Endless Sulking, The Unbearable Blackmail Of Silence...

Last updated by Rosie Harlow

As a child, it was always the same: my parents would refuse to give me something, and I’d remain silent for hours on end. They were good at power struggles and continued with their lives, while I remained pig-headed. Logically, I functioned in the same way for a long time in a relationship, before I realized that through this attitude, I was actually blackmailing him.

Endless Sulking, The Unbearable Blackmail Of Silence...

The princess of sulking and the queen of control

Sulking as a child is almost normal. Like everyone else, I wanted to impose my desires and found it very hard to accept frustration. As I grew up, I obviously learned to control this behavior, but the sulking didn’t go away. I never understood that there were other ways to communicate. My parents would let me sulk for hours, without trying to explain things to me, so I didn’t get what I originally wanted, but I had a sense of power: I would ruin the mood and show my displeasure physically (silence, averted looks, dragging my feet, etc.).

😾 😾 When a conflict broke out with my partner, I would lock myself and him in the same passive-aggressive power struggle. Unable to bear losing face and control, I’d turn to a scathing retort and lock myself in a room in silence. A good way to get away, while feeling like I was holding my head high!

Painful blackmail

When I look back at my past and the many hours I spent hiding in rebellious silence, only one thing comes to mind: what a waste of time! I don’t know when it clicked, but one day I stopped sulking. With my partner, it was becoming unbearable. The more I stayed silent and withdrawn, the more he got angry and attacked me 😱. It was the only way for him to get me to fly off the handle and open my mouth, even if it was just to scream. But by yelling or staying silent, the problem is still the same: an inability to manage your emotions, or even emotional immaturity that ends up damaging relationships.

Because with my partner, it was easier than with my parents. Imposing my desires through an authoritarian silence allowed me to obtain them... by wearing him down! But at what price? This blackmail by silence, whether it works or not, is very heavy to bear. The result is a lot of guilt on both sides and a lot of apprehension for the person on the receiving end of the sulking: “If I don't do this, will she start sulking?” Sulking is a passive-aggressive process that damages a healthy relationship.

How to deal with a sulker?

It’s good to know that sulking also stems from a profound lack of self-confidence, an inability, fear, or difficulty in expressing your needs. However, whether you’re dealing with a child or an adult serial sulker, it’s important not to get involved in their little power game.

1. Don’t feel guilty

If sulking is a theoretical concept for you when you come across it for the first time, you may quickly start to doubt and feel guilty. Whatever you do, don’t do this! This is the basis of the blackmail of sulking, getting you to doubt so that you’ll eventually give in. A relationship isn’t a “take-it-or-leave-it” situation, especially if it’s always the sulker who decides. Don’t doubt, don’t feel guilty, because it’s the first step before you give in and if you give in to a serial sulker, they’ll have no more limits!

2. Be patient

Let the sulky person calm down and carry on with life as if nothing happened. When faced with a lack of response, the sulker should eventually come out of their silence.

3. Use communication

Because it’s the only acceptable way to get out of a sulky situation. Think, for example, of non-violent communication to explain yourself, to understand what’s being experienced badly, to expose your feelings, to clarify a thought or a situation. Communication is a much more responsible and mature form of behavior than sulking, and it offers a much better way out of a conflict.

Note to sulkers

Learn to communicate verbally instead of being silent. Constantly shutting down dialogue is childish behavior that only leads to frustration after frustration and can lead to the breakdown of your relationship. As an adult, you need to know how to communicate your emotions and accept dialogue. Dare to be yourself, accept that your needs are legitimate... but so are other people’s.

Editor’s note: A necessary realization...

When you’re a sulker at heart, it’s difficult to get rid of this behavior. You need to understand that there are other ways of reacting, of making yourself heard, which are much more effective. But to do this, you need to become aware of and experiment with new behaviors, and this work can’t be done alone. This is why we advise you to make an appointment with one of our coaches in order to start this work and this awareness.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Rosie Harlow

Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always used paper as a punching bag. Get to know me, I am Rosie Harlow.

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