The silent treatment is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising – literally.
Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain.
The best predictor of divorce isn’t whether a couple fights – arguments are inevitable – but how a couple fights. The key to being closer in the good times lies in the way a couple treats each other during the bad.
The silent treatment can tend to present itself as a response more fitting of the ‘high road’, one of grace and dignity, but research has shown it is anything but.
Kipling Williams, a Professor of Psychology at Purdue University who has studied ostracism for twenty years, explains, ‘Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, are used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realise the emotional or physical harm that is being done.’
The ability to detect ostracism is hardwired in us – it doesn’t matter if you’re being ignored by a group or a person you can’t stand, the pain still registers.
The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that detects physical pain. The initial pain is the same, regardless of whether the exclusion is by strangers, close friends or enemies.
The silent treatment happens when one partner pressures the other with requests, criticism or complaints and the other responds with silence and emotional distance.
Paul Schrodt, PhD, Professor of Communication Studies reviewed 74 relationship studies which involved more than 14,000 participants.
Findings from his in-depth analysis revealed that the silent treatment is ‘tremendously’ damaging to a relationship. It decreases relationship satisfaction for both partners, diminishes feelings of intimacy, and reduces the capacity to communicate in a way that’s healthy and meaningful.
‘It’s the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed, established romantic relationship,’ says Schrodt. ‘And it does tremendous damage.’
It’s an incredibly hard pattern to break because both partners lay the blame at the feet of the other.
‘Partners get locked in this pattern, largely because they each see the other as the cause,’ explains Schrodt. ‘Both partners see the other as the problem.’ One partner will typically complain that the other is emotionally unavailable. The other will accuse his or her partner of being too demanding or critical.
When couples become locked in this ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern, the damage can be both emotional and physiological include anxiety and aggression as well as erectile dysfunction and urinary and bowel problems.
It doesn’t matter which partner demands or which one withdraws, the damage to the relationship is the same. It’s the pattern itself that’s the problem, not the specific partner.
The silent treatment should not be confused with taking time to cool down after heated or difficult exchange. Williams suggests that instead of reverting to the silent treatment, try ‘I can’t talk to you right now, but we can talk about it later.’
Nobody engages the silent treatment expecting it to damage the relationship, and that’s the danger.
Generally, it’s called on as the weapon of choice because it’s powerful and it’s easy to get away with. There is nothing subtle about a physical or verbal lashing, but an accusation of the silent treatment, ‘Are you ignoring me?’ can easily be denied.
Silence can feel like a dignified, high road response but it’s not. It’s a way to inflict pain but without the physical marks.
Being noticed is so close to being loved, that sometimes they feel the same.
Being ignored is just as powerful.
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Gosh. I have read so many things online recently about the silent treatment and I still cant decided whether my fiance is justified in doing it to me or not.
He has done it before when I have caught him out hiding stuff from me – like planning to have his kids extra long because his ex asked him and not even discussing with me first or finding letters in his bag for unpaid debt addressed to his ex that he then tried to lie to me about. This time though I did something. I looked at his Google search history. Found something on there that once again he’d lied to me about partaking in so I questioned him. Admitted id looked at his Google search history, apologised and explained I knew it was wrong of me but I was curious and for good reason it seems! Anyway he then gave me the silent treatment through the day in the house but acted fine on a night through text while he was working. This lasted 2 days. Last night he messaged asking about our honeymoon and where I wanted to go and to have a look etc. And today has been completely fine! I am massively confused! How can he ignore me in person yet act fine on message and then just be completely normal?! Nothing is resolved. I’ve still found something out about him that he has hidden from me. Seems to think everything should be private but I’m sorry, some stuff when you’re about to marry someone can be done in private but shouldn’t be a secret. And finances especially need transparency but I have no clue even how much he earns a month! Or how much debt he has – or who’s debt he’s paying for that matter. He’ll say he doesn’t know my business either but he does because he knows he needs to give me money as my pay only covers the mortgage. Anyway. My questions are – is he justified with this behaviour as I technically did something that clearly upset him (even though what I found upset me)? And also how do I now go about bringing it up again? He’s acting normal and we always have the kids around. It’s impossible to get time to have a proper conversation to sort anything from other unresolved issues which I believe he thinks I’ve forgotten about?
My boyfriend traveled for about 10 weeks, we were doing very fine.
A week now he started ignoring my text, he doesn’t longer check on me.
I called him trying to find out the problem, if there is any, he told me there is nothing and yet still ignore my text.
After telling me there was no problem, he added that, he has a new girl and what position would I like to fix myself in.
What should I do?
I have a male friend, whom I consider a really close friend, I think I have began developing feelings for him. He is very kind and polite, I would get excited when he winked at me, or he asked how I am, or he shared his chocolate with me, but then at times I get the feeling that he isnt that into me. So I sent him a Good Morning message and asked how he was doing, he replied “Working with a winking emoji and typed You? I was offended, I didnt mean anything bad, I just said Good Morning and thought it courteous to ask how he is doing. I then decided that maybe its best if I stop messaging him or contacting him, as I am always the one who makes the effort and initiates conversations. And I told him that I will no longer message of call, he read the message and never responded. What do I make of this?
So my boyfriend recently celebrated his birthday. He arranged an apartment for him and his boys and spent two nights there. Now first he explained it as just a guys weekend but stated that a few girls might be there.Then he asked me
If I had something to wear and if I would really some to which I said yes! He then said fine, I’ll send you the address in the morning.
The day of his actual birthday ( which was a Saturday) I heard from him 3 times during the morning, to which he promised that he would call me later. However, by 12:30 he was completely ghost for the rest of the day. I messaged him in the evening asking for the apartment address ( if other girls are going then your girl should definitely be there too). He made me get my hair done as that’s what he wanted as well as my nails and he said that he would pay for it. The money never arrived. By this point I was LIVID ! Because I feel like a fool. He posted on social media multiple times, but he never responded to my message. He got a hair cut and he said that he would sent me a picture and a picture I did not receive.
He called me late the next evening after I had ignore his 3 morning messages, and I could hear loud music and then the phone was muted for a short period and then it sounded like he was in the bathroom. I played it cool and pretended like I was unbothered and he started to get irritated that I was so chilled. He even asked if I am angry. Why would he ask that ?!!! I simply said, why should I be angry ?
I just feel like I’m too mature for him and maybe I want too much and he just can’t give me what I want. I’ve kinda been giving him the silent treatment (not messaging back) but when he calls I’ve been the sweetest on the phone. He got mad and said we’ll talk when I’m back tomorrow. I said no it’s okay we don’t need to talk about anything. All is well.
Should I be upset about the weekend and what is his behaviour about ?
They love this as it leaves no marks and there is no recourse
My wife has been doing this to me for 30 years, probably 6 to 8 time a year, every time we have an argument. It wasn’t until now that I found this and understood what was happening to me mentally and physically. The last episode ended me in a rage that has probably ended our marriage.
Ive been close friends with a man at my work for years ! And I’ll admit work gossip has made us argue a few times . Leaving him disappointed in me doubting him but we’ve always got through it . Until recently I got jealous that he was getting close with a another co worker . I got mad at him , and now he has completely shut me out . Even after I texted and admitted I was jealous and I was sorry . Ten years of friendship and he is giving me the silent treatment. I feel worthless , like I mean nothing to him and it sucks
I too am having some of the same issues. I find it’s now me who is doing the ignoring .
Help I’m 66 was in a marriage for over 30years divorced 10years ago, he has since died, it was him who done the ignoring. I am now living with my partner and it is me now thats doing the ignoring. It hurts me so much to do this to him l love him so much. Help
Reading everyone’s comments have really helped me gain some new understanding. Thank you for sharing.
I am in a long distance relationship. Notwithstanding the distance, it is a great relationship since 5 months. The only thing that really bothers me is seemingly small things set her off easily in conversations, and she the mood turns. She becomes quiet then I get the “silent treatment” for a couple of days, After its over, she always says sorry, didn’t mean anything by it, she just felt like pranking me, had her period, etc. But in the meantime thee are two problems: 1) I suffer from sadness and worry every time, and 2) if I am even a few minutes delayed in replying to her texts, or am on the phone and miss her text for 30 minutes, she reacts badly. I have asked her to tell me that she is okay during this times if she needs space for any reason, so at least I don’t have to worry about her welfare during these times of :radio silence” which she agreed to, but has not honored. I am tempted to do the same to her so she can feel the pain she inflicts on me once, but its not in my nature, and am told it would not be productive or conducive to a healthy relationship. What should I do? What is the way to respond? I have talked to her about it and that hasn’t worked/.
After we got engaged, I quit my job and came to US with him. He is from Ecuador, I am from China. He seems like happy and good with me. But one day he asked me in the morming,”Do you want to go to Ecuador with me?” I honestly said no. Then in the afternoom, I waited for him for 1 hour in the parking lot, till I realize that there is something wrong. He disappear. I was crazily looking for him. Then at midnight, I received a msg from him. He already went back to Ecuador. I was angry and upset. Then he started to complain about my personality, my temper and my fights with him. At the end he broke up with me. But the same time he still contacts me. After one month, he told me he doesn’t have any doubt anymore, he wants to marry me. But now when we have conflicts again, he became unstable again. He will be cold and warm, if I said sth that makes him unhappy, he shut off his phone. I do have my problems too, when I am angry I shout at him and throw stuff, when he hang off my phone calls I will keep calling and msg a lot. I don’t know how to solve this problem, I do love him, and he said he loves me too, but we don’t know if we should continue this relationship.
Hey..I have been in a long distance relationship for two years now… everything has been going on well with us but suddenly he has started ignoring me and even forgot my birthday yeah I am hurt but I don’t know what to do
my ex and i had a disagreement over a month because i was at my house celebrating my sons 25th birthday, things were going good until i told her the milk i bought for her to take it home when she goes home, she took that as me telling her to leave. i explained to her i a very calm way that that is not at all what i meant, things did get better that day but then later all she did was sit on the corner of the couch and ignored all of us, i tried to ask her what was wrong several times and i got ignored finally i stood up after 3 hrs and confronted her she got very upset and left, now she is giving me the silent treatment i have apoligized for my mistake and didnt mean to embarrass her and i have reached out every few days asking how she is and if we can discuss her feelings about what happened but no response since the breakup. what more can i do?
I work with a colleague who takes the silent treatment to extremes if either I’ve had to take a
Couple of days off work sick and she’s had to work with a colleague I usually work with. Then when I come back I know for definite that it will be several months of solid silent treatment, with piercing stares, sulks, running out of a room once I approach or barging me out of the way when ever she came across me in a corridor.
Whenever she spoke to me it was to tell me off. She always ensured I was alone in the room with her, no other colleagues about. Then she would shout at me.
Then the next time I saw her she could be holding a door open for me, the time after that shut the door in my face.
So a Dr Jyckell and Mr Hyde personality.
This lasted for a year and a half. I’m unsure whether it’s completely resolved.
I’ve been treated unfairly at work as the manager accuses me of being difficult. I’ve been told by the manager it’s best for everyone if I left because I’m ruining the morale of the team. I’m currently looking for another job.
I’m hoping that there will be a day when this lady gets caught by her nasty ways and it won’t be my problem to sort out. It will be their problem.
In the beginning beginning i said (NO)
We live together 10yrs marry for 4 .
step son lives with gramar and grandpa kid 18yrs
Brings It to stay with us( this is a boy)
so i ask a question when will this end
Common sense here
If he comes@18 hi school. Drop out smoke weed
mom support It
She calls me by his name
lol no skill
Her reply was that’s my son & what’s wrong,if he stays here
I never,spoke to her again.
Am the bread winner she’s a at home house wifey
My husband ignores me a few times a year which lasts for weeks to a couple months. He’s currently ignoring me which started the weekend before Easter. He does his ignoring tactic when i catch him in a lie. We own a house, but he sleeps in the other room with his dog, he won’t say a word, he goes places without me, and basically acts like i do not exist. I’ve been dealing with this for 15 or more years, so it no longer hurts as bad as it used to. I’m secretly saving money to pay off bills so i can leave. He thinks this behavior is controlling me, but it’s actually making me stronger. I’m now saving for my future without him in it.
I am sorry for your situation, but I am happy you are making plans to leave. My husband does not often ignore me, but one example of his nasty narcissism is keeping plans to go places a secret, then going with his kids. I am left behind wondering where they went. The years I wasted with him will never come back. So please keep on with your plans, and I pray everything goes as you want.
I too am going through the same situation. Been with my fiancé for 10 years, been living in a house we bought together for 6 years. Every 6 to 8 months he gets mad at me for something and if i don’t fix it (or fix me) he gives me the silent treatment for weeks/months until I cave. He’s giving me the silent treatment now because I don’t make my teenagers leave at a certain time (by 6:00) when it’s their time to go to their dads house. He wants them out of the house by 6:00 and the weekends they’re at their dads, they are not allowed to drop by the house to get things clothes/books/etc. tired of being the one that’s always fighting to keep this relationship.
Well mine is a lil bit different. See, i’m in a relationship of a year and things aren’t working out. Don’t get me wrong I love my boyfriend and he says he loves me too. Lately, i’ve been complaining about commitment and how distance he is. He only see me when he’s the one who needs me. So i came to a point where i asked him to give me space, because i never knew who is the problem between us; whether i was giving too much or maybe he doesn’t want to be with me but just pretending not to hurt my feelings. Then he said he’ll give me space but i shouldn’t hurt his feelings because he loves me. So i tried to distance myself but he didn’t want that to happen. He would text me just to check if i’m okay. And i ain’t gonna lie. The space thingie didn’t work out. Now I’m giving him a silence treatment i don’t call and i don’t text back. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do because we had a lil chat 3 days ago when he asked me to tell him about how do i really feel actually because he doesn’t understand. So i did just that and he didn’t give me a reason that would make me feel sympathy for him or something like that. So i don’t know if i should call him or he will, but i doubt because he never calls i’m actually the one who does that , see now i’m owning my ground. But i don’t know if it’s the right thing.
I hope you broke up and he found someone else. Will pray for that for him and for someone like you to match you in your level of nasty.
Hi everone, My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship fora year. We barely ever fight and when we do we get over it within a day or two. He usually ignores me and talks to me as little as possible when he is angry. This week we had a fight because him and our mutual friend haven’t been getting along because our friend is going through a difficult time in his relationship and my boyfriend finds that hilarious so he keeps picking at him. My boyfriend likes to brag about how has the best girlfriend ( which i find super adorable sometimes). This time our mutual friend had and my boyfriend were arguing, our friend said he was going to ” expose me” and said that I wasnt as innocent as my boyfriend claims I am. He then proceeds to tell my boyfriend some warped out version of the truth about how me and him wanted to meet up and basically saying i was trying to go behind my boyfriends back to meet and have sex with him. Yes me and our mutual friend did want to meet BUT it has always been as friends and in the end we never officially planned anything and we never ended up meeting. I didn’t mention it to my boyfriend because at the time it didnt seem like a big deal, we didnt meet each other and didnt secure any plans to meet. Anyways my boyfriend got furious and called me all types of names and said i was sneaky, disloyal and ungrateful (because he takes care of me financially). I apologized several times for making him feel this way and he said he needs time to himself and that he would talk to me when he feels like it. Its been 5 days and we haven’t spoken except for a couple times through text ( even in the text message he kept bringing up our mutual friend saying i should be with them) and today its even worse. I went to the store to buy something and the card declined. When i went to check the balance online , he had transferred all of the money off it as if to punish me. I don’t understand why hes being this way if he knows that I wouldn’t betray him. I checked his status on facebook and he changed it to single but he told me if I change mine then we are finished. Should I wait for him to stop being mad at me or should I leave and move on with my life?
Move on dear
He’s Abusive – and if he moved money from an Acct to his WITHOUT notifying you, that’s also Financial Abuse. THAT could lead to MAJOR problems if you’re actually living together one day? You sound like you’re pretty young– there are a LOT more and better men in the Sea after him. Break off with this Dude, get some Therapy or 12 Step Codependence/Love Recovery and try again. You deserve WAY better. -S
I am depressed my boyfriend got me pregnant its now 4 months but he doesn’t communicate ,I try to talk to him but he Doesn’t pick my calls or even reply some messages ,I love him and its so hard for me at this time ,,,I have not told my dad that am pregnant because he has anger issues and he can throw me out of the house yet I have no one to turn to because am not sure if my guy will accept me ever ,what can I do
I’ve been talking to a guy I met from online for 5 months now. I’m a single mom of 2 going out of my way to find a sitter for dates. I am always the one commuting the distance to see him. I enjoy spending time with him and don’t mind. He’s currently finishing his masters and tells me he’s on a budget and doesn’t want to do things that cost money all the time. In my culture it seemed offensive at first I felt like am I just a f**** because clearly I’m the one that forking the money most of the time. I noticed he doesn’t even try to impress me with his appearance but when he goes out on outing and sends me pictures he has a fresh cut and is dressed nice (never on our dates). I feel like my past relationships have made me insecure and a person who finds it hard to trust. He makes plans with his friends and coworkers (again he’s supposed to be on a budget) that really sets me off. Long story short I have him the silent treatment, and he text me he noticed I haven’t communicated with him, I couldn’t hold back and told him I see he has his priorities and I’m only being seen when it’s a convenience to him. He pulls his reverse psychology on me all the time and says sorry he made me feel that way that it’s not his intentions. I didn’t text him back after that because I need to cool off, and he hasn’t either. Is this relationship worth keeping.
No its not
I feel sad that I’m looking up this topic online even. My 62 yr old boyfriend of 17 months is frequently irritable with me. His grown son told me this is how he was his whole childhood and that’s why his mom left him (for another man). Lately, whenever I am happy, cheerful, grateful, talkative, excited about something, whatever, he treats me like I’m being an annoying child. Our phone calls last less than 10 minutes, often less than 2, and this is when one or the other of us is out of town. When I ask open questions, he shuts me down. When I ask yes/no questions, he asks me why I need to know, or why I don’t just leave him alone…to play Solitaire on his phone for 2 hours while I do other things in my own house and he sits in my living room. Meanwhile, I have many happy, engaging, interesting friendships with dynamic, awake people of both genders. I think I’m getting to the end of the relationship, but then again, he’s the most loyal, helpful, reliable, solid, moral man I’ve ever dated. Maybe being bored (and snipped at!) is better than being with someone interesting and communicative. I don’t really know anymore.
I became emotional reading your comment as I find myself in the exact situation. My boyfriend can be cold and dismissive;using silent treatment as a form of punishment. I excitedly try to have an engaging conversation with him and only met with a tone meant to shut me down. The contradiction in my life is that my friends and family are very open minded,engaging and woke people who enjoy my insight yet the one person who is supposed to engage with me disregards my mere presents. Such people like him,have traits of narcissism.
my best friend gave me silent treatment for weeks without any reason, i was miserable not knowing what my fault was always and begging her to tell me, then she acted like nothing happened i was afraid to ask why did she do so cause i didn’t wanted to hurt her or worse me again. eventually we drifted after that , and i stil have nightmares always at the end of the dream asking her why did she do so. is something wrong with me? cause i am stil kind of afraid to meet her one day.
WE HAVE FIVE YEARS WITH MY BOYFRIEND IN A RELATIONSHIP BUT HE STILL HIDES ME FROM HIS FAMILY. WHEN EVER I GO TO VISIT HIM I COME AT NIGHT AND NO ONE MUST SEE ME. HE DOESN’T BUY ME ANYTHING TO EAT SO I SLEEP WITHOUT EATING ON TOP OF THAT WE HAVING SEX EVEN THOUGH IM HUNGRY HE CAN’T EVEN FELL ME WHEN IM NOT OKAY AS LONG AS HE CLIMAX. SO I TRIED CONTACTING HIM ABOUT THAT I WROTE HIM A LONG MESSAGE TELLING HIM HOW UNHAPPY I AM AND SINCE FROM THEN HE NEVER REPLIED AND HE’S IGNORING ME AND IM QUITE I DON’T WANT TO FOLLOW HIM .
I cannot tell you what choice to make but that’s not a relationship one can flourish. You deserve better than that Luvuyo.
Hi guys,I have been experiencing the silence treatment from my husband for the whole year.Initially,when brings visitors I would tell them about it in front of him,because when he is with other people he is Mr good guy but to me,there’s no communication.I used to call people and talk about him just to hear their opinions,I have spoken to his big brother about it,just for him to mentor his younger brother,I didn’t get any feedback from his brother.I had one session with a Psychologist,I expected more as I am the one who is emotionally hurt,the Psychologist promised to get hold of him and he she doesn’t she will continue with me for more sessions.Until today I have tried to call the receptionist she promised to call me back.I feel like I was not meant to be with my husband as he recently doesn’t reply my calls or texts.He is currently away to be with his family but he doesn’t check on me with the kids.I am really hurt and the only option that I have decided for tge sake of my health and the kids,is to leave him as I am dying inside.
Leave the idiot. I went through this with my abusive partner but I was oblivious to his behavior for too long. I never loved him as he continuely made me feel sorry for him. It was like having to babysit him while allowing him to parasite off me. I finally took a hike and never looked back. The silent treatment he gave to me was to make me feel like I didn’t matter.
He’s alone and unhappy now.
Leave and let him drown in his own silent head.
My ex wife used silent treatment our whole marriage whenever she wanted to hurt me.
We got divorced, I became alcoholic and got deported from UAE where we lived due to alcohol related problems.
One day I caught her lying about my son so she blocked me then her family blocked me then she changed address and refused to tell me anything about son then cut me off from talking to him.
3 months after complete silent treatment from her and all her family, from a country i can’t visit, I flipped out and swore at them online – because I can’t reach them
By any means and can’t afford a lawyer.
She reported me to police for harassment and I got charged.
My own family – mother sister brother and uncle all refused to intervene because I was “aggressive” and because I swore at my ex.
Now my family is doing silent treatment to me.
I’ve gone to mental hospital and keep getting arrested for anger related things and the more it happens the more my family ignore me.
My son is 6 and my best friend and I haven’t spoken to him in 3 months. And I don’t know what they’ve told him. We used to talk everyday.
I spend my whole day writing abuse emails to everyone from the rage I feel. The more i threaten to kill myself the more they ignore me. AND the more space I give them and back off for a few weeks and re-approach then politely and nicely – the more they ignore me too
This type of silent treatment can be abusive. Recently l discovered about AVOIDANT ABUSE. It opened my eyes, l suggest anyone facing this look up online about Avoidant Abuse, read a book on it. You will finally be able to heal and understand what’s going on helped me so much xx stay strong