Toxic Silence: Why Narcissists Go Silent and How to Cope

Toxic Silence Why Narcissists Go Silent

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a narcissist’s toxic silence, and their immensely hard-to-deal-with silent treatment?

How do you deal with living with a narcissist who is giving you the silent treatment?

Someone who will co-exist with you in the same house while literally ignoring you? What if that goes on for days? Weeks?

Ideally, this would be a two-word answer: no contact. But in real life, things don’t always work ideally and people sometimes need to live with narcissists – so let’s dig into this.

How to Survive the Narcissist’s Silent Treatment

Believe it or not, this is just one of the many signs of gaslighting and emotional abuse you’ll notice if you’re in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist.

And, in the case of a covert narcissist, you might often find yourself getting the old silent treatment – AKA the discard phase.

Understanding the Narcissist’s Silent Treatment

The first thing you have to do is to educate yourself about the situation.

I always say that knowledge is power, and the first fact you need to know about this issue is exactly why narcissists give you the silent treatment in the first place.

Related: The Silent Treatment: A Narcissist’s Trick of the Trade of Emotional Abuse

Why Narcissists Give You the Silent Treatment (The Psychology)

See, whether they recognize it consciously or not, narcissists are wired to sort of “push your buttons” in order to get what they want.

Now, you might wonder which button they’re trying to push when they just go silent, right? You might be surprised to find out that it’s not about making you crazy from lack of communication or pure boredom – rather, it’s about playing on your own worst fears.

And, I’m betting, one of your worst fears is the fear of being alone in the world with no one to help or support or just be there for you. Am I right? And I’m guessing that, if you’re currently involved (or were previously involved) with a narcissist, you’re thinking of all kinds of little things the narcissist did in order to play on your fears.

Get over your fears and get on with your life! 

So, by verbally and emotionally “cutting you off,” the narcissist offers you a taste of what life might be without his charming godlike awesome self (did you detect that bit of sarcasm there??).

So, that’s the way – the narcissist ignores and belittles and devalues you because it plays on your fear of being alone. It is his hope that in enacting this silent narcissistic rage against you, he will force you into submission and into being the good little narcissistic supply he needs.

Plus, the silent treatment works particularly well on sensitive, empathic people (who are often quite attractive to narcissists), because we are wired to respond to and attempt to soothe the emotions of the people around us, especially those we love.

You feel me?

You Don’t Have to Take the Silent Treatment Lying Down (How to Beat the Narcissist’s Silent Treatment)

Okay, so how do you deal with this behavior without completely losing your mind?

If you’re staying in the relationship because you have no choice, you can play the game. But in the end, the best option is to leave and move forward.

With that being said, we all know that sometimes it’s easier said than done – and we all have our reasons for the choices we make and for why we “don’t just leave already if it’s so bad.”

So, as always, I want to say that if you are being physically abused, none of the following is relevant, and I want you to get help now – stop reading and start packing, sister.

Related: The Deafening Brutality of the Narcissist’s Silent Treatment

Make No Mistake: The Silent Treatment IS Abuse

The fact is that the silent treatment is painful and it makes you miserable. As someone who is likely codependent, you may feel that you need to fix whatever you did wrong in order to get the narcissist to be nice to you again.

But the truth is that this is exactly what the narcissist wants – for you to bend over backward trying to appease them. All the while, the narcissist has no intention of allowing that to happen – they will only stop using the silent treatment when it is convenient for them or they want or need something from you.

But if you work on your self-esteem, and you learn how to set proper boundaries, and you recognize that you are worthy of love and respect – you’re already on your way to learning how to disarm the narcissist‘s silent treatment. You don’t just have to accept it and carry around this false hope that one day, the narcissist will change. (Chances are, they won’t.)

4 thoughts on “Toxic Silence: Why Narcissists Go Silent and How to Cope”

  1. I am glad yo have found this site! I had been told my ex-husband was a narcissist but had no idea what that was. Before we got married, my self-esteem was climbing and I was ready to tackle the world, healing after my 1st husband passed. After marrying my 2nd husband and being blamed for everything, my self-esteem tanked. I felt like it was my responsibility to fix whatever was wrong and continue to live the life we’d talked about but I got the Toxic Silence and close to ‘your dead to me. ‘ Our Pastor even told me to leave because he was afraid that physical abuse was coming soon. My ex even begged me to leave, which I finally left after he promised we would go to counseling once we separated and woukd talk regularly, which of course Never happened! It’s been over a year since the divorce was finalized and he’s attentive, responsive and has kept with the plans we made as a couple, I’ve been left with bills and a losses. I used to want us to get back together but know it probably won’t happen and knows he needs to work on healing, but won’t because he doesn’t see anything wrong and he has always been the victim. I see his family in the family tree and see it manifested in his children (probably not on purpose, but that’s all he and their mom knew.) I pray for his and his children’s healing because it has to stop somewhere.
    I am still in counseling and am making strides, grateful for sites like this to enlighten me! Thank you!

  2. I’m going through the silent treatment right now. I’ve been with this man for 8 years we also have a son together. Finally after all the physical,mental abuse & infidelity. I got the strength to finally leave and get a protection order. I toattally cut all communications with hi blocked him on all social media. He kept trying g and trying to get to me through friends nd family and one friend gave in and called me and said he really wants to talk to you its important he went to the hospital and the doctor told him he has cancer. My heart sank I emediatly called him an he got me back. And now he’s colder and more distant than ever except when he wants something. I. Trying not to lose my mind d or go crazy but I feel so stupid for coming back. And now all over I feel stuck and worthless.

    1. Thelma – It looks like you have a good heart and want to do the right thing. Your story has struck at my heart and wanted to provide a reply to you so you know you are not alone.

      Here are some things to think about – What are you doing for yourself and your heart? The actions you have taken, how will your son see them for future reference? How much more energy are you going to put into something that isn’t a partnership of what a marriage should be?

      I am not trained in counseling, however I went through a marriage that he gave me the silent treatment for months. I went to see a therapist to see how to communicate to someone who wasn’t communicating back. I learned some things about boundaries and that I had more strength than I thought I had. I became more aware of the different types of situations that could compromise those boundaries.

      Give yourself some credit as you are discovering more about yourself and what and where your strengths lie. Staying with him because he has cancer is nice for him but what about you? Is there other family members that can help him? There are certainly support groups and services that can help him. It is true what they say – if you can’t take care of yourself then how will you be able to take care of anyone else and you have your son to think about. Can you find the strength you had once before when you left the first time to do it again? My life opened up to so many new opportunities after we divorced finally. I do not regret any of it. Sometimes I wished I had done it sooner, but found that everything presents itself when you need it.

      I am sure you know all of this with your own experiences.

      Be kind to yourself and think of where you would want to be and the life you want to live – plan and then start with small actions and build on them. Not for sure if this will help, but know you are not alone and there is help out there if you ask. I wish you all of the best and lots of strength and courage as you pursue your best life.

    2. It will all be just fine. Don’t worry.
      “Don’t cling to a mistake just because it took too much time to make it”
      You still have a choice of leaving him again if he doesn’t love you. Live your life, you deserve to be happy ❤️

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