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Wife withdrawn and resentful

Community Member

Hi, my wife and I are married since 20 years. The marriage was good for 15 years, except her constant silent treatment when we have a conflict. I asked her several times to stop that, use communication but without any success. In general I am the more patient, giving, mellow person, more of a people pleaser.

3 years ago we had a peak of her silent treatment and I started to research. It started with silent treatment and ended with narcissism. Unfortunately I have to say that she shows some covert narcissistic traits.

Since that time I changed quite a bit. I ignored her silent treatment, I started to implement boundaries, looked more after myself and stopped to panic when she was in a bad mood, etc.

2 years ago she found out that I researched narcissim quite extensively but kept quite.

1 year ago she told me and was very sad about it. She felt betrayaled and is since that time quite withdrawn and resentful.

I already apologized and explained the background of it but it seems there is something brocken between us. Some days are OK but every small issue, difference, different opinion, wrong word, wrong tone, etc. and she swithes into victim mode and is withdrawn again.

Any ideas?

28 Replies 28

Hi Duesentrieb,

Wishing you a warm welcome to the forums. It takes a lot of courage to be so open and honest with your feelings and experiences, and we are glad that you have reached out here tonight. We can hear how difficult your relationship has been, and how overwhelmed that you're feeling. Please know that you've come to a safe, non-judgemental space and our community is here to offer you with as much support, conversation and advise as you need. 

If you feel up to it, we'd also encourage you to reach out to our Beyond Blue Support Service, which is available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636 or on Webchat 3pm-12am AEST on our website: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport. One of our friendly counsellors will be able to talk through these feelings with you and can offer support, advice and referrals.
You are not alone here, and we hope that you keep us updated on how you're going whenever you are ready.

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion
Hi, welcome

Word for word in terms of the silent treatment you described my first wife. Our marriage lasted 11 years. She'd remain silent for up to 6 weeks, commonly 1-2. Long enough to satisfy I had suffered enough punishment. And what did I do to deserve such treatment? Perhaps a raise in my voice or money conflict or her not pulling her weight in the looking after the children when a stay at home mum while I worked 3 jobs. Etc

It was long after we divorced that I researched to realise silence was a form of narcissism.

In your case she has turned around the issue to be the victim. You've apologized- why? Because it's that people plaster in you but you had zero to apologise for. More appropriately she could have apologized for her silent treatment, but they never do- a trait of narcissism.

I have one ray of hope. It's a system I developed after my divorce. If you both fully commit to it then it works

Beyondblue topic relationship strife?- the peace pipe

Otherwise I'm sorry but her need to control by means of silence will be hard for her to break away from. Family counseling could help, if she won't go then go alone but refrain from sharing details of consultations. If she wants to know details she can attend.

Being a " people pleaser" has it's problems...open to abuse is one.

Beyondblue topic the definition of abuse


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Duesentrieb, thanks for your thread and I know Tony and I have discussed, not so much to each other but know exactly what we're talking about, the silent treatment.

We only wish this would never happen and rather talk about the situation, but for me, this happened not only with my ex but other people as well when they were wrong but wouldn't admit to it, so the silent treatment, causing emotional distance or exerting power over you.

Being ostracized is certainly demeaning which may, in turn, make you try and apologise for something you may not have done wrong or give in to their demands which may strengthen their situation.

Sometimes it may not be about an isolated situation, that has to be interrupted by you and then you can make a decision.

Best wishes.


Hi Tony,

Thanks for your reply.

One thing I can say. Her total number of apologies within theses 20 years hardly exceed 10.

Counseling, she refuses. I suggested that arleady. I had a counselor for some time and it was a good experience. She confirmed I am all right and gave me some tools e.g. assertive communication, etc. But she said that I am fighting a loose battle. We have a 12 years old son which makes it hard for me to decide.

Her silent treatment is currently much better. Now she is always the victim and very sensitive. Conflicts can start from super small things. Different tone, a look, etc.

I admit that the whole power dynamic changed. Previously I would have run after her, trying to calm her down, try to pacify her, etc. And yes it feels better but as I mentioned now she is withdrawn and every bit of affection comes from me. A hug, a kiss, etc. when I leave, when I come home, all initiated by me. Maybe I should leave that next time as well. But thinking back that happens since a long time.

She is in general very unforgiving and her grudges can take months maybe years. I am not sure if she is together with me only because of our son, house, finance, etc or if there is any love.

Sorry, I am very confused.

Hey Duesentrieb,

It must be really saddening feeling like your wife doesn't want to show you affection and love. That can really take a toll on our mental health. Its good to hear that a counsellor helped you feel more in control of your emotions and develop better communication skills, it sounds like you have had some really positive self growth which is great. 

If you are looking for any telephone counselling support to help you cope with what is going on in your relationship or even just to have a space to weigh up your options and discuss your next step, MensLine Australia is a free 24/7 telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns. You can contact them on 1300 78 99 78 or https://mensline.org.au/ 


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Duesentrieb

The fact that you are still in search of answers regarding the way forward for yourself and your relationship speaks a lot in regard to your thoughtful nature.

Wondering if you've deeply challenged your wife. Challenging her to work out why she behaves the way she does would definitely be interesting. If she's up for the challenge, she'll actually begin to seriously wonder herself. May sound strange but she may not even know why she behaves the ways she does. For example, you could genuinely ask 'Why do you use the silent treatment as a 'go to' way of managing the relationship?' She may say 'I don't know'. You could then say 'I wonder whether it's learned behaviour', prompting her to the revelation 'Actually, now that you mention it, my mum used to do this. Oh my god, I'm just like my mum!'.

If your wife's someone who shuts everyone down, not just you, you could lead her to wonder why she believes it's constructive to shut people down. You could ask 'Do you feel no need to listen to reason, other people's reasons?' Again, was this learned behaviour? Personally, I love listening to people's reasons for why they believe what they believe or why they think the way they do. I find it fascinating. It was actually my 17yo daughter who conditioned me to be more reasonable. If (when she was younger) I said she couldn't do something or have something, she'd ask me why. She'd prompt me to think of the reasons until I was able or honest in identifying them. She'd never do this in a brattish way, it was sincerely because she wanted valid answers, understanding. Goes to show, we can recondition or challenge people to be more reason able.

I figure, if someone's going to challenge me to wonder about my own questionable behaviour, it's only fair I get to wonder about some of their behaviours. So, instead of feeling 'picked on', it becomes a matter of a trade in search of higher consciousness. It's like an agreement to raise each other, thoughtfully. A lot of the time, our beliefs and behaviours originate from somewhere. Finding out where they came from and what triggers them can be interesting. It can also be a process that allows us to let go of behaviours we actually inherited, ones that were never ours to begin with.

Consider challenging your wife to be honest in regard to why the narcissism research saddened her so much. You could even say 'I challenge you to be honest'. People will tend be more honest with us if they sense we have an open mind.


Thank you therising, the idea you describe is good but the only answer I get is that she is simply angry and does not want to see me at this moment which can take several days. That how she works.. she is expressing her anger by creating feelings but does not look for a solution. As mentioned before it is as well a kind of control and retribution. No, she is doing that only at home with me. I am afraid that she will use it one day with our son too.

Sorry, she is not that curious. When she uses that silent treatment she is completely freaked out. She wanted already to end the relationship, fly home during a holiday trip, left my son and me in Tokio without money, ... so quite hardcore. She does not listen, is not open to reason, logic, etc. She sees in these moments only herself.

I guess it is a behavior she learned during our relationship as it worked for so long and I enabled it.


Hi Duesentrieb

What you describe sounds so incredibly frustrating. Of course, other people's behaviour is going to be even more frustrating when we are fairly sensitive people.

Being sensitive has both it's up side and down side. Starting with the down side, which I imagine you can relate to, there will be times when you can sense a mood shift coming in someone. Such an experience can be impacting enough to get our nervous system going a bit, to anxiety or dread. There can be that thought 'Please, not again.' The upside, when you can sense a mood shift coming on in someone, there's the ability to also sense inspiration. What comes to mind might be 'You are not going to tolerate this again'. It's like inspiration is giving you a firm directive to follow.

It's only in the past year and a half that I'd begun listening to a little more natural inspiration within my 20 something year relationship. In the past, I would avoid triggering my husband to agitation through the act of 'bottling things up'. It's amazing how much of a natural self esteem booster inspiration can be. These days, I let it guide me. I'll give you a handful of examples that come to mind for me, during situations where I can feel myself being challenged

  • You have to speak up
  • You should not tolerate this lack of respect/consideration
  • He is being unreasonable (he cannot see your reasons because his mind is closed)
  • Leave him alone in his tantrum
  • He's being thoughtless when you have patiently begged him to be more thoughtful

I could go on but you get the gist.

I wonder what inspiration sounds like in your mind at certain times. The fact that you've felt inspired to set boundaries, ignore the behaviour and not enable it, you've felt inspired to consider counseling etc goes to show you are someone who's open to inspiration.

You could say, through you wife's behaviour, through this long and deep challenge, you are finding the best in yourself. Perhaps you are more tolerant than you ever imagined, more thoughtful than you ever imagined yourself to be, open to inspiration/open minded, determined, a solution seeker, caring, sensitive (an undeniable super power at times). Basically, you are someone who is willing to evolve through challenge. You have a will to make a difference (not live in soul destroying sameness). You gotta admit, you're pretty amazing when you think about it. You're a great example for your son. He's blessed. Sounds like it's you who is your son's guiding light in life.


Thank you so much for your reply.

I can say the first years of our marriage I put my wife on a pedestal. During that time our life was full of changes and challenges. Got to know each other in Singapore (she is malay singaporean). Dating, marriage (2000), migration to Germany (my home country), everything new for her (language, culture, work, etc.). And since 2006 Australia. And again, new environment, work, house, son, etc. Since 2013 things are much quiter as we settled down more.

Our life became quote dull…getting up, before school care, work, pick up our son, dinner, clean up and preparation, homework, TV, bringing my son to bed at 8:30-9:00. When I joined her at 9:30 most of the time she was sleeping already. So I ended up quite often doing paperwork, etc. and felt alone. Weekends work around the house, shopping, etc. but the evenings were quite the same.

At that time I felt that something is off. First I assumed work as I faced some challenges. I changed employer but it didn't get better. Due to some increase of our conflicts and her silent treatment I started to research in 2017. Silent treatment, narcissism, toxic behavior, etc.

From there I went through a roller coaster and it opened my eyes. Did she ever loved me? Am I just supply for her. Does she loves me only because I am easygoing, easy agreeable, patient, etc.

On the other hand I realized there are definitely soms narcissistic traits, she has not much empathy, is a taker and shows some self-centered behaviour. Just a few minor examples but they show in my opinion her mindset.

The other day we went for a walk and passed a playground. Our son, 12, wanted to have a go and I understand that as he hasn’t seen other kids for months. She let him go but was quite reluctant and was not really happy. It’s not the COVID situation, it is more the fact that we have to wait, she wants to walk to get her steps or she just wants to get her way.
My son wants to play minecraft with her since 6 months and she always bails out. I get it that she is not into computer games but is it not possible to do it for 15-30 minutes?