Do You Want The Low-Down On Sulking?

21 Nov 2020

Do You Want The Low-Down On Sulking?

Do you recognise a sulker when you come up against one?  I certainly did not.  That was why I remained married to one for two decades.  Plus, I was used to sulkers – my parents were spectacular sulkers.  In fact, sulking seemed like quite normal behavior in the context of my family

Naturally, I came across sulkers at school.   Even I knew that children sulk –  since young children are helpful enough to explain,  “I’m not talking to you because…”

Still, the knowledge that children sulk only served to mislead me. I imagined that children sulked but adults did not. Somewhere along the line – if you were lucky – you shed childhood, like a skin, and became as wise and perfect as my parents . ( My parents never stopped reminding us chlldren of their grown-up status, and superior wisdom.)

Why would an adult sulk?

Why would an adult sulk?

What need could  these god-like beings possibly  have to sulk?

As it turns out, adults – that is, some adults – have precisely the same need to sulk as children.  They sulk because sulking serves their purpose very effectively.  Sulking serves their purpose because  they may be chronological adults, but they are still emotional children.  “

Older” doesn’t always mean “more mature”.

Talking of” older” but not more “mature”, the wasband (aka the man who once was my husband) was older than me.  Not hugely, but he never failed to remind me of his superior knowledge and experience.

Certainly the wasband did not lack authority. He was a successful professional with a big brain (and a much, MUCH bigger ego).  He was also a champion sulker – but only at home.  Just like my parents, he used sulking to,

  • Control my behaviour.
  • Keep my attention firmly fixed on him. (It can take a lot of time and intelligence to work out what a sulker’s real grievance is.)

The very first time my bright, successful husband embarked on a 3 day sulk, the immediate trigger was my failure to pair his socks for him. Even he must have realized how pathetic he would have sounded if he had said to me, “I’m not talking to you because you’re not a proper wife. You haven’t paired my socks.”  Instead, he instigated The Silent Treatment.

Of course, the wasband could have come out said, “You cannot say, or do X!” But had he done so, he would have risked,

  1. Rebellion
  2. Looking ridiculous – and petty.

After all, I was a feisty, independent woman – on the surface, anyway. 

The power of sulking

When well executed, sulking can be quite an elegant, controlling behavior.  It serves to make the victim of the crime,

  1. Work overtime to try and guess the nature of their crime.
  2. Feel rejected, isolated and worthless.

The use of suspense

Sulkers are masters of suspense. They create it. You suffer with it.

Although not generally known for his politeness, when  the wasband sulked, he was curiously polite – for him.  Sulking allowed him to build up a nice head of steam which he would later unleash in a torrent of emotional abuse.

While the wasband sulked, he would craft the hurtful things he intended to say later. In his own horrible way he was a master of suspense. Sulking allows the sulker to ratchet up the tension for their victim.

Whenever I asked him what was wrong, he’d limit himself to saying: “Nothing”, or, at best, “It’s nothing”. He would utter those words in a very meaningful tone of voice.  That tone let me know that, in his own good time, he would cite chapter and verse at me. (Like all emotional abusers, he had a talent for chapter and verse.) I could never guess what crimes and misdemeanours he would come up with.

All I knew was that when that “nothing” changed to something(s), I really would NOT want to hear what he had to say. There would be a lot of it, it would be very painful to hear, and there would be no getting away from it.  He often stopped me getting to sleep, or woke me up, if necessary.

While I waited, with growing anxiety, for the storm to break, I would try to carry on as normal, in the vain hope that things would go back to what counted in our house as normal.  Of course, they did not. I’d continue to prepare wonderful meals for him. He would sit and eat in stony silence. I would ask him

“Did you like that (meal that I have just spent 2 hours cooking in the vain hope that I can jolly you out of your silence)*?”

“It was fine, thank you.” he’d reply, in a tone that suggested that I may not have been poisoning him with food, but I was poisoning his life in other ways. The “thank you” was meant to show that he, at least, was without fault.


Sulking is a very effective form of crazy-making.

During his sulking periods, the wasband would only ever speak when spoken to, using as few superficially polite words as he could manage, and wearing his Reproachful Face. That silence served to let me know he was withholding emotional connection because of my awfulness.

His stating that “Nothing” was wrong stood as a nice piece of crazy-making. This was a man who ADORED the sound of his own voice. He kept a wife to talk at. Only a major event could stop him sounding forth.

In his desire to deliver as brutal a rejection as possible, the wasband very pointedly avoided all physical connection, from touching my hand, to even sharing a *bed.  He acted as if I had an exclusion zone around me.  In fact, he was not above sleeping on a floor – fuelled by quite a lot of the contents of our alcohol cabinet.

Even at the time, I was dimly aware (dimly being the operative word) that sleeping on the floor was crazy behavior. Sleeping on a hard floor doesn’t float most people’s boat. He did so not because he was drunk but he drank because he was making some kind of crazy point.

Needless to say, a couple of nights on a floor did little to improve his mood. So, when he had a full head of steam, he would choose his moment and then blow.  (Even when he took himself to the spare room, and slept in a bed, a couple of nights’ sulking still enabled him to build up a quality head of steam.)

The pay-off

Usually, he would start to let off that head of steam by telling me what a terrible mistake he’d made in marrying me – although, sometimes, he’d start right in by announcing that he was divorcing me.

He’d tell me how lucky I was to have him. (Well, I was, wasn’t I? Not everyone can find a man who’s so full of rage that he’d be willing to go off and nurse that rage on a hard floor, rather than talk about things like a rational adult).

He’d work through all of my faults, going right back to the beginning of our history together. I’m not sure how the words ‘fatally flawed’ escaped his attention, but that was more or less how he saw me. And he’d get his pay-off.  He would have the fun (and the ego-boost) of watching me breaking my heart over him, and begging him not to leave, begging him to love me, again.

Sulking sucks.  It is a powerful technique that abusers use, quite deliberately, to keep you feeling powerless and needy. It works so well because it acts to rub salt in the wounds of low self-worth. Sulking also serves to remind the victim of the sulk that there is only one possible supply of love.

Sulking is actually a very attention-seeking. Behaviour. The sulker pretends to ignore you in order to monopolize all of your attention.  In an ideal world, you would leave a sulker to their own devices – permanently, if necessary. In reality, that can be a big ask because the sulker knows exactly how to push your buttons.

The solution to the problem of sulking lies in healing the old wounds that make you vulnerable to a sulker. Once you do that, the sulker loses all of their power over you.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

41 thoughts on “Do You Want The Low-Down On Sulking?”

    • If he goes quiet on you for hours, days, or longer for no apparent reason, with no subsequent explanation or apology, he doubtless is.

      If so, he won’t change and it is unacceptable behavior.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  1. My husband sulks for days and sometimes weeks on end. Just as he can go into a sulk he can also come out of it when it does not attract any attention from me. Is sulking learnt behaviour?

    • Difficult one. What you can be sure of is that it is quite infantile behavior. Toddlers seem to master the power of a sulk quite young.

      More important than how it came about is how you respond to it. Ignoring it is an excellent idea. However, the bottom line is that it is unacceptable behavior. Your husband sold himself to you as an adult partner not an emotional toddler. If he can’t show up in the marriage as a grown up, do you even want to be in the marriage with him?

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  2. My husband is sulking/ignoring me at the moment. I do know why, it’s because I got drunk the other night and he wants me to give up drinking, despite him drinking every night.
    He has always been like this, he is passive aggressive and will ignore me for days on end if I do something that doesn’t live up to his high standards. He is so childish in that if I walk in to the living room he will get up and walk out! If he absolutely has to communicate with me he will do so through one of our children “ask mum if…etc”
    When he is sulking he makes a point of trying to isolate me by taking the children out all day and not telling me where they’re going!
    I’ve tried so many times to tell him acting like this is very emotionally damaging for me but he does not see he has a problem! His opinion is as long as he doesn’t physically or verbally abuse me all is fine!
    I have got to the point where I feel like giving up, some days I feel so worthless and alone.

    • It sounds like giving up on the marriage could be the best thing for everyone concerned.

      You will never feel as worthless and alone as you do in this toxic marriage.

      You and your children deserve better.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


    • This is what my partner does. The isolating me from my son is the worst. He is sulking right now. I’ve been dealing with it for years. He has upped the level now with sulking while at the same time being possessive and jealous despite not sleeping with me for over 2 years. Just wish it would end but he won’t leave.

      • One of the lessons of abuse that we are all forced to learn, whether we want to or not, is that we have to take charge of our relationships.

        Sometimes that means ending a relationship rather that hoping that the other person will do the honorable thing and “just” leave.

        Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  3. This sounds like my husband, only he explodes before the sulk as well as the end of the sulk….I’m on day two of his current sulk over the washing piling up more than usual (me and our young children have been sick for the week) My husband rage cleans on his sulks, even though the cleaning jobs he does aren’t needing doing….I think it’s to prove what a very bad housewife I am for letting the washing pile get too big….Looking forward to hearing all of his other issues with me when the sulk breaks.
    How can he be such a great husband and father and then just snap like this over the smallest thing?
    Thank you for this read, it’s good to know that this is not normal adult behaviour.

    • This is not normal behavior. However it is not that unusual where abusers are concerned.

      My guess is that he is constantly proving to himself that he is The Best. He likely does a Best Husband and Dad routine when it suits him. Then, when he flips into his toxic sulks – with rage at both sides (which is really awful) – he flips into showing himself that he is The Best housekeeper and horribly put upon by his incompetent wife.

      Either way, it doesn’t sound like there is really much room for you in the relationship.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  4. I was married to a sulker who would disappear for hours and even make and serve visitors tea and biscuits but not me. For years he used to say ” I should have divorced you for what you did” until one day i replied “well for f…. sake do it”. I eventually left him and have never looked back.

  5. My husband sulks and is currently sulking because at the weekend I had a rant about having to do everything the house with little or no support from him or our son. My son apologised and has made an attempt to be more helpful, my husband has completely blanked and ignored me and just goes to bed in the spare room and to work not talking to anyone.

    it drives me crazy but it nice to know that I not alone in this type of relationship but I really want to scream at him and tell him to grow up!

  6. Yes, it is horrible to be on the receiving end of passive-aggressive abuse. The silent treatment and sulking can bring even the most reasonable person to tears. It’s painful not being spoken to for weeks on end and even worse not having your existence acknowledged. In my case my husband’s sulking, brooding, and silent treatment grow worse over the holidays. Year after year he backs out of helping me even though he promises to do so. And like clock work he sits in his chair and sulks while I do the work of two people. He won’t answer the doorbell, won’t let the dog out while I’m busy cooking, won’t set out chairs when asked, won’t serve beverages to guest, and won’t help bring food to the table. He doesn’t even come to the table when I announce dinner is ready. Every year one of us has to get up from the table to tell him personally dinner is being served. I thought he could at least participate in New Year’s Eve by calling the restaurant to book reservations but year after year he claims he “forgot” or he calls the restaurant on the day of New Year’s Eve when no tables are available. And all of this is compounded by the fact he’s been stonewalling for years about making much needed repairs to our home. It’s difficult having guests under these circumstances and I always hope they understand I did my best within my powers. Rather than partnering with a husband, I feel like I’m working with a disgruntled employee who obstructs progress.

    • You are working with a disgruntled, sulky child.

      To me, the question has to be what is the point of staying in this relationship?

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  7. Hi Annie,

    My story is similar, but different. I was married to a woman for 10 years and we had two daughters.

    We have been divorced since 2012 because of her sulking. She sulked for the whole time I was with her. I thought she would grow out of it, but it only got worse as life took hold. She would sulk for days, if not weeks, and it eventually got to the point where I she snapped out of one of her sulks with threats of divorce. I had enough and made that wish come true.

    Anyway, my youngest daughter moved in with me, while my eldest moved in with her. My eldest daughter has decided to move in with me, and you can now guess what she’s like.

    I now have a daughter who is the same. What do I do now? I can’t walk away from her. Do you have any advice?

    • Very hard.

      You can’t walk away from your daughter. However, you can set some ground rules about what is and is not tolerable behavior.

      You don’t say how old she is and this is important.

      Your daughter has learnt from her mother that sulking is effective behavior. She has to learn from you that sulking is the most effective way of NOT getting what she wants. Hopefully, she is young enough to learn that.

  8. I’m 72, and after 50 years am so sick of this Jekyll and Hyde behaviour, sulking to me and so pleasant to others (fake).
    I don’t care any more because his controlling does not affect me any more. This makes him really mad, and he goes into himself even more. Also starts cleaning, dusting ironing with a sour look on his face, ignoring me. He’s 75, and rarely happy anymore. Do they ever grow up?

    • Since he hasn’t until now, there is not a cat’s chance in hell that he will, sadly. The only small upside is that at least he does a bit of housework.

  9. One of my husband’s fetishes is that he wants me to sleep with another man so he feels good. He sulks when I tell him I’m not really interested and am more interested in getting to know him and raising my daughter. It doesn’t do anything for me. I’ve joked around with him about it but never really wanted to actually do it – still he persists and when I was honest and told him how I really felt – later that night he got upset for no reason – went to his office and told me he wasn’t upset but sulking – and he said he was sulking about me telling him I wasn’t comfortable and that I threw him off and he was getting so excited over the idea etc.etc. – I was like there’s something wrong with you. Anyways we are newly married – it was fast and I’ve noticed since coming together he gets sulky and upset when I don’t do what he wants me to do – I was independent and single for 3 years with my daughter and happy. So I just walk away when he acts like that and he always comes back and tells me how much he lives me and wants to be with him – once I noticed a repetition in his behavior I started walking away – I do not feel like I have to put up with it – do you have any advice for me? Thank you!

    • Leave. This is absolutely not OK.

      He is trying to coerce you into having sex against your will.

      For all you know, this could be the start of something even worse – even pimping you out to his “friends”.

      This is not an acceptable basis for a relationship and it certainly does not sound like a loving one on his side.

  10. Married 2 decades to a sulker who, has taken a vow of silence FOR THE LAST THREE MONTHS. Not one word, I kid you not. All because I am pre-menopausal and cannot give him what he wants, when he wants it. To top it off, two weeks ago, stopped eating anything I prepared because I chose to carry on life with the kids, without him. (i.e. poor little victim). Conveniently though, if it’s a dish he likes, he will serve himself after we have finished dinner, because hey, after two weeks, canned soup and chips, get boring. I am so sick of it. Terrified of separating, but more and more am wondering how to get started on that. Any advice on first steps would be appreciated.

    • Separating is not easy. But living life as you do is far from easy.

      It sounds like you are in the UK.

      Two practical steps you can take are:

      1) content Women’s Aid for the information that they can give you.
      2) once you have had a chance to think about what you want to achieve and what you are entitled to in law, get a free consultation with a solicitor.
      3) Accept that you won’t be able to get free of someone like that through mediation, it will have to be a hostile negotiation with lawyers involved.
      4) Start to work on rebuilding yourself. Hold on to the thought that life will get much better. It will.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  11. I’m in a very interesting situation and would love some pointers if you have the time. I also want to read your books.

    I’ve spent years working on my emotional health, and have to catch my own narcissistic behaviour (grew up being abused by one), so I’m always confused when I’m in the wrong and when my husband is. If I knew I was in the wrong, I’d love to change my behaviour!

    So, today was a weird one.

    I was on Instagram and a women said “one reason why your partner may not want sex with you is because she’s always picking up after you. If she feels like your mother, it’ll be a total turn off.” All the alarms in my head started going off and I knew this was in part, true.

    I went to my husband (I can generally talk about deep things with him and we are planning on seeing a counsellor), and I told him about what this woman had said. I haven’t wanted to have sex with him for a very long time because boundaries have been crossed, he had a porn addiction and I feel like his mom, so I was excited that something may help. THEN HE STARTED SULKING.

    I walked away with anxiety holding back the need to apologize to him for telling him to pick up his crap. He came into the room and said he was upset because I called him out directly and didn’t use an object (a technique someone taught us to avoid fighting), and because it sounded like I was manipulating him by mentioning sex. He said that if I would have just told him to clean up, it wouldn’t have been a problem. This is where I’m so confused and why I feel guilty. Was I manipulating him? I just wanted him to clean up after himself and for me not to feel like his mother, and maybe we could start enjoying sex again. It’s messing with my brain and causing so much anxiety. Then I came slightly unglued when he asked why I was upset. I told him that he can’t just call out manipulation to get out of basic human decency, and that I only mentioned it because I was hoping it would help him be more excited to clean up after himself. I also said any time I try to tell him to clean up after himself he gets mad because I’m nagging him. Well he never just does it, so of course I have to say something. I’m just so frustrated. I don’t know where I’m standing up for myself or where I’m being manipulative.

    Anyway, I walked away when he stopped talking to me and said “if you want to tell me how you feel, or if you disagree, come talk to me.” He didn’t say anything, hasn’t come to talk to me, my anxiety is extreme, and I’m fighting every urge in my body to rush to him to stop him from sulking.

    • You need to exercise due care and attention with what you read on the internet.

      While there may be a grain of truth in what you read, not only is it not the whole truth but it doesn’t sound like it applies to your situation.

      From what you say, your marriage has a number of fatal flaws.

      Also, you say that you can “generally talk about deep things” with him. That is really not how it sounds.

      Finally, you can’t stop him from sulking. If he wants to sulk – which he clearly does – you aren’t going to change that.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  12. Hi I’m in a different situation, in that it’s my elder sister who is the sulker. We are both single; she’s 83 and I’m 76. We live about 30 miles apart in England, and haven’t seen each other since before the pandemic. She had a difficult and traumatic childhood: our late parents (Czech Jews) were living in Paris at the time of the Nazi Occupation in 1940. They fled to England with my toddler sister, and then I came along when she was seven. She was a disturbed, angry child who never really grew up. She got involved in charity fraud nearly 30 years ago, and didn’t accept that she was culpable: just blamed everyone else. Until recently, we communicated regularly, by text and phone, but she’s now gone into sulk mode. She has no interests and not many friends, so her job in a call centre is her lifeline. I think I riled her a few weeks ago when I texted her to say that, as there was a surge in covid cases in the London borough in which her call centre is, that she should get tested and possibly stay off work. Since then, she hasn’t replied to my texts. Eventually, after more than 3 weeks’ silence from her (I know, I could have rung her, but she can be so irascible, that I held back) she sent me a text: “are you still isolating?”. Not even her initial and an “x”. I texted back with accounts of all my activities, now that covid restrictions are being eased in England. I told her that I’d been with friends to try and find the beauty spot where our parents ashes are scattered (she never turned up for either occasion, and has never visited the place. I suggested that we meet, said it had been a long time, put forward ideas for meetings. Again, nothing. I think she may be jealous because I have a full life, and she may also feel guilt-tripped about the ash-scattering. I don’t want to ring her and have her bite my head off. So I’m trying to dismiss it (and her) from my mind. Easier said than done….

    • Dear Vera,

      You are in a different situation.

      There must be so much going on for your sister. She could still be reliving her angry and victim issues that go back so many years.

      You don’t need to contact her. But in your case there is, quite literally, such a lot of history.

      Whatever you do will probably be wrong from her point of view. Curiously, that leaves you free to do whatever you choose.

      SO, you could always contact her by your preferred method, offer whatever contact you choose to contact and, in your own mind at least, treat her like a small child who is having a tantrum.

      Warm wishes,


  13. Hi Annie,

    This is a different story to everyone else’s. I’m only young, I’m 16. My dad is a very big sulker and is currently doing so. He acts like we’re invisible, including my mum (his wife), refuses to eat myself or my mum’s cooking, living on chips and frozen meals, slams doors, and this lasts for weeks. It’s almost become a cycle and it happens I’d say around 4-5 times a year for weeks. It always starts because of an outburst he’s had or when something is done in the way that he doesn’t want it. The outbursts usually involve threats and name-calling, particularly to me. I understand it’s abuse but I don’t want to tell anyone because I’d feel that it’d be a waste of time. He’s frustrating, selfish, attention-seeking, narcissistic. It makes me sad to think that I just don’t have a good dad yet all of my other friends have so much fun with theirs. On the outside, he looks like a great guy- he volunteers for things, helps others and is intelligent but people don’t see the way he is at home. When he’s not sulky, he’s alright. I just don’t think that he was able to grow up fully because he had a pretty rough childhood, but I don’t want that to be the reason why I should feel bad for him because that attention is exactly what he wants.

    I also find it unbelievable that my mum knows that he is verbally and emotionally abusive and doesn’t do anything about it. She always tells me to protect her just in case he gets too angry, but she doesn’t bother to do anything. She just lets it happen.

    I feel as though if I tell my school or someone else they’d brush it under the carpet. Without evidence of any of it, there’s obviously no punishment for him (not that I want punishment for him to be the first option, but abuse is a crime). The best that could happen is getting an AVO (restraining order) against him, but because he owns our house, my mum, sibling and I would have to leave. I have only a year left of high school, so I think I’ll just suck it up.

    What should I do?

    • Hi Han,

      You are in a difficult position in which I don’t think that there is much that you can do. I can understand your sadness.

      However, you have rightly identified what is going on in your home – which is already something.

      You are probably best advised to get through high school as best you can, staying out of the firing line as much as possible. The more time that you can spend out of the house or in your room studying, the better.

      Please understand that you are not responsible for your mother in all of this. My guess is that she would want you to escape.

      I hate to have to tell you to hang fire until you can get away but that is likely to be the best option, given the circumstances. That comes under the category of having to do hard things.

      Hold onto the thought that your past will not determine your future. Once you have finished high school you can start to shape your won life, find likeminded people who will support you and create healthy relationships for yourself.

      If you find any online groups for survivors of domestic violence that you can join that would be go. Otherwise something like mindfulness might help you. Also, reading person development books could be valuable for you – not just now, but for your entire future.

      Warm wishes,


  14. Oh geez! We’ve only been married for three years. He is 76 and I’m 67. He is widowed, I’m divorced. I lived quite happily on my own for many years.
    In many ways he is a wonderful man, but he sulks. Usually about sex. The other day I didn’t feel well and didn’t initiate sex. He got angry and hasn’t talked much sense. He says he’s 76 and only has so much time and it was a wasted opportunity. My fault you know!
    I’ve been handling this episode differently by being polite but generally ignoring the behavior. I don’t want a divorce. But geez this is hard! I think I’m going to look for your books!

    • This is not just about his opportunities. You didn’t feel well.

      He likely doesn’t want a divorce either. So, it sounds like you need to lay down a few boundaries and make it clear to him that this kind of behavior is NOT okay.

      He has a problem that he needs to deal with.

      It may be that my Breaking Old Patterns Toolkit would be what you need to help you set a boundary firmly but politely.

      Warm wishes for your happiness,


  15. Hello, my husband & I have been together for 18 years, I’m 65 & tip-toeing through his sulky moods is a regular occurrence.
    His sulks occur out of the blue & can last a week or so. Some prime examples, last Christmas he ignored me for 7 days,& whilst being pleasant to our visitors, he cold shouldered me in front of them. This sulk happened because I chose to believe a family member when she told me about her abusive partner… he said how dare I choose her story, over the words of his own son. In March I was ill in bed for weeks, which ended with me being taken into hospital to have my gallbladder & part of my liver removed… he went to work as usual & pretty much abandoned me during this time. I was so lonely, in pain, feeling so low & upset I told my sons how horrible he was being. Before my op I was in so much pain I was confined to bed, I could hardly move, but he hardly came into the bedroom to check on me, or phone during the day to see how I was. But worse, his sulk was so bad that he didn’t bring me anything to eat for nearly 2 days, so I had to hobble downstairs, I ate microwave beans one day & a pot noodle the next. Once I was well enough, the silent treatment started again because (he said) I had no right to share our personal business with my sons. There are mini sulks all the time & here I am again, on day 3 of the latest one…

    • Hello Sue,

      That sounds untenable.

      He clearly is not concerned at all about your well-being and is not going to change.

      So, the question is, is this a relationship that you intend to stay in? Or do you want to have a life worth living?

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  16. That sounds exactly like my husband, he’s so immature and toxic. I want to love him and live a happy life with him but I think it’s impossible. I can tell he’s so unhappy with me, I don’t know why he doesn’t just leave me, but I suspect it’s because I provide majority of the financial support. If I lost my job and stopped supporting the household I’m sure I’d get treated worse.

    • He won’t leave you because it would be harder for him to start over.

      But you are right that it can only get worse if your situation changes – or even if it doesn’t.

      So, the questions is, how long will you keep living that way?

  17. I’m 69 and have been with my husband 40 years. I’ve often googled ‘jekyll and the hyde’ but only today thought of googling ‘sulking adult’. I have felt very alone with the problem.

    My husband’s version is that the trigger is usually some form of interaction between us. He always blames me, saying I said the wrong thing, that I kept arguing, or lately, when I simply walked away (I note walked off when he started being belligerent). It always seems to me that he is making a mountain out of a molehill. He often initially becomes verbally abusive, by which I mean he says what a horrible person I am, he wants nothing to do with me, no wonder other people don’t like me, he’d rather divorce me, etc.

    He does not want to find a solution, other than his demanding that I 1) apologise and 2) change my ways. He then sulks for up to three days. Barely speaks and just grunts if I say ‘good morning’ or ‘I’m going out to the shops now; do you need anything.’, etc. He stays in a black mood (towards me) and has a terrible black look on his face. He seems to get into a mental space where he really thinks that I am horrible. Strangely when he is not in this space, he is loving and says I’m wonderful, etc. I had more recently begun to think it might be a bio-chemically driven thing, because he doesn’t seem to have the ability to come out of this black place until the thing eases.

    Eventually he gets over it. We both smile at each other and basically ignore what happened go back to normal until next time.

    I used to feel very upset and that it really was all my fault. I used to plead with him to get over it, to forgive me. I have stopped doing this in the last few years and, though still tempted to blame myself, I tend to see that I have done nothing or very little wrong. I now tend to think that what he sees me do is in response to something he’s done (for instance, if he says something in a hostile tone, it does get my back up.) But it is still his habit to react when he is crossed in some way, defined by him, and therefore seemingly unexpected..

    Most recently I was speaking enthusiastically about a movie I’d seen and suddenly he said I was talking too much and taking too long to get to the point. To my ears that sounded hostile and uncalled for. So I said (admittedly rather curtly), “OK, I’ve said what I wanted to say” and spun around and walked off. The sulking and silent treatment began.

    This has all become further confounded of late by the fact that at age 77 he is now very sick. He has had ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) for about 20 years, and recently that has gotten much worse and he barely goes out and has to lie in bed a lot feeling awful. He’s also had several big spinal operations and has had a lot of pain and recovery issues. He mostly isn’t well enough to go for walks or drive, so I drive him to appointments and do most of the shopping and all household tasks. (I recently retired from my lifelong career, so that’s not a problem for me at this stage in our lives.)

    But with the ME/CFS, when he gets angry at me (with subsequent black sulk), he also gets sicker with his ME/CFS and feels wretched. And he blames me for this.

    But all this means that the solution mentioned above in other comments of simply walking away from the relationship is not all that easy or even attractive. Leaving someone who is genuinely sick, and in fact someone whom I most of the time love, would seem cruel and negligent. Also there are grown up children who, regardless of explanations, could turn against me if I simply left their Dad at a time when he is aging and needs support and care. And that would mean I would end up very emotionally alone .

    He has a history of refusing counselling and concepts such as cognitive behaviour therapy.

    Any advice would be welcome. .

    • It sounds as if your values require you to stay with him.That being the case, you can set about to change the dynamic of the relationship.

      From what you say, he needs you a lot more than you need him. So, you can start pointing out to him that you are not interested in his accusations etc. Let him know that you are very happy to help and support him and are sad that he has had so much ill health. However, you cannot change the reality and nor can he by attacking you. So, he can either behave in a reasonable fashion or expect you to give him a side berth for days at a time.

  18. I’m married to a sulker and the impact on my mental health is second to none. As soon as he starts I feel such deep anxiety over how long it will last, how I will get him out of it etc.

    Most recently we went to a spa on vacation and they hadn’t booked in his treatment at the time he wanted so he had to go back later that day. For the rest of the day I was met with stony silence and cries of how his day was ruined because of this. I spent all morning trying to say it wasn’t a big deal, we are on vacation so don’t really have plans that can’t be moved around and trying to generate conversation to no avail.

    It’s not always ’caused by me’ but I’m the one who gets the brunt of it always. It usually ends in me in floods of tears begging him to just go back to normal. It’s so unhealthy it makes me so sad

    • As you say, that just isn’t normal.

      It really doesn’t sound like there is much point staying in the relationship.

      He is never going to change.

  19. I’ve been married to a sulker for over 40 years, stayed and put up with it because I thought I loved him. At one time he would not speak for up to a fortnight, I even suffered mental illness, which he totally ignored. I did everything he asked and more, but never enough for him, he was never happy. He’s angry a lot, even the children get the brunt of him. I have now learnt to ignore him, spend time with family, friends and my dog. Keep busy stay out the way, play music at home and am blessed with a lovely family. Be independent and show them you can’t be walked over.


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