The cold shoulder. Ostracization. Social exclusion. Being actively, directly rudely ignored! It’s exhausting, It’s upsetting. And quite honestly, it’s abusive. So, let me ask you something.
Have you been there? Does someone in your life cut off contact, directly or indirectly, anytime you upset or annoy them? If so, you might be falling victim to a well-known manipulation tactic – the old silent treatment.
What is silent treatment?
The silent treatment is amanipulation tactic where someone will stop talking to you. This painful, uncomfortable silence can go on for days, hours, weeks, or even months in order to punish you for some perceived slight. It can cause serious emotional and psychological damage if you don’t realize what is happening. While people who aren’t narcissists may also use this tactic, it is commonly used among narcissists.
Narcissists and the Silent Treatment
Are you dealing with getting the silent treatment from a narcissist? If you are, then you already how upsetting and confusing this can be. When a narcissist is involved, it’s possible that you’re being discarded, either permanently or temporarily. You might be getting the silent treatment due to a breakup or the end of your relationship, or it could be one in a long line of discards during an ongoing relationship. It’s all part of the narcissist’s cycle of abuse. But the narcissist’s motivations are what you’re really interested in, so let’s discuss what they’re thinking when they give you the silent treatment.
What are the narcissist’s motivations for using the silent treatment?
When you think about the silent treatment and how cruel it can be, not only does it affirm that the narcissist lacks compassionate and emotional empathy, but you find yourself wondering how they could be so cruel? What motivates a narcissist to stop communicating with you?
The relationship is ending.
When a narcissistic ex gives you the silent treatment after a breakup, it is not that they are suffering and processing how your relationship ended. That is what you would expect a neurotypical non-narcissistic ex to do. But the narcissist deals with it by searching for a new source of narcissistic supply. You have to remember that this “supply,” for the narcissist, can feel as important as air might feel you or any living being. In other words, despite their claims of wanting to “be alone” or needing to “figure things out on their own,” the narcissist will feel as though they cannot be without it. So, they might have gone silent as they are engaging with others and attempting to get the supply they so desperately need. They can’t stand to be alone with their thoughts.
The narcissist controls you through gaslighting and confusion
Narcissists are known manipulators, and one of their most notorious tactics is to gaslight you through confusion emotional manipulation, and abuse. The silent treatment is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this, and this is especially true of covert narcissists – although their more grandiose counterparts are also skilled at this particular tactic. You know that narcissists enjoy manipulating and gaslighting you. The narcissist loves the idea of you lying awake all night wondering why they are giving you the silent treatment. It actually offers them a certain amount of supply in itself.
The narcissist lives to keep you in limbo
With a sudden change in behavior, the narcissist can throw you into limbo, that feeling where you’re lost and not sure what to do or what’s next. For example, when they go from being overly demanding to not saying anything at all, you might be left spinning. They love the idea of you being distracted all day, unable to focus on anything except for what they could be possibly thinking.
The narcissist feels powerful through silent treatment.`
Narcissists thrive on power, as you know. They envision you waiting by your phone waiting for a text, or even for an email. The fact that they will not send you a message or speak to you makes them feel powerful as they control your emotions and productivity.
If your narcissistic ex is giving you the silent treatment, the best thing to do is not even to acknowledge it at all. Please realize that this is a manipulative tactic to play around with their mind and emotions.
Have you ever wondered why some narcissists always want to seem to stay friends with their exes? Have you personally dealt with a narcissistic ex who insisted on being friends? It makes any sane person wonder why someone who clearly did not care about you during your relationship would be interested in maintaining your friendship, right?
It seems a little ridiculous. Whether it’s a full-on hoover maneuver or it’s just a misguided attempt to secure you as a backup source of narcissistic supply, you’re probably feeling a little confused on whether it’s even safe to be friendly with someone like this – that is, if the idea doesn’t make you feel absolutely disgusted.
What is the hoover maneuver?
The hoover maneuver, also known as hoovering is what we call it when the narcissist tries to sort of gain your attention again, or to “suck you back in” after the discard. The hoover maneuver isn’t always just about getting back together, but it can be drama-related or it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. In many cases, the hoover is used when you go no contact as an attempt to reconnect with you. (Side note: Yes, the “hoover” is named after the famous vacuum cleaner company).
What is narcissistic supply?
Narcissistic supply is basically your energy and attention and the narcissist requires it to feel like a whole person. You and anyone else in the narcissist’s life will be used as a source of narcissistic supply to get attention, validation, admiration. Sometimes, narcissistic supply includes sex, but not always. The narcissist uses this “supply” to feed their ever-fragile ego and to maintain their false self. The narcissist may also have a circle of supply or “narcissistic harem,” which can include intimate partners, children, parents, other family members, friends, employees and coworkers, and even acquaintances.
How can you tell a narcissist is hoovering you?
When the narcissist has discarded you (or even if you’ve discarded them), they will sometimes tell you they’d like to stay friends, or they’ll say they’d like to continue your intimate relationship.
Any situation like this is a narcissist who is hoovering. But here’s the thing. Hoovering is not wanting to sincerely rekindle a relationship that went bad. It is a manipulative tactic that the narcissist uses to get you back into their control, whether or not they want to continue the actual relationship. As always, narcissists seem to have a playbook, and there are some common behaviors that narcissists might demonstrate when they’re using this particular manipulation tactic.
1. The Sentimental Out-of-Nowhere Call
You may not have heard from your narcissistic ex for six months and then all of a sudden they call you to say they saw a movie or heard a song that reminded them of you. They do this on purpose. In their minds, they’ve given you time to get over their abuse, so they’re hoping you’ve forgotten who they really are (and that you’ll allow yourself to be reeled back in by your own sentimental feelings). Don’t fall for it.
2. The Fake Apology
Narcissists only apologize for anything if they believe it will benefit them to do so. They don’t feel remorse for things they’ve done unless they’re being punished for their behavior – and even then, they are only sorry they got caught. But when the fake apology comes, it’s all about getting what they want from you. So, they will pretend to believe that they were wrong in the relationship and will pretend to take responsibility for it. Just remember that they don’t believe they did anything wrong, and they’re only saying this because they know that is what you want to hear.
3. The Special Day Call
A lot of narcissists will call you on your birthday or your anniversary with them, or during the holidays. They do this because they want you to believe that they actually care – but the truth is that as always, this is all an act and they’re really just looking to get a little narcissistic supply from you. They may also be feeling lonely. You’d do best to block them and go no contact – or at the very least, to ignore the “special day call.”
4. The Soulmate Claim
Narcissists are well-known for their little soulmate scams. One of the most effective ways they can hoover you is through reintroducing idealization, or love bombing, into their arsenal. That means they might get a little sappy with you. They’ll claim you were their “one” and that you’ve ALWAYS been the one. The ONLY one, they swear! They’ll claim to be sad that your relationship ended because you are their soulmate. They’ll say they can’t live without you and claim that no one else makes them feel the way you make them feel. They will shower you with sweet words, begging you to get back together. But whatever you do, don’t fall for this one, no matter how difficult it is to resist. They’re only playing this game so they can get you back into their control and continue their abuse. The narcissist will not change, no matter how hard they claim otherwise.
5. The Unsolicited Gift
If you find yourself holding a beautiful bouquet or a delicious box of chocolates sent to you by your narcissistic ex, with a love note attached, you’ve got yourself an unsolicited gift, and its only purpose is to get your attention so they can start the conversation with you again. This is yet another hoover, and your best bet is to get rid of it (or keep it, but do not respond to the gesture).
One of my clients shared with me that her ex broke off their relationship in the most interesting way. She said that her ex told her he needed a little space, and abruptly moved out after 23 years together. He said that he wasn’t ending their long-term relationship, and in fact, that he wanted to start dating her again. He wanted to fall in love with her all over again, he claimed. He almost made it sound exciting and healthy.
He said he was in a rut and needed to shake things up – he needed to find himself. She was of course devastated, but she tried to play along.
Of course, what I haven’t mentioned about this situation is that this man spent the previous 23 years systematically manipulating and psychologically destroying my client. He had future-faked her for years – so much that they were literally engaged for two decades, but never actually married.
She confessed to me that she’d tried to leave him repeatedly, thanks to several episodes of cheating, but he’d always sucked her back in. In fact, they’d gotten engaged 20 years ago because of the first cheating episode. She told me that he’d showed up at her mom’s house, where she’d retreated to after finding him with another woman, with a ring and a big public proposal. He’d wooed her back into submission, and this pattern would continue, much to her chagrin.
Each time she tried to get him to set a wedding date over the years, he always had an excuse. They didn’t have the money. She was pregnant. Their dog died. He wasn’t sure if she REALLY loved him. He wasn’t sure if HE really loved HER. Then she was pregnant again. And now, after 23 years of not-wedded not-bliss and two children who were now a young adult and a teen, he was doing it yet again, and this time, she was sure it would stick.
But she couldn’t seem to let go of him, and she didn’t know why. She had become so enmeshed with him that she didn’t even recognize herself anymore. She knew she wanted to be done so she could finally move on with her life, but she couldn’t figure out how to even begin to do it. Why? Because, like all narcissists, he absolutely refused to give her the closure she needed to move forward and let him go.
Narcissists Don’t Do Closure!
Narcissists have a way of leaving you hanging, don’t they? They just don’t do closure. But why? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about, today: narcissists and closure – why they don’t give it, how you’re affected by the lack of closure, and how to create closure for yourself.
First, let’s discuss what I mean when I say closure. It’s a sense of resolution or a sort of “conclusion” at the end of any relationship. Unfortunately, this is often denied to survivors of narcissistic abuse. This leaves us feeling obsessed with figuring out the details and implications of our toxic relationships – we find ourselves stuck and spinning as a result of not getting closure. This leaves many of us feeling the need to either find our own closure or spending years trying in vain to emotionally heal after these toxic relationships, unable to move forward and not understanding exactly why.
Why don’t narcissists give you closure at the end of a toxic relationship?
There are so many reasons narcissists don’t give you closure. But for the most part, their reasoning (or lack thereof) probably falls into one of the following points.
1. Narcissists Only Care About Themselves.
You know that narcissists are not capable of being empathetic. They simply cannot put themselves into the shoes of anyone else. That is one reason that they won’t give closure. They will ghost you without a second thought, and the idea of wondering how it would make you feel when they do that is a completely foreign concept to them. All they know is that they had their reasons, and they don’t even consider your feelings. They may even seem shocked when you ask them why they’ve done what they’ve done. Truth? Teaching a narcissist empathy is like trying to teach a fish to ride a bike – a frustrating, impossible endeavor.
2. They Don’t Think You Deserve It.
Since narcissists don’t have empathy, they can’t imagine that you might even NEED closure, much less deserve it. That’s right. Despite the fact that you have spent a long time bending over backward to make sure they get what they need, now that it’s over, they don’t figure they owe you anything at all – and sadly, this includes closure. Plus, by not giving you closure they ensure that you’ll keep thinking about them – and what narcissist doesn’t want that?
3. They Don’t See You As a Whole Person.
This one is tough to hear, sometimes, but it’s the truth. Narcissists do not see you or anyone they’ve grown close to as real, whole people. Rather, you’re almost like an object to them – an object that they can use and consume at will, and toss aside when they’re done with you. And, they have no issue whatsoever coming along and picking you up and using you again, when they’re ready. They literally see you as less of a person than they are – which, if I’m being honest, is kind of ironic in a way, given their own shallow nature and the probability that you are a deep, thoughtful and compassionate person. How do I know that? Because narcissists can’t manage long-term relationships with anyone else – they need someone who will take care of their emotional needs (and often, all of their other needs as well).
4. Because You Want It.
Did you ever notice how, when you’re really stressed out or times are hard, narcissists have a way of sort of “kicking you when you’re down?” Narcissists can be real sadists, and part of them loves to see you squirming in emotional distress. And even though narcissists cannot empathize with you, they still get that you would appreciate closure and maybe that it would help you move on. And not only does knowing this gives them a bit of a power buzz, but it assures them that you won’t be able to move on when they need your supply again. Which brings me to my next point.
5. They Need Your Supply, Maybe.
Narcissists require narcissistic supply. You, as the narcissistic supply, are used by the narcissist for attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego. On to of this, the narcissist often has a circle of supply or “narcissistic harem,” and like it or not, they’ve pegged you as one of them. Now, this circle or harem might include people they’re cheating with, their mothers or fathers, various friends, coworkers, neighbors and other family members. You might be (or have been) their primary source of supply for a long time. And since you’ve been such a good source of supply up to this point, the narcissist figures they might want to “use you” again at some point. So by leaving the door open, you’re left spinning and, if the narcissist has anything to say about it, you won’t be moving on with your life. This way, when they need you, they can wiggle their way back in again when it is convenient for them.
6. They’re Not Secure with New Supply Yet.
Speaking of narcissistic supply, there’s another possibility: the narcissist is actively trying to procure a new source of supply, and they’re not 100 percent sure yet that they’ve got it all locked down. The new supply still has the nerve to think that they are as important as the narcissist in the relationship, and so the narcissist might still need to dump on someone when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. And since they’re actively love-bombing and idealizing the new supply, they may not feel comfortable enough to take the mask off yet. So, if the narcissist can find a good reason to connect with you when they need to blow off some steam or get some comfort, they most certainly will do that. And even when the new supply is fully locked in, they may still want to keep you on standby, just in case. After all, as I mentioned, they don’t see you as an actual person, so why wouldn’t they use you when and how they can?
7. They Are Giving You a Message.
Throughout your relationship, regardless of the nature of it, the narcissist has been making a few things clear: they see you as powerless. They don’t want you to have any control whatsoever over the relationship, much less your own life. They want you to understand that, as far as they’re concerned, you don’t deserve any recognition for what you’ve done for them – no, not even for the years you spent trying to make them happy. And, sadly, they want you to believe that you are so unlovable, that you don’t even need to be acknowledged. This is all part of their cycle, part of the way they control you throughout the relationship.
Narcissists and Closure: What You Need to Know Now
This part is going to be a little tough, but you need to know that someone usually gives you closure because they actually care about you and the relationship you had. They give closure because they want peace and they care enough about you to want you to be happy. The narcissist knows that if you have closure, you’ll be able to find that peace and to move forward without them. By keeping you in their toxic loop, they keep you open for a hoover and they are able to keep taking, future faking and using you at will. It would require them to take personal responsibility for how they’ve treated you, and it would mean ending the lies and manipulation they’ve been using to keep you emotionally engaged. Just the idea of real, genuine closure is unthinkable to a narcissist.
So, what do you think? Question of the day: Have you struggled to find closure after a relationship with a toxic narcissist, and if so, how’d you deal with it? If not, are you worried that you won’t be able to get closure if and when you do end your relationship? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments below this video, and let’s talk about it.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
When I first met my ex-husband, I actually tried to hook him up with a friend of mine. He wasn’t my type, but he was charming and seemed like a nice guy. I kept talking to him, pointing him at my friend and trying to get the two of them talking. But by the end of our lunch (where he was our server), he’d asked me for my number. I didn’t give it to him, but I agreed to take his.
Then I didn’t call him. In fact, I threw his number in the trash.
But a week or two later, my friend called me from a local bar. She told me she’d run into him and he’d begged her to call me. Reluctantly, I went up to meet them. Over the next couple of weeks, I got the love-bombing of my life. And while things were moving fast, I kind of wondered if this guy could be the soulmate he claimed to be.
Fast-forward several months, and my company decided to move me to a different town several hours away. Though he had been charming and sweet, I intended to move and leave him behind. But when my mother accidentally met him, thanks to the same friend I had tried to hook him up with (long story), she instantly claimed to like him.
It’s almost funny to me now, since they seemed so different but were in fact two sides of the same coin. Anyway, she ended up suggesting that he move to the new city with me, and while we’d only been dating a few months, I invited him to do exactly that. In hindsight, I realize that I did this because I just wanted to please my mother, who was never happy with me anyway. That’s a story for another day.
Anyhoo, once we lived together, everything changed and his true toxic face came out.
Still, I thought I loved him and we snuck around and got married two months after the move. Long story short, I regretted it. His charm was lost for me very quickly, but one thing kept bugging me: he was so kind to people who weren’t me – so nice and charming and awesome. Everyone loved him when they met him – at least until they got to know him.
But for me, he was cruel and plain-old mean. I actually remember asking him questions like: Why do you treat strangers better than you treat me? Why can’t you just be nice to me?
In fact, it got so bad that when it would come to the holidays or my birthday, I’d always tell him I didn’t want a physical gift (not that he’d get me one anyway!), but I’d ask for him to just be nice to me for the day. It rarely worked out in my favor.
I couldn’t quite understand what was going on – but when I later realized that he seemed to be a toxic narcissist, I finally figured out why he was so cruel to me and so kind to others.
Why Narcissists Are So Cruel to You But So Kind to Others
Why does the narcissist show their charming side to strangers, while you are stuck with having to put up with their cruel true colors? Let’s talk about it.
1. Familiarity Breeds Contempt for Narcissists.
It is plain and simple, really. People who don’t know the narcissist well will see their nice and charming side because the narcissist can’t trust that they’ll feed their ego otherwise. But you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable source of narcissistic supply. And let’s not forget that fact you have, on occasion, had the nerve to attempt to get your own wants and needs met. Obviously, this would anger the narcissist and create resentment since they see you as an extension of themselves rather than a whole person. So, if your needs and wants aren’t in line with what they believe they should be, the resentment soars. And if there is so much resentment, then they no longer have a reason to share their charming side to you. In fact, they are abusive and cruel as a way to punish you for no longer feeding their ego by expressing that you have wants and needs as well. Remember that the narcissist is extremely egotistical, entitled, and will do what they can to get what they want at the expense of you. This leads to their devaluing you (and in many cases, it can also lead to permanent or temporary discard – but we’ll get to that in a minute). In any case, it isn’t quite that simple. There are so many other factors to consider – which brings me to number two,
2. They Have No Empathy.
The most obvious reason narcissists are cruel to you is their lack of empathy. But why are they then able to be kind to other people? It shouldn’t make sense, but for narcissists, it’s all about the attention and supply they can get from others. You may have become “old news” or too available to them. They see you regularly and they know that you’ve seen behind the mask, so they can’t fool you anymore. Others are still enamored with their false selves, so it makes it far more exciting to the narcissist to get supply from these people. We will dig into this a bit deeper in a minute, but for now, let’s talk about the psychological component that everyone forgets.
3. They Won’t Take Responsibility.
In addition to the marked lack of empathy that narcissists display, they have a really hard time accepting emotional responsibility in a relationship. Therefore, they don’t see any reason to be nice to you, unless they can see a way that doing so benefits them directly. And while they don’t take responsibility for their hurtful behavior, they also lack the ability to become truly attached to you in a healthy way, which further distances them emotionally from you. So, when they are mean and cruel to you, rather than acknowledging and admitting it and doing what they can to make up for it, narcissists will ignore you – or worse, get even crueler and start to say things like, “Why can’t you ever be happy?” and “Oh, look, here comes the dark cloud.” And speaking of the inability to create healthy attachments…
4. They Lack Object Constancy.
Have you heard about the Freudian theory of Object Constancy? Freud’s theory basically means that most people have the ability to still have a positive emotional bond with someone when you are also feeling angry, hurt, or disappointed with them. In other words, your average person is capable of loving someone and still being angry with them at the same time. Narcissists don’t have this ability. So they literally aren’t able to love you and be angry in the same moment. So when they’re angry with you…they literally cannot love you.
5. The Pre-Conditioning Factor (Brainwashing).
You know the narcissist too well. The narcissist has spent months or years manipulating, controlling and conditioning you to accept their abuse. As a result, you know them better than most people and you’re sadly pretty used to dealing with their behavior. This, in healthier relationships, will Since you’re already in the position of being a narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels comfortable with you. Lucky you – that means you are among the privileged few who get to see the true face of the narcissist. Wearing their “mask” – or being their false self in public – is exhausting. So when they are behind closed doors with a pre-conditioned supply, their true selves can come out and play. That also means that you become their emotional dumpster – they take out all of their feelings of frustration and anger on you, even though, for the most part, it’s bottled up stuff from outside of you.
6. The Idealization Phase.
Narcissists have a typical relationship cycle: they first idealize you, where they love bomb and treat you like you are worth your weight in gold. But inevitably, something happens and they recognize that you are in fact a flawed human like everyone else. And this is about the time they begin to actively devalue you. At first, it’ll be little subtle insults and jabs, but before long, they will be directly mean, disrespectful and outright rude. This will lead to the discard phase, in which they abandon you – either emotionally or actually, or both. This can take the form of the silent treatment, ghosting or even actually ending the relationship. Worse, it can happen over and over for literally decades in the same relationship. So, this explains another reason that narcissists are so cruel to you and so kind to everyone else: because they are or could be in the idealization phase with anyone they don’t know very well. And in many cases, people who have the ability to set firm boundaries with the narcissist from the beginning are automatically going to walk away if the narcissist gets too rude or disrespectful, and the narcissist knows it.
So how do you deal with a narcissist who is cruel to you and kind to others?
You start by taking care of yourself and setting strong boundaries. See, when you are with a narcissist, they get upset with you for doing anything for yourself. So you just stop doing stuff for yourself. I did the same thing – it felt easier to NOT do what I needed to do, because it made the narcissist less angry with me if I could just do for him instead. Or at least to ignore my own needs. This, unfortunately, led to my becoming a shadow of myself. I didn’t even know who I was.
But the first step toward healing is to start recognizing that you matter, that your needs and even wants matter just as much as anyone else’s. And to remember that if you can’t take care of yourself, no one else is likely to do it for you – and I mean emotionally, physically and otherwise.
Narcissists don’t change, but you can. And if you allow yourself to begin by doing something nice for yourself every day, even something small, it’s a good jumping-off point. After that, start figuring out what your boundaries are, and little by little, you’ll be able to reclaim yourself and your life on a whole new level. Remember that you matter. Remember that you are as important as everyone else and remember to take care of your own needs. So what do you think?