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The Silent Treatment


At best the silent treatment is an immature behavior used by spoiled brats and manipulative individuals.  At worst, it is a weapon used by abusers to punish their victims.  One demographic of…


28 thoughts on “The Silent Treatment

  • July 12, 2016 at 9:40 am
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    The recovery expert,huh. Looking up things on Google. Ok.
    Well here’s one more from someone else who’s been in the program for 25 yrs.

    My ‘silent treatment’ arises when another feels the need to totally violate my boundaries by attacking and attempting to guilt trip me and then say how they are ashamed to be my sister because I’ve attempted to ask for assistance they don’t wish to give ( to another person even). So they rile my dad up and now he’s starting leaving guilt trips inappropriate messages also. Why? Because their expectations are not being met. And the person in question wasn’t even totally sure they were to stay over night anyway. So yes. I don’t have anything further to say when someone thinks they can verbally abuse me for changing my mind when no one responded to enquiry except to be abusive. So, no, the silent treatment isn’t always as it seems. Only few of us know how to choose to not be guilt tripped or roped in with ‘I was just worried about you’. No one deserves to be spoken to like a piece of crap. And then on top be blamed for giving the silent treatment. No. I don’t think so.

    Value yourself more than another’s blanket statement. Unacceptable behaviour is exactly that. Unacceptable. And it’s our job to not be tolerant of it for our own mental health.

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  • July 12, 2016 at 6:02 pm
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    I think that you’re right that being silent can be used in a manipulative way and that those with narcissistic personality disorder and others who tend to behave in manipulative ways can use silence to hurt others. I would, however, like to point out that there could be other explanations for why a person doesn’t seem to communicate as expected that might in some ways look like “silent treatment” when they’re really not. Some people, for various reasons, are less talkative than others and might find arguing to be more mentally draining than others, and such individuals might in more extreme circumstances become so mentally drained that they have difficulty articulating and expressing what they’d like to say, especially after being worn down from arguing with somebody else. And even though staying silent is usually a choice (with the exception of more extreme cases, where individuals with severe symptoms of certain health conditions or who are being affected badly by certain medications might experience significant impairment in their ability to communicate), sometimes the reasons behind these choices are not at all made with the intention of hurting, controlling, or manipulating another person as much as they’re made as a consequence of feeling mentally drained, as a means of preventing further escalation, and/or due to the fact that the person who’s staying silent might not feel like he or she can fully explain his or her ideas and might feel like it’s best to disengage to avoid creating creating a greater level of misunderstanding.

    Again, I’m not saying that you’re incorrect in saying that being silent can be used in a manipulative way, and I think that you’re right that those who have a tendency toward saying things that are verbally abusive oftentimes use “silent treatment” for the various purposes that you identified in your article. And of course, how well we can discern whether a person is being silent for the reasons that you wrote about or whether there might be some other explanation for the silence will depend on how well we know the person who’s being silent. If, for instance, a person has a history of being verbally abusive toward us and others, and we’ve know that person for a long time, then I’d have to say it’s highly likely that the explanation for the silence is the “silent treatment” that you wrote about. The point that I’ve been trying to make, though, is that in some instances, there could be other explanations as to why a person’s being silent and that it can sometimes be difficult to know for sure why a person is being silent, especially if we don’t know that person very well.

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    • July 13, 2016 at 1:30 am
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      It seems perfectly reasonable to me to have the “right” to not talk about something if you aren’t ready to, or don’t want to. The silent treatment is not the same as a boundary. It is a tool used to hurt others.

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      • April 13, 2019 at 10:39 am
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        I think the key difference is when you let the other person know that you need space to think or are taking a time out. When someone gives you the silent treatment they don’t say anything but ignore you and this is what is painful. If someone told me they needed time to think etc and would reach out when they were ready, then this would be reasonable and respectful.

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    • October 4, 2018 at 9:37 am
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      Here’s another reason for giving the “silent treatment”. What if you have been incredibly hurt by someone and want it to stop. By “shutting down” you shut out the hurt. True, not the most mature way of handling it, but all of us use it as a weapon, but as a shield.

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  • July 13, 2016 at 1:22 am
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    Thank you for this article. I am suffering through the silent treatment at this very moment. My husband has been ignoring me for 2 days so far. Last year he gave me the silent treatment for the entire summer. I cried everyday. Nobody understands how painful this is. But when I brought it up after he decided I had been punished long enough, he told me that I was crazy and that he HAD talked to me. Why? Because he would say things to me like, “bye” when he left the house. I am finally trying to escape but I need a job first.

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  • July 13, 2016 at 8:04 am
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    The hallmarks of grandparent estrangement/alienation are emotional cut-off, the silent treatment and ostracism. superimposing adult to adult relationship issues and conflicts onto innocent children and then turning around and using those children as pawns and weapons of control in parent/grandparent relationship wars is bully grooming.

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  • July 13, 2016 at 9:40 am
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    I’m in a situation where a huge betrayal occurred between a sibling and me. I recently found in writing, a note written to my ex from my sister. After repeatedly inquiring or requesting that my sister not speak to this person she continues to do so. Within the note my sibling actually invited my ex to her home extended her phone number as well as making one or two negative statements about me, her own sister. AND my sister was aware that my ex had an affair while living under the same roof with me. She also knew many other painful scenarios that I endured that I had confided with my sister over the years regarding my ass. Despite the pain that my sister was aware of that was incurred as a result of the affair my sister continued her secret communication.
    I am completely saturated with the toxicity that my sister creates overtly and covertly. I feel fortunate that I found this recent email. My question to you is, When there have been repeated attempts to brainstorm, sit down and talk, and have the conversation that I’ve had repeatedly with my toxic sister at what point do I just walk away. This email revealed to me and further confirmed huge betrayal, loyalty, boundary issues, deception, and lying …
    Many have said to talk to her again one more time after genuine this behavior, would be futile. Just walk away and detach with love. In doing so I’m not returning phone calls emails and text messages. I’m done and saturated to the point where I don’t want a relationship any longer. I am not giving the silent you rather I am walking away with love. Is there anything you can recommend that I can do so that it doesn’t appear like it is just the silent treatment. Telling my sister another time to stop or that I am aware of what is going on is futile.
    I look forward to I need vice on how to walk away with love, and not being perceived as giving the silent treatment
    Stacy

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    • July 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm
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      Hi. Over the years I have learned that victims of abuse and betrayal need to feel empowered to make their own decisions and trust themselves. It is 100% your decision on what to do with regards to your relationship with your sister. Only you know what you are willing to put up with, tolerate, live with, etc. I can tell you this – the only person you can change is yourself. You have no ability to change your sister. All you can do is figure out how to accept reality and live in the truth. The more you develop close connections with other women, the less you will need to try to keep connecting with your sister. I love some quotes I found on another blog site written by Cherilyn Clough with regards to narcissists: “They invite you to play a game you can never win.” and “I am not willing to light myself on fire in order to keep you warm.”

      Regards,
      Sharie Stines, PsyD

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  • July 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm
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    Thank you so much for your advice and good truthful writings on behavior, character and trademarks of a Narcissist. I have suffered much abuse and years of silent treatment .. often for up to 3 weeks on end. I prayed for a way out, and God granted me a divorce after 17 years . He seemed so nice when we met. had it all together, but the fragile ego, often showed such dismay for any of my achievements and our marriage became a competition. The sadest part for me is our children must of seen and heard too much, and I can only hope they learn from my mistake, to have tolerated verbal and emotional abuse for far too long….. The True Narcissist NEVER apologizes for anything and will not take responsibility for any part of his behavior. It was hard to live a pretend life and at one stage a good lady Councillor told me I was acting like an alcoholic’s wife…Pretending and passive aggressive behavior will eat one up from the inside. Don’t allow it. Face reality and get out of the abusive relationship. It will Kill you slowly. On every level. The true Nar also knows exactly how to swing things around and play the sudden victim if you do get to a counselling stage in your relationship. How sad to walk on egg-shells to try and keep the fake peace. I wish my eyes were open to see things for what it really was. How wonderful and insightful to find out I can Live again, make decisions for myself and most of all : Be Allowed To Be Myself. Without anyone’s approval. It’s been 3 years since our divorce, and Im only now feeling FREE at Last !

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  • July 14, 2016 at 7:36 am
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    Interesting views on this..Here is a point. Low self esteem people usually attract and are attracted to and so often become the victims of the narcs. Once you have raised your own bar, which may require therapy and also subterfuge to mask your changing status, you will soon find, as I did, that the best defense is taking the opportunity of the sound of silence to dance to your own tune, and in full view of the narc, like their silence is “approval” . When the seethe starts to froth up a bit, you can be very innocent and say, “Why didn’t you say you were upset, none of us are mind readers”? (Though you have just slipped under their radar and exposed their little game). Often this brings a large list of complaints about you, followed by the threat of divorce , as happened in my case. The actuality of my divorce was highly comical, coming from my admitting that I felt I was obviously not thought by her to be up to the job of looking after her “noblesse” ,at which point she flipped the rejection switch.
    Tough times followed, but moving on afterwards was a remarkably happy experience. Another positive coming out of being clear of people like that is the improvement in my own perceptions, based on experience of recognising the type. Apparently I’m thought to be eligible even at my great age, but I’m aware enough to look beyond the “honeypot” to see if there is a familiar shaped psychological event horizon beyond which lies a narc.

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  • July 20, 2016 at 8:38 am
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    Wait a minute. I’m married to a narcissist and every time I try to discuss relationship issues with him he promptly shuts them down in various ways that narcs like to do which leave me exhausted and yes I go silent. He will try talk to me as though nothing is wrong, he only wants to use me to gossip about people and bitch about things but I am not allowed to discuss things that concern me. So yes I give him the “silent treatment”. Why should I talk to him about inane things to appease him if he won’t have a discussion with me about things that actually matter… So now I’m the narcissist?? This article is majorly flawed.

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    • July 20, 2016 at 11:17 pm
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      The article I wrote was on the Silent Treatment, not on silence. There is a difference. The Silent Treatment is specific and intended to punish. Being silent for other reasons is different.

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  • July 20, 2016 at 8:53 pm
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    My mother was fantastic at silent treatments.

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  • July 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm
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    I’ve being receiving the silent treatment from my husband for over 2 months now. I went through all the stages of grief, felt helpless, de p dressed, guilty, wanted to die so he would realize how bad he was or how good he had it with me, cried, TrI ed to please him, to talk, to kiss and make up etc. Finally, I reached acceptance. Maybe he is narcissistic or he is hurting but I’ve suffered too much whatever his reasons may be, but I can not take it .any longer. I need to accept this is not living. Almost 40 years of marriage and I need to let it go. He refuses to talk or acknowledge my presence except if I need to pay something. Your article helped me to understand I have to Love and try to take care of myself. The pain, the grief hurts so much but it will get better. Thanks.

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  • August 11, 2017 at 9:43 am
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    Now my narsissis hub has told me I am abusive! He found these articles on the web about the silent treatment. I too finally stop responding because there is no real discussion just listening to his infinite wisdom. I protect my sanity by responding in the shortest syllables, he doesn’t even discuss with the kids. He drinks and does as he wants, the bad is my fault and the good is only due to him.Anything personal I have ever told him about my childhood he uses like a sword in a fight. He is the biggest lier I have ever met.
    This article should show more reasons for silence such as a protection FROM the Abuser!

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    • March 5, 2019 at 11:08 am
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      pretty typical Narcissistic trait to try turn the blame around.

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  • August 14, 2017 at 4:59 am
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    I’ve been divorced from my narc for 10 years. However, I only realized LAST MONTH what he was! Frankly, I’m amazed that I blindly/intuitively made the good/right choices (maintained NO contact as much as possible)without knowing what or why! One thing that has helped me in my recent crisis and the ensuing insanity has been the movie “Labrynth” starring David Bowie. I always really liked this movie, but the last 5-8 mins of the movie is INSPIRING for anyone who has to deal with a narcissist! If a narcissist were to ever speak plainly (as plainly as they CAN!) then the dialog between David Bowie and Jennifer Connley would/is spot on. As is her final conclusion on how to ultimately deal with him!
    I have put together the end dialog here just in case those who read after don’t always have access to see the movie (I always loved this movie, but now it’s extra creepy. David Bowie is an awesome Goblin King!) I have put observations and explanations in parenthesis with **

    King Jareth: Sarah, beware! I have been generous up ’til now. I can be cruel.

    Sarah: Generous?! What have you done that’s generous?

    King Jareth: EVERYTHING! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time.”

    **(he “reordered time” by DECREASING the amount of time he originally “gave” her to complete the quest and save her brother)

    King Jareth: “I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for YOU! Frankly, I am exhausted from living up to your expectations. Isn’t that generous?”

    **(like every narcissist out there, every nasty underhanded thing ever done was “for your own good/ because you asked for it”)

    **BEST PART**

    Sarah: (recites with conviction/determination) “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen.”
    “For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great… ”

    [thunder rumbles]

    Sarah: “For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom as great…” (voice/conviction starts to falter…)

    **(and of COURSE…any skilled narcissist will try to derail any signs of strength or rebellion by confusing and interrupting..)

    King Jareth: SARAH! Wait! I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.

    Sarah:(eyes widening as she understands THE TRUTH!) …YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!

    As much as the “silent treatment” can be awful, it only has the power YOU give it. Instead of “allowing” your narcissist to “punish” you; flip it around and see it as a “reprieve” from their lies and deceit. It will drive them CRAZY! When they “decide” to “discuss the situation” with you…GIVE THEM THE SILENT TREATMENT (what’s good for the goose is good for the gander… ie “reap what you sow!”)

    MEMORIZE the last sentence Sarah says to the Goblin King “…for my will is as strong..my kingdom as great…You have NO POWER OVER ME!”

    I realize now that I was a victim because at some level I believed I didn’t deserve any better. I know better now. Now I know that “my will is as strong” (stronger actually!) “and my kingdom as great..”(because I am a beautiful daughter of God I come from a great kingdom and will NOT be made inferior by my own hand or anyone else any more!) I believe the only reason I got out and did so relatively well is because at first, I did it to protect my children. The strength and determination from going into “Momma Bear” mode was probably what saved me/us. That and the fact that when I left, my ex gave me the silent treatment for 2 years! I could see my ex’s choices(prior to my leaving) were destroying us all. I was trying to save us all, but couldn’t (now I see why!). I knew I could save my children (give them a better more stable life) or I could continue to help/support/care for my husband. I could see I couldn’t do both. What I wanted/needed didn’t factor in. But by saving and protecting them. His silent treatment for the first 2 years was a blessing because I SAW the insanity of my life then compared to when he was gone. Once I experienced that “bliss”, I strongly encouraged further silence! It’s kinda laughable now how I can “make” him feel so offended that he disappears for months (unfortunately, he uses that time to plot something new and devious!). The resulting sanity in the interm is almost worth the insanity that follows.
    I ache for “Silence” the previous post a few days ago. My ex started that BS a few years ago. It was hard to combat. Still fighting it in fact, but years of accusations (and not much else) has started to swing things in my favor. Document EVERYTHING, even if there’s no witnesses etc! (ie an argument about bills between just the two of you) Scan it to email (so you have a timestamp!) Abuse allegations are easy to start but after awhile of “all talk” and (eventually) lack of proof will work in your favor. (I did choose to end my second marriage to make sure there was no “soft evidence”). Believe in yourself and the rest eventually follows. It’s not easy and there will be hard choices. Take away his power by being/feeling ??(pick an emotion…as long as it is YOUR choice)! Be angry (he’s a jerk), grateful (he’s opened your eyes), sad (he’s so broken he doesn’t understand what he’s losing), amused (he’s picking a fight he’s going to lose bc he’s showed his cards)etc. If he “makes” you feel ?? then HE has the power YOU gave him. Good Luck! Remember…WE have to STOP THE INSANITY!

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    • August 17, 2017 at 12:39 am
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      Wow, thank for sharing that.

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    • January 18, 2019 at 12:15 am
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      How wild is this. One of my husbands favorite movies is Labrynth! I believe he is a Narc. I remember watching this with him, I didn’t pick up on any of this. I’m sure going to watch it again after your description.

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    • March 3, 2019 at 8:36 pm
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      This is absolutely awesome-thank you for sharing that Labrynth analogy and the dialogue-it really reached me at a deep place, and gave me strength and resolve to replace sorrow and confusion! We can stop their insanity from poisoning our lives, and live in beauty and peace once more…Much love.

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  • March 10, 2018 at 11:43 am
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    I am shocked that this article (although very good) seems to assume the abuser is a male and the abused a female. This can work both ways.

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  • February 3, 2019 at 10:43 pm
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    Is there any tretment for the person who is using silent tretment or not?

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  • April 13, 2019 at 10:34 am
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    I think it’s important to have strong boundaries, to remember that it’s not our job to be mind readers and other people’s emotional experiences and issues are not our responsibility. We as codependents need to practice self care. I always think of the example on an airplane when they tell you to put on your mask before putting it on others.

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