Please Help, My Husband Gives Me Silent Treatment

Question and answer details
K (24_female_US)
I am 24 years old, married and have 2 kids. I have been married for 6 years but my husband fights with me a lot. He gets mad over an argument, curses, throws things, threatens divorce, then gives me silent treatments for 1 to 3 weeks. And that happens every month or every other month. Sometimes our fights are so big we are on the verge of divorce. He's so laid back about bills, deadlines, etc. He's not doing well financially, we live paycheck to paycheck. But still I overlook all this, even when we had money problems I went and got government assistance. Before he was doing small jobs like driving kids around and I would tell him to find a better job and he would say he doesn’t have time because he attends college and wants to finish degree so I should find him a job. So I would send out his resumes for months and so I found him a better job. His taxes were all a mess when he was single, and when we got married I made him file all those taxes and paid it all off. And now after all these years we got some tax refund money back so we bought a car. I clean the house, cook, do all chores, take care of kids, wear a hijab, pray, help him with all his paperwork like adding classes for his college, filling financial aid application and all the stuff I mentioned earlier. Even though he doesn’t take charge or do his own tasks but I overlook all this. Even after I do all this for the home he still fights with me, and our main fights are because he wants to always hang out with his friends. These days after work and school he gets home at 9:30 pm and sometimes he goes directly to his friends and come home about 11pm, sometimes he comes home from work at 8 pm and then leaves to friends in an hour. And before when he was barely working he would spend like 3 hours with his friends every other day. I have tried to make him understand nicely but then he talks me into it and gets his way and goes to friends. And when talking to him nicely it doesn't work, I get mad and yell, he gets angry, curses, throws things, tells me to go back to my parents home, threatens divorce and leaves to friends and then gives me silent Treatment for weeks. For example, once I was talking to him about my wish to finish school and he wasn't listening so I said pay attention, you don’t want me to go so you’re not listening. He got mad, cursed, kicked walls and left the home and gave me silent treatment for 2 weeks. Another example, when my dad was visiting me, he would leave me with my dad and come home late every night and when I talked to him nicely he said he can do as he wishes because I am lying and he doesn't go that much. Then next day I got mad and yelled and he said we are using his car so he has to take rides from his friends and that’s why he’s late. But he is just making excuses because it shouldn't take 3 hours to get a ride. So he got mad and gave me silent treatment for 3 weeks. Once he got mad because he had to pay a bill and I didn't give him my money; instead, I borrowed it from my father and gave it to him so he got mad, yelled, called my dad and said I am sending her back and dropped me off to the airport. And when I came home he gave me silent treatment for 2 weeks. And during the silent treatment he doesn't talk to me at all, has no intimate relationship; he treats me like a strange roommate. Sometimes I just get so tired of this and stressed so I go to my mother’s home in another state with his permission. And even on the phone we argue about something and he gets mad and again ignores me for weeks. Last time I was at my mother’s, and he wanted to go to Canada with his friends, but he has done it 2 years ago and now wanted to do it again so I said no because he never takes us as a family because he says he can’t afford it. So he got mad and hung up the phone, so I told his mother and after that he didn't speak to me or tell me to come back home for 2 months. I am so stressed, and tired of the silent treatment.
Dr. Maryam Bachmeier

As-Salam `Alaykum,

I noticed you are from the U.S. I am wondering if your husband is USA born. I would like to know more about that so that I can put your situation in context in my mind according to the influence of culture. Were you married in the US? Is this an arranged marriage? I am also wondering how old your husband is.

There are a lot of things that could be going on here. It is possible that your husband is not ready for this level of responsibility. We have a “clash” in cultures at times when we attempt to adhere to the traditional norms but live in a post tech country.

In the USA the average couple these days waits to have children until they have completed school and have a steady job. The economy does not support the more traditional arrangements. The individuals in the west usually mature emotionally at a slower rate also. There are many years spent simply adjusting to adult life here because living in the west is so complicated. I see this happening in the East more and more as technology increases and infrastructure and societal structures become more complicated. There may not be a lot that you can do to change your husband’s behavior at this time.

Consider focusing on your own personal development and on enjoying your children and this very short time that you will have with them. Take your focus off of your husband. Men in the west will tell you that they resent having their wife be their “mother”. It seems absolutely wrong of them (and I get mad about it sometimes too) but they will only get worse if you try to control them or tell them what they should or should not do.

Even if your husband is eastern born, he is now under the influence of the west. And, honestly, I have met many eastern born men who have ideas about the west that don’t help things at all. They can become more stubborn and more irresponsible than the western born ones who have grown up with the western ladies lecturing them about good behavior.

Now, of course, this isn’t all eastern born men who live in the west, but the climate is “ripe” for them to want to explore. We don’t have societal control over people in the west. Good and mature and responsible behavior is expected to come from the inside. And, there are enough “bad” influences here (since we don’t have societal control) to tempt a person who wants to know what it feels like to be “free”.

What I am trying to tell you is that this may not be as simple as saying that your husband has a bad character. I am more inclined to believe that he is “finding” himself within the context of this culture. He may be confused at times. He may not know what he is giving up. He may actually believe there is something “out there” that is better than living the traditional family life. He was probably very young when he married also (thus I do want to know his age).

Patience is my recommendation. Focus on you and keeping your family stable. Be inviting to him. Let him know that HIS children want to BE WITH HIM. This is crucial. If you do nothing else, work on developing that bond between your husband and his children.

Let him know that he is the head of the family and that his family needs him. Ask him to make decisions here and there. When he asks you why you are bothering him with that, tell him that it is because he is your husband and the father of the household and that his “bottom line” matters to you.

As your husband takes over a responsibility, you will have to be willing to let go. That is the hard part. And, let him make mistakes. It’s ok. At the end of the day, you will survive and you will find that this effort is worth it. Your husband will mature with time.

Having faith in ALLAH and following your husband is different than putting all your faith in your husband. What I mean by that, is that you can have faith that ALLAH will guide your husband, and that if your husband makes human error, ALLAH is most forgiving.

Your husband will be more willing to take on responsibilities that scare him if he knows he is going to be unconditionally loved even if he makes a mistake. So, make room for him to try on the shoes of a husband and father and see what happens.

Until he is ready for that, just make the room and continue to care for your home and your children. And don’t forget to care for your husband also. We do not love to get love. We love for the sake of ALLAH. That is the only kind of love that will ever make us happy, because that is the kind of love that connects us to ALLAH.

What I am saying is, love your husband. Do the little things that make him feel loved, needed, wanted, and appreciated- just small things.

Take care of yourself. Have a list of things you will do for yourself to keep yourself busy and your mind off of your husband’s attitude and anger when he gives you the silent treatment… be it writing, artwork, sewing, etc., and take this time especially to do something “touching” for your husband so that he knows that even when he is being his “silly” self, you still love him.

It may not be easy, but if you are able to accept things as they are, you will be less burdened with anger and more detached from the situation. This, in turn, will reduce your feelings of urgency and need to control the situation. For example, the next time your husband asks you if he can stay out longer with the boys, respond, “What do you mean? I am your woman, not your mother!”

That will probably leave him a bit perplexed. He might still stay out. Keep reminding him that you are a woman. Guess what? Women have needs that only a man can fulfill. Maybe he will start to think straight after awhile of your reminding him that you are a woman.

Mothers don’t have needs, right? At least our children are used to getting their needs met from us, not the other way around. A child can’t imagine his mother needing him. You don’t want a child; you want a man and I suspect that is where your frustration is coming from…so, be a woman, not a mother.

Here is a secret: men have a natural instinct to provide and protect their woman. Young boys and mature men have that instinct for their mother. The young boy is ok with asking mother for permission for everything; the mature man has an agreement with his mother that this is no longer necessary and he is there for her; but the adolescent boyis rebellious against his mother.

Men who resent their responsibility in their marriage are a lot like rebellious adolescent sons. You don’t want that kind of relationship with your husband. He doesn’t need your permission for anything, establish that. After some time, he will come to realize you as his woman and he will desire your consultation on important matters. That is when you know your hearts have truly connected.

Until that time, be a woman, not a mother. Relax, enjoy your children, take care of your home and yourself, and lean back to see if this man might come forward to you - one day at a time.

I pray this “food for thought” has been helpful. Write back and tell me how you feel about my response.

For your further guidance, please try the following links:

My Husband Abuses Me and Now Wants Me to Leave

Communicating Effectively With Your Spouse

Improving Communication Between Muslim Spouses ...


About the Counselor:

Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant in the areas of mental health, cultural, and relationship issues.

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