Narcissists & The Silent Treatment

silent-teatment-narcissistNarcissists 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.

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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.

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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  • Flippy

    May 1, 2017 at 6:42 am Reply

    OK, so I have been with my suspected Narcissist girlfriend for a year and a half and the breakups, the beatings and the fits of rage keep on coming. We have been in a breakup/reconcile cycle for its entirety. Normally, the cycle goes that she hits me over the smallest arguments (which she causes) and I end up throwing her out. Things will then go dark for a few weeks/a month and then all is back on.

    The most frustrating thing about this is that I keep on falling for her and letting her back in to just beat me once again. This is a great article that sums up why I should not go back to this but regardless of how much I read, I am obsessed with her.
    I am now in a breakup phase after I allowed her to move in to my flat where in 3 days I was hit again. As I ejected her I told her that she has to go and get some serious help to control her anger/violence (will this ever happen?), until I can consider us. It was a risk as I never wanted to lose her but the aggression must be addressed.

    After the most recent episode she pleaded to be back and for me to not let go and that she would change. So powerless that she even offered an ultimatum of ‘if you don’t take me back right now then I won’t come back’, to which I said no.
    I am now completely blocked from contacting her after she found somewhere else to live and I am in a position where I cannot stop thinking about her. I love her (or what I think is love) from the bottom of my heart and will do anything to get her back. I even emailed her yesterday to say I’m moving on but, I am not even there in my own head.

    She has a very mixed background and mentality where her father used to hit her and she believes it was because he cared.
    Has anyone been in similar and thoughts on reconciling, or at least trying? I keep using her background to justify her behaviour…

    I do have a specific question – by contacting, am I feeding the N nature and allowing her to still feel power and even though I want her back (and I do) will she ever address the problem, as in will love conquer all?

    • Zari Ballard

      May 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm Reply

      Hi Flippy,

      Look, NOBODY deserves to be beaten – not man nor woman – and that alone creates the most dangerous part of the situation. If you keep allowing her back, one day YOU are going to find yourself in jail for being wrongly accused of hitting HER simply because it is standard to assume the guy is beating the girl. She could even say that you did it after you put your arms out to fend her off, pushing her by mistake. Anything could happen. And, honestly, I’m not buying the fact that she views her father’s physical abuse as a term of endearment. I actually believe she’s making that up as a way to justify to YOU and to herself her hitting YOU. I know she has other narcissistic issues (the silent treatments, rages, etc.) that concern you but right now all I care about is that “beating” problem and, to me, that ALONE is so unforgivable enough that you never have to speak to her again. I may be wrong but I sense that you both are pretty young (20’s?) so there is plenty of life ahead for you. I personally don’t feel it’s your responsibility to “fix” her or to even take her back on the promise that she would get help because then you’d have to hold her to it. Certainly counseling of the most stringent kind would do her good and hopefully she will take it. I can’t say for sure if she’s a full-on narc (I’d have to know more) but she definitely has dangerous issues that even surpass the typical narcissistic kind. I know you love her, brother, but it is just not meant to be.

      Block her and do not email. It will only string you both along and this relationship, for both of you, must come to an end. You sound like a very kind compassionate guy and you deserve more in this short life.

      Zari xo

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