More on The Silent Treatment


Since I wrote about the silent treatment on this site, traffic has increased- many people are looking for help in this particular department.  The following was asked by a reader named Tammy, and I thought I might bring it up as an entry and do my best to address the questions asked:

I found this site by looking up “silent treatment” which is what my husband is doing to me now. It has been more than two weeks since he has said anything to me. It does make me angry and scared – I realised that I actually fear him when he does this and wonder what he will do to me next even though he is doing nothing at the time. I know I have to let go and stop allowing him and his problems to fill up my time and affect me the way it does, but it is really difficult – how do I stop myself feeling what I do and having the thoughts I have?
I have my own issues with dealing with my feelings and can get pretty aggressive when angry – I often yell at my husband and that makes him give me more of the silent treatment. Is it all just a vicious circle and is there any way out of this?

The phrase “I wonder what he will do to me next” makes me wonder he has done to Tammy beyond the silent treatment.  If this is part of a larger pattern of abuse then I recommend that Tammy stop trying to negotiate with her abuser, and instead get in touch with a local domestic violence center.   At the very least, find a therapist who is trained in issues of domestic violence, and go from there.  No one has to live in terror in their own home, and there are ways to safely leave such a situation.

In the question “How do I stop myself from feeling what I do and having the thoughts that I have?” I can feel Tammy’s frustration.  I get a sense from the question that Tammy believes these thoughts and feelings are somehow wrong or invalid; but they are most likely very much genuine, valid, and okay.  I also get the sense that her anger is not accepted in this relationship.  Most likely, her husband is not comfortable with his own anger and is punishing Tammy in the same way that he might have been punished when he expressed anger as a child.  The cycle gets locked into a pattern: Tammy gets angry, her husband shuts down, which makes Tammy angrier, and the more she expresses her anger, the more silent her husband becomes.

“Is this a vicious circle, and is there any way out of it?”  Tammy asks.  My answer is, yes- this is a vicious circle, and yes, there are ways to stop all vicious circles.  The first thing I would recommend here is couples therapy.  If her husband is unwilling to come, then individual therapy for Tammy will still be very helpful.  In therapy, Tammy can focus on her own relationship with her anger and with herself, and learn that her feelings are valid. Rather than trying not to have these feelings, it is important to let herself feel them for what they are, understand that her anger is not a bad thing- she can learn to accept it, understand it, and validate it.  In learning to to this for herself, she is less reliant on her husband’s inability to do so.  The reason his behavior works on her is that she believes that she deserves it.  The stronger her relationship with and acceptance of herself gets, the less she will buy the myth that she deserves to be punished, and the less power the silent treatment will have over her.

For more posts on the Silent Treatment, go here:

The Silent Treatment vs The Cooling-Off Period

Why do People Give the Silent Treatment?

Is It Okay for Parents to Give the Silent Treatment to Their Children?