Carolyn Hax: its silent treatment will not work if you're not there


Dear Carolyn: I've heard "life is too short" a lot lately. It makes me think that I lost time, energy and money in a relationship of 23 years that caused me so much pain and fatigue.

My husband is difficult and controlling. Both tendencies come directly from his family: his mother is a dominant narcissist.

When I was younger, I thought I would only have to improve and this would alleviate some of his anxiety, selfishness and control problems. It was not until I had children that his tendencies really made me question what I was doing.

We live close to his family, all of whom, on several occasions in recent years, gave me the silent treatment, they called me names and in general they caused me a lot of stress. After therapy, I managed to establish good boundaries with his family. And I tried in many different ways to talk to my husband to make him understand what I'm experiencing. Since his family is his norm, he does not fully understand.

Now it has collapses on a weekly basis that include silent processing and sometimes the nickname. I answer most of the time quietly, because I just have to accept it for what it is, since it refuses to seek help. I have three small children and a family to look after – he only helps home when and if he feels like it, and usually nothing too tiring. I'm also the only supplier for my family. So I work full time and I have a full time family with little support.

I could have the opportunity to move for my work. I think maybe the physical distance from his family could work. Does it ever help you in these situations? It is the only thing I have not reasonably tried.

– Life is too short

Life is too short: No it is not. You never tried divorce.

I'm not saying you should have, only you did not.

I generally avoid pointing out things that people do not need to hear – I do not say that there is such a thing as adoption, for example, to people who struggle to conceive, because duh – but the blind spot in your letter seems so vast that I feel forced to make an exception:

Divorce is a legal and emotional remedy valid for 23 years of pain and buffer against 23 others.

Life is too short? Could be. I say life is too long to justify spending its duration with a seemingly capable partner who does not contribute to emotional support, income or proportionate domestic effort – not even love, anywhere – and that contributes to the # 39; selfishness, stress, poor boundaries, a bad family and weekly collapses / calls of names / silent treatments.

I'm glad you found the therapy useful, and I'm glad your boundaries with your family have taken place. But let me suggest that it was not a solution to itself, but instead it was Part 1 of a difficult but long-lived revision of a long life / short life.

Please explore part 2 in private consultation with an excellent lawyer, and in therapy again, alone. (If you give up miraculously, then go it alone.) Read "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker. Do not skimp on preserving yourself and children, or on safety, especially in consideration of a possible transfer. Suppose it will make this hard like you.

But ask yourself: if you were your son, would you like to grow up in this house?

Write to Carolyn Hax at Bring the column to your inbox every morning on


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