131 thoughts on “The Silent Treatment And What You Can Do To Stop It Cold

  • November 21, 2014 at 10:25 am

    The hallmark signs of Grandparent Estrangement/ Alienation are the Silent Treatment and Ostracism. Grandparent Estrangement / Alienation is a severe form of combined child and elder abuse that is not natural or healthy no matter which generation is the perpetrator. “The silent treatment is an abusive method of control, punishment, avoidance, or disempowerment (sometimes these four types overlap, sometimes not) that is a favorite tactic of narcissists, and especially those who have a hard time with impulse control, that is, those with more infantile tendencies.” https://www.facebook.com/findmygrandparents

    • February 25, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Anue, parents don’t give “alienated” grandparents the silent treatment. They’ve broken off the relationship. Saying an estranged adult child is giving you the silent treatment is like saying you and your ex-husband aren’t divorced, he’s been giving you the silent treatment for ten years.

      • April 3, 2015 at 12:15 am

        Anon, that’s a pretty wide and bold generalization. It’s similar to the unfounded assumption that all family estrangements are the result of an abusive parent. Are you implying that adult children are the only member’s of our species who don’t engage in the abusive passive aggressive tactics of the silent treatment and ostracism? Or use their children as pawns and weapons to manipulate and control their parents? Are you aware that only a small minority of family estrangements are actually permanent and that more then 60% of adult children report that they would reengage in relationship if their parents would change to suit their wants and needs? Are you aware that the silent treatment is ostracism and ostracism is a form of bullying, and that grandparent estrangement / alienation is usually one of the very first and most impressionable lessons in adult bullying modeled for a child?

      • August 31, 2018 at 10:15 am

        Anue, Thank you so much for your comment. There is not enough said on the side of the parents that have been cut off from their adult children.

    • June 9, 2018 at 12:38 am

      This is what my daughter and SIL are doing to us, and we don’t know why. How can I get them to tell us the truth?

  • November 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    for me who suffers from a TBI i have no short term memory, which means i have a problem remembering 2 sentences in a row, i wish you could break your suggestion down to short on words with more meaning.
    in other words, keep it simple please.

  • January 23, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    People have tried this tactic on me and I must admit, it is quite hurtful. Women in clicks use this method all of the time to Ostracize others from the group. One time there two women employing this method on me in a lab class, in an effort because one did not like me. It worked for awhile, but I turned the tables on her and blew the whistle about their behavior to others (Including the instructor) in the lab. The result was a complete uncovering of their bullying tactic and also complete embarrassment. They tried to make up for it later but I left the group and joined another. Sometimes not staying silent about what is happening works the best.

  • February 12, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    iv been suffering at the hands of a narcissist for 3 years. im currently being punished through silent treatment for not having an abortion. i went ahead eventually and had an abortion because i feared further abuse if i didnt comply. even after the abortion its been a week iv not had any support or anything from him. its the hardest thing i ever experienced and im scared my depression will be triggered due to this abuse from him. im going to have to find the strength somehow to leave the narc. im so scared iv already hit rock bottom. i cant even concentrate on my kids

    • February 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      To Afifa
      I read your comment and found it heartbreaking. This man is not loving to you and is hurting your self esteem. Relationships really are about being supportive. This person is not supportive and does not consider how you feel. You must find support to leave him. There are support groups and friends who will help you if you let them know you are in a terrible space. Your children deserve a better home environment. Reach out to people you know. Your life will improve without him. Let us know how you are doing.

  • February 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    My 13 year old son is currently experiencing the silent treatment from his father. My son’s Father’s feelings were hurt because he felt that he was being disrespected. This has escalated and he will not speak to his son, even after many texts and messages. His father lives in a different city and this has been going on for 2 weeks. How should I counsel my son?

  • March 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    So if someone is being abused harmfully (true harm), and as a response the person on the receiving end gives the ‘silent treatment’, then they are the abuser when they are trying to defend themselves? I think this piece throws around the labels ‘narcisist’ and ‘abuser’ WAY too liberally.

    • March 23, 2015 at 11:28 am

      EXACTLY!!!! I have seen this before. Without context it is impossible to know if this behavior is pathological, or a reasonable response. People that abuse others OFTEN feel themselves abused by their victims own reasonable and defensive response to actions. I am starting to see little utility in labels, just describe the behavior, how it can harm, and what folks can do for themselves to feel whole.

      • April 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm


        Sometimes shutting down is the only form of defense when one is being attacked. This does not turn you into the abuser. The article mentions disempowering another person, which is spot on, and of course may be used aggressively or defensively.

        The article simply does not address this issue deeply, but has quite a number of valid points should a person be using the silent treatment abusively. At the end of the day, the silent treatment does not exist in healthy adult relationships.

    • September 15, 2015 at 2:01 am

      The article seems clear that shutting down for a time-out is very different from using the silent treatment long-term to avoid badly needed adult communication or to make a victim who wants to communicate feel ugly, repulsive, and disgusting.

      In the case of intimate partners, if the person who employs the silent treatment often refuses to go for counseling or communication coaching, that seems to be a definitive sign that the person is knowingly using silent treatments in the role of an abuser. A person who is shutting down as the result of being abused usually will welcome having discussion in a controlled setting where whatever is causing their shutting can be seen and dealt with. Abusers are not eager to have her or his controlling actions examined and discussed in a neutral environment.

    • October 18, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      This piece is about someone who is giving the silent treatment. Ignoring abuse isnt the silent treatment. It speaks to using the treatment to be harmful and to punish.

  • April 4, 2015 at 8:23 am

    I can’t imagine any of these things working on the person in my life who employs silent treatments. Silent treatments are part of Narcisode cycles and occur before rages. They are manipulative techniques to get into a bait-and-bash round of crazy-making in which the narc then goes into a full on rage for perceived criticicms and attacks.

    When I am feeling strong, I stay busy and pretend I don’t notice. Just say it looks your occupied right now, I’ll just go xxxxx. Then I stay out of circulation and engaged in something else. But when I try to break the silent treatment, in any way, it’s always a failure.

    Therapy did not help this person either. He twisted the therapists advice to ‘take timeouts for anger’ to justify silent treatments, and says he is ‘only doing what he was told’ and that I do not respect the rules of therapy, therefore I am the problem,

    You will never really have peace with a narc.

    • July 19, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Angela, how long have you been with this loser? Mine won’t even consider therapy; says it’s a waste of money and of course he ‘knows all’.

      Have you considered leaving?

  • April 6, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I’ve both given and been given the silent treatment, and while it is a method that is both satisfying and effective when high school bullies badger me, it is extremely irksome to be given it back to me. One method I have used to destroy the silent treatment is constant inundation with meaningless noise, words, or actions. For example, if I were being given the silent treatment by another high schooler, I would simply talk about them pointedly to another person, staring at them while doing so, or I would talk about random things to them until they got so annoyed that they would snap and yell, threaten, or curse at me, then I would take that and play the innocent victim of their bullying, thereby getting them in trouble. Sad, I know, but manipulation is a valuable tool to have to survive and thrive in such a vicious high school atmosphere such as the one we have today.

    I do know this method, so that when someone tries to use it against me, I have the fortitude to simply keep the silence until their infantile willpower dies and they give up. Willpower allows you to use the silent treatment most effectively. Of course, only if you do objectively have the right and not if you’re bullying someone innocent or anything.

    As for people ignoring you on texts if they are bullying you and you feel you have the right to do so, there is an app you can get that will allow you to send as many texts at one time as you want. I have unlimited data, and one time, this kid at my school was ripping on me and my friend and sending threatening texts rife with slanderous libel. So I found out he has VERY limited data, and so I sent him 15,000 texts all saying the word “sup.” I later found out he got beaten within an inch of his life by his parents and grounded for a while, though they never found out it was me because they didn’t know me very well, and rest assured it would have been very awkward trying to say “Oh, your son went past our data limit because he sent our son lots of texts.”

    High school: good times, good times. But the silent treatment is very useful, but it hurts so much, especially if you’re prideful. So recognize why you would do it and if you even should. Communication solves issues that people would rather just live and let die.

    • April 8, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Unfortunately, it sounds to me like you are the aggressor, not the victim… may want to keep reading through this site and take an honest look at your behavior…

  • June 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this article. I found it helpful. I’m on the receiving end of it right now. I suggested we talk and try to find common ground but for that to happen, the other person has to be willing to communicate. Since that isn’t happening, I let it be. We are long distance by the way. It is such a minor argument and I wonder what will be if it was something bigger. It’s not easy, but I am holding up OK. I’ve found fun things to do with the time I used to spend on phone/chat. It is so important to continue to take care of oneself and the other parts to your life. I don’t know what will happen but I will be OK.

  • July 26, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    The article is good, but please add into it, He/She and not just “he” or “him” or “his” because I know a lot of women that use this manipulative narcissistic behavior as well.

  • August 3, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Hi , I been married for 5 years now, My husband gives me silent treatments all the time, I always have to beg for his forgiveness (even when I am not at fault) its the simplest things he finds to give me silent treatment. Most of the times he wont even give me reason, when I ask whats wrong his answer “you tell me” . I dont know what to do. It runs in his family ( found that out after marriage) . started from grand parent to parents to all the siblings. He only targets me for this hurtful act, no one else in the world( except his ex wife, she also got this treatment for years and then she left him for another man) . I dont know what to do any more, he is out of country and still giving me treatment from far. I dont know if he will agree to get some help, but I need help, I need to know how to deal with it, all i think each time he gives me treatment is that i dont want to live like this, maybe I should leave him??? just feeling very lost and confused. any suggestion on who I can call for help? Are there any support groups? I am in Surrey BC .

    • August 3, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      Google “emotional regulation” in your area, there may be a support group. Or, call your local mental health clinic and see if they can recommend a group.
      Wishing you success.

    • September 8, 2015 at 8:28 am


      I know exactly where you are coming from, I am currently in a 5 year relationship with a regular silent treatment artist.

      I am currently on day three of it but have decided that tonight I am going to have it out with the her.

      We have a five year old daughter (and hound) which complicates the matter, but I have decided to openly tell her that what she is doing is hurtful and abusive.

      I have asked her if she wants to talk and I get “No”, have I annoyed her, the response is “A bit”.

      I am pretty sick of it to be honest and am now setting my own plans if it continues.

      If nothing comes of this evening, I have few options.

  • August 24, 2015 at 10:06 am

    “For example, your boss requests volunteers for a project that requires skills you have, perhaps even unique skills. You raise your hand and he ignores you. Or you say, “I’d like to do that,” and he pretends he hasn’t heard you and remains completely silent, as if you do not exist or as if what you said was never said.”

    Lol, sounds like a teacher I had.

  • October 3, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    i desoarately needed this conversation. av been a victim of silent treatment from a guardian and was waying moving out as my next option. will try the given options however and hope the situation changes. thanx y’all for the beautiful pieces of advice

  • October 4, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Im 14 an ive been going thru this silent treatment for god mnows how long. Probably about 4-5 months or maybe ven more. Its by a guy i lyk and dnt get me wrong thibgs didnt start lyk dat. He was getting bullied at school so i decided to confeont him and help him. I told him about my past which included self harming etc n he told me about himeself

    He didnt rlly talk alot but i was willing to help him. I think in the process he develope feelings for me but i didnt pay no attention sincey goal was to help him first.

    This lasted for about a week when je suddenly left n went with his mates b the person who was supposedly bullying him. This made me comfused and feel very betrayed. I wanted to noe the truth after all.

    After that i tried many many things amd tactics with my mates to get the truth out. I walked with him every morning to et the truth out.
    I showed
    Him my emotional side, aggressive side, and pretty much everything. U name it. Nothing worked. It was like talking to a wall. I even got my mates to go up to him and dat also failed.
    Indid sum bad things like embarrasing him n stuff but my intention was purely innocent.

    Now that ive read everything i feel lyk all of this is all true n dat i seriously need help.
    I have bipolar, ive had depression, i used to self harm and having weekly break downs because if this is not helping at all.

    My family doesnt noe about my current situation but this is basically a cry for help. Thanks for reading.

  • October 8, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I don’t understand why one would stay with someone who is hurting them. Do you think that just because they do not put their hands on you it is not abuse? Someone who refuses to go to counseling or “misunderstands” what the counselor said and uses it against their spouse, or a “man” who forces a woman to get an abortion with the silent treatment? Life is just too short to put up with that mess. Yes I have a wonderful husband ….NOW….but I was with a “man” like I have been reading about and Trust me, I stayed WAY too long. RUN, FAST and do not look back. You will be glad that you did. Games are for children, not grown ups and certainly not for people who are supposed to love you.

  • October 31, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    The silence treatment is only one of the controlling tools I’ve been using in relationships because of the Fear of Abandonment. My last relationship lasted nine years, the first five were reasonably functional because (now I know) my partner was also emotionally dependent, so we both felt the need and made the effort to be over-connected. When she started making therapy and became aware of (and also to overcome) her relational dependence, I begun to freak out thinking she was no longer interested in me and was soon to leave. Anxiety crisis and abuse of drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain were followed by all kind of psychological (and sometimes physical) aggressive-controlling behaviors, cast in a desperate (and useless) attempt to get her attention on how I was feeling, on “how much I loved her”. After four years of abuse she left me because she could not take it anymore. Soon after I had to quit my job and an ongoing doctorate and start a recovery treatment for relational and drugs (co)dependence.

    One very important (even if sad) thing is that I only became aware that I was behaving in a controlling/ maladaptive manner AFTER I started to make therapy and got to root of the problem (the Fear of Abandonment). By that time I really thought I was right in acting like that (e.g. cold-shouldering her to make her feel the way I felt), that it was normal. For sure it I was MY normal behavior, it has always been. Unfortunately, it was only after a big loss that I realized that I was in need of a treatment. Now I know I have a CONDITION, and that is not my fault I was behaving like that. But I also know now that it is my responsibility treating the disease, and this I’ve been doing since I became aware of it. Otherwise it will only get worse.

    I am in a new relationship now. I must say, after years of mastering the use of controlling tools, it is not easy to get rid of them. Sometimes I still catch myself giving the silence treatment to my partner. However, after one year of therapy, I’ve learned to monitor negative feelings and to interrupt (or even prevent) maladaptive behavior before things go out of control. Most of the time, by the way. I know I still have a long way to go.

    And if you have a partner that is really committed with the recovery, try to give him/her some recognition from time to time. It helps a lot.

  • November 7, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    My family has been terminally dysfunctional for as long as I have known them. After trying to have a decent relationship with an older sister, a younger sister interfered and caused a major problem then simply slammed the door in my face. Ostrasizing me and giving me the silent treatment for 5 years, except for a few timely insults and reminders of her cruelty from time to time. To me it feels like she threw hot liquid in my face and then closed the door so I cannot react normally which would be to say..l why did you do that? It would be laughable except that when she did this she went to my other family members and told them alot of lies about me. I can’t defend myself because I don’t even know what is wrong with her in the first place and 2nd when she did this she left me standing there shocked and enraged, the silent treatment is like cancer, it just grows and kills. If it is in your family I suggest you get counseling because you will need someone who is trained and who cares to guide you into healthy relationships. I believe that most people are inherently attracted to people who exhibit behaviors that are similar to your first family and that if these are really bad behaviors you will have to go through a change that will require professional help and deep painful truths that most people can’t handle alone. It’s worth it to go through it. If you keep attracting the same kind of people and you can’t figure out why maybe this will help you!

  • November 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I have a habit of using the silent treatment with people who have seriously hurt me in some way, but I would not say I am a narcissist or have any particular issues other than not wishing to be hurt further. I do not use it as punishment for the other person, rather more it is a protection for me against further slights or hurt. It is like taking a step back. I remain polite and helpful if in a work situation, but I no longer engage in longer conversations. I do this because as a child I was badly bullied and one of the ways of preventing this was to absent myself either physically or emotionally from a situation so that the bullying stopped. Short term, it is an effective way of gaining time to reflect on things and decide on how to progress. I realise that for the other person it may be confusing, and perhaps it would be better if I was to say that I need some time to sort out my feelings, however, one of the reasons I do not do this ( but perhaps should) is because I fear that this will then be seen as a sign of weakness and be taken advantage of. I do not engage in conflict. If common ground cannot be found I would rather walk away. I certainly find it quite upsetting that there is a common belief that this is immature behaviour. For me, it’s about survival.

    • August 30, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      It is immature behavior if you can’t have enough mutual respect to communicate anything whether it is “Just give me some time. We can talk tomorrow.” That isn’t weakness at all. Your lack of empathy for the other person’s feelings is borderline narcissistic. You assume this person wants to attack and find fault with you when in my experience the other person is simply seeking mutual understanding and peace.

      • December 10, 2018 at 9:05 pm

        You’re wrong and Anouska is right. He explained valid reasons why he uses it. All you did is criticize by saying he is weak ad lacks empathy so is a narcissistic. Sounds like you are the narcissists sitting in judgement of him.

  • November 11, 2015 at 1:59 am

    A state agency responsible for calculating my in-home care has the most amazing capacity for simply ignoring my input. I thought at first it was just one woman but in going through emails I’ve sent, it’s actually two women and one man — the total team responsible for calculating my benefits. Everyone standing outside this lack of communication is astounded. They can see my side very clearly and agree that I know what I need. They do not understand why emails simply go into black holes, and phone calls can’t be passed through because he/she just picked up the phone or is actually out of the office, etc. So I have requested an administrative hearing. This is not going to go well for them. The administrative law judge is not going to be happy about numerous attempts on my part to establish communication simply ignored by state workers. I think I will prevail but a friend who understands silent treatment better than I do says court could be a nasty surprise for me, with forged documents and utter disregard for me and my position, convincing the ALJ that I’m just a whiner. I disagree. I am too deeply into my own dignity and my own self esteem to get into hissing matches, and I have the original documents. My calm and my documents surely will have greater weight. Right?

  • November 19, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I haven’t seen or heard from my 25 yr old daughter in well over a year. I tried to get her help after discovering she was using dangerous drugs and being physically and emotionall abused by her boyfriend. She angrily refused all help and has cut off all contact with all of the family and even her friends whom she knew since childhood. We are broken hearted but there is nothing we can do.

  • November 20, 2015 at 1:15 am

    My wife recently asked for a divorce and i do not want one. During our marriage I cheated on her, or i should say had an :”emotional affair.” I never slept with anyone other than my wife, not even during this separation. I am a rescuer by nature and when i run into someone in need i help. Unfortunately that someone tends to usually be a female. I was wrong and i totally take responsibility for being the dumba** i was. We have been separated for almost 5 years of our 11 years being married. The separation was not by choice but by circumstances beyond our control.
    She has recently taken to ignoring topics or conversations she does not want to respond to. Mostly about us and trying to fix our relationship, but about how she feels,, how i still feel about her, etc. I have made quite a few changes in my life and in who i am during our separation, grown a lot and grown up a lot. I am 47, my wife 44 and i am not willing to just give up.She told me she doesn’t want to be married to anyone, that she is an introvert and doesn’t want to give up her safe zone, physical or emotional.
    I understand where she is coming from, but i am not just anyone, we have been together 11 years and she is still my best friend. She even says she wants everything that goes with a marriage, friendship, co-parenting, hanging out together, etc. she just doesn’t want to be married. I am at my wicks end here frustrated, insecure, depressed, angry, and a whole lot more. Please if anyone has any advice i could use it.

  • November 20, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Carol, if you know where she is you have many options to show you still love and support her. You can send her thoughtful gifts for no reason.
    Most importantly you need to look at your own relationship with your own mother. Ask yourself if you have handed your daughter your own mother issues.
    Look at your relationship from an outsiders perspective and don’t make excuses for your own shortcomings. It’s possible that her attraction and acceptance of an abuser stems from her early life experience in an abusive situation.

    Don’t send her articles to prove your point. Don’t try to make her “see” what is happening. Just offer your love. She will either get to the place on her own or she won’t.
    If she has cut you off completely there must be much, much more wrong with your relationship than just being ofended by your attempt to help her. She may have many unresolved experiences with you that she doesn’t know how to handle so she can’t take being around you as it brings all the old stuff up.
    On the other hand, she may simply be addicted chemically and emotionally and have no clue a year has passed. She may be held “hostage” by her partner and not allowed out of the house.
    No one will ever love your children the way you do. No one is willing to dedicate the time and effort a parent does to reach their children.

    I recommend getting involved with a support group for handling family in a situation like yours. Al-Anon is for families for example. There are innumerable programs and services available that will help you as well. Your county and state probably has many services to help you.

    If you don’t know where she is, there are tons of ways to find her as well.

  • November 20, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    @distanced and alone,

    Try reading the post on the following link:


    I suffer from Fear of Abandonment/ Relational Dependence. There is an excellent book on the subject, it hit me like a thunder when I first read it. It is called “Confusing Love With Obsession” by John D. Moore. Maybe you can benefit from it too.

    Beyond that, the only advice I’m in a position to give you (or anyone really) is: try therapy. I’m doing CBT for a year now, and it has been more effective than I could have ever imagined. Maybe you can find a support gruop also. But you got to give the first step: accept you need help.

  • November 21, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Im in a complicated relationship with a Man that has used the silent treatment on me numerous times,we don’t live together,but living the lifestyle we live,its his power over me, he knows it hurts me, but he still continues it’s been almost a year since I’ve heard his voice. I just want him to communicate with me. What did i do to deserve such torcher?

  • November 24, 2015 at 2:36 am

    distanced and alone,

    It appears that feeling “distanced and alone” is not what you want, but how long have you actually felt that as your status during this marriage?

    Consider the reason that you may have had what you call an “emotional affair.” You have assumed responsibility for your action. Now, what caused your seeking emotional support outside the marriage?

    Look for the article on emotional neglect posted on Psychology Today, and weigh your experiences at the time of your “affair” against that checklist. If you remain married to a person who does not want to be married, could anything other than the emotional neglect you describe be the result?


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