Is the Silent Treatment Abuse?

You might already be familiar with ’the silent treatment’, but what if we were to tell you that this can be a form of abuse…

Is the Silent Treatment Abuse?

You might already be familiar with ’the silent treatment’ – when someone ignores you or stops talking to you during a disagreement or argument in a relationship, but what if we were to tell you that this can be a form of abuse…

Silent treatment, the cold shoulder, freezing someone out, whatever you call it, can be used as a form of control. When someone we care about ices us out or ignores our texts or DMs and deliberately stops communicating, it can make us want to find ways to make them talk again.  It can make us apologise for things we didn’t do or engage in behaviour we otherwise wouldn’t, just to get them to talk to us again.

How to know when it’s abusive:  

The silent treatment takes a darker turn when it’s used to exert power. It’s abusive when:  

  • It’s coming from a place of punishment. If your partner is using the silent treatment to hurt you, then it’s safe to say it’s emotional abuse.  
  • It’s frequent and can last a long period of time.  
  • The silent treatment only stops when you apologise or give in to what they want. It’s a way of manipulating you. 
  • You’re changing how you act just to avoid getting silent treatment. It’s like you’re tiptoeing around to avoid being ignored. That’s not okay. 

The silent treatment of cooling off?  

Silence doesn’t always have malicious intentions. Sometimes we might be silent during or after a period of conflict to avoid saying things we might regret, avoid topics that might overwhelm us or take some time to cool off. Sometimes we all need a breather after an argument or when things get too heavy. If you need space from your partner, that’s cool, just make sure to tell them why and when you’ll be ready to chat again.  

Giving someone the silent treatment may not necessarily be a form of abuse if someone is needing some time or space to gather their thoughts, but it’s important to think about other behaviours/ red flags which might be in your relationship alongside the silent treatment. If you’re unsure and would like to talk this through please reach out to one of our support workers. 

How to handle the silent treatment:  

Of course, silence isn’t always a sign of abuse, but it can still hurt and is not always a healthy way to handle conflict.  

Trust your gut. As we always say, you’ll know when something isn’t right. If someone is using the silent treatment to punish, manipulate or emotionally abuse you, that is not okay. You may want to consider whether your partner displays any other signs of abuse or controlling behaviours, If you suspect that you are in an abusive relationship we strongly advise you do not attempt to communicate with your partner, instead please reach out to us via our Live Chat

Get Support!

Looking for help or someone to talk to? Visit our Support Page – we’re here for you!  

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