1. Kids & Family

Tell Me About It: Wife uses silent treatment to be cruel

Wife uses silent treatment to be cruel

Q: My wife is a wonderfully sensible person and appropriately sensitive. She is the oldest of three sisters and often feels left out. The age and geographical distance make it understandable that her two sisters have a much closer relationship.

Still, they left her out of a big announcement, and my wife is hurt and now doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She hasn't answered their phone calls for weeks, and they are calling me asking if she is OK. I'm not allowed to tell the truth.

Her perceptions are entirely correct, but I have told her this isn't going to produce a good result. I value her family, but I am not the one to suffer the real consequences.

Is there anything I can do but tell her my concerns? And is she right to do this?

Will Do What's Right for Her

A: What is "wonderfully sensible" about giving her sisters the silent treatment, and silencing you as well?

The issue here isn't the "real consequences" your wife may suffer, or whether she has somehow miscalculated which response will be best for her emotionally, either in the near- or long-term. You may be right that she will ultimately regret estranging herself from her sisters, but that is a risk she is entitled to take.

The issue is that your wife's silence constitutes mistreatment of others. It's arbitrary and cruel.

There's a much simpler issue here, too: Grown-ups use their words. The mature option for your wife is to face her problem directly and speak to her sisters: "I was really hurt when you excluded me from this announcement. I feel left out on a regular basis, but this hurt the most."

You obviously don't get to decide what your wife does. However, you can let this "wonderfully sensible" person know that there are more productive ways to handle her hurt feelings, no matter how legitimately she came by them. You can also say you'll answer direct questions minimally but truthfully, and no longer abet her treating others as she would never stand for their treating her.