Breaking the Cycle of Passive Aggressive Silent Treatment
Do not reward a passive aggressive Silent Treatment perpetrator for their abusive tactics as it will lead to them doing it even more since they derive a sense of satisfaction, if not “guilty” pleasure, at seeing the negative effect they can have upon you. From their perspective, it proves to them that they matter to you.
Your objective should be to have husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend realise that you have become immune to their Silent Treatment so that they will eventually stop doing it. They need to realise this by themselves, by way of observing your changed reactions to their giving you the cold shoulder.
NB: When considering the coping strategies in this series of articles, it is also wise to undertake careful self-reflection to assess and ensure that you are approachable, fair and reasonable when communicating with your partner. In other words, be sure to give your partner no genuine pretext to give you the Silent Treatment.
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Examples of how to change your response
Building on the strategies detailed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of articles, here are some situations which may be familiar to you in your marriage or union, and how you might react in a way that does not encourage or reward your tormentor.
If the passive aggressive abuser ignores you when you call them to come eat the meal you’ve prepared, the next time you prepare a meal instead of calling them simply tell them their meal is in the oven for when they are ready for it. In this way you save yourself the stress of calling over and over or wondering when/if they will come etc. Now go straight ahead and enjoy your own meal. This will take away the power from the silent treatment manipulator who wants to see you waiting and wondering when he/she will grace you with their presence or indeed do you the honour of eating the meal at all! If the Abuser eventually does eat the meal at some point, continue with telling them that their meal is in the oven for when they want it, as opposed to calling them for dinner. However, if you find that the food is still in the oven the next day, without any satisfactory explanation from the Abuser, don’t rise to the bait by getting visibly put out or upset. In these circumstances you might want to consider stopping making meals for them until you are back on good terms. Why waste good food!
If you feel sure that your partner is deliberately staying out of the room you are in, whereas normally you would have been present together, pointedly ignore the behaviour and take the opportunity to amuse yourself with a favourite CD, comedy show or the like. Make yourself comfortable and stress free and actually enjoy the “space” they have given you. Whatever you do, don’t openly mope. This is easier said than done as such tactics on the part of the silent treatment abuser can leave you feeling despised and unworthy. Please know that you are not deserving of such treatment and resolve to rise above it. Take some comfort in the fact that you are not the only person to feel this way at the hands of a practised passive aggressive emotional abuser. Keep your chin up and never let them see the hurt that they cause, because if you do the cycle will go on and on.
Tearfulness and feeling overwhelmed with misery –
When you feel weighed down or weepy, silently in your head repeat to yourself, over and over and over, “I am handling this situation without tears” and/or “I am peaceful and content”. Repeat this to yourself as if you REALLY do mean it and REALLY do believe it. In point of fact, you do need to start believing it because you CAN handle the situation without tears and you CAN be peaceful and content, and what’s more you owe it to yourself. This kind of repetitive thinking on your part might feel very strange to begin with but just do keep repeating because it will help you shorten the length of time you feel overwhelmed or miserable and help you not to wallow in your sorrows. (The same basic principle can be used for other negative emotions such as irritability or anger.)
Passive Aggressive Silent Treatment - What to actually do if your partner won't answer you! - see the video
Decide how you will respond to passive aggressive Silent Treatment and be consistent.
Rather than continuing to react in a way that rewards your partner, actually choose to make yourself more jovial and content. Initially you might be pretending to be happy and content but if you are persistent in applying the strategies recommended in this series of hubs, before you know it you will actually begin to be more happy and content. Placing a small handwritten note or a visual reminder such as a fridge magnet where you will see it often, may help you to maintain your efforts to become stronger, wiser, and happier despite the tactics employed by a passive aggressive or narcissistic partner.
Don’t let your happiness be solely dependent on what mood your partner is in! Get out that list of things you can do to distract yourself from falling victim to your partner’s Silent Treatment methods and keep yourself usefully occupied. Above all, make your own happiness your own responsibility.
In all likelihood your manipulator will tire of not getting their desired response (i.e. you being upset, anxious to converse, sulking, and/or arguing). If you are persistent in applying these techniques EVERY TIME the silent treatment emotional abuse rears its ugly head, over a period of time, it should occur less frequently and get shorter in duration as and when it does occur.
NB – If the passive aggressive silent treatment emanates from a partner who is verbally abusive and/or physically abuse, do not proceed with the advice given above. Seek help from an appropriately trained professional in the field.