I am 28 years old and have been very much in love with my guy for six months now. He is a little younger than me, very handsome, and cultured – and we have a great time together. My problem is that we argue very often and most of the time I cannot understand what I am doing wrong. For two days we are fine and the next, crap. He gets angry, makes faces at me, and does not explain to me at that moment what exactly is happening. After I have begged him a lot, cried, and threatened to leave him, then he agrees to break his silence and tell me what is wrong. Most of the time he is bothered by things I cannot even imagine, such as something I said and he misunderstood or something that made him jealous. The questions I have are: Why does he do this and what can I do to stop it? I really want to be with him and really when we are fine, he is very tender and generous, a totally different person.
When a man chooses silence to communicate to his partner his discomfort, anger, or frustration, he is actually choosing a form of punishment, believing that the recipient of this behavior deserves it. The message that the one who is silent wants to convey is that he feels hurt or wronged for something the other did or did not do, for something he said or did not say, so he chooses to coexist with him as if he does not exist, or as if they do not exist between their feelings of love, in short, hurts her with silence because he thinks she deserves it. The other, the recipient of silence must somehow understand the “mistake” she made – despite getting no information about it – and “atone for it.”
Behind this “silent treatment” is the intention to manipulate his partner, so that she does not repeat what bothered him and, of course, he counts on the weakness that the other has for him. In fact, he states that he does not want to change anything in his behavior, that if things have to be done differently, the responsibility lies solely with the other, the recipient of the silence.
The one who chooses silence knows that exclusion and silence will hurt the other and this can result in a retreat, a renunciation of any claim, and in some cases the admission of a “mistake” that is not even the partner’s own.
That is why we are dealing here with a behavior that is abusive, that hides aggression and narcissism even if it is expressed in a passive way. It is like saying, “I decide when you exist for me and when you disappear. I decide when I will give you value, attention, and love. Your needs do not matter.”
The question in this case, dear Rea, is what do you really think about your needs and worth, as well as what a loving relationship means to you. Do you think that the way to resolve differences in a relationship is for one to be silent and the other to cry, beg, and apologize even for things for which she is not to blame? What do you contribute to this relationship and what do you expect to receive? Do you think that there is respect and mutual desire to maintain the relationship so that you are both happy and well in it?
Unfortunately, it is not up to you to stop your partner’s behavior. On the one hand, your partner needs to realize the problem and on the other hand, he needs to work with himself, maybe with a specialist. You can talk to him and set your limits, if, of course, you can keep them. Otherwise things will be even more difficult.
You can only solve what concerns yourself. You can look inside for what reasons you choose to be in love with a man who punishes you every now and then and what it is that keeps you with him. You can jot down on a calendar the days when you feel very good in this relationship and those when you feel misery, pain, and frustration. And then compare them and decide if you are fine in this relationship and make your own decisions. Talk to someone you trust, describe what is happening and ask their opinion.
Finally, if you feel you have to leave this relationship and you cannot, you may need to talk to a specialist.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.