The Silent Treatment – A Form of Abuse
(parts of this article have been gathered from message boards and forum comments)
I believe the silent treatment (feigned apathy; cold-shoulder; silence; distance, and ignoring you) is the worst form of emotional abuse. It is a punishment used by abusers to make you feel unimportant, not valued, not cared about and completely absent from the abuser’s thoughts. It is used as a form of non-physical punishment and control because the abuser mistakenly thinks that if they don’t physically harm you then they are not abusers. The truth is, they are far worse at doling out abuse than the physical abuser.
Silent treatment is a form of banishing someone from the abuser’s existence without the benefit of closure or a good bye or a chance at reconciliation. In a word..it’s meant to torture someone you profess to love. Should I meet someone again who uses this tactic just once he will not get another chance. Because the silent treatment is something that the abuser repeats over and over again. The silent treatment is CONTROL, and a safe means for them to avoid any ‘uncomfortable’ topics, issues in the relationship, or issues within himself (or herself).
The silent treatment is a method the abuser uses to ‘kill’ you for something you have done. In a sense, you have been psychologically ‘murdered’ by them, but your physical life goes on.
In my current relationship (over as of this last abusive episode) I have spent more days getting the ‘silent treatment’ than not. Yes – I believe it is the ‘worst’ of the emotional abuse tactics – and this is where I have been most harmed and damaged, and where I will need most of my healing from. At my age I definitely don’t need this. Relationships aren’t supposed to be about pain and hurt. Why in goodness name I have allowed myself to suffer through all his forms of power, control, and abuse for years will be a forever question mark in my mind.
I used to love him, even when I was angry with him, or hurt by him. My love stopped during the last episode – or maybe the one before. I really can’t remember when my heart shut off the love valve. Maybe it was a gradual thing. However, the love is gone, truly gone – and this current episode just made me commit to not going back into the relationship. Truth be told, if I were to walk in on him today and find he had died from a heart attack or something, I think I would just be relieved, and not experience any grief or sadness at all. I know that sounds inhuman and evil, but what abused partner hasn’t wished for the abuser to just stop abusing, even if it’s by death?
As with most abusers, they are in denial over their own abuse. They may use the excuses:
- I needed to have some space
- I thought you needed some space
- I was feeling depressed and didn’t want to drag you down with me
- I thought we both need a cooling off period
- I felt threatened/insulted/hurt and reacted with fear and isolation
- I just needed some time alone to think
- I didn’t want to fight
- You told me to leave you alone
- Problems from my past came up and I needed to sort them out
Of course these excuses are just one more way for the abusers to blame somebody or something else for his abuse.
Some victims of the Silent Treatment have said:
“He uses it to punish me on a regular basis”
“I’ve had times where my husband used this tactic on me so bad, that I ended up wishing that he would just hit me and get it over with-why? Because at least then I would know I existed, and that I wasn’t a ghost or invisible.”
“I’ve learned to love the silent treatment. For years, it devastated me and I felt that it was the worst of the abuse…but it’s not…at least not for me. …and yes, I felt that it was a punishment. It made me feel not important, subhuman…like I didn’t even exist.”
“That’s all it took & he wouldn’t speak for days sometimes. Then he would start talking like nothing was ever wrong. Ignore your problems & keep up a front. I couldn’t live like that anymore.”
“There was no rhyme or reason, it could happen at any time, go on for days and usually erupted into an outburst of rage. Trying to figure it out, was mind boggling and yes, punishment!”
The reality is (in most cases) that the more someone ignores you the more you actually want to resolve the problem. It’s almost an involuntary need on the part of the person being ignored. And that’s the whole point to the ignorer. It puts them in control AND it gets them attention. However, that’s in most cases – in my case the more he pulled the silent treatment, the more I saw him as a very emotionally-sick and an immature, abusive person and the LESS I wanted to resolve our problems. I would just pray for him to leave, or sometimes I would fantasize that I was in another healthy, loving relationship, and that he and I didn’t even exist as a couple, or I would pack up some clothes and try to leave myself. Of course, part of his ‘control’ was in knowing the fact that I couldn’t leave my children or my job…which I would have had to do to leave my home. This gave him all the authority and power over me as he so chose.
But that authority and control truly isn’t love – that controlling power and abuse is an insecure person’s way of trying to not be abandoned – by abandoning you, and probably when you needed them the most. This way they feel that they had a psychological and emotional hold on you. That you can’t abandon them. The problem is, are they too stupid to realize that being abandoned is exactly the result that they will eventually get? To be abandoned by their victim? Maybe not always physically abandoned, as abused people can take abuse for years and years. But they abandon their abusers mentally and emotionally, closing their hearts and souls to them, and killing any love at all they may have once felt for the abuser.
Isn’t that leaving? I should think so!
Abuse is abuse. And abuse is never ok. In one way though, the silent treatment is far worse than other forms of abuse, because it indirectly says to you that you are not a person, you are an object, you are invisible because they choose to make you so because you are not worthy of their time. THAT is one of the most hurtful and abusive things to do in my book. It is a horrible feeling, being ignored and denied affection.
For me personally the silent treatment was dished out when I did something he didn’t like, when I was wrong, or when I showed him he was wrong. The link was as clear as flipping a switch and seeing the light go out. POW, KABOOM! I got punished and he wouldn’t speak with me for days on end, including choosing to not even be in the same physical area with me. He would hide away or disappear for hours, and even sleep sitting upright in a desk chair every night for up to a week (or more) just to avoid being in the same room with me. He was almost childlike in his behavior. I finally said, “screw this”. I couldn’t live like that anymore.