What is it that people want when they give you the silent treatment?
May 1, 2014 6:40 AM Subscribe
I am currently getting the silent treatment from a friend/my roommate. I know that I offended her, and I have apologized, but she still just sort of glances at me when I come in a room and then goes back to doing whatever she was doing before. I have never encountered this kind of behavior from anyone before, and I am not sure how to respond, or if I should respond.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There has been a lot of tension building in this relationship for the past month or two, eminating mostly from some issues I have been having with jealously over her growing relationship with another girl in our housing who I never got on very well with but felt forced to hang out with because she lives with us and because the friend who is giving me the silent treatment (let's call her "Betsy") decided she liked her. Basically, I have been kind of depressed and anxious in general lately and that plus the uncomfortable social situation added fuel to my insecurities and I started to get really nervous about whether I was being included in group activities with the people in our shared housing. I think I may have asked for reassurance from Betsy that things were okay with us one too many times; I didn't really realize the extent to which I was stressing her out. I think basically the more insecure I got, the more pressure she felt and she had started actually avoiding me a little and had started being kind of critical of me for small things. I brought this up in the last conversation that I had with her, basically acknowledging that I had been super insecure lately and saying that she shouldn't feel pressure to hang out with me, but also that her criticizing me for small things (in this case, my diet) the last time we hung out had kind of bothered me.
In any case, this came to a head last weekend, when I had planned a dinner for my birthday. Betsy sent a message at the very last minute saying she couldn't come with no explanation of why, and I flipped out and sent a message accusing her of not wanting to be friends anymore and expressing anger and bewilderment at her cancellation. It was kind of an awful night, and I started crying about the situation in front of my friends a couple of times. Betsy later wrote me a message in which she expressed anger over the accusatory message that I had sent, but said she had been stressed out and tired that night and that is why she decided not to come, and that she didn't want to fight with me. I sent a message back saying I was sorry for the angry tone of my message but that I had felt angry and bewildered. Nevertheless, I shouldn't have responded in that way, and I should have given her more credit for being my friend. I then took responsibility for the general state of affairs and acknowledged that I needed to work on some things. Well, she responded to that kind of angrily. I sent back a message apologizing again.
Since then, I keep seeing her in the hall and she basically ignores me. It was really bothering me the other night and so the next morning I sent her a message saying that I wasn't mad about the birthday party anymore, and that I hadn't realized the extent to which my behavior was bothering her/how I had been stepping on her boundaries, but that maybe we could please at least try to be polite to each other or something since we still have to live together for another month or two. Well, I just saw her in the hallway and still the same behavior, so I am thinking I didn't find the right thing to say.
I have been feeling very distressed by this situation the past few days because it feels like if I wasn't so insecure and anxious about everything it would not have come about. Her treatment of me makes me feel like there must be something terribly wrong with me and that is why she has to resort to these tactics. Obviously, I do have some issues and there is something about this whole situation that has magnified them to an extent that I have never experienced before. Appointment with the therapist is set up already.
The thing is, I am not sure what to do about Betsy. Should I just accept the silent treatment and get on with my life? The longer this drags out the more I am starting to feel angry instead of repentent. I am starting to feel like she is being immature and is not a very understanding or sympathetic person, and like I don't really want her as a friend if this is how she treats people when they try to communicate openly about a situation and when they express discontent with being treated badly. I kind of feel very little desire to prostrate myself to her and try to make it better, though I recognize that I kind of drove her to it. I have said what I could think of to try to make things better, but none of it has apparently been the right thing. Maybe I should have just accepted everything she said in her first email and not been mad about the birthday party. I don't know.
Any advice for how to handle the silent treatment? Especially when you have to live with it? From my description of the situation (which misses a million details that would explain more fully how it got to this point) does it seem like I have not been repentent enough?