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What to do in an emotionally abusive relationship – how to cope with silent treatment ?

How do you cope with emotional abuse in a relationship? How to not be intimidated and overwhelmed by passive-aggressive behaviour? Silent treatment in a relationship is intolerable. Learn strategies to deal with a manipulative spouse or partner.

People trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship feel like a caged animal. The abusive partner often resorts to the silent treatment that is almost always over inconsequential matters. The victim feels hapless, traumatized and depressed. It can be an awful situation to be in. But, there are ways in which to cope and turn things around.

What is the Silent Treatment ?

Silent Treatment is a form of emotional abuse, where one partner chooses to ignore and not speak to the other person. They resort to silence and to ignoring the victim to convey their resentment or as a form of protest and punishment. Such people are often narcissists, who cannot think beyond themselves. Their behavior is outright unacceptable.

Often, the abusive partner uses the silent treatment because they deliberately or subconsciously want to make the victim feel worthless or guilty about something. They may also be looking for an apology, from the victim, for something that offended them, even though they often do not elucidate the reasons.

A victim who is constantly at the receiving end of such behavior can end up resigned to being intimidated, isolated and dejected. At other times, they may become livid, insolent, resentful and rancorous. Eventually, they become completely oppressed, for there is a limit to the amount of abuse that one can take. Within a family, such behavior can have a negative impact on the children. They endure emotional stress because of the persistent negative attitude of the abusive parent towards the other parent.

If you recognize this behavior in your partner, it is best to nip it in the bud, before it becomes a routine practice. The longer such behavior is allowed to continue, the more difficult it is to tackle and eliminate. Dealing with a partner who just shuts you out can be a formidable challenge, but there is always hope for things to get better.

Silent Treatment & Cooling-off are not the same

It is good to maintain silence after a disagreement or an argument. It allows both partners to calm down and soothe their fraying tempers. Such silence is issue related and the couple is back to normal within a few hours or in some instances within a few days. The couple also resolves the problem amicably.

But, this behavior is intrinsically different from the silent treatment. The latter can go on unexplained for n number of days. There is no scope of suggesting a discussion to the perpetrator that could end the cold war. In any case, such an approach does not work with habitual abusers, who find this approach a fodder that further feeds their yearnings to manipulate and control. They look at is as a victory, if the abused approaches them with the purpose to reconcile.

Tips on dealing with such abuse

Studies show that the abusers receive immense satisfaction from seeing their victim's misery. The abuser thrives on the negative effect their behavior has on the victim. Therefore, it is imperative that the victim stops showing signs of despondency, as it just gives the abuser more power.

This essentially means that the victim must not let the abuser know how the abuse is affecting them. It gives the abuser a sense of conquest and a lift to their ego, to observe the effect of their behavior on you. So, don't let their behavior get to you. Don't let them see you get annoyed or become apologetic and don't plead with them in the hope of getting them to speak to you. When you do this you starve them of the pleasures they receive seeing you distraught and they eventually tire and fall in line.

Practice the following approaches to help you cope with silent treatment or emotional abuse. They are devised to help you influence the abuser so they break out of their obnoxious behavior.

Do not appear upset

The best strategy here is to ignore the abuser's actions, so don't get agitated, in the first place. Occupy yourself doing constructive things as it acts as a stress buster. When you take your mind off what the other person is doing to you, it puts you in control. You could do anything to distract yourself, pick up a hobby, do some gardening, read a book, listen to music, go about your daily chores. Just get the perpetrators behaviour out of your head.

Remain upbeat

Go about your daily routine. Go for your walk, go to work, call your friends, eat your meals, get your sleep and watch your favorite television show. Essentially carry on with your normal life, despite their efforts to unnerve you.

Don't payback with silence

Continue making conversations, as you normally would, in your day to day life, even when things aren't hunky-dory. Maintain a normal tone of voice. Showing either anger or submissiveness will not help your cause. Don't stoop to their level of immaturity, by replicating their behavior.

Do not cajole them to behave normally

You don't have to get them to speak to you. Their silence isn't going to kill you. You have survived thus far and you will continue to survive. Don't let the negativity consume you. Do not dwell on their offensive behavior.

Do not take the bait

Emotional abusers use different tactics to gain control. They are masters at sarcasm and are condescending in their behavior. They will do anything to belittle you. Do not let that dampen your confidence. Just go about your normal routine. Do not let their efforts to rile you become fruitful. That will only attract more such behavior.

Be strong

Acting on the suggestions won't be easy because sometimes your feelings of despair will cloud your thoughts. There will be times when your mental and emotional state will lead you to react. You'll probably weaken in your resolve, but don't let that happen. Get in control of your emotions, your anger and the sadness, and begin acting with a determined resolve. Make a conscious effort to remain positive, even through all the turmoil.

Don't let your partner in on this new approach that you plan to follow. Go ahead and introduce this new stratagem and follow it through.

What if there's verbal or physical abuse ?

These strategies won't work if your partner resorts to verbal and physical abuse. If that happens get help or confide in a friend about the marital abuse so they can help. Report the physical abuse and domestic violence to the authorities.

Abuse spilling over into special days

It is not uncommon for abusive partners to ruin special occasions such as a festival or a wedding anniversary with their annoying behavior. In their mind they are justified, they don't believe their behavior is wrong. You, in turn, may end up feeling strain the silence is causing. It is especially awkward when you have company.

The solution is the same as mentioned above; continue being your normal self. Smile and appear happy, mingle with guests and have a good time. You do not have to wallow in self-pity or get incensed by the insanity of it all.

Your partner is not going to miraculously turn into an angel because it's a special day. So, it's up to you to remain buoyant. Make a pledge that you'll not let the person ruin your day.

It's difficult to make a partner to stop the abuse

Neither pleading nor forceful behavior works with abusive partners. They are not going to stop because you want them to. So, don't make an apology or implore with them to stop. What you can do is change yourself and the way you react to their silent behavior.

Don't let negativity overshadow logical thinking

When you follow the practices mentioned here, you behave responsibly towards yourself. Looking after your well being is taking a positive step towards being happy in a vile environment. Invest your energies and time positively, so you step out of the melancholic rut. The change in your attitude will send signals to your partner that their behavior is ineffective and they cannot control you or make you feel guilty over trivial matters.

No awareness on emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is rarely spoken of; it is not even considered as abuse. As a matter of fact, people in an emotionally abusive relationship do not know the relationship is abusive. They are 'trained' to believe that it is their fault and they deserve the treatment that they've been given. Nevertheless, it is just as damaging and crippling as verbal and physical abuse or nonverbal intimidation such as stalking. It is a form of passive aggression and it's vital to talk about it, so awareness can be spread.

Mending broken fences

Your abuser will break the silence. It's a pattern actually, where they stop speaking then begin speaking until the next trigger that makes them go silent again. Make the best of the moment when they're speaking with you. Use the time to strengthen your relationship, send out positive vibes, without throwing blame.

Walking out of the relationship

Is it worth ending an abusive relationship? Things sometimes get to the point that you want to just walk away from the abuse that is not just having a detrimental effect on you but also killing the relationship. This kind of passive-aggressive behavior is not a one-time thing. It is normally recurrent, it happens again and again.

The decision to stay or walk out should be yours. As there are no physical scars to show, no one will understand your reasons for doing so. You need to be courageous to walk out, but if you choose to stay, use psychological tactics that can empower you – beat them at their own game and rise above the emotional abuse.

Your partner may eventually tire of being a control freak, but there is no surety of that happening. Passive aggression and narcissism are personality disorders that don't just go away. If your partner is willing you can suggest getting them counseling or psychological help.

Balance your act

Using the 'normal' approach works in most cases. However, that is not enough. Let your partner see you in a new light. So, remain amenable, yet be assertive. If you let someone turn you into a doormat, you'll allow them to walk all over you.

So do you have to deal with a spouse who stops talking to you, for no reason? I'd love to hear your experiences and stories and insights and techniques of coping with the abuse.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: Natarajan21 Sep 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

An in-depth article of abuse that often happens within closed doors and the victim has no visible physical damage. It would take a keen observer of close proximity to the friends or family circle to even suspect it.

Are there any laws that are related to this emotional abuse, are these grounds for divorce and any list of evidence that the poor victim can collect?

Author: Juana15 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

Emotional abuse can be as damaging to the victim's emotional health as physical abuse. The victim lives in constant fear of upsetting the partner. They continuously train their thoughts, words and actions to keep the abuser from becoming abusive. They do not recognise the triggers, yet ensure that they give no reason for the abuse to kick-off.

Emotional abuse may not be grounds for divorce, because it is difficult to prove, and the law perhaps doesn't think of it as reason enough to grant a divorce. Not all victims seek divorce or separation, though most seek ways to end the mental trauma.

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