Can a person do emotional abuse using only silence? You bet!

cold shoulder

Can you be mistreated not using harsh words, but by silence?

The silent treatment, also known as the “cold shoulder treatment,” consists of feigned apathy, total silence, and being distant on purpose. One person displays an attitude of complete disinterest for the spouse, as if the other person would be a complete stranger.

This form of emotional abuse can be very disorienting. Being ignored on purpose by your husband, who supposedly is your most intimate, ally crumbles your whole being. The experience can leave you thinking that you have been reduced to the level of a ghost, if your presence is systematically ignored and turned irrelevant.

Typically, the person in control does this as a form of non-physical punishment, with the purpose of showing his anger by making you feel less worthy, not valued, unimportant, and not cared about. Is a very strong negative message delivered in a way that doesn’t leave external traces: there are no signals of physical abuse.

Between the lines, what your abuser is trying to do is to manipulate you in the area of your self image by making you feel reduced to nothing he can show interest on. If he is not seeing you, or your qualities, who are you? Not more than a shadow! Here is a female voice:

“I really don’t know what to do, or say. If I say “can we talk about this?” he will roll his eyes or tell me to shut up. He reconnects when and how he wants…while I wait in despair. I have truly lost hope. I don’t know how much more I can take. When things are good between us life is incredible, but he has this Jekyll and Hyde thing going on… and I always feel like it is my fault, because I don’t know how and why his cold shoulder towards me starts. What did I do to anger him so much as to be so cruel?”

First, this posting is encouraging you to perceive the hidden control under this behavior….by having you waiting for a connection, the more powerful person is showing his control. If you continue asking for explanations, or reasons, or “why are you doing this” questions, you keep confirming the toxic nature of this treatment.

What to do? well, you can always take a step behind, look at the behavior and ask yourself if you have a choice of possible behaviors to answer the cold shoulder. Perhaps choosing to ignore? changing the subject? doing your own thing? not acknowledging his treatment? Confronting?
Remember that you have choices!  And the first one is to tell yourself:

“His silence does not mean that I’m worthless…it’s only a gimmick that he uses to show his disgust without having to explain what’s wrong for him….It’s not worth me worrying about his feelings up to the moment when he decides to use a more mature way of confronting me and explaining what’s wrong. I can’t do a lot if he chooses this infantile way of showing that he is upset. I will do my normal life, and sit out in the hope that he can connect again with me.”

Nora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Visit her coaching blog and signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more! Go now to

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