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Silent Treatment - Resentment and Feeling Stuck with a Dependent Spouse

Updated on November 6, 2015
Trapped in a Silent Relationship!
Trapped in a Silent Relationship! | Source

Decades in a Silent Treatment Relationship

A reader has been in touch to explain that she had been married for well over twenty years to a man who had all too frequently given her the silent treatment.

Walking on eggshells most of the time to try to avoid being given the dreaded silent treatment, she now struggles with depression. The husband, somewhat older than the reader, has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness and, now in the midst of yet another bout of silent treatment, the reader deems herself to be well and truly stuck, wishing she had left years ago, and unable to leave now given the husband’s health issues.

With the husband exuding irritation, opposition and hate, feeling trapped has heightened the reader’s stress levels, resentment and depression although thankfully she now has a counsellor to help see her through. She ended her communication with the advice to others to “run away” from their relationship at the earliest opportunity if they identify with her plight - lest they get stuck taking care of a sick elderly spouse who has treated and continues to treat them badly. The remainder of this article is my response to this reader.

Help with Understanding Your Feelings and Emotions - High Rated

Detachment and Taking Care of You

Hi F

Thank you for sharing your past and current situation. I am sorry to learn of the stress you have experienced but not too surprised to hear that this has led to mammoth resentment and now the feeling of being stuck as your partner has developed dementia requiring your care. Living with someone with this health condition is difficult at the best of times and I can only imagine how much more challenging it is to deal with bearing in mind what you have described. From what you say your partner is very lucky to still have you around but of course don’t hold your breath waiting for recognition of this fact.

To the future, for a person who has decided/committed to stay in the relationship and care for their partner despite all, I think a way forward is to detach somewhat. Detaching involves much self reflection and objectivity, acceptance of certain people and/or situations, and changing your own response to adversity bearing in mind what you cannot change and knowing that the only person you can change is yourself. Detaching can help a person become calmer and more serene despite whatever or whoever has been causing grief. It’s also about uplifting yourself and developing confidence in taking control and responsibility for your own peace of mind and contentment, setting and enforcing boundaries as necessary. Learning how to detach can truly make a world of difference.

It's also very important that you can find a way to consistently carve out some time for yourself and get some respite as you continue to care for your partner because if not your own health, emotional and physical, may well deteriorate. If you neglect yourself, your happiness, your own personal well being, you will not be in a position to help or care for yourself, let alone anyone else. Thus I hope you will not feel guilty about making it a priority to do things “just for you” on a regular basis as you care for your husband.

Hopefully there are some things in the articles about stopping Silent Treatment from harming your emotional and physical health which may help you to take care of and recover your peace of mind for the future.

I'm not sure if you have tried any of the strategies to better cope with silent treatment detailed in Part 1 of this series – perhaps you might discuss them with your counsellor. My hope is that you find a way to cope so that you no longer fear or dread getting the silent treatment from him and in this way you can stop walking on eggshells all the time and avoid some of the stress. In terms of being a carer, perhaps your counsellor can help with finding a local support group for those caring for relatives with your husband’s condition.

In addition to taking steps to diminish stress it's crucial you take on the responsibility of planning for and facilitating joy in your own life. People who do make effort and manage to successfully take over responsibility for their own happiness may or may not choose to remain in what was and/or continues to be, an unsatisfactory relationship. They put themselves in the right position to decide about staying or leaving and I believe it’s key for a person to feel content with their decision to stay rather than simply feel stuck.

Do you want to change your own response to being given the Silent Treatment? Then see the link below to find out what you can do to now to help avoid future resentment and bitterness in your relationship.

About Your Decision to Stay

Although you may not have taken the opportunity to end the relationship in the past I’m sure you did the best you could at the time bearing in mind all your circumstances. You cannot change the past and so I hope you can forgive rather than berate yourself.

Also, although I know it is far easier said than done, I hope you might try to find a way to forgive your partner for his past present and future behaviour. Regardless of whether or not a person is remorseful/does or does not deserve forgiveness, know that the forgiveness is not simply for the wrong-doer’s benefit. Particularly as you have chosen to stay and care for your husband with his dementia, forgiving him is primarily for your own benefit so that you can have peace and respite from feelings of resentment, anger or bitterness. You deserve to feel better and so maybe forgiveness is something you might explore with your counsellor. You have made the decision to stay but even for those who choose to leave an unhealthy relationship at some stage, forgiveness is often life changing and freeing and thus worthy of serious consideration.

Despite all the silences and walking on eggshells, I imagine that loyalty, love and remembering good times may be factors in your decision to remain with and care for your husband. For some fear of change, what others might say, finances and related issues can also be factors. Whatever the reasons, forgiveness and being able to let go of some of the resentment you understandably feel can make the caring significantly easier and smooth the path you have chosen.

If you make conscious consistent effort to think and believe you can cope better, you will!

How long have you been experiencing recurrent bouts of silent treatment in your relationship with your Partner?

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Getting "Unstuck"

I would also add that positive thinking can make all the difference to daunting and difficult circumstances and I hope you will be able to use positivity to help you though and know that you can still have a life despite the circumstances. I say this with all due respect and not to dismiss what you have been through or the difficulties that you will no doubt face going forward. I say this because I believe it’s imperative to be able to take more conscious control of our own feelings and actions so that we can look forward to the future.

Indeed, life is short and regardless of whether or not you now choose to remain with your partner, I do hope you will find your way to becoming “unstuck” and make space for the joy in life you deserve to have.

Lastly, thank you so much for sharing and giving others experiencing silent treatment and the like salient food for thought.

Regards - Ebonny

Still Trying to Make Sense of it all ...

Below are two publications which helped many people gain insight and understanding about emotional abuse.

  • Based on well over 650 ratings, around 94% of purchasers voted the book "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft either 5 or 4 stars. One reviewer of the book who had suffered much silent treatment from her spouse felt that the book was a great eye-opener in that it helped her realise she was NOT crazy. Click here for this and further reviews. (Overall the rating is 4.7 stars out of 5.)
  • The Silent Marriage – How Passive Aggression Steals your Happiness by Nora Femenia is a highly rated book that details how emotional abuse is destructive in marriage/relationships.

© 2015 Ebonny

Comments - Have you experienced years of recurrent silent treatment?

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    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 2 years ago from UK

      Dashing - Many thanks for your thoughts on this as doubtless there are many who, unlike the reader in this case, would not choose to stay. And certainly, stay or go, people need to make take responsibility for their own happiness.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 2 years ago

      It is sad when people don't love themselves enough to look out for their own best interest. All relationship prisons of hell are self-made.

      No one is actually "stuck" with anyone. After 20 years of B.S. apparently this woman now feels even more obligated to stay.

      One's life is a limited amount of time and too precious to waste. It's not too late for her to forgive herself for losing 20 years. However it makes no sense to invest any more time with someone who does not love or appreciate her.

      Let his family step up to the plate or put him in a nursing home.

      There are no "whoopee cookies" handed out for wasting your life.

      Generally speaking people in this situation seek out some form of happiness for themselves by either cheating with someone or leaving.

      Over the years I've come to understand that the reason why many people cheat is order to STAY or tolerate an unhappy marriage/relationship. Some folks don't believe in divorce or don't feel the problem is a "deal breaker".

      However if it's against her morals to have affair then leaving is her best alternative. If she continues to stay in a toxic marriage she has no one to blame but herself. It doesn't have to be this way!

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

      The world may not owe you anything but you owe yourself the world!


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