The Silent Treatment Nearly Killed Me
This topic has been extremely difficult for me to write about. When I started my initial research, I went a little over board. I found well over 50+ articles and videos on the topic. I got overwhelmed and “triggered” so I put it on the back burner and have been avoiding it like the plague. But, in order for me to move forward and continue on my healing journey, I realize that I have to push through and write about it.
It took me a LONG time to realize that the “silent treatment” my NarcX husband would give me was really a form of emotional abuse. It took me a little longer to fully understand how he was using it to break me down and gain control over me.
I can’t remember exactly how it all started during our year of dating. For that, I’d have to go back and read through the 8 years of journals I have buried in my closet. What I can tell you, is that it went from just a few days to as long as a week. Then, it grew to a couple weeks. At some point, the silent treatment he gave me lasted up to an entire month at a time! I used to think 4 weeks was excessive and absolutely ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong…it totally is! But, after spending time on various Facebook groups for survivors of narcissistic abuse/relationships, I’ve learned that a month of silent treatment was a drop in the bucket!
I have read tons of comments from women across the globe who’ve experience the silent treatment from their spouses or partners for several months and even years! Mind you, I put up with it off and on for a total of 8 years. Some of these women have been with their narcissists for decades! I couldn’t even imagine putting up with it for that long.
A narcissist uses the silent treatment as a mind game all about one thing - control. It’s a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse that can leave a trail of devastation caused by what is sometimes called “mental murder.” The narcissist will deliberately ignore their target in order to cause them harm. The person who is being ignored is felt feeling worthless with their self-esteem completely decimated.
The narcissist will express their disapproval by shutting down, withdrawing any love or affection, refusing to communicate at all and denying their target any explanation for the silent treatment. They know full well what they are doing and how they are making the other person feel. But, in their sick and twisted mind, they believe their target deserves it.
Their emotional maturity is typical of a toddler or young child who sulks and storms off until they get what they want. The victim often panics and goes above & beyond to reach out to the abuser in an attempt to resolve the situation and restore peace. Yet, the abuser ignores all phone calls, emails, texts, etc. All attempts at communication are met with contempt and a deafening silence.
It’s actually quite common for this form of abuse to not only be repetitive, but also for each episode of silence to last a little longer than the one before. This is intentional and very strategic manipulation which conditions the target for future mind control. Each time someone is subjected to this type of abuse they become less of the person that they once were. Their self-esteem gets pulled down further and further.
That explains a lot…doesn’t it?!?!
In the first half of my relationship with my NarcX, I will never forget how that silence made me feel. I felt invisible. I felt worthless. I felt insignificant. I felt abandoned. I felt unwanted and unloved. I felt hated.
That man had me in complete shambles! I was anxious and panic stricken. I am sure I begged, groveled, and pleaded with him time and time again to talk to me. I just wanted to “fix it” and move on. I just wanted his affection and physical touch (and I’m not talking about sex). Instead, I’d be super stressed and barely eat. I starved myself so bad one time and lost so much weight that my skin was almost translucent. The only thing coming out of my body was bright green bile. Looking back my desperation for his affection and approval were equivalent to my need to breathe air.
In those early years, he “justified” his behavior as “teaching me a lesson” and because I’d done something to deserve it. It was punishment to regain control over me and get me back “in line.” My mental health and physical health were both deteriorating fast! I’d become a 90-something pound “shell” of my former self.
He showed me time and time again who was in charge…who was in control of the relationship. Only he decided when the silence ended and peace were restored. I used to be so “happy” when that happened that I took whatever he dished out to me. He mastered the art of “flipping the script” and turning entire situations around on me so that I was somehow at fault. I’d end up “owning” it and apologizing profusely and agreeing to whatever he demanded. He kept me forever on “eggshells” and in a constant state of fear for the “next time” it happened. I learned many a hard lessons not to enjoy any “happy, peaceful” times because in a nanosecond he’d be angry or tripping over something and “silent” over something new.
In many cases, this type of abuse is covert and rarely witnessed by anyone outside the relationship. But, in my NarcX’s case, he didn’t care where we were when he treated me horribly. He publicly embarrassed me in front of his family, friends and complete strangers. At times, he’d even pack up and leave for the weekend without telling me where he was going or who he’d be with. Other times, when he “flipped the switch” and wanted to let bygones be bygones, I was supposed to fall in line, pick up where we’d left off (in peaceful, lovey dovey mode) and not ask any questions. I wasn’t allowed to “harp” on it or bring it back up…ever!
People, like him, who play these mind games are mentally unstable, full of self hate and totally incapable of maintaining healthy, loving relationships. I didn’t deserve to be treated this way and neither do you!
Below are a list of resources (articles and videos) that I came across to help drive home the point of what the silent treatment is and how harmful its effects are to those on the receiving end.
In the next article on the silent treatment, I’ll talk about ways to “respond” to it when you’re still in the relationship with a narcissist. I’ll also share how I turned my reactions around and diffused its affect on me.