The Silent Treatment
August 15, 2019
Ariella Jacobs

When speaking about bad relationships, one of my past connections stands out above all others. I met this guy through a mutual friend and we hit it off almost immediately. He was sweet and kind, and we were getting along very well for a few months. However, after approximately six months something changed, he started using the silent treatment on me.

We had this argument after he returned late home from work and I didn’t make him dinner. See, I also returned late from work and didn’t feel like cooking, but he didn’t care. We fought and argued for hours, and went to bed still mad at each other. When I woke up in the morning, I was ready to put this all behind us. However, I was surprised to learn that he was not talking to me at all. He didn’t acknowledge my existence.

It was humiliating. I didn’t know what to do. I expected it all to pass as soon as we both got home from work. I was sure he just needed to cool off, to regroup. Yet, I was surprised to learn that the silent treatment continued. It was such a baffling experience. I didn’t feel like I owed him an apology but wanted this state to pass. I loved him and wanted the relationship to continue. The silent treatment continued for several more days until at some point I had enough.

Why should I feel this way? Can he truly love me if he behaves this way? It was getting to a point in which it felt like emotional abuse. He was punishing me for something I didn’t think was wrong. The only way I could have ended this treatment was to say sorry and give in to his demands. I would have needed to change my opinion, my behavior, myself, in order for him to acknowledge that I even exist. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to see it. I knew that by agreeing to his terms, by caving in, this behavior would only continue. He would see it as a way to get his will.

The relationship, of course, ended at that point. Kipling Williams, a Professor of Psychology at Purdue University, said on this issue: “Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, are used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realize the emotional or physical harm that is being done.” This is subject is very close to my heart and I need to make people understand just how damaging, hurtful, and harmful the silent treatment is. While you may see at as passive and as a way to do create distance more gently, it is actually a lot more aggressive than you think.

The site Hey Sigmund said something I loved and agreed with on this matter. They wrote: “Being noticed is so close to being loved, that sometimes they feel the same. Being ignored is just as powerful.”

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