Silent treatment abuse is abuse like any other in a relationship. It is a way to control and to create a reaction, bringing out the worst in you.
Just so we’re clear, giving someone the silent treatment is silent treatment abuse. A way to manipulate someone, not talking to you without giving you cause is a way to control you. The silent treatment is when you know someone is pissed at you. But they won’t tell you why. Even worse, they won’t even tell you they’re mad. They just ignore you.
Leaving you in your own mind, it literally drives you crazy. Nothing is worse than trying to pry something from someone who doesn’t want to give. If your partner won’t answer you, then there isn’t anything you can do. Making you even more miserable.
Why the silent treatment is the worst abuse
I don’t know who has the license to it, but the silent treatment is about the worst form of abuse that someone hangs over you. There is nothing worse than the feeling you have done something wrong, but not being able to get answers from the person who you feel you wronged.
Whether you are getting the “nothing” or “fine” answer followed by days, weeks, or even months of silence, that is a form of abuse designated to control you and make you feel about an inch tall.
6 ways to combat silent abuse treatment
Silent treatment abuse is the key characteristic of a narcissist. I am not saying you are with a narcissist, I don’t know you, or the person who does it to you. What I do know is that it is a way to get you to do what someone wants by withholding love and attention from you—classic signs of narcissism.
They hold something back from you that you crave, which is not just communication but the information about what you have done. It positions you to make you do whatever they want. Anything to get the punishment of silence lifted.
When you get into an argument with someone, usually you have a “cooling off period.” It is a time when you mutually decide not to mess with one another for a day or two. A time out from communication. You allow you to heal, and they allow themselves time. But, the silent treatment is different.
In silent treatment abuse, one partner continually reaches out to the other only to be ignored and punished. If you are the recipient of silent treatment abuse, it not only ruins your relationship; it destroys days and weeks of your life. To stop the abuse, take back control. Try to divert the ways they seek to gain it.
#1 Ignore it. If you want someone to stop using silent treatment abuse, stop letting them know it upsets you. Just like someone bullying you, if you ignore them and they don’t get a rise out of you, then they give up and stop the behavior.
The silent treatment is a tactic to manipulate and control you. If you show them you can’t be manipulated, then they stop wasting their energy and try something else, or give up altogether and who knows… maybe grow up?
So, how do you ignore it? Stop asking what is wrong or trying to find ways to communicate. Watch television, invite a friend to dinner, do whatever you need to get your mind off of them and what they are doing. Pretend to be completely oblivious to what they do to get them to stop wasting time and energy.
#2 Confront it with a smile. If you are okay with you and still happy, then they aren’t bringing you down, making you desperate, and guiding your mood by their abuse. If you want them to stop treating you with silent treatment abuse, simply go about your day with a smile and a pep in your step.
I KNOW, truly I know. I have been there. That is the hardest thing in the world to do, especially if they are someone you love and you are an empathetic person. But, the only way to get them to stop sulking and controlling you is to go about your business—happy, smiling, and like you don’t have a care in the world, to prove that you don’t care that they try to manipulate you.
#3 Don’t give what you get. If you think the silent treatment can be stopped by like-kind, you are very wrong. It only makes the situation worse. It is totally human to want to give what you get and stop talking to them the way they do to you, but it isn’t going to solve the problem.
If you are silent right back, then you act just as immature as them. Don’t give them the silent treatment, just talk to them like you would any other day. Whether about mundane things or things around the house, be the you that you always are. You can’t beat them by joining them, so don’t silence them back.
#4 Don’t give in by reaching out to them. Whatever you do, try not to force a conversation with you. The only way to break the abuse is to be secure that if they won’t talk to you, then you’re fine without them and will survive.
The best way to stop the desperation of trying to reach out to get them to talk is to think about all the other times they gave you the silent treatment and how you survived it. Instead of prying them out of their ridiculousness, if they won’t respond, then go about your day as you would any other. Don’t give in and don’t be manipulated, or you will do it forever.
#5 Don’t play into their hands. If you go at them with anger, resentment, or sarcasm, then you do exactly what they want you to do. See, the reason they are silent is that they want you to lose your shit and fly off the handle out of frustration and fear.
When you do, then they put it back on you. What happens when you go after them when they won’t talk to you and say things out of anger and frustration? Likely, you end up feeling bad and remorseful. That is where they want you. It is in your reaction and behavior where they find their control. Don’t play into it.
If they won’t talk, then let them sit. Don’t play into their hands by giving them what they want. You misbehave and then feel bad about it. You won’t survive it with your self-respect intact.
#6 Leave the relationship and find happiness. If all else fails, stop the cycle and save yourself. Make no mistake, silent treatment abuse, is abuse. If you ever hear someone say they are “shutting down” that is another term for silent treatment abuse.
Whether it is because they don’t know what to say or even understand how they feel, it isn’t on you. Neither is it your responsibility to get them to grow up and talk.
The more you try and play into it, the worse it gets for you. The silent treatment is a control mechanism to create a reaction, feel remorseful for reacting, and start feeling bad about you. So, stop feeding into it. If you can’t get it to stop, then for your own sake you might have to move along.
If you read this you know the despair you feel. It isn’t worth it. You are worth being in a relationship with an adult who will talk through your problems, not hold you hostage with silent treatment abuse.