Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

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 a Narcissist 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.

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: Inside the Devalue and Discard Phase

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! Join my free 5-day fear-busting e-course.

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 why – 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?

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.

Moving on…

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 narcissist’s 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. 

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.

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.

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26 Responses to Toxic Silence: Why Narcissists Go Silent and How to Cope

  1. Since & when I became aware of this “silent treatment” this is how a “Narcissist” punishing the person they are closest to or want to have control & dominance over in whatever way they want to the initial anger, hurt & shock wore off I enjoy when him not talking to me its mentally emotionally a whole lot less stress I can go do whatever I need to do to take care of myself mentally emotionally spiritually & keep up with the responsibilities I have in my life such as going to work, paying by bills, sleeping eating so on & so forth. I do not live with this mental emotional mind game playing person so its a lot more easier for me to deal with the “silent treatment”. It use to upset me before I was aware of what he was doing to me mentally emotionally wanting me to figure out what he was thinking feeling or why he wasn’t responding to me I take it as a blessing now because if he was responding to me it would not be for the betterment of me personally it would be mentally emotionally very disheartening him saying doing things to get me to be upset mentally & emotionally. If anyone is able to take it as a “Gift From God” that the “Narcissist Personality Type” is not talking to you just think if he were talking to you or down to you to upset you that would be a whole lot worse believe me at that note. Take Care & Take It Easy.

    • I love the idea of the gift from God being that the narcissist doesn’t speak to you. Smart way to perceive it!

  2. I gave up on mother, last text i said enjoy your silence, some weeks later no reply or effort her side. yet she ‘always thinks of me’ interesting effort reflecting that. And a father that back her behaviour doesn’t diasble it, as an only child its a fun life..last time she was silent was 21 days only way she came out of it was i said games up. exhasuting xx

  3. Having read about the silent treatment being a commonly used technique by narcissists, I’m surprised because I feel like I haven’t experienced it all that often. Hardly at all over quite a few years. what I have experienced though might be more passive-aggressive than that – being constantly placed much lower on the priority list than watching TV, movies, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. My “interruptions” to ask a question or engage in some kind of communication are treated with disdain. Would you agree that this is a type of silent treatment?
    Otherwise, I would get weird silent glares from time to time with no explanation, and yes, they did cause me to panic inside and to be very unsure of myself.

    • Sea H… That is EXACTLY a form of silent treatment. The answer lies in your statement “Otherwise, I would get weird silent glares (the narc sneer of contempt) from time to time with no explanation, and yes, they did cause me to panic inside and to be very unsure of myself.” If you doubted yourself or value for even a moment, then your narc was successful in their manipulation. What they really want is for you to assume YOU are the problem and that its something so obvious that they shouldn’t even need to spell it out. Then, my friend, “we” begin to over-compensate by kissing the narc’s a$$ 24/7 in an attempt to get back in their good graces and get some much-needed confidence that we won’t be abandoned for good. Classic addictive rollercoaster. We “jones” for the rush of loving feelings and panic when we can’t get it. Here’s the best solution, go start packing their crap for them and set it at the door. Truly, who has an issue so big yet they can’t even talk to their significant other about it? It’s a mind frigging, my friend. pure and simple

  4. I was recently discarded. Every silent treatment is more tormenting than the next. I lost everything. My daughter and i had to move because he stopped helping to pay the bills which was more than i could afford on my own. I feel ugly, alone, rejected and everyday i dont call or text makes me want to hang myself because i think of all the things hes doing with someone else.
    I am not doing well at all. I cant afford to pay for therapy. I literally need every dime i have. Thats the situation he left me in. I trust no one, i think of him constantly and i wish i didnt. I dread waking up everyday knowing i moved to this city, changed my job, my daughters school, everything just to be left hung out to dry. I want to forget everything but i cant. This NC thing is breaking me apart piece by piece. I try telling myself its a good thing and later ill be stronger but i dont believe that. I spent 7 yrs of my life with someone who really didnt exist. We were engaged to be married last year i purchased my wedding dress and all just for him to walk out on me. Ive been broken ever since. I dont have friends because i trust no one and yet i trusted him. Built my life around him and now i find myself waiting for the death that we all will experience one day. I wish i could buy a gun and shot him but i dont like guns. Ive prayed and cried and prayed and cried. Ive read forum after forum “getting educated” so to speak about this whole narcissist flat out disgusted that people like that even exist on our planet. I have nothing. My self esteem Gone, my power Gone, my home and friends smh im detached. I view everyone the same..some fake character trying to hurt me. Yes my greatest fear was being alone and im being completely devoured by it day by day. Some people never come back from the trauma of being disgarded and never in a million years would i have thought that id be one of them. Im glad you all are moving forward and doing better im not and i dont think i ever will. Ive read so many comments trying to get some help and i come to a dead end believeing that this really happened to me. I have mixed emotions about it all. I cant sleep, focus, be happy none of that. Im convinced that life is over for me. My daughters father is a narcissist as well. He constantly abused her at visitations when he shows up to keep her (if he shows), shes been to the doctor, school counselor, social services because she cant grasp why this is happening. Shes 11. I cry so hard and nothing changes. Ive done all i can do in and out of court and still these devils being brutally kicked from every side. If i could rebrainwash myself to forget i dying and i know it. Loosing weight, hair and theres nothing i can do to prevent it. I have no enerygy left. This is torture..please get out if you havent..its not worth it dead or alive

    • Hi there please don’t give up I understand you perfectly as I too feel broken & don’t want to go on but we have to & we will so remember this I care about you Xx

    • Don’t give up. Your daughter needs you to be as strong as you can. You’ve come this far which says something…..i was also discarded but looking back on everything it’s better he let me go so my son and I didn’t have to deal with the abuse. He has a daughter with the new girl and I feel terrible for both of them.

    • Omg I’m praying for you. It will get better I promise. I was left by my narc pregnant. He just disappeared. I chose not to have the baby. I was broken so broken I didn’t want to leave my room and still I wanted to hide more! My daughters father is a narc also he’s trying to take custody of my daughter. Then I met another guy I thought was so nice another narc. He’s in the ignoring phase. He’s stop speaking to me out if no where. So I know now I have to stop it all! I’m too loving kind generous I’m hurt and feel like sh*t but guess what we’re are alive God is with us. No they will never pay for being evil Devils but that’s their Karma! Everyday little by little it will get better. I cry everyday but I know I’m better with them they were so mean when I look back at the relationships I was so weak! I thought loving harder would make it better. No I started catching him in lies. Found lipstick in a pillow. He had sex with me so rough it hurtled I just laid there and hope it would end so. Mine is a libra I see that man Libras are Narcissist and Leo’s is scary. So yes I have been and still where your are but I’m not giving up! Please don’t give up one person doesn’t determine your worth or happiness. Take it one day at a time or on hour at a time. So what you cry it’s ok I promise it will get better! Never give up!

    • Hi Alicia I am currently in a relationship with a narc who tries very hard to break me I’m fighting like hell to keep my sanity. I read your comment and I felt heartbroken I know a little about not have family or friends to lean on. It been over a year since your comment but I hope you and your daughter a doing much better. I would like to give you some advise, educate yourself on narcs, emotional abuse on anything your feeling the more you know the better you will be able to understand why you feel the way you do and. It helps I promise.

    • I feel the same, he killed me and I wish that I was dead. My pain is so immense that i wish I was dead to end my pain. He destroyed my inner peace and well-being. I can’t sleep or function well. I’m getting physically sick

    • Omg I’m definitely praying for u and I truly understand ur hurt and pain …may God give u strength may God give u his grace and mercy in the name and in the blood of Jesus!!!! Don’t die from this!!!! Please don’t give up!!!! Mann I feel ur pain cause I’m in the same pain but trying to mk it every day it’s soo hard ..thy are demons but I’m following Gods word ..rembr nothing is too hard for him he conquered the world…may God bless u honey 🙏🏽♥️😇

  5. Hello everyone,

    My name is Mark and I’ve been with my Narcissist for 34 years. I have only learned a month ago what it was that was driving me crazy for so long. I was a perfect narc feeding machine, passive, push over and I believed all I was told about me was true. look here everyone, I have started an awakening of not only my sanity again I have also started to see little glimpses of my former self before we had met. I was confident, outgoing and held many friends. As my life became madness friends could not hold on or my narc would deem them unfit as a friend ( in other words they were on to her) I have been gas lit and discarded so many times I wanna change my name to Phoenix ( rise from ash ) over and over again I have been punished , devalued and financially taken advantage of. I am finally gaining the self worth to pack it in soon. I am writing for those who are in it deep or recovering, please keep your chin up and keep steppin. It was never your fault, your only fall back was to try to fix a broken person as I did for ever at a cost nearly of my own self being…. Keep on taking care of you and you will arise from the ash as well…Thanks for listening……

  6. My father is doing this right now. He asked me if my husband could do a chore for him. I told him, “I’ll ask him when he gets home.” That was NOT an acceptable answer for him. He wanted me to say yes for my husband right now! So he continued to nag and nag about it. By this time, I know what’s about to happen so I start to leave. Then, in desperation, he yells “I JUST DON’T KNOW HOW TO TALK TO YOU ANYMORE.” I just said, “I’m trying to leave so I don’t have to listen to you say crap like that to me.” And I was very fire eyed about it. I said, “If it’s so important to you that you want it done right now, go get the tools. I’ll do it.”, “No, you can’t do it. You have a bad back.”, “Yeah, but it seems like you’re willing to mess up a good thing here to get an answer about it so go get it.” He got up, got in his car, and ran to my sister’s house and told her I was abusing him (triangulation much?). She didn’t buy it, thank god. But right now he’s avoiding me, but going out of his way to let me know. Like, having my mother call and tell me I can’t play guitar in the house anymore (that’s how I make money so I need to practice), he turned around the security cam at his entrance (hilarious because he insisted that I install it against my wishes). They really are real life trolls and you just have to avoid feeding them. They’re really hard to ignore because they just want to be the center of attention all the time, even when they’re avoiding you. I’d rather deal with a 2 year old.

  7. Also, “I just don’t understand how to talk to you anymore”(or variant) is something I hear NPD people say A LOT. But what they don’t realize is that isn’t our fault, it’s theirs. “You don’t know how to talk to me because YOU don’t understand.” And, typically, they don’t want you to help them understand. They just want you to feel guilty and obey. What they really mean is “I just don’t understand why you’re resisting my will so much. It use to be a lot easier.” So never shoulder that. Let them carry it.

  8. Help this is my first experience with the silent treatment I went to Michigan for a family wedding he did not go but was invite we do not live together Saturday night is usually date night and I missed it due to wedding he know well in advance so on Saturday both agreed we missed each other much and that I would try to leave early on Sunday to get back in time to spend a little time with him however due to me not being the only family member in my car others wanted to stop and eat and then the worse happened the groom and bride where in an automobile accident on their way back to kentucky the car was totaled and so forth i called him immediately to let him know we needed to get these kids off the road and to get their belongs from the salvage yard he understood even spoke a few times that evening on the phone before i made it back to kentucky/ohio come monday no calls all day so at 5pm i tried to reach out to him no answer not abnormal called again at 820 pm no answer then called again at 10ish also sent two emails and two text between the 820 and 10ish times worried something maybe wrong he has diabeties and well I offered to come for a visit as well for an hour or so but no response sent him an email at 3am gez God I must look desperate letting him know my feelings for him etc blah blah balh… seen him in public yesterday for all of 30 seconds carried on as if he was not there assuming either he would come talk to me or not… I felt he was be silent … backing up on Saturday morning he told me he was full of fear with our relationship…. we been dating a year and are falling what it feels like madly in love with one another I cant lie it hurts but can not show it either… he told me a year ago that he was passive aggressive I never had any issues till now.. My first experience. I will continue to not contribute to the behavior and look anymore desperate than I already have. how long will this silence last and yes I do want to stay as I am inlove with him knowing he will not change and i cant change him I will try my best to cope for as long as I can…

  9. I don’t have enough words to b grateful for guiding me and understanding me without knowing me.After reading ur articles I can feel myself and my confidence back.Keeping sharing tips and guidelines.U are angel ? in disguise.LOVE U

  10. I was with my Narc 2 years…I didn’t know until I experienced the “silent treatment” Yikes..She blocked my phone..I didn’t even try to call or text her..She just blocked it..We argued over her adult daughter living with us..I didn’t go to a party with my Narc..she came back and kicked me talking about it..Just get out..Discarded..
    I didn’t understand so I tried to get her back..Im not sure why I did that..I knew it was over
    Fast forward a year and a half of on again off again with her…we get married..we had an argument over drinking and kicking a door..I admitted it was wrong…shortly after, we are filing for matter what I say or do to appease her..SILENCE..and more SILENCE…
    Essentially, I am kicking myself for staying with her 2 years..My fault..Not hers..Now I’m just soul searching and shaking my head in disbelief

  11. My narc baits me by telling me he loves me. I know he dosen’t. I use to have hope he did not anymore.l realize he is not available to be loved.l am so lonely l tryed to go cold turkey but it was hard, l feel like l need to wean My self off. He makes promised to spend time and then goes silent. Then other times he does a give crumbs because he wants or thinks he’s using me. It makes me angry at myself because l allow it, l realize my lonleiness is a major factor, sometimes he just something to do the l should win the academy award for best sex performance in faking.l have learned to go nice and silent. He will say sorry l feel asleep after fake bomboing me.l will text no problem kiss emoji and have a good day. He has become my entertainment l feel like a bored heroin addict.l know it’s not healthy. Staying in it and withdrawing slowly helps me analyze me, cold turkey left me depressed and mourning him. I m praying for god to fill the void and give me strength to go silent forever.

  12. Hi, I’m so sorry to hear you talking about guns, and such dangerous feelings. Just know in your heart that YOU are the normal one, and are in no way responsible for his actions. We have to realize that they are sick. Mentally disturbed people who need help, and do not have a clue about themselves. There is no cure for them and unfortunately the only ” cure ” for us is to leave ! Wishing you the best of luck, with blessings and prayers. PS ( Also, talk to the man upstairs. He is always there, waiting )

  13. Hi all. Well, just like most of you I’m experiencing the silent treatment for a week now. This might be the second one in the last year and a half I’ve been with my narc. I have been binge watching youtube videos on this topic and it has helped me a lot. Not even one teardrop when back in the day when he did the same after I found out he was sexting other women. He came back promising to change for me. He did stop the sexting and drinking. But now I called him out on his indifference and lack of empathy to me when I got sick along with my son 2 weeks ago, doesn’t want to contribute not even with carrying the groceries in but still eats and sleeps in my place 90% of the time, except when he has his children who can not visit me because they also carry a lot of his narcissistic personality and told him that if he wanted a relationship with them he should get rid of me. Horribly disrespectful children and he doesn’t discipline them. But he is a very strong judge when it comes to mine who are nothing compared to his. I am getting stronger and only because of the videos and webpages like this. Please keep on researching and reading, we will all get out of this nasty situations. Life is out there waiting for us!!! Much love to all of you!!!

  14. Its still a lonely life choosing to stay with a narcassist. I know just leave him, unfortunatly i litterally have no one or no where to go plus 3 kids under the age of 3. Do narcassists ever get better or do they just play the game differently when they realize youve figured out their gameplan?

  15. My mother gave me the silent treatment about 12 years ago. My husband was sitting next to me and could hear her belittling me on the phone so he asked to take the phone as I’m crying and told her to call back when everyone is calm. She never called. Over the next three months I did some thinking and therapy and decided I needed no contact. So I told her and suddenly the whole silent treatment is my fault. Huh. But I did this because she’s told me twice she doesn’t love me. She also asked me if my abusive ex really abused me AFTER she wrote a statement for my protection order about how my ex treated her in front of people and how she wondered if he can act this way I front of people what is he doing when others are not here. She knew he was abusive, like her. She said she felt sorry for him. Why? Because they are very similar. Silent treatments, verbally abusive, passive aggressive, bullies.
    My father ( divorced from my mother) is also giving me the silent treatment. (3-1/2 years)I realized I was surrounded by unhealthy people and rid myself of all of them. Therapy for years now has helped me recognize who is healthy to be around and who is not. So I am alone with no extended family or friends but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I have a husband now who is kind and loves me and kids who do too. Although my mother would love to damage those relationships too. As she has done with a friendship or two. She hates me so much she would be happy if I’m alone. But the jokes on her. Introverted and shy I prefer my dogs and books.
    There is so much more but too much to write. These types truly do not care and want you to be miserable alone. So find things that you love to do to fill your time and mind. Hiking, animals, crafts, music, volunteer work, anything you find interesting.

  16. I have been with this guy for 2 years and noticed at the beginning of our relationship something was not quiet right. On our first meet and greet he said he wanted to get married and he knew I was the one for him even before we met just through our phone conversation. He would make comments about me and blame things on me which was what he was doing. Projection is what you call it. He lied and kept secrets from me. He also had other women that he talked to and seen on the side. I think all the women is to feed his ego, because of his low self esteem. This was devastating to me after he said I was the only woman he needed and wanted to marry.He got made if I didn’t notice something about him or I didn’t comment like he wanted me to comment. He would test me and belittle me if I couldn’t figure out what he changed about his appearance. Dang he was a bald guy with a mustache! We argued and fought daily he was never wrong and he wanted to control everything and if it didn’t play out like he wanted it to he would curse and scream, belittle me and cut me off. He had no sympathy what so ever for my feelings or hurt. I bet we have broken up 50 times! And silent treatment 100 times!

  17. I’m a borderline ( due to repeated narrcccicistic abuse from all males I have ever known,besides my brother and grandfather.I attract these losers like moths to a flame.They are actually really easy to manipulate..just ignore their needs and watch them lose it lol.

  18. Its very helpful to finally understand what is going on in my relationship and I’ve been reading more about narcissistic partners. Everything is spot on. Everytime I bring something up that he perceives to be challenging to him then I’m punished with silent treatment and being called crazy etc. He’s always threatening to leave, or telling me about conversations he had with people and how they also think I am crazy. Now that we are engaged he calls off the wedding everytime he’s mad and then pretends it never happened when things are good. I’ve been trying to practice ignoring so his threats have no power but its hard when someone is threatening something as important as a wedding. Its also disappointing because arguments aside things generally feel good so I’m left feeling “what the heck just happened and who is this person!”

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