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DEALBREAKING Silent Treatment Emotional Abuse in Romantic Relationships - When to Discuss and Confront
It took an extremely long time but, finally, I have managed to overcome being dealt the silent treatment by my husband and I have come out at the other end with a happier mindset and improved marriage. Of course no relationship is ever going to be perfect, but I no longer suffer/tolerate silent treatment from my other half and I cannot tell you how relieved I am to be able to say this. These articles I have written on silent treatment detail how eventually I managed to turn things around for the better.
When to talk to your partner about the Silent Treatment
For many cases of the Silent Treatment, the strategies suggested in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series of hubs will prove sufficient in breaking the cycle of manipulation when put into operation consistently for a series of occurrences. To reiterate, the recommendation was to put the strategies into action without revealing to your partner at any stage what you were planning to do - and this still stands. (i.e. do not reveal your strategies, even in the event you find it necessary to have a discussion with your partner about the silent treatment, as outlined below).
Now, if after employing the approaches over 3 or 4 episodes of the silent treatment, the occurrences show very little or no sign of declining, then you are dealing with a very tenacious individual indeed. In this situation it is now worth considering setting aside some time to speak to your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend about their behaviour, and your feelings, needs and requirements.
Preparing for the Discussion
Ahead of a dialogue, think about what you want to happen next time there is an issue between you which would likely lead to the Silent Treatment. For example, would it be possible to both agree on an upper time limit for a time out/cooling off period, following which neither of you will isolate them self from the other. Further, (once the upper time limit is reached) if knowing what to say to one another feels difficult and awkward to begin with, perhaps have an agreed sign or gesture to perform which you both will know indicates that you are at peace with one another and want things to be right, even if you don’t know the words to say at that moment.
Ask your partner if they have any ideas on the matter but don’t be surprised if they do not in the first instance – but take the lead and be proactive in implementing your own ideas if they have none to put forward initially.
(Also think about what will happen if it is the case that at the end of an agreed cooling off period one person still needs a little more time to calm down. For example, that person could respectfully put this to their partner with a view to agreeing a time limited extension to the cooling off period.)
Do not threaten to do anything which you have not fully thought through and/or are ready to carry out. For instance, don’t be tempted to bluff that you will end the relationship because, when you don’t follow through, it makes things more problematic for the future. (At some point in the future you may have to consider ending the relationship, but just don’t threaten this prematurely.)
During and After the Discussion
Some people believe that the silent treatment is acceptable since it leaves no visible marks on the victim’s body and no words are blurted out which one might want to retract later. However, it does leave scars on the mind, which can be just as damaging, possibly worse. Some abusers are unconscious or in denial that they have been emotionally abusive towards you, whereas others use it as a deliberate tactic to unsettle and/or control you. The significant point to have got across in your discussion is that you are not prepared to carry on tolerating the silent treatment and that you require your partner to take positive steps to avoid such conduct in the future.
Your partner may not be open to acknowledging that they are perpetrating a form of emotional abuse. If they elect to remain in denial, then so be it. Don’t insist on an admission or expect an apology (although of course this would be nice). Neither should you expect, insist or beg that your partner promise to make amends.
Wait for a period of calm/normality to have the discussion (nb: ideally it need not be confrontational ! ) Plan ahead how you will matter of “factly”, respectfully and, last but not least, with much composure, spell out to your other half what they are doing, the effect it has on you and why it is unacceptable:
- describe their behaviour in detail (e.g. ignoring you, not speaking, being sarcastic, condescending etc and the durations)
- tell them that such behaviour can make a person feel hurt, desperate, tearful, confused, frustrated, angry, disrespected, worthless etc and explain how you yourself have often felt as a result of repititive episodes of silent treatment
- Inform them quietly, but in no uncertain terms, that your own self respect will no longer permit you to tolerate the silent treatment
- tell them it is paramount that you both use alternative new positive methods to resolve issues so that the relationship can grow and flourish
- talk about what you can both do the next time a potential period of silent treatment is looming
- listen carefully to their views and, where necessary, schedule another time to further disuss the issues (bearing in mind that your partner may need time to digest and reflect)
Following the discussion, the crucial thing is that your partner makes genuine concerted efforts to try to modify, lessen and eventually eradicate their Silent Treatment behaviours.
Be mindful that changing their manipulative conduct can be a huge challenge for your partner. Don’t assume that they will or can cease straightaway. Be patient but resolute, with yourself as well as with your partner, that you are no longer going to put up with Silent Treatment emotional abuse.
Following the talk, shorter durations of the silent treatment, coupled with fewer episodes overall, are a good sign of progress. If your partner subsequently slips up, be sure to continue to take the pleasure out of them treating you this way by being seen to getting on with contentedly living your life. When things are normal again, have a follow up discussion as necessary although, ultimately, you may decide that intractable silent treatment is a dealbreaker and accordingly decide to end the relationship.
NB: If your partner is a passive aggressive personality type I truly believe the strategies put forward in these articles should help break the cycle of silent treatment if applied consistently. When dealing with silent treatment from passive aggressive partners who are additionally intransigent narcissists, I believe it is still worthwhile applying these methods as, of themselves, the strategies are empowering to the person on the receiving end of silent treatment.
Caution - Obtain certified professional advice instead of carrying out the strategies in this series of hubs if you are already a victim of physical or verbal abuse or suspect your partner may accelerate from silent treatment abuse to physical/verbal abuse.
PART 5 - Is the Silent Treatment Emotional Abuse affecting your physical, as well as emotional, well being? - Many people do not realise how silent treatment emotional anxiety, and stress generally, can affect physical health, causing actual aches, pains and potentially serious health concerns which can land a person in the ER/hospital.
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An exploration of passive aggressive and withholding behaviours in relationships.
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Do please comment to share your past experiences of trying to persuade your partner to stop ignoring you!
Your experiences on this subject are welcome below and may well influence others when making decisions about what they might consider doing/not doing in the future.
© 2012 Ebonny