Humans are social creatures and as such need to belong to a group. This is why one of the most devastating things we can do to another person is to exclude them. Ignoring someone, shunning someone, or ostracizing someone is a vicious cruelty. People innately want to belong. Abandoning someone or withdrawing love and affection is a control tactic often used to “punish” someone who has displeased us. Refusing to speak with someone, or withholding love during or following an argument causes more damage to the relationship than the disagreement. People forgive words and behaviors that were in the heat of an argument. What people are less likely to forgive (or forget) is being frozen out as punishment, as manipulation, or as a control tactic. There is a part of us that recoils from a person who does this to us, especially if that person claims to love us. To punish someone by excluding them from the group is emotional abuse and eventually will destroy whatever shreds of hope were left for the relationship between us and that other person. Deep down we know that if someone can use our love against us like this, and use our basic human need to belong as a weapon, they most certainly do not “love” us. Although there is naturally a period of distancing between people following an argument, how long that distancing lasts is the difference between what is healthy self-care and what is emotional punishment. Depending on what the argument was about and how bad it was, the time frame for distancing may be different. When the distancing far surpasses what the situation would typically call for, the relationship likely will suffer permanent damage. It’s natural to “pout” a little when we’ve disagreed with someone. When that “pouting” lasts weeks, months, or even years–it’s gone too far. A normal amount of time between arguments and patching the relationship up would be 3 hours, 3 days, or 3 weeks (depending on how bad the argument was). If it goes beyond 3 weeks without an attempt at reconciliation or resolution, then the relationship is most likely not ever going to be the same as it was again. Basically, it’s over.