Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment

393,196 views

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.

You Might Also Like
Fighting Fair in A Relationship: How to Get What You Need and Stay Close While You Do It

Like this article?

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly round up of our best articles

268 Comments

Tina

Please help me. My best friend/ husband/lover of almost 17 years. Just shut down and shut me out. He has never done this. We never fought. We laughed, loved and were still very intimate. He just moved out to ” do his thing, make himself happy’ cause of my negativity over the years ( not to him or at him, but my over all self and life). He has even closed his facebook ( which he was one very Often). Are we doomed? What should I be doing. Most say leave him alone and fix you? Im trying but i love him so much. we told eachother that daily for over 16 years.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though there is such a lack of information about what’s going on here. It will be difficult to know what to do until you know what you’re dealing with – what he wants, what’s driven this, what he wants from you. If he is unwilling to give you that information and work on the relationship, this is a clear message for you. I’m sorry you’re going through this – it’s sounds so painful and confusing for you.

Reply
Lover man

Hello , I had a great friendship with a girl who works with me since one year our friendship is strong but day after day I liked her and loved her, before 3 months l noticed that she is replying my texts lately so I asked her if she doesn’t like me because And told her that l can leave this job and get another if she is doesn’t like me , her answer was 🙁 No ,that’s not true , l don’t have any negative feelings for you. I’m just busy with my work and studying and caring about my family) .
Note : Our friendship after work is secretly because our company’s rules are not allowing the employees to contact each other after work .
After that some people started to make rumors about me and her that we are in love which makes her avoid me at the workplace to stop them. That’s made me sad and I told her that I love her and I wish to get married to her. She replied:( I m sorry I’m not thinking about marriage theses days, but you will still my best friend ) .
I felt so sad and broken. After one week she said ( lm in a relationship ) .dont send me anymore ! .
I shocked and said: Ok I won’t send you or call you you won’t see me again , l deleted your number you are always ignoring me and you don’t care to my feelings.
She said ok thanks!
I stopped contacting her for 10 days then I felt weak l could not continue and I sent her an apology message.
She answered me quickly thanking me for my nice words and said I appreciate your nice words. I felt she was waiting me to write her and she was regretting for cutting our friendship suddenly without any reason. Before one week she told my best male friend indirectly that she is not in any relationship and she is single and my friend told me that directly. But now she is not respond to my messages fir that l discided to stop texting her, last message was 8 days ago, to give her a space and to protect myself from hurt when I don’t reserve answer. I can’t understand her! Why she changed and stopped, is my offer to marry her was wrong? I love her so much.
I feel regret because I told her about my feelings because she stopped talking to me .
What shall I do please?

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though your friend has been very clear – she is not thinking about marriage. If she is not responding to your text messages and has said that she does not want a relationship, give her the space she has asked for. I understand this is hurtful, but so is chasing someone who does not want a relationship. There will be someone out there who will be ready and willing to return your love, but perhaps this is not the one.

Reply
Lover man

Thank you so much.
But what is the best way to treat her especially she is working with me I’m seeing her everyday I can’t handle it when she makes herself don’t know me.shall I ignore her ?
I stopped contact her since 9 days hoping her to contact me. I wish I could have another job to forget her . When she stopped even saying good morning to me i feel bad Why all that? Because I told her that I love her? I wish if she kept the friendship at least. Her treatment makes me upset makes me feel guilty! And regret . I m giving her a space.
I know that she is honest she is studying and caring for her family and she wants to stop the rumors about our friendship at the work sorry I m giving myself a hope.
I’m not young lm 38 years old .and I had had an old story with a girl that she refused my love 10 years ago witch makes me feel so bad please any advice any help Thank you so much again.

Reply
Kim

Try 20+ YEARS of it. It’s a wonder I haven’t killed someone or myself
By now.
Doesn’t mean I’m not a hair away though bc I REALLY AM ABOUT TO DO SMTHNG DRASTIC

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Kim I completely understand why you would be so frustrated after 20+ years! It’s a lonely, frustrating, confusing thing for a relationship to go through for so long. If you do something drastic, let it be walking away, or hauling your partner into relationship therapy, if you can.

Reply
Marie

I’m in a similar situation iv known my now ex husband for 14 years we started of as good friends then became more after being friends for the 4 years we were like best friends by then we got married quite quick after we got together I divorced him because of stupid reasons which I regret deeply but after being together 10 year I ended up with cancer our communication broke down he left me the end of May this year for someone else we have a daughter who he brought up with me she is now 12 I believe he is my sole mate since he left we have been intimate many times he tells me he loves and misses me but I don’t understand him as he won’t leave this other person till he has his own place were I still live this was our home but we did argue a lot more to do with his family trying to break us up I do get he needs his own space as he has always been that way I knew him before we got together so I knew what I was getting into I know his flaws and I accept him that way we are still best friends and he can talk to me know sometimes space is good to appreciate what u had or have don’t get me wrong it’s bloody hard but I just get on with it xx

Reply
Julio Jr. Arredondo

I don’t how to stop shutting my boyfriend out, I stop talking to him and avoid eye contact. It reminds me of when I was little and used to get in trouble with my dad. Please help thanks (:

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Julio if there is something leftover from your childhood that is making it difficult to connect with your partner, a counsellor may be really helpful for you. They will be able to explore with you the memories or feelings that come to you when you make eye contact, which will help to stop them getting in the way of your relationships.

Reply
Tammie

Hi, I have been “dating” this man for over five years. He has a very disabled son, who is vent dependent, has a g-tube, in a wheelchair and needs 24 hour care. The reason why I am writing is because he “disappears” on me. I will text him, call him, email him and there is no response. This lasted for the whole month of February 2015. He never really has a good explanation, but states that he gets overwhelmed by his son’s care and he shuts down. He has told me that he hides because he doesn’t know how to respond to me when I ask him why is he doing this? It also seems like whenever something happens in my life, he disappears and provides no emotional support, for example December 2015, my dog needed to be euthanized. He knew this and I didn’t hear from him for days. My birthday was two weeks ago…..I had to CALL HIM and then we got into an argument. I haven’t seen him since before my birthday and he is rarely available to talk to me. He always says to me that he wants a relationship with me and he wants a future together, but if this is true, why the blatant ignoring of me? He often blames the lack of communication on his phone, stating that he lost it, it broke, fell in water, battery died, etc. I leave to go on vacation tomorrow for a week and I don’t think I am going to hear from him. I don’t understand how he can tell me he loves me and wants a future with me and then can completely shut me out of every part of his life. He has stated that we always do better when we talk things through and see each other regularly, but then he does this kind of stuff.

Please help me….I am getting desperately sad about this.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Tammie he is saying one thing and doing another. Believe his actions more than his words. A relationship where one person ‘disappears’ for days at a time is unsustainable and very one sided. It’s understandably hurtful and confusing for you when you are being told that you are loved, but when his actions tell a different story. I understand his circumstances are stressful, but it is unreasonable to expect you to carry this relationship on your own, and to have your very important and very valid needs overlooked.

Decide what you need – that’s setting your boundaries. What’s needed is a really clear conversation about what this actually looks like – daily contact, no extended periods where you can’t get in touch with him for example. You will have plenty more of your own. Decide on a few key ones for you and let your partner know how important they are to you. Hopefully he will be able to respond in a positive way and change his behaviour in a way that is more nurturing for your relationship. If he isn’t prepared to do what he needs to do to keep the relationship safe, secure and nurturing, it is for you to decide the direction you want to move in. If he shows you he is unable to change, the decision for you then is to decide whether you can surrender your needs (and I would wonder about the impact on anyone of surrendering important needs) or whether it is best for you to leave. I know this is a hard decision, but it’s an important one. I can hear how open hearted you are with the way you love him, but it’s important to bring your head in as well. I wish you all the best.

Reply
Dee

My boyfriend of 4 yrs sends me text saying he wants to be free and it has been a week since i been able to reach him. He won’t return my phone calls or text messages! We have a 3 yr old son together…HELP

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Dee I’m sorry you are going through this. It’s a painful and confusing thing to go thgouh I wish I was able to bring your boyfriend back to me, but that is in his hands. I understand you have a child together, but it sounds as though he has been clear about his commitment to the relationship. You deserve more than he is offering. At the moment, things are cloudy and confusing, and it’s very understandable that you just want him back, but really think about whether or not this is the sort of relationship that you can be happy in, that is good for you and your son.

Reply
Sunnale

Hi So My Situ is a little different because Im not Married, the lady and I arent technically dating but whats going on with us is bothering me so bad. So Last year I started talking to this Woman with the intent of being just Friends with benefits. It was something we had both agreed upon. She had just recently got out of a 4.5yr realationship and just needed a close intimate friend I needed the same cause I was going through some things myself. We Didnt know that The chemistry and energy between us would be so strong, which made us both go “Whoa” we cant do this right now.. So we pretty much spent the last year trying to build a solid foundation so that if in the future we decided to go forward with something we would have something solid.. Well here is the issue I was under the impression that she was just dealing with the break up not still in contact with her ex. Whom she says she is Still in love with.. She then goes to being celibate, and now just wants a friendship ” nothing more” claiming she is just focusing on herself but ironically moved 8 min away from the ex.. I suggested we cut ties because from day one its been intense however, Ive basically bared my soul to her and she pick and chooses when she will open up saying that she never had anyone she can have a back n forth dialogue with.. Says im one of the Best things that have happened but then Ignore my text, respond days later and then ignore me again.. Its so frustrating.

Reply
Sophie

He gave me this ultimatum during a very difficult time in our relationship. If I blocked him again, he would never talk to me again. I have blocked him maybe once or twice before this last time. He pushes my boundaries, and I block him in response. I blocked him out of anger and frustration. I told him it’s my way of calming down before I say or do something stupid, and I always get back to him within less than 8 hours, but this time he is done. I still believe he seems to just be angry with me. I can tell he has these expectations and standards, wants for a relationship, but when I ask he never told me what they were, he always wanted to tend to my needs instead. Now he is angry and refuses to talk to me. He stopped caring about me. He has this horrible perception of me that does not make sense to me even after a year now of being ignored. The problem is our relationship ended abruptly to me (maybe not to him, but I didn’t see it coming). I always thought we would always at least be friends or intimate partners. Instead, he just doesn’t care and he hates me completely it seems. He does not want me or need me in his life in any way whatsoever. All I want to do is keep trying to talk to him and work it out, which has made everything worse, of course. For some odd reason, I find it very difficult to enter another romantic relationship or take the relationship seriously if I do try. I can’t get attached very much anymore and I can’t feel as strongly anymore for another no matter how hard I try. I miss the happiness and hope I feel when I think I found someone I could possibly spend the rest of my life with. I think the experience has created an insecurity. The way our relationship ended and the way he went from caring to complete disregard for me has left me… I don’t know. Lost. I guess it does not help that being ignored and avoided as a way o end the relationship with me is somewhat common, but I guess for some reason he was the final blow. No matter what issues we had, I knew we would always overcome and work them out. It felt right to be with him; perfect. Now, he doesn’t respond to me at all. We’re nothing. I am sure he loved me and cared about me very much, but now I realize how easily it can stop. I wish he could kiss me on the top of my head and tell me he is sorry it didn’t work out between us, but that he wishes me the best in life. The fact that he doesn’t care at all or want me in his life in anyway, just took away all hope. I am not sure what hope it took away, but I feel like love is fickle. It is a joke that walks away without regard. It leaves me stranded, lost, confused, and left to recover on pure will alone.

Reply
nellie

He did tell you what he wanted. He set a boundary. He said if you ever blocked him again, he was through. He gave you several chances when you did it to him but you ignored it. You were warned.

Your defense is that it is your way of calming down. To him it is a rejection and cruelty. The first few times he was relieved he had you back but after getting slapped a few times, he could not take it.

If you told someone you were allergic to chocolate because it made you horribly sick and cry and then they made you eat it, how would you feel toward them. That is what you did to him. Another man might not be upset but that is the way he is.

I personally would break up with someone that did that. It is called the silent treatment. If you can’t control what you say to them and have to block them then you have to learn how to control your tongue. You have to learn how to use feeling sentences like “I feel frustrated now, I am sorting this out.” Or “wow I feel sad and bad, I want to fix this and the answer has not come to me yet.” You have to learn to keep talking feelings even if you feel upset. You have to learn to say those things in a calm, level way.

He wanted to stay connected and you cut him off.

So you have a choice, learn to just state your feelings in a calm, adult way or keep going the way you are, cutting off people when you are mad. Children do that and mother always loves them still, but you are a grown woman.

A grown woman who is capable of talking about her feelings. You see if you tell him I feel mad, sad, bad, hurt about this or that, you give him something to work on and many times they will come up with a solution. For instance if you go to a party and he leaves you alone you might say “I feel abandoned and hurt when you walk off immediately and start socializing.” And then be quiet and listen for his answer. If he is quiet for a long time then say “it makes me feel happy when you staty with me for 20 or 30 minutes, till I feel comfortable.” Then you be quiet. Wait for him to think about it. If you express a feeling about feeling bad, be prepared to say what makes you feel happy. He was concerned about your happiness but how could he make you happy when you cut him off. And when you really love someone, being cut off is agonizing, even if for 8 hours which is in reality a whole day to us.

Realize you are in a tennis game with him. You send a serve and see if he sends it back. He sends one back. But you walked off the court. You made him feel the way you do now. So what can you do now? Well you can date a man that does not care if you block him when you are upset and takes your silent treatment but you two are not going to be talking about what is important. Or determine in yor heart you are going to change so this never happens again and despite feeling upset you will keep the door open to someone you love.

Love does not end pretty. You are left alone without a goodbye, kiss hug or comfort. You have been left alone to recover on your own. IT IS ALWAYS THAT WAY. And do not fool yourself with the friends choice. Its just a way to hang around someone and pretend you are friend, when in reality you are still in love. A womans emotions do not flip in a second, from love to “just friends.” He might even sleep with you and you think you are back in love but in his head you are just friends. This is called a demotion. Men are very capable of doing this.

Either he will come back and give you one more chance and you can tell him you want to change your behavior or you can date another man that does not mind your behavior.

It has been a whole year, that is very, very strong message. Obviously he had strong feelings for you. I do not know if this is retrievable. In a short note you might want to say something like “I miss you, I loved the time I spent with you, it meant the world to me. I know now that I hurt you by blocking you. It was not right and I apologize from the bottom of my heart and I will never do that to you again. I will always keep the lines of communication open to you. I wish we could have another chance together.

If you attempt to communicate with him be prepared for no answer which will be your answer. Its very tough and painful but if you can look for what part you played in it and learn from it you can know in your heart you have a better chance of a man loving you forever.

Reply
teresa

Am mother of two children a, me and my children, father are not yet married cause he still in univesity he has be telling me to be patient he has never supported me with the children before recently when I give birth to our second born he did try to help but later said that the first born is not his son I was very angry that I stop talking to him, but late then I called him to help me with money to buy medicine which kept promising that one month and half is when he told me to go and take the children,s medicine I was real angry that I rceive to go cause the children were feeling well already …..i bought the medince myself cause he didn’t bring the at the time I need them, right now he has showed me another child whom he had with another lady…..am so confused because he has been promising me to be patient wil get married when he finish school but what about the other lady with his child? Am so angry and sa right he are not talking like we use to he has gone silent help me I dmt know what to should countining calling him and texting or keep silent until he comes back

Reply
Renee Malcolm

my boyfriend and i are from different backgrounds. He tends to say things that i think are rude when we are arguing, i keep on telling him to watch how he speaks to me. We were having a heated discussion yesterday about him always trying to get me off the phone, we kept on going back and forth until he cursed at me and told me i talked too *** much. I disconnected the call and haven’t answered his calls since, even after he called my housemate
s phone.

Reply
Joey

Hey! I’m relatively in touch with my emotions and like to analyze them to figure them out. My girlfriend and I are very happy together and I love her to death but when something happens that I’m unfavorable about, my immediate response is the silent treatment and I don’t like it. For example, she gave me a choice for option A (something I’d prefer not happen) and option B (something I’d prefer her choose), she asks me what I prefer and I tell her to pick what she wants and reassure her that it’s fine, but then my natural response is a lesser form of the silent treatment (speaking briefly and vaguely and not very often) and its not so much with intent to hurt her but more or less I just don’t care to communicate. I’ve done research on it to figure where the emotions lie and from what i understand it falls under Mad>Hurt>Distant. Why do I do this? Is it to feel in control? or do i get some subconscious satisfaction over knowing she wants to talk to me so I do it out over spite or vengeance? Anyways, I’d like to know how to fix it because shes very very awesome and I know she doesn’t deserve it. Anyways, like I said, I don’t get upset with her and I know I have no right to, but I just dont want to talk to her after an unfavorable choice of hers.

Reply
jojo

Wow, very interesting article.

I just got married 2 months ago and was engaged for a year. My husband now uses silent treatment for 3 days to 2 weeks. He walks at home like i am invisible to him. i made it clear in the past that if i prefer an honest confrontation rather than an awkward silent. I used to be a bad communicator myself but since i got married, i improved myself a lot.
last incident that got him in the silent circle again because i didn’t approve of buying our first car due to financial issues. he knows that both of us aren’t making good money and we have other priorities for now. He totally ignored me for 2 days now, although i am going through midterm exams and i really need to focus. this is the second time he does cause problems while i am having an exam. He knows how much earning a degree means to me and i refused to get married at first because i did not want a distraction in myself right now.
The house seems dark and boring when he gives me silent treatment although i tried approaching him. is there any way i could solve this problem without losing my dignity. i read a lot of articles and most of the authors say that i need to initiate the conversation. i did and it didn’t work and i won’t do it again.

Reply
Jen

I could not live like that. Perhaps you should separate if he will not stop or get some counseling with you. One of the two needs to happen. It sounds almost like he has trapped you with the whole marriage thing and now he is trying to control you. You need to focus on getting an education and taking care of yourself. Not some creep who tricked you into marrying him to control you. He will be back if you left him. I promise!

Reply
jojo

You are absolutely right, a week ago i asked him to leave the house if he is not willing to put efforts in communicating fairly. I told him that i tried every way possible to get him back to his sense and that it hurts me finding out after marriage that he is not a responsible husband although he claimed to be one during our engagement. He simply packed his stuff , returned his ring and left just to find out that he went celebrating work Xmas party in a club 24hrs later and i received a pic of him from a friend dancing with another woman. I was in total shock knowing that he didn’t leave because he needed space or to rethink about our marriage issues, instead he went clubbing. I texted him the pic and told him that now i realized that all of his immature behavior after just 2 months of marriage was a clear sign that he wasn’t ready for all of this and i just wish he didn’t insist on getting married. i Asked him to keep his distant because i am starting divorce process. Now i am planning to go for a vacation to restore my strength and patience, And i guess i will give him till the end of December, if i don’t hear from him, i will simply file for divorce. It cuts me deep inside, i wish i have answers, i wish i know the meaning behind this shift just 2 months after marriage. We planned our future together even the name of our future kids but i guess it’s time to stand up for myself and let go.

Reply
Dee

I met this guy we got closer he showed all the signs of liking me.Another guy liked me and I told him.He started bad mouthing the guy.Showing me major mixed signals.Then saying i cant talk right now.I text him nothing no reply going on 6 months.He just shutdown.I called him a gurl answer his phone.I think I hurt him really bad.I think he Loved me.Now im hurting.

Reply
dido

iam in a relationship with this girl who completely ignores me.we broke up weeks ago after she claimed I was cheating on her with her friend which was never true.I told her I will stop contacting all ladies if it would make things better which I did.she doesn’t pick my calls or return my texts lately.I confronted her and told her we should break up but she told me she loves me.
what should I do

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Nobody can tell you what to do – you are the only one who has the detail of your relationship and what it’s like to be in the relationship, and whether it’s worth staying or letting go. All the best with your decision.

Reply
jei

My bf of 3 years has the habit of ignoring me. I just don’t like it if he is not giving me time and we are on LDR now and i think communication is very important. I always try to explain it to him that communication is important and his response is always “i understand”. But then again he will always go back to his old ways. And ofcourse i always confront him and everytime his reason is always that he is very busy with work. He also has the habit of keeping me wait for his texts or call but he never gets back which is very annoying espcially that he knows i am waiting. For our 3 years of dating its been an always on and off relationship. In the past when he was giving me the cold treatment i would also go silent after being frustrated at initiating conversation with him, and he would text after many days of no communication. But everytime he is ignoring me i always feel and fear that he wants to leave me, and it is so devastating. I do not know what to do please help me. Since yesterday he has not been contacting me again after i confronted him about not giving me much time. Im so hurt. Why are men like that?

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Not all men are like this, and certainly there are some women who are like this. If this relationship is painful to be in, it is about the particular person or the combination of both of you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all men are like this. There are so many wonderfully generous, loving men out there.

Reply
nellie

I think he is stringing you along. He likes what he has but not enough to give you what you want. Look for a book called “how to stop being the string”.

He may not the one for you and does not think you are the one either. It would not be an off and on thing if it were, because he would be risking losing you.

Stop telling him how important communication is. Instead just tell him how not talking makes you feel. Say “I feel sad or I feel lost or I feel scared.” Then give him a chance to respond. Most men are overwhelmed by how much women talk. Think of it as a tennis game. You send the ball over the net and he has to send it back. Some guys are very slow players but pick up speed if you let them go at their own pace.

Reply
olderbudwiser

I’m certain some people don’t want anything to do with others because they’re toxic. However, when it comes to relationships (friends, lovers, etc.), it depends on the level of maturity. The silent treatment is hurtful but it also constitutes a level of forgiveness to the injured party. This is where maturity comes into play. Both parties injured must park their pride and put away pouting tantrums and learn to forgive. Otherwise it could lead to emotional unavailability and the loss of a trusted friendship.

Reply
May

My husband and I have been together for 3 years now. We do love eachother deeply which is why I am so hurt that I chose to use the silent treatment. He has disregarded my feelings multiple times by continuing to hide things from me and I have had many talks with him prior to this last instance. He claimed he would change and we tried again…many times. This was the last straw. It has been a week and I am feeling emotionally disconnected and finished with trying to save our relationship. He disgusts me everytime I look at him or think about him. Do you think the relationship is over? I do not want to put anymore energy into us. I feel numb to him. What do you think? Have you heard of this before? Do you think I am finished?

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

May I don’t think anybody but you and your husband can decide when your marriage is finished. One thing is for certain, the silent treatment will never bring people closer. Does he understand exactly what you need? Are there things he needs from you? What stops him from giving you what you need? What is he hiding? Why does he feel the need to do this? Is there something about the relationship that makes it feel unsafe for him to be open? I don’t know the answers to these, but they are the things that need discussing. It’s likely that you both have needs that aren’t being met. If he feels your disgust, it is going to be very difficult, I expect, for him to give you what you need. Have you considered counselling? Sometimes it takes a third party to help to bring out in the open in a way that can be heard, the issues that each person in the relationship is struggling with.

Reply
May

Thank you. I think counseling is the only other option before giving up. We will look into this. I appreciate you’re response and opinion.

Reply
Evie

My boyfriend (27y) and I (26y) have been together since only 5 month. We have known each other for over 7 years. He always had feelings for me, some of our friends said he even loved me. He was in a relationship with someone though and I never had real interst in him. This year they broke up, because she wanted to move in. 3 month later he started to woo and court me. He was very very attentive and gentlemanly. I’ve known this side of him since a view years, but never in this high regard. It was amazing. We spend nearly everyday in the week togehter, took a short trip with our friends and had the best time. We were really really happy and I fell in love. Since one month he started to text less, but otherwise we were still the same. 2 weeks ago he tells me he isn’t sure if we are what he wants and he wants to be with me, but doesn’t know if it’s the right thing… and he needed space. It hurt so much. I never felt like that before. I gave him space, but over one week of no contact, nothing (though we talked everyday before) I couldn’t handle it anymore and told him it was unfair and where we are in our relationship. He said he doesn’t know, but he wants to try. Since our talk, one week later we haven’t heard or seen each other. 2 days ago he joined us with a friend for a drink. He didn’t outright ignore me, but he avoided me. All of our friends knew something was up. He didn’t even look at me and laughed with everybody, but showed no interest in me at all. I cried then, my girlfriend took care of me and he saw it, but still nothing. He hasn’t contacted me since. The last time we intimate was 3 weeks ago. He is shutting me out and I don’t know what to do. It’s the worst. I rather we fight and scream than just silently waiting. I’m thinking of breaking up… what do you think? Did he simply fall out of love? Why would he deliberately hurt me so much when he was so kind before?

Reply
Sarah

Evie, You might try the Baggage Reclaim website from London. It’s all about emotionally unavailable people (men and women) and how their behavior can affect us when we are not aware of what they are doing.

Their behavior is dysfunctional and we need to protect ourselves from them. First, learn about the dynamics. Then, start to take care of YOU. If he dumped a woman because she wanted greater intimacy, see how he did the same to you. And to ignore you in front of your mutual friends? I mean, wow. Just wow. It’s not you – you were the most accessible victim for him to act out on. Learn more and protect yourself.

PS – He was never “kind” to you, he used you to drive a wedge between him and the other woman and to keep her far away from him. And – to hurt her so she wouldn’t come near him. Great guy, huh?

Reply
Rita

Hi

My case is at the extreme end , where after 10 years of experiencing silent treatment from husband has shut down.

He is acting out a change in behaviour, but l feel l am far gone. I am not worried at all but l find my feelings strange.

Thus new feeling makes me care free and takes no notice of what happenes with him around me.

I love this feeling of distance and shut down. Please l hope it will stay with me for good. But the danger is l am unsure about what will happen to the marriage.

We gave two kids

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Rita it sounds as though you have found a way to keep yourself safe from being hurt by your husband’s silent treatment. It is understandable that after a long time of trying to be open and loving, and seeing that it doesn’t work, that you would learn a different way to be in the relationship. It may be a way to stop you from hurting in the relationship, and it may be a way to make your relationship work for longer, but the risk is that neither of you are getting what you need from the relationship or from each other. The risk is that the distance between the two of you will widen. It is for you to decide whether this is the safer option for you – and it might be – or whether it is worth trying to reconnect with your husband, perhaps through counselling.

Reply
Jess - been there.. there is light x

Sound most identical to my situation. We also have 2 children. I woke up one day almost a year ago and realised that my life would never change. Tried councilling, asking family to help etc. It would settle for a couple of weeks and then straight back to stonewalling. You have to decide what is enough… I had ano incident at work and came home extremely upset. He pretended like I still didn’t exist to him and I snapped. He knew I meant it this time and had the cheek to say that he was proud of me and was just waiting for me to one day stand up for myself! Well 1 yr on its the best decision I ever made. The children have adjusted well and while it has bn tough, everyone (but him) seems to be thriving. Stand up and stop the cycle, however you see fit… wishing you luck and love whatever you decide x

Reply
Amy

Hello,
I am in a very unhealthy situation. I married my bf of 8 years and we have been married for 4 years now. My husband has the habit of giving me the silent treatment. And this has happened numerous times before and after marriage. A strange change that I notice in him after marriage is that he has absolutely no demands/complaints, whereas I have many and that usually triggers a cycle of silent treatment. I get angry easily at small things and complain or accuse him and he can’t take even the slightest criticism. Once a silent episode starts it can go on forever because I also return the same thing for a while. But I usually lose it completely after a certain point and become so uncontrollably angry at being treated like this. I feel ashamed of the behaviour I put forth. I cracked my tv screen last day. I don’t like it that this takes me to such levels of madness. What should I do? I guess the problem is mostly with me. My mother also was a master of silent treatment and I have experienced it so many times in childhood too.
My husband has the opinion that this cycle is going to be a part of our life;me upsetting him and him giving silent treatment and then me being a total freak throwing abuses and things around the house. He is ok with the cycle, accepts it and do not expect any improvement and will not work on it either. Whereas I would like to have a better life. What can I do?

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though there is a difficult dynamic in the relationship. It’s important to get your husband’s side of things. What might feel like a small criticism to you, might feel differently for him. What is it like for him when you get angry at the smallest thing? Or when you complain or accuse him of things? He might seem okay with it, but I expect it might wear thin after a while. It’s difficult to feel loving and nurturing when the person you love gets angry, critical or judgemental all the time. It sounds as though there is something you both need from each other that you aren’t getting. This is an important conversation that needs to happen, and you might need outside support from a counsellor. If your husband doesn’t feel safe to speak the truth, there is a possibility that he might say whatever he needs to to stay out of trouble. We can all be a bit like that, and it’s understandable. Try beginning the conversation by letting him know that you know you can do things better, and that you want the relationship to be better for both of you. Ask him what you can do that would make things better for him. Then, gently say what you would like. If there has been tension for a while, it might be a difficult conversation to have, in which case a counsellor might be a really helpful support to make this happen.

Reply
Amy

Thanks for your reply karen. I am looking to find a good counselor in my area. Hope we are able to resolve this.

Reply
Elena

I am really happy I came across this article and all the experiences at this very moment.

My name is Elena and I have been having a long-distance relationship with an African guy for almost 2 years and a half now. It’s been an on-off relationship most of the time cause I always expected / demanded more from him in terms of commitment and emotional response and I guess he expected I’d become the type of woman he imagined in his mind.

Between us there was always much sexual chemistry but I wanted more than ur daily messages, and a proof of that is that I eventually moved from México where I was living for a period of time to France -where he was living- to have at least the chance to meet face to face once more.

Even if it took him 2 weeks to meet me after my desperation to see him when arrived in France, even if he would leave me with no contact for almost a week after our sexual encounters and other things, I still went on with it.

In the last stage of our story which is only a few months ago, he started to show a more controlling side in his messages. He would tell me things like if I wanted to be with him I had to follow his way or I had to please his desires. He would ask me why I didn’t want to ‘learn’ (he had mentioned in the past he wanted a quiet woman not one showing him ‘balls’) and would also demand me to treat him with the highest respect. I am a pretty independent woman who has travelled extensively, photographer, passionate about my goals in life and mostly loved around so maybe he was more determined than ever to make me more submissive.

After our ups and downs, after waiting for him for almost 1 1/2 year always listening to his ‘I’ll meet u soon’; after days when he’d be unreachable with excuses, even if my feelings were still intense, I decided to start to live my life a bit..

In our last conversation 3 weeks ago, I expressed I had been sexually with another man what felt as if I was burning him out. He said he felt that as a total disrespect of him and that he didn’t need me, then blocked every possible way of me contacting him. With some desperation, I tried to write him from another account but he never answered me again.

At the beginning I was feeling pretty ok thinking he was maybe doing me a favour, but after a few weeks now I have started to feel the consequences of the silent treatment I think he is giving me.

I am a positive and passionate but it’s days now that I cry and cry when I get home, my mood has changed and it’s like putting up with a terrible feeling as if he had passed away. I have a deep feeling of abandonment and the uncertainty of if I’ll ever hear from him again or not is just there unavoidably hurting.

I know I should move on and focus on my proyects which I have but he is just wandering around on my mind all day long.

Sorry if I wrote such a long story but it just had to come out!

Thanks in advance for taking time to read my words.

Elena

Reply
Jen Jen

I’ve been an relationship for over 20 years. He keeps telling me he’s going to marry me he just needs money for a ring. For a very long time I believed him but now I feel like its an excuse. I’ve expressed how important it is and the ring is just a symbol for me its the commitment I’m more concerned with.
But I feel like he doesn’t listen to me and take my feelings into consideration so I give the silent treatment. I don’t like it but that’s all I know.

Reply
Man love

Giving a space is a magical resolution to both of genders. From my experience as a man I have many examples:

1- I was talking to a girl for many years, I never liked her. I didn’t have any feelings for her. But she loved me . She was sending me messages and calls 24/7 !! She was slingy and very very needy and I ignored her many times I changed my number many times because of her.
Before fewe months she sent me ” How are you? ” I answered her very rude . She blocked me ! The strange thing now that I feel missing her soooo much ! I started to try to find her but I could not yet ! I’m missing her so bad . There are a lot of girls around me and wishing to be my friends but inspit of that I miss that girl like a crazy .
2- I have a girlfriend that I love her but she was ignoring me, I stopped contacting her since 3 weeks and I’m avoiding her at work .
This morning she sent me an amazing message ?. She said that she Loves me .

Conclusion … We are human love the things that are not available for us ! It’s our psychological structure. Be cool be calm be rare You will be loved .

Reply
AL

For number #1 if you just acknowledge her with appreciation of her feelings for you and nicely decline her love, that would be a MANLY thing to do! You missed her because you took her efforts for granted. Simple. If you ever find out how to reach her, just tell her the above, so that she can be appreciated.

I am a man myself.

Reply
Stacy

My long distance boyfriend of almost three years goes silent on me if I cry and tell him I have to get off the phone. The discussions that make me frustrated and cry are because he will cancel a trip to visit or he has chosen to spend a holiday with his ex wife and son. It’s when I show disappointment. We do not yell or even fight, it’s like my tears set him off. He ignores text and calls. Each time the days of silence increase. One time 6 days, another 14, another 22. This current one is on day 5. He didn’t speak to me Christmas. It has happened 6 times over the three years. He breaks the silence to send a text or email that says his life is full (work,his sons) he says he works for everyone but himself, and that he knows I need more than he is capable of understanding to give in a personal way. (Not sure what he means) He says his love is sincere as are his efforts to see me safe and happy. He says autopilot is his only sanctuary. Then he goes silent again. I usually try to text and call him with no reply. This time I have not tried. When he finally calls or texts after the silence he doesn’t want to talk about it and acts like it didn’t happen. Is there anything that can be done to alter his silence? I know I could not cry but anything else to get a different result of no silence? The rest of the time he is a great guy, I have known him my entire life and really don’t want to lose him, I just always have a fear that one time the silence will continue forever.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though there is a bit of confusion happening in conversations for both you and your boyfriend. Your feelings of frustration and disappointment are valid, but the problem with crying and getting off the phone is that there is no resolution. This way of communicating isn’t healthy for your relationship, and sounds as though it is contributing to a pattern where both of you respond with some sort of silence. The important conversation that needs to happen is about the way you deal with things when one of you is disappointed with the other. Until that happens, the fundamental issues in your relationship that are causing both of you trouble – (such as the way he cancels time with you; the way his ex-wife spends holidays with him and his son) might continue to cause trouble. What do you need to feel safe? What does he need to feel safe? What needs to change so that you can both talk about these safely and in a way that feels okay for both of you? These are the things that need to be discussed to help your relationship move forward.

Reply
Stacy

Thank you for your response.
I know what I do is not helping the situation. I am willing to change my behavior and find a solution. He has gone completely silent. I do not know how long I should wait to try to text him or call him to try to approach him with a possible solution. The last time he gave me the silent treatment it lasted 22 days. I would try to make contact and it was ignored. I just don’t want to try to push him away farther by not giving him the space he needs. I am willing to do whatever it takes.

Reply
Michelle

I am hoping that you can help me. My partner and I have been together for almost 4 years. We have been in and out of couples counseling throughout and have terrible communication skills. I often receive the silent treatment after arguments and I always initiate conversations to work out the problem. However, there are times that he gives me the silent treatment just out of the blue. For example, last night I brought up having a discussion about finances which made him immediately angry. After having the talk, it seemed that everything was back to “normal”. We watched tv and talked like we usually do throughout the evening. This morning, I woke up and tried to initiate conversation with him, he said a few words and it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with me. I have no idea why he stopped talking to me or engaging with me. My initial reaction when he usually does this is to force a conversation to “work it out”. I ask him why he chooses not to talk and he just tells me that he has nothing to say or talk about. So today, I just went back to bed and slept for the rest of the day. I was so depressed and hurt but I knew that attempting to address the issue would not help things. If he has something to say, he eventually just approach me and say something. I woke up before dinner time and he still didn’t say anything and ignored me until he went to bed. I’m not sure how tomorrow is going to go, but if I had to guess, I will say that he won’t acknowledge me again. I still have no idea why he chose to shut me out. What can I do to make myself feel a little better while he shuns me. I am fighting the urge to try to work it out as I figure that if he has something to talk to me about, he will eventually approach me. Thanks for reading this.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Michelle I wish there was something that could help you to feel better, but the reason it feels awful is because it’s awful. It’s a lonely feeling being disconnected from the person you love, but it is made worse when the disconnection seems without reason. The big question is what is he getting out of doing this? What happens more, or less, that makes it worth it for him to disconnect from you like this. People only do what works, and this is an important question for your relationship moving forward. If he is unwilling to change or to discuss this with you, the question then becomes is this the relationship you want to be in, and the way you want to be loved.

Reply
Lonely

I really need some help. For a week now I have been beside myself, with little sleep and can’t eat and tend to stare at the walls. I have depression, so this situation isn’t helping me one bit. I met a guy a few months ago at a course and we would talk at the breaks, but there was never anything more than just people talking. We have a lot in common, and connected very well. After the course he and I, and a couple of others remained in contact. We would talk for hours either by email or he’d call me on the phone. We never tired of talking and joking around about everything. But about 3 weeks ago after I had a few people at my house, he and I were left alone to talk some more and as he was leaving, he kissed me. It was very surreal at first because I had no idea he was interested in me that way. But he stirred up hidden feelings in me ( I had been in a long and abusive marriage ) and was not sure if I was ready to take this further, but did say we would need to take things slowly, because I didn’t want to ruin the great connection and friendship we had. But I was clear I liked him too. Even though I didn’t want to feel romantic. Everything was fine, We continued talking and kissing, it was a real teenager moment. We smiled and giggled and when he left he was smiling, and I went inside waiting for him to message me when he got home, which he did. He usually initiated all contact with me, but would often not take long to respond to an email from me. Again it all seemed fine, but we both agreed to take things slowly. After that he couldn’t come to my place the following week as planned, due to some family issue that needed sorting out. He also planned on coming to my house one night, just the two of us, so we could hang out. I thought it was important we spend some time alone ( no sex or anything ) Plus my two kids were home. And in the lead up to Christmas we talked again on the phone and email. Everything was normal. We never ever had an argument either. We just really get along incredibly well. He’s also very intelligent so he’s never boring or dull. By the Friday before Christmas when were emailing, again, all was normal. He had to go but would chat later. It was not unusual for him to not message for a day or 2, even 3 days. I sent him an e card at Christmas as I do everyone in my contacts. He messaged me at Merry Christmas and that was the last time I heard from him. It’s been a week today. I have tried messaging him, but no reply. I tried calling him, no answer. A mutual friend texted him, No reply. She wished him a happy new year on fb. No response, but he had read the message. He’s been on his fb page the last week at all hours of the day and night posting songs from youtube. I don’t look, this is what she noticed, because even she is baffled. I know he’s been dealing with some stressful issues, and I know he has trouble sleeping due to stress. But to go this long and say nothing? Only posting songs? He doesn’t have many friends, and only a few fb friends. I wished him a happy new year saying I missed our friendship. I also told him the door is always opened if he ever wants to talk again, but I wouldn’t be begging him. I was going to move on. To do this so out of the blue, with no warning signs leading up to it, can anyone offer me some insight as to what the hell has happened here? I have gone over everything to see if I had said anything that might have upset him, but there is nothing that I can see.

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s impossible to know what has happened without speaking with him. What matters is that he has chosen to ignore you without explanation. Whatever his reason for doing this, you deserve better than that.

Reply
Lucy

I met this guy he said his up for marriage so he has no time to date
So we started chatting his caring doesn’t want to hurt me always saying sorry if he of fence
Always checks up on me but on a particular day he dd’t…..I decided to check up didn’t mind me ask if he waz ok he said yes
What should I do

Reply
Rita

When things move too quick it’s fishy… I met 2 men like this and both fishy. See how many times this happens…. then you can make a clear choice

Reply
Lisa

My boyfriend gives me the silent treatment out of the blue and then when he comes back around it is usually over nothing or some comment that he took the wrong way without asking for clarification at the time. I am currently getting the silent treatment after a great weekend together, but he had performance anxiety and has shut down. I have told me every time that it happens that sometimes that just happens but hopefully he knows how much I love him and that it isn’t a problem for me at all. He refuses to discuss it and has told me that he has never had this problem before, which seriously hurts. I don’t know what I should do.

Reply

Leave a Reply

We’d love to hear what you’re thinking ...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected



Contact Me

karen@heysigmund.com














Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.
















Pin It on Pinterest

Share This