Ending a Relationship by Using the Silent Treatment
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to look at the key phrases people use to find this website. A surprising amount of searches follow some form of “Should I break up using the Silent Treatment?” It is as if the searcher is hoping that if they ignore their partner, the relationship will magically go away. Being the person to end a relationship is hard for a number of reasons, so it is understandable that one would want to skip the hard part and have things be done.
There are multiple problems with using the silent treatment instead of communicating the end of the relationship. The biggest issue is that you haven’t stated that the relationship is over: all you have done is withdrawn communication. As far as your partner is concerned, you are still together but now you are giving him or her the Silent Treatment. Another issue is that, instead of your partner cooperating with this unspoken breakup by disappearing from your life, they are more likely to increase their attention as they attempt to find out why you have suddenly withdrawn into silence. You can expect to get many phone calls, emails, and texts asking you what is going on. If you outlast your partner’s curiosity, and successfully get them to disappear from your life by steadfastly ignoring them, you still have one last issue to deal with. You left a relationship completely unresolved. This is a problem because unresolved relationships are chock full of issues that will follow you into the next relationship you have. You can trade this partner for another, but you remain the same person with the same emotional issues, so if you believe that you’ve gotten out of dealing with those issues by leaving a relationship in this manner, you will be unhappy to find them all over again in the next relationship.
If you are tempted to leave a relationship by using the Silent Treatment, there are other options that will be more satisfying for you in the long run. The first thing to do is spend a little time looking inside and asking yourself what it is you want to avoid by not breaking up in person. Are you afraid of expressing your anger directly and do you want to punish your partner? Are you worried that your partner will be angry with you for breaking up? Is some part of you afraid that you don’t have permission to break up and that your partner won’t let you do so? Are you afraid that wanting to break up makes you a bad person somehow? Are you not sure you really want to break up, and are you hoping that the decision will be made for you based on your partner’s reaction to the Silent Treatment? Does some part of you want to move on but not really let your partner do so? Really explore here to discover just what it is you are afraid of, and find a way to address your fears first.
After you have addressed your fears, if you feel certain that you want to break up, you will need to gather the courage to tell your partner that you are ending the relationship. It won’t be easy, nor is your partner likely to thank you for it, so it helps to know for yourself what the benefits are to a truthful breakup rather than a sneaky one. The biggest benefit is that there is no guesswork on either side: your partner is not guessing about why you’ve gone silent, and you aren’t guessing how he or she feels, or when they are going to contact you or stop contacting you, and you know that the relationship is indeed over. There are other possibilities that could come with a well-communicated break up. You might get an opportunity to air your grievances and possibly receive validation and an apology. You might receive some feedback, however uncomfortable, about how you contributed to the relationship dynamic that caused the breakup. This gives you the chance to change things for a future relationship. At the very least, you had the courage to be truthful to yourself and your partner about the end of your relationship. Ending a relationship in this courageous and truthful manner makes things clear and uncomplicated, and a clear ending opens you up to forward motion and growth.
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