If you have been subjected to silent treatment or even ghosting, you know how lonely it can make you feel. And if you have inflicted it on someone, you have felt that sense of power over the other person. Neither is a healthy situation or feeling. People believe that when they get angry with someone, instead of abusing them verbally or physically, they are taking the high-road by giving them the silent treatment, but that can’t be further away from the truth. Silent treatment is as abusive as throwing cuss words at someone or slapping them in the face, some believe that it is even worse
Is the silent treatment regarded as abuse
Most groups which work directly with victims of domestic abuse would say that the “silent treatment” can be a serious warning sign of abusive tendencies if used coercively or in conjunction with other abusive or negligent behavior.
For example, a parent who used the “silent treatment” on a child who was clearly in actual distress from a condition like hunger would be acting abusively.
A spouse who used routinely used the “silent treatment” to emotionally coerce their partner into actions or behavior which cause distress or harm could also be considered abusive.
Obviously, I’m not talking about a momentary refusal to communicate or a reasonable request for private time.
The scenarios I’m discussing involve a greater degree of manipulation than that, often arising from existing abusive behavior.
Is silent treatment a form of abuse?
The silent treatment seems ‘meant’ to be a form of abuse or punishment, but when compared to the word games, victim stories, stories about how adored and admired they are, rages, blatant lies, insults, demeaning and belittling statements and behaviors, being given the ‘silent treatment’ often becomes a welcome source of relief.
The silent treatment as a ‘form of abuse’ works ONLY if you keep trying to initiate contact or conversation with the person giving you the ‘silent treatment’.
Silent treatments often backfire on a person who is trying to get MORE attention or control another person by giving the ‘silent treatment’.
The silent treatment is a way to be ‘offensive’ to you without saying or doing anything ‘abusive’. One of the easiest ways to tell if a person is trying to use the ‘silent treatment’ as ‘form of abuse’ is when that person gets angry at you for ignoring that THEY are giving YOU the ‘silent treatment’. Try to talk to them and they keep giving you the silent treatment. Ignore that they are giving you the silent treatment, they initiate contact and are angrily abusive toward you.
How to know when silent treatment is abusive
Before diving into ways to respond to the silent treatment, it’s important to know how to recognize when it becomes abusive.
Sometimes, going silent may be the best thing to avoid saying things you would later regret. People might also use it in moments where they don’t know how to express themselves or feel overwhelmed.
But some people use the silent treatment as a tool for exerting power over someone or creating emotional distance. If you’re on the receiving end of this kind of treatment, you might feel completely ostracized. It’s difficult to live that way, so you might be tempted to do everything you can to get back in their good graces, which perpetuates the cycle.
Research shows that frequently feeling ostracized can reduce your self-esteem and sense of belonging. It can leave you feeling like you’re without control. This effect may be more intense when it’s done by someone close to you as a form of punishment.
Consistently using silence to control someone can be abuse. It’s a frequent occurrence and is lasting for longer periods.
It’s coming from a place of punishment, not a need to cool off or regroup.
It only ends when you apologize, plead, or give in to demands.
You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.
How damaging is the silent treatment?
The silent treatment results in short-term relief, allowing a person to avoid an uncomfortable situation. However, the long-term effects are incredibly detrimental to a relationship. Instead of openly communicating about issues, many conflicts are swept under the rug unresolved. The perpetrator will excuse their actions by insisting it wasn’t a good time to talk or that silence was their way of remaining mature in the situation. When the victim presses the issue, the person will insist on discussing the problem at a later point. A victim of the silent treatment will come to find there is never a “good time to talk.” The person aims to delay the conversation to a point when the discussion no longer feels relevant or appropriate. This behavior promotes ineffective communication within a relationship. Over time, tension begins to build as the number of unresolved issues steadily increases. People hope that these issues will fade away completely over time, but instead, they remain buried deep beneath the visible surface of the relationship.
It denies the person needed communication and support.
This causes cognitive dissonance.
It betrays a persons trust with an intimate, friend or family member.
This causes anxiety and depression.
The victim thinks it’s their fault.
This technique doesn’t have to be in your presence.
It can be as simple as a phone call or text message that is not returned within a reasonable length of time.
You could have tentative plans with someone and they never get back to you while you notice them posting photos on social media all week.
If you notice these are ongoing patterns then this is most likely done on purpose.
The complete silent treatment (like gaslighting) in front of you is your ticket out of the relationship.
Never put up with this passive aggression from anyone EVER.
The only silence you need is away from someone who causes this emotional chaos in your soul.
Is silence a form of emotional abuse?
Many times, when a person remains silent, it’s because they don’t know how to express their thoughts and feelings, or they do not feel safe and secure enough to do so at that moment. While such behaviours are unhelpful in a relationship and can lead to further future problems, they are not abusive. They are a natural way to protect oneself.
However, silence can be abusive if the person using it:
Intends to hurt or punish their partner
Looks to blame their partner or make them feel guilty
Uses silence to change their partner’s beliefs, thoughts or behaviours
Continues the silence for a prolonged period
Is the one who decides when the silence ends
Talks to others, but not their partner
Seeks alliances from others
If you feel that the silent treatment in your relationship fits this description, don’t ignore it. Whether you are the person giving or receiving the silent treatment, help is at hand. Without active intervention, such behaviours only worsen over time. They don’t heal themselves.
Does the silent treatment work?”
While the answer to that may vary based on your spouse, behavior, and relationship, the definite factor is that silent treatment is not healthy.
Silent treatment can be damaging not only to the relationship but also to the person experiencing it. Narcissists often use the silent treatment as a weapon and can cause the victim to experience self-doubt and issues with self-worth.
Things said while someone subjects their partner to silent treatment are damaging. These include –
READ ALSO: SILENT TREATMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP
“I don’t want to discuss it further”
One partner feels there’s no point in continuing the conversation.
They believe no constructive discussion will come from either party’s mouth and only aggravate the situation. They feel their anger reaching its boiling point and might say things they both could regret.
They are using the silent treatment to cool off and step away from the situation. It is a way to protect the relationship, preventing a bigger and longer fight
How silent treatment affects relationships
In most cases, using the silent treatment is not a productive way to deal with a disagreement.
Research indicates that both men and women use the silent treatment in relationships. However, clear and direct communication is essential for healthy relationships. Using the silent treatment prevents people from resolving their conflicts in a helpful way.
When one partner wants to talk about a problem but the other withdraws, it can cause negative emotions such as anger and distress. According to a 2012 study, people who regularly feel ignored also report lower levels of self-esteem, belonging, and meaning in their lives.
Because of this, the silent treatment can have an impact on the health of a relationship, even if the person who is silent is trying to avoid conflict.
A person with a partner who avoids conflict is more likely to continue a dispute because they have not had an opportunity to discuss their grievances.
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