Have you ever been on the receiving end of “the silent treatment”? When a friend or spouse totally freezes you out and shuts down all communication and connection because of a perceived wrong or conflict? I think it’s one of the most devastating things to happen to a relationship.
The silent treatment is born out of a desire to inflict hurt. This person wants to ostracize you “to teach you a lesson”. According to psychologists, being given the silent treatment is also an effective form of emotional manipulation.
People who deal with conflict by meting out the silent treatment are described as emotionally immature or who has a desire to dominate but has a problem with effective communication. The only way they can “make you pay” for what you have done is by withdrawing emotionally and sometimes physically.
The silent treatment is about power too. It’s a withdrawal of approval, and can generate much fear in people who are vulnerable to this. If you are someone who thrives or is dependent on approval, you are a target.
I have been there and I can tell you first hand that it’s a horrible place to be. If you suffer from self-esteem issues and insecurity, the silent treatment will be an effective way of manipulating you and “keeping you on a leash”. You find yourself revolving around their orbit like a satellite, scrutinizing their every move , looking for reassurance that they’re okay with you.
Before you know it, you’re losing the essence of you, and lost in their world completely. If you are not careful, you’ll be doing things you ordinarily wouldn’t do, just because you want to please them. That’s dangerous.
So, how do you handle someone who treats you this way?
- Until you have a full understanding of what exactly is going on, you will not be able to deal with it. I didn’t know this early enough in my previous friendships but with the help of the Holy Spirit, when it happened again, I took out time to process and learn. Truth is, the experience taught me more about myself and my issues that any other thing. I was made aware of my neediness and over-attachment issues. I had to give myself a long, hard and honest look and acknowledge where the problems are, and then I understood how the silent treatment could affect me so badly. After that, I grew, I liberated myself and was able to step outside the situation. Truth is, until you are able to deal with your own problems, you will continue to be a victim. so emancipate yourself first!
- Set Healthy boundaries for yourself: It’s okay to step away from the friendship or relationship. If you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, you can say something like:“hey! I love you and I want our friendship/relationship to be enjoyable and supportive. When you give me the silent-treatment, that damages my positive feelings. Therefore, I am going to step away for a while, but I look forward to speaking to you when you can speak to me openly without giving me the silent treatment, so we can resolve our issues. ” You should also know that it’s okay if a friendship or a relationship ends. Especially if this behaviour has become a pattern. Trust me; you do not want that negative energy and the toxicity that comes with it.
- If you are married to this person, I suggest couple’s therapy. A lady sent me a message about this on my radio show. According to her, the relationship has broken down to the point where they hardly have anything to say to each other anymore. That’s what silent treatment does. It sucks out the joy from any relationship. It’s toxic and it should not be tolerated. But if this has been a pattern in your marriage, please seek counselling, and submit your relationship to the Holy Spirit. Be willing to let him change both of you and be willing to listen. Behavioural patterns only change when the mind has been changed.
Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.