The Narcissistic Silent Treatment

silent-teatment-narcissistNarcissists will invoke the silent treatment upon a partner for days, weeks, and even longer, often with no explanation, as a way to control and demoralize their victim. Narcissists are fond of using the Silent Treatment as a cruel (but not unusual) punishment for you doing nothing wrong at all and, from experience, I can tell you that the affect of this method of passive-aggressive control is sheer torture. The first time it happened to me, I felt as lost, sad, and helpless as the puppy in the picture. Little did I know that that particular silent treatment was the first of literally hundreds to come. I simply couldn’t believe that anyone could do something like that to a person that they supposedly cared about.

My ex-N of 12-years executed a narcissistic silent treatment, on an average, about every 3-6 months (and, during one stretch, even every two weeks),  depending, I assume, upon how his other sources of supply were faring. Each silent treatment would last anywhere from two to three days to six weeks to six months before he hoovered back or before my begging at his door and endless onslaught of desperation letters forced him to give in. The Silent Treatment, for my ex and for many others, is a powerful narcissistic ploy and/or tactic and it gets the point across.

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No matter how he goes about it or why it happens or when it happens, the Silent Treatment always sucks. The fact that the victim of a narcissistic partner rarely knows why they are receiving the silent treatment only compounds the mental torture. I remember reading an article where the writer described the narcissist’s silent treatment as particularly demoralizing because the N is clearly making a statement – in unspoken terms, of course – that you, the recipient, aren’t even worth acknowledging…aren’t worth a moment of his time…that, in fact, you are a worthless piece of shit on his shoe.  How true that is? We all get the point and fast!

“How long will the Silent Treatment last?” is always the big question. Will it go on for a day, a week, a month or even longer? Keeping us in the dark about when it will end (or even why it’s happening) is an intentional strategy designed to create as much anxiety as possible in the recipient. And it does. The longer it lasts, the worse the separation anxiety becomes and the more likely you are to feel depressed, jealous, confused, isolated, unworthy etc. The more desperation we feel, the harder it is to follow the no contact rule and to give up the need for closure. We become the puppet and the Narcissist, the Puppeteer.

The silence is meant to hurt you. It is meant to teach you a lesson. And, make no mistake, the silence is always a way for the narcissist to buy himself some free time for being with someone else or for hustling up new sources of supply.

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Most victims  – myself included – will describe the days and weeks of silence as an agonizing torture that leaves us broken and desperate, willing to try anything and everything to get a response. If this means apologizing for the sole purpose of apologizing even though we know have done nothing wrong, then so be it. When you’re in the thick of it, the pain of the silence is far worse than the pain of being a doormat. Meanwhile, the narcissist goes on about his/her business until, for whatever reason, he feels his victim have been punished enough or the girl he’s seeing does something he doesn’t like. When this happens, he will usually return offering no explanation – or at least no logical explanation – and he will expect to pick up right where he left off and as if he’d never been gone.  So dismantled and dejected, the victim often demands no answers anyway, keeping her mouths shut and choosing, instead, to revel in the fact that her anxiety has passed. This particular response, by the way, is an intended result of the silent treatment so that the N gets away with the entire debacle. This is just another narcissistic strategy for managing down our expectations so that we expect less and less and he gets away with more and more.

READ  The Silent Treatment - Any Time is a Good Time

Understand that a partner using the Silent Treatment for any type of punishment – let alone one for a crime not committed – is not normal under any circumstances. When a narcissist uses the silent treatment, it is just one more requirement he has filled in the overall pathological relationship agenda. No one ever deserves to feel unworthy of attention or undeserving of love and loyalty. No one …not even one time.

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In my book, Stop Spinning, Start Breathing, I devote an entire chapter to a step towards recovery that I call Silence Appreciation. By learning to actually appreciate the silence given and by using the time wisely as yet another step towards mentally freeing oneself from the narcissist, you’re life will begin to make miraculous changes. It did for me and I know it can for you as well….

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  1. Hello my name is Jennifer and i read your article. I’ve read many articles on narcissists and my ex fits the description perfectly but something that i have not found yet in any article is narcissists having extreme jealous tendencies my ex and i have a daughter together when he found out i was pregnant one day he picked up and left with no goodbye no explanation no nothing 2 years later once the baby was almost one year old he came back saying he wanted to work things out and be a family. i went through hell right from the begging with his jealousy. i had to get rid of all my friends and he had to have the passwords to all my accounts and as time went by it got worse and worse he wanted to know where i was at all times he would work on and off and when he was making decent money he would spend it on me and the baby eating out or buying her shoes and helping me pay for her daycare but that would only last once or twice every blue moon he would always blow his money and expect me to help him pay for uber rides to get him to work or he would want me to pick him up at 2:00 am from work and when i would say no he would blow it more than any regular human being I’ve ever come across with before. then he slowly started doing coke and around the time i found out about the drug abuse he started sending me pornographic videos constantly accusing me of being in them with other men it would always be different videos at different places with different men and you could never see the girls face the first few videos i would try to rationalize with him, after a while i gave up i knew there was no way he would believe me, it came to the point where he would force me to watch the videos and then he would come out with all crazy kinds of stories about how he knew exactly who the guy was…. it got so much worse over time and at this point i dont know if it was the drugs or him in general because even when he stayed clean for a while he still was paranoid about everything and very controlling. To make it short he blamed me of cheating again for the last time and accused me of sending people out to kill him changed his phone number because i was “tracking” him and now im as confused as ever, hurt and ashamed i let it get this far… it’s been 3 months no contact and im scared he’ll show up out the blue…

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Yes, I do talk about the extreme jealousy but as a tactic only because that’s what it is. A narcissist only acts jealous to distract you from what he’s really up to. If he accuses you of cheating, that’s what he’s been doing. If he accuses you of lying, then there’s something he’s been lying about. He’s not really jealous of anything you’re doing because even a narcissist knows that we’re too busy worrying about keep him happy to be doing anything under the table and if we were cheating, we’d likely be gone for the better pasture. By the way, mine did the same thing. He would accuse me of having people follow him, of having a “boyfriend” vandalize his car, of putting a tracker on his vehicle, blah blah blah and then he’d leave me, changing his number. They are so full of shit. What happened is that he was getting pressure from his other “girlfriend” and needed to start some shit with you so that he could leave.

      I always suggest that instead of defending ourselves against the accusation, we just listen to what’s being said because they are giving themselves away. And as far as the friends and family, this is all about isolating you so that no one can advise you to leave him or offer you deserving sympathy. He may just return someday so be ready but more than likely he’s stuck somewhere and won’t show up until he is absolutely forced to. Be ready to tell him to go to hell. Do not fall for the ruse again. Let this be YOUR decision. Life is way too short to waste time with these fools….

      Zari xo