Thursday

How to spot signs of a nonverbally abusive relationship

Tips on Handling the Silent Treatment

We have all heard about physical abuse where one hurts another by choking, slapping, hitting, and shoving. We also have heard about emotional abuse where one belittles another through name calling, withdrawing from intimacy, forgetting important dates, lying, cheating, etc. Well nonverbal abuse falls under the category of Psychological or Emotional Abuse as well. This type of abuse is defined as anguish, pain and distress through the use of nonverbal acts. For the purpose of this article we will focus only on the nonverbal acts the abuser uses in a relationship. There is no pushing, shoving, belittling, or name-calling. Instead, the abuser uses silence to control, manipulate, frustrate, anger, and confuse. What is interesting about the one who is using the silent treatment, he or she isn’t always aware that they are doing it which makes it even more challenging to draw his or her attention to the problem.
 
So how do you feel about them treating you this way? Most likely, angry because you may have thought they had forgiven you of past issues; yet, they are still punishing you by not speaking. You may also feel jealous, bitter and maybe even insecure in the relationship because you have noticed how they come alive around others and seem very happy, but with you they are cold and distant. You may be frustrated because one day they are open with you and the next five they are closed. Confusion seems to be a popular feeling with you these days because you can’t seem to figure out if they are upset with you, someone or something else. How do you know which when they don’t confide in you? All of these feelings mixed together make you resent having ever met him or her which adds guilt to your resume of feelings since you don’t want to feel this way, but you can’t help it! These days you want out of the relationship moreso than staying in it!
 
No matter the conversation you try to engage them in, they say very few words or maybe none at all. He or she goes throughout the day “with a speak when spoken to” attitude. It’s as if he or she is ignoring you-- which most likely that is the case. When you attempt to make plans with them they seem bothered, in fact, irritated with your request.
  
When there is a conflict that you want to bring to their attention whether it involves the in-laws, a misplaced item, something they have said or done that was unacceptable, they are very good at denying your memory, perceptions or sanity. They may say, “I don’t remember saying that…I don’t know what you are talking about…that’s not what I heard…my mother didn’t say that…” They avoid any further conversation on the matter by not listening or giving you the silent treatment.
 
The silently abusive lover surrounds his or herself with the following: household projects that they may drag out all day and night, an exaggerated preoccupation with the children such as tending to them when they don’t need to be tended to, spending hours on the phone or outside the home with relatives and friends (sometimes without you knowing about it,) or making plans to attend events without speaking to you about them until the last minute (knowing that you won’t have time to get ready.) The busier they are the less opportunity to talk and when there are fewer chances to talk, they know less questions will be asked (particularly if he or she has something to hide.)

He or she may not realize they are hurting you. How could they anyway? Since they have built a fortress around themselves that they can’t see out of? They have enough issues going on inside their mind, so to come out of his or her world to see how he or she might be affecting you, may be a bit of a chore. It’s too much work for them to solve their own problems, let alone examine yours. So where did this silent treatment behavior come from? Like so many self-help books preach, childhood. His or her parents were emotionally abusive to them in many ways, so they took what they learned from mom and dad and applied it to their intimate relationships. Your partner may have a long list of broken hearted girlfriends, boyfriends, or spouses as a result of his or her behavior.

The emotionally abused child an adult had been was often ignored by their parents and when he or she reached out to an adult, they were told to “Go over there and sit down and play! Stay in a child’s place! You know I don’t play games.” They experienced rejection when they needed an adult most, “Don’t you see I am trying to watch TV? What are you crying for now? No I don’t want to hug. You know not to kiss me.” Isolated when the child wanted to socialize with other family members or peers, “No you aren’t going to your cousin’s house so quit asking. You’re not going to anyone’s house! I don’t want you going to church with them. No your friend can’t stay over our house.” The child is also exploited or corrupted by adults such as encouraging them to steal, lie, perform sexual acts, etc. “Hide this for me. Don’t tell anyone. Say I’m not here. Do it and I will give you some candy.” The parent verbally assaults them by name-calling, belittling, shaming ridiculing, or threatening the child, “You are so stupid, no wonder the kids in school don’t like you. Look at that big nose, you definitely got that from your mother’s side of the family. You didn’t get that dark skin from us. You have such big bumps on your face, do us a favor don’t take any ugly school pictures, okay?” The parent may terrorize the child by bullying that may include putting them in a dangerous or chaotic situation or placing rigid or unrealistic expectations on a child such as telling them, “I expect you to get straight As or else! Don’t bring another bad grade in this house or I will beat you!” Some parents will neglect proper medical treatment for a child by saying, “My child is just acting like most children who lost a parent, he doesn’t need any mental therapy. That doesn’t hurt that bad…I’m not taking you to the hospital I have enough bills!”
 
So now this emotionally scarred child is now a full grown emotionally scarred adult who is acting in similar ways toward you. He or she is ignoring you, withdrawing from you, taking out their anger on the children, or spending long hours, days or maybe weeks away from home.
 
So you have this problem with the way he or she acts toward you (and the family) and you would like to talk to him or her about it? You will need to know how to engage them in conversation at the right place at the right time as well as other ways to communicate how you feel. Be prepared to have your work cut out for you. People, who are nonverbal, are skilled at distraction. They know how to divert themselves away from situations that may appear to be problematic. “Oh no, she wants to talk, better turn on the TV, better yet where are my headphones? I could get Tommy ready for bed and stay in his room until he falls asleep,” he tells himself. Meanwhile, you are thinking of what you are going to say and when you are going to say it and it is obvious that if you attempt to do anything now he or she won’t be listening.
 
Women who are not physically abusive and don’t play the silent treatment game will excessively converse about insignificant matters to avoid the significant ones. Although this isn’t extreme behavior it can be frustrating to her partner who is trying to communicate with her about serious topics that she rather put off. Suddenly she wants to talk about everything to avoid accusations or questions. The best way to handle the emotionally abusive mate is allow your actions to speak louder than your words similar to how they treat you minus the abuse.
 
You may have already communicated your feelings about various issues with your partner; however, if you haven’t already; no matter how quiet they are, do it anyway! They are listening whether they acknowledge you or not. Then follow up what you say with action. When your self-centered partner sees you mean what you say, they will begin to see that their inaction is having a profound impact on the relationship, and if they care about you –even a little bit—they will start to behave differently. He or she may tell you about his or her day at work when asked, they may want to know how you have been, and they may share something they have read or watched on TV – even though it isn’t much it’s a start. Welcome the conversation big or small and let them dominate it from time-to-time, they may open up more! It takes time for them to come out of their shell, just like it took time for you to notice they were in a shell.
 
One of the biggest mistakes people do in relationships is center their world around their mates. You have a life too! If you choose to stay in this relationship, you will need to focus on yourself as well. The following are some ways you can get back in touch with you.

First ask yourself, what are your goals and needs? Join a network of people who may be able to assist you with your aspirations or take up a hobby. This allows you some time to focus more on you and less on your partner.

Second, have a faith! You will need one when you are dealing with someone else’s childhood baggage. They may have never had anyone pray for the things they are battling with on the inside.

Third, reconnect with family and friends who may have accused you of not having time for them, because you have been so stressed with your mate.

Fourth, establish new friendships when you feel you are no longer able to benefit from the old ones. New relationships help you revaluate your wants and desires in life and offer a fresh perspective.

Fifth, if you have decided to end your relationship, avoid starting any new ones until you have assessed how much this person has negatively impacted you. The last thing you want to do is bring your old baggage into a new relationship. Also, this is a valuable time for you to create the kind of life for yourself you always wanted.

Sixth, if you don’t have any children with this person, keep it that way! Protect yourself from any unwanted pregnancy, chances are he or she may know that they are just not equipped mentally to handle the demands of childrearing. Don’t pressure them either to have children or to become pregnant again after losing one (if you have a faith you know this is God’s way of telling you, “No, not now.”)

Seventh, learn as much as you can about your mate and question what you do not understand. Sometimes people have habits or make statements that hurt others and they continue to do it, because people don’t bother to hold them accountable.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t be his or her counselor unless you are prepared to deal with a future break-up. Just as therapist and patient relationships end, yours will too if you change your role of partner to psychologist. Don’t put yourself in that position; instead, let he or she get their own help while you get yours. 

In the meantime, you can educate yourself on why he or she acts the way they do. You can call their attention to actions they may be doing that hurt you or the children. Talk to family members and friends about childhood stories (as they come up) by sharing a few of your own, so that you can get further understanding about your partner (mainly if you have children.) Read books about people who behave similar to he or she. Most of all, prepare to make a decision on whether you will be able to accept them just the way they are or will you have to move on in life without them?

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