Does your significant other ignore you when she/he's upset/mad?
October 14, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

When my SO is upset/mad at me, she would ignore me for days. Is this normal? Does your SO do this?

My SO and I have been dating on and off for the past year and became serious (exclusive relationship) in the last month or so. We have gotten into a few fights over the course of our courtship, and more than once, she would ignore me - sometimes a few days, but on occasion, over a month or two (that's why we were on and off). And it drives me nuts. The fact that is drives me absolutely insane has to do with my own OCD/anxiety issue, but I'd like to hear comments from others whether ignoring your SO after a fight is common. Here is an example of our latest scuffle:

Day 1: I texted her and made a sarcastic joke. I didn't get any text back. In hindsight, I realize the joke probably didn't come across as one and if she didn't take it as a joke, it could sound like an insulting comment. So I called her to talk, clear the air, apologize if necessary. She didn't pick up. It was after 11pm when I called and although she doesn't normally sleep this early, there's a chance that she would be. So I left her alone, expecting her to call me back when she wakes up and sees my missed call.

Day 2: I don't hear from her at all. Not a call and not a text. In the past, I would've texted or called again. But like I said in the intro, this isn't the first time she's ignored me. I've learned from past experiences that she likes to be left alone when she's angry/upset. (But keep in mind that at this point, I'm not even 100% sure that she is angry/upset at me) I decided that this time I would give her space, something I hadn't been able to do in the past.

Day 3: I don't hear from her in the morning. So around noon, I send her a text stating facts - basically that I called two days ago and I haven't heard anything. I ended the text asking if she was ignoring me. The rest of the day I was going berserk. I would obsessively check my phone every 15 minutes. I realize that is my problem that I have OCD. Nonetheless I don't understand why she thinks this is a constructive way of dealing with our misunderstanding. If she was upset that I made the sarcastic comment and didn't want to talk to me in a few days, couldn't she just send a short text saying "You pissed me off. I need a few days away from you." That's all I'm asking. Instead, she ignores me, which drives me crazy because I don't know how she is feeling, what I need to do to remedy the situation, etc.

Day 4: I couldn't sleep all night due to my anxiety and at 3am I sent one more text stating how upset I am that she is ignoring me, not even giving me a chance to explain. When we were casually dating, I can see screening my calls and texts as her way to deal with me but now that we're in a serious relationship, isn't the best way to talk things through? I don't even know if I should be apologizing or not because I didn't make the comment intentionally to hurt her and I'm not even sure if she's upset or how she feels when she just screens my calls and texts!

I'm interested in knowing whether it is common that people ignore their SO when they are mad. I have very limited experience in dating in general, having only been in 2 long term relationships which lasted over 10 years combined. In those relationships, that never happened. If I did something that hurt the other person, I get to explain myself right away and apologize. My current SO's behaviour really hurts me so I want to know if it is a deal breaker or I am too insensitive/impatient.

Thanks in advance.
posted by feastorfamine to Human Relations (83 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is not normal or okay. She is being a gigantic jerk.

I suspect that she gets a kick out of making you so upset. If you cross some invisible line, she gets to punish you for days just by taking advantage of your OCD. That is extreeeeemely screwed up.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2012 [53 favorites]

Most people will not treat you this poorly.
posted by grouse at 4:50 PM on October 14, 2012 [22 favorites]

Without spending too much time on the obvious (that you should seek therapy for your anxiety/OCD issues if you are not doing so already), the answer is NO, that her behavior is not normal.

If I understand your question correctly, your "SO" routinely ignores you for at least days and sometimes weeks or months. That's not a relationship unless you are a masochist and that happens to be part of what you are into.

I don't think you should spend another second of your life thinking about this person other than asking for a forwarding address for any personal property left at your place. I think you should definitely print this question out and bring it with you to a/your therapist's office at your next appointment.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:50 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

My current SO's behaviour really hurts me so I want to know if it is a deal breaker or I am too insensitive/impatient.

1. You are not too insensitive or impatient. You sound like a good communicator. You intuited that a text had upset her, so you called to clear the air, apologize, and explain yourself. If she were a good communicator, you wouldn't have had to guess that your text upset her -- she would have told you so. If she were an okay communicator, she would have picked up the phone when you called, listened to you, and then admitted that yes, you were right, the text had hurt her.

She did neither of these things. She is a bad communicator.

2. Is this a dealbreaker? Only you can decide that. But for me, it would be. I don't deal well with people who go into an icy silence for hours (much less DAYS!) at a time when they're upset about something. I dated someone like that for a long time, and I cannot even tell you what a relief it is to be dating someone who doesn't brood and who speaks up when I've done something that hurt him. It gives me a chance to make amends, after all. It gives me a chance to be a better partner to him!

Good communication is invaluable.
posted by artemisia at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

It sounds like the relationship is a lot more serious to you than it is to her. She is not treating you respectfully and you shouldn't accept that kind of treatment.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ignoring someone whom you're angry at is passive-aggressive, childish, punative and does absolutely nothing to fix the behavior that made her angry or give you an opportunity to apologize. Instead, she punishes you for "bad" behavior by ignoring you, knowing it will trigger your OCD and drive you crazy.

So I suppose if you think emotionally abusive relationships are normal, then yes, this is normal. Personally, I wouldn't say that, and I'd probably say something like "When normal people get offended, they let the person who offended them know, so that they can apologize and so that they can avoid offending in the future. If you can't do that, then you're not ready to be in a relationship with an adult" to them, and then I'd dump them. But that's just me.
posted by davejay at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [16 favorites]

Weeeeeellll...I'm going to say that I've encountered "I am so mad I can't even talk to you" behavior (not directed at me!) when there's been a really big and obvious conflict - infidelity, secretly running up huge debts, etc. Even there, it's not ideal, more of a "you spent our savings on selfish things, I am SO ANGRY" helpless response.

But ignoring someone over a miscommunication or small spat, or ignoring someone for months - that's at best a huge sign of immaturity/lack of emotional skills and at worst manipulative and cruel. Absent some kind of "my girlfriend had [trauma] which gave her this terrible coping mechanism, doesn't want to hurt me and is willing to work on her problems", this veers into break-up territory.

Also, I lived with an ignorer relative for a while as a kid and it really, really messed me up. It's not good behavior.
posted by Frowner at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

This isn't normal, and it's not okay if you're not okay with it, which it seems like you aren't.

Here is my personal baseline for things:

Love is not an excuse for bad behavior, or behavior that makes you uncomfortable. Love is an expectation that you will be treated better, be respected more and be comfortable in the relationship.

If you're not getting this, there is something wrong.
posted by iamabot at 4:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [21 favorites]

It's not common. If someone did this to me it would be the end of our relationship - probably the first time it happened, actually. It sounds like it's very unhealthy and upsetting for you, so why does it matter if it's a deal breaker to others? Isn't having such a crappy time a deal breaker to you?
posted by crabintheocean at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was younger, and/or part of a dysfunctional family of origin, ignoring was a commonplace punishment technique (as was sarcastic humour and hurtful teasing). As I grew older and more aware, I learned how to use my words to convey my hurt, or to accept a criticism from my partner.

You might need to ask these questions instead: How can my SO and I work toward healthy conflict resolution? How can we give each other space, when we have offended each other? Is sarcasm/teasing an appropriate use of humour in our relationship?

At this point, I'm not sure exactly what you can do if she won't communicate with you at all.
posted by b33j at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow, I wish I had a little bit of her ability to ignore people when I'm upset! O_O

OH, just kidding. Agreed with Coatlice, you are certainly being jerked around by this entitled lady you are dating. Ignoring to blow off steam is one thing--she's ignoring you to build UP steam--YOUR steam. She knows you're thinking about her, she knows you're upset, she gets a kick out of realizing how much she's affected you, and I bet you she loves having the ball in her court in that way.

Sorry, OP. It's just plain wrong. Gotta dump her.
posted by rhythm_queen at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

She's being a jerk. To see it from her perspective, she might be overwhelmed with anger/resentment and doesn't want to have a big fight, doesn't feel she has it in her to be polite or reasonable with you, but that doesn't mean it's healthy or you should be treated that way. I think you should tell her now that you think it's unfair and potentially destroying your relationship and see what she has to say. Don't let her convince you you should be prostrate on the ground over every misunderstanding, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2012

You have the right to be treated respectfully, and right now your girlfriend is not treating you with respect.

If I were you, the next time you guys are in good standing together, I would say Hey girlfriend, I get super stressed out when you refuse to take my calls or texts, and it's becoming too much. I need you to respond to me when I contact you, even if it's to say you're mad and need a day to cool off. This is a dealbreaker issue for me.
posted by feets at 4:55 PM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

Eff that. Change your number. Block her on social media.

If for some reason, you want to stay in this relationship, which I don't think you should, you can tell her that there are no more chances. If she's upset, she needs to address it with you directly. If she can't do that for some reason then she needs to seek out therapy to figure out why she thinks it's okay to punish another person by freezing them out and acting like a gigantic ass.

Sorry this is happening to you. There are better fish in the sea.
posted by amanda at 4:56 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is not okay and, in fact, it's extremely controlling. The mature response to something that makes you too angry to communicate with your parter right then is, "I'm very angry and I'm going to take [insert timeframe here] to calm down so I can speak with you rationally about this." Deliberately cutting you off is jerk-ish at best and, since you have anxiety about it (that you've presumably told her about), it's downright cruel at worst.
posted by _Mona_ at 4:57 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

Some people withdraw so that they can get their head around the situation and not inflame it - I have no idea whether that's what your SO is doing here, but it's one perspective on the situation.

You sound like your pushing her to respond and she's not ready to respond. The more you push, the angrier she'll get and the less communication you'll get. I mean, that's only 4 days there, man.

She may have been in a position to talk to you reasonably from the start, but your approach seems to be very badgering here.

You're trying to force her to behave the way you want her to behave - surprise surprise, people don't like that very much.

You also haven't been dating seriously for that long at all - she doesn't have to keep in contact with you constantly if you're not in a serious relationship. Perhaps you think you're more serious than she does?

Ultimately, though, if you've not been on the same page with one another for such a long time, why are you continuing to be with her?
posted by heyjude at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

This has not been my experience while dating as an adult, although I did this/did experience this while dating in high school. Your feelings are totally reasonable: being ignored stinks! I would also be stressed out and frustrated if someone I cared about treated me this way; I would consider no longer being in a relationship with anyone who treated me this way.
posted by smallvictories at 5:00 PM on October 14, 2012

It doesn't take OCD to be bothered by such behavior. I don't think you are being overly sensitive.
posted by Area Man at 5:09 PM on October 14, 2012 [19 favorites]

Seems like a very immature way of dealing with problems. Communication issues like this can easily kill a relationship unless resolved.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:13 PM on October 14, 2012

So around noon, I send her a text stating facts - basically that I called two days ago and I haven't heard anything. I ended the text asking if she was ignoring me. The rest of the day I was going berserk. I would obsessively check my phone every 15 minutes. I realize that is my problem that I have OCD. Nonetheless I don't understand why she thinks this is a constructive way of dealing with our misunderstanding.

She doesn't. She thinks it's a great way to make you go berzerk with wanting her attention, though, and it turns out she's right about that.

I'd walk away from a relationship where I felt like I was getting dicked around like that, and so should you.
posted by mhoye at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

She stopped talking to you for a month? No wonder you freak out whenever she doesn't respond. A month long ice-out is something you reserve for enemies and strangers, not your SO.

Is this common? It's not unheard of, but it's not so common that you have to accept it as a likely event. I've seen it happen in other people's relationships and had it done to me before. It made me crazy with anxiety. It would be an instant dealbreaker in any relationship going forward.

The best that can be said of this is that the two of you have really incompatible communication styles. Break it off, most relationships aren't like this.
posted by rhythm and booze at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in a relationship like this. It made me sick, miserable, and increased my anxiety tenfold. I think you need to have a serious talk about how this is not an acceptable way to conduct a serious adult relationship and be willing to cut ties if she does not agree to change her non-communicative conflict style. Healthy adults communicate their needs in relationships, and you are right that she should be able to ask for space and be granted it if necessary, yet this type of behavior goes far above and beyond that acceptable negotiation.

I'm sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by araisingirl at 5:18 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

By day 2 I'd have been royally pissed. By day 3 I'd have assumed we were broken up.

You are entirely correct: if she needs some time to calm down or whatever -- which would be reasonable in many circumstances -- she needs to have the decency to tell you that. Just going radio silent without any explanation is bizarre and childish.
posted by ook at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

Her behavior is cruel and unusual. Show her the door.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

She sounds immature but if you're willing to work with her then it's not a clear sign that the relationship isn't worth saving. YMMV, but I used to do this in relationships and I'm reformed. It took my SO being very clear that she wasn't going to break up with me at the first sign of trouble to feel like I could bring up things that bothered me instead of being passive aggressive. In hindsight, I was a total jerk and I'm surprised that it didn't wreck my relationship—I was scared to be so invested and didn't have the self esteem or previous relationship experience to really believe that my SO really did love me as much as I loved her. So, I made her chase me and took offense too easily and it took awhile to get over that. I'm especially prone to running away and not knowing how to deescalate so it took a lot of effort from my partner to draw me back.

If you think it's worth saving, I encourage you to be clear that she's being immature but to give her the benefit of the doubt that she's not trying to jerk you around but instead is doing it from a place of insecurity. Best of luck to you both!
posted by thesocietyfor at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a person who needs space when I'm mad at someone but even I view her behavior as bizarre and unacceptable. When I need space, I let the person know and then I take as much time as I need. She has not responded at all and you still don't know exactly what it is that she thought you did wrong. She sounds like an insufferable wretch and if I were you, I'd send one more text message saying that the relationship is over. This is no way to live your life and there are tons of women who will not treat you in such a manner. Move on, you'll be much happier after you do.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

Some people need time after they're upset. Some people (like me) don't. I'm someone who needs to make everything right immediately.

But my sister needs time. I don't get it, but I accept it.
posted by discopolo at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it normal? No. Is it uncommon? maybe. Is it productive behavior? No. Is it a dealbreaker? Maybe, definitely if she thinks it is Ok.

I've been on both sides of the silent treatment. It was never a good thing, but sometimes it was better than the most likely alternative: an emotional, hurtful, unproductive argument. But: 1. At worst it lasted a couple of days, and more typically, a couple of hours. 2. We had the argument/discussion once things cooled off. 3. We knew we had to find ways to keep improving at communicating and dealing with conflict.
posted by Good Brain at 5:33 PM on October 14, 2012

The last time I was in a relationship like this, we were both 15. Make of that what you will.
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yes, it is a teenaged-style of dating. Also, she is being terrible but you are exacerbating it by texting at inconvenient or annoying times (if I get woken up by texting beeping then I am going to be pissed) and freaking out 'every fifteen minutes'. This relationship is not working and I think you need to address your anxiety issues (which I have too, so I recognize them) and MOVE ON.
posted by bquarters at 5:41 PM on October 14, 2012

This would make me feel rejected and sick with anxiety as well. I can't imagine how an adult could consider such lengthy shut-outs without warning an acceptable way of dealing with a relationship problem. This would be a total dealbreaker, personally, especially if she knows you're already prone to anxiety and worry.
posted by Papagayo at 5:45 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

As others have said, you have incompatible communication styles. Hers is not the norm by any means. If you've now defined the relationship to be exclusive, then a bit more communication is expected. (Personally, after a month of not hearing from someone I was dating, I'd be off permanently.)

This is not common. You deserve better treatment. It's not just your OCD/anxiety.
posted by RainyJay at 6:01 PM on October 14, 2012

"By Day 3 I'd have assumed we were broken up"

Me too. Although it depends how much you can call it an accident - oops, she missed my call and is always such a flake about calling back, she doesn't always get texts, we often go several days or longer without talking just because of our lives getting busy, etc. But if she's not responding to you for several days you have two options:

1. She's so furious she can't even talk to you. For days. If she's that angry you shouldn't be together, it's a bad relationship and she deserves better than that, or she needs to seek counseling.

2. She doesn't feel any compassion for your being so upset. Maybe, as some folks above are speculating, she gets satisfaction from feeling like she has that power. Either way - whether she's happy about you being upset, or whether she just doesn't care - it's a big problem.
posted by Lady Li at 6:08 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

If not for the fact that she's got a pattern of this behavior, I would worry about her well being. Multi-day radio silence from a loved one always makes me jump to what-if-they're-dead-in-a-ditch scenarios (I have anxiety issues myself!). It's cruel to make someone worry unnecessarily like this. You deserve an emotionally mature partner, not a sulky petulant child.
posted by cecic at 6:10 PM on October 14, 2012

Maybe I'm projecting my own past experience onto this (as so many of us do on human relationships Asks), but it's very easy for me to imagine her cruelly sitting by the phone and getting a sick little bump of satisfaction every time you contact her expressing pain and upset. To some damaged people, that translates to proof that you really love and need them, and that's the only way they can feel safe and valued. It is also a way of controlling you, ensuring that she is the one in charge and you are a fish wriggling on a hook at the end of a line she can cast out and reel in again as she pleases.

What is your relationship like outside this issue?
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:13 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your responses. It really helped me gain some perspective. What happened was that on Day 5 she finally emailed me. A few angry emails were then exchanged. Basically her position is that she felt I was picking a fight (my sarcastic comment) and she didn't respond because she didn't know where to start (why not start with "give me space"? but I digress..). She said I was too pushy and demanding (my multiple texts and calls, which I admit is immature) and that drove her further to not respond. I explained myself (about the comment, about my anxiety, etc) and ended the email saying that I care a lot about her and that I am heart broken I'm not more emotionally stable. I also said it's probably best she doesn't respond because I want to leave her alone. This was a week ago and I have not heard from her at all.

In the last week I have been sitting on my hands. I have drafted and deleted several texts and emails. I want to call her so badly but if she doesn't pick up I will feel rejected and the whole cycle begins again. I still want to work on our relationship and I am willing to fix our problems if she is. I didn't hear her side after I explained why I said what I said, did what I did, so I don't know how she feels.

Do you think the fact that she hasn't initiated contact is a sign that she doesn't want us to get back together/ work on our communication problems? Should I contact her or leave it alone?
posted by feastorfamine at 6:18 PM on October 14, 2012

My partner was in a relationship similar to this before we met (though I think it wasn't as extreme), and still holds onto baggage from that which has made for some not-at-all-fun stumbling blocks for us. This is not normal behavior, and I would be very careful in continuing with this relationship if you choose to do so.

On preview, your follow-up is not heartening. I would leave it alone. She doesn't sound like she has any particular interest in solving any problems in your relationship, and you cannot fix things if she doesn't want to as well, especially if she doesn't admit to playing any part in this scenario, which is what it sounds like here.

It sounds like your communication styles are totally incompatible. Personally, I think communication is the number one most important thing in a relationship. Take from that what you will.
posted by dysh at 6:23 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's been a week, leave it alone and move on, even if she contacts you. The stress isn't worth it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:24 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

She said I was too pushy and demanding (my multiple texts and calls, which I admit is immature)

I didn't think this AT ALL by what what you described. Don't let her make you out to be the immature one in this scenario!
posted by cecic at 6:25 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yikes. Your follow up is bad news. I think this is about more than differing communication styles. She doesn't seem to care at all that her actions really hurt you. That's just mean. Why would you want to be with someone like this? Please don't pursue this person.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:26 PM on October 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

Day 5? It's a relationship, not a hostage situation. Unless it is. Are you being a hostage to a SO who has trained you to accept this treatment? We argue like any other couple, but we resolve it and make sure both feel loved by the other before anything else happens. At worst, that's hour 2.

Day 5? Deal-breaker. She sounds a bit distant, maybe you are a bit needy, who knows. The point is that this doesn't sound enjoyable. There's no rule that says you have to be with this person. You seem to think there's something wrong here, and I think the majority of us agree that there is.
posted by nickrussell at 6:27 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

It's been a week? I would consider that a break-up.
posted by gaspode at 6:33 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

So to sum up what happened here: you made a joke she took the wrong way, you tried to correct it almost immediately, she refused to even speak to you and now this has gone on for 12 days. She has remained furious with you for 12 days over basically nothing. This is not right. You are not in the wrong here and it's clear you're beating yourself up over this situation. Again: you are not in the wrong here. You need to break up with this person and find someone new who is willing to behave like an adult.
posted by something something at 6:36 PM on October 14, 2012 [20 favorites]

Also, you are pretty quick at the draw accepting blame for a situation that was really her fault. (Yes, you may have screwed up and said something crass. But in a good relationship you need to feel safe enough to screw up every once in a while, because that's what humans do. You shouldn't be worried constantly that one misunderstood comment = months of silence. That's called walking on eggshells and it's not a good basis for a relationship. Of any kind. She cut off communication even though she knew how much it hurts you. She is at fault.)

Why are you so quick to assume blame? Do you find that you do this often, especially with this person?
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:37 PM on October 14, 2012

feastorfamine: "I am willing to fix our problems if she is."

She is not willing to fix her [sic] problem. This is not a relationship problem, this is a her problem. She is telling you that she can't deal with you. When people tell you that, believe them.
posted by notsnot at 6:37 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also said it's probably best she doesn't respond because I want to leave her alone. This was a week ago and I have not heard from her at all.

Do you think the fact that she hasn't initiated contact is a sign that she doesn't want us to get back together/ work on our communication problems? Should I contact her or leave it alone?

She's doing what you said you wanted her to do. So the ball is in your court if you want to contact her. Of course, by going there, you run the risk of being rejected. And that will suck. But you've currently rejected her by telling her not to contact you, so keep that in mind.

Either you will work together to improve your communication with one another, or you will chalk this relationship up to experience and move on.
posted by heyjude at 6:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is impossible to know without knowing what you said. If you said that one of her hobbies is silly, maybe that could be easily forgiven. If you made a sarcastic comment about making love to her mother, then ignoring you for the rest of her life would be in order.

So I would recommend imagining that someone had said to you, in all seriousness, what you said to her. We tend to give ourselves a break when we were being sarcastic but if it did not come across the sarcastic then you need to see it from her perspective weren't once a serious comment. While I want to side with without, it's possible that you said something that's completely beyond the pale, and what you said does matter. There are plenty of things you could have said sarcastically that would justify her D ing TMFA

That said, it sounds like she's reading you terribly. People who want to be in a relationship talk about their problems. On the face of things it sounds like she wanted you to come groveling back, and when she realized she would not grovel she decided to suck you back in.

Either way, it sounds like this relationship is nothing but trouble and you should move on, for both off your sakes.
posted by PCup at 6:44 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Move on. Do not get back together with this person even if she asks you to. Do not get back together with this person even if she begs you to. This relationship has very obviously been toxic to your happiness, your well-being, and your self-worth and you should take this opportunity to get out while you still can.

This person is no good for you, possibly no good for anybody -- I'm sure she has many fine qualities or else you would not have wanted to be in a relationship with her in the first place, but from your communications here it is obvious (despite your obvious desire to find a rational or at least excusable basis for her behavior) that she is very unhealthy for you. You need to remove yourself from her, permanently, and focus on healing and taking care of yourself.

It sounds like she has some things that she needs to correct in herself before she can be a good partner, and that is not your fault nor is it your responsibility (or within your or anyone else's ability) to fix her. It is something she is going to have to decide to do on her own and work at very hard and it will take a long time and she will have to do it alone or perhaps with a therapist.

This is the kind of relationship that has the potential to do serious long-term psychological harm to you should you allow it to continue. You sound like you have a chance to get out here, but it also sounds like a part of you strongly wants to reinitiate. I understand, I've been there. Please trust me, you will thank yourself later if you walk away now and don't look back.
posted by Scientist at 7:09 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This seems very manipulative on her part. It worries me that you seem more concerned about saving the relationship than taking care of yourself. And yes, the two things seem to be mutually exclusive in this case.
posted by bunderful at 7:14 PM on October 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

The way I see it is if the relationship is good, you get closer over time. At that level of closeness, it feels WEIRD not to talk to a partner for a long time after a fight. It feels bad, stressful, and lonely, and creates a level of feeling rejected that should not exist in a close relationship, where you should be at your most accepted... this is just my take on it at face value based on your question.

If there were a particular reason she needed 5 days to be alone, then the best way to do it would be for her to say, "Honey, I'm really upset about this, I need to think about if we want to continue our relationship" (refusing contact for 5 days at this stage is sending that kind of message, like it or not, at least to this outsider to the situation). Or she would say, "I don't want to break up but I need five days." And then you would respond. Either way, it's a bit cold.

Point is.... When ALL bets are off, it makes it hard to get comfortable. This is not that I think you should DTMFA. My guess is though that this behavior is more suited to a "game-playing" or unattached love style. In the context of a close relationship it makes no sense at least to me.
posted by kettleoffish at 7:14 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What are you getting out of this relationship? Does she shoot diamonds out of her magic pussy when she comes? Even if she did, no amount of crawling up the wall sex or whatever it is that is making you put up with this pre-teen bullshit behavior is worth it. Seriously. Delete and block her number and if/when she deigns to contact you again, put her on ice. Don't even do her the courtesy of telling her you've dumped her immature, manipulative ass—just consider it done.
posted by violetk at 7:20 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am heart broken I'm not more emotionally stable.

Honestly, you sound reasonably stable to me, though I'd imagine your stomach's in knots right now and you may not feel very stable. She, however, sounds incredibly immature and manipulative.

It's not normal to give someone the silent treatment for days on end. Maybe for something major, like if you accidentally wrecked her car, but for a misinterpreted sarcastic comment?

She's not healthy for you, or anyone. Please don't think her behavior is your fault, or that you're the one who's overreacting. I'd strongly recommend breaking up permanently. And if/when you do, go completely no-contact, and find something fun to throw yourself into for a few weeks, like a new video game or picking up a new hobby or something.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I know everyone is saying that you should dump her, and you should, but you also need to take a real hard look at yourself and why you think behavior like this is okay, and why you would put up with it. If you don't figure that out, you're going to be asking a similar question in another year. I know 'therapy' is a cliche here, but think about it.
posted by empath at 7:34 PM on October 14, 2012

My gosh.... She sounds kind of crazy, to be honest. This is not normal. I'm not OCD or anxiety prone and I don't like when someone close to me doesn't text me back the same day. Sure, people get busy, but if you know you're partner is worried that you're upset, that's a priority phone call to have.

I beg you, ask yourself something: knowing that there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of girls out there who will communicate with you when something you do upsets them, what is so great about this one that you can overlook something that is affecting your mental health so poorly? Frankly, she sounds extremely manipulative - or at least quite immature. There are so many people out there who would have a communication style that would mesh with yours.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:35 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might be letting your obsession with saving the relationship blind you to the fact that there's very little relationship left to save at this point. She isn't participating in the relationship. She's checked out--I mean, she's okay with limiting her contact with you over the last two weeks to email. What if something bad happened to you? What if you got an awesome promotion at your job that meant you would be moving out of state? She wouldn't even know because she's too busy avoiding a fight with you. She's too self-absorbed to care about you.

If you stopped pursuing her, would there even be a relationship?

Let her go.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:35 PM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

I want to call her so badly but if she doesn't pick up I will feel rejected and the whole cycle begins again.

Well, yeah, that's the kind of response she's trying to provoke here. To make you feel insecure and uncertain and to think that you have to win her back. Given what provoked this, that's ridiculous. Don't worry about whether she wants you back or not; just move on. Really. Just move on. Be done with it.
posted by davejay at 8:18 PM on October 14, 2012

So far your entire communication as described has been through emails and txts with one voicemail. If you are in physical proximity to each other I would recommend having difficult conversations in person (as well as the fun times too). Use the txts/emails to set up dates or send light comments. I can't think of too many long term couples that fondly reminisce about relationship-building emails.
posted by saucysault at 8:18 PM on October 14, 2012

Once, my partner said something that really hurt me -- as in, "why the hell would you say that to anyone, let alone me?" Did I ignore him for days/weeks while he angsted over his defects as a human being? No, I went to the gym, hit a punching bag around for a while, then came back and explained that I was hurt and why so that we could have a conversation about it! Total time to sort out potentially relationship-ending problem (seriously, my read on it was that bad): about two hours. Not days. In person, with calm and considered words. Not via angry e-mails or icy silence.

Think about it. You're scraping at the dregs of a relationship I'm not sure you ever had, and it's making you sick while she continues on her way, doing whatever it is she does in between zapping your shock collar. Please reconsider. It's no long about whether she wants "the relationship" to continue: you should look out for your own well-being and disengage.
posted by teremala at 8:19 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm interested in knowing whether it is common that people ignore their SO when they are mad

No. Even when someone wants me to leave them alone, I expect them to be able to say as much (provided cell phones are not broken / emergencies aren't intervening).
posted by ead at 8:30 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ignore her. Forever.
posted by French Fry at 10:12 PM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

The most important thing in a relationship is a desire from both parties to maintain that relationship. She doesn't have this. Run. Do not walk. This is hurting you and you need to get out as fast as you can.
posted by zoo at 11:54 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My abusive parent used to ignore me, for times ranging from a few hours to months. Every therapist I've talked to since has stated that was abusive behavior.

I understand that sometimes people are too upset to have a constructive conversation, but now I consider it an act of basic respect/decency to signal that in some way before giving someone the silent treatment or walking away. ("I'm too upset to talk about this constructively right now" works well, strangely!)

It sounds like you've been manipulated here into apologising for worrying about things when your girlfriend goes silent, for reaching out and trying to open communication channels (really? One call and two texts in four days is "too demanding"?) and for having anxieties that are heightened by this behaviour - anxieties that she is well aware of.

On the other hand, your telling her it's probably best if she doesn't respond means she was doing as you asked by prolonging the silence. What did you hope would happen after that e-mail? How do you think you would move forward from here?

Anyway, this has dragged on for almost two weeks, when the relationship became serious only a month ago. I'm sorry, but this doesn't sound like a good relationship for you to be in. At best, it sounds like you have very different needs for communication and connection in a "serious" relationship; at worst, she's treating you poorly and - deliberately or not - pushing your buttons. I gently suggest not letting this drag on, or drag you down, any further.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 1:56 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think this is a DTMFA situation. On the positive side, it looks like you don't even have to do anything to effectuate this outcome.

If you do go this route, either send a short email/text saying you're moving on and wish her the best, or do nothing and, if contacted, send the exact same email/text. No need for drama or hand wringing.

Take care of yourself.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 3:40 AM on October 15, 2012

1. The ignoring thing is not okay. It isn't healthy behaviour in a relationship. Stepping away for an hour or something to cool off/gain persepctive is one thing (and even then I think a simple statement of "I need space for a bit." is warranted). Going MIA and ignoring you for days/weeks/months is just passive aggressive and hurtful and counterproductive. How can you resolve an issue if half of the parties involve refuse to even aknowledge your existance?

2. Whenever there is a relationship question basically asking for permission to be bothered by something their SO is doing, I usually offer this advice.

Think about your relationship as it is, right now. Would you be okay with living the rest of your life like this?

You have to be happy in your relationship AS IT IS, not how you think it could/should be. You can hope you/they will change, you can hope your dynamic will adjust and mature, you can hope that whatever situation that is causing difficulty will resolve itself, but you can't bank on it. You are setting yourself up for disaster if you base your expectations and happiness upon the way you think things COULD be or how you WISH they would be, instead of how things are.

You have to work with what you know, and I think right now you know that your relationship is not healthy or mature or good for you.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:10 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also said it's probably best she doesn't respond because I want to leave her alone. This was a week ago and I have not heard from her at all.

Uh, it looks like you broke up with her already. Saying "don't respond" and "I want to leave you alone" to someone who has a history of not responding is pretty much the same as saying "we're done." Given her behavior, this is Good News for Yous.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:22 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, at most - in 16 years - the longest I've ever deliberately not talked to my husband was about 20 minutes. It was preceded by me saying, "I'm upset and won't be able to talk about this in a sane way. Give me 20 minutes to calm down so I can talk about this like a normal person."

Let it go. Find someone who won't do this crap. You don't have to try to save every relationship you're in - some of them are meant to end, and that's ok.
posted by RogueTech at 6:06 AM on October 15, 2012

Sounds like you guys have incompatible communication styles and lack of a want to make each other happy and treat each other well. You should probably be less sarcastic with your SO, if you know that kind of thing can hurt/annoy her. She should probably stop ignoring you for days, since she knows that kind of thing can hurt you.

But in general, the main thought that came to my head while reading this is that you can't just switch on a switch and become a good serious relationship if your casual dating didn't make you happy. It doesn't work like that. The same problems you have while casual dating will persist no matter what kind of label you give your relationship. Calling something serious will not automatically change her behavior. If she disappeared for a long time in the past, she'll continue doing that. People don't change that easily.
posted by at 6:17 AM on October 15, 2012

Do you think the fact that she hasn't initiated contact is a sign that she doesn't want us to get back together/ work on our communication problems? Should I contact her or leave it alone?

WHO CARES what she wants or what she's "communicating"?! She's a monster! What do you want? (I bet in the short-term you want to resolve this; that's normal.) In the long-term though, you probably want a girlfriend who's nice to you, who can communicate, who isn't a she-beast from the planet nightmare. You get that by cutting this twisted little cord.

Sorry about your breakup! That's always sad. The pain will pass. Everyone will learn something. One day you'll laugh about this etc.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:40 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you should consider this relationship to be over. But that's good news because she's out of her mind!

I means, seriously, she thought you were bring pushy so she decided to retaliate by not responding? What is she, seven? It is normal, in some people's communication styles, to get mad or annoyed and not want to talk for a few hours, or maybe a day. But the behavior you're describing isn't remotely normal, or remotely acceptable.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:53 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should I contact her or leave it alone?

Dude, listen to yourself. You've already broken up with her.

You've established that this relationship is not working for you, and she's replied that it's not working for her either. There's no victory condition here, and you've got to just suck that up and move on.
posted by mhoye at 7:25 AM on October 15, 2012

Some people withdraw so that they can get their head around the situation and not inflame it - I have no idea whether that's what your SO is doing here, but it's one perspective on the situation.

The normal behavior if this is the case would be a short communication saying:

feastorfamine: After what happened, I will need some time to clear my head. Please understand this is why I will not reply to your texts and emails. We'll talk soon.

Big but, though: This would be appropiate if you had forgotten her birthday, or worse. Not for a text message that you, I and the whole civilized world know can very easily be misunderstood even with emoticons. She should have given you a chance to explain. I get the feeling she likes to make you suffer.
posted by Tarumba at 7:56 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Said it before and will say it again: don't use text or email for emotionally important communication. Just don't do it. It will screw up your life.
posted by flabdablet at 8:07 AM on October 15, 2012

she would ignore me - sometimes a few days, but on occasion, over a month or two (that's why we were on and off). And it drives me nuts. The fact that is drives me absolutely insane has to do with my own OCD/anxiety issue

I would obsessively check my phone every 15 minutes. I realize that is my problem that I have OCD.

She said I was too pushy and demanding (my multiple texts and calls, which I admit is immature)

Just wanted to say that your responses as described here fall within the range of typical (IMO), and I wouldn't attribute them to OCD. Well, maybe your anxiety level was higher than normal--I don't know what you felt--but your behavior does not strike me as disordered. It's not weird to check your phone constantly while waiting for a call back after two days of dead silence from your SO (and anyway your phone-checking has no impact on her). It's not harassing to try three times in four days to make contact with her.

My husband and I do the "not talking to you" thing now and then, but it is childish and toxic and we both know it. Also, since we live together, we at least have the benefit of knowing that the silent treatment (indefensible as it is) is what's going on--rather than not knowing (for days!!?) even whether a disagreement is the problem, or if the other person is dead in a ditch.

So even as someone who has experienced maybe a milder form of this behavior, I would never advise someone else that it is a normal and okay response to a disagreement, something that you should just wait out. The first time your partner did this to you, you should have said "never again." You seem to be too self-doubting to do this--too ready to attribute to your OCD what are perfectly normal reactions. But I hope the feedback in this thread will help you to stand up for your own needs in the future. Or actually what I hope is that your future girlfriend will care enough about your needs that you won't have to make such a stand.
posted by torticat at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

RUN RUN RUN, please.

I was in an eerily similar situation with a friend once. I'd made a joke that was just a play on words, she didn't understand it and insisted that it had been some kind of personal attack, and it turned out she would stay angry about it FOR MONTHS (as in, we hung out over a semester break, I went back to school and she stewed about it THE WHOLE TIME.) Our mutual friends thought "we were both being stubborn" and badgered me into apologizing, which I did to keep the peace. I sincerely regret doing this, because a year later the shit hit the fan and she found something else inane and trivial to blow up about, except this time she combined silent treatment with a healthy serving of extreme verbal abuse delivered via the internet. Did I mention that this happened a few months after I'd watched a parent die?

In retrospect she almost certainly had signs of a personality disorder. She had a habit of doing this to other friends even while they were undergoing personal tragedies (she'd been almost as cruel to a teen friend whose parents were divorcing.) I doubt this was coincidental. The message was that whatever feelings of mistreatment she'd suffered trumped anything the person on the other side of her made-up war might be going through.

Without a commitment to working on herself, this won't get any better, and from what you've described she's just entrenching the abusive dynamic further. Please end contact with this woman and get therapy or look up books on healthy communication (I suspect you grew up in a similarly invalidating environment and it will be hard for you to break the pattern on your own.)
posted by ziggly at 9:00 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Think about what you need in a relationship. You need someone who can communicate with you in a loving way. That's normal! She couldn't do that, over and over again. I had a friend who's future husband tried the silent treatment a couple of times until he pointed out that it was punitive and didn't solve anything. They agreed to at least have the "I need some time to cool down because I'm angry" discussion any time it happened, and they have much healthier ways of communicating and relating now.

You, too, can have healthy relationships, the kind of relationships you need. Insist on it!
posted by ldthomps at 9:03 AM on October 15, 2012

I've been in a relationship like this before. I have nothing to add that other's haven't already said save my own experience.

Every time I tried to approach her about my feelings in the relationship she would throw it back in my face and make it my problem. If I pushed, she would eventually play her "Holocaust" card and point out that she had been in an abusive relationship prior to me, and I had to work with her. This basically made all my feelings and emotions about the relationship irrelevant. And I have to say, reading your initial post and update reminds me of a lot of the excuses I would make for her and for my behavior. I'm not saying your relationship is as twisted as mine was, but there are some definite warning signs here.

It's easy to be enamored with a relationship, especially one with such a start/stop beginning. I chased her for six months. Three months after that I realized that she was bad for me. She convinced me I was the problem. Every time after I raised an issue with the relationship she was able to convince me again and again that it was my fault. I would always say something to myself like: "Well I really liked her when I was chasing her; I convinced her to stay with me! She's gotta be right; I'm the problem." The real nail was for a week after these drawn out battles it would be awesome again. Walking away in that week would've felt like a failure to me.

It took me a full year and a half to realize the shell of myself I had become. I couldn't go out with my friends anymore: she might get mad! I couldn't go out with her and her friends anymore: I liked them, but she would only go with me, which meant her friends thought I was keeping her captive. If I wanted to stay home she'd stay with me, and complain that she wasn't out with her friends. At the beginning it was: I go out too much. At the end it was: I don't go out enough, I'm boring.

Anyway, it's really easy to try to explain away relationship issues and fault yourself, especially if you are having some confidence issues elsewhere (definitely the case for me). Ultimately, you need to take an objective look at your relationship, which is very difficult to do. Are you a better person now with her in your life? If you're constantly walking on egg shells, then probably not. Because here's the thing: you're gonna fuck up way worse than an insensitive sarcastic comment. WAYYYYYY worse. And the silent treatment is NO way to treat an equal (which is what partners should be).

Be good to yourself.
posted by teabag at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just thought I would provide another update..

So I succumbed to my weakness and texted her. I asked her to call me when she's free and she did. We talked for over an hour last night but we were really just going in circles. We both admitted to our shortcomings but she did not seem willing to meet me in the middle. In the end.. she said we shouldn’t be together. Ha. Isn't that ironic?

I am absolutely devastated. Even though I had prepared for a week to be strong, to tell her that silent treatment is a deal breaker for me, I couldn’t say the words. I still have strong feelings for her and I so desperately wanted us to work on bettering ourselves and narrowing the miscommunication gap. When we weren't fighting, we got along so splendidly. I remember all our happy times and I’ve never been the kind of person who gives up easily. I will work to my bones to make a relationship succeed because that’s what it is, work – love alone is not enough. But, she's not on the same page as me. This is maybe the 5th time she's "broken up" with me. How pathetic and foolish am I to keep holding on?

Anyways, thanks so much for everybody's words and encouragement. Now I need to figure out how to stop thinking about someone I’m still very much in love with and how to heal. (Kicker: I can’t go complete NC, at least in the next 10 days, due to unavoidable work commitment. In fact I have to see her at a function tonight. FML.)
posted by feastorfamine at 5:04 PM on October 15, 2012

I will work to my bones to make a relationship succeed because that’s what it is, work – love alone is not enough.

When people say that relationships involves work, they don't include "tolerating abuse" in the definition of work. You should recalibrate how much "work" you have to do to keep up a relationship. The price here was too high, and in the end, the relationship failed anyway.
posted by grouse at 6:26 PM on October 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

I dated a guy who was very sweet and did wonderful things for me, right up until he unceremoniously dumped me by text after ignoring me for over a week. I was moping about it with a friend and said "But he was such a great guy!" to which she replied "except for when he wasn't".

So maybe you need to rework how you think about this person.

She was a great girl. Except for when she wasn't.
posted by Dynex at 8:42 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

This girl was horribly abusing you and you'll be feeling the aftereffects for a while. It's a shame you can't see it from your vantage point.

This isn't a "miscommunication gap." People treat others like crap repeatedly as you have described here not because of "miscommunication" - but because it gives them control. It also causes trauma bonds which just gets the victim more hooked. They treat others inhumanely so the the other person will come back and beg for relief. She's abusing you.

This sort of silent treatment / ignoring / repeated breaking up is abuse.

You don't have OCD and you're not too [anything]. The only shame is that, from the sound of your question and reply, you're rather attached and will probably have some trouble breaking away. Hopefully if you are able to get some distance, you'll start to feel better, though it'll probably take a long time.

Hang in there and take care of yourself...

BTW, so that you can recognize normal in the future, this that you wrote is normal: If I did something that hurt the other person, I get to explain myself right away and apologize.
And so is this: I understand that sometimes people are too upset to have a constructive conversation, but now I consider it an act of basic respect/decency to signal that in some way before giving someone the silent treatment or walking away.
posted by kellybird at 11:38 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agreeing wholeheartedly with grouse's above comment. It's true that relationships take work, but that means work from both sides. If you find yourself doing all the heavy lifting in a relationship while the other person can't be bothered, it's a huge red flag.

It'll benefit you to to recalibrate "the middle" in "meeting in the middle." It's closer to you than you might be used to.

Don't beat yourself up about this. It's okay to grieve and feel brokenhearted about a breakup even if the relationship wasn't very good in the first place. Take care of yourself and be strong.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:59 AM on October 16, 2012

I’m still very much in love

Hey buddy. I've been ignored by someone I loved. I know how this feels. It makes you crazy, it makes you desperate, it makes you want to say anything to make it stop. you know, like torture.

That desperation for contact or attention feels like love, it feels like devotion, but it isn't.

It is conditioning, it is your animal brain responding to deprivation. Being starved makes any food seem delicious.

You will in time realize that you were just being abused. I reiterate my earlier advice:

Ignore her. Forever.
posted by French Fry at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

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