Is the silent treatment abuse? Some say yes…

As a woman, how often have you received the silent treatment from your significant other? More importantly what I wonder is, did you receive said silent treatment because of something that you did or said that was inappropriate, or is because of something that he did or said and you  had the audacity to confront him?

I am married to a man that I love beyond words but any time that there is conflict, I suffer through his silent treatment anywhere from a day to a week. We co-exist in the same house without speaking, interacting, or touching. Even if we sleep in the same bed, it’s because I refuse to sleep elsewhere and at the end of the evening, I trudge on up to bed as I would normally do. The difference? There is no cuddling, no intimacy, no “I love you” before bed. And God forbid my foot or arm or whatever accidentally cross into his space in the middle of the night. Even while sleeping, he remembers that he’s giving me the silent treatment and he’ll be damned if my toe touches his.

A 2014 article in USA Today says that the silent treatment is one of the most common ways that spouses deal with conflict, but also says that it is one of the most detrimental things to a marriage. The article basically attributes this shitty phenomena as each partner blaming the other for the conflict and refusal to accept responsibility. O.K., I get that… Both screwed up and no one wants to apologize first. But what about when the conflict is not the fault of both? Does this demonstrate an inability to apologize?

Margaret Paul said that the silent treatment is a form of punishment in that it is an attempt to exert control while also showing disapproval. She goes on to encourage carrying on with your life in a positive way to avoid rewarding the spouse for their silent treatment, but honestly, that’s kind of hard. When your best friend, soul mate, whatever decides that you aren’t worth acknowledging for days in a row, it’s challenging to go on to that Zumba class or call up your buddies for a happy-go-lucky chat. It wears on you. At least it wears on me.  

Another article suggests that if someone is giving you the silent treatment, that their message is that there is no reason to acknowledge your existence and that you do not deserve their recognition of you. The article goes on to explain that the solution for most women is to apologize for whatever it is their spouse feels that they did wrong, even if the women do not understand or recognize any wrongdoing on their own part. Which supports other assertions that the silent treatment is an opportunity to give the illusion of control. If one of the people in a relationship finds themselves in a conflict but is unsure of how to resolve it, why not give the other one the silent treatment? That way, you decide when you make-up, you decide how your partner feels about themselves, and you decide that there is no reason to have a reasonable discussion to resolve the conflict.

So as the spouse of a silent treatment guru, what do I do? I’ve read endless suggestions on how to best respond or react to a spouse’s silent treatment but in the end, I don’t have faith in any of these ideas. Don’t show him you’re uncomfortable with his silence, don’t apologize for something when you shouldn’t, confront him by saying “I’m assuming your silence means that you agree with me and you are sorry for the dispute…” No, this crap doesn’t work!

What do you do when you are in love with and married to an absolutely outstanding man, but this is how he deals with conflict? Do you bail? I certainly don’t have the answer, nor do any of my girlfriends that I’ve discussed this topic with… The thing that bothers me is the other day a girlfriend said, “well that’s better than him hitting you or cheating on you!” Is it? Is it really?

 

Published by Jennifer Thomason