Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is my husband giving me the silent treatment?

Posted by Hannah at 4:01 PM

I was on a faith board recently, and I read a note from wife.  It was short and sweet with not much information to go on.  She was wondering if what she was experiencing was the silent treatment from her spouse.  Here is a summary of what was said, but not word for word:

Communication is impossible for my Husband to have with me. It's been 12 years, and he has yet to have a conversation with me that is on any kind of adult level. He will not talk most of the time, even to our children. We went to therapy, and he literally could not give an answer to any question. The silence was deafening. Finally, after many visits I was told to lower my expectations, and I would not be disappointed anymore. I don't know how much more hurt I can handle. This is not healthy for my children and me. Does God want me to continue on letting him treat us this way?
When I think of the silent treatment it comes to a form of emotional abuse its normally a tool they use to hurt someone.  The silent treatment is a childish way of abusing a person, and in most cases I would tell you to just do life as if they were not in the room. (yes I have done that)  I realize that is easier said than done, and in some cases that does ignore the fear factor.  In other words, you are waiting for the bomb to drop.  You tend to walk on eggshells during this period, and its one of the most hurtful and scary things.  You just know when they finally DO SPEAK all hell will break loose.

There is one thing that I have noticed with human nature within the Christian realm especially, and that is to assume that the woman is just expecting to much.  There were statements like, "Are you sure he literally isn't saying word?"  Opinions of how he could be he is just a quiet person, and you just don't want to look for those non verbal clues. 

Another person took the word silent treatment, and basically placed out there the true reality of what a silent treatment really is.  It was a form of manipulation, and he may need a personal therapy for himself.  That poster was attacked by the others, and they made comments like where did the poster get their analysis from such a short picture?

Its strange how people don't ask themselves those questions after making statements of how this poster WAS making a mountain out of a molehill basically themselves.  They continued their analysis of the post, and made comments like it could be she enjoyed the 'strong and silent' type prior to marriage, and now she just resents that part of him now.  How she just wanted to change him after they were married, and now is ticked off because she can't.

The woman finally came back, and told this awful story about experiences of child abuse in regards to her husband.  How this abuse had carried on to adulthood, and how he promised her he would never be like this to his family.  She spoke of a situation when she was changing their child's diaper, and her mother in law was screaming at him in the other room.  She was screaming in their own language to make sure the wife couldn't understand, and was hitting her husband as well.  His mother literally drew blood from her son, and as you can imagine his wife as shocked, stunned, etc.  The mother in law was told the police would be called the next time this happened, and her husband told his mother that his wife mentioned she would do this personally.

One of the posters commented about this conversation to the woman.  How her husband SPOKE TO HER during this time, and as she can see there was no silent treatment.  I have to wonder at times what people are thinking, because this circumstance had happened years ago.  Then she goes on to say that maybe its a cultural thing, and you are just wanting him to assimilate to the  present culture. 

I seriously have to wonder WHY people search for things to basically explain things away, and why they can't see that there is no common sense attached for their statements.  I mean he spoke to her once years ago, and so there is no silent treatment?  Its a cultural thing to explain it away, and hints that maybe you can't respect that aspect?  I mean seriously HUH??

If I were to guess this poor man shuts his mouth, and feels he doesn't have anything to say because in the past due to the child abuse - he was always wrong.  His silence could be a self protection due to him never dealing with the cruelty of the past.  He doesn't feel safe saying anything, and so he doesn't say anything at all.  Its not his wife's fault, and I'm NOT saying its his fault either.  Its baggage from the past, and he doesn't have the tools personally to step out into his new reality.

I have always struggled with showing my feelings due to neglect and abuse myself.  I can relate to NOT wishing to say much, because you just KNOW you will be attacked for it.  Does that mean his wife would?  No.  In my head I knew a lot of people that surrounded me in my life never would do such a thing, but that fear of how it could possibly happen because I learned people WILL do it due to my past?  That is a real fear, and a reality for people.  People fear disagreements.  People fear voicing things that may be viewed differently from others.  I guess some just can't understand how strong those mental chains of abuse can truly be.

I look back at the past I see a girl with a very low view of her worth.  I see a girl that wanted to have her own opinions and views of things, but knew people would tell me I'm stupid if I voiced them.  It never dawned on me that I was seeing things very clear as I was told I was making something out of nothing.  It was an atmosphere that you had better agree if you want to have life the easy way, because we can make it hard if you don't.  I had so much fear inside of me I honestly thought it was normal.

When the world told me I must have handled something wrong, and that is WHY my world was falling apart around me?  I believed them.  I shallowed the fact that if I just learned how to walk away, and realize WORDS can't hurt me, because even the worse of the emotional abuse and verbal abuse wouldn't have whipped me so badly if I didn't the way it should be handled?  I don't know how to respond properly, and so that is why its happening to me.  I'm not giving it to God correctly, and I have no clue what it means to leave it at the foot of the cross.

There are those that truly don't see abuse for what it is, and understand the effects that abuse can have on someone's life.  If this husband is anything like I was in the past its fear, and not a silent treatment.  He is afraid to open his mouth, and even though you wish to trust?  You just don't have the tools to do so, because you were never shown how.  You fear life, because you know how badly it hurts.  You never truly experienced the GOOD parts the way most can, because that fear holds you back from being able to truly let go and allow yourself that joy.  Its a mental chain, and if you can't acknowledge it you can't find a way to move past it.  Its an internal bondage that you can't release yourself  from, because you don't know how.  You just know someone will hurt you so badly if you do.  That fear is very strong, and for the most part I think people underestimate it.

I remember years ago reading on abuse forums online as I was finally learning the truth.  I remember feeling so much envy for those people that allowed themselves to cry.  Yes I did say ENVY!  My fear within me wouldn't even allow myself to cry, because the tears would fill me up with shame.  I would read these statements from the men of faith using the excuse that women are 'emotional', and hinting to the fact that is part of the reason the men needed to lead.  You can't lead with to much emotion, because emotions can drive you in the wrong direction.  I had a hard time using any emotion at all.  I detached myself from life so far that I didn't even know how to be happy, sad or anything in the middle.  I just was.  I will say those statements from men of faith did make me giggle, because I could see alot of emotion as they were trying to get their points across.

I think I hid in some fashion, because I knew deep down I couldn't fit into this box that others were telling us we needed to live within.  You need to show grace towards others as God gives grace towards us.  I don't think I truly understood that statement, because I couldn't see this grace in them that they spoke of.  Due to my past I just felt I must be missing something, and WOW I'm worse off than I thought!  It never dawned on me that they weren't giving that grace towards others, and that is why I couldn't see it.

They have this formula that if you acknowledge something like domestic violence within the home?  You aren't capable of seeing any GOOD points towards your abuser.  All your doing is making your case against them with all your bags of evidence!  YOU aren't loving them as Christ asks us to love others!  YOU are in sin with your anger, and don't you know that the bible says you can have that anger as LONG as you don't sin?  We all know that the world has this attitude of  ME ME ME, and I'm sure you didn't honor your spouse and serve him as the bible states you should!

I could see good points about the abuser, but I didn't have enough of them or I would feel better about him.  I loved the abuser otherwise I wouldn't have married him.  Love isn't a feeling - it an action and you haven't done that.  My anger?  WELL they could always find something if they dug deep enough that I didn't do perfectly, and they used that to rub my nose in it.  People always respond to a loving nature that serves others, and you just let your selfish nature not show enough towards your spouse - what do you expect?  His response was sinful YES, but LOOK at all those things you did to provoke him.

Its like the grace got lost along the way.  You know what you do when people can't acknowledge your hurt eventually?  You shut up, and don't say anything.  They aren't safe either.  When you don't have a safe place to feel, acknowledge and deal with the hurt?  You tend to stuff it, internalize it, and not deal with it at all.

I look at this man that was spoken about?  Do we have the tools to truly see what is behind this silent treatment?  The beating this wife spoke about from his mother?  That threw up red flags for me!  It may seem like a silent treatment to his wife that doesn't understand the damage of abuse, and if you look at the people's responses?  She won't see it either, because she is told the silence is her fault - because its not really there.  Its not her fault.  Its not his fault either.  Its something that needs to be addressed so they can move forward and heal.  You can't do that if you don't acknowledge it.

I doubt his silence was meant to hurt her the way she is feeling it.  I didn't even realize myself years ago that I was seen as distance towards others, because I didn't have the tools at the time.  I asked this women to research the effects of child abuse in adulthood.  I asked if he would be open to individual therapy to help work past his hurts.  There was hope that both could move past this if addressed.

Where did the others go with this new information?

Have you both made sure that there is absolutely no contact with this evil woman? She needs to be completely out of your lives for good.

You know why things fall apart the way they do at times? It seems most people can't even grasp the conversation at hand!  Could it be the counsel that most get is PART of the reason the relationships all around us are falling part?  I just pray this man gets the help he needs, and she realizes this isn't a silent treatment - its his hurt.  People need to deal with the situation, and not conversation jump like you see so often.  Sigh.  Why do people divert like that, and just NOT deal with reality?  I mean they tell us we are the ISSUE?  Yikes!  No wonder the world is screwed up so badly.

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Waneta Dawn on 1:38 AM said...

I found this subject very interesting since I just last night spoke with a young woman who described the behavior of her boyfriend's parents. Her boyfriend's mother was manipulative and controlling, and had to have her hand and her say in everything. If her son went on a trip, his mother invited herself and arrived there before he did.

Although the young woman had been dating the man for 5-6 months, his mother was insisting that the young woman spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with her boyfriend's family, and that the girl's parents should be there, too.

The mother dominated her son, spied on his girlfriend via facebook, and did a host of things to freak the young woman out.

The young woman reported that her boyfriend's father zoned out and never said a word when his wife was in the room. When she left the room, he would perk up and speak to the children. When she returned, he returned to his silent, I'm-not-here behavior.

It was clear to me that the mother was a controlling, manipulating, and likely word-twisting dominator, and that her husband had learned to keep his mouth shut to save himself and the children from her verbal, emotional and psychological assaults.

From the description given, the woman who wrote on the board could have been the potential mother-in-law I just heard about. She didn't say what she said or how she acted. She only said that her husband kept his mouth shut, but that he had at one time shared personal truths with her.

I don't say this to blame the woman. I just find it interesting that I just heard the behavior she descibes, described to me last night--along with the "rest of the story," which may or may not be true for the woman on the board.

Hannah on 7:35 AM said...

The lady in this story is married, and has been for 12 years. I assume that she didn't wish the DIL to hear what she had to say to her son that day she described the beating due to using her native tongue.

I hope that the girl you spoke about finds a way to help her boyfriend - so he can help himself to break the cycle with his mother. Marriage is hard enough, and you sure don't need a MIL in the mix trying to tell you what to do.

It shows to me that relationships can be driven by fear, and gender clearly isn't an issue. Physical abuse isn't always the driving force either.

When you read about dominate women like yours and the one I wrote about? Why people question that emotional and verbal abuse can't easily turn to physical is beyond me. You can see the out of control nature that is clearly sinful, and why they seem to think they can keep it together in other ways is beyond me.

Nora on 8:08 AM said...

There are many ways to see silent treatment, but it boils down to a way to keep the control and distance between partners...whoever is the silent one controls the other. Sad situation that replaces cooperation and reciprocal trust. We offer some ideas how to balance this behavior here:
Thanks a lot for all the info in your posting!

Cindy Burrell on 5:27 PM said...

"If you are living in an abusive relationship, I know that you keep hoping tomorrow will be different. I understand the kind of fear and pain you live with because I lived it. Let me teach you how to identify abuse when it happens, and empower you to reassert and reclaim your value."

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