The Narcissist Silent Treatment: Why The Narcissists Use Toxic Silence To Manipulate Their Victims


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The Narcissist Silent Treatment

Ever been involved with a toxic person? They won’t use physical violence to break you but the narcissist silent treatment or toxic violence to hurt you. Learn all about them below!

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

Someone who will coexist 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.

What is silent treatment?

The silent treatment is a manipulation tactic where a toxic narcissist will stop talking to you for days, hours, weeks, or even months to punish you for some perceived slight. It can cause severe emotional and psychological damage if you don’t realize what is happening.

What is the goal of silent treatment manipulation? 

The silent treatment enables a narcissist can take the “spotlight” from you – even inside your own head. It is one way they can sort of become the center of your life.

Their goal is to cause you to become so obsessed with figuring out what to do to resolve it that you might even stop thinking about yourself, which can lead to your boundaries being violated one by one until the narcissist has complete control over you.

You would naturally stop attempting to take care of yourself in the process because you’re so focused on the narcissist.

Understanding The Narcissist Silent Treatment

Awareness is the first step on the road to healing from narcissistic abuse, and that means avoiding recreating the type of environment which will allow these toxic people to flourish in our lives again.

Understanding The Narcissist Silent Treatment
Narcissist Silence:: Why Narcissists Go Silent and How to Cope

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.

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 Do Narcissists Use Silent Treatment (The Psychology Behind Toxic Silence)

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?

How to Deal With Narcissist Silent Treatment?

Okay, so how do you deal with this behavior without completely losing your mind? The good news? You don’t have to take it lying down, and there are ways you can beat the narcissist’s silent treatment. 

  • If you’re staying in the relationship because you have no choice, you can play the game. In order to do this, make sure you take care of yourself and that you don’t allow yourself to become overly isolated.
  • Keep in mind that one of the narcissist’s playbook moves is to isolate you from others in your life – the silent treatment will make you want to oblige in some cases, and you might even end up isolating yourself.
  • Find something that you enjoy to engage you, and don’t be afraid to sort of enjoy the break from their drama, if at all possible.

But in the end, the best option is to leave, go no contact, and move forward.

With that 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: 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.

Silent Treatment Is Abuse

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.)

How To Disarm The Narcissist Who is Using Silent Treatment

Picture this. You’re getting the silent treatment again, a lovely part of the discard phase that everyone who’s ever been in a narcissist’s path can recall.

Maybe you’ve been accused of being selfish or of ignoring the narcissists’ emotional or physical needs, of being dishonest, arrogant, lazy, or any number of other insulting descriptives.

(But, for the record, what’s really happening most of the time is projection—narcissists project their own inadequacies onto their victims. So as usual, it’s all about the narcissist, not about you.)

Assuming you’re going to play the game, this is what you do to cope with the silent treatment.

The next time you’re confronted with the icy, hateful silent treatment for yet another perceived infraction, I want you to come back here and read this article again.

And I want you to remember that this is a game of control – the narcissist believes he can control you with his lack of communication and concern.

Related: 10 Examples Of Manipulation In Relationships

The only way to take back the power here is to refuse to respond. You just go on about your life as though he isn’t there, or you do whatever you’d normally do and you blatantly ignore his behavior, no matter how pissed off he gets.

That means:

  • Do not send him texts trying to reason with him.
  • Do not post whiney crap on your Facebook page for all to see.
  • Do not allow him to know that he is affecting you in any way at all.
  • Do not give him what he wants when he behaves this way.

When he realizes he’s not breaking your heart, he’ll try something new. And while this will not solve your narcissist problem, it will stop him from enacting the silent treatment for long. More information on narcissists and the silent treatment in this video.

When Narcissists Go Silent

When the Silent Treatment Ends: Beware Of The Hoovering Narcissist

One last tip: when the narcissist decides the silent treatment is over and they need your narcissistic supply again, they will do anything in their power to “suck you back in,” a move we call “the hoover maneuver.”

Don’t fall for it – it’s not really going to get better, and they’re not really planning to change. In fact, the moment you relent and allow the narcissist back into your heart and life – they’ll go right back to the same old behavior.

Have you ever had to deal with the narcissist’s silent treatment? What did you do to cope? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. Let’s discuss.

Narcissists love using silent treatment, or toxic silence as a cruel punishment and the drastic effect of this method of passive-aggressive control is absolute torture.

This kind of toxic silence conveys contempt, disapproval, and displeasure. Narcissists frequently use this tactic when you ask them for clarification about something, especially when they have done wrong.

Toxic silence helps them to transfer the blame game to you and allows them to avoid taking any responsibility for their wrong actions, thereby refuting your feelings.

Related: Truth About Silent Treatment: Why Won’t He Say What Is Wrong?

Written By Angela Atkinson
Printed With Permission
Originally Published On
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Angie Atkinson


  1. Leigh Avatar

    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!

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