(Prefer to listen instead of read? Click here to see/hear on YouTube) My ex was the king of crazymaking. A couple of days before our wedding, our best man and maid of honor (which was our whole wedding party) came to town, so we decided to go out and have our bachelor/bachelorette parties – which were really just a night out on the town with our individual friends. He and his friend went one way, while my friend and I went another. And since my friend was a recovering alcoholic, we had a sober night out. But when my then-fiance came home that night, he was so intoxicated, I am pretty sure he didn’t even know his own name!
As you can imagine, it wasn’t enjoyable for me, being stone-cold sober and fully aware of everything that was happening. It was more than just worrying about his seemingly excessive level of intoxication, though. It was also that I was overly concerned with what they had done on their night out.
Now, let me just be totally transparent here. I’m not saying I was in any way perfect. In fact, I admit to being overly concerned with a lot of things back then. Honestly, I was very insecure about myself, thanks to growing up with a toxic mother, and being that I was only 22 when we got married, I still had a lot of growing up to do.
And that, along with the fact that I instinctively didn’t trust him any further than I could throw him, is probably why I insisted that we create rules for ourselves for that night out, ahead of time. And of course one of the things that we agreed on was that we wouldn’t go to certain kinds of places. I’m sure you can imagine what I mean. But in hindsight, I’m about 99 percent sure that he did go to one of those places that night and that he lied about it. Well, maybe “lied” isn’t the right word. Unless we’re talking about a lie by omission. And if I’m being honest, part of me thinks that more could’ve happened that night than I care to know.
But like always, he would tell me what he thought I wanted to hear and then just go ahead and do whatever he wanted. Ironically, somehow, that night would, in so many ways, be very representative of that relationship as a whole.
And, just like anytime I’d catch him red-handed doing something he shouldn’t, or something he promised he wouldn’t, he got really weird that night.
While a normal person might own up to what they’d done, or at least try to discuss it, my ex was confusing. See, he was hard to read. And rather than send me running, it drew me in – because I could read nearly everyone else.
When he was guilty, he might or might not argue with me. He might or might not defend himself. He might try to say things that made me feel better, or he might say things that would hurt more – depending on his mood and his goals at the moment. What I mean is that at the beginning of the relationship, he was more likely to pretend to care how I felt, but as time progressed, there would e occasions where he’d pretend pretty hard that he cared – at least, when it served him to do so.
But he did this one thing that was totally perplexing to me, even when he was still in the idealization phase of the relationship. If I’d ask questions – especially about something that could somehow incriminate him or get him in trouble, he would literally just say…nothing at all.
Now, it wasn’t exactly the silent treatment. Maybe it was a kind of stonewalling. But it wasn’t that he would not talk to me during these times. It was just that he wouldn’t answer any of my totally valid questions. He’d either say nothing, or he’d say something that was in no way an answer. So, for example, if I asked, “did you go to the strip club last night?” He’d say, “Well, I told you I wouldn’t,” but never actually say he did or didn’t go.
It drove me crazy. I mean CRAZY. And I’m pretty sure that was his intention.
Now that I think about it, it wasn’t ONLY when he was going to get in trouble that this narcissist wouldn’t answer questions. There were other times where I’d ask him a perfectly innocent question – such as whether he’d go with me to an event or something, and he’d refuse to answer those questions too. He’d say stuff like, “We will see.” And then I couldn’t make plans. And these are just a couple of examples of this all-too-often used manipulation tactic.
So let me ask you. Have you ever experienced this – a narcissist who just won’t answer your questions sometimes? So why don’t they answer your questions? What does it mean? How can you tell? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why narcissists don’t answer your questions and how to read that behavior.
Why don’t narcissists answer questions?
Have you found yourself in this situation, wondering why anytime you ask a narcissist a question, you don’t get a straight answer? I know – it is extremely frustrating, to put it mildly.
1. They Don’t Think You Deserve Answers
They really do think you don’t need or deserve the answers to your questions. This is hard to admit to ourselves, but narcissists really don’t see us as “whole people,” or at least they don’t see us as people who are quite as “real” as they are. What I mean is that a narcissist sees you as a sort of extension of themselves, and at the same time, they see you as somehow “lower than” or “less than” they see themselves. By giving you a straight answer, the narcissist would be acknowledging that you are important and that you deserve to be treated like a real live human. They would be honoring you as someone who they saw as an equal, or even as a superior. Giving you a straight answer would essentially be acknowledging that your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and ideas are as important as their own – it would mean they would have to have some level of empathy, and they just plain don’t. This brings me to my next point.
2. They Really Don’t Care How You Feel.
Like I said, narcissists don’t have any empathy for you or anyone else. And even when they appear to care how someone feels, you can bet it’s only because in that moment,it benefits them to do so. Maybe they want something from you, or they want to shut you up so they can go and do whatever they want. But when it comes to answering your questions truthfully – or at all – it would require a certain amount of concern for your feelings, and they just can’t go there, if they’re going to maintain the facade that keeps them going. And speaking of false fronts, this brings me to number 3.
3. They Like It When You’re Confused.
Narcissists don’t answer questions because they like it when you are confused and uncertain. So rather than give you any sort of clarity, they either don’t answer at all, or they only offer very vague answers. Or, in some cases, they’ll say something that is completely out of context. They may give you a little “word salad,” or they might just straight up gaslight you. In any case, they want to keep you in control, and if you are feeling confused and uncertain, you will keep walking on eggshells around them and that is exactly what they want from you. And, of course, this is also a way they hurt your self-esteem because when they don’t give you a proper answer, they’re also openly disrespecting you.
4. They Want to Deflect and Project
When you ask a narcissist a question that feels like an accusation, the narcissist instantly goes on the defense. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you something like, “I hate being investigated,” or “You’re always accusing me of something.” The truth is that narcissists won’t answer questions that they deem accusatory in any way – even if they’re not. For example, if you asked them why they didn’t put their dishes away after they were finished, they might turn around and say something like, “What, are you saying I’m a slob?” Then they will take it even further, either attacking you for being so mean to them, and/or pointing out all the times you’ve ever not put your own dishes away or let the laundry pile up. Or they’ll point out the fact that one time 10 years ago, they helped you out by washing your dishes for you and they’ll ask how come you never do anything to help them (despite the fact that you literally bend over backward every day to make their lives easier). Before you know it, you’ll be the one feeling guilty, begging them to forgive you for having the nerve to ask them to put their own dishes away – and that’s exactly what they want.
5. They Want to Kill Time.
One simple reason that narcissists don’t give you answers is that they have not yet figured out a good lie to tell you. So, in order to make time to dream up a real whopper, they stall so they can kill enough time to figure it out. They will keep stalling as long as they have to in order to come up with a believable lie. Or they might just stall long enough that you’ll forget about it completely – at least that’s what they hope for. After all, they don’t feel the need to provide any sort of closure or satisfaction for you, and let’s not forget that they are completely happy with leaving you hanging anyway – which, of course, brings me to my next point.
6. They Want to Take Over Your Brain.
Narcissists love to see themselves as mysterious and fascinating. They enjoy the idea of you being laser-focused on them – and having to guess what they have been up to or what they are doing offers them the assurance that you’re only thinking of them. They want to take up ALL the space in your head, and by not answering your questions, they feel that they are finally getting the proper amount of attention from you. You won’t be able to think of anything else, they reason, and that’s how they like it. It’s just one of the many debts they feel you owe them as their primary source of narcissistic supply.
So how do you deal with a narcissist who won’t answer your questions?
Honestly, the best thing to do is to never expect a straight answer from a narcissist. Always take everything they say with a grain of salt, and don’t hang your heart on the idea that they might one day be real with you. Understand that narcissists will do their best to always leave you hanging and will never give you the answer you need for the sake of their own agendas.
This is exhausting and painful if you’re not careful. But when you can learn to see a narcissist for what they are, limitations and all, you can really empower yourself. Because when you understand what to expect from them and you can identify and label their behaviors, it can really take the sting out of some of it. It’s a way that you can reassure yourself that it really ISN’T you, that their manipulation and drama is always all about them and their own issues. You just happen to be one of the cogs in their toxic machine – at least until you figure them out. Speaking of which, here’s what to expect when the narcissist knows you have figured them out. Take a look right now, if you have time. It’ll give you some real insight into their psychology.
Question of the Day: Have you ever encountered a narcissist who wouldn’t answer your questions? How did you handle it? What tips would you offer your fellow survivors who are dealing with this issue? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.