The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment

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.

[irp posts=”810″ name=”Fighting Fair in A Relationship: How to Get What You Need and Stay Close While You Do It”]



oh Yes, he holds grudges and I never new about it. he would get angry about something I said or did, and never communicate with me about it. He would just punish me holding up on sex or not coming to see me because he was mad at me, yet I had no clue he was mad, because he never shows. I always treated him with the most up respect and he did all in his power to destroy my self esteem. I think he will do it to the next and the next. he told me he will never get too close to anyone and the only woman he wants a relationship with is his (wife) or ex wife, since he is separated but shared the same house. go figure the shit I got myself in. No comments on this one. I know I am a total full. I believe most most women would call him now to see how he is doing, but he ignored my birthday last year, never gave me a Christmas gift he told me ordered, and he ignored my birthday with was last week, so I will not call him to find out why he is not calling me. I need to get some strenght somewhere to move on. I really need to and not let this bring me down, Some days really hurts and some I think he a jerk, inconsiderate A—hole. It is hard to lose your boy friend and also to feel you never meant anything to him, just bacause he is mad at you because he got offended for his new woman.


I’m so sorry this happened to you my fiance is currently not kissing me or doing much of anything not interested in taking part in anything with me anymore and we live with each other barely talks to me awkward silence all day in the same room and we argue so much it makes me want to pull my hair out some days other I cry other days I get angry other days I do stuff around the house just to not be around him all day and I can’t take it anymore and he always takes off without telling me anything and it’s like he’s living a single life while in a relationship with me and it is very hard so it is painful yet angering and i feel alone I feel like I’m the only one holding us together keeping us together ianymore end like im the only one who fights for our love anymore but he’s an ignorant asshole and aggressive yelling violent with his words as well but barely talks to me but gives me orders do this do that so I don’t know I have migraines every day and it’s due to his bs im tired of it but I still love him idk… All I want is him still no matter what I don’t know why I haven’t said something or why I even put up with it I guess it’s because I would feel guilty for kicking him out because if isn’t here he would be homeless that’s the biggest reason why I still put up with his shit I think. Idk… So if it helps to know I’m going through something with my fiance supposed to be soon to be husband and baby daddy all in one as his baby mana it hurts a lot but I’ve been putting up with it for almost 2 years now so I definitely understand. Your not alone. Many women go through this daily but it feels like I am what about you? Do you feel alone in this mess too?


Hey your comment really resonates with me. I’m going through the exact same thing. How are things now with your fiance?


Speaking from divorce here:
NOTHING is worth this misery. Getting out is the best course of action. I know you didn’t ask me, and I know it’s not fun to hear. (If someone had told me before I was ready to hear it, I would have balked at the idea.) Even if you aren’t ready to hear this, I’m going to say it again: Get away from this relationship as much as you can.
YOU are worth more than the silent treatment.
YOU are precious and important.


To Jasmine and MaryLouise:
Mary Louise gives good advice. You do deserve more than what you’re getting and if you stay in this relationship, it will NOT get better. think about the big picture, you do not want to raise your children in this kind of relationship. If you do, then they will settle for less in their relationships….


I can relate. I was just trying to know what I am feeling right now. It’s been 50 days of my marriage and he is giving me all sorts of silent treatments. I just wanted to be sure if the pain I am feeling is real.


Wow! I am in the same boat here. My ex boyfriend is a manipulating jerk and always told me what to do and how to do. He does not accept that I disagree with him. He is always right. His ways are the only way. He said horrible things to me. Things like, “you talk too much, you have no communication skills, you have no self esteem, you lack confidence, your self esteem is in the basement”, yet he is the one that set the pattern of calling me every day and evenings and go on talking marathon, yet he said he called me not because he likes to talk, but because I had the need to talk as if I do not have girlfriends to talk too.
He lied and cheated constant and when realized he was always hunting other women, I confronted him. He broke up with me and maintained called friendship. He left me for a 32 years old woman and he is 52. Doing one of our conversation I mentioned that his new girl picture on fb was a little risky, that her dress was very short. He took as an offense and said I said she dresses like a whore.
he got very offended by. In another conversation a week ago, he mentioned that one of my friends did not like him, and I said, she does not like you because you did not treat me right. he asked if she talks about him, I said not really, she refers to you as (fake name here) Dana’s sugar daddy.
He has not called me since and is giving me the silent treatment. He is the one that wanted to keep the friendship, now he is acting like I am dead. I in the other hand will NOT call him to say hello or find out what is up. His feelings got hurt, but he always hurt me and never apologized. when I mentioned that he is cruel with his words and he never apologized for being so cruel and put me down, he said “I was never cruel and I did not disrespect you, I did not put you down”. It is one’s perspective. So I will take the silent treatment and his next victim ( the new girlfriend) can have him all for herself, because eventually his true colors will show up. When he feels threatened by another man in the woman’s life he hits her hard with his words, putting her down, making her feel devalued. he is insecure, but also a perfect faker. he makes you feel it is all your fault.


When people show you their true colors believe them. My best advice: cut him out if your life entirely. When he comes back which may or may not happen make sure you are already in another relationship. Let the anger go, just forget about him. While you are angry he is having fun. Stop hurting yourself. Heal yourself, do the things that bring you joy and ask the good Lord to give your soul inner peace. All the best!


Am going through the same thing but from a long time friend who has been doing this for a long time it hurts me every time but this time it feels like its frying my brain it hurts really bad… My story with this guy we started 10 years ago we were very intersted in each other but due to being in 2 different parts of the world we couldnt be involved romantically even though i love him with all my heart so we decided to stay close friends he is my other half that i told him evrything n think he did story started we talked for about 5 month n than he decided to stop talking to me out of no where he blocked off… So i moved on with my life 3 month later calls me again tell me how much he misses me we sarted talking again told him how much i wanted to be with him he shut me off again, i was so hurt but i picked my self up and moved on again i meet someone else who is good to me i got engaged to that person i was so happy n out of now where my dear friend calls after 9 month claming he want to check on me tolld him about my new life he was very apset, screamed n fought but didnt work i moved on with my life even though i wanted him, after a couple off day of him fighting me because i was getting married to someone else he called n said he was sorry n we should be friends n we keep in touch i said ok but he cut my off again blocked off all his social media like am nothing i was very hurt but again i go on with my life got married changed my phone # n 4 years gon by no problems(even though he never left my mind) 2011 my son was 1 year old he got a hold off my phone started to call ppl n he called him i took my phone n hung up really fast hoping it didnt go through since it was an overseas call but i was wrong he got my # now he kept calling me and sending messages asking me to answer n he miss me i finally answered we talked and started being us again talking about our problems n he cant find a girl anyways we talked like that for about 6 month and out of no where he just stopped talking to me dont answer my call or my messages blocked me again i was hurt so bad but i kept on going with my life… A year go by nothing from him n than in the end 2012 he calls and texts so pick up again we talked helped him with his problems talked to him when he needed a friend but i started to have feelings for himbut never told him in sept 2013 he decided to leave again leaving me wondering what did i do for to stop talking to me but i kept going i got pregnant that year and in 2014 had another baby boy life is good n he pops up again to check on me i kept it short with him if he text i text back thats it which it was cool in 2016 i went back to visit my family back home where he is from told him that iwas coming for the summer and we decieded to meet up hang out wich we did i fel for him got realy close and emotionally attached ? before I came back to the states i asked him not to cut me off like always n he said he wont now am home he called me the next day i came back talked and hung up saying talk to you tomorrow… Tomorrow came the day after came no calls no text a week went by so i text he ignored me took all day to answer but i can see he is online finally when he answers he is short with me i kept asking if everything is ok n he answers busy i asked him if we can talk he said no so i gave him his space n told him I’ll try later but am being ignored it been 2 month n am gettin the silent treatment its killing me i dont no what i did wrong am thinking so much that i have a constant headache am trying to move on like everytime but its harder this time i dont no what to do


Hello, I found this article very useful. I was the recipient of silent treatment by a friend who happens to be my colleague as well. This is not the first this has happened in our relationship. Two years ago, she gave me the cold shoulder and a bare minimum (if not less) of a professional behavior. After six months or so (possibly due to loneliness or I don’t know what), she changed and became quite friendly and we were friends again for a year or so (when we were friends, her silent treatment was never addressed). Deep down, I was afraid that one day she’s going to give me the cold shoulder again, and sadly that happened four months ago- history repeating itself. The reason was because I walked in to her office while she was eating her breakfast and I invaded her privacy. I went to apologize to her twice but she gave me the cold shoulder. I am tired of this and cannot risk approaching her with the possibility of her stabbing me for a third time. Since she’s my colleague, it’s painful to greet her every day (I don’t want to), but I keep it professional and nothing more. One time, when we were on friendly terms, she said that her knee jerk reaction is to dump all her friends if they do something wrong, but she’s trying to change just so she doesn’t lose friends. I found that comment very disturbing; it’s as if relationships for her are all about her needs and not a healthy give and take. All this happened while this friend is trying to get her license for counseling patients…I cannot stand silent treatment in relationships…


That’s me being described.
I entered a relationship with a long time friend like 3 months
ago. he seemed promising n mature. he was loving and we shared a few great moments. before leaving for home I suggested for a hook up but he declined saying he was moving out to a new house. so I left for home and due to unavoidable circumstances I extended my visit n gave him an explanation. when I came back he never seemed interested. he was cold n I had to push him to talk to me. he never suggested a hook up n I started getting stressed. 3weeks went by no phone call no texts. I decided to call n he never picked up. it was a frustrating moment I felt terrible n told him everything that I had carried in my heart since he started hurting me. I’ve chosen to move on but it really hurts. silence is my greatest enemy especially wen it comes from the person u love. I’m trying to move on but it’s just too difficult, it’s hurting to be left without explanations….


Hi flowy am going through almost the same thing but my story i have been friends with this guy for 10 years living in different countries from the beginning we showed interests in each other but being in diff parts of the glob we decided to stay close friends. But let me tell you from day one he was doing the silent treatment crap he started loving caring sweaping off my feet and 3 month later he stoped talking to me for no reason i call no answer so i let go stoped calling 6 month after he call claming he want to check on me and he missed me we talked worked everything thing out talked for a month same thing happened so i move on i meet a very nice guy we dated n we decided we are for each other so we got engaged now my dear friend after a whole year of not talking to me he calls n say he loves me tolled him its too late i met someone and am getting married he sreamed n fought but it was lat we said our goodbyes and i changed my phone # got married lived happily for 4 years one day my son who was 1 year old at that time got a hold of my phone n started to call ppl on my phone some how his phone # was still in my phone even though i thought i deleted it my son called him i hung up really fast so hoping that it didnt go through since its an overseas call but it did now he has my # he keapt on calling me n i didnt answer but eventually I answered we talked n he told me how much he missed being friends and he want to stay in touch i let him we talked for about 7 month on and off but not ignoring at the end of the summer he went crazy comparing him self to my husband n getting jelouse of him n he cut me off again 2 years later he calles we talk get attached cut me off a gain i got pregnant that year with my 2nd son after i had my son he calles to check on me tolled him had another baby he was nice and happy for me we keapt on checking on each other for a year and half this summer i went to visit my family back home where he lives we decided to meet up and hang out we were both exited, we did we met up hung out few times we did kiss ?(didnt want to but it was the heat of the moment) tollled him it meant nothing n i have my own life which we both agreed now i come back to my house n before i left i asked him not to give me the silant treatment when i go back n he said he wont i fly back home to my normal life he call me the 2nd day to check on me i was happy to hear his voice talked n hung up n said talk to u tomorrow, will tomorrow comes and day after comes i text i get ignored i keap on texting asking what is wrong and why he wont talk n he answes with one word busy so i give him his space but with every day it was hurting me so bad that am so depressed crying everyday miss him like crazy n all i want is an explanation why he treat me like that its been 2 month since we last talked i texted him 3 days ago n he ignored me tell u what it hurts really bad it feels like i got hit by a train i feel like a loser for trusting him


This is part of what completely just dissolved a close friendship of mine. I approached my friend about cancelled plans, feeling pushed out and he start becoming emotionally abusive after not being willing to hear my side. He then started pushing blame on to me because weeks later of his actions I got upset. I was understanding and patient. He kept name calling. I stated he was being manipulative and we ended up having a huge argument because I was hoping a close friend of his could talk to him and get him to understand. After that I was ignored, told he hated me. He refused to talk to me to the point 3 weeks later I sent a letter basically saying thanks for the memories and I wish you the best if you get in contact I’ll know you want to try to fix this friendship and I closed out some of the things we argued about, why my views are as such. I grew up in a physically and verbally abusive bad home situation and I sent him and article that described how people like me tend to function/adapt. I thought he didn’t understand. Long story short. Silence continued for a bit. We tried talking but he was constantly picking fights, I no longer heard from him. We talked every day for 3 years prior to this point. He was my best fried and simply changed into someone cold, callous, manipulative and honestly looking back I missed some of the red flags due to thinking it’s a British mannerism verses American. We always talked things out previously.

That fast though.Weeks of not talking. Then starting arguments to disappear just as fast. I stopped arguing back with him. I took some space and put distance between myself and everyone for awhile. I deactivated social media. I started dealing with childhood flashbacks which is why I contacted his friend to begin with. It was becoming toxic and more then anything I wanted him to see he was hurting me. He’d contact me every few days, then less. He made sure to use things I wrote in the letter against me including a certain girl that he’d tag on Instagram in post right after starting fights with me. He implied I was the crazy one/obsessed/bad at communicating yet I was the only one trying til he kept blaming me for getting upset. The last time we spoke was labor day. He accused me of sleeping with a friend that I posted a picture of since we hung out earlier in the day.

I responded that I wasn’t hes a friend but even if I was it didn’t matter nor would it be his business. He said I made the convo akward. Refused to talk to me after that. When I tried changing the subject he refused and disappeared. Last week he now blocked me on instagram. I sent a message just saying you blocked me? I would’ve removed myself it’s a bit excessive and I’m not sure why you did. He read everything, no answer and blocked me completely on whatsapp too. I haven’t chased him, argued. I honestly thought space and whatever he was so ticked at me for would resolve our arguement. I have never felt so hated in my life. There is no explanation. I simply stood up for myself and against his name calling, then he acted like a child with name calling, comparing me to others. He said I’m too sensitive, crazy, and one day it was build me up and the next break me down.

My best friend changed and I guess I’ll never understand why. I wont contact him on Skype (I don’t think I’m blocked there) and he deactivated fb soon after I did with mine. He even muted the convo on their at one point when we were arguing. I pushed to talk and communicate.He knew silence is a punishment to me and he always said I was wrong yet…clearly I wasn’t. Sorry to babble. I’ve been dealing with nightmares, issues sleeping and after 6 months of this treatment I’m not over it, used to ever feeling this broken. Which says a lot. Everything I was reading pointed to him having narcissistic tendencies. His ego took a hit when I messaged his friend. I didn’t say it was the best choice on my part, I apologized but he wasn’t listening to me and I thought one of his friend he was able to keep plans with would help. Instead it made it worse and I became an enemy he wanted to destroy.


I have a a younger brother who is outright rude. He keeps tapping his feet when I am speaking with somebody else.
He instructs me rudely in front of guests and visitors.
My wife gives gives me silent treatment and tries to change the topics of what I am talking about.

My children donot talk or receive any phone calls from me.
I am therefore wondering how to deal with this situation.
All this has been going on for a while.
The main reason I see is i stopped financing their activities. I caught my wife’s lie about taking classes at the office. In fact she was not there at all. When I called her on cell she would not answer. When she did call she told me she was at the classes. I was standing right outside her classes whose door was shut. Since I confronted her with this fact she and kids have turned silent.


I am separating, and the unecessary silent treatment and manipulation and verbal abuse is why. Just today I told him not to touch me since he continues to bark at me, ignore me, always say he he had nothing to say to me when I ask for him to talk to me like he talk to others, and I asked him to stand up for me when his family and our child disrespect me but he won’t, and to stop saying mean things micromanaged me all day long. He knows I am the type of woman that can’t let an abuser touch me, due to my childhood abuse. He refused to realize it’s wrong. I asked him why do he want to stay together if he doesn’t have anything to say to me, and feel the need to get nasty and mean to me any time he feel like it, and that the group I am in says it is not right. He then goes on to get real smart and I said “you don’t have to get smart, and ignorant” and he said “I can get smart with you if I want to, I got freedom of speech, I can say what I ever I want” and I said “well I can to, I am tired of your disrespect, and after countless weeks of it, I am on edge now, and you can to hell, ” and then he proceeded to play victim, and then gave me the silent treatment and then turned the valcuum over my voice but turned it off when he wanted to say something, when I finally decided to discuss separating. The fight today was the last and I realize he could very well be a narcissist and I got fooled that year before we married. I have spent a few years now ignored, insulted for no reason, even physically abused, neglected, and stonewalled when ever I go talk to him about it. I got so tired of his abuse I started telling and insulting back, and even putting up my fist first. He has walked out stonewalling me and in another room bashed my expensive things though he abused me! My nerves are shot and I am going to need to see a doctor about it now. I am planning to leave by summer of 2021 and have moved in a spare room and will have a schedule that will be set to avoid him.
I am getting out, and I am actually cut him and his family and our adult daughter off from my life. They all support his abuse, and pretend not to see it or hear it.


Hi Wifem, I am a 38 year old, have been in my relationship for over 11 years now, and when I look back I realise I have been making something work, and I should have to spend time trying to make a relationship work. More especially alone. My partner lies about everything, that is how they get other people taking their side, narcissists. He lies about simple things, and I wonder what else he lies about. So I have 3 kids, two are with him, our son turned 6 yesterday. I made a decision a while back to leave, but his manipulative ways and lies are so advanced that I am still there. I bought a house and was planning to move out, I still own the house. But I thought things were getting better, I rented it out. But his silence I can’t stand. We have not had a proper talk, as partners for four months now. And every time this happens I have to be the one asking him to talk to me. He punishes me with silence yet he wants to touch me:( I moved to a guest room, which is super cold, I ended up sleeping with the kids. We walk past each other in the house like we are in a commune place where house mates hate each other. This is a man who never did anything for me, he will never help me with anything. I feel like I live alone even when things aren’t so bad. You can never ask him for anything. He is so selfish that I am wondering, why did it take so long to take a stand. To leave. I think it was because I had hope, I just simply did things for myself, raised my kids. I wanted nothing but a happy family for them. But al I gave them was a screwed home. But I am in a process of buying another house, close to our community, for the kids school. As the other one a bit far. And I am moving. I do not expect support from my mother, his mother and others, this s not for them or about them. This is for me, about me and my sanity. If you are going through this, it will not change, he will not wake up and be a completely changed person. Especially when things do not go his way, he will be bitter and sulk. He will make your life miserable. He is only happy when things are in his favor, but that is not how life works, and when we have bad days, we do not make the people we claim to love pay for it. And you can’t claim to love someone and be jealous of them. When I decided to stay after buying my house and that was at his request, and persuasion. He became jealous of the fact that I have a house and tenants who are paying my house. Yet, I helped him put together flatlets and he earns multiple rental incomes from my brain child. But, no, he is counting my earnings. He complains, about the fact that I sold my first and second cars, and has a problem with that. Apparently the second car was helping him when he visited his family, he has his own van, has a paying job, but he wants things that I procure. He doesn’t want to do anything for anyone and even for himself. You must do it. If you are not using it, he takes it. And then, its his. I think that we ladies really need to start loving ourselves. We seek love in wrong places, when you love yourself, you know what you are worth, and you won’t accept less than what you are worth.


This has been a great read and it’s a real comfort to see what other people have gone through and that I’m not going mad. I believe my ex has been emotionally abusing me to the point where I have now been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. After years of me apologising re our break up we were back seeing each other again only for me to find out he was seeing other woman at the same time. When I confronted them and him he made me feel like I was psycho and manipulative. I have explained to him why all this hurts me. I have finally told him about my depression and I honestly thought he would have supported me but instead he is giving me the silent treatment when he knows how hurtful I find this. I know I need to move on but I’m finding it very hard.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s completely understandable that you would find it hard to let go, even if you know that moving on is the best thing for you. It will get easier. Keep moving forward with strength and courage and remember why you’re moving on. Your needs are very valid. You have everything in you that you need to find a happier version of your life.


I know what you are going through it hurts really bad i miss and want my best friend back i wish he would under stand


Hi Louisa, I hope you finally moved out of that hurtful relationship. wish you good health


I’ve been married 7 months. Periodically throughout these months my husband wakes up in the morning withdrawn. He gives me the silent treatment all day. It happens about once every couple weeks, randomly. When I try to talk to him, he has a look of boredom on his face as he very briefly replies with as few words as possible, in a clearly irritable mood.
He works night shift and I work from home. Despite us both being in the house together, he’ll manage to spend the whole day as if I’m not here at all. I used to pursue him to please talk with me about the problem, but I’ve finally stopped doing that. I handle it by pretending as if everything is good. For example, I’ll warmly tell him, “Lunch is on the table honey”… He’ll reply with a disgruntled, “No thanks” and I’ll nicely say, “Ok honey” and go eat alone.
Today is another one of those silent treatment mysteries. I’m sitting at the dinner table after a while day of irritable silence from him. I just ate dinner alone while he sulks in our bedroom with the door closed. I’m never going to have a clue what I did wrong. I’ll rack my brain to uncover any tiny miatake I may have done or said, or anything I should have said or done, but failed to say or do….and will remain mystified, confused and feeling helpless. Then tomorrow my husband will behave as if there had been no day of rude silence, and so will I…. because I don’t know how else to handle it.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Lily this sounds lonely and confusing for you. Sometimes there is nothing lonelier than not being able to connect with the person you care about. I’m sorry this is happening this way for you.


Thank you for this very inciteful article. Right now I am on the receiving end of the Silent Treatment from my husband. We had a horrible fight last night. He’s been working away from home for over 7 years and now he,is temporarily out of work. I know that this is not easy for him at all because he is a motivated hard working man. I have been on holiday from work for two weeks and I honestly thought we would be spending some proper time together instead of snatched weekends. Instead he’s pretty much done his own thing and while I don’t object to it I am resentful of the fact that if I suggest we do something together I’m met with apathy and disinterest. Also he keeps saying we need to be careful about money. Well I appreciate that but I never said I wanted to go out every day spending hundreds of pounds.
Any way this all came to a flash point last night and now we are no longer speaking. He won’t even look at me. I have no idea how long this silence will go on. It happened last year after a fight and lasted 5 days! It breaks my heart because we should be acting like mature adults and not immature ones. Every minute of the silence feels like an hour and takes with it some of the love we should be sharing. I just don’t know what to do.


I totally relate with whatever is written in this article. Me and my husband are married for 4 yeas now and I have been a victim to this silent treatment so many times that I have lost the count. We love each other alot and express it too but everytime we get in a fight where I get mad or angry and wait for him to apologise or have some realisation, he simply backfires and gives me the silent treatment and picks on everything which is wrong with me. He flips the entire situation and makes me feel guilty and in the end I am the one apologising and begging for him to talk. This silent treatment used to last for weeks in the initial years of our marriage though the number of days we go without talking has reduced still it makes me feel too insecure and miserable. Those days when we aren’t talking ,my life seem to be in a mess, it’s like I can’t get anything right , can’t sleep at night , every minute is like an hour and after every fight I vent out how hurt and sick this silent treatment makes me so my husband goes like he suffers too and I’m not the only one suffering. I love him alot and so does he but I am always in this fear that what if this silence never ends rather ends us , maybe I am being too negative but this silent treatment kills me. I hope he stops it and understands how painful it can get


Thanks for your post. I think i need to let it out. I met a guy on my holidays back home. We hit it off. he worked as a Diplomatic in my home town. I am Asian and he is from the state. after I went back to the country where I live and work,he visited me twice. We had a great connection. and he said He will no longer work in my home country and he got transferred to another country soon. I felt so sad and tried not to attach him emotionally. But he said he will visit me again. after he went on holidays back to his home in the state, He still tried to help me for my school applications which he encouraged me to get scholarship in the US. we said we missed each other. I stopped texting him for one week coz i didnt want to disturb his family times and he reached out to me later But just before he moved to another country for diplomatic, he changed not texting me a lot or he sounded just a friend. I initiated conversation a few times. my last time was I let him know that i was not selected for scholarship. We started talking about it and I told him I would move back to my home country and try another times for scholarship. Then he ignored me totally on messenger and I saw him online sometimes but never reached out to me. I felt hurt. after over one month we didnt talk, I uploaded my new pic on facebook and he liked it. I dont have any idea at all. ? I felt so hurt but I still could control my feelings and never confront him.


WOW! Spot on article; thanks for sharing Karen! I might be the first guy/husband responding on this matter. My wife has a very tough time expressing her feelings/emotions. I am just the opposite; I need to have that emotional connection through consistent communication. This situation was coined by a marriage counselor we use to see as our “vicious cycle.” My wife would ignore me and sweep everything under the rug. I would put up with it for as long as I could until it overflowed in the way of disparaging remarks on my behalf. And then it will start all over again. Childishly I wanted her to feel the pain that she caused me by ignoring me and always walking away. There is no excuse for my response mechanism and I am working hard to change that behavior. One area where this article provides me relief is in the description of how the silent treatment is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising. In this situation, I have been labeled as this horrible husband that verbally abuses my wife for no reason at all. I understand there is no good reason to verbally abuse anyone but it has been so hard to explain to others that what my wife does is abuse as well, its just hidden. 7 months ago, my wife served me separation papers at my workplace and when I came home she had left with our 3 kids. After all this time she still refuses to talk to me about “US” and will only discuss matters to do with our children. I have tried everything I can pleading with her to attend counseling with me and she has refused. Every time I have asked if there was hope on saving our marriage she would respond by saying “Did I file for divorce?”At the time of separation she was pregnant with our 4th child. Our new baby girl was born Aug 19th and all seems to be heading to divorce no matter how much I want to prevent it. What I continue to struggle with is how she can be silent for this long while everything is falling apart in front of us. This has to be the worst breakup of all time; silence.


Wow…. I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m going through the exact same thing with my husband. It’s going on 3 weeks where he hasn’t talked to me at all or answered any of my messages. We are roommates living in the same house. This hurts so bad. What ended up happening in your marriage? Were you able to resolve the artiste and make it work? Hope things are good for you.


I have been living with my boyfriend for 6 months. I love him so much. But the silent treatment is killing me. Every few weeks we will have a silly argument. Then he goes quiet. I give it a couple hours and try to talk to him. But he won’t speak. This goes on for 48 hours. He won’t look at me or talk to me. It’s as if I don’t exist. Makes me feel so unwanted and unloved. He won’t come near me. All bcoz I said or did something he didn’t like. Or I didn’t agree with him on something. I even apologize but that doesn’t help. Is this abuse?


My husband of one year, goes days, sometimes a week without speaking to me. I have health problems because of it and finally decided it’s not worth a heart attack. I will be leaving him and I am very sad about it. I would discuss it with him but guess what – he’s not speaking to me. It’s not like I didn’t have some warning. He was like that for eight years before we married.


Hi Karen, my goodness – what an incredible read. Thank you. (As is the case with your other articles too).
I’ve been married now for 36 years, and we have a daughter aged 28. Both my husband and my daughter use the ‘silent treatment’ when we have issues/arguments, after which my husband will carry on (a minute, an hour or a day later) as if nothing happened. My daughter will give me the silent treatment for weeks, and then on a nice day, she will simply carry on as if nothing happened. none of the arguments and issues have ever been resolved and I’ve yearned for resolution, sorting things out, ‘closure’. I have always felt ‘abused’ by this and thought I was ‘playing at being the victim’ and I felt guilty! You have brought insight and perspective to my feelings. Thank you.


I have been with my boyfriend for over three years. We are madly in love. There is a passion and a connection between us that I have never felt before in my life. In fact four days ago that was his text to me “I love you so so much. You are the most incredible woman and I am so lucky to have you. I’ve never felt anything like this.”
A couple nights ago we got into a brief argument. It was brief because he hung up on me and hasnt spoken to me or returned a call or text since. This was not a blow out fight. We have had much larger fights in the past and he has used the silent treatment after those as well. I could make sense of why he would do that after those fights but this one just seems like a major over reaction. I don’t know if he was possibly feeling too vulnerable and like he didn’t have the control in the relationship and this is his way of getting it back or if he is just done with me and I will never hear from him again.
I am in so much pain right now. We usually talk at least twice a day and text all day long. So going from that to nothing is killing me. I’m physically ill. My heart is constantly racing. I have lost four pounds in two days. I haven’t texted or called since early yesterday morning and I don’t plan on reaching out again. I think that’s what he wants from me. For me to beg him to talk to me and tell him how wonderful I think he is. Well I have done that and I can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t seem to be helping,
He has done this to me 3 times prior to this fight and he always came back after four days or so. One time he did say he wanted to end the relationship and did. He came back to me two days later. I’m afraid this time he won’t come back.
I don’t think it’s possible to be so connected and in love the way we were just two days ago and then just walk away. I am hoping he is just trying to get his power back and control the situation as opposed to leaving. If he does come back I am prepared to insist that we work on this kind of fighting.
It’s extremely scary and sad for me right now. I just want the person I love so dearly to come back to me and pick me up in his arms and tell me it’s all going to be ok. I mean it wasn’t even a week ago when he told be we were made for each other. He has to come back! Right?!


Hi Kit wow what you just said is exactly how I’m Feeling. My boyfriend and I have been together for five years and have a three year little girl together. We would have little fights or really intense ones and he would walk out but after about an hour he would call say he was sorry and we would cry together and say how much we love each other. My boyfriend has schizophrenia and drug induced psychosis and has been on medication for it for five years and while on it is the most beautiful unbeilable wonderful boyfriend. He would tell me all day how lucky he is that we’ve found each other and make me promise I would never leave him and I would make him promise he wouldn’t leave me and how if we ever had a fight he would always come home to me. My boyfriend has been drinking about three to four times a week for the last seven or eight months and three out of the four times my kids and I would be walking on egg shells being careful not to upset him! While he was getting drunk he was great fun but when he was drunk or coming down from it he was really mean some of the time. The last time he drank was the 24th October and he was horrible, the next morning he woke up seen how upset I was and promised he was going to give the alcohol up. He went so good but I could tell how angry and adjitated he was getting, on the Saturday night we had a great night we sat in the lounge room and watched a horror movie and laughter and talked as a family and then we got into bed watched a movie and other stuff, we had a real nice night together. I went to bed at about 4.30 in the morning and took a sleeping tablets about 5 my boyfriend woke me and told me he was having bad alcohol withdrawals but I couldn’t keep my eyes open as I took the sleeping tablet! He started to call me all sorts of names and the last thing I heard was were done I’ve had enough. The next morning I got up just thinking we would talk and work it out but it has ended up being the most horrible day of my life and each day that has followed. Our air conditioner had blown and we had been waiting for the warranty guy and the dogs had pulled our Wi-Fi out from under the house. So we had no air conditioner no Wi-Fi and it was a real hot day. He woke up asked me to sit with him and then my daughter came in said the lady that was pulling our weeds was ready to be payed he said your not seriously going to go I said I’ll be back in a minute I can’t leave her waiting well I got back and he was packing his bag I said what are you doing and he said I’m leaving I can’t do this anymore! I said do what? he said I want to drink I don’t want to give it up I want to drink. I said your not seriously giving our relationships for alcohol and he said yes I Am. He asked me for a lift I dropped him at a guy place I thought he was going to cool down but by 11 that night I hadn’t heard from him so I went looking for him and was told he got on a train to Sydney. I rang him eight times and left him a text but he didn’t answer the phone and he didn’t answer the text. I am beside myself I’ve lost so much weight I can’t eat I can’t sleep all I do is panic. Two days later our little girl wouldn’t stop crying for her daddy so I sent him a text and said can you ring her I won’t answer the phone just talk to her and tell her you love her because she keeps saying she wants to die without her daddy but he never texted I even told him in the text what she said and obviously it didn’t faze him. My Dad and mum have tried to call him and he won’t answer the calls. He has been off his medication for three weeks and two days and still hasn’t contacted us not a word. Not even a text to say he’s ok! I have just found out he’s living with a guy he used to do drugs with which he is apparently good friends with but hasn’t spoken to in quite a few years. Every day of my life I am consumed with the feeling of the unknown I have no idea what he’s thinking or feeling and I’m so scared the love of my lifemy soul mate is out Ther ed not on his medication and not wanting to come home I miss him so much my heart aches in pain. When he’s not on his medication he turns into a different person he’s cruel and selfish and mean and just not the person we know. Ive only seen that person a few times and it wasn’t very nice. The nice guy I live with w AC nts to play video game SC and watch TV and just wants to be at home but this our guy SC thinks life’s a constant party and wants to act like ed a 23 years old. If he’s drinking and not taking his tablets he would more than likely becoming in and out of psychosis which is ruining his brain cells. I am only making assumptions because I don’t know what he’s doing. I just want him to come Home this silent treatment is so cruel it’s just heart breaking. The night before he left he used his last bit of credit and designed me a big heart and sent it to me. I just want my heart to come home


Ive been reading alot about silent treatment recently cuz ive been told i do that. And i have never seen it this way cuz i have never intended it to be a punishment of any sorts but me taking some time off the situation. If someones been hurling insults towards you or disrespecting you or your views or your charachter or constantly telling you that you are lying to them and you try to talk to that person and they just wont believe you so then what can you do? If your answers are just becoming thier ammo for more conflict? Hows that a punishment? You cant keep doubting someone and expect them to keep replying to you all the time justfying clarifying themselves. from my perspective its not the silence that kills you its those assumptions you make when the other person goes silent that hurt you. When you keep nagging a person over same thing over and over again how do you expect them to respond to you? If thats when someone goes silent then i guess it shouldnt be considered what this article says. I go silent when someone does this much too me that i am so hurt, i dont have words to express that or i have so much anger inside i know if i say anything i will destroy them and i know the things i can say so i chose silence over it. To bear all that rather than hurting someone i love with my words. You can choose to view silence as what you want but there are two sides to it. I dont know my point of view is psychologically acceptable or not but i have never gone silent intending to hurt someone but rather save them from my self.

Hey Sigmund

Many people who use the silent treatment don’t intend for it to be hurtful. Anything that shuts down communication or stops someone in the relationship feeling heard will eat away at the relationship. Given what describe, it is completely understandable that you would want to withdraw. It sounds as though neither person is feeling heard or understood, which is where the problem is. The way you conflict may be more him armful than whatever it is you are conflicting about. This is something you can work I but it will take a commitment from both of you. Try having a conversation where you each talk about what you need to happen in times of conflict. As your partner what is needed from you to make it less likely to escalate, and explain what you might need. It’s important to be open and kind and loving with each other while you do this. If this is difficult, and it might be, a counsellor can help you both to move forward and find a way conflict without hurting each other.


I couldn’t have said this any better myself. I have been accused of this my entire life- but I have ALWAYS been made to feel so bad about myself cause of everything I do wrong or am too stupid to know. It isn’t a matter of doing anything to anyone but myself. I am not worthy of anyone so why talk to anyone. It only makes it worse. I wish I knew how to be a better person, but I don’t and being silent is living proof


Dear J

It seems in your past that you have ‘been made to feel so bad’ as you said. People have hurt you badly. You are not wrong or stupid as no-one is wrong or stupid. We are all souls and here to learn – from our past. It is true what you know most of all that it ‘isn’t a matter of doing anything to anyone but myself.’ People have hurt you badly. You have been made to feel not worthy so ‘why talk to anyone.’ I hear you and understand you because I believe so many, many, have hurt you badly. This is not you but always, always, a reflection of them. They are always, always, projecting/acting out what is inside of them. They have been making you pay. I have been there too, many, many times. You are a better person. You are here questioning when your abusers are projecting and blaming and accusing and devaluing you. They are not questioning. They are not better people. Keep questioning – all of your past and you will see that every person who has made you feel so bad is because they are bad. You will likely find their behaviours are wrong and the more you think about others actions and begin to make sense of their narcissism (in this worldwide epidemic) you will find more and more of their behaviours that are simply – abusive, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually abusive. It seems to me by your self-blame and your heartache (I hear because this has been me too and I am 48 years old now, an author of this stuff) is not you but I have no doubt if you search your past and you search your soul, you will find it is all the extreme and severely covert mental disease around you. It seems to me that your being silent is a normal response to astounding abnormal environment. It seems like me, we have been silenced, shut down, shunned and discarded – all traits/acting out of the narcissistic personality disorder (this epidemic of the early 21st Century). When you have finished thinking and feeling on your past and others actions enough to try (just a little at first) again. Try with a person you either don’t know at the cafe serving or the fellow student at college or anywhere and at each little try I have no doubt you will be sure to be heard, a little at a time, like baby steps moving forward again from all the insidious and covert abuse you have endured in the past. Today after being silenced until my 30s, more and more and more people began to let me finish whole sentences and now they ask me questions wanting to know more. It will come if you keep trying after you have learned the most important truths – it is not you. You are not wrong or stupid. You are worthy and important, already a better person and I hope you remember this and tell yourself every single day. You are a soul and every soul is worthy of being respected. You can email me anytime at if there are any questions you have.

Carol Derry

My husband and I have issues with communication especially if one or the other feels picked on. My husband sulks for days where ae I say what I want and then get on with life. . You’d think after 24 yrs together we would have sorted it out by now. I. Have been through several sets of therapy for my issues from my childhood abuse, but he hasn’t as he does not think of his childhood as abusive. Is hard when one works at their problems but the other tries to stay the same.


Thanks again for yet another thought-provoking and great article. This article has once again highlighted to me the reasons for the breakdown of my second marriage – I don’t have such a good track record in close relationships!

Although I was determined to make my second marriage a success, I quickly discovered that a successful relationship is determined by both parties and no matter how hard you try, sometimes it just is not possible to make it work.

During our marriage, my now ex-wife criticised me in every single area of my existence until, throughout the last year we were together, I went to sleep every night wishing I wouldn’t be here in the morning and woke up disappointed and depressed that I was. There seemed to be no way at all that I could make her happy, no matter what I tried, and my love for her was hit every time a new criticism arose.

I found myself staying up later and later every night in order to avoid intimacy with a woman that I realised didn’t really love me – I find it amazingly easy to read faces and emotions, down to the smallest of micro-emotions, so I readily recognised the times I’d disappointed her once again.

Obviously to me, this made it very difficult for me to discuss anything with her in a productive way and so I always would shut down. I just didn’t know how to put across my viewpoint without upsetting her or feeling angry at myself for allowing myself to be walked all over; this would make me feel used, un-affirmed, unloved and unworthy, and I suppose this led to a fear of communication in any sort of potentially conflictual situation. So I began to think of any communication as potentially conflictual and stopped communicating altogether.

I honestly wish your website had been active during this time (or, that I had known about it, if it was) as it would have been a huge help in getting my mind functional and able to cope with these conflicts in a manageable and productive way. I hope a lot of men read this site as well as women, as I believe you help many men to understand themselves more and in such a positive way too.

Hey Sigmund

Thanks so much Stan for sharing your story. You’re absolutely right – sometimes people grow apart and all of the love and commitment isn’t enough to get the relationship back on track. It’s difficult to stay close and loving and open when you feel as though there is a constant hum of criticism – it really is poison for relationships. Being able to be vulnerable is so important for relationships and the connection between two people. Criticism chips away at that by feeding into silence and non-communication. What you describe makes so much sense. It sounds as though you have learned a lot about yourself and your needs, triggers and responses in close relationships. I love that. None of us are born knowing how to do relationships, and it’s an openness to growth and change that makes all the difference. This is what will lead you to something rich, wonderful and life-giving when you are ready for your next relationship.


Hey Sigmund,

I come to you because I feel so hurt and confused, and I cannot even tell if I am being given the silent treatment or not. I honestly could really use your help and perspective; I’ve been trying to read so many articles online, just hoping I can figure out what happened.

Almost 2 months ago I started going out with a man I knew (and respected) from a few months back. HE treated me very nice, and things escalated very fast, much faster than I was feeling comfortable but I did not want to look at reasons to hold back; I was happy that I was living something so beautiful. In less than two weeks we were already talking about getting married and having kids, but not now, we wanted to see how our relationship was working. We were just happy to have found each other that we knew we want that longterm commitment and we both openly accepted to consider ourselves in a serious relationship, and to be faithful to each other. We also agreed to be honest and open to one another.

Like most men, he is very focused on his career and he told me that he has some professional priorities and it is important for him to know that I am by his side and support him. And I agreed, without knowing exactly what he meant by support. I did my best.

And things were going very well between us, we we are texting (he was too), in addition calling me at least 1/day and spending every weekend together. At one time he called me and said he feels bad for not always texting me back immediately and he dislikes this feeling, but he is just busy at work. And I explained I understand, and it is good that he explained that so I would know, and I still support him. Things continued in the same wonderful way until..

..until one week I felt he started pulling away; he was not answering my texts as much, no more “good-night my love” and only 3 calls in a week. Maybe that is normal for other relationships but it was such a big change from where we were coming that I got anxious about it giving that I had such strong feelings for him. I tried acting as if nothing had changed, and I also asked him a couple of times if he is ok, and he said yes, he’s just tired from work. At the end of that week we saw each other and I saw he was trying to behave the same but there were small things he was (not) doing or saying that were so different: his body language, our conversations, our plans changing for the 2nd day and not telling me, his lack of focus. I asked again if everything is ok, he said yes, I reassured him that he can tell me anything, he just smiled and that was it. After that I let it slide thinking that it’s best not to nag him. We said goodbye, and we were supposed to meet the 2nd day.

However, the 2nd day, just a few hours before our date he texted me saying he is not feeling well and asked if we could cancel. I told him that I hope he gets better soon and to call me when he feels better…but I feel crushed. The thing is that I was feeling there was something not right, that there was something he was holding back from me and with the entire week of him pulling away, I thought that he is trying to get some space from me. About 30 minutes after my text, he called me and tried to explain he couldn’t sleep and other things but again, I fell he was so distant and distracted so I decided to go to the extreme and told him that I care about him and his happiness is important for me, so if he needs the space to figure out some things or take care of some things he needs to take care of, he can do so…I could hear him say thanks, with a week, and absent voice and feeling that he is confirming to take space (from me) I added that I hope I will still be around by the time he is done needing that space. At that point he asked me what do I mean, but his voice was different, I could see I had gotten his full attention and he was colder as well. And I told him that what I mean is that if for example 2 weeks go by and he hasn’t given me any sign I would just think he does not want to be with me anymore and that I would just wish he would tell me what is going on inside him. At that point he just said “I will tell you surely” and we said goodbye…that was 1 week ago. I texted him 2 days later to see how he is doing (health wise) and he just said he is ok, at work and he will call me the 2nd day…but nothing. No message, no calling, nothing. On one hand I am a bit worried if he is ok, not he other hand I am assuming that if he wanted he would have talked to me, and at the same time I am also thinking if he is upset at me, and why exactly and so many other questions.

I want to talk to him about what is going on, this silence is not helping for sure our relationship and is not helping me. But at the same time I don’t want to ruin things by trying to cling onto him, or looking for him if he is not ready to talk to me.

I really don’t know what to think anymore and I don’t know what to do.

Any suggestions please?

Hey Sigmund

Ella this sounds so confusing for you. It’s impossible to say what’s going on but there are so many reasons people might pull away, and many of them have nothing to do with wanting less of the relationship. He may be busy, tired, overwhelmed … so many reasons. The only way to find out what’s going on is to talk to him. If he assures you that there is nothing wrong, believe that until you have a clear reason to believe otherwise.


I don’t really agree. Sounds like this guy is has something he’s hiding. It’s quite clear from the fact that when you “gained his full attention” when you said you wouldn’t be around after a week. He doesn’t want to lose you. But he doesn’t want to give you his full attention either. If I were you, though it is hard, and you are attached which always hurts, i would continue on with my life without him. do things that feel good for you. Make room to be without him and most of all know your worth. Always. and stand tall and Walk away if you have to. You are better and greater than that and you always always deserve a clear explanation for things. If he was your husband of 6 years, than I would give him the benefit of the doubt. But judging by how fast this relationship has gone i would recommend you trust your gut and walk away


And if it does end up that he comes back and maybe he wasn’t playing you after all, you will still have stood your ground and walked away from anything that wasn’t serving you. The main intent here is simply to stand your ground and not wait around while someone else is in control but to take control of your own life by making it clear that you are not afraid of eating alone if you have to. This will not only force the guy to step up to the plate and stop whatever bullshit he is playing it will also weed out all the bad guys in gengeral and only by giving you only the very very best of the ripest Apple because simply, you will take no less


Thank you.

Anonymus this is exactly how I feel I should be doing, and I am continuing my life though he is in my mind more than I want to. In any case, I would really like to tell him that his behaviour these past weeks has been very hurtful and I don’t think we should see each other anymore…the problem is that I secretly hope that saying this will make him take a proper stand, but the risk is that he will just say “ok” and I’m afraid I will not be able to get over the feeling that I pushed him away and that if I wouldn’t have said anything he would have came around.

In the end he did call, Saturday. He confirmed he has ben thinking about our future, that he noticed some differences in our personalities, that he does not want to disappoint me or lose me. He asked if we can meet and discuss over dinner and that he will call me in a few days, after he gets back from a business trip. He hasn’t called yet since Saturday and again, I cannot stop thinking that back or not, busy or not, if he would have wanted to talk to me, or if he would have missed me, he would have been in touch with me.


Hi, Ella:

“I cannot stop thinking that back or not, busy or not, if he would have wanted to talk to me, or if he would have missed me, he would have been in touch with me.”

Boy, do I feel your pain.

Please check out


My husband has not spoken to me for over 1 week, yet he still uses my car. We have not had sex in 10 years there is no intimacy in our marriage
we have separate bank accounts and I do not know how much he earns. He is a heavy drinker but is never violent towards me.


This was a frightening read for me. This behaviour was modeled for me by my mother, not so much with us, but with my father. And now I find myself doing the same in my marriage, I feel pushed or attacked and retreat. And often then don’t know how to come back, I feel safer in the silence, but also sometimes get lost there. It feels like a protection, but I know it’s often punitive too. Any advice for the silent one?

Hey Sigmund

Jenna this makes sense – it is often a learned behaviour that is done without bad intention. If you are the silent one, try making it clear to your partner that you want to talk about what’s happened, but not yet. When you are ready, anything you can do to open up communication – even if it is in the smallest way – will make a difference. This shows you don’t want to hurt the person you are with. It might be as simple as, ‘can we talk?’. If you don’t know what to say, say that. ‘I’m not sure where to start but I’d like to reconnect with you and understand what you need.’ – or something like that.

Alternatively, talk to your partner about this and explain that you don’t want to stay away, but you’re not sure how to come back. You might find a way together that makes this easy. Maybe if he is able to reach out to you and know that when he does, you won’t push him away. You don’t have to respond when he needs a response, but let him know that you want to work things out and hear him, but can you just have a little bit of time to get your thoughts together. It will help if you can let him know when you think you’ll be ready – give me half an hour/ ten minutes – whatever feels okay for both of you.


I live with a man who literally walks away from me AS I AM TALKING.

I used to beg and plead and DEMAND to be heard.

What I got was:

“You’re not SAYing anything!”


“What am I supposed to SAY to that?”

I finally understood how big a RUSH it was giving him to know that his ignoring me was getting me worked up enough to be (I am ashamed and annoyed at myself to admit) at times screaming and out of control.

I still do sometimes get to where I am just seething with how UNFAIR it is, and at those times I am also still right on the edge of flipping out.

What stops me is that understanding: I’ll be DAMNED before I give him that kind and degree of satisfaction.

Now I say as little to him as possible about anything, and when I do need to, I say it once, briefly, and with NO expectation of or waiting for a response.

I also ignore him when he talks to me.

I am actively working on moving into a place of my own. I’ve got a way to go financially, but I consciously do at least one thing every day toward my goal: Some days I pack a few things; some days I focus on emotional and/or spiritual issues; I search for apartments and services in the neighborhoods to which I’d like to move; etc.

Hey Sigmund

We all have our limits around what feels okay and it sounds as though you reached yours some time ago, understandably. You sound clear and strong. Use your pain and your frustration and anger to propel you forward. I hope you find peace and comfort soon.


I don’t pray but reading your story. I will start to pray that you will be blessed on your journey my sister .


This comment (i know from 2016, sorry) hit home for me!!! I have a live in boyfriend (5.5 years) –
Living together 3.5 years. He goes out of his way to be superior over me in any situation! I feed Into his narcissistic ways each and every time and i am Trying so hard not to! Everything is always my fault! He will ignore me for days, weeks or even months! I feel Like I’m wasting my years by staying, but I have 2 children (not his) that also live in his home (i say His because even though i pay All utilities he still acts like it isn’t my home) and i financially can’t make it on my own right now. I’m taking baby steps to move. I know Deep down he doesn’t care about me and is just playing a game w me because he doesn’t think i will Leave. I feel so stuck right now but reading your comment made me see I’m not the only one that actually goes through this! Thank you!!



I have been married for 6 years and my husband has been giving me the silent treatment and emotionally withdrawing for about 6 months now. This last year has been a whirlwind with many transitions and pitfalls.

I became sick with an autoimmune disorder only a few months after we married. The effects were awful, with a lot of pain daily. I still struggle every day. He took care of me like I was a baby, never once complaining.

He lost his father 3 years ago and never seemed quite the same after that. I think he became depressed, but things were still okay between us. We were both extremely loving and compassionate. He retired from the Marine Corps a year ago and we moved from California to New York, his home state. The problems started when we got here.

His 11-year-old son had been living with his grandmother since he was 5. He lived with us when we met, but due to his behavioral issues and my health, I didn’t want to deal with him and my husband had to deploy to Afghanistan, so off to grandmas he went. He is a very problematic child. He has ADHD, he still pees the bed, he actually urinates all over the house, he has behavioral issues at school, extreme passive-aggressive bevahior. He’s just very difficult. Anyways, my husband decided that he should live with us again and that’s when everything went south. We simply do not get along. I don’t like him, he doesn’t like me. Our home was utter chaos for the last year with my husband being caught in the crossfire. Naturally, we would argue over it. I admit, I said some horrible, ugly things and my behavior was very poor at times. I even took a bottle of sleeping pills and began cutting myself for a period. I don’t mean to do the things I do, it’s just that my health is tied to my stress levels, and when I stress, I get sicker. But when I’m in emotional pain, I stress. It’s a no win situation.

After a year of arguing and doing more damage than you can imagine, his son went back to his grandmas, but the damage has been done. Now, he says he is very emotionally fragile and sometimes for the slightest infraction, he flies off the handle and says horrible things, then ignores me for days. And when he does start talking to me, he is still emotionally withdrawn.

I am starting to feel emotionally starved and believe that he is doing these things to either punish me or to get me to straighten up and conform.

Most of the time things are great. He is still the same sweet guy I married, doing everything for me, but his communication skills have come to an almost complete halt when we argue and now I’m afraid to set him off. I believe the term is walking on eggshells.

The main things we argue about are his son and his mother. She calls at least 5 times a day about nothing, stressing him out, even after he’s asked her repeatedly not to call so much. And he feels compelled to answer her because she has his son again, even though she called 5 times a day when he was living with us. She’s a real piece of work. The last fight was over his son. He wanted him to come stay over here for one night and I was simply not having it. I know that I seem unreasonable, but my stress response isn’t normal like most peoples. The slightest agitation sets me off and I start to get sick. Triggering my immune system can mean weeks of illness and recovery. I wish I wasn’t like this, my fragility is sickening to me as I was always a strong, independent woman, and I know it puts great stress on him.

I’ve started to see a therapist for my issues. He won’t, as he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He’s agreed to try communication techniques, but I fear that it might be too late.

From my description, does he sound like a narcissistic abuser, or am I just crazy and being selfish? Any advice on what I can do? Thanks.

Hey Sigmund

Vanessa your husband does NOT sound like a narcissistic abuser at all. He sounds like a man who is missing his son! There is also a young boy who is missing his dad because his stepmother has demanded that they be apart. Did your husband want to send his son away? Or did he have no choice? Because I imagine that if he had no choice, this would be unimaginably difficult for him.

It is not surprising his son has some behaviour issues. He is a young boy who is still getting used to the world who isn’t with either of his parents. I can’t imagine the rejection he feels. All children have a need to feel protected, unconditionally loved, and as though they are important to someone – someone’s number one. I’m not surprised at all that this young boy is struggling. I understand that you have needs around your stress and your health, but your husband’s son also has needs, so does your husband. I wonder if you feel any compassion for either of them because the way you talk about your husband’s son is quite harsh. As a parent, I would feel disappointment and resentment towards anybody who claimed to love me but spoke so harshly about my child – but that’s just me.

If you care about your marriage, I would strongly suggest that you find a way to be supportive in some way of the needs of your husband and his son. They deserve to be together in some way. That might mean compromising some of your own needs (perhaps staying with friends or family for a few nights sometimes so your husband and son can have time together?), but that’s what happens in healthy relationships. Perhaps seeing a therapist together with your husband to discuss a way for everyone to get their needs met in some way might be a good thing for all of you.

Mrs Jack

My husband of 10 yrs uses this all the time, he never talks, one yr he didn’t talk to me for 6 months, I had Thanksgiving & Christmas alone. He has never met my family of 7 brothers & sisters, he doesn’t have any friends, now today July 10th 2016 he hasn’t spoken to me since May 23rd. I spent my 10th Wedding anniversary having lunch with a friend. He doesn’t clebrate holidays, he thinks because I am married I don’t need friends.
I am on the verge of a diverse, I am almost 60 and I have given him the best 10 yrs of my life, I can’t live this way anymore.

Hey Sigmund

This sounds like such a lonely relationship to be in. Your pain and frustration is completely understandable, though I can hear your strength in your words – you have a such a courageous spirit. Your husband’s ideas about your need for friends are completely flawed. Of course you need friends! Connection with others is a vital need that we all have. Whatever happens in your relationship, stay true to who you are and what you need and don’t let anything your husband does cause you to doubt that you are deserving of love, friendship, nurturing and attention.


I’m so very sorry to hear what you’re going through. My husband and I have been married for 6 years. The last year has been extremely difficult, frought with family and health issues. Our communication has suffered greatly as a result, with yelling and name calling being commonplace.

In the last 6 months he has begun giving me the cold shoulder for days at a time and emotionally withdrawing. I’m starting to feel like I am being punished or that he is trying to exert power over me. What began as a loving relationship is slowly dwindling and I’m worried.

Was your husband always like this or did it happen over time because of marital issues? I cringe to think of spending another 6 years, or even one year, dealing with this abuse. Heck, I’d rather duke it out than be emotionally excluded.

Most of the time, he is very attentive and sweet, taking care of my every need. But as soon as we have the slightest disagreement, he flies off the handle. As I said, the loss of his father, to whom he was very close, issues with his son and my health issues, may just have him in a depression and very emotionally fragile. Unfortunately, he’s a former Marine and refuses to admit that there’s anything wrong. I’m always the one with the problem. And I guess I am to an extent, I do behave poorly more often than he does. I am under a tremendous amount of stress and sometimes I become irritable and angry.

Again, I am sorry for what you are going through, but you are not alone. I’ve contemplated suicide so many times. I even started cutting myself and took a bottle of sleeping pills. I now realize how dumb that was, but it was simply a cry for help. I just wanted his attention and I wanted the pain to go away.

I’m in therapy now and he’s agreed to try some new techniques to improve our communication. I give it another year. If things don’t improve, I’ll have to go. My health depends on it.

As for you, why do you stay? I know it’s so easy for people to say “just leave him”, but they don’t understand. Are you financially dependent on him? Or has he got your mind so psychologically messed up that you simply can’t seem to leave. If so, I know how you feel.

I so wish you the best. Everyone deserves happiness. Sometimes we just don’t realize that we deserve it, too. That first step is always the hardest. But when I look back on life and all of the times I thought I couldn’t go on if I left, I was always okay. In fact, I was better off than before.

Take care of yourself….you’re not alone.


you are not alone darling. i met this guy through friend of mine. we started off smoothly and cool. but then all of sudden the things that made us really close he stopped doing it. no ore calls so i had to do the calling so that things will work out fine. he started replying my texts late but i didn’t say anything till yesterday when i complained, then he called me a NAG!!! i was so shocked and i have been feeling so down since then. i don’t even know what to do


Oh my gosh, I am crying as I write this. I can hardly bear to read these comments and your replies Karen. I see myself in all these other writers.

Tonight for the first time I started to consider the possibility that a man I have been interested in dating is emotionally abusive. I just could not admit that to myself and I am really upset to finally see the facts for what they are. I have been in alot of therapy for the abuse of my childhood which was emotional and sexual (sad to say), and I have had alot of support and growth in those areas. I am sober many years in AA and attend al-anon. I have come along way and feel happy alot of the time, altho life is not perfect.

Anyway, this ‘kind and loving’ man who I have been interested in has been very emotionally with holding and often just won’t talk to me. He has expressed intense interest in me and yet when I speak to him he withdraws or pulls back. So I step back emotionally and then he steps forward and shows intense interest and so I step forward and show interest and then he steps back and withdraws. I originally was just happy and outgoing with him and was friendly and talked to him in an open and honest way. Just the way I do to all our friends. He seemed to do very well with that in the beginning and I thought, great! he’s a nice guy and this is going to be a good thing.

But after an initial rush of easy, open communication he has changed into a man who won’t speak easily to me but does show great interest. You could say he’s shy, gunshy from past relationships – you can say whatever you want. But his come here/go away behavior has made me anxious and fearful and now I dread seeing him with our mutual friends because I don’t know if he will be effusive and happy to see me or sullen and withdrawn towards me. I was going to ask him out to talk about this but his behavior sort of frightened me too much and I didn’t trust him to really be honest with me.

The worst has been that our mutual friends have gotten involved and one woman was even coaching me on “this is how you should act for him because he likes it when you do this and that.” She also was telling me to stop hanging around with certain people because this man didn’t like that, and to stop acting in other ways because he didn’t like it when I was _____ (fill in the blanks). Her list of demands that he wanted from me grew very long and meanwhile he would be very distant from me. Finally, I just told her to stop it – the whole things was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to change myself for anyone, let alone a man who couldn’t even talk to me like a regular person.

Yes, I liked him initially and he did seem sweet but possibly he is also an abuse survivor and is trying to control this new (potential) relationship before it even really began. If I am an abuse survivor the odds are very high he is as well and we “see” each other in our romantic interest in each other. His behavior is familiar to me, as I have struggled with intimacy in the past and would run away from healthy men who were attracted to me. We could be open and honest and use this as a way to heal from our respective early wounds as we are both sober and in recovery. We have the opportunity to learn from all relationships and to grow and change from the experiences. I am willing to do that, and if given the chance I will ask him directly if he wants to go out for coffee and just get to know each other in an open and honest way, as friends. His use of silence frightens me and does not bode well for any kind of relationship, but – I can learn from this and heal myself. The only person I can change is me.

Thank you for writing such an excellent blog post and for responding to your readers’ comments so eloquently. I feel embarrassed that I am struggling with an emotionally unavailable man who seems to use silence as as a weapon of power, but if this is happening to me then that is what I need to be working on in myself.


Hi, Sarah. I just wsnt you to know that Im going through almost the exact same thing and it hurts like hell. I haven’t done anything to this man but finally open up to him and return his intende interest. It seems MY interest dampened his. I havent been needy or clingy; he has ALWSYS made first contact and has contactex/called me every day for almost 2 months (with a couple of days of punishing silent treatment for some percieved wrong I did to him thrown in). I havent done snything to this man but like him. I think I am being emotionally abusrd. The whole things feels sadistic almost. I gotta let him GO before I lose myself.

Juanita m



I have been through the exact same thing for 5 years, until I decided enough is enough.
Juanita, don’t put him on the pedestal and give him a crown that won’t fit on his head. There are plenty of men outhere, who wouldn’t act this way.
Stop letting men like this, dictate what is happening in your relationship. No matter how difficult it might be, it’s better to let go. So, Juanita , you asked him if it’s over, he didn’t respond…silence is always an answer as well. So you take the lead and call it an end. Just think about it, in the future is this really the man you want to call husband? Would you have kids with him, given his behaviour?
If you had a daughter, would you let her continue this relationship?

Women, are incredibly powerful and after all, if you do not give the other person power over you, then they cannot hurt you.

Love Alex,


It has been 15 months to my marriage. I went abroad after getting married. After 8 months when I visited my home country my husband blocked me for two months from everywhere. It came out as a complete shock to me. I begged and pleaded him through emails to talk to me. And call me back. Which he did after 2 months. Then again I had to come back to my home country because of my visa issues. We had a fight which got settled after few hours. But he booked my ticket without letting me know . I was scared if he is going to block me again when I reach to my home country. I kept asking for assurances to which he said that he wont repeat. But he did the same. Its been two months and he has blocked me from every social media platform and not talking to me at all. What should I do? I am unable to understand this psychology .He is a gemini too. I have been emotionally suffering like crazy beating myself up. I am shocked that he gets better after the fight but why he schemes my going back in a way to use against me?


No no no no. Sweet darling child. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing that you need to fix or work on. the reason why you may have given your attention to others and than pulled away in the past was because you were genuinely struggling with yourself. But by the sounds of your story it looks like this man is intentionally trying to hurt you. The lesson for you to learn here is to stand tall and walk away.


ive been with my bf for 8 months deeply in love had a row following a arty of other people who said I done many things which I did not he was drunk but it was his brother saying not nice stuff hes very hurt by this sent few texts of how broken he feels from fighting etc but I kept texting him mistake being pushing him away he said I was the one and never felt pain like this hes very angry and all I want do is talk he wont talk ive sent back his clothes being nice he nees them he wont return mine I got upset bout something on social media so hes blocked me its ike hes put me in a box after all the good times we had he misses me after one day now haven’t seen him in 10 days dunno what to do anymore


I am exhausted…..!!! emotionally drained and sad. My husband does this crap to me all of the time. Its so confusing and I dont know what I did wrong…??? I just wake up and he wont talk to me, answer me back, acknowledge me, watches me cry in frusteration, hurt and confusion? I cant wrap my brain around treating someone so badly! I am the perfect loving, giving, thoughtful, generous person! Not only to my husband, but to whom everyone that i love and care for!

Its like a frisbee to the head…..???!!!! He will sometime spurt back as im crying in confusion and he will put me down and tell me its because of the way i act…?? WTF….? I do everything for this guy! he tells me that i call him too much during the day? I treat him like a 12 year old and act like his mom? im not normal….? This is all so very hurtful and I know who I am. I am honestly striving everyday just to be happy. Thats it…!

I have to stay out of his way anywhere from a day to months! and after awhile it does mess with your head and you do start to feel like there is something wrong with you. I start to get depressed and sad and it conflicts with my other relationships with friends and disrupts my work ethic because i am so upset by it all!

Honestly, our relationship is based on his mood. when he wants to get along we do. ( thats a good day) but if he wakes up and he decides he does not like me and i bug the @#%$ out of him….. STAY OUT OF THE WAY.. He exzutes nothing but hate!

Whats inside me and whats inside him is completley different. All I can do his pray for him and feel sorry for him. But I tell you all what…. I love my husband dearly, but I am tierd.



He sounds like an extreme form of “my” SO.

Can you say Borderline with STRONG Narcissistic tendencies?

Been there, never going back

im so sorry that you are experiencing this. my ex husband (of 4 years – together for 10) did this to me continually through our relationship. I was always to blame and would spend hours and hours, sometimes weeks and weeks, full of anxiety and thinking of ways to ‘break’ his silence. Unfortunately for him I realised that he would never ever change. I left him 8 months ago. He beg and pleaded and cried (for the first time) for me to change my mind. Sorry, too little too late. I have now met an amazing man who shows me love like I have never experienced before. He does not shut down, he does not ignore and encourages me to speak my mind and even holds me close when it all gets too much with the ex (who has reverted back to a horrible human being – we share 2 children 8 & 6 and he continues to try to drag me down to his level – which I now am aware he is doing so revert with only yes/no answers referring to the children). I am not here to say that he will change but it might be time to let him know that you are considering leaving if it does not change – if you want to stay with him). I promise that there is an extremely enjoyable life (and real love) after this debilitating time in your life. I wish you all the best x


Wow thank you for those words, I have been married for 17 years and each time I express my disappointment of something hurtful my husband has caused he shuts down closes his eyes and ignores me for days on end, it has made me cry with frustration which he enjoys as he does it all the more until recently I tried to make things right but now understand it’s not my fault and it’s his form of control and ignorance to admit he is uncap enable of communication, thanks it all makes sense now I am not going mad!!

Been there, never going back

No Jo, you are not going mad. Truth be told he doesn’t deserve the love and tears to give to him. There is nothing that you can do now except shield yourself from this toxic behaviour. Remember that you are a strong woman and his behaviour does not reflect on who you are, only who he is (sadly). I suspected for years that he had narcissistic tendencies. I suspect yours is too. Just remember that there are millions on this earth experiencing the same thing – although its not right. This is nothing short of abuse. I used to actually hope that he would hit me because no one would question me if I left him then (as crazy as that sounds now when I say it back!!!!). we need to realise that every day that we spend with these people a little bit more of us is chipped away.
Wishing you strength and happiness moving forward. J x


I was having a very hard day. And actually uttered the words today soon there will be nothing left of who I am. At least I am not alone in feeling this way but I just let him keep doing it. Told me today he refuses to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him hurt, sorry, or sad. Awesome I guess I will feel that for both of us all the time.


Agree! I don’t no what to do i try to be a good wife but he make it difficult been married for 22 years I’m only 38 and I just can’t any more… I love him so much But hes so negative all the time he just blames and blames he always talk about how my brother hurt 10 years ago it was about a couple hundred dollar loan that he could not pay back and he know that when he gave it to my brother. it got to the point that I dont see my family any more cause he made me upset with them. He expects me to fix everything I mean the children, the house our finances, his mother, our grand child, our daughteri-in-law. He says tell me what’s wrong and when I do he falls asleep, or the phone rings and stays on it till I don’t care no more. He tells me talk to me like you talk to your friend. He makes it sound like I am being mean to him. He don’t listen about nothing important that’s going on, then he gets upset and say why you didn’t tell me.. He will have a good day well go eat out maby go to the movies I’m tired of that too I feel like I’m losing myself my mind I don’t care about nothing any more, I am always in physical pain! I don’t care to be around anyone. i completely shut down and act like all is well and put a mask on every day yes dear no dear ok honey don’t worry I’ll fix it..?when all I really want to do is just sleep to God comes to pick me up. Or be completely alone on a beach forever lol…Sorry I guess I vented out just so frustrated.


My Husband closes his eyes, crosses both arms and looks down like a 5 year old! He will NOT Talk,?? It is the craziest and most hurtful thing I have ever seen!

Alfredo G

Wow! I am a so sad for you. I wish my wife is as caring, thoughtful, and affectionate as you. So sorry you are going through this as I understand your pain. I too am going through something similar with my wife.

with warmest regards


I am so happy to find there are people out there that go through the same nonsense I do. I was starting to seriously doubt myself and am constantly trying to figure out what I did wrong.
My husband was the kindest most caring man I have ever met, and we met shortly after I got away from an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I try not to dwell on that but some days are hard, I struggle with anxiety and feel insecure but I recognize these feelings and really only let it out to tell him when I’m not doing too great, you know, because he is my husband and one should be able to bear your soul to you spouse. Before we got married he used to listen to me and talk to me about my experiences and feelings and he encouraged it, and it helped.
Now we have been married for only 5 months and we have had so many big fights about nothing really, he would go into silent treatment mode for no reason and make me feel so horrible by ignoring me, shutting me out and pretending I’m not even there. He also tells me sometimes that I must get over it if something triggers my anxiety.
His behavior also confuses me sometimes. He has barely said 2 words to me over the past 2 days, my anxiety is through the roof. I have learnt to not ask him what’s wrong when he gets like this because that is when I get yelled at. So I suffer in silence because I can’t handle the shouting. So he went to the shop, barely greeted me (I got up to kiss him goodbye and he just walked out the door), and returned with and orchid and hot cross buns, 2 of my favorite things. But when I walked over to give him a kiss to say thank you he pulled away from me and didn’t even smile, it was like o there that’s for you… if someone can please tell me what to make of this behavior I would greatly appreciate it because I’m at my wits end.
I’m so tired of always walking on eggshells and not knowing when he will get like this and then feeling so worthless.

Amanda H

i sound like the husband only i am a female but i do this and have always done it i think i got it from my mom she never confronted my father she just gave him silent treatment it how i express my anger…. also when i do the silent treatment on my husband it’s because i’m just sick and tired of him and don’t care also i feel like there’s no point in arguing or discussing anything because it’s a waste of time and u can’t change the other persons mind.

Same Path

I feel and understand you. My anxiety level is bad as well & my husband hasn’t even spoken to me for almost two week. No sex for I believe a month. Just because I made a comment on how every time I try talking to you, you always cut me off or if we make plans to do something and someone else invites us to do something with them … then screw our plans. I told him I felt like I’m after everyone, when I should be before, being his wife of 8 years.

He used to be a such fun, loving, attentive, always smiling type of guy … and god .. now he’s bitter ONLY talks or ask questions real quick .. basically his needs.


Well I have been dating this guy for almost two years now… Recently he traveled out of the country, I have been putting in more effort at communicating with him. Three days back we had a petty argument, it was one of the dumpest fights over?….. I simply questioned him about him not picking up my calls the previous day.

I literary wrote a text asking if it was wrong for me to video call him at night, or if he needs privacy… And when I called he picked up, in frustration he asked me why I would ask him something like that and he said I annoy him, he hung up…. Since then we haven’t spoken.

I just wonder why such a petty thing would make us go days without talking…. Is he just looking for ways to distant himself from me?


It feels like someone’s just telling the story of my life!! I love my husband very much but can’t take this silent treatment for no reason anymore!! I’m away from my family in a different country living with my husband and I literally don’t have much people to talk really messes up with your head & I feel like I’ve started to go into depression after taking this sh#t for 5 years!!


I used to give silent treatment to my boyfriend because I needed time to think about how to approach the issue instead of saying things in the heat of the moment and regretting my replies. I have learnt that silent treatment is hurtful so now I would text him to tell him I need some time to cool down instead of going all silent on him until I was ready to talk again.

Recently we got into an argument. I texted him hoping to work things out. He never gives me silent treatment but now he’s doing it…

I’m afraid that this is the end of our relationship as he usually replies fast after a fight. We have been together for a year now.

I don’t know if I should reach out again to him and how should I text him..


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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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