’t want kids but was unwilling to accept his part in my getting pregnant. He told a friend that “if she really loved me, she would’ve told me ‘no’ when I asked to not use a condom that night.” I honestly think that God was trying to give me the heads up because my husband butt dialed me accidentally when talking to his friend.
I got so low at one point that I had to start seeing a therapist. She tried to get me to see what he was doing, but I couldn’t. I remember I would always counter her points by saying things like “well if I hadn’t” and “No, I could’ve done ___ and it wouldn’t have happened.”
Then I stopped caring. I read a book on controlling people and I finally had someone say all of the things that I couldn’t articulate about dealing with him as a person. It was liberating. And for once in our marriage, I felt like we were on equal footing.
Then I had the baby. And stupidly stopped working to stay home to care for him. And we slipped back into the same pattern. He’s gotten so solid in his thinking that the silemt treatment is necessary that he told MY sister “the only time she listens or changes is when I’m mean to her.” Up until recently I thoight I could continue to take his abusive ways, honestly telling myself that eventually it would get better. But it hasn’t. And after an argument over something stupid last week, he hasn’t spoken to me. After the fourth day I said I wanted a divorce. In a freaking text message since I couldnt speak to him. And 30 minutes later, he said he was thinking the same thing. But then I talked with a friend who suggested marriage counseling. I told her that he had rejected the idea every time I mentioned it. But she asked that I ask just one more time. And to my surprise he agreed. We haven’t had our first session yet, but everyone is telling me it’s a good sign he said yes. But everything I’m reading has me prepared to accept the worst case scenario. That someone with this personality is VERY unlikely to change their behavior. And that makes me very, very sad.

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Sabrina

This is a great article, but it leaves me wondering what do you do if a partner is ignoring you? It’s impossible to teach them how much it hurts, so what are some options? As much as I want to help the relationship, I really am at a loss of ideas.

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Lauren

I feel the same way Sabrina, my partner does it to me quite alot, to the point where anything that I say that he doesn’t agree with will leave him giving me the silent treatment. It goes on for days and days until I finally contact him again, its breaking me down and I dont know what to do anymore. Sometimes I wonder if he would ever talk to me again if i didn’t contact him. Very hurtful.

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Jane

Mine does this too.. 8 years and 3 kids later. He still does it.. he first started this just 2 weeks into our relationship where he ignored me.. for 2 weeks! It was over something easily resolvable. Over the years the amount of time he ignores me for has gotten less and less.. now, he’ll do it for the day.. it drives me insane and I usually end up screaming at him. He just goes to bed and lays there… I tall to him and he just stares straight through me. Its emotional torture. I can’t handle it. Growing up my mom used to do this to me. He’s started doing it to our kids too and they’ve started doing it to me..
He just acts as though I dont exist.. Sometimes I feel he’d be happier if I didnt. Its abuse and its most silent form.

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Lauren

My boyfriend of two years does this to me all the time. We will have an argument (which is usually about his level of commitment or if he hasn’t contacted me on a night out – can I just add this is an agreement with have with each other that applies for both of us when we go out, which I always stick too!) and then he will not talk to me for days, weeks even (we don’t live together) until I contact him and beg him to talk to me again. I feel crushed most of the time. Its so hard. Sometimes I feel like I need to just walk away for good but I love him.

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Why?

I am going mad. I can’t take it anymore. I want to survive but I’m in a very dark place right now. I am feeling new pains, new emotions, and having new fears and uncertainties. I am going back and forth and up and down, going crazy because I don’t know what’s going on or why I am being given this incredibly harsh silent treatment. I am incredibly unfortunate to be on the receiving end of this mental torture by the person who helped me through a previous instance of this very abuse. They have intimate, privileged knowledge of what makes me tick and they know full well I am so afraid of experiencing that again, I am on constant alert and always trying to avoid it as much as possible. And he promised and swore with tears in his eyes that he’d never ever do this to me. He’s doing it and implementing every dirty trick that exploits everything I entrusted him with. On top of the already devastating pain of the treatment itself, there is blinding rage due to that question haunting me…”why? How could he do this to me after helping me through this very torture and agreeing it was uncalled for and completely unnecessary?” I am obsessed with this. I can’t seem to let go. Everybody tells me to simply stop pleading and to get on with my life but I cannot get over the big question marks everywhere and the toxic feeling of complete shock that someone I trusted so much finds it incredibly easy, probably even enjoyable, to watch me suffer like this. How can people be so evil? I feel like my stomach is eating itself from within and I feel so full of despair, I feel like I’m dead but the pain’s intensity is what’s keeping my vitals running and running and running.

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Shasta

My sister is my only employee in a residential cleaning business. Worst decision I ever made, 15 years ago!! She has always shut down which I thought was due to her just being an unhappy, depressed, miserable person. While that is true, it’s driving me CRAZY!!!
We work together 5 days week/5 hours a day and what used to be a day or 2 of complete silence, has now become 4 or 5 and if and when she decides to talk, it won’t be until 10 minutes prior to the end of the day or week.
I already know she hates me (should’ve offered her more than 50% of the earnings) and that she’s a narcissist BUT~
My question is this~When SHE decides it’s time to talk, do I reply? Make it known that I am nothing like her? Or try my hardest to NOT reply? To treat her as she treats me?
PLEASE HELP!!

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Karen Young

I’m not surprised this is driving you crazy! When deciding how to respond, pay attention to your intentions. If you were to ignore her, what would be your intention? To ‘get back at her’ or to punish her, or to protect yourself. Let this guide your response.

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NBD

I have complex ptsd from years of abuse and abandonment into the foster care system. I met this man, he helped me pick myself up, I trusted him, I opened up to him, he was the first person I have opened to, he was the first and only person to ever love me and now he’s killing me. He keeps giving me the silent treatment, volunteering to do things i don’t even ask for but he doesn’t do them, he say he’ll call but he doesn’t call and when i ask why he ignores me for days sometimes weeks and then he comes back like nothing happened. It was my birthday 2 weeks ago he didn’t wish me happy birthday, i sent him a note saying I had hoped to hear from him, he ignored me, for days he ignored me. Then he finally contacts me to tell me he angry with my incessant emails. I told him I can’t handle being ignored or the silent treatment, i told him it is triggering me, he ignored me. I have become so depressed i can’t even go to therapy because i cant function, i can’t sleep or eat, i’m dissociating because i cant handle the pain. he knows this. I finally sent him an email and said i cant deal with this, i said goodbye, he responded, he say he’d call today but he didn’t. i was finally let go and he does it again and i don’t know what to do, he;s killing me please help me

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Karen Young

Is this the type of relationship you want? This man has shown you who he is, and no amount of chasing or wishing he was different is going to make him that way. You say you don’t know what to do, but there are two choices – to stay or to go. Is this the relationship you want? If this is how you want to be treated, stay, but accept that this is the way it is, because he clearly has no interest in changing. If you want more (and you absolutely deserve more!), than let go. He’s not going to change, but you can.

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Sempiternal

I’m a bit confused whether I’m also then engaging in some form of avoidant abuse. I will talk about one particular case where I decided ignoring was the best and most diplomatic solution. I made this friend last year who is generally a very laid back, tolerant and generous person and at the start of our friendship I detected his tendencies to get clingy but it was something that didn’t seem like an issue back then as we would mostly hangout in a group of mutual acquaintances (later, I came to learn that it’s best to associate with clingy people in groups). However, with time we became closer as we also started talking more online and it would get a bit tiresome because he would never stop chatting. He could chat for over eight hours a day without losing his sanity.This got a lot worse as we became closer friends.

I’m quite antisocial as noted by others but I’d say I’m more of a quiet and private person who doesn’t like hanging out with people much unless I’m very comfortable with them and they have some sense of space. My interactions with my friend got more one-on-one after a few months so clinginess just magnified. This friend of mine is aware of all that but he keeps following all my activity online, the moment I’m a bit amiable and open he keeps messaging about things he can just google up or ask someone else (most of them were conversation-starters I realized later) and he keeps doing whatever the hell I’m doing all the time. In university, when I was still friendly with him, he found it alright to follow me around when he thought I didn’t notice, in the classroom he’d always keep tabs on me- who am I talking to, where I go off wandering after all class without him, where I’m looking, what I’m drinking, who am I being friendly to, what I am looking on my phone, if I’m messaging someone ( he would always sit next to me, so he would read my messages and keep me in his line of vision 24/7) and I couldn’t breathe from how weird, possessive and watchful he was in the classroom. When I was with him, I felt like I was constantly monitored and he was always mirroring my normal actions (eg drinking water or the way I was sitting). I literally couldn’t stand or sit anywhere without bumping into him. In his presence, whatever I’m doing seems to automatically become his business too and these are some examples of his behavior around me. I’ve on many occasions conveyed to him through my actions that I dislike being tailed and I prefer being alone but the moment i’m just a bit friendly or I respond to him it’s all back to almost square one.

I would say he’s still a very nice and open-minded individual but I can’t stand his intrusiveness and his lack of sense of boundaries. I don’t want to completely find him detestable so after a whole semester of dealing with that kind of behavior this year I’ve decided to call stop responding/talking to him as drawing a distance didn’t work with him before. He still keeps messaging and all but I’m hoping he will stop someday. He’s quite blockheaded but he did pick up that I was very irritated and angry somewhere along the way but it didn’t really stop him from getting in my way/being intrusive either.

After reading this article, I’m wondering if my measures are wrong? All my life, particularly in my family, my sibling and probably also my closest friend had always frequently ignored and verbally abused me whenever we disagreed on sth and she wanted to ‘change’ me or control my actions often through silent treatment. I think as I’ve grown older I’ve come to deal with people who seem toxic or are generally pieces of shit to me by forever cutting off all contacts with them. I’m not pinning it on her but from some of our exchanges I feel like it’s the best way of dealing without drama. Some have reached out a few times but I ignored it all in order to stick to my decisions. Is my way of dealing with said people wrong?

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Karen Young

There is nothing wrong with wanting to pull away from a relationship, but the other person deserves an explanation, or a ‘heads up’ that you would like to take some space. It’s confusing a cruel to just pull away from someone without letting them know. Most people will tend to spend a while wondering what they did wrong, which can feel painful and confusing. Just cutting someone off can feel as though it’s avoiding drama for you, but if the other person has genuinely acted towards you from generous intent, it will feel painful for them. Have a conversation with your friend and just point out that it’s important for you to feel as though you have your space. Let her know this isn’t personal, but it’s something that’s important for all of your relationships.

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Karen Young

There is nothing wrong with wanting to pull away from a relationship, but the other person deserves an explanation, or a ‘heads up’ that you would like to take some space. It’s confusing a cruel to just pull away from someone without letting them know. Most people will tend to spend a while wondering what they did wrong, which can feel painful and confusing. Just cutting someone off can feel as though it’s avoiding drama for you, but if the other person has geniunely acted towards you from generous intent, it will feel painful for them. Have a conversation with your friend and just point out that it’s important for you to feel as though you have your space. Let her know this isn’t personal, but it’s something that’s important for all of your relationships.

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Farmgal

Me and my boyfriend met when we were 14. We never dated until we were 18 and have dated for two years now. The relationship has been really rocky and it is embarrassing to admit he has cheated with over 13 girls with sexual relationships (nude pics and stuff) and been emotionally abusive. But all of a sudden after i got him cheating again (girl 14) he just stopped talking to me, didn’t break up with me or whatever he just stopped communicating a week ago. I deleted his contacts and pictures but i really don’t know how to feel.
-farmgal

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Poppygarden

My boyfriend of 3 years is currently ignoring me . This is day 3 of my “time out” as he put it. This seemed to be caused by a conversation about my lack of interest in sex lately. I will admit I am less interested as I was in the early days but he takes rejection VERY badly and I feel like I can never say I’m not in the mood without him becoming upset and overreacting. In my opinion he is generally insecure and a little jealous and possessive. I think he has been hurt in the past but has never opened up about it. He will say things like “you’re the best thing that ever happened to me ” and ” you don’t love me anymore” all within the same evening. I feel an almost constant pressure to reassure him and I’m getting tired of it . I know he is ignoring me to try and shift the power balance because he feels powerless at the moment and wants me to feel the same way. I’m very hurt by his behaviour and I know he loves me but can’t understand why he wants to damage the relationship like this instead of work on it .
Any advice ? Should I move on ???

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KaraT

Hi ,

I know this post is not recent but I’m hoping that you might read my comment & have some advice for me 🙂 .

A little introduction : I am 32, living in the UK. I’ve been single for about 2 years now, and have only had medium-term difficult relationships which I knew would never really amount to anything positive & lasting. This is certainly due to the fact that I’ve lived through some very hard experience as a child involving men, and then also as a young adult. I’ve never really come across someone in who I can instinctively trust & see myself really committing to on every level (physical, mental, spiritual… levels). I know this is affecting my relationships & am working on it with a therapist.

After my last relationship I decided to try meeting new people through online apps. I met a few men, some just to chat, others I dated, but nothing serious. This was more of an exercise for me to learn about myself, overcome my shyness, & also have some casual fun, something I had never had during my twenties.
Last summer, I met a guy : we talked a few times & decided to see each other for casual sex. Neither one of us was expecting anything more for many reasons, the most important one being that we both live in different countries. We ended up seeing each other regularly throughout the summer : first times just for sex (which was incredibly good), and then, as time moved on, we’d go out for drinks, dinner etc. all the while talking often (every day, or 2/3 days). I ended up meeting his brother, his close friends, and noticed that when he was a little tipsy he’d introduce me as his girlfriend, and also say that he loved me… At the time I forced myself to not pay attention to this behavior as I also noticed that often, the next day he’d completely change attitude : never being rude or mean, but just distant. He also had mentioned with a lot of insistance that he LOVED being single, that he’d been very hurt in the past, that he loved his life as it was. I would answer to his distance by also placing space between us… and he’d always come back to talk and meet.
At the end of the summer he left, without clearly saying goodbye in person, but still staying in touch. At this point I told myself that this story was great but it was now over. I really saw it as a summer fling, and did not plan to keep in touch.
Once he left back to North America, he went quiet for a few days and then popped back up. First with just random funny jokes, or pics, and then much more frequently with a clear interest in how I was doing, and also sharing his routine & life. Time moved on like this & it felt natural, good, to talk to this person…
In November he suddenly disappeared for 10 days. I did not chase as I had felt that he was being distant, also I had previously shared some random thoughts (trivial topics), to which he had not reacted. He suddenly ressurvaced with a random text along the lines of « hey, you forgot about me… ». At the time, I figured that because I was authentically happy to hear from him I would just answer lightly, which I did. And from then on, he’d talk to me every day. Be it by texts, calls, video calls… every day he’d just talk about all sorts of things : sharing his daily life, pics of his trips, recipes, jokes… calling me when he was with friends to whom he had talked about me, telling me that he’d really like me to come visit, that he missed me, loved me… (this last one only when tipsy).
At this point I was falling… and falling hard. There I was, having this great connection with this guy half way across the world : a connection I didn’t even have with my past partner with whom I had actually lived for 7 years…. This was brand new for me. He opened up about his personal life, his doubts, his want for more in life than what he currently has as a single guy approaching the age of 40… maybe settling down and trying to trust someone enough again to start building something new. I also opened up a bit more about my personal life, my anxiety & the fact that I have a lot to work on (he was really supportive about me choosing to go see a therapist…). For the last 7 months he’s just been there : supportive, fun, easy, kind, inclusive.
So, a couple of weeks ago he told me he would be coming over for the summer. He seemed really happy to tell me this as he asked whether I missed him. I had answered something light but kind which implied that I did miss him and that I was truly happy to hear that he’d be coming back… that I couldn’t wait to see him. I do know that I am not an overly expressing woman when it comes to feelings, but I try to do my best without saying the actual « i love you’s… ». First off because it’s not part of my personality, secondly because I’m really trying to measure whether I really love someone before saying something that I potentially don’t mean, & lastly because he had been very clear that he wasn’t into the whole « love relationship » thing.
Since that, we still talked every day but he was a little more distant : he is very caught up with work (he actually asked me to help him with some advice on work in parallel, so I know that this is something that is big for him), I didn’t pressure him to keep up with the past communication « rituals » we had up until now. He told me he was looking forward to taking a short break from work for the week-end by going on a road trip on his own. He called me right before leaving, or on the road, but I missed his call. I answered when I could , light heartedly as usual. He answered light heartedly, so I kept up the exchange by sending some pics of what I was doing on my side of the planet & sharing some news I had… From then on, he read my messages but did not react. No communication during the whole week-end. I was at first very calm about it all : I know he’s a solitary guy & needs his space, & I’m truly happy when I know he’s having fun in the « real » world, & not just talking to me all day on his phone. But now it’s been 3 days, & when you’re used to talking to someone every day (even if sometimes we don’t say anything groundbreaking lol), it just feels like a/ an eternity, & b/ it kind of hurts… actually. It hurts, not just because I really miss interacting with him, but also because I feel like something is churning & I kind of feel angry at myself for letting my guard down.
I don’t really know what to make of it all : does he just need his space? does he want to see whether I chase or show more affection? is he anxious of us seing each other soon & after 1 year of no physical contact (he might think I have high expectations)? I have a hard time thinking that the latter is possible : maybe because I have insecurities, or because he’s just made it so clear that he is a « manly man ! »… For now I’ve decided not to reach out… but I don’t know whether this is the right approach for this situation. I know that you don’t have all the details (although this is a long post lol, I am trying to keep it has concise as possible), but a little advice, a man’s POV would be great. I know that if we’re not meant to be that’s Life… but I really want to be able to say that I’ve tried everything in the best way possible, so as to have no regrets about f***ing things up. He’s become someone special to me, despite my efforts to stay clear & distant, & I have something inside me says that I should not let him pass by…

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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