In the post about relationships after narcissistic childhood, I mentioned that acons (adult children of narcissistic parents) often have dramatic and somewhat toxic relationships. This time I want to talk a little bit more about silent treatment.
Both my mother and my boyfriend have used silent treatment on me. I hardly ever used any silent treatment (I usually get anxious after a fight). I find silent treatment to be one of the most disturbing ways of relating in the relationship. If someone refuses to answer your messages after the fight, does nothing to get back to you or even shares the roof with you, but refuses to communicate, they are manipulating you. I cannot express it any other way, it is a power struggle. They are testing you out, seeking reconsolidation on their terms. Tapping on your fear of abandonment, they push you to the point where you are willing to apologize even if you did nothing wrong.
My mother was great on silent treatment. She could go days without talking to me, showing me how I had misbehaved. Such silent treatments always ended up with me apologizing. My boyfriend’s habit to use silent treatment obviously freaked me out. When we were still not living together he had a habit of disappearing after our fights. Never did he initiate contact first and he often did not even bother to respond to my messages. I can only read out of this that he was not particularly afraid that I might leave and must have not cared much for my feelings at this point. He later started using this also as a blackmailing strategy, trying to get me to apologize after our fights. Sometimes he would never express openly what he was mad about, but just let me guess, what I had done this time to anger him.
At this point my boyfriend has almost stopped silent treatment, so has my mother funnily. You know what helped? You either walk away yourself from them using silent treatment or you carry on with your life as usual. If your boyfriend does not answer to your calls, you stop calling. You ignore him as well and wait for him to come back at you. Granted, if you have big abandonment fears, this is not an easy strategy, but I think after years of practicing I have it down. See, the relationship for people who use strategies such as silent treatment, is about power. They want to control you enough, so that you would stop bringing up unpleasant issues, stop behaving in a certain way etc etc. When you demonstrate that they do not have this kind of power over you and their silent treatment will change nothing in your behavior nor will stop you bringing up issues they feel uncomfortable about, they will realize that this is a pointless strategy. Reasoning with people who use silent treatment is in my experience a pointless activity, since often these are the people who cannot take criticism to begin with. So if someone is trying to blackmail you by ignoring you, ignore back. Show them that their approval and presence is not that important that you would back down from your principles.