Narcissists & The Silent Treatment

Narcissists & The Silent Treatment

Narcissists will invoke the silent treatment for days, weeks, and longer with no explanation as a way to control and demoralize their partners. 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. I thought my ex surely must be dead on the side of the road to not have called me for three days. Well, those three days turned into six weeks. 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 on purpose to a person that they supposedly cared about.

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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.

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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222 Comments

  • Nonny

    January 18, 2017 at 8:46 pm Reply

    My father gave me and his grandchildren the silent treatment for 8yrs! Why? Because he thought I didn’t like the fact that he had moved house. He has been back in my life for mere months and is already dwinding his weekly visits down to fortnightly, with a call today to say he wouldn’t be coming due to feeling dizzy… I have been confronting him on certain issues (making demands on his self-absorbed headspace) so it looks like I’m being “scratched off his list” once again. It’s rather funny in a way because all the family snigger, frustrate, agress, moan, and outright backstab him behind his back, yet I’m be the worst in the world for pointing out why his behaviour is so nasty. I saw it all my life but have put it all together in the past few months.

    This man is a qualified builder / cabinet maker but has never once offered his skills to me or his grandchildren. No cubbyhouse building, teaching them skills, encouraging interest, but he’ll tell us about all the great jobs he’s done for others. He’s even refused to turn on the hospital tv for me. Refused to park in the 15min patient pick-up zone after I had surgery on my rear end, then asked me if I was right to walk down to where he had parked. When I said no, he gave me the silent treatment all the way home. I still wasn’t seeing it at that time (2007). He turned up the following day to continue feeding my cat, bringing his lunch with him but not calling to see if I wanted anything. He said he would have got me something but knew I didn’t eat that sort of thing – meatpies ( I have crohn’s (is it any wonder))! I took one of his pies anyway. I used to go to a Saturday morning market local to him. After the market I would go to the local shopping center, call him and say I was heading around with some pies if he was up ( he used to go to the races Friday night, so I would wile away an hour or so at the shopping center before calling; markets ended early).

    He missed my daughter’s wedding, the birth of his great-granddaughters, and says “I admit I don’t have much interest in them” after me saying what an increasing unique postition he’s in, that these little girls could have a very real and meaningful connection to / memory of their great-grandfather. I’ve never so much as received a hug or kiss from him in all my life. When I started doing it recently he turns to one side, puts his arm out and never even offers his cheek. I’m moving on. Thanks for being here.

    • Zari Ballard

      January 19, 2017 at 1:12 am Reply

      Hi Nonny,

      That is so sad, I sat and cried. I wish I could give you a hug. I’m grateful that you’re moving on because it is the only thing to do. My son’s father, after years and years of this boy trying to please him in every way, just changed his phone number one day and we’ve heard not a word since. That was eight years ago. His only son too. You’d think his family – sister and brothers or parents – would continue to reach out to my son but nothing. The funny thing is, my ex’s mother did the same thing to his sisters and her daughters, living a street a way and driving by every day on the way to work for three years as if they were strangers. Then, one day, she just pulled into the driveway and walked in the house as if she had never been gone, ready to be grandma. It’s a family thing, I guess, and it is most painful. These people are so very defective.

      In my second book, I say, “If you feel you are being erased again, let it happen.” Life is so short, Nonny. These people will never feel the loss and it truly IS their loss. Your father is missing out on his unique position…but it is simply who he is. So sad. I wish you nothing but the best, sister. I’m grateful you are surrounded by little girls because I know they have an adoring grandma in you and the love is returned. Be happy and please visit here any time. Thank you so much for sharing our story and I am grateful that you found your way here…

      Zari xo

      • Nonny

        January 21, 2017 at 6:14 pm Reply

        Thanks so much for the reply and the hug, Zari, both mean the world to me at this time. I also cried for you and your son. It’s just amazing how these … soul-less beings? are carbon copies of each other. I have more than ten relatives – a sister, aunts,cousins all living less than 15mins away, yet none of them called to tell me my uncle and my sister’s ex, someone I’ve also known since my teens, had died. I only found out when my sister called phishing (after sending a belated birthday card last year) to see what use I might be to her mortgage predicament and by then it was almost a yr after these events. Creeps.

        Much love to you and your lad xx

  • Cheryl

    December 2, 2016 at 9:28 am Reply

    So I just want to say these forums have helped me. I thought I was going crazy. I have had another discard on Friday after spending valuable time together. He bombards me when I’m out I always let him know where I am. We don’t live together but I’m the ‘ women’ of the house and certain things are expected of me. I have such a complicated story. 18 months of putting all my effort into somebody who can just toss me aside like this. I’m actually a very strong Independent person that’s why we fight but I can’t believe someone can treat you like this

    • Zari Ballard

      December 9, 2016 at 6:07 pm Reply

      Hi Cheryl,

      It’s hard to wrap our heads around the fact that these creatures are what they are. However, once we KNOW it, we have to make the right decisions for our lives. The narcissist never changes and he never will – not for you or for anyone who came before and will come after. He is a lost cause but that doesn’t mean you are doomed to have the same fate. Please read my book When Love Is a Lie to see how I did it…how I pulled away finally and forever. It’s not easy but it’s definitely not impossible. You don’t need to be anyone’s “woman of the house” that’s for sure.

      Stay strong,

      Zari xo

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