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Respond To Silent Treatment With More To Fix It?

Discussion in 'Married Life' started by Doc_mommy, Jun 21, 2024.

  1. Doc_mommy

    Doc_mommy New IL'ite

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    ILs, I am really looking for your wise counsel here. But also for some sympathy because I am going through a tough time in my relationship.

    Have been married 20+ years. Empty nesters. When we were dating, my then fiancée would sometimes stop talking to me for days when he was angry with me. And I had to apologize a lot before he would slowly start. He would be very artificial for a couple of days even after that. I was very immature back then and didn't realize this would become a theme in our marriage. I should have shut it down right there and probably quit the relationship if he didn't get better. But no, I was an idiot and I married him despite this behavior. I hoped he would get better. But nothing changed.

    Here is how it goes:

    He suddenly stops talking properly to me > I ask what's wrong > he says nothing is wrong > I ask again after a few hours > still nothing > then after a day or so of this game, he says something that reveals his mind > of course I argue my point > leads to more silence > at times, he hasn't spoken to me for more than a week. When I was younger, I would cry, beg, plead and always apologize for something that I wasn't even sure was a mistake. Just so he would start talking. His punishment worked well for him. He didn't have to change anything.

    He also does this when I bring up an issue or a need. Same journey. I bring up an issue > he says he isn't doing anything wrong goes silent > waits until I get back to normal on my own. Never fixes an issue.

    Unfortunately, I cannot divorce him because of many reasons, cultural, societal and familial. So please don't suggest that. It won't help me and I will feel more stuck.

    Coming to my question - Nowadays, when he starts this, I disengage from him completely and stop saying anything nice. I put on the same sour face he does and act just as pissed off as he is. I don't beg or plead or apologize. Even when I sense that he wants to start talking, I extend it. Let's say he recovers after a week and slowly starts being somewhat normal, I purposely don't engage for one more week. All this makes me very uncomfortable because I have never given the silent treatment before in my life and can't take silence for too long. But I still do it because if in his mind, that is punishment, then it is the only way he can be punished for his behavior. How else do I punish someone who doesn't care about anything else?

    All this is super immature, I know. But if he is trying his best to hurt me and punish me for trivial reasons, I cannot be a martyr or a doormat. I feel a strong need to show him that I can play his game too. And my hope is that he realizes his mistake and stops this abusive behavior once and for all. TBH, the frequency of his silent treatment has reduced since I have started doing this. He seems to hesitate to go into this mode more than he used to before. May be age too. Could also be that he cares less. Whatever.

    I know all this isn't healthy but let's say my goal is to help stop the pattern, is this pay-back-in-the-same-coin strategy the right response? Please advise!
     
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  2. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan Finest Post Winner

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    I read your story that generate compassion for you. I feel ignoring the silent treatment and pretend as though not affected is one of the ways to diffuse the situation. But at the same time I feel tit for tat is bit immature if not puerile. I may be wrong here then excuse.
    A wife was under silent treatment from her beloved! Night before retiring to bed he affixed a "paste it" note on fridge reading " wake me up at 7 in the morning. I got to be in office for a meeting at 8".
    Next morning he woke up time was already past 8. Enraged, he shouted to spouse. She responded to him pointing her index finger on to the fridge where another paste it affixed with a note in bold letters reading, " DARLING - TIME IS ALREADY SEVEN - WAKE UP".
     
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  3. lavani

    lavani Platinum IL'ite

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    try reading or watching videos about Narcissim . if you what you are saying is true. what you are doing is a defense to prevent you from getting hurt. but in that process also you are thinking about your guard and hurting yourself. it is a process where you need to build a life that you wanted not telling seperation but like what you want to do in 8 hours without him even though he is at home. boundaries. hardest is emotional detachment.
     
  4. Thoughtful

    Thoughtful Gold IL'ite

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    Not an expert in this area.

    But I hate silent treatments. I empathize with you.

    Have you tried making fun of him when he goes into silent mode. Be cool and keep picking on him until he budges?

    To get into his mind, he expects you to become silent as well and feel pained and come and apologize. Don't give what he desires and make his life a little bit difficult for his immaturity?
     
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  5. ProudIndian

    ProudIndian Gold IL'ite

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    Try to detach from that person emotionally so his silent treatment won't affect you at all. Engage yourself in more productive things, talk to your friends or other family members, go out for walk shopping etc. pursue your hobbies or whatever makes to happy. eventually you will feel happy within yourself.
     
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  6. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Not only unhealthy, the goal is impractical—you can't change his silent treatment pattern unless he wants to change too. Despite trying various methods for decades, you've only encountered his persistent relapses to that behavior.

    Instead, take a few weeks to deeply reflect on this: divorce or living separately isn't an option. Consider your responses during his silent phases. How can you protect your emotional peace without compromising your dignity and respect? How can you move past the urge to punish or correct his behavior?

    During the reflection, develop actionable steps to use during his silent treatment phases, including statements that require no immediate response from him. For instance, say, "If you're ready to talk, I'm here," or "It seems you're quiet again; let me know when you're open to discussing things." Have a list of things you can say and walk away. This is also a good strategy in any conversations or written exchanges too -- don't be the one who has to take the next step or action.
     
  7. MalStrom

    MalStrom IL Hall of Fame

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    You don’t need to run after him when he goes into silent mode. But you also don’t need to make yourself miserable. Continue living your best life. Do your own activities, continue your hobbies, go out, make nice meals for yourself and so on.
    If he makes a pleasant overture on his own then you can engage. But basically you want to make it clear by your actions that you are perfectly capable of living happily by yourself and that bad behavior will not be rewarded.
     
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  8. winterhue

    winterhue Gold IL'ite

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    I like that you used the word "abuse". Because that is exactly what it is. What many of us don't realize is that Silent treatment IS abuse. In a relationship, it is a toxic form of manipulation. The people in our older generation will call it "Childish", "immature" or even "stupid". But it is practiced by hard-core manipulators, who understand completely the effects it has on the targeted person.
    Giving him the silent treatment back appears to be affecting you negatively, that shows that you desperately want to communicate, it just has not worked. I completely agree with Rihanna. If ending the relationship is off the table, then instead of you becoming a manipulator, the second-best way is to gain EMOTIONAL INDEPENDECE.

    Practice detachment so that his silent treatment TRULY does not bother you. Read books, plan trips, get out of the house when he goes silent, so you spend minimal time around him. By "extending" your silent treatment, all you are showing him is that you are still being manipulated. He gets gratification that his silent treatment is evoking a response in some form. However minimal, he will continue it.

    The day that he realizes and SEES it has ZERO effect on you, is the day his manipulative behavior will stop.
     
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  9. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Just some random thoughts - I am in one group where if the OP says divorce is not an option, and people still suggest that in comments, they receive one private warning message, and second time, are quietly removed from the group. In another group, the statement "I would never.." or "My child would never ..." is strongly discouraged and pounced upon promptly by others. Because: "Soon as you say My Child Would Never here they come nevering like they never nevered before." :grinning:

    The second-best way is indeed Emotional Independence. And that is not a way to be sneezed at. It is a perfectly valid way of completing the last quarter or third of life. Each gets conveniences like someone to drive you to the doctor, stay with you during surgery, fetch you water in the middle of the night, grow very old with you. That someone may be just tolerable, and so be it. There are many people who go for a grey divorce, and there are many who opt to stay in the marriage. Neither group is any nobler or braver than the other.

    What's the point of this post? : ) I did say just some random thoughts. : )
     
  10. Doc_mommy

    Doc_mommy New IL'ite

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    Super helpful, ladies, thank you!! Appreciate all the thoughts including the random thoughts :)

    I think going about my life as usual is great advice and I really want to do it but my hesitation is whether I am telling him I am ok with him ignoring my needs?

    Want to explain the situation more: I told him a couple of weeks ago that he doesn't talk to me much. He denied it initially as always and then finally said "You talk too much about your work and I don't want to hear it". [This was very hurtful because one, that's not true, we do talk about everything under the sun and two, I love my work so blocking off that part of me and pussyfooting around that topic seems weird and unfair. If we start having all these taboo topics as spouses, what's the point in a marriage?]. And when I said that hurt me, he stopped talking. He wasn't willing to engage further or listen. Then in a few days, he wanted to go back to normal as evidenced by his "normal tone" responses to my routine questions such as "Shall we eat dinner?". I was very angry that he typically disengages when I express a need and then wants to pretend as if nothing happened. Hence started my own silent treatment. It has been longer than ever because nowadays I am a bit more emotionally disengaged like you ladies said and I am able to go about my life doing my own thing. So ignoring him doesn't take much effort.

    Now I do want to take your advice and start talking. But if I do that, I know he will consider it as me giving in and I worry that I will be conditioning him even more to ignore my needs. How do I back off gracefully now that I have started it and yet make a strong point? I know for sure that he isn't going to venture anything on his own to break this. So it will have to be me. And secondly, any advice to get used to the whole don't talk about your work thing? He has never been supportive of my career, but this seems like too much.
     
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