Silence as Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is any type of abuse that is not physical in nature. It can include everything from verbal abuse to the silent treatment…Beverly Engel

My ex-husband (EH) left July 2013. He took his clothing, laptop, tablet, and the silent treatment I had endured for the last two years of our marriage. It’s taken this long for me to admit how much his silence and lack of touch affected me. I can admit that we were both responsible for the end of our marriage. However, I tried counseling, I tried understanding. He stuck with silence and withholding intimacy. One person can’t save a marriage, especially when they are being emotionally abusedOpen yellow sunflower that represents my freedom from the abuse of silence in my marriage. When EH left, we had been married for almost 7 years. It was my second marriage after being single for ten years. We met online, and our relationship continued from there. EH immigrated to America after we got married. We talked about having children which is one of the reasons I got married again. Since I was older, both of us discussed a time frame for starting a family. He moved into my condo, and we started our married life. EH was finishing up his degree and working. However, both of us knew there would be time for kids. (Well, that did not happen.)

Silence: The Signs

EH had already taken the position that he wasn’t an equal partner. (Yet, he enjoyed the benefits the income afforded him. Men are funny that way. )

Those few years were tough. In addition to my job as a teacher, I took on extra duty positions. EH was going to school and working full time. That’s when the first sign appeared. A few times, EH would say things were “unbalanced.” I earned more than him at the time. When we discussed it, I would try to be encouraging and highlight his contribution.  

The issue of “unbalanced earning” came up during one of my therapy sessions after our divorce. Although I tried to get his feedback on financial decisions, he would brush me off saying, “Ok,” or ” You can handle it.” As my therapist pointed out, it didn’t matter: EH had already taken the position that he wasn’t an equal partner. (Yet, he enjoyed the benefits the income afforded him. Men are funny that way. )

More signs appeared early in our marriage. EH  stopped eating the meals I prepared and wouldn’t tell me the foods he didn’t like. I’m not a chef, but I am a very good cook. I season food appropriately, even throwing in a habanero pepper on occasion. If EH cooked some of his favorite traditional meals, I would try to watch so I could learn. He didn’t like when I would watch him cook, and he didn’t want to teach me.  Yet, he would eat my mom and stepdad’s food (they are also very good cooks, just not as spicy). Basically, we were cooking two separate meals, which meant more money for groceries.

EH started talking about attending graduate school in Georgia. In fact, the first time I heard it was when he was on the speakerphone with a friend. When I would discuss it with him (ex., managing two households, transferring my job, etc.), he couldn’t understand why I had an issue. That’s when the silent treatment began.

Silence as Control

God was watching over me. I didn’t realize it then. I’m thankful for it now.

When EH and I were dating, I was open and honest about my depression. He was very supportive then. That changed during our marriage. He knew I saw a therapist. We even did a few sessions together. EH also knew that communicating was important to me especially since this was my second marriage. That’s why he chose to be silent. It was the most effective way to control me and his situation.

The communication techniques I learned from therapist didn’t help. EH would always respond, “See you are always …” Then he would be silent. That silence would last at least a full day. He also stopped being intimate. If I tried to kiss him, he would pull away. In fact, one time he pulled away so quickly, he hit me in my nose. (Of course, then he apologized and hugged me).

I endured over a year of silent treatment and no sex or intimacy. I should’ve divorced him sooner. However, it was my second marriage, and I didn’t want to fail. He also agreed we would have children. That turned out to be a lie. However, it also was a blessing. 

I would never raise a child in an emotionally abusive home. If we had children, EH and I would be tied together for longer than necessary. God was watching over me. I didn’t realize it then. I’m thankful for it now.

EH left almost five years ago this coming July. I am so grateful for the blessings that I have received after he left. It has taken such a long time to share my story. I can now release the baggage he left behind.