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Wife withdrawn

Community Member

Hi guys,

I am married to my wife for 18 years.

Since the beginning she used the Silent Treatment (ST) in any conflict or when something didn't go her way. We discussed it but without any success. The fact that I always ran after her, trying to pacify her, didn't really help either.


2018 the ST increased. I wrote her a letter. She laughed it off by saying that I would be over-dramatic and that she wouldn't do anything. How could I be possibly affected. I even suggested counseling, but she refused categorically.      


Bringing up issues in the relationship has always been a difficult one. Often, she

- gets passive aggressive (silent treatment, defiance, sulking)

- use deflection (OK, but you.... )

-  projection (accusing me of not loving her, being happy when she is not around, etc.)

- minimized the issue and my view (no true, I am sensitive, etc.)

Tries to clarify something after silent treatment could lead to another round of it with her saying … if you would love me you would know what you did wrong


I started to research, and it went from ST to narcissism. In addition, I learned that I am a people pleaser, emotional dependent,  and anxious about conflicts. When she was angry, I switched into a childlike frozen state. As well I learned that the relationship is quite single sided when it comes to affection, attention, effort, etc.

I stopped to run after her when she gave me the ST. I became more assertive but as well at times judgmental, resentful, etc.


2019 my wife found that I was in a Facebook group about narcissism and that I talked to other people about our issues. Both, she considered as a major breach of trust. I understand her anger and apologized.


Since this time, she is totally withdrawn, stone-walls me, conversations are just functional, etc. I constantly tried to reconnect but without success. She just does not open up. If I ask I get just a simple "All OK". I went for counseling twice and both counselors confirm that she seems to be difficult (see below).


I am at my wits end. The difficulties are one thing but the distance she creates kills me. Any advice?

26 Replies 26

Community Champion
Community Champion

welcome back.


I notice you have been around here a while and the same problems persist 😞

I just wonder what your wife is like when you both go out for dinner?

what happens if you ask her about what's on her mind?


I would also be curious about what suggestions the counsellors gave you? You don't really have to answer this one.


That said, the one but of advice I received was to speak in terms if "I" about a problem and to make sure you lose a lot of empathy to lower the defenses of the other person. It might be ...


I am concerned that we do not speak very much and I am sure things must be also be difficult for you with [insert reasons here]. If I were in your position .... 


hope some of this helps. Of course, the counsellors might also have suggested the above. Listening to you.


Community Champion
Community Champion


You have been coping for many years with ST and your withdrawn wife.

I thank you for your honesty. 

I wonder like small wolf how your wife behaves  in front of others and when out to dinner .


My partner is wonderful to everyone but controlling to me and dominating. The version of the ST I experience is sulking for hours and being ignored . 

You are not alone we are listening. 

Thank you for your reply.

I just realized how many times I have been here and still look for answers.

If we go out for dinner she is OK but we mainly talk functional things as we have to bring our son along. He is 14 but she doesn't want that he stays alone at home and a baby sitter is too expensive in her opinion.

That was basically always like that. Of course he had some sleepovers, camps etc. and when we go out it's most of the time dinner and maybe cinema. At dinner we talk but there is always this distance. But if I look around we are one of the least engaged couples. In the cinema the same and most of the time she falls to sleep.


If I ask her what's on her mind I will get things like work, house, etc.


- Counselor 1 gave me tools like assertive communication, I sentences, etc. but with the confirmation that she is difficult and information if I would consider a separation.

- Counselor 2 (just recently) was a bit more direct. Confirmed that she seems to be difficult and she (the counselor) doubts that the situation will change. I should give it a time frame, build up a support network in the meantime and switch into action when the time is up. She made it quite clear that separation would possibly the best. 


If I mention that we do not speak as before.. she will say yes but she prefers to be quite so that she doesn't get hurt. Of course hinting to all my wrongdoings (mainly the narcissistic accusation, being on that closed FB forum).


Both counselors basically said ...

Yes she had the right to be angry, maybe 1 week, maybe 2 weeks... but then she should have asked how I come to that idea. There is no curiosity and/or possibly she is not reflecting her behavior at all.

I explained it partly to her but in her opinion that's nothing as she is not doing anything.


Thanks for your reply.

As mentioned above when we go out she is ok but most of the time the conversation is functional, prevention possible hot topics and there is this distance. When we are out with friends it's OK as she tries to be the perfect couple.

If she would say she needs an time-out to cool down. No problem but it is so clear that she is using the silent treatment to guilt me. She does not eat... when I bring her food she doesn't touch it. Once she slept in the walking wardrobe... I picked her up with umbrella from the train station... no change of hart... It's all years ago but it is still in my mind....


The problem is not anymore so much her passive aggressiveness... that I can handle today as I have tool for that. If she is giving me the silent treatment, I tell her if she is ready to talk I am there otherwise I am doing my stuff.

Today it's this huge distance she creates...

If I come home and say hello, she doesn't look at me. If she gets up in the morning and I am working at my computer she doesn't say good morning or comes to me. In the evening we watch TV, the film ends and she gets up to go to bed, no good night. BTW we sleep separately as I snore very bad. We drive car, maybe you scurry someone's hair, nothing. I give her a hug, she returns it but the hug of my Chinese supplier feels warmer. We lie in bed.... yes I can massage her back, head... But there is no reciprocity at all. In the last 10 years that happened maybe 5 times...


It's maybe hard but our son hardly witnesses ever that she moved towards me to hug me, kiss me... OK, we are not teenagers anymore but I am not dead, yet.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Duesentrieb, this silent treatment can be referred as a type of emotional abuse, and I've been through this myself many times, and it's simply awful because there doesn't seem to any reason why this has to happen, rather than discussing the pro's and con's, which may allow a reasonable settlement.

When the ST happens, you are grasping at why this type of abuse is happening and after many times it does you walk away in annoyance, stumbling to try and understand why this has to be the situation and then primarily stick to what you believe.

After a an hour, a few hours or the next day you go back and try to reason with her, but the door is still locked and won't open until you concede, not that you want to, but can suddenly stop the ST.

Eventually though, when this happens many times, it eats away at you and begins to affect you mentally and may need counselling by yourself first, then you will have the tools when you both go to couple counselling.

I know how irritating this can be and hope you can get back to us.


Life Member.

Hello Duesentrieb, if she does ask you, it doesn't matter because the look she may give you only indicates she wants to be in control.


Life Member.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hey Duesentrieb, please realise you're not alone in trying to deal with a relationship of this dynamic. 

Clearly you've tried to reach out for a long while, here & via FB. Also sought support / advice from MH professionals. 


Getting an education about your wife's personality type surely helps you understand what type of person she is. This is a very good idea to do. It shows how committed and dedicated you are to making this marriage "work" or better said... suit you better
So I believe you've had TONS of advice. 


Perhaps the advice you're really after is "How do I change my wife's behaviours, so I'm happier in our marriage?". To this I think possibly that no one has point blank told you, or maybe you've not liked their responses. 


The bottom line is that you can't change your wife's behaviours. 
Her behaviours SUIT her. 
She maybe not be "happy" but when are narcissists ever happy? The answer is never. 
They do enjoy manipulating others, very much! 
They usually choose an empath to partner with, which drives an empath crazy. 
They simply see nothing wrong with their behaviours at all. 


The Counsellor who had you look at Family Law was gently trying to lead you to the conclusion of many understandings. 


So imo, you have 2 choices. 
1 is try to deal with this lack of intimacy (I mean connection kind of intimacy) in your marriage and stay

2 get your ducks in a row and leave the marriage. 


Either way, work very hard to recognise the red flags in other potential partners and NOT do what I did... narc after narc after narc - not recommended lol. 


I'm good now. But recovering from Narcissistic abuse is real. Being IN the relationship is painful. Leaving a narc is wrought with many bumps in the road for our MH also. 


Kind thoughts to you

Thanks again, the silent treatment doesn't really bother me anymore. She managed to reduce that and today I just do my thing until she is ready to talk. I guess she doesn't like it but she can't do much.


It is the withdrawal of almost three years. What drives me crazy is that it seems that she is totally OK with that way of living together. I try to reconnect but there is no effort from her side.... 

I guess control has a high priority for her. When I stopped to react on her Silent Treatment she was quite shocked. Today for example I am not trying to be super agreeable anymore which shocks her too.

And yes there are plenty of little things that she like to be in control. I believe that this is not conscious but it still creates issues.