Coping with Husband's Silent Treatment
April 11, 2010 11:33 AM Subscribe
How do I respond to my husband's silent treatment? He has got incredibly angry over some perceived error on my part and is now icing me out whenever we are alone. I don't know what to do.
posted by geekgirl397 to Human Relations (65 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I strongly suspect he has undiagnosed Asperger's (but has contempt for therapists and the whole idea of psychology so there's no chance of getting a professional opinion on this).
Yesterday we were idly discussing some remodeling ideas for our condo, and we had a difference of opinion. Somehow, he interpreted my conduct during this conversation as "lying" and blew up into a gigantic rage, swearing at me, calling me a bullshitter and a liar, claiming that I know better than to lie as I know he can't stand it, and demanding that I think carefully about what I have done, because I had better not ever do it again.
It was a tremendously trivial conversation, and not a significant or important disagreement (about the effect of mirrors on one's perception on the size of a room!). Try as I might, I cannot figure out how he could have interpreted anything I said as lying. I did try to apologize at the time but without really being sure of what was apologizing for, and clearly it didn't satisfy him.
An odd twist is that my mother was in the room at the time, and she is as mystified as I am. She can't figure out what his problem is either, and commented that it is as if there's just some missing connection in his brain. He just shifted from normal to enraged in a second.
He would admit to being an angry person. We work at the same company and he frequently has problems with coworkers where he has the same "trigger" of deciding somebody is "lying". In almost every case I can find a much more plausible explanation where the person is either mistaken, confused or just has a difference of opinion. My husband seems to be attached to this idea of unambiguous "truth", which is obvious to anyone logical, so if anyone disagrees with his version of the truth, they must be in some way mendacious.
Having him be this way is a pain in the ass, but I'm mostly at peace with it in that I have accepted there is very little if anything I can do to change him, and I either accept him or move on. Despite the awful above picture, he actually does have very many good qualities, and if he's not "triggered" he can be charming, funny, kind and intelligent. It helps me to realize he's wired differently and that trying to apply logic to his behavior sometimes is futile.
I think this is one of those situations. I'm sure I didn't do anything actually "wrong" although I am genuinely sorry that he's distressed.
My mother is staying with us for the weekend and since "the incident" he's been perfectly civil whenever she's in the room with us (although he did storm off immediately afterwards for a few hours) but whenever it's just him & me, he doesn't speak more than absolutely necessary and gives me hard looks if I try to engage him. In the ~24 hours since this started, he has even laughed at my jokes - when there are others around. When it's just us - he's icy.
He has previously frozen me out like this for an entire week. On that occasion it was because of a misunderstanding during a technical discussion at work. I claimed ignorance of a specific technical point which he insisted I knew. Therefore I was lying and that was unacceptable.
After a week I managed to frame an apology in a way that was acceptable to him, and "normal life" resumed. In the meantime he spoke to me in front of coworkers but not ever at home or when we were alone.
It may be that I do need to DTMFA but right now I'm not ready to do that.
I just need immediate practical advice as to how to respond. Do I ignore him, too? Pretend that he is talking to me and have one-sided conversations with him? If I try to apologize again too quickly, I'm concerned that he want to discuss it, catch me out again, and continue to blame me for whatever else I "mess up". So I feel he needs to cool down before any dialog with me is even possible.
Do I just wait it out? It could go on for weeks. He can hold grudges for a very long time.
At this point it is not about what is fair or right. I know that what he is doing is not fair, but I also know I have no chance of persuading him of this. In the meantime, I'm tense, stressed, lonely and unhappy and I just want it to be over.
Assuming he doesn't have the brain circuits to understand what he's doing wrong, is there anything I can do to improve my situation, in 2 hours from now when my mother goes home and I'm left alone with him?