Even if we are fundamentally accepting of a breakup (and that’s a big if), being on the receiving end of distilled silence tends to exacerbate trauma and ferment insecurity.
Have they stopped caring? Have they met someone else or moved on entirely? Is it a wicked ego-driven game to starve me of my resolve? While the answers we seek are as complex as the strands of the breakup itself, there is an important distinction between genuine silence, aimed at healing and getting on with life, and a more sinister mind game aimed at coming out on top emotionally.
Which is it? And how do we tell?
Exploiting Emotional Supply And Demand
A crude form of manipulation revolves around our understanding that scarcity often catalyzes insecurity.
If we can’t get what we need transparently, or are unable to gather enough courage to face rejection or further pain, attempting to starve an ex of their sense of comfort can become an alluring prospect. A last-ditch effort at bringing them down to prop ourselves up.
However, it goes without saying that an abrupt and enduring silence is not always the result of one last roll of the dice. Sometimes the silence is merely the corollary of genuinely attempting to move on with life. How can we tell the difference?
As always the lines are blurred, but it won’t stop me from shelling out my opinion.
- In the case of manipulation the silence is fragile. Should you cave into reaching out, a two-way dialogue is quickly established (even if abrasive and resentful).
- In the case of moving on, communication feedback is limited (if you get anything back at all), abrupt and direct.
- In the case of manipulation there is usually a cascade of other supporting behaviors that act as cries for attention (to make up for the lack of communication). Drastic changes in lifestyle, third-party involvement, and an increase in social media activity.
- In the case of moving on, communication is usually level-headed, whereas manipulative silence betrays a definite leak of emotion (even if the emotion is expressed as anger — that too is a sign of caring deeply).
As always, over-analysis is the demon that healing must contend with, and silence isn’t always a weapon because often it is used as an attempt to move on, even if the attempt backfires and fails. Which leads to a situation where attempting to comfort ourselves (manipulation) and seeking clarity (going cold turkey) can clash.
However, in the main, I would say that the aforementioned indicators can serve as superficial rules of thumb.
The No Contact Rule
The prevalence of no contact as a post-breakup tool has also muddied our contemporary waters.
In theory I have nothing against no contact strictly as a healing tool. However, realistically, I would be lying if I didn’t say that for many it’s advertised as a get-them-back gimmick (because of the principle of supply and demand).
The result of this trend is that it makes telling the two poles of intent apart unnecessarily difficult. An ex who wishes to reconcile may project a display of indifference. This becomes especially tragic if both parties assume the no contact mantle, and instead of finding a mutual point to begin the process of reconciliation, communication withers away to long-term silence.
In the majority of my articles I do applaud the virtue of silence, but only if certain criteria have been fulfilled.
- You have made your stance regarding the breakup clear and direct (for or against).
- You have made sure that if your ex wishes to contact you it addresses your conditions (to protect against crumbs and disillusionment).
- You have made sure that if you wish your ex to contact you, that they should feel comfortable doing so.
Once these steps have been taken, there really isn’t all that much to add, and no contact can serve as a powerful healing tool. Obviously, you can’t control the actions of your ex in the wake of stress, but by being transparent you promote direct communication. Lead by example, often it is sufficient to crack the clarity shell.
A History Of Insecurity
Another way to piece together the intent puzzle is by ignoring the present and looking at your ex’s past behavior. Often manipulative behavior is character defining rather than simply the by-product of grief.
If your ex has a history of manipulation, chances are that the breakup will have aggravated it, no matter what the underlying intent is:
- A desire to “win” the breakup.
- A desire to bring you down.
- A desire to win you back.
- A desire to appear strong in the face of third-party judgement.
The reasons to manipulate are limitless, as are the sources of insecurity that drive them. Happily for us, their emotional solidity is no longer our responsibility (even if it continues to be a concern).