How To Respond When The Narcissist Gives You The Silent Treatment
It took me several years before I learned the true nature of the “silent treatment” and what it’s meant to do to you. Once I realized just how much my ex-husband (the Narcissist) was using the silent treatment to “control” me and put me back "in check”, then I tried to adjust my reactions to it. It took years though before I would be in a position to do anything.
In the beginning I was distraught by it. I was panic stricken, anxious, and desperate to restore the “peace” in the house. It was sheer misery when he was “angry” at me and not speaking to me at all. To this day, I’m dumbfounded at how a grown man could throw so many “temper tantrums” and completely ignore me for days and weeks on end. How could he share a bed with me but dismiss my very existence?
I know I’m a strong woman. But, even I have an inherent need to belong and feel loved. To be completely shut out, especially by those we love or who are supposed to love us, is debilitating even to the strongest of people. By being ignored or ostracized, we’re left feeling totally worthless with our self-esteem at an all-time low. The narcissist will express their disapproval or disagreement by shutting down, withdrawing any love or affection, refusing to communicate and denying their target any explanation.
Avoidance, control, disempowerment and/or punishment for some “perceived” slight that their target may or may not be aware of. Narcissists are completely aware of their actions and how they are making the other person feel. But, in their sick, twisted minds they actually believe that somehow their loved one deserves it. Their emotional maturity is very typical of a small child who sulks and storms off until they get what they want.
How does a narcissist expect or want you to react?
A narcissist wants the target of their abuse - and be assured without a doubt that their “silence IS abuse” - to reach out, beg and plead for their very existence to be recognized. This is exactly what I did the first half of our relationship. I was so desperate for him to speak to me and show me attention.
Responding in such a way will give the narcissist their much needed narcissistic supply (of attention). I used to say it just fed my NarcX’s bottomless, black hole of an ego! The narcissist will read all your countless texts, emails and listen to voice messages…and he/she will ignore every last one! All your attempts at communication will be met with a deafening silence. The narcissist will instead get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from them! All your efforts to restore peace will just make them feel so important and powerful.
This passive aggressive behavior is usually a repetitive form of emotional abuse which the narcissist will practice and perfect time & time again with each episode of silence often lasting a little longer than the one before. This is intentional manipulation and it conditions the target for future mind control.
Oh, How The Tides Can Change - Turn About is Fair Game!
These narcissistic monsters don’t expect is your knowledge of their twisted mind games. They don’t expect us to know how to play these games better than they can! It took me about 4 years or so. After I’d grieved the loss of my dad and was starting to feel like my old self again…you know, the “old, sassy, independent Laura.” I had just reached my breaking point with that fool I called my husband at the time. And for the first time, I got mad. No, I got ANGRY! I was sick and tired of putting up with my Ex’s shenanigans which were always ridiculous and juvenile.
It was time to give him a taste of his own medicine! I decided the time had come for me to “flip the script” and give it back to him as good as he did (or try to anyways).
How did I do that, you ask?
I stopped giving him the results and reactions that he desired. I stopped begging and pleading for him to acknowledge and validate my existence. Instead, I learned to enjoy his silence. I learned to take FULL advantage when he fell silent and turn it into ME TIME and long needed girl time with my friends. I would just pamper myself with all the attention I was getting from him - shopping sprees, spa days, etc. I even took my own trips to see family a few times! Oh, his “mysterious” long weekends away from home supposedly “golfing” or wherever the hell he was with whomever he was with… well, let’s just say I ENJOYED having the house all to myself!
When he saw and FELT that I didn’t give a damn anymore about his silent tantrums and antics for attention… and that they no longer had the effect on me that they did… he didn’t know what to do! And you know what, he was quick to end that episode of silence (on his terms of course!). If/when a narcissist sees they aren’t getting their desired responses out of you, they will likely end that particular period of silence.
So, let their silence teach you something. Let their deadly silence teach you that you can carry on without them. Use that period of silence as a time to re-evaluate your position in the relationship. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out what you’ve done wrong - ‘cuz more often than not you didn’t do a damn thing wrong! Screw them! Don’t chase them for answers or resolution any more. Stop blaming yourself for their cowardice behaviors! Stop apologizing for shit you didn’t do. Don’t play into their hands anymore!
Beware of the Narcissist’s Obsession
If a narcissist believes that this particular form of manipulation and control - the silent treatment - isn’t effective as far as you’re concerned anymore, they may switch to some other manipulative tactic. I noticed that while my ex-husband would still shut down and go “silent” on me, I felt that the intensity of his anger towards me grow stronger. It was a silent rage, but I felt every bit of his resentment. It felt like his mind games just got more vindictive…there was an certain type of evil behind his every move.
Respect and love yourself enough to know what someone who really, genuinely loves you would NEVER treat you in such an inhumane, contemptuous way.
People who love you don’t withhold their love…they freely and unconditionally give it! People who love you…have your back. They don’t stab you in it or try to kill your spirit/soul.
So, when someone gives you the silent treatment, do yourself a favor CHOOSE YOU & give it right back… then WALK AWAY, shut the door to that relationship, lock it and NEVER go back!
Remember, to always love yourself first and don’t ever let anyone treat you wrong.