The Silent Treatment: Is It Abuse?

Most of us have been ignored at least once or twice in our lives. Surely, we can all agree that being given the silent treatment does not feel good. In fact, the silent treatment can often be used as a form of psychological manipulation and punishment. 

No relationship is perfect, that much is true. While some relationship problems, such as lacking emotional intimacy and emotional suffocation, don’t necessarily have a malicious aspect and can be resolved through effective emotional intimacy coaching, ignoring, when used as a form of control, is a serious red flag. 

In this article, we will shed light on the silent treatment and give advice on dealing with it in your relationship. 

Is Ignoring Someone A Form Of Control?

We are all guilty of ignoring, there’s no point in denying it. Still, it would be wise to admit that ignoring someone isn’t the most mature thing to do. While it can be harmless in certain circumstances, it can definitely be used to gain control over another person and make them feel unworthy and unimportant. 

Often, people choose to ignore because they don’t know how to express their feelings properly. In those cases, the purpose of the silent treatment may not be to hurt you but to protect the other person’s vulnerable core. However, when ignoring is used, or to be more precise, abused in order to manipulate another person, it can definitely qualify as abuse.  

Why Ignoring Is Abuse

Here’s why the silent treatment can be damaging: 

  • It can cause emotional trauma. A person who is ignored feels a wide range of confusing emotions. They may feel anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, despair, and loneliness, all at once. Naturally, such emotional confusion can have a damaging effect on your psyche.  
  • It can decrease your sense of self-worth. When you give someone the silent treatment, you are showing them that they are insignificant, unworthy and unlovable. It can greatly deplete their self-esteem, leaving serious consequences. 
  • It can cause physical issues as well. When you are ignored, a part of your brain responsible for detecting pain will activate, telling you that you’re, in fact, being physically hurt. This can also cause digestive problems, headaches, insomnia, and other physical ailments. 
  • It can have serious consequences. The silent treatment, when used for long enough, can have a severely negative effect on a person’s mental and physical health, even after the period of abuse is over and done with. 
  • It can manipulate you into doing things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Since it has such an intense effect on your emotional state, the silent treatment can cause you to do almost anything in your power to gain the manipulator’s attention. 

Because of the considerable power that the silent treatment can give one person over another, it is a favorite tactic of narcissistic and manipulative individuals. Of course, the person ignoring you may not actually be trying to manipulate you. However, if it is used as a form of punishment, lasts for longer periods of time, and ends only if you give in or apologize, it’s more than likely that your partner is using the silent treatment to control you. 

What Does The Silent Treatment Do To A Relationship?

A healthy relationship should be based on honest and open communication. While a certain number of emotional intimacy issues and aversion to vulnerability are normal for most people, if your partner ignores you constantly and makes you beg for their attention, your relationship may be quite unhealthy. Here’s are some more ways in which the silent treatment can affect relationships: 

How Do You Deal With Being Ignored?

Being ignored is hard. It can make it extremely difficult to stay calm and not lose your head. However, if you are aware of the purpose of the silent treatment, you may find it easier to keep your cool. Here’s what you can do: 

  • Try talking to them about it. If your partner is truly trying to manipulate you, open communication may not do the trick. Nevertheless, you should try to tackle the issue head on and see if your partner has a valid reason why they are ignoring you. 
  • Don’t show how much it hurts you. They are giving you the silent treatment in order to cause distress and make you feel dependent. By showing your vulnerability, you’ll show them that they have achieved the desired effect. 
  • Try not to beg for their attention. The more you chase them, the more they will ignore you, at least until they’ve reached their goal. Try distancing yourself a little bit and see what effect it has on your partner’s behavior. 
  • Find other things to do. Focusing on other people and engaging in activities you enjoy will help you keep your mind off of your partner for a bit. What’s more, they will see that their manipulation tactics have no effect on your emotional state. 
  • Consider leaving them for a while. If you’ve realized that your relationship is harmful to your mental health, the best course of action may be to leave, at least for a short while. This way, you’ll be able to see the situation from a different perspective and gain deeper insight into your problems. 

If none of these tips seem to work for you, consider seeking help from a professional relationship coach. With their knowledge and insight, you will better understand your relationship and learn how to gain independence and increase your self-esteem. 

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With PIVOT, your relationships don’t have to be a source of pain and distress. We have vast experience in helping individuals feel better about themselves and their relationships through in-depth relationship coaching. It is our goal to enable you to gain control over your emotional life and assist you in building healthier and happier relationships.

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