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.
LOVE & RESPECT
LOVE & RESPECT - Amazon reviewers have rated this 4.3 out of 5 stars (and there are over 700+ customer reviews!).
It is felt to be of benefit whether the relationship/marriage be solid or floundering.
- In addition to the book, there is a CD version available - great if your partner is reluctant to read self help books!
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.
Please click here for PART 4 of How to cope with Silent Treatment. When/How to Discuss/Confront Silent Treatment - The above link gives advice on how you can go about putting in place a time limited cooling off period/time out with your partner; emphasising your new boundaries plus the importance of having realistic expectations of your partner. Also see this link if you would like information on how you might overcome some of the "awkwardness" of moving on from a "not speaking" episode.
THANK YOU for sharing, voting and/or commenting on these articles. You may wish to bookmark and return to catch up on comments etc.
And once you are back on "good" speaking terms .....
- The Five Love Languages in Silent Treatment Relation...
If you are dreading the next seemingly inevitable segment of silent treatment from your partner, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do now, whilst you are indeed on speaking terms, to help avert it. Rather than rely on walking on...
- Silent Treatment Relationships and Speaking your Partner's Love Language
Why does he do that?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Rated 4.7 stars out of 5 as at March 2014 (pictured below)
Emotional Assault: Recognizing an Abusive Partner's Bag of Tricks by Lisa Kroulik - rated 4.8 stars out of 5 as at March 2014 (pictured below)
See below for further articles relating to Silent Treatment
Silent Treatment in Marriage - The Marriage Restoration Project
What should I do when my wife ignores me? - The Marriage Restoration Project
© 2012 Ebonny
Comments - Specific Examples - How to cope with Silent Treatment Emotional Abuse in Relationships - Part 3:
Ebonny (author) from UK on July 15, 2016:
Attention Wife of Hyde
Re your recent communication, I do so worry for you and the children and although I can understand that sharing here helps you get things out of your system a little bit, again I am concerned that you should seek professional qualified local help given your partner's outbursts and the issues you are going through. You've got such alot on your plate and as much as you've gotten stronger, I think it's time you saw your doctor to have him/her recommend someone to support you. It really can be a sign of immense strength when you reach out and let someone suitably experience to your situation assist.
Again do take good care and please do now seek help. Do it sooner rather than later so as to stop the cycle.
Ebonny (author) from UK on June 04, 2016:
Hi Wife of Hyde
Thanks for sharing your concerns. It is particularly saddening when people take out their frustrations on children and it can set up a cycle that repeats through generations.
I think that for some people being able to better cope is enough and for others being able to better cope comes with the new realisation that they can do something different and positive. When a person feels no longer accepting of the status quo in the relationship, a next step for some is to work out how to further empower themselves so that they can have more options rather than stay feeling stuck. For example, it may be that they do a course which can improve their job prospects and independence/something which gives them more confidence and choice for the long term. Support from a counsellor is another consideration.
Sounds like you've worked very hard to alter the way you respond to the silences and even if you do have more to do, I do hope you take time to acknowledge how far you've progressed. In so doing you can boost yourself to keep moving forward as necessary for the emotional wellbeing of yourself and your children. Stay strong.
Wife of Hyde on June 03, 2016:
I have looked back and many of my comments and my episodes with my husband have gotten much less extreme. However there is still the basic issue of what feels to me like such utter disrespect. I don't understand how the silent treatment abuser does not realize how disrespectful they are to the ones they love. Why did they not snap out of it at some point and apologize? This morning I had a small argument with my husband and when he came home this evening I thought it was water under the bridge but he ignored me all night again and left me to put the three children to bed by myself again and went to bed without speaking to me. He is not only punishing me, he is ignoring the children. I realize that my coping techniques from your hub have helped me to survive in this marriage. However I am to the point now where I just don't expect very much. When you give me the silent treatment I go on with my day but really inside I'm not as happy as I used to be with my marriage. It's slowly wearing me down and sapping my joy. Also, at this point I feel like I'm just hanging in here for the sake of the kids. I keep thinking maybe I can just make it until the kids graduate high school because I don't want to put them through divorce and I don't have the means to survive on my own with them and I just feel like every man is going to have his flaws. Does life have to be so bleak? I am just starting feel depressed and trapped but I don't want my children to suffer.
Ebonny (author) from UK on April 22, 2016:
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your situation. I’m sorry to know how low and tearful you have been feeling. Rejection certainly hurts.
Of course I don’t know you or him so it’s difficult to advise, but maybe give YOURSELF some space and alone time and you may well find that clarity/answers to your concerns comes more easily to you. Also if alcohol appears to be having a negative effect on your relationship I feel it’s very important you seriously explore how to address this - don’t be afraid to seek outside help with this as necessary not least for health and safety’s sake.
It’s unfortunate and frustrating if your partner cannot or will not be open with you about what is causing him to withdraw and go into silent mode. With some people, although they feel the other person is doing something they shouldn’t, they don’t necessarily have the confidence or feel they have the right, to directly come out and say what they really think and so they stay silent and expect you to both guess what the problem is and address it without them having to tell you to do so.
More generally, If I understand you correctly, you have contacted him on at least two occasions and have had no response. When you know he has your messages I guess you have to think about if you want to continue to engage in a never-ending “dance” where you have to pursue and pursue and pursue and only then maybe get a response. An alternative to such negativity would be to busy youself with your girlfriends/positive and enjoyable activities so that you are not feeling overwhelmed with sadness, boredom or neediness, especially at times when you usually go out with him. Also you seem to have some doubts about his honesty and so if he wants to stay out of reach it’s possible that, for the long term, he’s doing you a favour.
Unfortunately there’s no guarantee he’ll change if you change. Change for the good of you yourself. If he changes too and communication improves, see that as a welcome bonus.
For sanity, it’s always good when we can give ourselves time and space to reflect, see the bigger picture and to develop independence, confidence and positivity within ourselves. Regards, Ebonny
coollady37 on April 21, 2016:
Also, I wanted to thank you for the articles you have written. Very helpful information. My relationship with my boyfriend is usually very good and only this has happened when I have caused it. He is still trying to punish and control me I feel which is working because I'm so afraid he is going to break up with me. I cried all last night but reading about this is helping me stay a bit sane. Do the men who give silent treatment usually stay, if they can, with their partners or do you think in my case he will given my indiscretions in the past? I really don't want to lose him and I think if I do better in the future that there will be no more episodes of silent treatment under reasonable circumstances. Thanks again
coollady37 on April 21, 2016:
I have been dating an older man since January 2015 and we have gotten on very well until October when I drove under the influence. Admittedly this was very wrong and unsafe and he didn't speak to me for 3 days. We usually text and he would not respond until then and he ended up coming over and we talked about it and he was very sweet and wanted to know if he had done anything and I said no. He plays guitar and I left the bar he had been playing. This was a truthful answer that he not done anything.
A couple of weeks ago he was caught in a lie and would not explain about it. It made me a bit suspicious but I let it go and everything was going along fine until some weird girls showed up at his gig this past saturday night after the bar was closed. That coupled with the lie and me drinking caused me to confront him. I'm not sure what was said and it's possible I may have been mean to him and stormed out and left with a girlfriend of mine who drove me home. He actually sent her outside to stay with me. Again I know my part in this (well somewhat except for the conversation but there was no yelling because no one around heard anything), but he has not responded to texts since then. I apologized and left him alone Monday morning. Last night I once again apologized via text and said let's talk. No response and so I saw he was on facebook and sent him an instant message that he did not respond to just reiterating when could we talk. This situation is not as bad as some of the others and I've read the articles and sounds like I messed up but form here on out I would like to do better and have a plan about my role as well. Since we don't live together and usually text every day and make plans to see each other via text should I just refrain from communication? He has a gig this weekend and I usually go when I don't have my daughter on Saturday nights. There is a facebook event that I was invited by his drummer the other day. I usually don't respond to those until I know for sure I am going. If I don't hear from him should I not go which is what I'm leaning toward or should I go and act like everything is hunky dory?
Thanks for any insight!
Ebonny (author) from UK on March 15, 2016:
Firstly PLEASE accept my apologies for the delay in replying. It saddens me to hear of the emotional pain you are in and that this happens time and time again. However it’s promising that you are giving thought to how you can take more responsibility for your own happiness and have resolved to help yourself. When you can do this and keep it up most, if not all of the time, overall this will have you coping way better than you did in the past when your partner gives you the silent treatment.
It’s awful when a person feels they must stifle their opinions because of the threat of being given the ST. Fear of ST is all too prevalent but I can tell you it’s very liberating when you eventually stop being frightened of it and can have your say. That said, it’s important to have that “say” in a measured and respectful way. The other side of the coin is that, even when we feel brave enough to have our “say” we cannot demand that the other person opens up and responds in kind. If they do that’s great of course but they may not open up for quite some time or they may never open up at all. There are no guarantees.
I note that you say you can only feel better by talking and can definitely relate to this. How do you feel about summarising your feelings into a 5 or 6 sentences/2 minutes and relating them to your partner. If he responds, fine. If he doesn’t respond at least you have some degree of relief in that you have had your say. There is always the possibility he may respond angrily or resort to verbal abuse as you have indicated he has done in the past. With this in mind it’s imperative that you think things through beforehand so that you do not end up in an unsafe situation. Do seek professional advice as necessary if you feel unsafe in any way, but should you decide to have your say I have in mind the “sticks and stones” phrase and speaking for myself I have developed enough self worth and confidence that I will no longer allow myself be silenced by the threat or ST or angry words. Assertiveness help too and it’s good if a person reaches a place where they can tell their partner that they do not wish to be spoken to an abusive way and respectfully ask their partner to reflect on their own behaviour. Thereafter I would advocate them going about their business in situ or walking out of the room with chin on a level, not down.
Sometimes it’s the case that the silent person is the less articulate one in a relationship and they may find it intimidating when their partner wants to talk because they simply do not have the tools or confidence to adequately express themselves - so they prefer to simply close communication rather than risk “losing” in an anticipated argument. Sometimes they shout or speak aggressively to avoid a normal two way conversation because they are concerned that they may not be able to find the right words to get their points across. But again, I would aim to have my say by summarising what I need to express in a non-combative measured way and then leave it at that if they choose not to respond at that time or at all.
I am glad to know that there are many positives about your relationship and know it can be very perplexing when you are trying to weight things up. It most certainly is not fair for a person to endure even subtle intimidation from a partner and I think it’s on you to strive to “fix” yourself so that this no longer happens. However you cannot fix him. Only he can fix himself – and this will only happen if/when he chooses to, if indeed HE decides there is something to fix. Eventually a passive aggressive person may elect to stop or modify their negative behaviours because those behaviours no longer have a desired (e.g. controlling) effect on their subject. Sometimes things can get worse before they get better when the person on the receiving end of passive aggression changes their response to being given the ST but, again, everyone is different and some passive aggressive will never improve. My article about Passive Aggressive Partners ... What are your options? may be of interest in these respects.
As to fairness, from what you say you seem to be a conscientious person who wants to be fair to their partner and this is good. Just be sure to be fair to yourself as well.
Thanks for sharing your situation and wishing you strength, positivity and peace of mind - Ebonny
Upset on February 16, 2016:
I have been with my boyfriend for a few years now. Things were going great, and then (again) a little thing made him very angry, which made me very upset. And it all went downhill, as usual.
When this happens he doesn't want to talk about things, but the only way I can feel better is talking. I do realise now insisting on talking doesn't help, and will try the advise, but I can't help feeling it's not fair. He is much stronger emotionally than I am, and he knows it. The rest of the time things are great, he is caring, supportive, does his bit around the house, etc. but this arguments even if they only happen every few months bring me down so much. I just can't cope when he doesn't talk to me, even for a very short period of time.
I can't decide if I need to "fix myself" (anxiety, stress...) so the relationship can work out, or if it's a relationship problem. I'm happy to do my bit, and will from now on work on my own happiness but I feel he should work on his anger. But I'm afraid if I bring that up, it will make him angry and the cycle will start again.
So basically, I'm lost and there's so much more good than bad in the relationship, but I don't think that justifies him giving me the ST, shouting at me or name calling (which has happened very, very few times but hurt so much). I guess because it's something I'd never do, I can't understand why he does it to me. But then, how can I expect him to understand my anxiety/insecurities when he's not going through them?
I never know if I'm being fair or not any more.
Ebonny (author) from UK on October 21, 2015:
Hi Wife of Hyde
It's so upsetting, confusing and frustrating when you feel your partner is finally on the right track and then they suddenly or dramatically deviate from that route. Thanks for your comment and do take very good care and reach out for local help if you ever you feel you need it.
Ebonny (author) from UK on October 21, 2015:
I'm glad to hear that you do not allow the silence from your mother to overwhelm you. This is particularly important where a person works with the silent one. Taking responsibility for our own peace of mind and sanity is key and I congratulate you because I know it is not an easy road to travel. Stay strong.
wife of hyde on October 16, 2015:
it's been 5 months since the last bad episode. Yesterday Hyde was frustrated and swearing after bonking his head on something in the garage, scaring my 2 year old. Then throughout the day he was agitated and prone to snap at every tiny thing. I used the strategies to completely ignore and stay away from the bad behavior and stay upbeat. I believe that is why he snapped out of it so quickly and we watched a movie together lastnight. But during the movie I stopped and asked him: "if something ever happens to me, will you please try to be nicer for our kids' sake?" That comment was made sincerely, and with heart. He flew off the handle, screaming that he's been really good for a long time, went and slept in the couch, went to work, came home, ignores me, and literally went to bed at 5pm laying across the bed face first with all his clothes on, and wouldn't eat dinner or anything. Of course, I was also on my own getting our 3 children to bed. I just don't understand how someone can snap like that, and to such an extreme!! Thanks for listening.
indifferent on October 13, 2015:
I've applied all of those rules, it's my mother always giving the silent treatment. I go about my day (we work together), still chat and to be honest you're right, eventually you will feel happy or less anxious than you used to. The thing is, she retaliates, she does not like it when we treat her the same way, or it seems like the silent treatment isn't working. There is no way she'll seek help, in her mind she's doing nothing wrong and is the victim.
Ebonny (author) from UK on May 12, 2015:
Hi Wife of Hyde
Old habits die hard is the phrase that springs to mind I'm afraid but if the duration and frequency are tending to be worse rather than better that would be very concerning. Thanks for sharing once again, and take very good care.
wife of hyde on May 10, 2015:
3 months of much better behavior and then mothers day of all days. The morning started well in church and then it seemed like the tension was building and my 4 year old son made him upset and after that he shut himself off. He ignored me and my 3 children for the next 2 hours until my parents came. Then he was civil but we aren't speaking (mutually ) since they went home. I just don't understand why when things we so nice for 3 months how he could have gotten out of control and made me and my 4 year old feel so sad on mothers day
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 16, 2015:
Wife of Hyde -
Thank you for this update. I’m glad to know there has been some marked improvement for a period and sorry for your present situation. Now, there is a lot going on for you - verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and I’m not sure if the medications you mention he has/is taking are contributing to the problems you have been experiencing.
In an earlier response I strongly suggested you seek outside help due to my concerns for your safety and I we touched on things such as entrenched behaviour. Although improvement followed by lapses is common, I too would be worried that he won’t ever discuss difficult issues, not even in the good times. Only you can decide if this, coupled with all the other stuff, is a dealbreaker. Continuing frustration and resentment do not make for a good long term relationship as you know.
When a person declares they won’t discuss the issues, and reinforces this by flying off the handle, it amounts to intimidation i.e. don’t you bring these things up again or else I’ll turn nasty and you’ll be sorry - another part of emotional abuse I’m afraid.
Ask yourself - are you prepared to continue to live this way? Children, financial and other reasons for staying together, not least you love him, no doubt makes this an extremely difficult question to answer. It’s all too easy, although very understandable, to want to run away from seriously considering this question.
Yes, the silent one taking personal responsibility needs to happen at some stage, particularly when bigger rather than petty issues are the case, although a series of petty issues eventually becomes a big issue in itself if you know what I mean. If someone is unable/unwilling to acknowledge their own attitude and actions the question is how many more chances should they be given.
I only wish I had an answer for you that would make him magically change but the fact is I don’t and it’s only right that I am clear with you about this and that is why I must say again that I believe seeing a counsellor on your own (coz, as you have told me, he won’t attend) is a step which can give you the opportunity to express your feelings, to be heard and to explore what you want and need for the future. Granted, your counsellor may not have all the answers either but particularly with your safety in mind, I hope that you can find a way forward, with or without your husband. It’s simply not right for anyone to be intimidated into not seeking to air/discuss grievances.
Now, I am assuming you are approaching your husband in an open/reasonable/assertive/receptive manner. Self reflection and awareness is important and if you examine yourself and feel certain you have been just in your approaches, he should be able to quietly and honestly respond without flying off the handle and adopting an intimidating attitude (i.e. if you raise an issue I don’t want to discuss, you’ll be sorry.. kind of thing.)
Again I really wish I had a definitive answer for you know exactly what you are supposed to do and I must say it sounds as if you have made intensive, consistent effort to apply the strategies I have suggested with some good results and this suggests to me that you are probably much stronger and more resilient that you may have realised in the past. But I personally have not experienced the extended verbal and physical abuse that you have expressed to me and as such I must again implore you to seek help from a suitably qualified and experienced professional. If it were not for the unacceptable and persistent verbal and physical abuse, I would normally advise to go to Part 4 of this series of articles, but your circumstances are on the extreme side and so do look after yourself and seek professional guidance as to next steps because to live like this indefinitely is just not right. best regards. Ebonny
wife of hyde on January 14, 2015:
I saw the comments of Jen and wanted to follow up. My husband has improved since my last post although I am writing now because after about 6 months of mostly Jekyll he had a hyde episode again the last 2 days. He acted like a 2 year old yesterday* ignoring me and slamming things. I used ebony strategies and was upbeat, etc. He was remorseful this morning and kissed me goodbye etc but when he got home today he acted like nothing happened. Since the silence was over, I tried to calmly discuss what happened and he totally flipped out, knocked over the garbage can, swore at me and stormed out of the room for the night* commenting that I just HAD to ruin the evening. I read what Jen wrote. And I agree - when does the personal responsibility for the crappie behavior ever come into play? My husband is content to drop things when he's over them, but God forbid I bring up that his behavior hurt me or the kids and we are back to square one. If I never say anything, I am consumed with resentment. If I speak my peace, I get silent treatment and abuse. What an I supposed to do?
Ebonny (author) from UK on June 20, 2014:
Thank you for your comment, although I am sorry to learn of the emotional turmoil you have been subjected to. I guess blaming others, rather than looking within to take some responsibility is an easy cop out for some people. Trouble is, if people blame us often enough and we feel vulnerable enough, we can start to believe, or at least wonder, if most everything is our fault. If we do that, then for sure we are in deep trouble.
I do hope the strategies will help you cope and that you are able to develop more and more self awareness - and in turn feel confident in doing whatever it is you need to do to protect your emotional health. My best wishes. Ebonny.
PS - could you please email me - https://ebonny.hubpages.com/#fanmail (from this page, pl click "send ebonny an email")
MeisieD on June 20, 2014:
I have noticed that each time my husband is unhappy about something in our marriage he gives me silent treatment until i ask him what the matter is. This has happened even while we were still dating, (e.g. he was refusing to let go of a female friend he confessed they once kissed; the girl was also disrespectful towards me). He once told me he blames me for all problems we are experiencing, i am always blamed. According to him i have been giving him problems since we were dating up-to-date.
We have 1 year old son together and he tells me to stop church activities, always be home, leave my friends but at the same time at home he ignores me by being on his phone/laptop chatting until i go to bed. He has been giving me silent treatment for about 5 weeks now, and even when he travels i have to ask him to communicate. I have wept so much because i feel like we no longer married we just two people staying together.I am glad to have found this site i am so encouraged to follow the strategies.
Ebonny (author) from UK on February 26, 2014:
Hello Lisa - many thanks for your observations. Choosing happiness is the way to go :0)
Lisa on February 25, 2014:
Being upbeat and cheerful confuses them! They realize their silent 'tactic' is not having any impact. I tried it, and loved hearing him ask me why I was so happy! Truly, when you can let them choose their behavior, and you choose your own and 'let them be', it is remarkable what it does for your own inner peace, and how it confounds them!
Ebonny (author) from UK on February 24, 2014:
Thank you for sharing. My feeling is that being upbeat and cheerful is better for YOU than being downbeat and miserable. Although this may be an act to begin with I feel it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to take positive steps to ensure that keeping yourself up becomes your reality and not just an act. Again this is good for you, it’s not all about him. I myself was quite shocked to find that I could be genuinely okay and content even if my partner wasn’t speaking to me! whereas before I would be putting everything on hold waiting for him to come around. I would say it lets the silent one know that you can be happy despite them not speaking to you and particularly if they are being petty, it may indeed encourage them to “let go” and act somewhat more maturely and reasonably. I suggest you start each day giving your partner the opportunity to engage with you by way of a pleasant “Good Morning” etc. No need to go overboard in trying to constantly engage them in conversation at every opportunity throughout the day though. Talk to them pleasant throughout the day as and when the need arises – and still be happy and content within yourself and let it show.
As regards apologising and asking your H to talk through an issue, by all means do this so long as you feel you genuinely have something to apologise for. I don’t advocate routinely apologising when you don’t believe you have done anything wrong. If warranted, apologise once, honestly owning your own part in the issue (if you feel you are only partly to blame don’t apologise for his part) and let him know that you are happy to talk things through if and when he is ready. I feel that if this is done within the framework of being seen to be upbeat and cheerful, it sets up a much more healthy dynamic than if someone is moping around, apologising unnecessarily, begging, pleading, desperate etc. Even if he still refuses to speak he’ll notice you remain upbeat and hopefully eventually realise there is nothing to be gained from trying to bring you down if that was his intention or if he was getting off on that. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff, but yes, without begging, certainly aim to talk through recurring or more significant issues as necessary. There’s no guarantee these suggestions will help in every situation but I think it’s food for thought worth considering. Whilst things are “waiting” to be resolved, live your life contentedly and don’t let the situation completely get you down.
Jen on February 24, 2014:
Just a question - by being upbeat and cheerful despite the treatment, isn't that just allowing him to get away with it? Isn't that kind of saying, 'it's ok if you treat me like crap, because I'll just be positive and friendly anyway'? There are no consequences for his behaviour, so why would he change?
Another question - my husband's way of dealing with conflict and disagreements is the silent treatment. While I quickly reach a point of wanting to talk things through, as soon as he is annoyed he either loses his temper or shuts down or both - and then he doesn't want to talk through the issue anymore. Apologising or giving him space and then asking if we can talk does nothing. You say that this approach doesn't work (which I agree with), but if I was part of the argument, shouldn't it be my responsibility at least some of the time to apologise and ask if we can talk? Even if I know it won't work? And if the silent treatment originates from an argument, surely we need to talk through it eventually, but I know that the only chance of that happening is if I say 'can we talk'. In other words - if I stop being the one apologising and trying to talk through things, then I'm worried we will never resolve anything!
Ebonny (author) from UK on September 24, 2013:
Yes, unfortunately it can be a generational thing. It's very very difficult for people to change their behaviour when they don't want to because they don't perceive they are doing anything wrong. I don't have a definitive answer for your question (wish I did!) but I think the earlier silent treatment abuse is recognised in a relationship the better the chance of the strategies here helping to change the person's mindset, at least to some degree, since their payoff is stopped. That said, even if they to improve/stop, there is still the issue of them maintaining it for the long term. Particularly if they cannot openly own their behaviour, it can become a dealbreaker, as there's only so much a person can or should take.
Wife of Hyde on September 22, 2013:
I suspect that this destructive pattern is learned and repeated down through generations. I'm learning that my husband's family have similar episodes of silent treatment, grudges over minor perceived "wrongs," etc. how can these perpetrators unlearn these destructive patterns, or even realize how destructive and abnormal these methods are?
Ebonny (author) from UK on September 12, 2013:
Hello Wife of Hyde - many thanks for your update. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. Resentment is an EXTREMELY difficult thing to wipe away. I know I have found it hard to overcome resentment when I feel someone has wronged me and shows little or no sign of trying to understanding or remorse, and/or won't explore what went on after the event.
The question is can you live a life of resentment, and even if you can, do you want to? Only you can make that ultimate decision but in doing so I would urge you to very carefully consider the long terms effects for the happiness and safety of yourself and your children if this pattern continues and/or escalates and/or he still won't explore stuff with you even in the "good" times. I only wish I had a definitive answer for you but please accept my sincere best wishes in dealing with this destructive pattern of behaviour.
Wife of Hyde on September 01, 2013:
Quick update - after 4 days of silent treatment and thank God employing your brilliant strategies, today he was great and acted like nothing happened. Dr. Jekyll is back again. Problem is, in the past when I want to resolve things, if I even mention the Mr. Hyde episode he either blames me for it or becomes Mr. Hyde again. I want to seek professional help, but have had such bad luck with counseling in the past, with therapists whose attitude seems to be to divorce if he won't attend, and that is not what I want to do. I start building up do much resentment when issue after issue is unresolved. Any ideas?
Ebonny (author) from UK on August 31, 2013:
TO: Wife of Hyde
It is difficult, but not impossible, to turn your life around when you are in love with someone who ill-treats you in this way.
With his silent treatment coupled with swearing, name calling, threats and borderline physical abuse, your situation is very worrying. Please NOW get professional advice before things escalate further. Seek counselling on your own as he’s not interested in couple counselling and make it a priority to look after yourself and your child (who he appears to be using to get at you). Again, it’s very important you get support with all of this. Ebonny.
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 30, 2013:
I do understand why you would beg your NPD husband in this way, but no one should have to continuously plead with their spouse, of all people, to treat them with human kindness and respect. I should clarify that I am not a professional in this field and write from personal experience and my own research. That said, I do NOT think that your begging him to talk to you every night for six months helped to end the silence sooner; quite the reverse I believe - for the reasons I have given in these articles.
It is going to be hard for you to turn a corner when you feel so emotionally fragile but with support you can change your response to his giving you the silent treatment for these extended periods and reflect on what you want for the future. Please seek support from a counsellor, trusted relative, friend and/or support group as NPD is notoriously difficult to deal with. You cannot make your Husband change his ways but with the right support and positive thinking you can strengthen yourself so that you are able to better cope. Also, even if he is currently speaking to you, you can make a list of things you can do which make you happy and content and start doing them straightaway. If you begin now, it means that when the next silence comes along you will be well used to being responsible for your own happiness and more able use the strategies suggested regardless of him ignoring you.
I am very concerned to hear that you have been feeling suicidal, but not surprised to be honest. Please contact a professional in your area for the necessary support. It really is a strength to recognise when you need help AND actually reach out for that help. Take very good care of yourself. Ebonny.
Sunshine on January 30, 2013:
I faced silent treatment on a regular basis for the last 14 yrs of married life to a husband with NPD. The longest session went on for 6months....in which he didn't talk to me, didn't eat the food I cook and would sleep in a diff room. It hurt like crazy and every night I used to go begging him....but nothing worked! It ultimately ended after 6 months of torture. I sometimes feel did my begging help him break his silence faster or else may be it would have continued for another 6 months??? What do u think??...I am a very weak person emotionally and feel like committing suicide....why me?? How do I make myself strong??......if I don't beg and plead him.... May be he will never talk to me at all??? How do I get out of this mindset?
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 19, 2013:
Thanks you for your comment. I am sorry to know you are feeling so depleted but glad to know of your intention to help yourself get out of this rut. I must start by saying that using these methods will not guarantee to stop your partner giving you the silent treatment. They are about changing yourself/your response to silent treatment. The only person you can change is yourself – you cannot force your partner to change.
My belief is these strategies will help you cope better and feel better and, on seeing that the silent treatment does not make you crumble anymore, your partner MAY WELL be less and less inclined to keep giving you the silent treatment. However, if his stance does not alter, or does not alter sufficiently, you may come to the stage where you have to decide whether or not this is a deal breaker for you and plan accordingly.
Developing a more positive attitude and not allowing the silences to devastate and control you will make you feel stronger and happier, regardless of whether or not your partner makes changes and regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide to stay in or leave the relationship.
Regarding a dialogue about the actual conflict which caused a particular episode of silent treatment: if it is something really petty, I am inclined not to have a discussion (why sweat the small stuff type of thing). However if the SAME petty trigger recurs and recurs, then this does merit a conversation to try to get to the bottom of it and iron things out. If the conflict which initiated a silence is something bigger/big, then there is no point shelving it and it should be discussed. Outright refusal to discuss (and silent treatment is indeed sometimes used by abusers to avoid having to have a particular conversation) will need to be weighted as to whether or not it is a dealbreaker.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have not yet realised that your happiness is your own responsibility. The majority of people, myself included, grow up and into adulthood with this mindset. Please now take responsibility for your own happiness Don’t allow anyone else to have control over your peace of mind and contentment. By following these strategies you can make a start in that direction. Should you slip up with the strategies at any moment, just get back on track asap and believe you can do it. - Ebonny
Massy on January 17, 2013:
Hi there. I am going to try to employ these tactics as of right now. Here are my thoughts and please understand that I am at a low from being the recipient of this type passive- aggressive behavior. By using your advice, I am unclear on when or how these tactics will
resolve or at least open a dialogue regarding the actual conflict that caused the silence to manifest in the first place. The whole hint pains me deeply, but I keep asking myself why I don't get a backbone and leave? As of now I am in a relationship where my thoughts, feelings and needs are not addressed. It has taken me a while to realize that this is not a different personality type or argument ste, but a true disorder. Any advice or encouragement is appreciated from those of you who are more seasoned at this than me.
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 06, 2013:
Hi Tintin - It's quite a moment when we finally start to teach people how they should treat us and that respect HAS to be a two way street - and that is what you have done here. Great! Many thanks for dropping by.
tintin 7 on January 05, 2013:
Some great comments - Two weeks ago I experienced the cold treatment this was not an isolated event. It had occurred many times before. The same patterns every time. I always reacted to the silent treatment, by trying to convince, communicate with no positive outcome for change I was always left feeling very overwelmed by the whole experience. Recently, before christmas the (friend?) a man and I went away camping, for Christmas, I did not feel altogether comfortable with this as I would be missing out on seeing my family, he does not have any living in this part of the world. I was told to buy the food and organise the camping location as he was too busy at work, even though I had been extremely busy at work myself, I organised the food paid for by me, we took separate cars - I was not going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere by myself. We arrived at the camping area. I asked for some money for purchasing the food he made excuses not to I cooked the meals, then came the insults, I ignored them to some degree. I evently had enough by the next day I asked him to discuss if I should continue to stay on or leave, he ignored me and said nothing at all. I decided in my very upset state to pack my gear including all the food I had purchased and returned home to spend christmas with my friends and family, I was however extremely distressed over several days, He texted me the other day with what a low life person I was and that he would never trust being with someone who would stoop so low... as to not leave him any food for him to eat. I responded by letting him know that he had previously refused to communicate at all, that he had supplies, a car, and a supermarket 15 mins down the road from the campsite to purchase food for himself and guess what I have not heard a word from him since ... but I am not going to someone's doormat
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 04, 2013:
Hi Bredandagnes - If you'd asked me a few years ago I would probably have described my partner's silent treatment as him being moody! Took me a LONG time to acknowledge to myself that I had been allowing myself to tolerate emotional abuse, partly because I didn't like to think of my husband as an emotional abuser (as in many ways he's a very decent person). It was a painfully slow realisation for me but, thankfully, once I got it I was able to assert myself and tolerate it no longer. Many thanks for your comment.
Ebonny (author) from UK on January 04, 2013:
Delighted – Wow! I am indeed thoroughly delighted to hear of this uplifting update and admire and congratulate you on the resolve, determination and effort you have put forth to arrive at this point. I am both encouraged and moved by your confirming that, for you, these articles have played some positive part in your journey thus far and thank you for your good wishes. I know you will remain strong and sincerely wish you all you wish yourself as your journey continues.
Delighted... on January 03, 2013:
To those going through this - Ebonny's amazing advice CAN work! My husband emailed me early November telling me he wanted me to move out - I had stopped being his narcissistic supply, and was no longer showing him any 'upset' for his hostile silence. As far as I was concerned, he could be as angry and silent as he wanted to be - I was getting on with doing things that gave me peace. I did decide not to move out until Thanksgiving / Christmas was done, as we have adult children who come visit then. I DID take advantage of friends offering for me to house/ pet sit for them while they were out of town. This was a huge relief as I could get out of the hostile environment. I had initial consultations with lawyers and let my husband know - in a very matter of fact way - what they had said, and what I planned to do. He was surprised! New Years Eve day he came to me and informed me, humbly, that he doesn't feel he can stand before our kids and family and say he has done all he can for the marriage, that the emotional 'toll is too high', and would I reconsider. MUCH has to change, and he knows his pattern of retreating into hostile silence will NOT be tolerated. We are taking to heart the teaching of 'Love and Respect' by Dr. Eggerich. As a narcissist, my husband believes that I do things (or don't do things) because I am trying to get back at him, to 'attack', and he assigns malicious intent when there ISN'T any! The first DVD of Love and Respect actually addresses the fact that people get on the 'crazy cycle' because they believe the other person did or did not do something due to being malicious. It talks about believing in the 'good will' of your partner, and not getting sucked into the crazy cycle. The light is turning on in my husband's mind that he hasn't given me the benefit of the doubt, has not seen me as a 'goodwilled' person. There is still much that has to change, foremost are his assumptions of why I do or don't do something. His pattern of retreating into hostile silence to punish me HAS to end. His excuse of saying that he does that so he can 'process' is FALSE. He has had to admit that his silences are meant to punish me. These realizations can help us move forward. I am hopeful... While 2011 and 2012 just about 'kicked my butt' (if I can use that term), I am taking the initiative and will do whatever I need to do, to ensure that we stay on track - or will leave if need be. I will NOT get to the end of another full year, just grateful for the year prior to be over. I plan to make the year a good one. He has been informed he can't play me for a 'fool'. I am NO longer passively accepting others behaviour. I am stronger within myself, and thank you Ebonny for your articles. They were exactly what I needed to hear / learn. That is why I have continued to follow the comments. Bless you and yours this year.
bredandagnes from Ireland on January 03, 2013:
Fantastic hub.I know people going through this who don't really see it as emotional abuse.Just him being moody.But you are so right.
Ebonny (author) from UK on November 01, 2012:
Hi Delighted - Six years of trying and not getting anywhere is more than anyone could ask of you. I imagine it must be somewhat scary to be branching out on your own but from what you say I think this is absolutely the right decision for you.
For my part, if I were not seeing definite changes for the better, I too would be on my way out the door. Things are not perfect for me, but MUCH improved and we inch forward at a steady pace for the most part. I feel A lot better about myself now that I have finally stopped playing "the game" and this has, in part, led me to recognise that there is more than one person in my life who has taken advantage of my appeasing nature, so I am taking steps to turn things around with these people also. I guess it's a process.
Many thanks for keeping in touch Delighted and do take very good care - Ebonny
delighted from Tucson, AZ on November 01, 2012:
Great comment, Ebonny. I don't know what your own decision was ultimately in terms of choosing to help change the dynamics from within, or move on if change was not happening. With this being a 2nd marriage and all our kids out of the house, I am choosing to move on. Being that I have chosen not to engage him in conversation these past 2 months, and have thus taken myself out of being his 'narcissistic supply', he has asked (demanded) me to leave. Gives me room to do just that. The silent treatment is a 30+year pattern that I have finally, after 6+ years of trying, realized I can not change. Only he can change it and he chooses not to.
Ebonny (author) from UK on November 01, 2012:
Thank you for sharing and I am sorry to hear what you are going through in your relationship. I’m not sure if you have tried any of the strategies described in this series of articles but if you feel you are not quite strong enough to stand up to the silent treatment, accusations, and controlling tactics you would probably benefit from some professional individual counselling to either help you to break this negative cycle or move on. In the meantime, do please bear in mind that no one can control us unless we let them. With best wishes - Ebonny
Jesse on October 31, 2012:
I am going,thru this kind of abuse from a guy i have dating for 3 years. When i met him he was the perfect person and after 6 months he started to change. One night he said the game is over, and he said and did things that,put me in a tailspin.Then he calls back and says it was me that started it that he loved,me beyond and he needed me, so we got back together, and for 3 years this has,been the pattern, breakup, it was my fault, he needs space, he wants to get back together,etc.
He belittles me and then will not talk for days, then he tells me i have to change, stay away from friends, family, etc.
I feel like i am going ,crazy.
Ebonny (author) from UK on September 03, 2012:
Please don't beat yourself up too much about this blip - I've done this sort of thing myself in the past. We are only human after all! And now you are right back on track where you want to be.
At different stages people may find that it's one step forward, two steps backwards in terms of getting the silent treatment giver to change their ways but we mustn't give up because we have a right, and a responsibility, to be happy and not to allow others to disrespect or hurt us.
I truly value your commenting, and am sorry for the delay in my responding. With best regards, Ebonny
delighted from Tucson, AZ on August 30, 2012:
Great help! I have found my ability to create my own happiness, but realized that just this Sunday, I went to him and asked forcefully 'Are you speaking to me now?'... thereby reinforcing his bad behaviour. I will continue to speak to him normally on typical things and not focus on re-engaging overall or showing any distress. Thank you for this great insight. It is refreshing to see this written by someone who has been there.