Recently, I have found myself playing the role of agony woman to not just close friends, but also colleagues and even strangers. So, it was not a huge surprise when I got a call from Tito (not real name) at about 9 pm last night asking for advice on how to deal with silent treatment from her boyfriend.
While hanging out with her boyfriend and two of his best male friends, she had joked about him not actually being as "tush" as he always projected, hinting that he was broke and living above his means. Of course, she was joking and was just trying to contribute her quota and make everyone laugh.
While she meant no harm, he had taken the joke a little too personally and had gotten angry. And despite the fact that she apologized profusely to him when she realized he was angry, he had completely shut her out and refused to talk to her. Hence, the beginning of a long journey of silent treatment.
The thing though is that the kind of people who practice this silent treatment tactic usually have narcissistic tendencies; and as such, they could go for days, weeks, a month or even longer, keeping you in the dark about when it will end.
Sometimes they don’t even tell you why they are doing it in the first place. They know that the longer it lasts, the worse the separation anxiety becomes and the more likely you are to feel depressed, jealous, confused, isolated, unworthy, and even desperate.
For some, the silent treatment is also a way for them to buy free time for being with someone else. They go on about their business until they either feel their partner has been punished enough, or they get bored with or offended by the new person they engaged with during the period of silent treatment did.
They return offering no explanation and expect to pick up right where they left off, as though they were never gone. In cases where the victimized partner calls them out during the silent treatment and presents an ultimatum or attempts resolution requiring compromise, they usually just quit and discard the relationship. They prefer to end the relationship and start over rather than be in a position of potential rejection. They convince themselves that the victimized partner is the one with an unbalanced mind.
Of course, there are exceptions where the partner initiating the silent treatment really is just trying to escape another abusive dynamic. This usually happens in the case where the affected partner is trying to force him/her to change or do things their own way; a valid reason for anyone to withdraw. However, under no circumstance should the silent treatment be regarded as an acceptable behavior.
It is a form of emotional abuse that no one deserves nor should tolerate. Some articles will advise that you act contrite and apologize even when you have not done anything wrong, but then…how can you maintain a genuine, connected union by being false?
I have been a victim of this. Anytime there was a minor argument, he would refuse to talk to me and it would go on for weeks and months. I made him stop this act by telling him that he wasn't doing me a favour by dating me and i wasn't going to tolerate him anymore.
BOTTOM LINE: Avoid playing the game with anyone who gives you the silent treatment. Find ways to boost your self-worth and make yourself immune to their control tactics. Know that you are indeed worthy of a healthy relationship with someone who can communicate in a mature, emotionally healthy manner. Be prepared to walk away, but make efforts to communicate when they make themselves available. If they keep up the silence and ignore you, then it is clear that the relationship wasn’t worth it in the first place. No matter what you do, do not give anyone so much power over you that their refusal to talk to you leaves you questioning your worth.
Have you ever served or been served the silent treatment? How did you deal with it? Please share your stories in the comment box below.