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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395 Comments

Brittany S

I have got into reading these forms late at night. See, I was in a long term relationship with a man I started dating in my early 20s and grew to adore. We lived together for almost 3 years and moved between two provinces. Interestingly, enough our love story shattered when he had to move 5500km away for a 12 month workterm and I was forced to stay for a job/promotional opportunity.

We began distance in June of 2017 and was was optimistic as I loved the guy more than anything in the world. From June to October we met up twice totalling 4 weeks to travel and explore. However, as late October rolled around my love one began to ignore my phone calls and messages. I don’t believe I was ever a nag but since I work from home and have no coworkers I often feel isolated so relied on living with my man (who has an abundance of coworkers) to support and socially stimulate me.

We are now here in May and I consider myself single but I remain in denial about the entire falling out of our relationship as I struggle to comprehend the consecutive days and weekends I expirenced of unanswered phone calls and text messages.

I am not here looking for advice. Instead. I wanted to put my hand up as say that I have felt the most devastating riff as a young loving 25 year old girl. Never in my life did I imagine the person I devoted my life to for almost 5 years and who I had future plans with would ignore me.

Until today I fight daily mental battles, I lack motivation, can’t focus, am stressed, and lose a lot of sleep simply because one, just one of the billions of human beings on this earth decided to ignore me when I needed him most.

I truly hope no one ever has to endure this pain and I also hope those who do find the courage to cut their losses instead of remaining sporadically devastated by the haunting flashbacks of the ignorance!

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Etta

Hello. I m aware you said that you didn’t ask for advice, yet I felt compelled to respond because it’s almost like you were writing about me.
I wondered about my emotional response to being ignored, especially since my guy and I haven’t been together even half as long as you guys have.
Yet Im feeling exactly as you, and then some. Some are saying to me that I should forget him, but I can’t.
Why? Because after all is said and done, there has to be something there to make him go through all the effort of ignoring me. Actions, whether positive or negative, takes effort. And effort indicates meaning.
Sooo, what does his effort of ignoring me/us or giving us the silent treatment mean? I haven’t the slightest idea.
I do know one thing though. And that is last month I hurt him, deeply. Yes I apologized, more than once, yet he probably, might still be deeply hurt. I dont know.
One thing Im adamantly sure of though, and that is Im NOT giving up on him. Oh Im aware, very aware, that that attitude isnt popular. Yet I think outside the box anyway, always have and so refuse to give up!!

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Atti

Hi, im from Hungary. Maybe your opinion isn’t very popular or wise, but I perfectly understand you, since I feel the same way towards a girl. I DO NOT desire to give up on her. I’m willing to fight for her, because I fell in love and is a very powerful feeling. I just wanted to wish you the best luck, you’ll need it. I hope you achieve what you want. I’ve heard once, The things which are the most worthy, are the hardest to get. A little encouragement.

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Janet R

Hi When my husband of 38 yrs a mad at me he doesn’t talk to me for days at a time…we are currently on day 14….he’ll chum up to me at the end of the day (not for sex)…but I’m too worn out to be friendly…I use to be easy going but now I lash out at him sometimes. I feel like I’m not myself anymore. Any suggestions

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Olivia

I feel sorry for what you’re experiencing. Same thing happened to me and imagine that I was 16 at that time, it was a long-distance relationship and what you wrote touched me deeply and reminded me of the pain I felt. I just want you to know its not only you there are people out there who have been through the same and I overcame it by realizing how much he made me feel bad about myself with this treatment i thought i did something wrong or something, but after realizing that he was a bad person for this thing I decided to stop caring and going out to have fun with my friends specially knowing that he’s out there having fun not caring for me so why am I here depressed about someone who doesn’t care for me? I loved and adored him way too much and when you wrote i devoted my life for him I felt that. as what I said go out girl and have fun, get with people who appreciate your worth and make yourself in your life number 1 priority, I’m still working on that too.

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Megan

I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I too experience the flashbacks. Not only of the good times, but things I could have done differently to save my engagement and future. Hopefully you are doing better now. Sending support.

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Matt

I was so touched by what you wrote. I can’t offer advice as have been in a similar position – I was in a 5 year relationship with a guy who was ashamed of being gay – and one day just vanished. Months of unanswered anguished reach out calls from me went unanswered and then even occasional texts over the next few years until I gave up. Only people who have encountered situations like ours can understand the mental back and forth questioning as to why. Clearly, anyine who behaves that way has the problem, not us – but the memory of happoness and being a loving person means we stay trapped. But the only way is to try to forget they are even still alive and, as difficult as it is for us empathetic types, to NOT forgive, if that makes you sentimental about them, because that feeling could not be returned if they are capable of silence. Hoping you find someone else soon who deserves your love and you can confine your ex to a file in your heart that gets smaller and smaller and is forgotten about in time.

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kasara

Hi Matt, I’m on this site & reading comments ~ I find them all very touching and plan to post one on my own experience. But for now, yours touched me in a special way, as I am 68 years old, was a flight attendant for major carrier for decades. Anyway, had many
extremely close gay friends, and your wisdom and view point so reminds me of them. Some have passed and I miss them dearly.
So, you stay strong and wishing you “true love” always……….
We who already understand it exists, because we feel it, are already the lucky ones. xox

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Black Goddess

Brittany S

How do you know if he not dead, or got into an accident, or lost his phone/contact number. Have tried contacting his family?

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Dee

I am at the position of being ignored, I had a fight its been 3 days. The fight was about me rejecting him to do things to him. I rejected because it was not an ideal situation for me. But the past that Ive been with him shows how he always wants to get what he wants as how he wanted it. It is sooooo frustrating, I called him today asked thru text if he is mad. He always say that he isn’t but persists on ignoring me and i confronted him today and all that i received was ” you annoy me, dont make me block your contact” I have asked for time to talk this through to have a conclusion. I dont know.. Am i broken up already? He is very controlling and his family knows that, yet they compensate with his attitude. I cant believe i could be in this kinda fight. I dont usually fight with him, but i have figured out that he has been more emotional, selfish and mean in his words. I am a patient person, but i think I have had enough. I love him I hoped to be his wife some day. However, as the condition shows that he is not in the same perspective as I do.

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Chidinma

My dear,truth be told,long distance relationships sucks.He is seeing someone else,use your tongue to count your teeth.

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Anna

I know how you feel. I had a similar experience only he lived one block from me. He quit texting me. Quit answering phone calls. No word. Then I see a car there. He moved in a woman he was dating. I had no idea he was seeing someone. Talk about devastation

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Neil S

I feel for you. I have a similar story but very cruel, these ppl know what they are doing.

C could be narcissistic abuse sociopaths and one thing for certain.. all buttholes that take no responsibility what they poop out on people and blame shift and reject their actions and intentions on you just leave just cut the losses as hard as it is and leave eventually you will forget about him I might take a couple years but you will if not you’re in it for a long time.

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Alex

I am a man and I was in a 5 years relationship with a woman. I did what I could. She suffered ostracism from her family and I tried to be at her side. We separated and she applied to me the silence treatment. One year an a half has passed and I did not yeat recover from this experience. It in certain way destroyed my life. And the more I tried to talk, it became worse. And after all this time with therapy and don´t think I am guilty a hundred per cent and I do not think I deserved what she did to me. “Targets must not allow themselves to be controlled by it.”, said Williams, author of “Oustracism, the power of silence”. I just have just read it. I am taking strong antidepressives, but know I want to fight to not be controlled anymore. That is what she wanted. So, like you, I raise my voice. I want my life back.

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Kim

I think it’s worth mentioning, the “cold shoulder torture treatment” is applicable in more than just romantic relationships. Specifically, it also packs quite a punch in the parent/adult child relationship as well.
Believe me, I know.
And not exactly bragging, either.

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Britt

Mental and emotional abuse isn’t something to joke about. My third bf, and the one I should have married, was near perfect. But coming from jerks, I only knew how to react and defend against myself instead of how to work with someone. I only knew how to give up and be silent and afraid to speak my mind, and how to give the silent treatment and say mean things to get them to leave me alone. It’s what was done to me, so it’s all I knew. I learned all of my hardest relationship lessons from him about myself and what I lacked in offering to another after letting the first two make me slightly bitter and callous. He was kind, attentive, consoled me when I needed it, encouraging and supportive, trusting, and so much more. And I destroyed it all unintentionally simply because I didn’t know how to receive a love like that. Fast forward to my current, and I feel like I’m back in my early twenties: stupid, naive, naggy, clingy, annoying…..and all the other things I’m truly not deep down inside but have become again. The only difference this time is that I’ve done the soul searching I needed. I accepted what I did wrong and have been approaching things differently and in a more positive and healthy way. I listen better, I dont shut down anymore, and I’m an open book. I’m inviting, reassuring, caring, and so much more. But it doesnt work when you’re with someone who isn’t consistent and is too cowardly to open up about what he wants. I ask about what the future looks like for him and what we are working toward (AFTER HE ASKS ME TO MOVE IN) and all he can say is “idk. We will see what happens.” He tells me he is doing something with friends after work, I say okay and let him do his thing. He plays video games for 5hrs+ every single night and I go to bed alone, I say nothing-just kiss him goodnight and tell him I love him, even though I feel distant and undesirable. When he gets distant, I give him his space and then ask what’s going on when he comes to me, but he always thinks I’m keeping tabs or trying to control him and I literally do none of those things. He says I’m a cloud of misery because I gave up trying and just wait for him. Everything I do revolves around him and his time frame, he never puts extra effort in for me. Tells me no one will love me because I’m needy. Hell yeah I’m needy! I NEED YOU to prioritize me just a fucking little bit! I need you to make a move first every so often. I NEED you to do things that reflect that you care for me and this relationship. But when I tell him, “hey babe I need some reassurance” his response is, “well you’re not going to get it like this.” If I’m crying, he hangs up on me and says I’m bringing him down when all I am trying to do is talk to him. But his insistence that what I have to say isn’t important and that he doesn’t have time for it is what makes me cry….and then suddenly he doesnt want to deal with it! No matter what I do, I can never win. He tells me what he needs, I do it….then it changes the next go around. And all I have ever needed is for him to be open and honest with me, but I’m always made out to be annoying or a bitch just from checking in with him to ask how he is doing or feeling. I cant even express that I feel he has been distant without him saying I am creating problems in my head and that I’m stupid if I think otherwise. And it NEVER started off this way. Somewhere along the line he just stopped caring but is too cowardly to leave. Just keeps saying if he wanted to break up with me he would. But he definitely isn’t there for me when I need him, which by the way is hardly ever because I’m so used to just rolling over and doing whatever he needs. He thinks he spends every day with me simply because I sit there for hours every night and watch him play video games. He never asks me what I want to do, never takes me out randomly as a kind gesture. I take care of him when he is injured or hurt, and the second he is feeling better he thinks I’m too overbearing. What? Seriously, fucking what? Fathers day rolls around, and my dad that died a year and a half prior was brought up once by me. All I did was say the night before a holiday or birthday is always so anxious and painful because I cant stop the holiday from happening without him here, and that I just needed him to understand when I’m sad for a moment, that it’ll pass and I’m just thinking about him. His response? “Well I’m a father too, and if you’re going to be sad and bring me down on my day, then maybe you should find something else to do.” What the actual fuck? It happens out of nowhere, but then they apologize and tell you it’s your fault. That if you did this differently or better, it would be different. But then you do that, and it still isnt because they are never happy. And then they project it onto you! It’s a neverending, miserable cycle because the only person they truly give a shit about is NOT you. And trust me, you’ll be the only one in pain or upset about anything. And guess who wont be there to listen to you or to work it out with you? You guessed it. And out of nowhere, you suddenly believe you’re not good enough. That you have nothing to offer to anyone. That you are indeed a miserable person, when really, he is just rude and insensitive to my needs. He has no time showing me off to everyone as his pretty girlfriend, but god forbid he have any responsibilities of a boyfriend, let alone a decent human being.

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Sunflower

You literally just described my boyfriend (ex… who the fuck even knows because I’m getting the silent treament)

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Vic

PLEASE**** you need to look up … Richard Grannon on YouTube, and understand who it is you’re dealing with here… you will find the answers if you listen to this saint. I’ve been in some of the situations you have, I couldn’t believe my life would take this turn, yet it has and I will preserve just as you WILL! I wish you all the best~

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Lynn

I really hope you have found the strength to leave this guy. He will not change. He sounds like a narcissist, and he mistreat you.
Good riddance. It’s hard, but it is better to be alone and work o yourself than normalizing constant rejection. It will hit your self esteem

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Jo

I’ve been dating this guy for four months. Initially he was so lovely, he’s very generous and was really loving. However for the last month or so I’ve been feeling so anxious and insecure I’ve lost weight.
It started with put downs, calling me thick and dim. He did it in front of his friends the other day and I retaliated, he didn’t like it to say the least!
He has become cold and distant , never says he loves me anymore and something in me tells me he’s playing games. He used to answer my messages quickly but the other day left it hours. Whenever I try to address things with him such as how hurt I feel when he puts me down he plays the victim. He stormed off and slept on the sofa one time which ended with me apologising!! It’s alwats me who apologised and feels like I have to chase him suddenly.
Everything is always about him. If I say I’ve had no sleep I’m shattered he will tell me how he’s gonna have a nice easy day, have a lie in and watch TV when he knows I’m working a full day. He would never respond with empathy and say poor thing babe hope you feel better later.
He’s just been made redundant and has a few job offers and is considering one 300 miles away. It upset me to think he would go so far, but again it’s all about him. I’m constantly supporting him because there is always something going on , my feeling never seem to matter it’s almost like I don’t exist as a person.
I noticed early on if I didn’t text him regularly enough or put enough in the text he’d get funny about it. He actually gave me the silent treatment once even though I explained I couldn’t talk at the time.
Just realised he’s a total narcissist and it’s a relief to know I’m not all to blame here.

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Cindy S

I was so glad you said what you did in your last sentence. He’s a narcissist. I had the misfortune to have been with two, back to back, 30 years total. I am alone now; however, I may spend the rest of my life trying to put the pieces back together again. Please watch out for trauma bonding. Many times victims like you and I will find ourselves longing for these predators like a drug addict longs for their next fix. Any crumbs they shoot our way we will readily lap up and practically thank them for. The whole thing is disgusting. Please read as much as you can about narcissism, psychopaths, sociopaths, and every other personality disorder. Unfortunately, I think there are a hell of a lot more of them out there than the statistics indicate. Four percent? No way. My father was one, and two long-term relationships. Just sorry it took till I was in my 50s before I caught on! It should be a mandatory course in high school! Good luck!

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B

Most messages I read here are really me me me. You people are so emotionally experienced, yet haven’t come up with the idea that the other person needs things too. It’s a tango after all, he can’t woo you all the time, he needs water breaks, toilet breaks, talking with other people, snack time, jokes and laughter, different mindsets, holiday outings… adventure! Believe it or not, but this is exactly what you need too, even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes(sometimes people don’t know what they really need). If you build your social life around him, it will definitely impact your relationship. You shouldn’t have to lean on him for any part of life, as he doesn’t need to drag you through anything. He’s not your door into a happy life, you are. He’s just there to party along for the ride.

If he offers more, than that’s great, but it’s what he wants to offer, not what he’s expected to. You can’t really be glad with things you expect, can you? If you stop expecting stuff, you will have more appreciation for the continuous development of your relationship.

Own life. Take care of yourself. Then open the door.

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Steve

Easy for you to say. You sound like you are a sociopath having no feelings for anyone on this site. Why don’t you open your heart instead of telling people to open a door?

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corina

I am glad to see a different point of view? What does the narcissist and the sociopath feel like when they are accusd of being evil sadistic abusers? What pushed them into behaving that way? Could it be that it is not always their fault, but that other people that were part of a their lives did something to damage them and cause them to raise narcissistic defences? The narcissistic disorder, like any other mental disorder, is a mechanism of self-defense. I think both parties involved in a relationship have the responsibility to own up to their own faults or mistakes. No human is perfect, and nobody has a justification, logically thinking, to pick up a stone and throw it at someone else. I have grown up mentally tortured by a narcisstic father, and he grew up tortured by his narcissistic mother, and who knows how long the chain goes back. I know I have become a narcissist myself, more or less chronic. I have been giving my narcissistix father the silent treatment my entire life. Because I was too scared of him to show him in any other way that he hurt me and I need his love. I grew up as an adult doing this to other people, like a game I learnt. I am crushed by a complex of inferiority and worthlessness since I know myself. I have an unquenchable thirst for affection and appreciation. I became manipulative, trying to get everybody to feel sorry for me, so I can feel loved and cared for. I then met another narcissist with whom I fell in love and he’s giving the silent treatment to all his friends and family, he doesn’t just tall to them for a while, he disappears. He becaimes uncontactable for long periods of time. He has become uncontactable for me. I feel that he would sooner kill me, than having to go through the tremendous ordeal for him, of having to face me again. I have never Ben given the small explanation for his dissapearance act, which happened in a moment of my life when I was shaken and I needed him the most. I have gone utterly depressed and unable to go on with my life since that happened. I am only 36, but I am ready to die. Such devastating effects this type of behaviour can have, and I know how hard it is, both for the giver of the treatment, and the receiver. I know how both sides feel, from my own experience.

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Brenda

Oh dear Corina,i don’t know how late i am but u have spoken to my heart n i feel for you coz i dated a narcissistic boyfriend who happens to be my ex now, i miss him lots n wish there was a way i would him experience the life of what we normal people experience so am glad u as a narcissist could point all these out but according to the many articles there’s faint if not no hope at all that they ever change,cyber hugs from me that u may be one of the few miraculous narcissists to change

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Elleke

I have dealt with the silent treatment in one form or another for my whole life. Fortunately, I have come to manage it in a healthy way. I was married to a man for many years who dealt with conflict or disagreeable situations by giving me the silent treatment. It eroded our marriage. To this day, he has no idea of the long-term effectst that his behavior caused. He is also passive-aggressive and has no clue about that either. He had an emotionally difficult childhood. So maybe it is a bit understandable. But he did engage in this behavior deliberately to control and to hurt. He didn’t care because he got what he wanted. He also got divorced, which he never expected.
My sister and brother also give people the silent treatment. My sister didn’t speak to me for over 10 years. When she did come around after the death of my daughter, she expected to pick up where we left off; even though we speak now and socialize together, I will never trust her again. She told me she loved to ignore people when they did something wrong because it drove them crazy. (Deliberate and cruel.) At the time she told me this, I had spent a lot of years recovering from my marriage and I had developed some coping behavior (I don’t let others intimidate me; I also take into account that the problem is theirs, not mine. If they want to drive me “crazy” it doesn’t work any more. I still treat them the same way I always have. Their behavior becomes obvious to others that they care about. Those others put the responsibility for the situation back on them, that is, unless they are busy ignoring someone. I take responsibility for my own behavior and always say I’m willing to talk. It becomes obvious they are not willing to resolve the issue. This was hard work but it was worth it because it helped me let go. If they don’t love me enough to work on a relationship, then I have to let go.) I asked my sister if she wanted to hurt someone or resolve an issue. Never got an answer.
My brother isn’t speaking to me either. I send him Christmas cards with letters and an occasional email when there is family business that concerns him. No response but he knows that I’m not suffering.
There were a couple years when I distanced myself from my birth family (I spent that time analyzing the dysfunctional dynamic of our family.) I didn’t do the ignoring for punishment or to hurt them. Prior to my decision to distance myself, I had been trying to resolve some family issues around the boundaries I had established for my children, which were constantly ignored. No one would listen or heed because they were sure that their behavior meant they loved my children and I was just being ornery. After an emotional climax, I cut them off for a couple years. When they were let back in, they acknowledged my viewpoint and worked to honor my boundaries. I ignored them because I didn’t want to hurt anymore. After that when their behavior was designed to “reign me in,” I usually would leave a gathering or just not respond to their behavior. It was a lot of trouble for me. I don’t know now if I would do the work it required to keep things on balance. In the end, it made a difference about some things, but overall their mindset remained.

I would say that most people who engage in the silent treatment never learn anything different.(I notice that one of the commenters did learn something different; I applaud her for her discernment.) It is hard to resolve a problem if the other person is unwilling to make an effort.

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Christine

I am so sorry that you have been dealing with this for so long! It mimics my life as well! Very damaging and hurtful!

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Violet

I have been dealing with this Silent treatment for over 30 years and it is just as painful now as it was the first time. I love my family and I do not want a divorce , I have tried everything I know so I have finally given up.
My husband have used this form of abuse for weeks even months at a time. He never once apologized to me in our 32 years together. I am finally taking responsibility for my feelings and have emotional pulled out of the marriage, not sure where to go from here, but I cannot go back there nothing to go back for it is a dead black hole . Any advice will be welcomed. Please keep me in all your prayers that my strength will not fail me.

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Lynn

Hi Violet. I know what you are going through. I did it too for 17 years. I didn’t want to break up my family either but the damage to my self esteem was tremendous. I too made a decision to not have any expectations emotionally but it takes a toll as it doesn’t come naturally to us like it does to them.
My children who are now 16 and 18 understood what was going on and supported me. He finally agreed to leave our house, probably because (as I found out much later) he was planting the seeds of relationship with a younger woman at work. It makes me very angry and I have flashbacks to those many times of frustration and sadness. The children do not miss their father too much, although he is a good father, and they can see him whenever they want. They did not want me to stay in such an unhealthy relarionship. I am sure your family want to see you happy as well.
I know after 17 years that I had become almost as mute as him. I was unable to express myself even as the words were running through my head. I had been ‘trained’ to keep quiet like a dog controlled by an electric fence. Everytime I had tried to talk to him I had been ‘zapped’ – insulted and ignored. There was no physical or emotional intimacy in my marriage and I was blamed for that. This last year with him gone has not been easy because I am struggling with my confidence, and even who I am outside of the psychological battlefield that was my marriage. I am hurt knowing that he does not care about me and probably never did, that he presents himself as normal caring person who tells his new girlfriend that we “grew apart,” and that he smiles when he knows that I am hurt.
All of this I have to leave in the past and get on with my life in the best way that I can. I am not in a postion to say you should stay or leave, or ask him to leave. I can say that nothing is worse than being with someone who tries to tear you down rather than build you up.

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Lucy

I’m getting towards the end of 24 years together. I can’t stand the weeks on end of silent treatment anymore. Always over something pathetically stupid. Of his making. In all these years the silence has always been broken by me. This time I’ve had enough 😢😢😢

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Melissa

Hi Violet,

I too have been dealing with this in my marriage for over 20 years. When I make a mistake, he ignores me. Sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Because of this, i became afraid of communication and I hide/hid things. And it has hurt us financially. He has finally decided he is done with me and wants a divorce. I am both relieved and terrfied. I dont blame him for being angry with me. But qhen I try to explain to him why.. he does not see anything wrong with his behavior. I have told him that I cannot change if he does not. He says he doesnt need to.change anything, i am just a liar and scum. So here we are. Im afraid that in the divorce he will use this against me. Imnjust lost

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Sognia

My husband of 14 years has been doing the same, we are on day 14, because my car broke down and I expected him to help me and he told me to ask one of my many friends. I eventually got hold of a foreman on a building site and he took me to a friend who loaned me a car. That evening he shouted at me as always and that is a huge trigger for me, the only way to shut his big mouth is to give it a slap. My daughter was sleeping in the other room. His little tantrum started when he befriended a woman at work and then the shouting also started. I now sont care and also keep quiet. I have my daughter in the room with me and he sleeps in the other room.

Lets see how long it lasts this time. He is a narcissists and doesnt tell me if he is going out or going to be late buys what ever he wants when our daughter buys second hand clothes from school. I will no longer fill his prescriptions, I am not his mother ans should they call me to say he has a heart attack I will tell them to call one of his many colleages, he has no friends.

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Ellen P

I’m going through this as we speak. Me and my boyfriend are at a wedding and because I wasn’t paying attention to him about some baseball game he decides to ignore me and told me he’s done talking to me. All over a freaking baseball game. I told him not to fight because we’re at a wedding. Nope didn’t want any of it. Completely ignoring me and embarrassing me. I want to leave the wedding and drive the 45 minutes home but I know he’ll be mad at me for leaving him stranded. We’ve been together for 10 years and we’re not married. I don’t know what to do anymore. He tells me to my face he doesn’t want to marry me. I feel so used and emotionally and mentally abused by him.

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Sandra

my guy is giving me the silent treatment as he is on a journey of trying to sober up to be in his son”s life after 10yrs. no contact but child support. it’s a very difficult situation and hard pressed He is a functioning alcoholic. I have spent thousands of dollars on gifts for him,family, his home and his aches and pains.Only to feel like a fool. on occassion I have gone out drinking and then texting him drunk because of his indifference to him being emotionally unavailable. I love him.I’m in a bad place. He is younger than I which has been a problem even though and I am financially secure. There’s so much more. I think I’m losing my mind.

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Lisa

My husband of 33 years has raging anger over small things (I didn’t recycle something correctly and I asked if a gardening hose was hooked up) and after he explodes verbally, he practices the silent treatment towards me for a few days. It’s exhausting a hurtful. These behaviors have intensified after a TBI almost three years ago. He went through a year of neuropsych therapy which helped but the strange behaviors are creeping back again. I know I need to contact a therapist but I’m hoping things turn around before I do.

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Lucy

I’m getting towards the end of 24 years together. I can’t stand the weeks on end of silent treatment anymore. Always over something pathetically stupid. Of his making. In all these years the silence has always been broken by me. This time I’ve had enough 😢😢😢

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Steve

Good on that as you deserve better! It is a form of emotional abuse at best! Get out and just have a good solid life of happiness and try try try to forget him and move on.

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Poppy

Sorry to hear. I left my last 2 husband’s for the same reason, they were cheaters & womanisers. The only thing left was to save my own self respect at being rejected. We have to realise that we are terrific & they are the losers. Move on dear. There is someone else out there for you, but frankly, there is no peace with any of them. I married again, same thing. They don’t know how to love one woman or love at all. Get your faith in order & hand all this mess over to Jesus to bring peace back into your life.Forgive him, otherwise God wint forgive you. Alsi, its said in the Bible that “Bitterness & unforgiveness is like rottenness to the bones” we curse ourselves with our own sadness. Speak life back into your soul. You are worth so much more. Jesus said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”If you don’t have a strong Holy Spirit filled Church to be involved in, find one. You need the spiritual support & prayer in wisdom & love around you. God Bless you

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Blessi

It must be hard for you to deal with the pain. I can feel it too since I’ve gone through emotional abuse twice giving me trust issue everytime someone approaches me. First is my ex boyfriend (also my first) cheated on me several times when we were together for two years but atlast I manage to break up and let go of him. After that I couldn’t be with another man for a while and then I met with my current boyfriend, he seems quite a nice guy he tries to heal those pains and I also told him about my experience we got closer and got into relationship, but after 6 months of our relationship he gave me a silent treatment at first I thought he would eventually cool down and we would work it out ( of course we didn’t fight) but it lasted for about 4 months and I contacted him trying to get us together then we were together again for 8 months now but whenever we are in the relationship I would always be the one to apologise just to avoid his silent treatment even though I didn’t do anything wrong. Again this time he gave me the silent treatment I called him and texted him but didn’t get any response it’s been 3 days. I really want to know if he wanna break up with me I want to talk it through even if we were to break up I just don’t want to be confused like this. Please give me any suggestions as to where I did wrong.

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Lee

Hi Everyone

I am going through the same situation except in this scenario, I distanced myself first.

My BF and I have a 13 year age gap and he lives overseas. Literally 2 days ago he blockes me on whats app, I confronted him about iy and he unblocked me.

So to cut my story short, I woke up Thursday night to his whats app profile pic blank and that can only mean he somewhat deleted my contacts….I sent him a text asking about it and by the following morning he had added my contacts again (his profile pic was up again). I had a sneaky suspicion he was with someone and so I decided to call him in the morning to confront him but my call went unanswered which onconfirmed my suspicion.

When did he try and call me back? when he had already left the house for work and I know this because I know his schedule

Anyways I never responded to any of his calls and messages and he has no reached out since Friday….it is Sunday today and I battling with wheather to reach out or not

My suspicion is fuelled by messages from his ex girlfriend who claims she is 4 months pregnant with his twins and his ex wife who also happens to have a new born (he claims the baby is not his)

I kind of like him, he is generous but I am nit sure whether my self esteem is worth trying us out…..we have been together in March

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Kim C

I have been looking after my grandson in the school holidays since he was three. He is an only child and his parents do not discipline him enough. His father wants to be his best friend. Upon arriving at my house he would sit down with his bag of puzzles and games and expect me to start playing with him immediately, which I would. Then about two years ago or so I started backing off. I’d play a game and then say “Grandma needs to do some work, so you can play on your own for a while.” He reacted to this and then started giving both my husband and I the silent treatment. He is now seven and from what I have found during my research is that his actions are very deliberate. He is sullen, doesn’t talk and trying to engage him in conversation is like drawing teeth. His mother used to pack him up with a bag of food and drinks which made him self sufficient. I realized he didn’t need to communicate with me at all and obviously didn’t want to. About a year ago I asked his mother to not bring the food, trying to draw him out. It worked only minimally and then the food appeared again. This week his mother didn’t bring food for him and when he realized he gave me the cold shoulder altogether and resisted any form of enticement to eat or engage. I am at the end of my tether as to how to handle the situation. Whenever I have mentioned this behavior to his Mother, she says “he must be tired” or some excuse. I would welcome some advice.

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Karen Young

I can hear how upsetting this is for you. The thing to keep in mind is that kids only do what they do when they feel that there is no other way to get what they need, whether that’s because of exhaustion, where they are at developmentally, because they know there is something they need but they don’t know how to put it into words. There are so many reasons. The needs are always valid, but sometimes the way kids go about getting them can be messy. It can be like that for any of us – none of us are perfect when it comes to getting what we need effectively. It sounds as though this is about you playing with him, but it may be driven by a need for attention, it may be because he is missing his parents, it may be a need to feel closer to you – we can only speculate, but all of those needs are valid. Try naming what you see – ‘It sounds as though you might be upset with me. I’m wondering if there is something you need from me right now.’ Or, when you go to do jobs, try, ‘I need to go and do some jobs now, I’m wondering if you would like to help me. I really like spending time with you.’ The more he feels the connection with you, the less he will feel the need to act out in a way that isn’t working for both of you. He won’t always want you to play with him – their need to spend time with us starts to dissolve when they hit adolescence and they start to experiment with their independence. I completely understand how exhausting it can be playing the same thing over and over, but this may be more about him wanting to be close to you, feel connected to you, spend time with you. Make the most of this while you can. It’s so precious.

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JB

Hey Sigmund,
I thank you for a great article, I came across this after searching “married but not spoken in months” and I could really use some advice. I never went silent or intended it to be a punishment of any sorts but me just getting exhausted at not being understood after trying so much.

Been together for almost 4years. I work 45mins away by flight. Everything seemed alright I sent home 95% of my income, I (she barely did) always called & initiated communication almost on a daily basis, if I did anything wrong, I accepted apologized after a few hours and we moved on, if she did, I would have to open the communications line before she admits she actually was wrong.

I would ask of things I could do to improve myself in the marriage and encouraged same, she never spoke up. She told me I was a good husband a good man and a good father, I provided all was well. I was very open and as honest, maybe too honest to her.

Everything changed due to finances, a 3-bedroom flat, generator, inverter, food in the house, bills taken care of etc. we had enough and it was sufficient, but no excesses to spend due to me paying rent/bills in 2 countries.

We needed a new house as the old house got flooded to ankle length when the heavy rains came. I discussed with my wife I needed atleast 2months to gather the money for a new apartment at which she could stay with my mom during that time.

Since I worked in another country and she had no passport and I roommate with 2 other guys in a 3bedroom flat, because I couldn’t afford a place of my own.

That’s when it started, she criticized my existence, complained and twisted everything I said and was trying to do. I explain, discussed, got her mom, my mom, her dad to explain to her that I had no money and needed time to get one. Her mom, my mom couldn’t get through to her and I couldn’t either.

When I tried to speak and reason with her, she yelled and hung up on me over and over again. I felt insulted, my pride bruised, she accused me of cheating used whatsapp stories to jab at me, pictures of her on a date like she’s being setup by friends to see other men, wedding ring no longer on her hand I was shattered into too many pieces to count.

So, I stop speaking to her, I shut down cause I just couldn’t get through to her and the silent treatment kicked in, it’s been 4months and counting. I’m an INTJ, she’s ESTJ, it took everything I had to be communicative, to want to change my introvert nature, work at being a good husband, father & man, still trying cause there is no manual to marriage you just have to keep at it I think.

I believe my silent treatment triggered her WhatsApp story updates so she can get me to respond/act, but I have a feeling it’s too late because she may have slept with someone else.

How do I break the silent treatment because we have a 1year kid involved? I have been calling once a week to check up on my son. I don’t want my son to grow up in “hate/abuse” relationship like my dad treated my mom.

Thanks

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Linda

I am being ignored at my job. I guess because I like someone who does not like me. I am thinking about quitting.

There are times when my supervisor does not say my name correctly. he is my direct supervisor and he rarely gives me duties about what job to do. another supervisor has to do it. Maybe, I am making something out of nothing.

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Michael

I’ve been reading all these comments by mostly women, and I sympathize. I’ve recently gone through a break up with my girlfriend of over 6 years, and one of the things that came up in our conversation (I was looking for closure as it came as a shock to me) was the silent treatment that came up from my side in the relationship, and that it really broke her to a point that she would be scared to start a fight with me because she’d be scared that I wouldn’t talk to her or would give her the silent treatment.

But then here’s my question/s ( and this is not to justify an actions on my side because I would say to her admittedly that I recognize that this is a problem, but it’s really not an easy thing to deal/work on as a guy)

1. What does one do when YOU as the woman would start something that would push me to be pissed off, (moodiness, short temper, something big or small) and we fight about it or I get mad at you (because sometimes you’d decide to be ignorant about the things you do that hurt me). How does it become my responsibility to make me feel better over something you started to begin with?

2. We are not the same, and retracting from a heated situation to cool off should be taken as such if you know how much I love you and am committed to you. Lest things turn physical or we both start saying things that we can’t take back. Is it not better for me to process my feelings and go through them on my own and get to a point where I miss you or maybe to a point where I’m like “maybe I’ve been overreacting” or “We can work through this, it’s not that bad”. Cause 8 times out of 10 by the time we talk after I have processed everything, it will be in a calm manner, and I’ll be able to listen and maybe even take that your apology is sincere. After that’s sorted out we guys forget about it, and we wouldn’t bring that stuff/argument up again.

The only issues that arise during this (which I myself need to work on) is that during this time one doesn’t say “I’m mad right now and I can’t deal with you, I’ll speak to you on friday, or in a week, or whatever” (More than a week is too much by the way unless it’s something reeeeeaaallyy bad). 2, Life needs to go on, and when your women depends on you on some things she then feels alienated and this can be taken as passive aggression, and that is not the intention. I’m just hurt.

Unfortunately this is weighed in such a way that when tables are turned and I, (as a guy) do something to you that pushes you over, it doesn’t take you that long to forgive or let things go etc.

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Elisa

I had no idea so many people experience this. My boyfriend of 2 year who I live with responds to every argument with silent treatment. If it’s a day or two I can hold on but it goes on for weeks and the worst part is the issues would be super silly for me but maybe it hurts him and that I understand so I apologise each time even if it’s not my fault. Most of the issues are like – I woke him up twice at an interval of 2 minutes as he was late and he felt I was nagging and didn’t talk to me for a week. Once I wanted to do something nice so I cleaned the house by myself and he didn’t talk to me cause I did that. I know it’s crazy but he is impossible. He even gives me the silent treatment if I get sick cause he says I never take care of myself and go to the doctor. Who goes to the doctor for a cold?? And cause of the silent treatment I get anxiety attacks recently and pass out. I couldn’t tell him directly that it’s this behavior which stresses me out and rises by blood pressure. I always show a happy front cause I am always optimistic and never try to intentionally hurt anyone. And finally after 4 days of silent treatment during which I calmly tried to talk to him about it and got no response other than “leave me alone” and
“I have nothing to say to you” , I gathered up the courage to text him about it. It’s something like this – “Hi sweetheart. I am trying to get my feelings through to you but I don’t think I’m doing a good job at it. I am not a person who gets stressed easily. But there is something about the silent treatment that makes me feel really anxious, ignored and powerless. I know that that’s not your intention. But the truth is this stresses me out. I appreciate everything you do for me and love you infinitely. But just for a while can we keep this treatment on control baby. I am strong upto a couple of days but beyond that I feel really broke and hurt. I know I should cope up with it for however long you see fit but I love you too much so I’m not there yet. I feel like this is a bit too much for me to take right now but I’d like to hear your side of it so that we address the situation together. Can we discuss about it after dinner tonight?”. And he never responded and still the silent treatment continues for a second week. I am worried about my health and I can’t really focus on my PhD too. I know the better choice is to leave but I love him too much and he’s my best friend. I just hope he understand the impact of this behavior. I even abstain for any argument even agreeing with him when I clearly know his fact is wrong but I just agree and smile cause it avoids the silent treatment for hurting his ego.

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Ariana

The silent treatment in any form is a classic manipulation tactic used by narcissists and psychopaths. You think of these people as extremes, but they are often disguised as our lovers, spouses, etc.

Silence = devaluation, sending the message that we are not worthy of even their words.

I am recovering from years of relationships with these types, and the ONLY way to feel better is to completely cut off contact and attempted contact. Married people, I’m sorry. You either stay and suffer (potentially damaging children in the process), or leave and start healing.

What happens next is our understanding of why we stayed and allowed ourselves to be abused, or chased an imaginary relationship to the ends of the earth. This is likely rooted in early family and childhood dynamics, but there can be other factors.

Much luck and love to you all…and stay strong.

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Lina

I’m in a long-distance relationship, and we’re both over 30. We were planning to go to my boyfriend’s country to meet his parents finally and possibly even have an engagement party, but suddenly everything crashed…
2 weeks ago I visited him and the next day after my return I didn’t get any message from him, so at night I wrote him asking if he was OK, but he replied me saying that No, he fell sick but when I started asking what happened, he replied very briefly and asked not to ask too much. For a few days I sent him texts just asking how he was doing, not asking much, but he was replying just in a word or two.
One day I didn’t get any reply to my Hello message. I waited until the next day and then called him. But he didn’t pick up the phone… By accident, I was talking same day with his sister, but didn’t mention anything about him. However, his sister later called him and mentioned us talking earlier and after that he freaked out. He called me shouting why I made his sister worried about him, I tried to explain that we didn’t speak about him, but he wouldn’t listen. He cut the call, wrote me a message saying that it’s over and he doesn’t want me to contact him again and blocked me.
I was in a terrible stress and shock, so the next day I flew back to him wishing to talk face-to-face and discuss everything. He met me shouting and being angry even more. He told me that I came to spy on him and to check if he was with any other woman. I replied that I came just because he blocked me. He was shouting that I’m just a stupid woman and I had to wait until he calms down, but not fly over to check on him… He also mentioned that he got sudden problems with his business (apparently about taxes), which made him stressed and worried.
Somehow I managed to calm him down and returned to my country. But he did not contact me at all after that. I wrote him myself again after 5 days, but he replied only shortly that he’s ok, still alive. Since then, I contacted him twice, but every time it’s just brief Hello I’m ok. Yesterday I asked him if he is still stressed about his situation, but he didn’t reply anything, though read the message…
Guys, what can I do in this situation? I want to know if he is still silent because of problems with his business/health, or he is just being angry with me. But I can’t be writing him every day… What should I do? This silence is breaking my heart and I can’t think it can be over, as I do love this person and was planning my future with him, but in such a situation I don’t know how to win him back…

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Boyka

Hello guys, i would need an advise or answer from you as assist.
4 months ago i met this pinoy girl through facebook, we continued texting on messanger only at first. After almost a month of chat we decided to go out together alone, so we met at first eat something and went to movies and spent couple of hours happy. In the end when i dropped her home she even invited to her accomodation, but i refused to go up since i knew how it will end and i wanted to finish the day with respect and dignity. We continued texting. After a while we went out again, this time she brought her friend with her, at first i was not ok since i prefer a date to be alone hence we got private things to discuss about plans or family issues, but i accepted because i didnt want to lose her. We spend couple of hours together again in movies and droped them home again, but this time without invitation to the accomodation. We continued texting. After a week, we decided to go out again, she insisted to bring her friend again but i declined since i wanted to be with her alone, as previously mentioned, wanted to discuss plans and issues with her. I knew 2 of her sisters before. She told me she broke up with her ex(father of her baby) before traveling(couple of months ago), but also told me she wanted all in secret and that her sisters dont want her to court anyone here(the country that i live in and she travelled to work with her sisters there), so i was against that idea to be in secret since im not doing anything wrong, i went and talked with one of her sisters. After discussing with her sister, she(her sister) told me she will think about it, but seemed fine in behaviour. Meanwhile, i continued texting and later asked to go out again, she refused telling me she cant, but continued texting like love you, i want you, miss you and some other jealousy signs(from both sides). After that i asked again to go out and she refused again the same excuse, but kept on texting and calling me 10 times a day with same love issues. After almost 2 months being with her, i asked for having sexual relation with her,(its not right i know, but i was lil bit drunk cz of my personal issues, and we didnt had any of that since we met)she got frustrated and defensive and told me that if i love her i wait(bit no explaining about what to wait for) I kept on apologizing for a week that i wont repeat that behavior again. We kept on texting and calling. After a while, i wanted to see her, i went to her workplace( restaurant) but she didnt show off saying she had lots of orders and her sis was there, but when i asked the other waiter he said her sister aint there. Anyway, i left, while leaving, she kept on messaging me that she is sorry and please come back etc. I didnt give the issue importance much and continued texting her and she continued replying the same way before. We didnt go out for almost 1 month but kept texting the same way we used to all the time. One day during her day off, i wanted to see her cz i missed her a lot, she invited me to her accomodation, she was not alone and again with her same girl friend. I went, while talking and kissing and cuddling, i saw the number of her supervisor(a young kid not sure if he can even bang without experience) in her mobile talking many times(some of them 3;30mins), i got angry and left, she started to text me and call me more than 15 msg and call, stating that its not what it seemed like and that they used to talked about job. I didnt reply to her the same day. The next day i forgived her and didnt giveit importance cz i really loved her. I told her many times i love her pure and that im not playing on her, and that im honest and loyal to her. After a while, she said she is stressed and needs time to fix her personal problems, she will defend herself and will come back to me later when she is ready. She suddenly stopped calling and texting me. I continued texting and calling her, asking why is she doing this to give me her reason and i will help her solve her problems, but everytime she tells me of something new. She isnt stating the real reason, hiding something but i donno what. Some of my friends told me stop contacting her give her space and she will come back later. Some others telling me she was just using me(even though i told her many times and she denied playing on me, she didnt even take anything in return like money or etc). Some others telling me she might be dirty going out with money wity others and now stepped back cz i started to turn things serious. Some others told me she is in hidden relation with the supervisor. Some others telling me she still with her ex. I dont know what is it, but i really want to know the real reason why a girl calling and texting me 10 times a day saying she loves me and wants me, will suddenly stop all types of contacting me without giving exact reason, even though she insisted that i was her perfect match cz i treat her almost perfect and respect. In reality, i was honest and loyal to her and loved her truely. I still feel so much hurt now. Any ideas about the reason or anything if she might get back or whatever…

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J

I’ve been married for 9 months now. In this time I received the silent treatment 5 times and now for the 6th time (I think..it’s been so many times I don’t even know anymore). It lasted for 1 to 3 or 4 weeks..

The worst thing of this is that half the time, it just suddenly started without even knowing why. I’ve asked and ask what it was that I did wrong but didn’t get an answer or sometimes the ‘you know why’.

It already happened during the time we were engaged too.. I wish I would have realized what was happening then that I could have put all this off.

I feel now it’s too late to do that anymore, I know that it’s not true but this is how I feel. This round of silent treatment is almost a week old..at least I know why she’s angry this time.
However, I wish that once we could just argue and talk about the issue like normal couple/people.

I wish we could argue from time to time. Really have a discussion. I wish, I wouldn’t be afraid to speak up sometimes because I fear another silent treatment.

It’s time to break it up I know…but I feel that I can’t yet.

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Benjamin

First off I like to say she dump me and after she dump me I ask her this question. Was there anything I could have done to make you happier or better between us. Here the response she gave me, my ex-girlfriend said this: She wanted more of absentee boyfriend and I don’t love you. Is there any way to make her want me back if she thinks you were absentee in the relationship or should I just let her go? I’m still little confused over why the breakup happen if I was treating her with kindness, respect, gave her space when she wanted it, wanted to protect her by making her feel safe while holding her hand when I was walking with her and giving her an goodbye hug? Half of me want my ex-girlfriend back but the other half of me is telling me to move on and just let her go. Before the breakup we hit off for about five months and she was quite happy being with me. The day she broke up with me was on the day of the funereal for my aunt and was in front of the family to. She also said “I don’t think it’s working out between us.” Those were the exact words. I think it’s was also lack of communications between us. I still love her even when she broke up with me on the worst day possible. I already stop talking to her now for about month now. Before I started the no contact rule about month ago. I wrote this: “Sorry I’ve been emotional the past few days. Other things have been stressing me on top of this break-up and I lashed out. Wishing you best of luck.”
Thanks
Benjamin

Reply

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