To The Loved Ones Who’ve Gone Silent

LonelyMan
Over the last few months as I’ve talked with people reeling from the devastation of fractured relationships, those standing beneath the painful fallout of lost and broken friendships, marriages, and family bonds, a simple but tragic truth keeps repeating itself:

Words can be really cruel, but they can’t hold a candle to silence.

The beginnings of the stories I hear every day are often so very different, but they all eventually resolve to the same place; stated or unstated disagreement—and then disconnection.

Once in possession of the disapproval of the choices or words or beliefs of another, the other person chooses not to yell or argue or confront, but simply disappears.

They make no grand exits with impressive speeches, they just quietly slip away and go incommunicado.

Whether those delivering this silence realize it or not, it is frequently the most vicious kind of attack because it makes one person do the work specifically designed to be done by two. 

Not knowing the other’s heart and not having all the information needed, they alone bear the burden of determining whether to repair and rebuild that relationship, or to bury and grieve it.

It is a quiet that kills you; a violence inflicted with distance.

Silence leaves you alone with a massive, devastating, demoralizing space, and then charges you with filling it.

You are forced to write the unspoken dialogue and craft the lost narrative of the old relationship, much like a forensic expert piecing together a complex, deadly story with only blood spatters and bone fragments. There’s just not enough to go by.

Silence gives you far less than you need to work with in order to fill in the gaps and determine the truth and to move ahead.

It is a devastating crime of omission.

Last year, when one of my more controversial blog posts received some widespread readership, two things happened among those close to me who objected to my words: some became very loud (either privately or publicly), while others simply vanished.

Where some engaged, others withdrew.

Whether the latter’s disappearance was an effort to side step conflict or avoid public confrontation, or whether it was a calculated passive aggressive maneuver designed to teach me a lesson or make a point, the result was the same: It severed something that had been meaningful to both me and to them, and then left me alone to figure it out.

I hear that silence.

I notice the quiet.

I see the subtraction.

People always do. 

It’s a message that comes as a profound absence; of social media comments and weekly calls and invitations for dinner, in faraway gazes that avoid your eyes in the grocery store and in kind words that no longer come. 

That is why they write to me—because the silence screams so loudly.

Every single day people rip themselves open to someone they barely know, because someone close to them has ceased speaking and stopped listening.

Whether due to their lifestyle choices or their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs (or lack of them); or for their personal convictions or political views or public statements or past mistakes, the unspoken brutality is strikingly similar.

It leaves in its wake the same gory mess of doubt, guilt, self-hatred, self-harm, and unresolved questions.

It adds something far worse than insult to injury, it adds invisibility. It removes from someone their presence, which was the very food of that relationship.

To those who are starving someone with silence right now, I’m inviting you speak again.

Relationships of value are worth fighting for. They’re worth the difficult exchanges and awkward conversations and heated words needed to try to rescue them.

Love keeps seeking the words that will reach the heart.

Silence in a relationship may indeed be the final outcome, but it should be one arrived at together. It should only come as a mutual surrender reached in a war that proves to have no other resolution.

When it comes to the people who matter to us, it is never good or right to turn a dialogue into a monologue, no matter how much we disagree with them.

To those who’ve gone silent in our lives: We hear it.

We would prefer to hear you.

 

 

65 thoughts on “To The Loved Ones Who’ve Gone Silent

  1. Dear God….you have written the words I have been unable to write. I am going through this very thing, and the silence is deafening. A million unanswered questions. No answers coming. With no answers you are denied a decent closure, so it is always a wound that never fully heals.
    I have likened the silent treatment to a form of psychological abuse, even.
    I pray EVERY SINGLE DAY for at least an answer…something….anything.
    It has been almost 6 weeks now of nothing.
    Thank you for putting it into words.
    Leslie

  2. I appreciate this, however not all silence is bad. I had to withdraw and go silent from my husband’s side of the family to stop exposing myself to their hurtful words and accusations. Unfortunately going silent has only caused them to gossip and speculate on my actions and make sweeping judgements on my silence. I have had to accept that I will not be getting the apology I am owed, that they will not change and I have to protect myself from the anger and rage that has consumed me for the last 14 months. This is where I struggle with the “forgiveness” portion of situations. I don’t like the term “forgiveness” because I do not forgive these people and likely never will as they continue to harm me behind the scenes. My counselor has advised that rather than consider it “forgiveness” to call it “acceptance.” To accept that these people won’t see the error of their ways and will not attempt reconciliation because they consider me to be the enemy. They also have all of their church activities, and Bible studies and religious busyness to fall back on and point to when people like me point out that the emperor has no clothes. I am much less angry than I was, but it’s still there and I struggle everyday with it.

    • I’m sorry you experienced this with your distant relatives. I however think that this article is about people close to us suddenly shutting us out without any explanation or with no information. The Bible in Mathew clearly asks us to confront the person who is sinning against us, anybody else or them selves, in love. If we have told the people who hurt us – that what they are doing is hurting us, then we have done our part. But choosing to ignore people without giving them a chance is just wrong. How else will they know?

      • I like the scripture because if one person is silent, then the other person is silent too. If a part of the relationship needs something from the silent one they need to speak up too as they are just as guilty and it is tragic that they would rather blame the other person .speaking badly to everyone else is even more devastating.

    • Hi Noelle,
      I understand, I really do. My family on my mother’s side used me as a family scape goat for over 30 years because I got pregnant at 19 and chose to give the baby up for adoption because they were too busy judging me according to their Christian values and beliefs to get out of their own way and help. They used my real father against me due to the things he did which caused his marriage with my mother to collaspe, they cut me out of wills to manipulate me into giving into their demands, then when they see that didn’t work they put me back in but siad I was getting way less than every on else because I was using my legally given maiden name when I was single. They refused to accept explainantion that I needed a passport and I had to show my birth cerificate and have the passport in my legal name. They continually reminded me every chance they got of every mistake and misdemenour I had comitted from my teenage years right through to the time I stopped speaking to them. There is so much more to this story than I can fit into this reply. I was voted least likely to suceed in the family and yet I am the only one of four with a degree. For the sake of peace and my mental health I chose to withdraw, yes without fanfare or impressive speeches because that was me accepting that they would always treat me this way and I wanted to be free of the ill treatment. The only regret I had in it all was hanging on to long, for longer than was good for me. I regret not taking this action sooner than I did, 30 plus years is a long time to be ascape goat for any one and all I have done is removed my self from a position they had perpetrated on me.

    • I hear you Noelle; and I agree. I have recently had the very same experience. You can only defend your position so far; and then you have to retreat… into silence, and leave them to battle alone.

    • I withdrew silently from a narsistic mother about 8 years ago due to years and years of her going on and about me having a baby at the age of 19 I gave him up for adoption and she was given opportunities to see him and she always refused saying he was nothing to her. She had remarried when I was very young and demanded I take her new married name. When I was 21 I needed a passport and had to produce my birth certificate with my birth name on it and because she had not taken the correct legal steps to properly change my name when I was young it ment my passport had to be issued in the name on my birth certificate her response to this was I had betrayed her and the family and she did not miss an opportunity in 30 years to punish and put me down for that. No amount of asking or talking or pleading with her ever changed her mind. I wanted an end to all the condemnation and the only way was to quietly walk away and I have never had any regrets and I am no longer under her abuse of me because of these situations. She has never contacted me in all that time or I her and I have had a chance to heal and find peace.

    • I am having the same experience. Over Christmas, my son and his wife attacked me with a number of accusations. It took me by surprise, and I just cried. I have not been able to talk with them since, because
      I no longer feel welcome or safe in their home. My silence is self-protection.

  3. l am personally inspired by what and how you share, John. Just simply well written insight into people behaviourism and everyday topics. Thank you.

  4. John, as a Marriage and Family Therapist for 25 years, this is what happens in at least half of the relationships of the people who come to me for counseling. The other half will fight and argue and both talk, but neither have learned to listen – to really listen to the feelings underneath all the hurtful words.

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  6. So, how do those on the receiving end of silence respond? Do we plow down walls or do we suffer in the silence? It takes two to have a relationship and sometimes one party just expects the other one to carry the load for two. This has been slowly happening in my family with my brother. Our childhood was wonderful and we were so close.

    • When we’re on the receiving end, the only thing we can do is let the other person know that the silence hurts, and give them the opportunity to respond. Once we see their response, we can have clarity on their hearts.

      • What if you do this, you reach out and have that painful conversation with them. They apologize and say they were just busy, and it had nothing to do with you or your coming out to them the last time you spoke before they disappeared. So you fix it, and say you will give them another chance, and hope. And they do it again! So you cut them out, and they message you saying you’re the one throwing away the relationship and have hurt them, and ignore the fact that they left first; you were just the one to make call them out on it. What do you do then? When that relationship feels like it’s not worth saving..

  7. What a powerful piece! I have experienced this silence and finally had to walk away because I could not longer do the work for both of us. It was one of the toughest periods in my life of self doubt.

  8. Sorry John, but you’re really out of line on this one. You’ve just painted everyone who ‘goes silent’ as some mean spirited villain. I am neither. But sometimes when people disagree with you or you with them, they say hurtful things, Vile and ugly things. Sometimes they lack the mental stability to have a decent, rational conversation and the only thing you can do is go silent to keep your sanity and any self-worth. Your post here is EXTREMELY one sided and I respectfully ask you to rethink your judgement, categorizing all the ‘silent ones’ as evil. I do know what it’s like to be the one who always has to do the talking. I also know what it’s like to have to disconnect in order to stop the pain. Don’t judge me (I get enough of that every time I post something, ‘like’ something, breathe!)

    • I don’t call anyone evil and I don’t say that people who are damage shouldn’t avoid those who are damaging them. The perspective of the piece is clearly from someone who has been left in silence by someone who simply stopped communicating. I thought that was clear by my own example of those who became silent with me.

      Sorry if that isn’t the message you received.

      • You used the words “brutality”, “devastating crime”, “vicious attack”, among others, to describe the action of going silent. There are two sides to every story – you told only one but painted the other side very harshly. People stop talking for a lot of reasons. It’s very rarely that cut-and-dried, my friend.
        Going back to my silence now, it hurts less there.

        • Yes, those all describe the feeling of the person being excluded, not necessarily the intent of the person delivering it.

          I’m sorry you missed the heart of the piece as intended, but that happens with words. They, like people aren’t perfect.

      • Reject. I think John is talking about a phenomenon known to clinical psychologists as “passive aggression.” Passive aggression is a form of conscious or unconcious aggression where “not doing things” is used as a weapon.

    • I completely understand your perspective on this . . . . BUT having also been on the receiving end of silence and eventually finding that in order to survive I had to be the one to “disappear,” I think that the intent of this piece was specifically to let people know how hurtful it is when one person in a relationship uses silence as a weapon.

      Two very different manifestations of “silence.” One is defensive (I remove myself from a verbally / physically abusive relationship which, of necessity, results in “silence”) and the other, aggressively and purposefully destructive to the relationship, when “silence” is used to manipulate, control, and ultimately cause heart break and destruction, with no effort made or interest in restoring the relationship and resolving the differences.

      I lived with that kind of destructive silence for 25 years, continually searching for ways to figure out what I was doing “wrong,” only to discover that there was no interest in the heart of the other person to work on the relationship. So, after being wounded by “silence” for so long, I eventually had to “disappear” in order to survive.

      So, yes there are two sides of the “silence” issue, and this piece I think did an excellent job of addressing how destructive “silence” can be and how it can be used as a weapon for wounding. It was not talking about how some of us must resort to “silence” simply to survive. That’s a topic for the next blog post! ;o)

      • This is so wise.

        About a year ago, I had lost several nights of sleep worrying about family comments on my Facebook. Long story short, it should not have been a big deal, it may seem, but I loved them and I valued the things they had to say and believed about me.

        My final decision to choose ‘silence’ on social media with them, was that I came to realize we were not ‘friends’ in real life. My eagerness to build relationships with them in person over the years, was met with….well….nothing. Silence, you could say. I was so heartbroken over my own decision until I realized that my silence was a response to theirs. I was tired of reaching out in the void only to be rejected and shamed for my decisions and my personhood.

        I have felt sorrowful (and shame) about quietly withdrawing from my own family (though I only withdrew from them on social media). My mother was so upset and made sure I knew that I was being terrible to her brothers and sisters. “You know….you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. I wish I had been able to articulate at the time that the difference is: silence as a method of manipulation versus silence as a method of survival/defense. Mine was the latter.

    • I agree. Sometimes when you are falsely accused of things you would never do, have slurs thrown at You for your body build (which is thanks to heredity), you have no pride in yourself if you don’t wear makeup but you’ve done your best to explain the cost of wearing makeup of anykind makes it to where in the matter of a few hours you can’t open your eyes and for the next week they feel as though they have had sand pored into them. Your children are given a colorbook and crayons as a gift where as their cousins recieve REALLY NICE GIFTS, your asked to take pictures for a wedding yet everytime you snap a photo (free of charge) you catch a nasty remark and dirty looks, you freely give to these of your resources but in turn have to pay money for something your child could use ( the same people you’ve given any thing from help, clothes, to furniture) freely, You’ve just miscarried a baby and told you can’t do anything because your still pregnant and may loose the other baby ( but your asked to keep your nephews 2 and four so Grandma can be at the hospital for ??? while the childrens mom delivers a healthy baby, yet no words of sorrow, sypathy or understanding for your own loss or possible loss. You can forgive and not hate the people huting you but there comes a time when all the pain comes crashing in. And the only resource you have to keep from crumbling is to pull away to preserve yourself. .. Yet when need arises you pour yourself out yet still you are rejected and slighted because you don’t measure up to their expectations. The only thing you can do is talk with the Lord leave it at the thrown and allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart to help you keep from being hurt and becoming bitter.

  9. I have gone silent because no amount of pleading and sharing of feelings could make my friend see or understand what I’m going through. My father passed away of cancer 2 months ago. Through this experience I have discovered who truly cares for me and my family. My friend has proven to be a self-centured, childish and an unsympathetic person. I have been broken and now see that our friendship perhaps never was that deep. I fear that she maybe overmedicated. Which may account for her narcissistic and unfeeling bahavior. But i have a mother, a sister, a husband, 3 kids to hold and carry. And console. And i no longer have the time, energy or want to carry this friendship any further. I have expressed my feelings and my intention through emails. I have even asked if we could mutually move in different directions. But her emails are about her refusing to read mine they almost seem like the rantings of a crazy person. I did not leave her wondering. She is fully aware of the why’s she would just need to read them. I have completely blocked her. We had similiar upbringings, our fathers have had challenging health issues all our lives. I thought she would be the one who was there for me. But i see now she can’t be that. And i am ok with this. I am mourning the death of my Father and also the end of a friendship, or at least what I thought was a friendship.

    • I’m going through something similar with my only sibling. Someone I once thought of as my best friend. He would not, could not hear me – and in fact demanded that I meet him on his terms. The pain was/is great. I had to walk away.

  10. After 20+ years of trying to explain and having my words twisted and jumped on, I myself have descended into silence; and along with it a kind of peace. Talking will come later after some well needed healing and rest has occurred.

  11. This is certainly the perspective of my parents. They tell everyone about how vicious and evil spirited I am. My grandmother wants to know when I will do as the Lord says and forgive whatever this meaningless grudge is, so that I can stop punishing them.

    The door is shut because I needed to live. The door is shut because smiling people who just happen to be expertly wielding knives with their words cannot come through it again.

    When the other side stops talking, the relationship is dead. Stop pounding on the door. Stop treating it as a brutal assault. Grieve the death if you feel like it, but move on.

  12. Silence is also a way to make people realize what it is like to be on the receiving end of the crap being said to them. I am silent with the vast majority of my family and am more than okay with it. It is my way of protesting their treatment of me.

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  14. The silence…….is so LOUD. It speaks volumes. I hear….I’m no longer in love with you, you have no value to me anymore, you’re not worth the effort, etc. It is so painful. Words cannot even begin to describe the pain that I carry now. I’m so tired. Weary of carrying the load. I didn’t do anything….just loved him for 28 years. Now……I’m silent as well. Tired of fighting for my marriage all alone. Tired of the silent sobs that I hold back.

    • Kelly . . . I could write these exact words . . . except for me it has been 33 years.

      I am going to email this piece to him this week (the day after he has a job interview). I am going to add:

      Silence.
      Silence is deafening . . . it screams at me that you don’t care.
      Silence is defining . . . it defines our relationship for the past 6 years.

      “Relationships of value are worth fighting for.
      They’re worth the difficult exchanges and awkward conversations
      and heated words needed to try to rescue them.
      Love keeps seeking the words that will reach the heart.”

      I am losing my words . . . silence is covering my heart.

      I am losing my strength to keep fighting,
      for a relationship that doesn’t want me to fight for it any longer . . .

  15. I would respectfully submit that the right to withdraw is absolute. Silence is the last “no”. Whether it is the man who will no longer engage in painful conflict or the woman who simply cannot get her boundaries respected, the right to disengage is as absolute as any other right to say “NO”.

    And while I agree, in that being the recipient of silence may be painful, I also submit that much of why silence is painful is because no, that listener to that silence must hear whatever is in their own head. If the silence is painful enough to notice, then why did you not care BEFORE it was quiet?

    Odd how the eloquent silence captures the attention in a way that no other word or sigh or sob can.

  16. I think many of the responders are overlooking the last part of your “sermon”:

    “Silence in a relationship may indeed be the final outcome, but it should be one arrived at together. It should only come as a mutual surrender reached in a war that proves to have no other resolution.”

    My story is my wife walked out of my life on Thanksgiving day, 27 years ago, taking our 15 year old daughter with her. She filed for divorce, using sheriff deputies to deliver the court summons. I never heard another word from her, no explanation as to why, nothing. Her attorney did all the talking, telling my attorney that my 15 year old daughter was pregnant by a 19 year old man. My wife arranged for them to get married so I couldn’t file statutory rape charges against him. It happened that after the divorce life went horribly bad for my ex-wife, but life went miraculously well for me. But, for 27 years I have heard nothing, not one word, from my daughter. I’m left to speculate that she is honoring a demand from her mother to punish me this way because of the way our lives went after the divorce, even though my ex is the one who initiated it. Friends and Pastors tried in vain to get my ex to at least tell me why she did what she did and to open some communication path with my daughter. Nothing. She even cut off communication with them if she found out they were speaking with me. I tried for about 10 years to talk to my daughter with birthday and Christmas cards and gifts. For all I know they were thrown in the trash before they were opened. I finally just stopped trying.

    “Words can be really cruel, but they can’t hold a candle to silence.” This went straight to my heart. I cannot describe the pain the silence has caused me over the years. I suppose it is mission accomplished for my ex. What a cruel thing for someone to do.

  17. For all of you who have had a loved one go silent on you or against you—and it just does not make any sense to you at all—take a look at the blog post at the URL below. It was written by a former life-long pastor (now retired) in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Church. He left because they were just plain nuts, which I believe they are. Unfortunately, he decided to perform the last act that the fundie system requires of all who have become disenchanted with the system—become an atheist. In other words, he rebelled poorly and compliantly. Fundie pastors love it when they become atheists so they can snicker and be sure they are going to Hell. Always remember this if you decide to leave Christian fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism, never give your former pastor and his associates that snide and conceited sort of satisfaction—or that snicker. Declare your love for Jesus Christ and then really piss them off by joining a mainline denomination church or becoming a Roman Catholic—or maybe Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, or Russian Orthodox. This will take the snicker away, and it will be like pouring strong acid into an open wound. Here is the URL:

    http://brucegerencser.net/2015/04/the-official-independent-baptist-rulebook/#comments

    • A friend just shared this with me. It knocked the wind right out of my sails. It’s been over 3 years since someone deliberately walked out of my life and imposed a deep and relentless “form of silence” on me. It was particularly painful because it was a sacred friendship in which so much depth and heart had been exposed. I cannot tell you how painful it was, nor how devastating the aftermath of it was. It took close to 2 years for me to heal completely. You have written here exactly- exactly- how I felt and I wish I could have read these words then bc I felt so alone and like nothing so terrible had ever happened to anyone before. I believed that deep down there must have been something so awful that I had done to deserve this, but the truth is it was all about the other person and none of it was about me at all. I had been a loving and faithful friend. I did not deserve how I was treated- and the person who did this to me would tell you the same thing. But that changes nothing. The good news is that the dark night of this experience has forever changed me. What does not kill us serves to deepen our compassion. This has been a deep truth I have learned from imposed silence.

      • Dear Melissa, I am so very sorry that you have experienced this. You are right, it is a passive aggressive stance by the other person. Silence in relationships is deadly and toxic. I hope that you are doing much better now. Lisa

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  19. The comments reflect that there’s as many different types of silence as their are reasons for it. Mine comes in a season of grief.

    My best friend died in a car accident coming up on 2 years ago. These have been the hardest, locust-eaten years of my life. Harder than family estrangement. Harder than my divorce. I heard all the condolences. Read all the social media posts from people who were “Thinking of me” and “praying for me”. I am emerging from my grief to a world of silence and loneliness. The vibrant world that was is no more. The people who I thought would be there for me “come hell or high water” (as my grandparents would say) never came. And I have had neither the energy nor the desire to chase.

    I have been the lost sheep and have not been found. I have been the “least of these” without a benefactor. My silence has not been one of spite or retribution, but of unspeakable loss. I have literally been without the words to reach out, except to the handful who on occasion drag the words out of me.

    I also know that I am not alone in the way I feel. My friend who died didn’t choose to hurt me. Just as I didn’t choose this season of grief. It is the price we pay for love. I understand that there are many valid reasons for being silent. Please remember that loss is also one of them.

    I read this article and wonder if on top of my grief, I now have to worry that I have wronged others by my silence. I would hope that people who sincerely love me would breach the distance and reach out to me. So many have not. The silence cuts both ways.

  20. Sadly, I’ve gone silent before. And it was also devastating for me. Stepping away from the relationship without having your say, having the closure, having one last, “I really do love you so”, is really, really difficult. But, sometimes you have to. When you have an abusive parent, sometimes you must simply vanish. When a friendship you made in childhood begins to sour because that person changes from your elementary school buddy to a violent, aggressive person, sometimes you simply must vanish (or risk your own safety and the safety of your family). Do people go silent for reasons less extreme than the examples I gave? Yes. Frequently. And yes, it hurts. (I’ve been on the receiving end of it.) But, I will never regret excusing myself the abuse I’d have endured from certain individuals had we come to the end of the relationship “together”.

  21. This blog post appeared on my FB timeline this morning and the timing of your choice to re-post something you wrote on April 6, 2015 was clearly God’s timing for our family. Without going into unnecessary detail about our own circumstances and experiences with the ‘silence’ you describe so aptly, I want to thank you for breaking the silence on behalf of those who ‘suffer’ due to the choice of another to ‘go silent’ with no explanation. Your words from April 6 brought comfort to us on August 16. We may never know why others choose to disappear, but we know we aren’t alone in the confusion, frustration, sadness, disappointment, grief and unanswered questions about “WHY?”.

    I share this as someone who has chosen to ‘go silent’, but ONLY after multiple attempts to at least have a dialogue and ONLY after making my reasons clear for choosing silence. I didn’t choose silence because I wanted to end the relationship with others, I chose silence because distance and disconnect were the best choice I could make at the time (for myself and for our family).

    At times, silence CAN be the best choice. It can take the form of precious solitude that provides space for weary hearts/minds to draw closer to the Lord. When silence is forced into a relationship, the opposite is true. The ‘space’ created by the one who goes silent is a gaping black hole that we have to fight not to be drawn into the vortex of – because if we enter into the darkness we are allowing another person’s choices to control us.

  22. John, when I post articles that my church family doesn’t agree with the silence is deafening. The silence hurts, and as a result I become angry. I know that hate can grow from anger. How do you control those feelings? I know you receive too many questions to respond to each one, but maybe you could write about dealing with the ugly emotions that come from hurt and anger. Thanks, John!

  23. There is no way to adequately explain the pain of this, though you have done an admirable job. I wish I could send your words here to the spiritual teacher and mentor who no longer speaks to me. Three years of deafening silence and in the face of such vulnerability which only happens when we open our souls to another- it felt like being beaten and left for dead. I could have written this piece several years ago if I could have dredged up the energy to do so. Mostly all I could do was weep. The good news is that deep inner work does bring healing. It takes a long time and a great deal of intentional internal silence which is where God works in secret in us. I’m whole now. And grateful. Still- reading your words reminded me that it is still possible to recall that pain rather vividly.

  24. I’ve experienced that abusive sort of silence described here. It was used as a message of disapproval, always without warning. It as if I’d be shoved in front a a train of sorrow from someone that found me completely expendable. The silent treatment offender consistently reappeared when she wanted something, needed something or other friends were unavailable. 6 weeks or 6 months of no contact, she returned with no explanation usually in need. I became jumpy overtime, knowing the inevitable silence would occur if I shared a truth, a belief, a politic objected too without words. The last disconnect, was so shattering that I decided it really was the last one.
    When I went silent to protect myself from the emotional assaults that occurred when I was most vulnerable I did so with very clear explanation. I respectfully laid out the reasons I could no longer tolerate the abusive aspects of the relationship and made it clear, that I took the last episode of silence as the last one. I made it clear that it was self protection from someone that never expressed interest in equality or changing the dynamic of relationship that involved
    I received no apology for years of the unacceptable behavior, no attempts at humbly trying to restore, and that was the clarity I needed. The relationship was not worth fighting for. Sometimes silence is the best choice, but with the human decency of explaining why so that closure can happen. It is said, the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is indifference. Aggressive silence is the ultimate expression of indifference

  25. The silent treatment is very much a form of violence that inflicts tremendous pain and suffering. This is even true when the person on the receiving end really has done something wrong that they have to atone for. I was recently in this situation. I said some harsh, critical judgmental things to a friend when she was going through a difficult time. What I was did was indefensible, and I will never do it ever again. I felt very guilty and ashamed about hurting her by what I did, and I sent a long apology letter. The response: more silence. I can honestly say I did everything I could possibly do to make amends for what I did, but I just got more judgment, not only from her, but from mutual friends of ours, one of whom has now disowned me for my actions. And now, when we cross paths, she won’t make eye contact, she won’t say hello or speak to me, and she removes herself as far away from me as possible. It definitely caused me tremendous pain and suffering to be treated like this, and while my original action was bad, the response seems even worse. It was emotionally devastating, without doubt. I hardly think it was so for her, her being the one in control. In my opinion, the only time in which the silent treatment is called for is in situations where the other person is threatening your life or safety, is harassing you repeatedly, or being repeatedly hurtful to you and refusing to repent.

  26. There is evil in this world. When people treat other people with cruelty, and silent treatment most certainly is cruelty, it is a bullying technique, this is evil at work. When people scream and shout, that is evil at work. We should be able to discuss in civil terms and with gentle voice matters of disagreement. So either extreme, silence or shouting, it is evil at work.”Our Father Who Art in Heaven…Deliver Us From Evil…Amen”

  27. Thank you for the absolutely perfect timing of this post. I have been ghosted for the past 3 months by a lifelong friend because I refused to bend my principles to make his life easier.

    I had nightmares about it every single night up until last week when I finally realized I am mourning a person who hasn’t existed in a few years.

  28. I was ghosted, then dumped, by my ex. I didn’t see it coming. We’d been having issues, but I thought we were working through them. I’d bought a ring to propose with. That was when they disappeared. They didn’t know about the ring; I never had a chance to say anything about it. I’d handled many things badly in ending a previous relationship, and my fear of rejection caused me to delay, and leave things unsaid when I ought to have spoken up. Three weeks later I was told it never would have worked anyway. That was the week before Christmas. I found out later that they had all along had reservations about our relationship, and had already begun seeing someone else. They broke off all communication until six months later, when I was notified where to get my belongings. I’d already grieved my things (my Grandmother’s rosary, my books, houseplants, clothes), thinking them gone. That was almost two years ago. They married the person they left me for. They had told me all along that they cared for me, and knowing my history with previous relationships, said they would never cut out on me completely, until they did exactly that. I went from thinking I had a home, and a future, to having neither. Mutual friends picked their side, and my support network all but evaporated. I thought I was finally making some headway until I was defriended on a social media platform a couple of weeks ago, which yanked the band-aid off. I thought there was something wrong with me for not being able to move past this, but I’ve been doing all the emotional work that ought to have been shared. No wonder this has been so hard. I’m grateful to you for writing this article, Mr. Pavlovitz.
    I never even got my houseplants back.

  29. How do you write a letter to someone that has gone silent? He asked for space admitted he was being selfish said I do love you and we will speak again soon I promise. It’s been over 2 months now. He’s signed off of social media and I wrote a few times just letting him know I’m here and I hope he’s ok. Nothing.

  30. Distancing myself and silence was needed for my own self preservation. I needed to think of myself which is something that I rarely do. It was causing me stress, anxiety and turning in to real health issues. I think God would want me to take care of myself. I can’t compromise my morals and values….if I do then I am just like them and no better. I refuse to do that. I will not stand next to racist family nor those that can turn a blind eye to hate filled rhetoric that has divided us. My eyes see no color, no religion, no sexual orientation, no gender, no ethnicity but my eyes do see racism, misogyny, morality and humanity. I can’t be part of a family that will look the other way. I am flawed like most …but I know God loves me. Thanks for all your posts. I feel that it is a safe place for me to be.

  31. I don’t think it’s passive aggressive behavior, or a way to rob someone of their closure, or necessarily selfish. Some people leave you no choice but to walk away. And those who walk away, it’s because we know there won’t be a two sided discussion. We don’t walk away from people who are capable of discussion. We walk away from people who aren’t.

    I have always given people a chance. I loved my father when he verbally abused my mom, for decades, by relentlessly ridiculing her as stupid, slow, fat, last to get the joke, a waste of space, dumb housewife, dumb worthless stay at home mom. He was the life of the party, and his every joke and story fed his ego, usually at the expense of my mother or other women, and then me. He ruled the house with an authoritarian iron fist. I was terrified of him, but I was taught that I was powerless, which is the trick of an abuser. My dad fully funded Ivy League college for my brother, and then showed me which loans I could get. But no matter, they constantly undermined my ability to value myself and my intelligence, and I didn’t have enough self worth to notice. But I tried desperately to get them to be proud of me because I loved them. My mom was ridiculed for so long that his words became a self fulfilling prophecy, and her behavior became the same as his. Still, I loved them.

    But everything to them is zero-sum. They thought the liberals were conspiring against their way of life. “The Blacks”, “The Feminazis” and “The Gays” are threats. All of the worst conservative stereotypes they bought into, loudly. You are either with them or you are against them. The anger and rage inside of them made them extremely difficult for me to be around them.

    Fast forward to today. I am a successful consultant, with two daughters (one with autism), and a husband living a happy life. I am a marathoner. We are an interracial family and my daughters have two aunts who are married to each other. Naturally, we tend to be liberal minded.

    Fast forward to Donald Trump. He opened his mouth and I heard the words of my abuser. Just like him. I know the damage that an authoritarian who speaks like him and acts like him can do to a family. What he can do to the country is terrifying. Not to mention how personal this is. This election was between an even tempered, confident, pragmatic woman (who I look up to), and a man who reminds me of my abuser. And my abuser won.

    Of course, my parents love Trump. They don’t care about the IDEA that helps my child, or the LGBT protections that help my sisters in law. They are smugly gloating that they can now be free to call them “The Gays” again. They voted for people to have the right to call my daughter a “retard”.

    A phone call to discuss this would go nowhere. Zero sum people don’t see gray area. They don’t empathize normally. The conversation wouldn’t go two ways.

    Within 2 weeks after the election, after we didn’t call for two weeks, we were sent threatening hateful emails. You dishonor us. Send us everything you have that is ours. You dishonor us. You and your kids are disinherited. In just two weeks of silence, we were written off.

    If the relationship history is abusive (whether verbally or physically), or dynfunctional, and there is absolutely no getting through to the other person, there’s no choice. There aren’t two sides to a conversation when one side is incapable of communicating. Walking away has made me very sad, but also very free. Sadly.

  32. Thanks for putting into words one of the most painful and baffling situations I’ve ever experienced.

    I make myself crazy wondering what I did, or didn’t do. When someone quits talking to you or the infrequent times when they do they say “everything’s fine”, it doesn’t leave room to really talk about what’s going on.

    Meanwhile the days turn into weeks and months and years and I’m missing being a part of their lives. It’s hard to talk about because the general assumption is that relationships are a two-way street, which is usually true–except in this situation when you feel you’ve done everything you can to leave the door open and you still get radio silence. It’s hard not to feel judged that certainly there must be something you did, a part you played that you’re not owning up to.

    I wish it was that easy and I could be told what it was I did. But I’ve got nothing to work with.

    Thankfully I have very supportive friends who have assured me I’m doing the right things and “it’s not you”.

    I wish I knew what happened.

  33. People are too quick to commit to a relationship. They jump into deep water without looking for rocks below the surface, a life vest in case the boat sinks and with sublime disregard for the fact that they themselves are not ready for the responsibility, work and effort that it takes to enter into such a commitment. There needs to be a LOT more thought, contemplation and talk UP FRONT before getting into a relationship. Those who don’t do this before the beginning of a new relationship are in peril. All of that which should have been clarified at the start must be worked through after-the-fact…. when all of the time, heartache and tears spent in this doomed relationship comes to the end of its inevitable short lifespan. There is no such thing as having “luck” finding a good relationship. It is all hard work – done by both parties together – that has paid off for all involved. The only difference between a good business working relationship and a good personal relationship is hormones. Would you ever deliberately go into business with a bankrupt company?

  34. This piece was shared by a friend online and I knew I had to read it. I am not the victim of silence, but rather a master tailor of it. I have withdrawn silently from every close friendship I’ve ever had. While I know how hurtful it can be, I hope that I may be able to offer some closure or understanding for why some of your loved ones have done this. Often when I was younger and I felt wounded by a friend I would withdraw from them and just disconnect entirely. It is not that I no longer valued our relationship or even that I was avoiding conflict (I’m not a passive-aggressive person) I simply knew that the problem was with me, and me alone. I knew that the wounding I felt was from my own insecurities and that in reality the other person had not really done anything wrong, but the wound was felt none the less. So I was ashamed of my hurt, and rather than talk to them about it I ran away, like a coward. I wish I could tell you I have changed, or that I have advice for how to deal with someone like this. But sadly I have not, and I do not. Only understanding for those who suffer.

  35. I have been no contact with my family for about 4 years now. My mom was horrible to me growing up. She punished me for the slightest infraction by not speaking to me for weeks on end. When I was 14 she was angered because I lied to avoid going to the dentist and she disowned me. She pretended I didn’t even exist. She told me it was permanent but then thought better of it and recanted her statement after two weeks. I was actually sad she wanted to parent me again because it was actually better to be invisible. My father and grandparents knew it was happening and went along with it. When my adult half brother came home to live she showed me that she truly loved him. Comforted him when he cried, did things for him to show him she cared. I never got that. What I got instead was the truth that my father’s mother told her to abort me because I would make them poor. If I put a toe out of line she always threatened to sell my horse -the only thing I loved and her hold over me. I found my husband and moved out. We bought a nice little mini farm. She wanted me to kick my husband out and let her and my father move in so she could give her house to my half brother. She threatened to disown me again and I just knew I couldn’t take it any more. I couldn’t keep a relationship with those people, it was soul crushing. When she came over to my house to “set me straight” I just let loose with all of the anger over all of the wrongs from all the years and told them I was done and said goodbye. Life is better now.

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