Silencing The Silent Treatment

I hate the silent treatment. Of course, I hate being the recipient of it, but even when I’m not at the receiving end of someone else’s silent treatment, I hate what the silent treatment often represents: an intentional effort initiated by someone to provoke attention from a partner, friend, family member, or worse yet, a sign that someone’s voice has been squelched so often that silence is their only way of responding to a difficult moment.

So why am I writing about the silent treatment?

Because I think that too often, we treat the silent treatment much too casually. This strategy for communication becomes a behavior that we excuse or simply put up with, like accommodating someone who claims he or she is not a “morning person.”

To treat the silent treatment as just the way someone handles communication or a specific situation, and not much more than that, is dangerous. The silent treatment is a problematic form of interaction, regardless of the reason for which it’s being used.

The question is: is the silent treatment a form of emotional abuse? Or is it just a personality trait, a preferred method of coping?

I don’t want to make it seem like everyone who uses the silent treatment is intentionally being abusive. Sometimes, it is the recipient who provokes the silent treatment. It’s important to note that in some cases, a person can utilize the silent treatment only within a particular relationship because the person he or she is dealing with won’t respond in any other way and has worked to squelch their voice, oftentimes through gaslighting.

And more importantly, I don’t believe that most people who inflict the silent treatment on somebody else are intending to be abusive.

In an effort to discover and learn more about why some of us use the silent treatment and what the silent treatment is really about, I spoke to Dr. Steve David, who is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department Of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Is the silent treatment a form emotional abuse?

Some silent treatment rises to the level of emotional abuse. This silent treatment involves intentional silence that is meant to inflict emotional punishment. For example: “If she’s going to keep nagging me, I will just ignore her because I know that drives her crazy.”

It suggests poor interpersonal relationship skills and more specifically, it suggests poor communication, distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills. If used repeatedly in a relationship to punish the other person, this silent treatment does rise to the level of emotional abuse.

Is there an appropriate, healthy way in which to be silent? Is it healthy to indicate to another person that you need to be silent?

Depending on the situation, there are times when being silent is appropriate and healthy.

However, it is usually the case that it is healthy to indicate to the other person when and why you need to be silent right now: “I am feeling too angry to discuss this in a reasonable way right now.” or “I’m not sure how I feel about this right now, I need some time to clarify my thoughts and feelings around this.”

And there is usually a point in the future you would be willing to discuss the issue(s) again: “I am willing to talk about this in a few hours when I’ve cooled down a bit, how about 3:00PM? Does that work for you?”

Silence with no explanation is “stonewalling” and stonewalling is highly destructive to relationship. For example, when someone makes the claim: “I can’t deal with her pressure to talk about our relationship problems, so I just won’t say anything.” Or, when someone says: “I can’t deal with his angry tone of voice, so I just won’t say anything.”

Stonewalling makes the other person feel dismissed and invalidated.

Is the silent treatment a call for attention and help? Is it a strategy to get the other person to pay attention?

Some silent treatment is a call for attention that arises out of low self-esteem or a need for validation accompanied by poor communication, distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills

Example: “He’s not paying enough attention to me at this party so, fine, I just won’t talk to him for the rest of the night. Maybe then he’ll pay attention.” or “I will get really quiet and if she really cares about me she will ask me what’s wrong.”

This silent treatment is highly manipulative, involves emotional game-playing, and is highly destructive to relationships. When repeatedly used in a relationship, this silent treatment will often eventually lead to the opposite of the desired outcome because many people will tire of repeated manipulation and will pull away. Hence, people who engage in this type of silent treatment often alienate people and sabotage their relationships.

Is there a pattern in a person’s behavior that relates to his/her tendency to use the silent treatment, instead of direct confrontation, direct engagement?

In general, most silent treatment is an indication of poor communication, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation skills.

Some silent treatment indicates an emotional paralysis or an inability to articulate one’s feelings during relationship conflict. These people are sometimes popularly referred to as “emotionally shut-down.”

Silent treatment intended to inflict emotional punishment is present in a variety of people including people with anger management issues, “You made me angry so now I will punish you.”

People with narcissistic tendencies (e.g., “I will punish you if you reject me, have any complaints about me, or suggest that I am lacking in any way.”), and people with antisocial tendencies (e.g., “If you cross me or disrespect me you will pay for it and I don’t care how it makes you feel.”) also use silent treatment.

Silent treatment that involves a need for validation through emotional game-playing is often present in people with low self-esteem, people with Borderline Personality Disorder, and people with dependent personality tendencies (e.g., “I need you to prove to me that you love me or reassure me that I am worthy or valuable in order for me to feel okay about myself.”).

What does the silent treatment have to do with someone’s ability to vocalize on a daily basis, what they want. Do people who use the silent treatment tend to be the type who have a difficult time being upfront and honest about what they want?

All forms of silent treatment involve poor communication, distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills, and these manifest in different ways, depending on the type of silent treatment.

Silent treatment that manifests from a person’s inability to access and articulate his or her needs in a healthy communicative way are the type who have difficulty with emotional access and expression or the “emotionally shut-down” type.

I think it’s ironic that we refer this behavior as the “silent treatment,” when it’s so often used to elicit a reaction–the opposite of silence.

It’s important for us to consider the issue of silent treatment from both the sides of inflicter and the recipient. For the person who is wielding the silent treatment, why do you do it? Is it to get that reaction? Or, perhaps you are using the silent treatment as a weapon because you have been victim to always having your voice dismissed, and so, you no longer feel comfortable or confident in directly speaking out?

And for the person who is on the receiving end: are you a person who has a history of being a victim to the silent treatment? Do you allow the person you are dealing with to speak up or do you shut them down when things get too emotional?

There’s a certain high that comes from wielding the silent treatment as an communication weapon, “Let me see this person beg for my attention, squirm to fight their way back in.”

Often, this feeling is what compels people to repeatedly use the silent treatment–because it feels so good to see someone beg, plead for attention.

Beyond seeing the silent treatment as simply the way someone handles communication, we also must remember the impact of the silent treatment is long-lasting and deep. From my personal history (having experienced the silent treatment as a child) and from talking to others who have dealt with the silent treatment, especially in childhood, a theme emerges:

For those people who haven’t processed the pain from those experiences in which they were the victims of silent treatment, there exists a lingering resentment and pain. It doesn’t matter if they are now in a better relationship with those who have previously given them the silent treatment–there is still emotional residue.

For those of us who have dealt with the silent treatment, particularly from parents or from someone we loved deeply, we are often conditioned by these experiences, where we panic if someone goes quiet–even if that quiet means nothing.

For instance, if the person we’re communicating with has had a busy week at work, or perhaps they’re just not feeling like saying much, we become anxious and wonder “is it me?” And we also want to immediately ask: “Are you mad at me?”

It took me quite a long time to get over healthy silence, to stop questioning someone when they were quiet or had nothing to say.

And for others who have experienced the silent treatment, the pain of that strategic and conscious silence is so great that they become quick to remedy a difficult moment with a loved one. Instead of allowing the argument or communication to play out, they jump to apologize for wrongdoing–even if they are not at fault. Because the pain of the silent treatment in the past is so great, they can’t bare to be the recipient, and so, they push aside their own needs in order to mitigate that pain.

This will be the first of many columns I write about, that explores the ways in which we communicate with the people we love.

In the meantime, please remember this: after the silent treatment is employed, and you and your loved one/friend/family member have made amends, the resentment from the silence still lingers; it may not rise to the surface for a while, but it’s there. Silent treatment is unlike a loud, vocal argument, where difficult words are spoken, but the argument gets closed and resolved after all the direct and explicit yelling.

There is no doubt that words hurt, but silence is indelible.

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29 Responses to “Silencing The Silent Treatment”

  1. Avatar of Shyeyes
    Shyeyes October 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi everyone. I am new at this and this is the first time in my life I have ever been through this silent treatment thing. My best friend is putting me through now going on bout three months and I don’t understand why or what to do. We didn’t have a big fallen out and pretty much last thing she said to me was she just wanted to let me know she wasn’t mad or upset with me but she needs to work through these feelings? No details so I don’t know what these feelings are that she is talking about?? We are/ or were best friends. I noticed her slowly shutting down before then but never Pried or pressured her. I noticed it was like she shut out more than just me but she started coming back around later on to others except me so that makes me feel singled out to be honest. I didn’t make a scene about it or anything but noticed it and it hurts to be honest cause I have no clue whats going on and not going to nag her bout it. I’m just really confused and don’t know what to do or how to feel or should I hang on or let go? Never had this happen to me so it’s a first and it really hurts.

  2. Avatar of CB
    CB October 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I agree that this is a biased article. There have been several articular responses to that point, so I’ll keep it brief – this is really only to vent.

    I am a very effective communicator. Loving, kind and generous. As a child I was an only child. Sheltered and always taught to be kind and put others first. never really taught how to stand up for myself.

    Long story short, at my current age I finally developed a zero-tolerance for emotional/psycological manipulation. This is now an issue happening between myself and my mother. She has always “been there” however there has always been this underlying emotional manipulation that was theer even from childhood. Times where she would “pretend to cry” to make me feel bad or react a certain way – an many other similar manipulative behaviors that I really didn’t understand as such until my own maturation.

    Suffice it to say – I use the silent treatment now to control her attempts to manipulate me – and it infuriates her. And I’m fine with that.

    Funny thing is – she watches more and more how she speaks to me and suddenly doesn’t seem as ready to play the manipulative games with me that she always has.

    H’mmmmm. Funny how that works on some people. I could give a shit if it “ruins” the relationship. It’s funny how the manipulators never give a shit/thought how their manipulations negatively affect you. So it’ll play iout however it does. I still love my mother very much. But loving her doesnt mean I’m gonna take her shit.

    • Avatar of Holly
      Holly December 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      CB QUOTE; * I am a very effective communicator. Loving, kind and generous. As a child I was an only child. Sheltered and always taught to be kind and put others first. never really taught how to stand up for myself * Hmmmm, who sheltered you, taught you to be a very effective communicator, to be kind, loving and put others first?? Perhaps someone needs to teach your mother how to stand up for herself as well. If you couldn’t give a sh*t if your actions ruin your relationship with your mother, one wonders how you can say you still ‘love’ her very much. Love in my world means unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. If your mother is so heinous, perhaps part of the ‘manipulation’ here is the fact that you do not cut all ties to her. What does she do for you that keeps you coming back around then ? One wonders also how this now one-sided relationship, (where she now has to limit her true opinion, in your presence, for fear of alienating you) will play out.Good luck with that, because I know from personal experience that you will not be happy with the outcome.

    • Avatar of trobe23
      trobe23 December 18, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      It’s interesting that you claim the article is biased, and then admit that you use the silent treatment to control and infuriate her. Unless you somehow consider purposefully controlling and infuriating to not be synonymous with manipulation…

  3. Avatar of coolmom
    coolmom July 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I am currently in crisis and have reached out to an attorney after a 25 year marraige and the third episode of silent treatment towards me and our 4children. It is heartbreaking!!!! And I am challenged with his denial now that even though this is his pattern, his response is “no one is talking to me either. Went on family vacation to Caribbean. When I suggested after his choice was to drink , put in his earphones, and spend time with family, the silent treatment began and he locked himself in the adjoining hotel room for the entire week?
    It has been a month today. What does one say to four children 7,11,13,16?..
    Marraige deteriorating over past 4 years…in retrospect should have filed a long time ago. Infidelity ( although said it was my fault for not meeting his needs), years of lying, secret passwords, anger, sarcasm,denial, rudeness and disrespect. Refuses to leave the home and we may ultimately lose the home which is the only sense of stability for the kids. Never in a million years did I ever imagine him turning into this. It is devastating !!!!!! I am convinced it is truly emotional abuse and I pray that a judge will agree. These 4 innocent children.:(. It has ripped my integrity to shreds . During this episode of silent treatment I gave him the ultimatum to go once AGAIN to marraige counseling or I was going to file for separation. He said who are you giving me an ultimatum ??? I’m not going…do whatever u want. Please give me your honest feedback!

  4. Avatar of eudai
    eudai July 9, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    I really wish this article had talked more about the silent treatment as “a sign that someone’s voice has been squelched so often that silence is their only way of responding to a difficult moment”, instead of focusing on borderline personality disorder and narcissistic and antisocial behaviors on the part of the ones being silent. I was really disappointed by that lack of balance. This is why.

    I grew up with an overbearing, insecure, manipulative, belligerent father and an insecure, manipulative mother with a violent temper. There wasn’t a conversation that one or the other couldn’t eventually turn into “what Eudai did wrong today, and how it is proof that she really is the world’s worst daughter and a miserable excuse of a human being.” According to my parents there wasn’t a college in the country that would take me, a degree that was easy and meaningless enough that I could earn it, a man that would have me, or an employer who would hire me. Saying that I was going to apply for a job as a hostess at a restaurant prompted a tirade about how arrogant I was to think I was too good to wait tables, and not even McD would hire me. In fact, McD would laugh in my face if I tried to apply. That’s only one example out of hundreds. Dad in particular liked to hound me, twisting everything I said and mocking me until eventually I started crying, then getting disgusted by my “feminine, irrational display of emotion”. Over a period of many years I spoke less and less, until eventually I stopped trying. I’ve been out of that house for a few years now and I am starting to learn how to speak up for myself, that I’m not going to be beaten, that saying “no” doesn’t make me selfish and hateful. For almost all my life the only way to say “no” or “I disagree” or “please stop hurting me” was to be silent, and sometimes it’s a struggle not to revert to that in times of stress. I’m not trying to hurt, frustrate, or manipulate anyone. I’ve just momentarily given up.

    This piece kind of felt personal, like it was directed at someone specific in your life who does use silence to frustrate and manipulate a response from you.

    P.S. I am also not a morning person. I try very hard to behave like a sentient human being, but I am not perfect, I make mistakes. Like catching myself moments before putting the hot frying pan in the refrigerator when I meant to get out the creamer. And, yes, bristling at life in general, but I don’t think I’m entitled to treat people like crap. I’m human by the time I get to work, and my husband knows that when I say “honey, getting crabby, please leave me alone for right now” that the best course of action is to leave me alone for right now. In 15-20 mins his wife will be herself again, and we will have NOT had a stupid argument. I think that falls in the same category as “it is healthy to indicate to the other person when and why you need to be silent right now”.

    • Avatar of SidneyDesignerSnake
      SidneyDesignerSnake September 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Applause…I agree totally. My immediate family is very supportive, but my extended family has been nothing but abusive toward my younger sister’s efforts, goals, and dreams, and has put mine down until I was magically transmogrified, to their eyes, into a SOMEBODY instead of a NOBODY. My sister worked her tail off in college, earning an in-demand degree, and equally in-demand minor as a back-up plan (smart sister!), took multiple internships and jobs to build her resume, and happened to need a couple more semesters to graduate to accommodate it all. Which, sadly, put her into one of the first and most screwed post-recession graduating classes, and left her with no offers besides food service for a year after graduating. Well, what did my extended family tell her? That she was a lazy, spoiled brat who wasn’t pulling herself up by her Magic Bootstraps ™, which was why she was slinging pizzas and preparing subs. (That she was offered a management job at the fast-food chain, and was spending every moment of her spare time preparing to get into grad school, which she did – on full scholarship, I might add – was irrelevant to them too.)

      Do we owe the family members who treat us like crap until and unless we fulfill their personal definitions of success our energy, love, and attention? On that note, do I owe my abusive exes, and former friends who took me for everything I had, and who shrieked in horror when I asked THEM for support or confronted their manipulative behavior my time, energy, and consideration? No. No, I do not.

      As for not being a morning person, morning people are amazingly dismissive of night owls. There is a syndrome called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, and dealing with it is like living with jet lag Monday through Friday. Would morning people be at their best if we forced them to work at midnight, when we were feeling most productive? My guess is no. True night owls are not deliriously happy being night owls, believe me. We have absorbed your blows calling us lazy and worse for years. We’ve wasted time and sometimes money chasing cures that promised to turn us into morning larks, and failed again and again. So we do our best, seek jobs with flexible start times if we can, schedule our meetings in the afternoons, down triple espressos for our “can’t miss” morning obligations, and ask for a modicum of space at 9:30 AM when we’re struggling to wake up and join the rest of the world. I’ve never been rude, dismissive, or angry toward a lark, and I expect the same courtesy extended to me. Too often, though, I don’t get what I give.

    • Avatar of trobe23
      trobe23 December 18, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      Eudai, you seem like a highly intelligent woman. It seems that you do have issues caused by your upbringing, but you’ve thoughtfully considered them. Because of that, you say “honey, getting crabby, please leave me alone for right now”. As you’ve acknowledged, the author included this exception. There is something very different about that and complete antipathy/silence without explanation (and often without provoking).

  5. Avatar of empathologicalism
    empathologicalism June 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    If the silent treatment is abuse (and I do not think it is, in fact 90% of what is called abuse today is just the dynamics of couples arguing and bickering)then we’d best get ready for the backlash they found in one western European country when they attempted to codify psychological abuse and make it criminal. They had a massive spike in female perpetrators being reported, in an amount that dwarfed the men being reported, and had to back peddle like “hey hey hey thats not what we meant, thats not fair, its about those meanie men”
    Here it would be the same, if controlling behavior and silent treatment are abuse, we got some splainin to do Lucy to all the men who have been accused

    • Avatar of Chris
      Chris June 29, 2012 at 2:10 am #

      Which European country was that?

    • Avatar of Aeon Jiminy
      Aeon Jiminy September 17, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      I’m European and I use the silent treatment all of the time on my family and friends.

    • Avatar of Gordon
      Gordon December 10, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      maybe you have not experienced the silent treatment as others have. I am married to a woman,40 years february, who has spent all of that time giving me the silent treatment. I have never been able to get her to open up to me. Others have no problem. She shut me out of her life emotionally, causing me to suffer depression, a nervous breakdown, ulcers, anxiety, and a marriage of loneliness because she would not stay home with me. I tried for years to take her places and she would just be there but never smile or have fun or let any emotion out. She had an abusive mother and grandmother, of which I was never told about. Her entire past was kept from me by her and her family. Only in the last five years has any of this started to come out. She was never physically abusive to me and never yelled. I saw she was a good person, but she would not let it out for me. I always knew she loved me but she would not let herself see it. She never showed any concern for me yet I knew deep down it was there. It is finally, finally starting to improve some after I had to get a little firm with her. I have never abused her, although at times through the years I tried to show her, because she would not listen, by doing the same to her for a little. But she wouldn’t even see that. I didn’t know what to do to get through. So I had my work and some hobbies I invented to just while away the time. It gets to a point when one has tried everything and nothing worked, it just becomes pointless. But now I have shown her what has happened and we feel we have nothing. She never helped build a marriage with me and so we have nothing now but all the crap she threw at me for all those years. How can someone be so blind. She regrets it now. But I wanted her to wake up then. I am 66 now and she 57. I married her when I was 26 and she 17. What can we do now after she has built only resentment in me. Years ago I thought many times of leaving only I couldn’t and wouldn’t leave my children. I stayed for them and suffered her abuse for them. And I had to many times stop any abuse of them. If I had left they would have been far worse than they are. But they never had a mother and I never had a wife. So here we are and now what?

      • Avatar of Mersci
        Mersci February 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        Gordon, your story resonates since went through sort of what your wife went through, and the key to is to put your self in her shoes, she is afraid that she might say or do something wrong, because she has been conditioned to not allow herself to do or say something wrong, so in turn she does nothing. This does not mean its you,or trying to reach her is wrong per se, it just means its her way of coping, by detaching. Yet on the flip side, after taking a hard look at all the nasty stuff I’ve had to deal with in my life, one day I woke up on my own and said am not putting up with it anymore, this meant not taking shit from my mother, brother, spouse, kids, and I started telling them off nicely. It went along the lines of at the age of ** I think I have a right to make my own decisions and am perfectly capable of being responsible for my own happiness, and that quite simply if they could butt out of my life, my marriage, respect my boundaries, that then we would get along fine. In essense my silent treatment of them ended because I chose to let them know I found them overbaring, comdescening, disrespectful and most of all, infuriating. They were not suprised, they knew all my life they had gone out their way to try to control me, arrange my marriage, invalidate my feelings, never supported my decisions or believed I could more than a house slave/cook, but when they starting passing on those beliefs to my children who happen to be male, that was the last straw for me.. because I want both my boys to have better relationships with their future spouses, I began talking to them about what they should not do, about being insensitive, gaslighting, in general about the politics of demeaning women to retain comtrol over them, and pointed out that they are responsible for a better world of tomorrow but that this can not be achieved with out partnership and equality with the women in their lives. Luckily at the time, Aiken, Limpbaugh, Romney were providing prime examples of how unbalanced our social equations are, so it was quite easy to point out the obvious…priviledge has marginalized women into a silent section of society and now that silent section is not so silent – we know our men do not like what we are saying or what they are hearing from us, however, we are not attacking you personally, and we do love you with all our hearts, but the state of the union and the state affairs has so long neglected to check in with us as to what we want to see happen in this world, that the conversations have become less and less, to the point where our voices are almost never heard. So yes, I have been silemt for a long time, but then I went and finished my bachelors degree, graduating magna cun laude while working fulltime. I had a new lease on life, understood so much more, about inequality, about political process, about myself and my capabilities as a human being, that I am now blogging under various SN’s at various sites trying to raise awareness as much as possible to the issues that affect us all.
        No one in my family ever looked to me as that informed knowledgeable person capable of astutely writing and researching issues (when it happens at work, theres always some guy cutting me down wide rude remarks), or is able to comprehend what it is like to receive faved after faved on my comments, and I think it is because I write from the heart, and am able to get to the heart of matters. In person, based on my appearance, some people just sterotype, even my family and husband treat me that way, *object*, sadly, I do not think of my self in that way at all…I do not care about superficialities, I care about where we are going as a human race, about stopping state sponsored wars/rape/genocides, stopping violence against women/child trafficking, education, green tech/innovation, culture, languages, diversity, business, sustainability, and did I mention politics? The list is endless..but at home, and among my family memmbers, no one speaks to me on those levels, the only conversation they are capable of is “whats for dinner” and “are my clothes washed”…. I love my family, I really do, so I am a supply of free labor, uncounted in GDP…its laughable, potential wasted.
        Oh, on status as woman in the male dominated office? that as a married woman, for the men this translates into ~really does not need job, or as one co-worker is so found of saying “another bored housewife.” Really!!! Let me say this and say this will all conviction: If it were just up to men, (not just men, cause they have no concept of doing anything justice) there would still be slave auctions and race riots, there would still be no legal rights for women to vote, or for equal housing or equal credit rights or equal access to anything in law books, no there would not be any of those things, because as history has shown, where advantage can be taken, right or wrong, men have always take adavantage, and when called out for their bullying ways or are confronted with thier misdeeds or indiscretions, the first thing they do is gang up with other like minded individuals and do their utmost to expand their influence, even if this meant hi-jaking the teachings of J.H.Christ, thats what they have done.
        Therefore, when men begin to wish for their wives to share all that is within them, they need to be prepared for what they are asking for, because it means they will need to part with their priviledges of treating the world like a shooting range and that they may have to atone for treating women like vessels whose rowboats can not even bare their names…paraded about on Sundays, while the rest of the week she was nothing more than a convenient servant of no importance or voice, whom has not been asked what she wanted out of being alive, what her hopes for the world were, and how you might go about helping her to achieve those hopes and goals. No, never have you said the good book had it all wrong, I am here as your helper, not the other way around, have you, because I have a do-list a mile long if your up to making this world right via natural order: Women and children first, not just paying lip service to it either.
        As a side note, the pope is resigning to avoid legal prosecution for rampant pedophilia gone unchecked in the ranks, but that is not the only thing left unchecked in this world, massive economic and socio-political corruption is also on the agenda.
        There is much work to be done, but we will not be using WMD or any other lame tired tactics, we will be using education and leverging the amazing skills of multitudes of women.. nothing to hold us back except ourselves.,,etc, etc, etc.. basically if the internet is one big brain, re-wire the entire neuron circuitry until we are heard loud and clear…no more wars, hunger, starvation, enthic cleasing, violence. Hey, realistically, its not impossible, we just need men to wake up to the facts that their old tired methods are causing more harm than good…we will even make the coffee if only they will smell it and wake up!

    • Avatar of trobe23
      trobe23 December 18, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      If the dynamics of couples arguing and bickering involve destructive behaviors that could be precluded by understanding what cause them and how to deal with them, do we not have an obligation as moral people to do just that?

      It isn’t as if the author is condemning emotional abuse as evil behavior. Rather, he proffers reasons for it. Most hurt that people inflict is the result of hurt they sustained. It is understandable, but it still needs to be identified as what it is.

  6. Avatar of JustSeeking
    JustSeeking June 26, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I would have to say that the bulk of silent treatment I have received in my life has come from a complete physical absence of the other person involved, or a refusal to even acknowledge that there is even anything that needs to be dealt with. Talk about feeling invalidated. If they can’t shut me up, which I do not accept, they leave entirely or stomp me thoroughly into the ground, which I can do nothing to stop them short of imprisonment or murder (you can’t make others choose how you want them to, you know). And if you think I’m exaggerting, think away. These days in my life, I don’t bother attempting to work things out with people, because it’s the same ol’ same ol’. My feelings and views and concerns are not worth hearing in the first place (as far as they are concerned), and the relationships I would have to agree to with these people are not worth it to me. I’ll save the energy, because merely surviving is taking almost all I have anyway.

    Having said that, I had to learn when it was time to get a grip on myself and step back a few paces, take some breaths, and calm down. I’ve spent my life being ignored, and hating that people think it appropriate to do that, but I surely did not develop appropriate ways to express the way it makes me feel. In the heat of such hurt and anger, some horrible things have come out of my mouth, and getting control of those impulses has been a real battle. It’s hard for me to blame anyone who vacated the premises without resolving anything, given the reality that nothing was going to get resolved in that emotional state anyway.

    That does not mean that failing to deal with the matter later is okay. That is how it always ended up. Let it go now, and never get back to it when tempers had cooled, so that when similar circumstances arose, the whole cycle played out again. In order to rid oneself of that kind of game, *both* people have to want it to end. That it is destructive to relationships is one thing I can attest to first-hand. That it leaves pain and “residues”, even when matters really have been resolved (finally) is also true. A person can forgive, but forgetting the pain, in my experience, has so far proved impossible. And I’m not sure I want to, because I fear becoming like that myself in my efforts to stop myself from saying hurtful things just because I am hurting. Being able to genuinely express how I am feeling is hard for me, because people don’t like being faced with having done something that led me to feel that way.

    I take issue with the comment, perhaps over-sensitive, as to whether a person is a morning person or not. I do not enjoy having demands put on me the moment I roll out of bed, and in my family life that was exactly what happened, from morning to night, until I put a stop to it and told everyone that I would not live my life hopping from one demand to another, and never mind any needs that I might have. I *would* have time for myself, and that time would come first thing in the morning, when I needed it most. Whether I have felt happy or not, life has been hell for me, and just getting out of bed can be a trial. Why must I rush to a day of abuse and neglect, eh, either at home or at work, when I feel hung over just from having lived through the day before? For Pete’s sake, at least let me have my eff-ing coffee first.

  7. Avatar of yourspiritualtruth
    yourspiritualtruth June 26, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    I also want to comment on Trish’s remarks: As an introvert, it takes me time to process, especially strong feelings such as anger, rage, grief, betrayal, disappointment, etc. I also want to make sure my responses are of integrity and want to take the time to figure out what is “mine” in a situation. When I need to do that, I tell the people around me, “I need time to process this, let me get back to you.” This has posed a challenge for the extroverts in my life who want an answer NOW or who judge my silence as confrontation. Some have learned to accept and understand my need to process some have not. I have also experienced the “I don’t feel free to express myself” feeling Trish mentioned. That form of silence (perhaps more appropriately labeled “withdrawal”) has been present for me in abusive relationships where I have either been repeatedly condemned or punished for speaking my truth. If you are experiencing this in your relationships, I encourage you to get help…if not for the relationship at least for yourself.

  8. Avatar of yourspiritualtruth
    yourspiritualtruth June 26, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    Then there are the more subtle forms of the silent treatment that feel like avoidance: not answering text or emails, not being able to make or commit to a plan, not responding when someone shares their own heart-felt feelings or emotions. Not being able to reciprocate when another expresses how they are feeling about you or about a situation. Often signs that the one giving the “silent treatment” either doesn’t really know how they feel, does not have access to their feelings or the tools to name them, are uncomfortable with how you are feeling, or are afraid to express their true feelings. Don’t make excuses for the others’ behaviors or write it off as a mere personality trait. If you feel like you are being ignored or avoided you are.

    • Avatar of Chris
      Chris June 27, 2012 at 1:20 am #

      As much as I agree with most of the article and also see intentional and manipulative “silent treatment” as a serious problem especially in relationsships, I do have to disagree here…
      “If you feel like you are being ignored or avoided you are.”
      Let me try to phrase it a bit different: “If you feel like you are being ignored or avoided it is a sign that there is a problem”.
      And it is something to be taken serious, to be takled about. But just because one side of a relationship feels ignored doesn’t neccessarily mean the other one IS ignoring him/her. There are sometimes different expectations regarding the mount of contact, the ways of communicating and so on. And even though it seems to be “modern” to deny the existence of any personality traits, it is a fact that there are different personalitys.

  9. Avatar of Chris
    Chris June 26, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Is the “silence Treatment” a problem? Yes it can be. It is, as mentioned in the article, always a question of intention, intensity and reason. Using it to manipulate someone is emotional abuse, no matter if used in relationships, friendships, family. It is just a bit dangerous to put silence itself in the place of abuse. Just being silent with no bad intention, just not in the mood to talk or whatever is totally fine. A relationship is always about compromise from both sides. Ales about it being ok sometimes to just say nothing.
    It just turns into a problem when it is about solving problems or manipulating someone.
    Just with one thing I strongly have to disagree:
    “…the resentment from the silence still lingers; it may not rise to the surface for a while, but it’s there. Silent treatment is unlike a loud, vocal argument, where difficult words are spoken, but the argument gets closed and resolved after all the direct and explicit yelling. ”
    The example of the vocal argument here is a not very common one, that after yelling at each other all is resolved and fine. More often words said and things done in an argument linger as long as silence may do. You don’t just forget what the other one said just because it was yelled at you…

  10. Avatar of trish
    trish June 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    What if remaining silent isn’t meant as a punishment to the other person but as a response to not having your voice heard in the past? Sometimes I don’t speak up because I feel that I must choose my battles wisely. And yes, sometimes it is a battle to have my voice heard, so it has to be worth that effort or I will be silent. I don’t feel it is manipulative or abusive, I find it to be quite the opposite.

  11. Avatar of bullcbull
    bullcbull June 25, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I am currently making multiple copies of this for my “bible” This is a serious issue in my life at the moment!!!

    • Avatar of VanCityChic
      VanCityChic July 1, 2012 at 12:53 am #

      Yashar, thank you for taking the time and effort into writing such an excellent article. Silence is not always golden, sometimes it is just plain blue cheese. Old moldy and you can smell it a mile away . . . and a little goes a long long way


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