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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242 Comments

  • dan

    March 25, 2015 at 7:52 pm Reply

    My boyfriend gave the silent treatment in my birthday and he refuses me to talk to me, see me or answer me on the phone, its been already a month and it has been a really depressing period because i cant have a closure like this, i didnt expect it and now i need to bring my things back and maybe talk and say goodbye but he refuses to see me. I apologized for the thing i did that make him mad wich wasnt infidelity or something really terrible but he hates me really bad, what can i do? im really depressed and i cant concentrate in anything else.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 2, 2015 at 9:58 pm Reply

      Hi Dan,

      I’m so sorry that you are suffering but you have to know that being without this person is the best thing that can happen. The anxiety is horrible, I know, and often seems way too much to bear but this person is never going to change – ever. At some point we have to ask ourselves if this is the way we want to live the rest of our short lives. Please, if you can, download my book When Love Is a Lie because you will see yourself on every page. I suffered through literally 100’s of silences during my 13-year relationship and it nearly made me insane. At the time, I felt that the anxiety of being away from him was worse than the anxiety I felt when we were together and this is why I allowed it to happen to me again and again. It was a game of seduce and discard that never ended.

      As for closure, I’m a firm believer that “closure” is a made up word. We never get the “closure” that we want when a relationship ends against our wishes. We use wanting “closure” as a reason for seeing them again but it never works. Somehow, someway, it all must end because this person is never ever going to change – not for you and not for anybody. I spent many birthdays alone, believe me, and every single Christmas for 13-years. It’s a nightmare and these monsters are exactly that – monsters.

      Get the book from Amazon if you can. It’s a cheap and easy read and it will give you a fresh perspective on this person and why he is doing what he’s doing and how it is completely unacceptable for anyone to treat another person like that.

      Stay strong, my friend! I’m here if you need me…

      Zari xo

    • prtyDoll

      April 2, 2015 at 10:05 pm Reply

      Hi Dan,

      I know what you are going through…… its tough and painful does not even begin to scratch the surface. One thing that I have learned is that your closure may very well be “no closure”. I know the need to express your feelings and it can really weigh on your heart. I wrote a letter, but never sent the email. I poured my heart out and afterwards I thought, why would I want this? I deserve so much better and so do you! If this helps at all, accept the idea that this is likely his move to control you. The more you go back, the more empowered he feels and the way he treats you will likely get worse and worse. This is an opportunity for you to obtain freedom, a normal life and move forward to someone who really knows how to love you. Run while you can. This may be all the closure you get, *no closure*. Try to accept that. I know how hard it is as I struggle daily. Keep strong and remember sometimes the only closure you get is *no closure*. You are worth so much more………

  • Renee

    March 23, 2015 at 10:24 am Reply

    Omg, I’m crying because what you wrote is my life.. I just dealt with stupid texts from him today. So I flipped the script & gave it back to him.But in the end he won. I’m at home alone sad, alone wondering what is wrong with me, what did I do wrong.? This man has messed with me mentally to the point I wanted to take my life..That was four years ago. I have gotten a lil better grip on my emotions. I wish he could just stop & be that man I fell in love with 10yrs ago. I pray that god will help me get his grip off my heart. I deserve so much more. Please pray for me. Gasping for Love & Respect

    • Zari Ballard

      March 24, 2015 at 11:03 pm Reply

      Hi Renee,

      Yes, you sure as hell DO deserve a whole lot more and I promise you that you will get it. However, in the interim, the grip on the heart is quite suffocating. I am saying a prayer as I type this, placing white light all around you, sister!

      Look, I don’t know whether you’ve read any of my books, but, just in case, I am going to to send you a PDF of my first book When Love Is a Lie as soon as I end this message. If nothing else, it will show you that we’ve all lived the same life and that you are NEVER alone no matter how sad you feel. Unless a person has experienced this type of relationship, they’ll never understand the depth of the deception. This is exactly why I created this website – because we MUST stick together. There is strength in knowledge and in numbers!!

      Hang in there and check the email that you use to log in here…..

      Zari xo

  • Kat

    March 19, 2015 at 4:42 am Reply

    This article really hits home for me because this silent treatment is the most painful aspect of my relationship. At first it happened rarely, then it became several times a month. The fact that it is a long distance relationship makes it even worse, because I have no other way to contact him other than by phone. He generally ignores my emails, and got rid of texting a couple years into our relationship, after at first encouraging me to get it to keep in closer touch. Last week he showed up in our hometown where I live to take care of his childhood home after the death of his parents. He suggested that I move into the home and take care of a pet left by his parents. I said I would to help him out but when I realized it was too sad and emotional for me, as well as much too big for me to care for and full of family memorabilia, he told me that I had to do it because I had said I would (despite the fact he and his sibling had changed their minds several times about what to do with the house). I feel scared & emotional when I go into the house each day. I offered to take the pet home, and although he eventually relented and I did so, at first he said I could not take the pet out of the house and he would euthanize it instead. He said whether or not I stayed there I shouldn’t get too attached to the pet (impossible for me, I’m a real animal lover). Last night he told me that he doesn’t love me and isn’t in love with me, but he still expects me to be involved in caring for the house in his absence. He also said that I was the one who suggested staying there (I’m 100% sure that didn’t happen). He is now again giving me the silent treatment. I alternate between disbelief that he could expect me to be an unpaid housesitter and do the work that he and his sibling aren’t doing, given he’s ended our relationship, and extreme despair and pain over the silence.

    • Kat

      March 19, 2015 at 4:46 am Reply

      p.s. I should also add that the reason I became drawn back in was that he wanted to see me a lot while here after his parents death. But what I realized later was that almost all the conversations were about the houses, stocks, cash, etc that he is inheriting from his parents. I’m now thinking maybe all the time spent with me was more about getting me to caretake the house than any renewed interest in me.

      • Zari Ballard

        March 22, 2015 at 2:53 am Reply

        Hi Kat,

        I must comment on this P.S. because a similar thing happened to me. My ex disappeared for a month just after his father had had a stroke and while he was waiting for family to come and take his dad back east to care for him. So, for a whole month he’s completely silent and then one night he just shows up at my door, telling me how much he loves me blah blah and how no one understands about his dad but me and he’s sorry. At this point, the dad had left and now the narcissist was staying in his dad’s house which was FULL to the brim with his dad’s belongings – belongings that he had to move to storage and then vacate the house and he had a week to do this. So, of course, I jump right back in and bust my ass for four days packing and boxing and hauling back and forth and then cleaning and what have you. I stayed up for two days straight to get it done. I was so glad he had come back, I was ready to help! So, one night, when we were down to the last box, a call came in that caught him by surprise and, to make a long story short, I find out he’d been cheating on me for that whole month and now he’d disappeared on her (apparently to come back to me) and she was pissed. He had even taken her to his dad’s to meet the family coming in (in 13-years, I never did that!). Since the call caught him by surprise, he was forced to tell her to stop calling and that it was over while I was right there listening and I was fucking devastated. It occurred to me that the ONLY reason he had come begging back was because he had needed help getting his dad’s house and belongings in order and he knew damn well the new girlfriend wasn’t going to do all that! So, you’re instincts are right. Narcissists always have a motive for every kind word and for any renewed interest they show in us. Always.. So sorry that we ever had to go through that, my friend. It’s time for you to get better and have the life that you deserve:)

        Zari xxoo

        • Kat

          March 29, 2015 at 7:56 pm Reply

          Zari, Thank you so much for the replies! Your story about your boyfriend is really helpful to me because it feels so similar to what is happening to me! I’m looking forward to reading your ebook, although I do feel like right now my mind is split in two. There’s the part that thinks I am truly dealing with a narcissist, and the part that thinks I am in the wrong and I must have done things to make him treat me this way. I have continued to go the house, although less frequently, but I am planning this week to leave the key there for his sister and not go back. Even with me going there to the house and doing what he has asked and taking on this new animal at my place, he has now cut me off from phone conversation again. He did get some type of texting service, but if I ask to talk on the phone he ignores my text. The thing I did wrong on the phone in our most recent conversation is that I asked if he is involved with someone else. He wouldn’t answer and said, “You just can’t stop, can you?” and “I’m going to hang up on you.” Up until just a month or so ago he was still telling me he loved me and if we were living in the same area would want to have a relationship with me. I’m experiencing a lot of depression and anxiety, to the point that I feel physical pain. I’m trying to take it a day at a time but the stress of caring for these responsibilities for him while he is pretty much shunning me is overwhelming. Because we knew each other when young and he was around when I was going through some abuse from an adult, all of this feels particularly emotional. At one point in our relationship he told me that I caused his lifelong distrust of women by “cheating” on him with the adult who was sexually abusing me when we were young. I feel like I’m going through emotional flashbacks to those years, and being in the house he lived in then makes it worse.

          • Kat

            March 29, 2015 at 8:02 pm

            I just wanted to add, the man I’m writing about was married to a psychiatrist who told him that he has narcissistic personality disorder. I know spouses can’t really diagnose each other, but this is what originally gave me the idea that maybe I’m not dealing with just normal relationship issues.

          • Zari Ballard

            April 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm

            Hi Kat,

            The last sentence of your post…At one point in our relationship he told me that I caused his lifelong distrust of women by “cheating” on him with the adult who was sexually abusing me when we were young…made me so angry! What kind of monster does that??? Please stay away from that house!! You don’t owe him anything and he is taking full advantage of your compassionate nature. Why are you continuing to do this while he is ignoring you? You are NOT obligated to take care of HIS responsibilities. Just end it. Even if he responds to you, end it! It doesn’t matter that just a month ago he was telling you that he loved you. Mine did that all the time. Please read the books because you will see that. Narcissists are pathological liars and they will play on your every weakness.

            Right now I have a special on phone consultations please consider this option. I feel that there is so much to talk about concerning your situation that maybe a consultation would do you a world of good. At least think about it. This guy is very, very cruel and he should NOT be allowed to continue his antics AND have you taking care of his responsibilities. That’s absolutely crazy and, yes, you will make yourself sick doing it. He is not worth it. I know it’s hard to imagine that they can do what they do and treat us in such a cruel way but it just is what it is, girl. We’ve got to figure out a way to move you past it. You deserve to be happy!!!

            Stay strong and please read the books. They will help you!!

            Zari xo

    • Zari Ballard

      March 22, 2015 at 2:37 am Reply

      Hi Kat,

      It never ceases to amaze me what balls these jerks seem to have and I am sorry that you are being hurt in this way. In my 13-year relationship, I suffered through 100’s of awful silences and it made me nuts. There’s nothing worse than being cut off…erased…as if you never existed. My ex and I were in the same town but it often felt as if he was far away because many times, if he planned to be silent for longer than a week, he’d simply pack up and leave his apartment, change his phone number, and vanish. Ridiculous and abusive behavior no matter how you look at it.

      I wouldn’t worry about him eventually taking the pet because a narcissist cares about no one and nobody. And as for house sitting, you made the best decision no matter how awful (and typical, unfortunately) his reaction. He had no business asking you to do it in the first place considering the circumstances and only a narcissist would have had that reaction. Stay as far away from that house as you can. You could babysit it and care for it and do everything he asked and it would make no difference at all. I know that you know that. He doesn’t deserve you and YOU deserve to be happy.

      If you can, please read my book When Love Is a Lie (Amazon download) because you will recognize your relationship in my own. I believe my words will not only empower you to feel better and stronger but to change your perspective of this clown over all. It IS without a doubt very painful to be treated that way but life is too short to spend it loving these monsters. It’s time for you to find your happiness, sister!

      Stay strong and write anytime that you need to….I’m here for you:)

      Zari xo

  • Najwa Shadad

    March 10, 2015 at 12:35 am Reply

    Hi Zari,
    I was in a relationship with a Narc for almost 3 years. It was such a nightmare because I was always sitting on pins and niddles due to several silence treatment given to me by him. He started out saying I was the most amazing woman he had ever met and ended up ignoring my phone calls, lying about not having available time for me. I started to believe that I was too needing and clingy. When I told him I would look for some therapy, he totally discourage me, saying that the only thing I needed was him beside me. He finally told me that he has never been there for me and hopes I find someone better. As he has some stuff in my house, he told me that if I dont hear from him in 6 months, telling me where he has settled down and send off his stuff that is in my house , I should send his stuff to his ex wife’s but addressing his oldest daughter. I believe that I should go ahead and just send off his stuff to his ex wife, do you agree with me?

    • Zari Ballard

      March 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm Reply

      Hi Najwa,

      Thank you for writing and I’m sorry you’re going through all of that. However, you are NOT a storage unit and I feel that you should just throw his shit out NOW. How dare he give you shipping instructions in case you don’t hear from him! What a crock of crap! Pack his junk up, drive it across town, and stick it in a dumpster somewhere. Get it as far away from you as possible and let the garbage man deliver it where it belongs. You asked me and I told you….LOL

      Stay strong!

      Zarixo

  • Jasmine howard

    March 8, 2015 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I have a situation I been with this guy for 2 months one min he texts me everyday n then stop out of no where. I ask him if everything ok he text me back saying everything okay sorry ! And then I said be honest something don’t seem right no response n tht was going on for a week . So I call him the first time no answer then I call the second time he answer n said he would call me back never did. So I text him the next day explaining I feel like u don’t care bout this relationship n I feel like u not acting like my boyfriend . I know something is up n u won’t tell me. Communication is key in a relationship. Have a nice life. And worst of all he never replied still n this been going on for 2 months now what did I do wrong it really hurt my feelings

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