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Please help, how can I stop giving the silent treatment

(47 Posts)
PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 09:54:18

For background DH and I have been together 6 years and have 2 children - 4yo DD and 4mo DS. DH works long hours of varying shifts and I am on maternity leave.

I have a history of depression from a teenager that rears itself every so often generally when I'm finding things stressful. I have felt fine after the baby up until the past week or so and I'm wondering whether I could have PND or not.

I've hardly seen DH this past week due to his working hours and I've found it difficult with the children. This has resulted in me pretty much staying in the whole time which, in turn, makes me feel worse. I am struggling currently.

DH and I have had a couple of difficult days together, he's been working all weekend so we have maybe seen each other on our own for 4 hours at most.

I have been upset at him this weekend which was triggered by me giving him his Father's day gift on Friday (as he wouldn't see the children the rest of the weekend) and he didn't look at it. I spent a lot of time and effort on the gift and it wasn't cheap and I was really looking forward to him opening it and looking at it. I mentioned it on Saturday night and he said he would look at it but wanted us to do it together and I was just going to bed as was worn out after the children. I then asked him last night if he was going to look at it and he said yes but still didn't but proceeded to watch tv for a couple of hours then I went to bed. It's still sitting in the kitchen untouched.

Another issue is he dislikes his job and has done for a couple of years. He often mentions looking for another job. I spent hours helping him create his CV for him and looked online for jobs to help him out as he doesn't have much free time. I've sent him all these jobs but he's never applied for any of them. He is constantly saying he is going to look and has never applied for anything. He is miserable in his job and is always talking about it and saying he wants out. I feel like a broken record giving the same advice over and over but he doesn't do anything to change the situation.

I find it very difficult to explain how I'm feeling and have been giving him the silent treatment pretty much since Saturday night. I don't know how to articulate how I'm feeling without coming across as confrontational. I went to bed early on Saturday night then he was working all day yesterday. He text me from work and all was fine then he came in and went straight into how awful his day was without asking about mine. Then he, again, didn't look at the gift after saying he would. He asked me what was wrong and if I was bored. I said I was struggling and that sometimes I just wanted to run away and not come back. He replied with that's horrendous but mat leave is such a short time so it'll be over soon. Then he started to moan about his work again. I gave him the same advice again but got annoyed because it's the same over and over with no change from him. I then went to bed again and he said oh, here we go again.

I find it easier to walk away because I can't trust myself to not say something I'll regret in the heat of the moment. I give him the silent treatment because it's easier for me than trying to discuss it. It hurts him when I do this and I don't want to do that. I can feel it chipping away at our relationship until it's completely eroded and we won't get it back.

My mum used to give my dad the silent treatment, they have been divorced for decades now but he still sometimes mentions how bad it was. I have some awful character traits from my mum and I hate it.

Can anyone help me change the way I communicate?? I've looked online but can only find things about being on the receiving end of it and how it's a form of control and abuse sad

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 10:41:29

No one? sad

Sparkletastic Mon 20-Jun-16 10:50:30

You are clearly very non-confrontational and stay silent rather than allowing yourself some anger. Could you write down how you are feeling for DH? He sounds like he might be stressed and depressed too but he needs to take responsibility for his own thoughtless actions and for offloading on you when you aren't in a fit state to provide unqualified moral support.

fartypantsmummy Mon 20-Jun-16 10:51:01

Another silenter here too unfortunately. First step though - you can see it. I saw it too and try to speak up about what is annoying me. I hate confrontation though. It won't get better unless you say what is bugging you - I start with 'don't shoot me down here, please let me speak' and then say what is annoying you. You are allowed to speak too. I'm sure others will be along soon with better advice but didn't want to read and run. YOu aren't the only one.

pallasathena Mon 20-Jun-16 11:18:13

He sounds totally fed up and so do you. Why didn't he want to open his gift? could it be he can't find any joy or happiness in life and the gift came over as a bit meaningless?
I find it difficult to accept a gift when its given in a spirit of reluctance, or in an atmosphere of tension. By not articulating your worries you are building up tension that has to go somewhere. Either you will burst or he will or you will continue in this destructive dance that you both indulge in.
If you can't change him then change the way you react, the way you behave around him. Most people are just looking for a bit of understanding, a bit of empathy. It does help if you try to be kind rather than judgemental in my experience. Maybe he just needs you to be on his side.

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 12:03:00

Yes, he is under a lot of stress at work.

We're both at breaking point, not with each other but him with work and me with being at home with the children. This is putting pressure on our relationship as we are rubbish at communicating with each other. I'm taking it out on him because I feel frustrated at the lack of understanding from him. Although I'm expecting him to know this without me actually telling him and I'm punishing him with the silent treatment because he doesn't get it.

There was no tension between us when I gave him the gift. I made him a dinner of his choice as we were marking father's day early and we were both looking forward to it. He was in a good mood but then disregarded the gift saying he'd look at it later then never did as I mentioned in my first post.

My mood has gone downhill over the past few days which has coincided with the gift giving, him working longer hours and not being around as much to help out with the kids and him bringing up again about wanting another job.

Whenever I broach a subject about something I'm not happy with he doesn't take it well as it makes him feel bad and that I'm criticising him. I don't want to make him feel bad or uncomfortable so I just let it fester until I eventually explode and make it into a bigger deal than it was. The most recent thing being he is terrible at cleaning/tidying up after himself. He just leaves things where he drops them. I'm fed up of constantly living in groundhog day by clearing up after the kids and also him. When I recently mentioned it again he said he's obviously useless. He'll then come round and say yes he'll make more of an effort but never ever does.

All I've mentioned is building resentment from me and I really feel at breaking point.

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 12:05:09

I do try to be understanding. I've listened to the same things about his work for long enough and been sympathetic and tried to help but I can't keep helping him if he won't help himself.

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 12:06:39

I agree that I can't change him but I can change the way I react.

He probably doesn't feel I'm on his side. I am to a certain extent but my sympathy only goes so far when he does nothing to change the situation.

Sparkletastic Mon 20-Jun-16 17:01:04

My DH used to be a terrible moaner about his job and would never admit some of his unhappiness was down to him. In the end I would let him moan for 10 minutes then cut him off. When he dismissed any of my contributions to the discussion I would fall completely silent. He soon learned that I would be the sponge for his moaning. Funnily enough he loves his job now despite it being the one he used to moan about!

MaddyHatter Mon 20-Jun-16 17:10:50

honestly, i think you have a right to be annoyed about the gift.

You put a lot of thought into it, and he has completely disregarded that, its like all your care and love isn't important.

Tell him. Dont let it fester.

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 18:48:52

Yes, I will need to tell him. I've put the gift away now as it was lying out. Was going to see how long until he mentioned it, if at all, but I'd just get more annoyed.. I'll wait until we have more time together and not after a long shift.

I'm tempted to not let him go on about his work so much but I know he needs to vent when he gets in but it's just the same bloody moan all the time ending with I need a new job. He's text today saying he's having a good day hmm

Hidingtonothing Mon 20-Jun-16 18:55:41

I'm not sure after reading your later posts that you giving him the 'silent treatment' is purely down to you not liking confrontation. You say he 'doesn't take it well' if you express being unhappy about something and that he feels criticised and you don't want to make him feel bad or uncomfortable. Well that's a pretty effective way of him closing down your ability to communicate your feeling isn't it? You should be able to say what you feel without him automatically making it about him and it doesn't sound like you can. That doesn't sound to me like someone displaying 'awful character traits', it sounds like someone who isn't allowed a voice. The gift thing is ungrateful and I'm not surprised it upset you when you'd made an effort for him and the moaning about his job but not doing anything about it must be incredibly frustrating. Counselling might help, it would at least give you a chance to voice your feelings and might make him see how his behaviours are damaging your relationship. I honestly don't think this is you though OP, obviously there are always two sides to every story but I'm not sure it's helpful for you to assume all your problems are down to 'inherited' character traits and I'm not sure it's you who needs to change here.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Mon 20-Jun-16 19:39:12

Stop "helping" him. There are some situations where "help" makes it worse. The job situation is a perfect example. When he is genuinely ready to get a job, he will do all the necessary things. Unless he is exceptionally stupid. If he isnt doing the necessary things, it is because he isn't ready. You doing them for him will only frustrate you when he doesn't follow up.

Stop helping him moan too, deflect it all back on him "so, what are you going to do?". Offer no solutions and little sympathy, only questions along the lines of "how will you fix this?" You can't offer comments on his solutions either. You accept what he says. You accept what he says he will do. No judging, no offering advice or tips or anything like that.

You will feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders as you force him to carry his own problems instead of taking them on your shoulders.

Topseyt Mon 20-Jun-16 21:22:11

I would be pissed off about him ignoring the gift and would probably have told him so in no uncertain terms by now. That is just rude and disrespectful.

With regard to his job, you can't do much there. Perhaps he enjoys moaning about it rather than actually hating the job?

Whatever the case is, he will only start to look for another job if and when he feels ready. Don't do it for him. You will both only end up frustrated.

Believeitornot Mon 20-Jun-16 21:40:00

You need to work on your avoidance of confrontation. My dh shuts down in arguments and I find it very hurtful and disrespectful. I like to get things aired and quickly before they fester.

You need to find a way to communicate to him. Punishing him with silent treatment won't work. Try writing out a little script and ask him to just listen. Then listen to him. Then try and work on solutions. Don't blame each other. Just talk about your feelings in turn.

I would suggest counselling but suspect it is difficult with two young DCs

sadie9 Mon 20-Jun-16 21:52:20

What was the gift by the way?
I am wondering about this bit...^Was going to see how long until he mentioned it^ It looks like you were going to have a competition that he didn't know about to see did he notice you took the gift away. This is called moving into Advanced Huff Mode - Entrapment to Prove They Do Not Care About Me.
What you can do is explain to him what you are doing as you are doing it, I find this very useful. So I might say something like - right, I am going off to huff upstairs now because it looks like you don't care about the fabulous present I bought you'. Or, say 'I do realise that when I am feeling hurt and angry I do go all silent because I don't know what to say'. Or 'sometimes my feelings are hurt because you tell me about how bad your job is and you don't ask anything about me. So that makes me think you don't care'.
So you try to describe your own observation of your own behaviour, rather than saying 'you don't care about me! You came in here and didn't ask me anything about my day!'.
I am married to a perennial moaner/The Job Whingerer too so I do get it! Again like another poster says, the amount of moaning and whinging is not proportional to the amount they actually hate the job. They just use the moaning because they want the attention and recognition they didn't get at work. Boy are they barking up the wrong tree there.
Again I describe his behaviour back to him which sometimes works. Like 'gosh you seem to be in a very bad humour tonight'. Or sometimes I would ask myself the question I want to be asked out loud and then I answer it myself 'Well, Sadie what sort of day did you have? Well, I had an absolutely shite day, thanks for your concern. DS 1 threw up and then I burned the spag bol so had to tip that out. Then I kicked DD potty over full of wee and had to clean that up before defrosting some unrecognisable sauce from the freezer which I am chucking over some noodles. And no, I didn't bring your shirt to the cleaners, not did I pay your Car Tax so don't even ask me about it.'
So sometimes the biggest question I ask myself is: Do I descend into absolute despair or do I say F that, I am not descending into despair over this. It will be my lost time not anyone else's. Maybe this really isn't the All Is Lost situation it is masquerading as even though it feels like it is right now.

PlatoTheGreat Mon 20-Jun-16 21:56:25

I would start by rephrase your term 'silent treatment'.
Silent treatment is about punishing someone for something they have done or not done.
But you aren't doing that. You stop talking because you are worried about what yoou might say and how it might hurt your DH.

then I have noticed you are taking an awful lot of time saying that you have an history of depression, are probably struggling atm etc etc...
Except that, none of the things you are talking about would be acceptable for me.
Moaning on and on and on about work but doing nothing would drive me crazy (and yes I would stop trio to 'help'. It doesn't work)
The leaving stuff around the hose. Who does he think you are, the maid?
Or the not opening the present and 'forgetting' about it again and again.

I can't see anything wrong with your complains...

But yes you need to find a way to tell him about it and tell him how you feel about it.

Summerlovinf Mon 20-Jun-16 22:03:29

Yes, you probably do have an issue with confrontation...but your DH has got some issues rude not to acknowledge and open the present, he sounds like he doesn't care much how you feel generally (not asking about your day etc). Are you on eggshells around him?

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 22:17:50

Thank you all for your responses. It's made me re-evaluate the way I communicate with DH, or don't more to the point!

It's interesting that he might not actually want a new job. I know he's comfortable where he is but I also know how stressful he finds it and that it would be better for us as a family if he got another job due to his hours etc. But, you're all right, I can't force him to look for another one or update his CV etc. I can change how I deal with the situation though by not looking for jobs for him etc as I get very frustrated when he then does nothing about it as I've wasted my time and energy.

I definitely need to work on the way I say things and change from "you don't care about me" and "you never..." etc as this just gets his back up and puts him on the defensive.

We do otherwise have a great relationship believe it or not smile This issue rears it's ugly head every so often after I let the resentment build to boiling point and it all comes out. Then we kiss and make up although nothing is every truly resolved.

I don't think I want to go to counselling just yet. And, yes, with the kids and also his hours it would be nigh on impossible to orchestrate that currently.

The gift is a printed photo album type book that I had made up for him. It has little anecdotes about him as well as photos of when he was younger and also photos of the children and us as a family. There are a couple of our eldest's drawings printed in it too. So kind of like a memory book.

Yes, I was going to have a competition with him that he knew nothing about. But I knew this was a stupid idea and could see how it would go. I would get more pissed off because he couldn't mind read and he would get more upset and hurt wondering what on earth he'd done wrong.

PippinLost Mon 20-Jun-16 22:41:12

X-posted with another couple of posts.

The leaving stuff around is really pissing me off tbh. I have mentioned it umpteen times - I've calmly asked, I've shouted, I've tried various ways of trying to get through to him but nothing works. It doesn't even change a little bit. I find it really disrepectful and, yes, like a maid. A while ago someone posted an article on MN about how they divorced after their OH left a cup on the side. But of course it wasn't simply about just leaving a cup. It was all that it implied and the build up to that. I showed him the article. He wasn't too pleased and felt that it was an attack on him and that I thought he was useless. He didn't see the bigger picture or the impact it had on me. I have adopted a MN mantra I've read several times with him "don't put down, put away". He now recites it to me but still doesn't change.

Sometimes I just sigh and put the things away but other times, depending on my mood, I feel I'm going to explode with rage if he does that ONE MORE TIME. He's not a child, I'm not his mother. He is a fully functioning adult and is more than capable of tidying up after himself. Yes, I "enable" him by putting his stuff away/tidying up after him but if I didn't I'd be tripping over it for god knows how long and it's bad enough having a million kids toys etc strewn about without his stuff on top of that.

I'm not on eggshells around him. I'm probably the more dominant one in the relationship. Most of what he does is with me and the children in mind to make us happy. I know it doesn't sound like that. This probably sounds like a huge issue and, right now, it is but normally we get on great, are very affectionate, he's a great dad and extremely hands on with the children.

I'm very surprised at his reaction to the gift as he knows how much effort I put into gifts for others and he does the same for me. This is not like him in the slightest. I'm very confused about that.

Believeitornot Tue 21-Jun-16 08:30:50

Silent treatment is about punishing someone for something they have done or not done. But you aren't doing that. You stop talking because you are worried about what yoou might say and how it might hurt your DH

That's from the point of view of the person who is doing the silencing. However the op's own dad hastalked about how horrible it feels. And I bet the dh doesn't like it either.

pallasathena Tue 21-Jun-16 08:47:00

He probably has an idea what the gift actually is and doesn't want to hurt your feelings.
A memory book is, with all due respect, something that people usually give to relatives who are either ill or aged.
He's very likely at a stage in life where he'd be delighted with a gadgety type present or tickets to a concert, something a bit more age appropriate if you see what I mean.
There's a fascinating aspect to all of this o/p in your choice of present and your reasons for getting upset over his lack of gratitude. He's not conforming to your expectations is he? Maybe he's rebelling in a passive aggressive way? Maybe you're reacting in a similarly passive aggressive way?
You should be able to work it all out as you do seem to love each other.

lavenderpekins Tue 21-Jun-16 08:49:18

Google 'the 5 love languages'; very insightful in my marriage. Also look into GOOD couples therapy (not relate) and getting a cleaner might really help.

pallasathena Tue 21-Jun-16 08:51:37

And an afterthought: sometimes it helps to find humour in a situation.

Cabrinha Tue 21-Jun-16 09:20:46

I know this isn't all about the gift, but just on that - I knew it was going to be a photo book.

It's hard to phrase this well without sounding rude. I am sure lots of effort went into it and that it was lovely. I think the addition of anecdotes and the drawings makes it a bit different too. I think it sounds lovely. But... sorry...

Sometimes we're just off the mark with gifts! I've done it - chosen something I think is going to make my partner grin from ear to ear, and he just doesn't really care blush not cos he's rude or ungrateful, just because it's so personal.

I'm actually not a massive fan of photo books. I take and look at photos of my child all the time. When Facebook time hops me I do have an "oh she's so cute! Remember that camping trip 3 years ago?" moment... But that's it. Fleeting. If I was tired from work and otherwise grumpy with my partner, I would hate this feeling that I had to be all happy and grateful. Sorry!

My XH used to get my gifts I didn't want (money rather than effort in that case) and I hated the forced appreciation I was supposed to show.

Remember that a gift is to make the receiver happy, not to make you happy.

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