Narcissists and the Silent Treatment

silent treatment

Most people have experienced the silent treatment at some point in a relationship. The silent treatment in and of itself isn’t emotional abuse, but what does make it emotional abuse is the reason and duration it’s given to a person.

In a normal/healthy relationship the silent treatment may be given for a reasonable reason (a person may be so upset they don’t want to say something they’ll regret), and for a reasonable amount of time (a few hours). The partner that is on the receiving end of the silent treatment may be uncomfortable, saddened or angered by the silent treatment, but they know it will end, and they don’t begin to question every aspect of their relationship or what they did to cause it.

This is not the case with a Narcissist. With a Narcissist the silent treatment can be given for any number of reasons, last any length of time, and the victim is left to twist in the wind, often wondering what they did and if their relationship is over.

Why do Narcissists give the silent treatment?

There are three main reasons why Narcissists use the silent treatment:

1. To assert their power and control over their victim. The silent treatment is a great way for them to make sure that your relationship is being played on their terms.  After all with their silence they are now in control of the (lack of) communication, and the victim is often left to scramble to apologize or to try and somehow make things better–anything to just get their partner to start talking again.

2. It gives them time to line up additional supply. Narcissists always have potential victims (referred to as “Narcissistic Supply”) lined up as a plan a, b, c, d and so on. Always. Narcissists can (and will) use the silent treatment for any reason at anytime, and the added benefit to them is that by doing so allows them to focus on lining up (love bombing) another source of supply.  You can be sure that if they aren’t spending time with you, they are spending that time working on someone else. And since love bombing takes a lot of time and energy, it’s easier for them to do when their partner isn’t expecting them to engage with them in any way. During the silent treatment the Narcissists can be gone for days at a time and the victim isn’t comfortable questioning their whereabouts for fear it will lead to more of the silent treatment.

3. To manage down expectations. The silent treatment is crazy making and torturous, and victims of it will often do anything to make it stop. The Narcissist knows this, and is then able to only give the bare minimum (crumbs of attention/affection) to the relationship or the victim to give the victim relief that things are back to normal. The victim is all too happy to pick up those crumbs, because to them  something is better than nothing.  The Narcissist is doing this as a way to slowly train the victim to expect less and less of them, while they get away with more and more.

A relationship with a Narcissists is a one-sided relationship, and one where the victim will always be let down. Always.  Narcissists only think about themselves, and place the importance of their wants and needs above everyone else’s.  If you think you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, please learn as much as you can about this personality disorder, as well as join a support group or consider getting into counseling with a therapist who is famliar with Narcissists.

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 296 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

10 Comments

  1. I always thought i was the one giving the silent treatment because when he finally came over to my side of the bed, i didnt want him there.

  2. Maybe you gave the silent treatment too. Totally possible–and not uncommon. Many people who struggle with having assertive communication skills (for whatever reason) often get resentful of not being able to communicate their needs effectively, or resent their partner if their partner isn’t meeting their needs (which happens if their partner is manipulative and selfish).

  3. Are ALL people that give the silent treatment, considered automatic Narcissists? I have seen several people say that Narcissists tend to have people on the side (in terms of a relationship and sex) and my gf might be a lot of things, especially when she acts like this and gives me the silent treatment, but she would never cheat on me. So are ALL silent treatment…ers lol Narcissists? A few of the other clues about “are you dating a Narcissist” are not true for her either. But, god damn, she loves the silent treatment. There is absolutely NO consoling her. In a normal relationship someone would do something wrong, apologize and it would be over. With her its not. If I apologize, it gets worse. If I cry it gets worse. If I show any emotion, caring, depression, sadness – it gets worse, instead of hours, it turns into days. Pretty horrible overall, but a Narcissist, I don’t think so.

  4. The red flags are designed to paint a broad brush overview of the behavior of a manipulative person. …Most people have some red flags. The red flags in and of themselves are nothing more than a big warning signal to slow down and gather more infomation. The silent treatment is still manipulative treatment, even if a person isn’t a Narcissist. …Also keep in mind that a person doesn’t need to be a Narcissist in order to cause destruction in your life, or to even simply not be right for you.

  5. I am on the silent treatment. I don’t want to text him or anything. This is hard. I feel powerless.

  6. it feels like i just woke up from a dream of someone elses life. I used to write his words down… i knew they were bad but his words became my words. it started with our first Christmas together. i was wrapping presents and doing a terrible job. he started laughing, said i didnt do anything right. i didnt cook right, didnt dress right, didnt wear make up. after that i became the bad welfare mother he would never take parenting advice from. The night he said that, i cried all night and he sat there and watched. The next morning i was exhausted, red eyed and swollen, i took the kids to school and came back and cried some more asking him why he thought so badly of me why he was with me. he told me he never said it. it didnt make sense to me, nothing made sense. i started seeing everything through his eyes. he attacked everyone i got close to and i started seeing them as a threat too. He told me, look at the way people are looking at you and I did. They were looking at me the way he was looking at me. I was sure of it. I stopped talking to people, i stopped talking to them mostly because I couldnt explain in my words what he was doing because i had his words in my head. Every time I left him, i was drowning in the misery of his lies. it is only now that I remembered the fear he put in me, how when I started talking to a friend I had isolated myself from, my heart beat out my chest when he found out and I never understood why. I remember now, all of the words other people have said to me, you put up such a fascade… how do you do it? You’re in pain and you dont even act like it. You should be screaming at him, it’s your life… why aren’t you angry? I wasnt angry… i was confused. I was numb with grief. I was silently drowning. I could never understand how my friends could hold me while I cried but he couldn’t. That’s not true, he held me while I cried about the people i felt completely isolated from, asking me ,”Do you want me to beat them up for hurting you?” I literally had flashbacks about the things people would say, “What’s the matter with you?” I told you that you were bad. All of which confirmed everything he said about me, that there was something wrong with me. I remember all of it, all of the nasty things he ever said to me, did to me and I wonder how long it will stay with me? I also wonder after I leave him when the numbness will come and then the pain, the drowning…I remember I used to watch and wait for his lips to thin out, tried to prevent it with everything i had inside of me because I knew what it meant. It meant that those bad words were coming but would it mean that this time he would ridicule me like a child, point his finger in my face like last time, what name would he call me this time. The worst part is that my daughter will grow up and find a man just like him and he’s gonna make her cry and he’s gonna steal her joy and her hope and she’s gonna wonder why she wants to die.
    i just wish he would have just hit me, atleast then I could have found the right words to explain what was happening to me. I tried to tell people but I didnt know how… i couldnt explain it… all i ever said was he was mean or he doesnt contribute… he’s bad with money…or he mistreats me financially because I was trying to make sense of it by looking at his actions but i never thought about the words. I remember when i would pray out in pain, I knew in my heart God was trying to tell me something. All I heard was, finish your book, finish it… what you are looking for are in the words.
    I remember when i first move to Texas, God was stronger. i would look at signs find words, put them in my book. And I heard God again. The words are every where.. now that i know and have found the right words… i want to shout it from the roof tops… I’m not crazy.

  7. You aren’t crazy–and your daughter doesn’t have to be doomed to find a man like him. I would encourage you to start talking to her now about healthy boundaries and standards, and for you to watch this video series, and then talk to her about it in an age appropriate way: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/youtube-video-playlist-on-narcissism/ (It’s the 3rd video series that I’m talking about called, “How to Avoid Dating (or Befriending) Another Narcissist”. I hope that you do write your book, and I hope that you do tell your story. All of our stories are important, and they serve to bring light to all this darkness. …Please ALWAYS remember that his treatment of you does not, and is not, a reflection of you, but is a reflection of him. (((hugs))) to you. You are free now, and I wish you all the health, healing, and happiness in this next chapter of your life. <3

  8. There were so many mornings that I could tell bybthe look he would give me, that he was pissed about something. I. Would be the resposible one and ask what was going on. Reptilian stare with usuallya comment like ” if you don’t know then why should I bother telling you? You won’t do anything about it anyway” . 2,4 -10 days of silence and at first I was curious…”come on Brook, it is not healthy to keep it inside. Or whenever you’re ready to discusswhat is bothering you, I’ll be right here.” Then I would come to find out that he was having arguments with in his head and believing that it was real! He would also completely twist something around and make my words abusive or cutting when it actually sounded something like, ” Brook, I am really tired of the 10 baskets of dirty laundry in our bedroom. It is NOT sexy and it stinks.” What he would hear is that HE WAS the laundry and I was just using it as excuse. To criticize him! NO! Really, it’s the 6 weeks of smelly clothes that YOU own! One time he said he was tired of me “chewing his ass” for the last 48 hours, I pointed out that we had not even been in the same room or at home for the same time. Who is chewing your ass? Reptilian stare and more days of silence….which I learned to be grateful for!

  9. You would have a better chance of getting a university degree in rocket science than trying to figure out the narcissist. To say they are complicated is an understatement. Mel xx

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