Morning friends,

I had a great visit with my sweet granddaughters. While with them I try to stay off social media so I give them lots of undivided attention. I’m back now and glad that many of you took the time to watch the video of Fred and Marie and shared your comments. Now if anyone knows of a similar video with more passive/aggressive or covert abusive tactics I would love to know about it.

Tonight (Wednesday, July 13th) I will be on my professional Facebook Page doing a live stream at 7:30 PM EST. I will be discussing boundaries – what they are and how to establish them. Please join me.

Our CONQUER conference has over 200 women from all over the US and Canada registered so far. Early Bird pricing is still in effect and I would love for you to come, grow, get strong, and encourage one another. To register, click here.

Question: What is the proper response to the silent treatment when it has been 10 days and no matter what, you will be blamed? Do you distance yourself or move toward reconciliation?

Answer:  First, it’s important to distinguish between the silent treatment and a time out. A timeout is a good thing and is taken when a couple is arguing in a non-productive or destructive manner and one or both parties call a timeout in order to calm down, rest, regroup, pray, or do what it takes to come back and talk constructively about the topic or problem. Ideally, a time-out should last no longer than 24 hours and the one who called the time-out initiates the reconnect with the other spouse to say when he or she would be prepared to resume the discussion.

The silent treatment is not helpful and is a passive aggressive form of punishment. One person is angry or unhappy with something you have done or not done and instead of talking it through, there is a withdrawal of communication, attention, and care as a means of punishment. I remember one woman I worked with whose spouse did not speak with her for over a year despite her pleas to discuss things.

I’m answering this question from a woman who has a husband who gives her the silent treatment, but I’m aware that women can also be guilty of giving their husband’s the silent treatment.

The person who chooses the silent treatment as a pattern of behavior operates out of a victim mindset. A victim mindset believes he  is powerless to bring about change and blames circumstances (or other people) for how he feels. He  is hurt or angry about something but refuses, to be honest, and talk about what’s bothering him. He will not do the work of expressing his feelings, stating his needs, negotiating a compromise, understanding another person’s perspective and moving towards a solution and reconciliation of the relationship or even of ending the relationship. Instead, he manipulates, punishes and attempts to control the other person through protracted silence.

Deep down, the silent partner wants two things. He wants to make you pay for upsetting him and he wants you to take full responsibility (blame) for his emotional state and rescue him out of his funk by attempting relationship repairs. Sadly, even when you attempt to do so, the silent spouse often resists your attempts and further rejects you through continued silence (more punishment). Somehow you are supposed to figure out what you did wrong, make amends, and beg this person back into relationship with you, without him having to take any responsibility for communicating or working towards a mutual solution.

But your question was, what should you do when you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment? First, you need to work on not reacting to his passive form of aggression towards you. He tempts you to step into two unhealthy roles if you are not vigilant. You will either start the rescuing process as I've already described, or you will get angry and lean into the persecutor role, which will shame and attack him. And be careful, you may go back and forth between the two. Either way, he gets to stay the innocent, blameless, victim and continue to see you as the bad guy–the one to blame for everything wrong in his life.

Instead of dancing that old dance again, just go about your life while he’s brooding in silence. Get out with your friends and try not to take his rejection personally. Instead, see it as a very immature response to being unhappy with something and being unable to deal with his feelings. What you can do is continue to invite him (not beg) to take responsibility for himself, to discuss what’s wrong.

So you might say something like, “I am happy to discuss what’s wrong when you are ready to talk about this, just let me know.” And then go about your life. Hopefully, this will signal to your husband that his tactic isn’t working to control or punish you. You will no longer rescue, beg or badger. In this moment, you will function as a healthy adult who invites another adult into a discussion about “what’s wrong.”

You can’t force someone to talk about it nor can you fix something if you don’t know what is broken (tweet that).

Understand this new approach doesn’t come without risk. He may sink more into a victim mentality, feel rejected and that you don’t care about him because you aren’t knocking yourself out to “fix and rescue” the relationship. Or, his aggression might switch from passive to more active and he may start to talk but it usually isn’t constructive conversation but blaming, accusing, and attacking words, blaming you for everything that’s wrong with his life and your marriage.

In that moment it’s important for you to stay in CORE strength and really see what’s happening so that you can find some compassion for him. How? Remember, he is unable to express himself in a good way, so his typical way is to shut down and be silent. When that doesn’t work, he explodes and vomits out his ugly feelings. Yes, that is hurtful, but it’s clear that he doesn’t know how to handle his emotions any better than he is doing.

If he explodes, then you can compassionately say, “I see you are very upset and hurt or angry and I’m glad you are ready to tell me what’s bothering you but the way you’re talking right now is destructive and I can’t listen to you when you are attacking me. I’m going to give you some time to calm down and figure out how to tell me what’s wrong in a more constructive way.” Then walk away. Again, you are inviting him to mature, to grow, to learn how to express himself, but in healthier ways in order to actually resolve the issue and not just allow him to attack you.

In the end, sadly, nothing may change with him, but if you don’t get drawn into the destructive pattern, a lot can change with you.

Friends, what do you do when you have been at the receiving end of the silent treatment? Or, have you been one who has been silent, refusing to talk about what’s wrong? If so, what has this blog taught you?

131 Comments

  1. Michelle on July 13, 2016 at 7:40 am

    It kind of shakes up the whole family. But I try to go on about my business and make sure the kids are on. One of the worse things that happens is if the silent treatment begins right before a family plan of doing something or going on a trip, my two older kids and I get left behind and my husband takes the youngest one and goes out of town. But eventually he comes around and things become seemingly ok, though not resolved. I can usually expect it to happen again down the road.

    • Ruth on July 16, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      How well I understand your phrase “eventually he seems to come around. Things become seemingly OK but not resolved.” ????
      Without a sincere apology, the wife is supposed to just go on like nothing happened.

      • Kelley on July 17, 2016 at 8:35 am

        I can relate to this so much! This exactly what used to happen to us as a family. I never could make plans because I never knew what kind of mood he would be in. I couldn’t invite people over for the same reason. I stopped trying after my grown daughters were out of the house. Now I only have left a 16 year old son at home and things a pretty lonely. I do have people over when he is not home and I make plans for myself without him. It was hard to not feel guilty and to accept what I can not change. All the wishing in the world doesn’t change things. My husband’s motto is “pretend it didn’t happen” he told the kids that all the time. 34 years of this. We do the best we can in the particular situations we find ourselves. You are not alone.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      Have you ever asked him why he does it?

      • Sal24 on July 22, 2016 at 7:33 pm

        I have asked my h during the silent treatment “Why aren’t you talking?” My h has stated that he doesn’t want to “get in trouble” he’s afraid of saying something wrong. Thats just another way of turning it the abuse around and blame me for his negative behavior.The real reason is what you said Leslie.
        “The person who chooses the silent treatment as a pattern of behavior operates out of a victim mindset. A victim mindset believes he is powerless to bring about change and blames circumstances (or other people) for how he feels. He is hurt or angry about something but refuses, to be honest, and talk about what’s bothering him. He will not do the work of expressing his feelings, stating his needs, negotiating a compromise, understanding another person’s perspective and moving towards a solution and reconciliation of the relationship or even of ending the relationship. Instead, he manipulates, punishes and attempts to control the other person through protracted silence.” playing the victim in the marriage gets him off the hook. Nothing is ever his fault. Makes so much sense to me now. Thank you

    • Mechelle on July 19, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      Leslie, I’d like to know why these men do this. The description of the silent treatment, moodiness (especially right before big family plans like a vacation), the drama (I’m never going on a trip again, I’m selling the camper, I’m not going, etc) sounds like my continual life. Is there a diagnosis for this type of behavior?

      • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:44 am

        Passive aggressive behavior or covert abuse. George Simon’s book on Character Disorders may help you here, these are very different problems but look similar on the surface. It takes a wise therapist to discern the difference.

        • Lisa on October 4, 2016 at 5:47 pm

          Is it the book entitled Character Disturbance?

  2. Leonie on July 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

    My ex husband used to give me the silent treatment. I learned from him that his mm used to do it to his dad and sometimes the whole family. It was a shock to me when I got married, I had not seen that before and I remember it being very painful and confusing.
    The worst was when my ex refused to talk to me the first 4 days of a 7 day trip to Cuba.
    Think the only way to deal with it is to operate in core strength like Leslie said.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Yes that’s true, and also Leonie you make an excellent point in that people who DO the silent treatment have usually learned it from family members who have done it to them. Yet we wonder when something done to us was so painful, why we would repeat it? It feels normal yet those of us who have had abusive pasts, have had the opportunity to see others who don’t act that way and we don’t have to REPEAT past abuse.

      • Kelley on July 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm

        I think the hardest part of teasing out the snarls that come with destructive family relationships are my tendency to sympathize with the reasons that I know lie at the heart of the silent treatment given. I seem to get paralyzed by the grief- for all of us! It amazes me how distorted my feelings of over responsibility are. Each day I need to remind myself of the truth of who I am and Whose I am. It helps me to keep perspective. I know that when I was a little girl I knew I didn’t want to repeat the same patterns in the alcoholic home I grew up in. I tried so hard to be a godly wife and mother. I am so beyond grateful that Leslie has been educating and advocating for those of us in abusive relationships. It is very complex in the repetitive nature of learned behaviors. It is difficult but absolutely not impossible to break the cycles. I continue to pray for the strength and courage to make changes, to grow in self discipline, to not make excuses and to take responsibility for my life.

  3. Dee on July 13, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I am guilty of using the silent treatment. After asking my spouse to discuss matters and hearing “whatever” or receiving apologies that are rote and insincere.” I retreat inside myself. If my spuse will not discuss the issues I bring up what’s the point of expending energy? I find the situation very frustrating. Am I playing the victim?

    • Yearning to be desired again on July 13, 2016 at 9:48 am

      That’s a good question and kinda similiar to mine. My husband the past 6-7 years has changed A LOT and refuses to talk about anything and there are some major things and our family and kids are suffering greatly for it! He has some pat things he says and one of them is when I am trying to figure things out and can’t go on any longer without figuring it out – he says “it’s your mouth, it’s always your mouth – if you would just shut up everything would be fine” now mind you he has turned to alcohol and is very enotionally and verbally abusive, now cusses up a storm even in front of the kids, the family game to get along is to make fun of mom and all 5 kids will get into the act with him, he has a woman that has been an issue now for 5 years but since his “penisisnt out” he isn’t doing anything wrong…. Etc, he has blocked me on Facebook and passcoded me out of his phone with her number and so much more (soft porn pics saved…) BUT I am not “allowed” to say anything. So sometimes I dont … Maybe it’s because it’s often the only time he will wonder what he has done and ask or because he will sometimes accept that he may have done something wrong briefly but as soon as I say anything … Nope. So why say anything? I am MORE than willing to talk and figure things out, but he just does NOT want that & if we do it never ends well. ???? so then we both end up not talking to each other and he withholds not just words, but love, affection, and sex. It’s the most lonely place to be- right by & with the person you love but who is not with you. It seems worse than dead sometimes because the cycle of grief starts but never finishes unless you choose to finish the relationship but yet you just don’t believe in doing that especially with kids. And he knows that and has even said “you won’t go, you won’t do anything” . And truly, it’s hard to go anywhere with 5 kids AND since 3 are teenagers – they probably wouldn’t choose to come with me and it’d be a fight because dad lets them do whatever.

      • Sunshine. on July 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

        Oh, so he doesn’t want to respond to your questioning him on reality? It is difficult to talk to someone who only wants you to see his version of reality and ignore what he wants you to ignore…and certainly don’t make an issue of his sin.

        • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:19 pm

          Yes you are right. It’s impossible to grow without receiving feedback from others. Your husband has said he wants no feedback on himself from you – which makes him a fool as the BIble describes.

          • Lana on July 19, 2016 at 9:36 pm

            So what if the other person is so indifferent towards you that you just stop talking because you’re tired of talking to yourself? But deep down its kind of out of anger and pain.



          • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:42 am

            Get out and find some good friends who love and validate you. We are not meant to live in isolation. God himself said “It is not good for man or woman to be alone” If you have an indifferent spouse, find real people who are not indifferent towards you and have relationship with them.



      • Mary on July 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

        Would it be helpful for you to read what you just wrote? What if this were another woman? Because all I can think is why are you putting up with this? You don’t have to!

      • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:10 pm

        Sounds like a terrible place to be. And why are you still with him when he doesn’t really want to be a husband to you? Does he want you as the family maid? Babysitter? Yes it’s lonely, insulting, degrading. What might you do differently here, so you are not a helpless victim of his indifference and cruelty? What might you need to do differently with your children who are following in his footsteps?

      • JoAnn on July 19, 2016 at 10:13 pm

        So, why are you still there? He is teaching the kids to perpetuate this kind of relationship. It certainly isn’t healthy for them to see all this. Matt. 5:28 shows that he is already committing adultery, so you do have the grounds to leave him, according to scripture. I believe that you need to see just how unhealthy this is for everybody.

    • Ruth on July 14, 2016 at 10:47 am

      Dee, you are not playing the victim bc you are not being quiet to punish him. Like Leslie said, there are different reasons for being silent. I totally relate to what you said especially the part of expending so much energy. I am SO tired of being emotionally wiped out. My H was out of town for 7 days and it was wonderful. When he’s here, there’s always 2 factors to consider in every decision. 1) what’s the best, most reasonable thing to do here? and 2) what will H think about this?
      It’s ridiculous that in parenting decisions I make I don’t only have to consider what’s best for my child but also ‘would this make their dad angry?’ Even little things that are relatively unimportant must be thought of to keep him from growling at us. How pitiful is it that I should have to live with anxiety over keeping the TV remote where he can find it!?!
      I totally understand you needing to withdraw.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:29 pm

        Well said Ruth.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Dee I think there is a difference between playing the victim and accepting the reality that he will not have a conversation with you about things. Then you should not beg, or knock your head against the wall trying to get him to talk. However, if he chooses to discuss something with you, I hope you would NOT give him the silent treatment.

  4. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 9:49 am

    This is currently happening now with my husband and goes on constantly. 14 years of this silent treatments and retreats to other level of the house. We don’t sleep together the last 11 years and have a 12 year old. He is 63 and I am 57. It is a soul killer and a relationship killer. I am tired and ready to get out. There are other behaviors like screaming and lecturing with lots of swearing, name calling, blaming, shaming me and just abusive controlling stuff. There is no helping my narcissist husband. Ta Ru

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Probably not. So what do you need to do to help yourself Ta Ru?

      • Remedy on July 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        Leslie….at my church the leadership would say ’embrace this prison and time of suffering for you as God in His sovereignty had appointed for you.’ Without the support of the church, I fear what the spouse would do regarding my teenage children with that lack of support to turn their hearts against me as being rebellious to that authority. Many churches counsel this theological view. Please offer your insight. It is a terrifying place to be when trying to make decisions about how to proceed.

        • freeatlast8 on July 19, 2016 at 11:12 am

          Remedy, I would love for Leslie to respond to this, too.

  5. Sunshine. on July 13, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Ok. I see a whole different side of the term silent treatment. This for me is not about “discussing” an issue. Silent treatment at my house is when I ask my husband a question and he doesn’t look at me or respond to my question. It means I call him and he doesn’t take my call. It means I text him a question and he doesn’t respond to my text. I call “dinner is ready” and kids come to the table but he ignores me then when we are done eating and putting food away he says”why didn’t anyone say diner was ready?” The girls look at him in shock and say,” mom told you three times and you ignored her” to which he respond, I didn’t hear her.

    • Kelley on July 13, 2016 at 11:48 am

      You are not alone. I have learned over the years painfully to continue inviting into relationship but recognizing I can only do my part. I don’t beg or plead as I used to. I prepare meals, have groceries in the house that he can serve himself if he so chooses. My husband often does not eat food I prepare when I do make something and accuses me that there is nothing in the house if I haven’t made anything. This is also a way he tries to manipulate and frustrate my efforts. Self care and care for your daughters is what is important now. Continue to make lovely meals for you and your daughters. My husband works from home wish often magnifies the interactions. I have started to play peaceful music in the kitchen or wherever I happen to be in my house, it has become my “companion” it keeps the eyes of my heart on God and often diffuses the anger and frustration that arises out of the pain of being ignored. It is hard to be treated this way in front of your children. I have a 16 year old son who I know is picking up these behaviors but I find that there is a measure of respect growing as I live as respectful to him and respectful of myself-keeping my dignity. As far as it depends upon me I will live at peace. It took a lot of time and practice to allow myself the “permission” to not feel false guilt around letting go. In AlAnon I learned the three C’s…I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. It has helped me to Let go and let God. These are just a few of the thoughts that came to me as I can very much relate to your particular experience. The best thing you can do for yourself and your children is to live your own life without malice, showing yourself compassion and praying for compassion for your husband. Sin is a sickness that expresses itself in many ways. We have a daily reprieve based upon our dependance on God and His faithfulness. I am praying today for both of us to have wisdom and confidence in our relationships.

      • Sunshine. on July 13, 2016 at 12:27 pm

        Reading your message is very inspiring. Thank you. A sense of peace washed over me as I read. I do desire to live at peace. Your words are wise and I appreciate your affirming story.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm

        Love those 3 c’s. Important truths in an easy way to remember.

        • Kelley on July 17, 2016 at 11:43 pm

          I love the 3 C’s. Hearing them was a total revelation to unlocking the part of my brain that told me everything was my responsibility. Very freeing.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Yes it’s a control tactic and it is abusive. It is highly unnerving to live with someone who totally ignores your words and voice.

    • Valerie on July 19, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      This was my experience as well. In his case he didn’t do it because of a victim mentality but as a means to control. He knew very well how it ate at my soul when he would act as though I weren’t in the room. Sometimes he’d give me the silent treatment when he didn’t like what I said…other times he’d do it when we were seemingly having a good time (which in retrospect we actually weren’t…it was a skillfully conducted part of a play he was acting to facilitate crazy making).

      I agree that there are those who resign to the ST due to a low relational IQ but there are others (like my ex) who did it solely as a means of effective crazy making and manipulation.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:39 am

        Thanks Valerie. You’re right, it’s a means of covert abuse.

    • JoAnn on July 19, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      Are you sure he doesn’t really have a hearing problem?

      • Valerie on July 20, 2016 at 10:34 am

        JoAnn, I’m not sure if your question is directed at me or someone who posted previously. If its directed at me I can tell you he actually does have a hearing problem. He filters hearing anything he doesn’t want to hear. Selective hearing. And it IS a problem. Physically he can hear perfectly. I thank my Sovereign God that He revealed his narcissism and I got free. I will no longer have people in my life who have selective hearing.

    • Suzanne on December 23, 2019 at 10:53 pm

      You just described my life. There is nothing to bump up against, to discuss or even to avoid. His presence is like complete nothingness. He comes and goes as he pleases, talks when it suits him and ignores everyone as he feels like it. It’s like having a boarder who isn’t obligated to engage as long as he pays the rent. Avoids all responsibility by simply saying, “I didn’t hear her” “I didn’t receive your text, email, phone call…” Weird and lonely as all getout.

  6. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 11:14 am

    The same goes on here. I’m a single parent except when he wants to have fun and play versa with her for his own boredom. He ignores me 99% in the same house.

  7. trudyrogers@npgcable.com on July 13, 2016 at 11:37 am

    The silent treatment has been used on me by my adult child. She has used my grandchildren as further tools of the silent treatment. VERY hurtful! I have tried to pursue a relationship in a needy way on my end. It really ended up putting me in “harms way.” What a mess.
    When I stopped that – it was hard – and freeing! – it allowed me to start to live my life without constantly thinking of that situation and my precious grandchildren. I started to live a bit, then a bit more, I knew I was right there available to them and it was not my choice, but it was my ADULT child’s choice. Recently, my child has allowed me to start to have my grandchildren. To be honest I am a bit wary. No a lot wary of the possibility of being totally hurt again and the children. I am uncertain how to proceed in this relationship as she has not discussed the problem at all. So the children become the playing pieces…ughhh.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      I am so glad you decided not to beg but went on with your life. At some point you may want to say to your daughter something like, ” I love having a relationship with your children and thank you for allowing that to resume. However, it makes me uncomfortable that we haven’t talked about why you cut me off from the kids in the first place and I don’t want to cycle in and out of their lives if you happen to be upset with me. I want to respect your boundaries that our relationship is on the rocks right now, but I’m also asking you to put aside your own personal feelings and put the best interests of your kids in the forefront. If it’s in their best interests for me to be in their lives then I respectfully ask that whatever is going on with us, not negate that from now on.”

  8. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    It’s honestly blatant abuse without physical. It is demeaning and wrong and I can’t believe God expects us to be abused emotionally mentally psychologically or verbally. To refuse to engage or interact with your own wife spouse and withholding on purpose with all the head games is torturing someone. I’ve tried everything to get my husband to see the light. Nothing works with a narcissist. We can never do enough. I’m showing my daughter what it’s like to be treated by a spouse in a relationship. Not right.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      You’re right, so what do you need to show your daughter now?

  9. Patty on July 13, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I just realized. I Am guilty of using this form of victim abuse. I use the excuse I am just “trying to hold back” my true feelings. and it’s really an abusive form of manipulation. I’ve only been newly married 6 months (after a betrayal divorce and long healing of 10 yrs ) so I am thankful this article has arrived today in my email. We are committed Christians and we love each other so much but when I feel jealous of his relationships with certain others, I tend to withdraw out of shame, cant express the truth to him.
    He always asks me if there’s something wrong did he do something to hurt me? So I don’t know how to express my insecurity and some other feelings that may be legitimate at least in my own heart. So I am filled with shame and tell him “nothing really I just need time with the lord to work through some things.” I try to act normal but I shut down emotionally and can’t connect with him nor want to at this time. I need help!! Any advice, my husband is not deserving of my actions.

    • JoAnn on July 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      Maybe it would help you to write about your feelings first, then you could talk to him more easily. I find that really helps.

  10. Charlotte on July 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I grew up in a home as an only child with an alcoholic father. I have many memories of the “silent treatment” where either my father would not speak to my mother but would speak to me or at other times neither of my parents would speak to me but they would to each other. And then there were times when no one spoke to anyone. These episodes or whatever you want to term them usually lasted quite a while, several weeks at least. These are very painful memories especially being an only child and not having anywhere to turn outside of my immediate family. It felt like an extremely cruel form of punishment for an unknown crime.

  11. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I agree. I’m sorry you dealt with that. It’s in my household with my narcissist husband. My 12 year old is the only child as her other siblings are much older and adults on their own. It’s abuse.

  12. MHMC on July 13, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Whenever my xh would hurt me and i would call him on it i would get the silent treatment. It usually ended when i would apologize for calling him out on the carpet. He rarely apologized, and never specifically for his behavior toward me. One time i kicked him out for shoving me. He refused to acknowledge that what he did was wrong. When i finally told him i wanted to reconcile the sutuatiin and that i did want him in the house with me, he just came back andbstarted sleeping in my bed with no apology. When he finally filed for divorce, i asked him why- he said he thought i was going to divorce him first.

  13. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    They always have to win even in who filed first. Classic narcissism.

  14. Aleea on July 13, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    >”. . . While with them I try to stay off social media so I give them lots of undivided attention.” . . . . . —Good for you. That is excellent and the right thing to do, for sure.

    >”. . . Or, have you been one who has been silent, refusing to talk about what’s wrong?” . . . . . I never have the problem of refusing to talk, my issue is the reverse. I don’t relish problems at all but I am more than willing to talk about any of them. I want to make amends and undo any wrong I have done. I despise unresolved situations. . . .I also see defensiveness, usually as a silent screaming that the need to be valued and respected has come into play. When you look for deeper meanings behind someone’s pain you can then maybe begin to heal not only yourself, but maybe others too.

    >”. . . Friends, what do you do when you have been at the receiving end of the silent treatment? If so, what has this blog taught you?” . . . .I try to be proactive and I absolutely love this statement: “. . . . “I am happy to discuss what’s wrong when you are ready to talk about this, just let me know.” It is kind and gentle and open. . . . . And pray with your spouse —that just softens everything. We pray lots, every single day together. . . . . But, but, but I know lots of stuff we deal with here is just like off the DSM-5-style charts: Tries to prevent partner from having contact with friends and family. Tries to prevent partner from leaving home. Prevents partner from using the car. Refuses to talk to partner for days (i.e., silent treatment). Makes partner account for time. Jealous of partner’s time spent with other individuals. Discourages partner from obtaining further training or education. . . . Oh my, that is serious, serious stuff and may take other measures. I just don’t know. . . . When I hear things like that I want to say that the only person that deserves a special place in your life is someone that never made you feel like you were an option in theirs. . . . .Anyways, I really believe that even insignificant issues ignored today can spawn tomorrow’s catastrophes. I also turn lots over to God, obviously He promises that I will see the big picture in the hereafter. —Yeah, that is very hard for me at times to believe because I do want to honor whatever intelligence God has given me. . . .but maybe nothing is too small to be a mistake. . . . With God, I don’t do the silent treatment, passive aggressive, way to gain attention instead of just communicating thing either. Oh my, do I let Him know what I am thinking (—I know He knows.) I do process my your true feelings and let them settle before telling Him (—I know He already knows), but acting like everything is fine never helps the situation.

  15. Ta Ru on July 13, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    My daughter does the same thing and more. I go months before I see my grandson and then she is in crisis and she calls and I get my grandson for a night or two. Then the cycle begins again. So frustrating.

  16. Cindi on July 13, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    I have been getting the silent treatment from my step-mom who has been distancing herself from me since my father passed away several years ago and has not communicated with me at all this past year since I attempted to separate from my husband. I don’t know why and I don’t know how to respond to the situation. She at least acknowledged my daughter recently with a card, but won’t respond to cards or letters I’ve sent or return phone messages I have left for her. It really hurts because I love her and thought that she genuinely cared for me. I just wish I could have the opportunity to correct anything I may have done to offend her, but that can’t happen if I don’t know what the problem is. Any suggestions? Just write if off and walk away?

  17. Ta Ru on July 14, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I’m worried about my husbands anger and reactions daily. I live totally in bondage here about it with our daughter. He is explosive and full of anger. It’s no way to live. It’s not if God. I’m getting out.

  18. Linda on July 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I believe the silent treatment, especially when accompanied by glaring, is intended to humiliate the recipient. It is corrosive and contemptuous.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Yes it is.

  19. Ta Ru on July 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    It’s meant to harm abs abusive. It’s psychological and mental abuse which can be worse than physical abuse.

  20. Aleea on July 14, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    . . .it is a bad form of emotional abuse, no doubt. . . . because it makes you feel like a non-person, who is not valued or cared about. . . . And it is all about control. . . And it is a form of torture from someone that has professed they love us. . . . You say, ”I love you,” but will not address these demand-withdraw patterns??? . . . .You gave me the key to your heart? . . .Then why do you make me constantly knock? . . . I think you get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Putting all that focus on evading issues (via the silent treatment) is just asking to be blindsided.

  21. Janelle on July 14, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Last June 2015 I spoke with my husband about consequences. I explained as his ezer (helper) it was my role to fight for his spiritual growth, not remain passive. I learnt this from Leslie’s books “The emotionally destructive marriage”, “The emotionally destructive relationship”, “How to act right when your spouse acts wrong” & through reading her blogs. I told him that I had contributed to the breakdown of our relationship by being too soft & would be initiating consequences for his actions as they were unhelpful for our relationship. He laughed & brooded but I remained resolute. (I have also had counselling on and off for over 7 years which has helped me grow strength – at the start of that journey of counselling that time frame looked daunting, but this side of 7 years I can see the wisdom in that)
    In August 2015 I was lent a book called Love & Respect by Dr Emerson Eggerichs & after reading that book, I left my husband a series of notes & letters to say 10 ways I respect him (I only got to 8 because he said they confused him). I also tried to be more attentive to his needs & show more interest in his work by asking questions. I tried to initiate sex (he complained I never took the lead) for 12 months – he rejected me every time saying he wanted to show me what it felt like.
    In September 2015, he moved out of our bedroom explaining that he needed space. He regularly went out without saying when he would be home or where he was going. Our 4 children were confused as to why this was all happening. I kept a note in my bathroom vanity Luke 6:27 “ Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
    My husband said he needed me to apologise for something that hurt him deeply from 2014 and after attending a one day course run by Peacewise I learnt of the 7 steps to apology and fully apologised for the hurt I had caused as the Bible instructs us to “Go and be reconciled” Matt 5:23-24 (even though I felt justified in my behaviour at the time).
    My husband said he was too bitter to forgive & would not return to the bedroom. He said I could not come in at the 11th hour & make up for the pain.
    I left lavender by his pillow in the new bed he had chosen to sleep, poems trying to remind him of our earlier love, gave him space, sent him messages on his phone affirming my respect for him. Sent him pictures of my wedding ring & our wedding day. Photos of outings with the children he was missing out on.
    Returning to counselling reminded me to ask, “Is his behaviour reasonable?” I explained to him that I would allow him all the space he needed but if he stays in the house, he needs to let me know where he is going & when he will be coming home.
    He said he had decided to move out as he could see it was causing me pain & did so the following week, the day after our daughter’s birthday.

    He refused to disclose his new address (only supplying the suburb), said he would come over once a week for dinner with the family & went away in January of this year for a period of 17 days with no contact at all and vague info about where he was. During that period I had my credit card decline over and over & service providers trying to collect.

    On his return, he said he was willing to forgive me the grudge he was holding against me & wanted to reconcile.
    I told him that I had been hurt and could not trust his words anymore and needed to see actions that showed a willingness to change.

    I promised under God to love and to cherish, better or worse, till death us do part – I believe God can change hearts (perhaps he has hardened my husband’s heart) & in time, this may happen, and I believe my husband is not familiar with my new strength – he tries intimidation & playing nice sometimes within the same day – but I know that I cannot return back to the old dance.

    He even tried to intimidate me with telling the truth when I said I was trying to work on my commitment to the truth (based on Leslie’s CORE). Luckily only a few days before, I watched The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom) & it struck me that Corrie’s family were committed to the truth and reality of what was happening to their fellow citizens during Nazi occupation. They did not bury their heads in the sand. When the Nazi’s demanded of them “Where are you hiding the Jews?” they remained committed to the truth that if they answered, their fellow citizens would come to a terrible fate. So when my husband tried to demand of me the truth – I calmly answered that “I am acting sensibly under my current situation”.

    Thank you Leslie for your Christian advice on abuse. There are many avenues for secular information & advice on what to do and how to remain strong, however the CORE acronym is exceedingly useful.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Thank you. So what’s happening now in your marriage?

    • Andrea on November 16, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      Leslie, are you two together still? Did he ever accept your new strength? Did you allow him to reconcile? So much of your story is similar to mine.

  22. Sue on July 15, 2016 at 3:25 am

    I can completely relate to every post shared.
    really like the idea of maintaining your dignity.
    It’s a personal boundary, a pact you make with yourself of what you will and will not say or do.
    I am really working on taking it all to God in prayer. Asking for his wisdom, guidance and response to my husband. I have asked for an objective mindset, to observe my husband’s attitude kind of like a 3rd party who is not part of the dysfunctional relationship. This helps to see more clearly that his attitude is not my fault, I cannot change how he’s feeling, thinking and acting. I shouldn’t take it personally nor accept any blame shifting and thereby have a godly response vs. a destructive reaction- because that just feeds into a very ugly dynamic that hurts both of us, our marriage and our children.
    Then I can live in peace knowing I did it God’s way and allow him to do the work in my hisband’s heart that only he knows how to and the only one who can make a difference.
    Some days I’m successful, other days I start to get drawn into the dysfunction but thankfully am able to stop much sooner now.
    I also try to address his moodiness as harmful to him, not me. Just last week I said something to the effect of, “are you enjoying our trip? Because you seem really stressed and angry. I know God has much better for you and you can bring all that frustration and stress to him. He can help you deal with all your frustration with your job and our finances (his two biggest stressors). And he responds more positively to this approach. But if I start complaining about how he hurts me, doesn’t love or care about me, etc., then he perceives that as more failure in his life and completely shuts down and we get nowhere fast.
    My current prayers are for perseverance and becoming a much stronger woman in the Lord.
    I am a work in progress and even if I do everything God’s way, there is no guarantee my husband will act more godly towards me.
    So ultimately I am choosing the way of love to be obedient to God whether I feel like it or not. I continue to ask God to help me “stay well” as Leslie has said many times because I don’t want to leave him, I want to live with healthy boundaries and rely on Jesus to be to me what my husband is not at times.

    • Aleea on July 15, 2016 at 7:53 am

      . . . that is a really beautiful approach. It is thoughtful, kind, gentle and you are speaking (based on the situation) words of life, especially: “I know God has much better for you and you can bring all that frustration and stress to him.” . . . It will so often not be our definition of better . . . . but it is better.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      And this is possible as long as you are not looking for anything to change in your husband. As soon as you get your eyes off God and onto him, you will sink. But then just put your eyes back on Him.

      • Aleea on July 19, 2016 at 7:11 am

        “. . . And this is possible as long as you are not looking for anything to change in your husband. As soon as you get your eyes off God and onto him, you will sink. But then just put your eyes back on Him.”

        “. . . . But then just put your eyes back on Him.”

        . . . and that is why, for me, your books are so helpful to read. Every book has that structure: Here-is-what-you-need-to-do and here-is-how-to-do-it. . . . No falling off into a discussion about how trying to bury expectations is non-attachment and may lead to just detachment, which is not healthy. . . . just: Here is what you need to do and here is how to do it.

        . . . Lord, can it just be that? . . . . just taking the next small *right* step at every single, even small crossroad? . . . When our spouse totally disappoints us, come aside and be with Christ because this has nothing to do with them anyway. The goal is God Himself. Not joy, not peace, not even blessings, but just God Himself. To know Him . . . but more so to be known by Him. Nothing can take priority over God. We are not sourcing anything from our spouse. . . . it is surely appealing because that means they have no influence over you either.

    • Aleea on July 18, 2016 at 6:20 am

      My counselor always says have zero expectations. . . . Expect nothing; be amazed by everything. I used to think. . . . ―Wow, ―wow, to love without need or without expectation of restitution . . . but that is really the only love. That is how we ought to love but from lots of prayer I also realized that whatever I was seeking won’t even come in the form I was expecting. You will never get the same from people you expect, so we ask God and He will give us more than that, because in His world, ego and attitude, et.al. doesn’t mean anything. . . . . But that also means God is really frustrating because I expect things to be expressed in a way that I can understand. . . . . . . Generally speaking, a desert is a place without expectation. That is what I mean when in the past I have referred to the desert of the real. That holy desolation where only the truth survives, out past all the epistemology of church propaganda. That place where everything not real is washed away by the solar storm of truth. —And raw Truth, . . . . . oh my, raw truth, wow, it is not appealing in the least because it has no marketing plan. . . . . If we believe in the promises of God, we expect to see them fulfilled. Where there is no expectation, there is no faith. The future goal is the thing which produces character in the present. . . If we have no expectations, we have no faith. . . . But Peace begins when expectations end. . . . Anyways, so much interpretation of biblical teaching is to support our longing for perfection. As a result, we measure our progress by standards we will never meet until heaven, if we even get there. . . . . Who knows, maybe having no expectations is really not even feasible. . . I just changed my mind: having no expectations is that even realistic? Trying to bury expectations and calling them non-attachment is just detachment, which is not healthy. Maybe reducing expectations and attachment to expectations by changing your thoughts and awareness. I know one thing for sure, I can’t do it. Because expectations seem to me to be the same as standards and so, so much of what we talk about appears to be enforcing standards. Our spouse can’t have this, unless they do that. . . .

    • Robin on July 18, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Beautiful testimony Sue of finding your peace and answers in the Lord, and not in your husband. Thank you for sharing your sweet heart with us!!!

  23. Kelley on July 15, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Wonderfully said. To not take the behavior personally is the key!

    • Sue on July 15, 2016 at 11:56 am

      It really is and why personal boundaries are essential to any successful relationship. I grew up with an alcoholic father who was either raging or ignoring and an enabling mother. So, I am having to unlearn and relearn how to have healthy relationships. Difficult, but not impossible with God’s help. But I need to stay close to him, read his word and pray daily otherwise the lies of the enemy seem all too real to me.

      • Aleea on July 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm

        “. . . . personal boundaries are essential to any successful relationship.” . . . . —Exactly, my counselor is forever telling me that: “. . . the only real conflict we will ever have in our lives won’t be with others, but with ourselves, our internal boundaries.” I know that but implementing them. . . . . —well, I have a problem figuring out and getting to why? Apparently the “why” is important so that change is sustainable. She always tells me “. . . Let the dysfunctional family you came from go. Cut them loose, and you will be free.” She doesn’t mean physically (—that is relatively easy) but —in my mind, —in my loyalties. But internal boundaries are a serious war. . . outside resistance, that is manageable, inside resistance, from myself. . . . —really tough going.

        “But I need to stay close to him, read his word and pray daily otherwise the lies of the enemy seem all too real to me.” . . . . . Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of Christ as much as when we learn the total emptiness of everything else. I so get that and I run to Grace, . . . but my mind (—or the enemy) or both, —I don’t know, my mind fills my thoughts with logic, reason, evidence. All I know to do is say: God, I don’t really understand You but I know I can hug YOU. . . When I do, I just so hope I’m not fooling myself. Re: unsupported confidence.

      • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm

        Sue, yes you do and I’m glad you are learning these things.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Exactly

  24. Ta Ruth on July 15, 2016 at 9:51 am

    There is a point one will get fed up

  25. Ta Ruth on July 15, 2016 at 9:53 am

    There is a point one will have had enough of just not taking it personally. It’s ABUSE and that damages us as well as kills love and trust. It’s also dangerous to our ment health. We must not enable abuse. Everyone has their own story and tolerance level. I pray for the timing of God in when or if enough is enough. We all deserve non threatening lives.

    • Ta Ruth on July 15, 2016 at 9:54 am

      There is a point one will have had enough of just not taking it personally. It’s ABUSE and that damages us as well as kills love and trust. It’s also dangerous to our ment health. We must not enable abuse. Everyone has their own story and tolerance level. I pray for the timing of God in when or if enough is enough. We all deserve non threatening lives.

      Reply

    • Leslie Vernick on July 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      We should not judge another’s pain threshold of how much is too much. So it can be both and – we can learn to not take an abusers behavior personally – and should do that – but we might not take a thief’s behavior personally or a rapists behavior personally either, that’s just who they are, but we still don’t want continued contact with him or her.

  26. Sue on July 16, 2016 at 1:16 am

    Leslie’s book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” is an excellent resource for identifying and dealing with emotional abuse. And not to detract from her ministry or resources, but I have also found the book, “Boundaries in Marriage”, by Townsend and Cloud, very insightful with many practical applications for developing those essential boundaries.

    • Aleea on July 16, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Thank you Sue!!!

      I have read both of those books and found them helpful. My favorite book of Leslie’s is How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, great book. I just love practical and here-is-what-you-need-to-do-style books. The problems start when I start thinking, considering, reflecting. . . . .

      . . . . boundaries are THE litmus test for the quality of our relationships. If people in our lives can’t respect our boundaries or love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. . . . . if they don’t love our nos. . . . . if they only love our yeses, our compliance. . . . . we have nothing. —Sue, this is the problem but I have it at its worst internally (with myself). I only like it when I do what I want mentality, —internally.

      . . . . .In counseling it is all questions I just can’t answer. I don’t know the “why”? It is so frustrating. It is just a total blank space inside. . . . .To me, the hardest part of healing is just realizing there is no one to hate or scapegoat. . . . .We are ALL totally broken and we are alone and we desperately keep thinking something will eventually make this all better (—new understanding/ realization, new relationships, new program, new counselor, something/ someone NEW.) . . . . From “Lord I Just Want to Be Happy by Leslie Vernick.” . . .page 37: Which core lie do you struggle with?
      1) l ought to be more than I am (―no struggle) ―I can’t be more than what Christ makes me, period.
      2) I deserve to have more than God gave me (―no struggle) ―I am so blessed already.
      3) Life should be fair (―no struggle) ―If life were fair, I would already be gone.
      . . . . I don’t know what is going on. Maybe I don’t have the Holy Spirit (―God forbid) because in that CORE strength model, I would suspect that the “O” ―I will be open to the Holy Spirit to teach me new ways of thinking, feeling and responding— is everything. I would assume that if the Holy Spirit is really got ahold of you, you have boundaries even with yourself. —How could you not? The Holy Spirit lives in our heart but we have no boundaries? . . . I keep thinking the moment I become conscious of what is unconscious, I can be transformed. . . . . My counselor, I think, knows what she is doing, she has worked with Dr. Cloud, Dr. John Townsend, all those “greats”

      This is where I am: Life is very, very hard (—internally). Maybe?. . . . Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to Him but brings freedom, ―not from our dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape it (—yet I still feel that need). . . . ―freedom from our felt need to escape the gap at the core of our being? . . . . . . Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, God exposes the gap for what it really is (—another idol?), and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to any idols: marriage, husbands, jobs; even indentity, et.al. —God operates in a completely different registry. . . . So, Christ exposes the gap for what it is and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the all the Idols: Satisfaction, Certainty, Happiness, Joy, et.al. . . God is not an idol designed to give us what our other idols could not deliver on. The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled . . . Not here, not now. But you can be peaceful? —I just don’t know. . . . . Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to Him but rather brings freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them? . . . . our felt need to escape them. . . . . .maybe? Christ is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened, and loved ―Our job is to stay open and gentle. Who doesn’t want to be loved or held or forgiven?

      Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy by Leslie page 88 “. . . . Our biggest blind spots are our own pride and self-deception.” page 170 “. . . . Could you give yourself ten minutes a day or dedicate one hour a week for solitude and silence? As you become comfortable with the practice try to extend it to one day a month. You may even want to dedicate one weekend a year to do nothing and talk to no one but God.” ―I have, more than once and we wind-up fighting especially about logic, reason, evidence, how we know what we know, et.al. I can’t tell what is me and what is God. . . . the companionship of God??? But Lord, is it just me or really You??? I so envy people who know (―yet another problem), but I have no idea how they know what they know.

      . . . again, thank you Sue!!!

  27. Ta Ruth on July 17, 2016 at 9:27 am

    It’s never ever resolved with narcissists or abusers. Very few change their ways or sinful acts. I can see now why no contact or limited contact is required in order to heal and recover and to work on ourselves.

  28. Ta Ruth on July 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Silent treatments breed no intimacy and its walking on eggshells. We have a right to be happy in our lives. We are not supposed to accept loneliness as if we are single and don’t have a partner to share our heart and life with. It’s abandonment.

  29. Ta Ruth on July 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I am leaving and going to have little contact except for our daughter. I no longer wish to enable his sin and remove ourselves from harm. He has harmed us way too much and cannot justify it anymore.

    • JoAnn on July 20, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Good for you! May God give you strength. Persons with narcissistic personality disorder often will fade out of the picture one you disconnect. It’s too much work for them to try to keep the rules. Be sure to teach your daughter how to have boundaries when she is with him.

  30. Sue on July 18, 2016 at 3:06 am

    My husband & I go for walks together almost every night that he’s not working. He is a firefighter/paramedic and his job is very stressful. Our walks usually consist of him verbalizing all of his stress and frustration to me. In my flesh, I want to say, “I’m sick of always listening to you complain. What about me and what I want to talk about?” But I realize he’s demonstrating trust in me by being open & honest and I can give him the gift of listening. It is also an opportunity to share God’s truth with him as the opportunity arises (as I shared above in my first post) and to be more specific in my prayers for him.
    The other thing I am focusing on is being a “student” of my husband. To observe and study him. To find patterns in his behavior, their origin and what are helpful responses from me. The point being, I may be able to avert him shutting down emotionally and getting the silent treatment.
    Leslie, I know you said I must always continue to keep my eyes on God and not on looking for my husband to change- and I totally agree that I cannot do any of this apart from God- but I have seen my husband become more positive and let his guard down a bit as he sees he can trust me.
    Just last night he woke up and saw that I was struggling with insomnia and asked me what was wrong. I prayed first and then very carefully started sharing, sticking with “I” statements and asking him if he was starting to feel defensive in any way. My flesh wanted to accuse, blame and criticize but with God’s help, I was able to effectively verbalize some frustration, have him remain “present” during the conversation and have him place a supportive hand on my arm. Definitely not our usual dysfunctional dance but oh so refreshing- I could finally relax and exhale a bit.

    • JoAnn on July 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Wow, that’s great progress! When you find something that works, keep going!

      • Sue on July 20, 2016 at 8:30 pm

        Indeed! After beating my head against the proverbial wall for so many years trying to “fix” it my way, God’s way has given me a bit of sweet relief.
        But as I war against my fleshly inclinations, it is a battle I must continue to wage. Not against my husband but against my own human weaknesses and temptations. It’s almost like a 12-step program. “Hi, my name is Sue and I like to argue, fuss and fight.” Everyday I need God’s help to not take a “drink” or “hit” of ________, fill in the blank of whatever I’m trying to do in the flesh to fix my husband and marriage.
        Which is why my prayer now is perseverance. To do this right, God’s way, every day. To make it a lifestyle, not hit and miss.

        • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 6:00 am

          Amen

  31. Ta Ruth on July 18, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    It is a terrible thing when the abusive spouse turns the kids against you the Mother. I’ve been there with my former ex husband. He went to church and still does preaching the Lord with his 3rd wife yet turned and twisted our then teenagers minds all up. He told them awful things about me that were not true and it was a mess. Don’t let that happen. Get supervised contact if you can and protect them as much as the church and law will let you. It is so damaging when they are allowed to go this.

  32. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I understand all this in looking to God for it all. But I do know that our kids are watching the bad behavior towards us all the time and pick up the toxic behaviors as well as become targets themselves for the abuse. This is a high price to pay for staying in the abuse. I believe the scriptures also say to stay away from angry and prideful people. If repentance and change of heart permanently is done then we can have fellowship with them again. It’s in a marriage as well to not be abused as same principle.

  33. Rose J on July 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Wow, I am so grateful that I no longer am struggling with all of the self-doubt, false hope and persistent reliance on the Lord while staying in a relationship where most of the above behaviors were going on. I am all in on the persistent reliance on Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit is letting me know (by my anxiety, feelings of stuckness and complete absorption on doing everything possible to help him see the light while not making him angry … ) Phew! Enough is too much!!
    Some books that helped me to get out:
    Leslie Vernick’s, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and Leslie’s Conquer groups & letters etc.
    A book called “I Promise to Hate, Abuse and Despise You”
    Books by John Townsend and Henry Cloud, especially “Necessary Endings”.
    The books on emotional and verbal abuse by Patricia Evans; there are 4 and the one called “The Controlling Person” was a real help to me – it explained how we are supposed to be the perfect wives and why we get punished when we don’t fit into his fantasy of perfect.
    To all of you still struggling and hanging in for one reason or another (some very good reasons, I understand).

    But you’ve got to know that even if it is hard and you are scared to death, take steps to free yourself if it comes to that.
    – Read and listen to whatever you have to in order to stay sane & understand that he is the sick/crazy/self-destructive one, not you.
    -Pray, pray and LISTEN to the still small voice trying to help you set yourself free of stupid and wasteful guilt. Protect yourself and your kids from the evils of hate, self-centeredness, and stubborn immaturity.
    – Ask people you trust (criminal justice workers,accountants, financial planners, counselors, friends) for the names of some good divorce lawyers. Pick three and go visit them – some offer free consult but I picked the one with the 2 hundred dollar consult fee and she was awesome in getting me out safely and quickly. She even allowed my husband to work with her and I to come to a settlement so that we saved on legal fees while she was clear with him that she was representing me, not him. It worked out well.

    – Way before you even file, start thinking about where you might live, who might be able to help you with living situations, jobs, babysitting or whatever. Start calling these folks and, if they are willing & able to help, keep communicating with them to update them and cement any plans which will involve them.
    – I am still living with my ex even though we were officially divorced about 6 weeks ago. We are organizing, packing, getting the house ready for sale, seeing a Christian counselor on how to end this thing in the most healthy way. It’s all a little different for everyone. We were able to keep it friendly even though I was the one that filed.
    I gave him a year and a half to get used to the idea that, if the abuse continued, I would divorce and leave him. That, plus this time together after the divorce, is helping both of us realize that the 22 years we have already spent together – I am 64 and he is 65 – was very up and down (increasingly down), that I am not going to back down on my demands for a marriage that isn’t a mockery of God’s plan, and that he isn’t willing or able to go along with that. … i.e., IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES.
    I am scared, but not nearly as much as I used to be. I am not at all regretting my decision to get free. Each day that passes, I am more and more confident that God will provide me with the strength and grace I’ll need. And even more than that, He will allow me to grow and find my peace again as my focus becomes increasing on Him and not on ‘him’.
    This challenge of being “alone” is well worth the effort because, even though we are not officially alone in our marriage, we have in fact abandoned ourselves in order to be as invisible and safe as possible. The goal of these types of men is to destroy who you are and, no matter how you cope with that, you are being worn down daily by the sickness and mendacity of it all.
    Good Luck, I love all of you courageous and gifted ladies and mothers. God be with you. Rose J.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:31 am

      Thank you Rose for your transparency in the real ups and downs of both staying and leaving. It sounds like you and your husband have come to some peace about how you are going to move forward – separately.

  34. Caroline Abbott on July 19, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Really great article! My only issue is that you say he isn’t able to communicate more maturely. In the case of my ex, he had no problem communicating well with others outside the home. He had decided NOT to be mature with me. I fully believe that was a decision, not a maturity issue

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Great point. However, how he communicates outside the home – listen carefully. Does he communicate with those outside the home his feelings whe he’s upset with them? Is he able to negotiate and compromise over issues. Or when they upset him does he tend to withdraw and avoid? Just because someone is charming and outgoing in public does not necessarily make them capable of sustaining a long term intimate relationship where you must be able to talk about tough issues.

      • Sue on July 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm

        Wow, I never thought about his “charm” to that depth of conclusion. How sad for someone to live their lives with only superficial connections based on fear. Makes sense. No wonder I have a yearning for “more” with him.
        Thanks for sharing that valuable insight, Leslie.
        This gives me more specific prayer ideas.

  35. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I totally agree. It’s a concious choice from the abuser. They do not treat others this way. So they are able to make a choice to abuse.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:37 am

      You’re right it’s a conscious choice to be silent because they CHOOSE not to disclose what is really bothering them. Is that because they don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable? Probably. Is it because they feel they are right and you are wrong? Probably. Is it because they want to punish you for making them unhappy? Probably. The silent treatment is a choice just like screaming and yelling at a person is a choice, but people who resort to these types of things in their intimate relationships don’t have the skills or internal maturity to have good relationships. They may have superficial relationships but they don’t have good and close relationships.

  36. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    So precise and supportive at the same time. Thank you for your sharing and the advice is much appreciated. Godspeed and blessings to you and all here in this difficult situation with abusers.

  37. Bridget on July 19, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I can relate to the silent treatment. My adult children use this against me all the time. The latest one has been 2 months. My daughter had a baby last month and didn’t call me. I don’t even have a picture, much less an invitation to come over. Prior to the latest silent treatment, there was 3 months of silent treatment with a no show for Christmas…not even a phone call to say she wasn’t going to be coming over. Also, her sister is giving me the silent treatment because her sister is. I have tried reaching out, I have tried to tell her how it makes me feel to be ignored. Part of me is relieved that I don’t know the baby, since she would most likely do this again. It is hard at times to stay focused and try not to feel like I am insignificant or unwanted. My trust has to be in the Lord… I find peace knowing he is going to make something beautiful out of this unbearable situation. I may not understand the whys, nor do I ask why me? Why not me? We all have to walk through difficult things in this life, I am just so grateful that I have Jesus to turn to. God bless you Leslie and your ministry.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:38 am

      Thanks Bridget. I’m so sorry, being cut off from your grandchildren must be the worst feeling but I’m sure it makes her feel very powerful.

    • Kelley on December 1, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Bridget,
      I am so so sorry that you are going through this. I have 3 adult children and have been experiencing this for 4 years on and off since my divorce.
      It was my husband’s nfs Origen way of punishing me. My kids learned well! I have a 10 year old granddaughter who I am not able to have a relationship with. It is heartbreaking. I had made progress with my 21 year old son and then out of the blue after spending time over the summer I received a text from him berating me for all the ways I have wronged them. It is as though I am the child and they are the parents shaming, demanding, accusing me. I quote ” it that being said, I will not be taking calls or texts from you…” there is no way to maturely talk about things and have a mutually respectful discussion to bring healing. There is no desire on their part to bring restoration. It is heartbreaking. The holidays are anguish.
      The only thing that helps is reaching out to others and finding ways to serve in my church. I find joy in making little cards and baking for the children in my neighborhood. It doesn’t touch the tender spots that ache but it does make me feel connected and as though I have meaning and worth to take up space on the planet. Use the gifts that God has given you! Reach out to friends when you are in pain. I am so glad you have this community here too with Leslie. Love to you!

      • Kelley on December 1, 2021 at 11:38 am

        I see a few typo’s…the joys of pecking away with thumbs in a phone!🤦‍♀️ I hope I made some sense.

  38. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Yes yes and yes. It’s crazy making and gas lighting designed to break us down. It does eventually. I am living proof now trying to leave after finally realizing what is going on. I wish I left years ago.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:40 am

      Prisoners HATE solitary confinement and prisoners of war are isolated with silence to break them down. It is a very effective covert strategy. Human beings are hard wired to connect and so the silent treatment is abusive.

  39. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Exactly. It is gaslighting to destroy us and keep us under their control. I wish I left years ago knowing now whey I didn’t know then. Run as fast as you can! It rarely gets better if ever with a narcissist.

  40. Ta Ruth on July 19, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    An abusive spouse doesn’t have to commit adultery in order for us to leave them scripturally. If a spouse is abusing us and continues to damage or harm us with no repentance, God doesn’t expect us to live this way in bondage. God cannot be glorified in this at all.

  41. JoAnn on July 19, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Not I, but Christ in me. He is Love, He is Light, He is Truth.

    • Aleea on July 20, 2016 at 6:45 am

      “. . . Not I, but Christ in me. He is Love, He is Light, He is Truth.”

      . . . Maybe I have the two mixed up. . . . I look at it as Christ continually shouting through the universe, “You have a love that is already yours. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You have nothing to prove to Me. You are significant and preapproved and utterly cherished. Not because you are in any way “good,” but because you are Mine.” . . . . but. . . but. . . . actually accepting that means “Taking up your Cross and following Me”. . . . .Forget that Lord, I don’t understand so, so much but I actually understand what that really means. . . . .”Take up your Cross and follow me” is not an invitation to “Mountaintop Christianity” “Hotel Conference Christianity” (―And I love that as much as anyone! I am not immune to nice things.) ―It is following Christ to the very depths of what He experienced to destroy and unravel everything to which we hold onto and hold dear. ―Anything that we may have built our lives upon ―even if it is an ideological, placebo Christianity ―until there is absolutely nothing you can hold onto, nothing you can survive on ―and in that place (What the church father’s called “the desert of the real”. . . .That holy desolation where only the TRUTH survives. That place where everything NOT real is washed away by the solar storm of TRUTH.), . . . .you stand in the very place Christ did. I see that concept taught everywhere in the first 500 years of Christianity because there, in that place, you have nothing to hold onto, as Christ had nothing to hold onto. If we heed the call to follow Christ, it is necessary for us to follow Him into the tomb to eradicate the constructs of our identity (―you lose your total identity, ―everything) and pervasive influence that we have carried with us since like . . . .day one. I look at it and I know I can’t do it. Lord, I can’t walk that road, us “moderns” are just too soft. I can’t do it, whatever small part of Christ that is in me would have to do it. . . . . as you say, JoAnn, not I but. . .Christ in me. . .

      . . . The loss of all those structures that ground us and give us any sense that life makes any kind of sense (the “Christian”, cultural and political). . . . . If we will follow Him, we can’t rely on anything but His grace, mercy, and compassion to see as through the pain and suffering our journey will inevitably bring when we are really, really loving God by loving and selflessly serving others. . . . I look at it and I know I can’t do it. I can’t walk that road. . . . . More than this, Christ experiences the loss of that which grounds each of these realms (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”). . . . . Christ invites us to die and lose our identity in Him. This is the part of our Christianity that looks just mental (―totally mental). The cross not only killed our Savior, it completely stripped Him of the ability to take any comfort in anything, friends, “Christianity”, politics, His mother’s comforting arms, and even God’s abiding presence. On the Cross, Jesus lost it all. It is so beyond our comfort-laden, abundance-drunk, self-improving-addicted culture to understand that. I’m sure I don’t have a full grasp of the total reality of it. There’s no way around it: Jesus doesn’t want us to come to the cross. He wants us to get on it. The invitation is to die with Him and lose our identity in Him. I look at it and I know I can’t do it. I can’t walk that road. . . . . but as you say, JoAnn, not “I” but. . .Christ in me?

  42. Sue on July 20, 2016 at 7:09 am

    One additional thought that has really shed some light and given me a practical tool. The silent treatment, however it is manifest, is nothing more than an adult temper tantrum. I’ve dealt with that when my kids were little so I know exactly what to do. Don’t give in to it. Don’t be afraid of the anger- pouting, accusations, attacks, etc.
    You can sulk or bellow all you want, I’m not going to react. I’m going to go on with my plans and enjoy the day. When you’re ready to respect me, we can enjoy the day together. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

  43. MHMC on July 20, 2016 at 8:56 am

    A-MEN!

  44. Ta Ruth on July 20, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Exactly. So glad you are free.

  45. Ta Ruth on July 20, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Definitely. Thanks you. Yes I absolutely agree about my daughter and and boundary teaching. I will be doing so indeed. Blessings.

  46. Ta Ruth on July 20, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    NPD. Narcissist Personality Disorder.

  47. Ta Ruth on July 22, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I agree. My husband is very abusive especially using the silent treatment to me. I do feel like a prisoner and ready to escape. Waking up every day knowing how I am and will be treated is awful. My daughter sees me either cry or just lose it by speaking out in utter turmoil. There is no middle ground with a controlling narcissist abuser husband or not. He’s driven me to get out.

    • Sue on July 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.”
      Yes, it is painful to be treated that way, but you don’t need to continue to be a victim of misery.
      Think about it, how happy can he truly be?
      “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” ~ Luke 6:45
      If you can get your heart and mind clear of the lies the enemy wants you to believe about yourself, you can grieve the condition of your husband’s heart and see how truly depraved and hurting he his and pray for him. He may gain a temporary sense of victory when he “wins” and controls you. But underneath all his toxic manipulation he is hurting. And hurting people hurt other people.
      Ultimately it is his choice if he wants to stay in bondage to his pain or be set free.
      You have the same choice- to stay stuck in misery or give your pain to God, trust him to bring healing and move on into a healthy, joyful mindset and lifestyle.
      “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10
      Choose life, my friend!

      • Nicole on February 24, 2021 at 11:28 pm

        When people use the phrase “hurting people hurt people” it does nothing but lay blame on the one being abused! Hurting people find a way through the pain- sociopaths use their pain to hurt others! While we are called to have empathy- we are not called to tolerate abuse.

  48. Ta Ruth on July 22, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Exactly

  49. MHMC on July 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Just bought the book “Character disturbance” by simon. And now im listening to his book “wolf in sheeps clothing”. Wow! Great info!

  50. Ta Ruth on July 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Absolutely. It just still is abuse. If they don’t take accountability then we don’t have to be their target. It’s wrong and empaths especially like myself fall prey to them before all the damage begins. By then we are in deep. I’m learning and when I get free from this I will absolutely be prayerful and see the signs to never be abused again.

  51. Ta Ru on July 25, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    So…not sure what you are proposing aside from giving it to God and pray for my husbands soul…staying or divorcing? What stand do you take on that? Too often the church tells wives to just pray for his hurting soul and take the abusive treatment and chance he will cross the line even there and become a statistic of domestic violence. 14 years and no sign of change and at times worse along with our daughter watching how Dad treats Mom is a good indicator of his mindset and unwillingness to hear God and change. Narcissists sadly don’t change.

  52. MHMC on July 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    If he us hurtung you and unrepentant (meaning no change) you need to get away. Whether ir not you divorce is betqeen you and God. But if you are being told to continue living with abuse, that is the weong advice

  53. Ta Ru on July 25, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I agree.

  54. Valerie on July 27, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you, Thank you for this article regarding the silent treatment. I really needed to read this.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      You’re welcome.

  55. Tamara on October 5, 2016 at 8:55 am

    So good. I know this was meant for husbands. But if I substitute my mother it fits perfectly. 25 yrs of strain rejection pain since I went into a psychiatric ward and was finally beginning to see how toxic my family was and how I was raised. My world came crashing down but it was the beginning for me to begin making decisions for my own well being. EVERYTHING u spoke of I have experienced. She has tried to manipulate and control me but because of God’s grace I have found the courage to b ok with God saying NO to tjis relationship. I was VERY sick this yr. She wanted me to become POA. I said because of my fragile health and the lack of trust in our relationship NO I can’t. She cut me out of her will. Classic response. After no attempt at her communicating I for the first time communicated holiday plans that didn’t include her and for the first time I don’t feel guilty. I am free for the first time and guess what healthy and strong. How these types or relationships set us up for autoimmune disease!

  56. Precious to Him on November 7, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Silent treatment….my husband’s go-to tactic.
    Recently, after he had given me the silent treatment for over a month, I confronted him about it….I’m way passed apologizing or trying to make it better, or even taking any responsibility for it. It’s just plain selfish and childish. I continue on my journey to try and live out what I believe God has called me to, even towards my uNPD husband.
    But when he came out of the funk, I told him it doesn’t go unnoticed and that it affects the kids also and that it is not okay….that he is trying to punish me for perceived wrongs.
    He said that it had nothing to do with “punishing”. It has everything to do with how much he is “hurting” and “sad”. Truly, a victim mentality.

    I’m in a place where I just go on daily striving to be everything that 1 Corinthians 13 calls me to be. I still am kind to him (most of the time…lol) and offer to help him and do things for him and I engage with the kids, etc….but the silence is deafening at times and if I linger in that place, it makes me really angry.

    Leslie, I would also love to hear your comments on Remedy’s post….

    “Remedy says
    July 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm
    Leslie….at my church the leadership would say ’embrace this prison and time of suffering for you as God in His sovereignty had appointed for you.’ Without the support of the church, I fear what the spouse would do regarding my teenage children with that lack of support to turn their hearts against me as being rebellious to that authority. Many churches counsel this theological view. Please offer your insight. It is a terrifying place to be when trying to make decisions about how to proceed.

    Reply
    freeatlast8 says
    July 19, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Remedy, I would love for Leslie to respond to this, too.”

  57. Higher Power on October 11, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Just reading all these messages has given me insight I never knew before. God!, I thank you ladies for sharing your experiences. This has been very helpful knowing I’m not alone. I’ve been feeling so hopeless and you ladies have given me strength to continue my new journey. I can do it anymore I’m tried of being devalued and disrespected… So again, Thank You ladies for specking out.

  58. HomesickLady on December 4, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    So I am not alone, my husband also do the same thing, I was naive enough and always go to him after a week or two which I can not cope, to tell him we need to talk we can not live like this, I was shocked actually after we got marriage,I never thought in marriage things like that happened as it seems as a casual relationship!!. But after that he kept doing the same even though I told him so many times it hurts me a lot. Nothing change, unfortunately he thinks when I come to sort things out , it means that my mistake in the first place. But I was doing it for us as a family, not who will open the conversation is the loser or who did wrong. Childish mind!
    All that happening and I am alone, I relocated after marriage, I am Living in another country, far away from my family and friends, which I thought my husband would be all my family, but he is not.

    I learned the lesson, it’s been now over a month and he still silent, actually it looks he is wondering why I didn’t start open the conversation with him, how come I am living alone without him being talking to me!

    Let him live and have a taste of his own medicine! I am enjoying my life, I have lots of plans. and I don’t care, If he does not care , why I would bother and torture myself ?!!

  59. Karen on July 14, 2021 at 10:28 am

    I have had to distance myself from my husband, so I suppose I am giving him the silent treatment. He refuses to discuss certain things that he is doing that is damaging to our marriage and he blames me for doing them. I ask him to please discuss these issues with me but he shuts me down and talks over me. So we haven’t talked since. I always feel guilty when I see articles on the silent treatment but he is so emotionally abusive that I keep away from him on purpose. He doesn’t see himself as doing anything wrong. After he fat shamed me I now know how he perceives me and I just don’t trust him. He is toxic to my well being.

  60. Jules on September 7, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    This is my husband 109% and I’m I’m over it! Any time he’s unhappy or a say something to him about something he’s done, he shuts down. Maybe a day, maybe a week. Until he pretends nothing happened and acts “normal”. We’ve only been married 6 yrs and it started right after we got married. Wish I had seen the warning signs and red flags, I probably wouldn’t have married him. He’s very passive aggressive to my granddaughter. With under the breath comments and complaints to her. She’s 12!! A huge problem in our marriage and a huge part of his mental abuse. Nothing will change ever but im gonna be happy regardless!!

  61. Carly on November 30, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    I believe my husband is a narcissist. We will be going along fine and suddenly and without any reason I can see he will explode at me. I ask him why and he will talk in a circle and it is always my fault. Then he will go days without communicating to me unless he needs something. He will isolate me from the things we usually do, he will take along other family members and exclude me. He is verbally very nasty.
    I am very tired. I feel helpless. No one is ever stands up for me. He seems to be getting worse. I have done a lot or reading but I do not know what to do

    • Leslie Vernick on December 1, 2021 at 11:04 am

      Carly I’d encourage you to stand up for your own self. Please sign up to attend my free workshop next week to learn how. http://www.leslievernick.com/joinworkshop

    • Tanya on March 9, 2022 at 8:37 pm

      Read Leslie Vernick’s book the Emotionally Destructive Marriage. It helps. Slowly but surely you’ll see what’s going on and learn how to get free. I read it. And at first the truth was relieving, then I got angry, then I felt helpless and hopeless. Now I’m freer than ever before and I’m still moving forward.

      Yeah. It’s hard. I have the same problems as you for years. And when he’s in a good mood I’m supposed to be happy. I’ve realized I was being codependent and actually encourage this type of behavior through my rescuing and wanting to make peace tactics. Always trying to explain myself. After reading the book, I get wise and realize he is being unreasonable and start pointing out his behavior and then there’s hell to pay. I speak out now, not because he will see his wicked ways and change, but so he knows he can’t just treat me any kind of way. After 20 years of maltreatment my resistance has only been accomplished within the last several months. Well now, he is giving me the silent treatment and it’s been 3 days and you know what? I’m glad. It doesn’t bother me. I’m not going to run after him to make it better. I’m closer than ever to being free from this abusive relationship.

  62. Robert on April 7, 2022 at 3:24 am

    My wife is giving me the silent treatment. What do I do ? I’m taking it very personally.

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