Saturday, February 24, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Time to speak up about his silent treatment to therapist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

I'm on Day 4 of the silent treatment from my husband of 20 years. While this doesn't happen often and is usually short-lived (a day or less), over those years he has kept this up for days and even weeks on a few occasions, and I'm seeing signs that this will be another long haul. I am exhausted with the walking-on-eggshells routine.

Complicating things is our 14-year-old daughter, who is certainly old enough to see what's going on. She is rapidly losing respect for him, and for me, too, for putting up with him.

While counseling is probably the answer once he's speaking to me again, how the heck do I get him to that point? Right now I'm trying to give him space to deal with his anger and disappointment, which are aimed at both me and our daughter this time. Any other potential avenues you can recommend?

— Freeze

You are running out of chances to show this 14-year-old how important it is to advocate for yourself, and to seek help when something is beyond your ability to solve. An appointment with a skilled and reputable therapist is the answer now, without him, to guide you through both this current silent stage and those that follow.

The eggshell-walk is a learned behavior you're overdue to unlearn; good therapy will also help you understand why you've been "putting up with him," and how to talk to your daughter in a way that unites vs. divides.

Keep anger at sister in check

My sister has just been diagnosed with emphysema at age 43, after nearly 25 years of smoking and insisting we were overly worried.

How do I get past this frustration and this monstrous urge to tell her I told her so? Obviously that's the last thing anyone wants to hear, least of all while dealing with a life-threatening illness, but ... I told her so! For 25 years! Honestly, I want to scream at the unfairness of this.

— Anonymous

I want to scream on your behalf, at the awfulness and the frustration — and at the anger, too, right? Since she took such lousy care of someone you love?

I'm not sure where unfairness comes in, though. This is 2 + 2 adding up to 4.

You don't need any I-told-you-sos; the diagnosis said it for you. Channel your anger as harmlessly as you can on your own time, then bring your best to your sister.

Re: Emphysema:

I sympathize. My mother smoked for 46 years and it was a source of major contention for us. She constantly argued it wasn't going to kill her or harm me. Then she died of lung cancer when I was pregnant with my first child.

Sometimes I dream I am yelling at her for smoking and dying so young (59). But she did say to me that she knew it was important to acknowledge that I had been right about the smoking and so she would say it once and then didn't want to talk about it again. It took a lot for her to say it. Your sister might say it, too, if you give her the space and don't initiate the conversation.

— Anonymous 2

Nice thought, thanks, and I'm sorry about your mom.

Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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