Ghosting – Silent Treatment or No Contact?

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jun 28
narcissist ghosting disappearing

You’ve probably heard by now that Charlize Theron pulled a big disappearing act on Sean Penn.  It’s all over the internet on sites such as US Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Jezebel.  The couple seemed to be the epitome of happiness in cozy beach photos, walking hand-in-hand on the red carpet, and getting engaged.  It seemed they’d each met their match when suddenly, Charlize stopped answering his texts and phone calls.

She ghosted him.

To the general public, it may seem her decision to suddenly cut him out of her life was harsh.  After all, how many people have been at the receiving end of ghosting – which is the act of not returning emails, calls, or text messages – and felt the humiliating sting of sudden rejection?  Considering that brain scans have revealed that the same brain regions get activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain, ghosting someone would appear to be an act of ultimate cruelty.

Or is it?  The answer lies in one word – intention.

Ghosting as a means of Silent Treatment

In the world of Narcissism, victims of emotional abuse get ghosted all the time.  And while Narcissists are notorious for lying, cheating, and manipulating, they are absolute masters at issuing the Silent Treatment.  What makes their “ghosting” so difficult to heal from is that often, just when their target of ghosting has begun to lick their wounds and move forward, the Narcissist pops back onto the scene, effectively repeating the whole abuse cycle from scratch.

Another narcissistic move, which is more uncommon – and in some cases, more difficult to heal from – is one in which the Narcissist seemingly disappears off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again.

In either scenario, the intention is the same.  For Narcissists, creating emotional devastation is their way of demonstrating power.  They know that the wound of abandonment is at the core of human experience.  It’s a primal fear that’s been passed down to us by our ancestors when being ostracized from the tribe meant less access to critical resources such as food, shelter, and companionship.  In most cases, it was a death sentence.

In today’s world, ostracism, endured for a long time, leaves people feeling depressed and worthless, resigned to loneliness or desperate for attention—in extreme cases, suicidal or homicidal. In healing from ostracism, there is a “coping” stage, when people try to figure out how to “improve their inclusionary status.” They pay attention to every social cue; they cooperate, conform, and obey. [1]  Most Narcissists, especially of the overt ilk, take advantage of this phase by insisting their partner hasn’t tried hard enough, isn’t forgiving enough, isn’t attractive enough , and so on, in order to extract copious amounts of narcissistic supply.  Their target, wanting desperately to avoid the emotional damage of ostracism – a.k.a silent treatment – complies with the Narcissist’s every demand.

I don’t think, however, that Charlize implemented the Silent Treatment (sorry New York Times!)  I believe she grew tired of Sean’s controlling ways and possible affairs and went No Contact.

Ghosting as a means of going No Contact

I doubt it’s mere speculation to deem that Sean had it coming to him.  He made history after having beat the crap out of Madonna when the two of them were married.  And let’s not forget what he does to those pesky paparazzi.  According to Cracked.com,

“Penn was a rage head who dealt with annoying paparazzi by shooting at them, dangling them upside down from balconies, and smacking them with rocks”.

Imagine being in a romantic relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper, is insanely controlling and jealous, and flirts with other women to boot.  Oh wait, you probably don’t have to imagine it, as most Narcissists fit that description.

I believe Miss Theron ‘went Casper’ on Sean because he got out of control and she’s too much of a lady to smear Sean’s name to Hollywood.  Whether it was out of fear, we may never know – as I’m sure many of you can sadly relate to.

Do you need to ‘go Casper’ on the Narcissist in your life?  Find out how by Going No Contact Like a Boss! 

 

[1] Ostracism hurts—but how? Shedding light on a silent, invisible abuse.  (2011, April 27).  In Association for Psychological Science.  Retrieved 6/28/2015

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(25) comments

Kim R February 15, 2017

Kim,
I agree that Charlize’s “ghosting” has all the hallmarks of a person who reached breaking point after being treated cruelly yet again by a narcissist. For those who’ve been sucked into sham relationships with narcissists, the only way you can win is by not playing, which is what I think Charlize realized.

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Angela Allia January 28, 2017

Hi
My situation is very hard. ___only because we both live in the same neighborhood. I definitely want to go No Contact after what he did to me. I can easily run into him anytime, and it has already happened.

How can I handle this? Again No Contact would be the only way to help me.

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Grays September 24, 2016

A very interesting article. My fiancée has been ghosting me lately, without any direct provocation I can see. It doesn’t help we are long distance at the moment, but she suddenly stopped answering my emails, hasn’t called for a week, and just seemed to disappear. We’ve had no discussions about problems with our relationship, and I was under the impression I was the love of her life (she’s told me that 100 times). Then… she vanished, leaving me feeling anxious, depressed and confused. Finally last night a brief message came through – perhaps tonight she’ll be back in touch… I’m mentally preparing myself for the worst if she calls. It all smells a bit like narcissism to me. I’ve gone from Man Who Can Do No Wrong to someone she can’t even be bothered to speak to once a week. Not nice. Thanks for the article.

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Ember January 23, 2016

I’ve been having trouble writing lately. Thinking clearly. I’m a girl in a relationship with another girl. She constantly blames me for not trying hard enough to understand her. While I plead for her to speak. She has ‘talks’ with me when I have a grievance. If I point out a grievance or something I felt hurt me, she sees it as an attack. Rolls her eyes and says ‘here we go again’ and will plug her ears, literally until I shut up. That I just want to talk and blame her. That I am toxic, etc. She’s aware I know she’s a narcissist. She tells me she is tired of being disrespected while plugging her ears, and that if I considered her feelings for once, shed not need to do this. After some time of this, the silent treatment, etc, I break down and apologize or I rage and cry somewhere until it settles. She then acts like nothing happened and I bring it up only if I feel stupid enough to try. I keep doing this again and again. I am homeless as a result of her withholding rent while living g with me. I live with her now and have been tethered due to the unfortunate introduction of vices and sex, the sudden and powerful acquiring of a meaningful fetish she coincidentally developed, became my dream girl. Likes all the things I like even though she never did before. Leaving her would leave me on the street and sayi g goodbye to the only girl to ever share things I thought I’d never share with anyone. Yet I’m always kicked out to the hall. Told to silence myself. I feel worthless and yet, when things are good they’re great. She makes me into a villain. When I say, ‘we should work on things together’ she rolls her eyes and says ‘ugh, god forbid you take responsibility for your own issues, but have to drag me into them”. I feel hollow and afraid for my future. I used to ha e friends, family, I used to write and share my soul. I felt Empathy, which she told me not to depend on and that it was a narcissistic idea to think one could just feel others. Female narcissists are different from males.. They dont boast. They don’t think highly of themselves, they just are always under attack and are never appreciated enough. They know how to act cute, and how to cut you out. I worry all the time that deep down inside, what if I’m the narcissist. We seem to have the same problems, same views, but arguments end in failure, silent treatment, ear blocking. My words are worthless. I’ve put so much love into her. I’ve always wanted a girlfriend who cherished me like I did her. She made me her world for some time, now I can’t escape hers. Am I the narc? Am I really what she tells me I am? Am I just blaming her for my failures? Blaming myself leads to no benefit, as when I try to take accountability, I realize that its only partially mine and I have to struggle hard just to link myself enough to them so I can finally take them out of her hands and fix the relationship. I take the blame so I can get permission to love her. God please help me, someone..

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    Kim Saeed June 26, 2016

    Hi Ember, you are correct, female narcissists are somewhat different than their male counterparts…and lesbian female narcissists also have their unique manipulations.

    You are right in understanding that we share some of the same core wounds as narcissists. Narcissism and co-dependency are both defense mechanisms that are formed in childhood and/or early adulthood. Where narcissism often gets confused is when it overlaps with other disorders (which is common)…but that’s a story for another day.

    I wish I had an easy answer for you, but the only thing that would be your saving grace would be to leave her. Then you can start your healing journey. Right now it seems that she is the only person who would accept you for who you are, but the truth is that there are people in the world looking for someone exactly like you.

    Nothing you do or say will ever be enough to “save the relationship” for the long-term. And, it’s not your place to be the only one trying to make it work. This is where you have lost yourself. This is where we all lose ourselves. It’s a losing battle.

    Let me ask you something. Did you believe you were a narcissist before you met her? Or has all of this come about during your relationship with her?

    Kim

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Christina December 10, 2015

I have ghosted before. More than once. I don’t handle betrayal well, from a friend or romantic partner. For a long time I participated in an activity (Renaissance festival) where girl wars were not only tolerated, but encouraged. I don’t play that game.

Here is why I did it: I never forget. I may forgive, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, because I will never trust you again. There is no reason to contact them. Once they have betrayed me I don’t want an apology and I don’t care about their mental health, it is not my problem anymore. They become so meaningless, almost instantly, that telling them I am done with them would be an inconvenience.

To be fair, when I became friends with people I made sure they knew that, so they didn’t go in blind. It took me a long time to realize that it was the environment that was causing it, and since leaving that activity it has not happened.

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[…] [1] Ostracism hurts—but how? Shedding light on a silent, invisible abuse.  (2011, April 27).  In Association for Psychological Science.  Retrieved 6/28/2015 […]

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ellen June 30, 2015

Kim, I would really like an answer. My husband of almost 35 years has been cheating on and off the last 5 years with the same woman. Each time he left and came back, I caught him contacting her. This last time, May 12, I found he had gotten a “go” phone just to stay in contact with her. He said he was leaving, divorcing me and going to live with her in another state. Since then, we are going through a divorce. He doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t answer even the simplest texts. When I saw him at the meeting with the lawyers, he says I make him feel bad about himself. He looked at me like he hated me. What did I do except try and try. I know I should take this an opportunity for no contact, but it is driving me crazy that he is “ghosting” me or giving me the “silent treatment” despite him saying I am “the best person” he knows. We had no conversation when he left. I got home and he was gone. We weren’t fighting. He was just cheating and bouncing as has been the nightmare of the last several years. I kept thinking I could change things if I was a better wife. But the truth was, it wasn’t really about me (as he kept saying). Why not end this long term relationship with dignity? We have a grown child. We shared a life. Why treat me so disrespectfully? Why be so childish? What did I do? I know this “bounce” was different because he had left in July of 2014 and I never let him move back into the house when he came back in Dec. but he was staying on weekends (no sex!) Please, I want to understand why someone I was so good to, is completely erasing me. It makes me feel like the last 40 years (5 years living together, 35 years married) were just a lie. I need some perspective.

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    Kim Saeed July 1, 2015

    Ellen, thank you for sharing. This is something a lot of us get stuck on is why they don’t have the same decency and morals we do, especially when sharing children together. It would be nice if they would show common courtesies, but they are so wrapped up in themselves that they literally don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

    This is the most difficult stage of detaching, though luckily the shortest if we can find ways to ground ourselves. I would recommend practicing extreme self-care to include guided meditations and exercises to help with PTSD and trauma therapy.

    Wishing you all the very best…

    Reply
      ellen July 1, 2015

      I would like to talk with you about private coaching. How do I do that?

      Reply
Maria June 30, 2015

This is a great article Kim. I actually was thinking the same when I heard the news of their split. I also agree that she went no contact on him and now she’s being viewed as the bad one. So typical after a break up with a narcissist. There was an article today on the news linking him to Minka Kelly. Of course he has a NS so soon and wants Charlize to know about it. I swear is almost like they all go to the same university and get the same degree. It’s unbelievable to me how closely they follow the value, devalue and discard in every relationship along with the constant lies and cheating. At least in my experience, my ex Narc could have won an oscar at how good of an actor he was and how fooled he had me with the lies and cheating behind my back. I was questioning my own sanity and reality. It’s only being a month and half since my break up and unfortunately, we share a kid together so I can’t go completely no contact on him, but I’ve been practiving indifference. Although, the break up is still very fresh and everyday is a struggle to stay positive, I have no desire to contact him and every day of being away from him, I feel better. I’m starting to feel like my old self again and I would never ever go back to him. He of course gave me the fake apology, but thank god has not pursued me or tried to get with me. He was having multiple affairs, so I guess he has other NS that are fulfilling his constant need for attention and I am glad for that. At first, I felt sad and depressed, but now I see it as a blessing that he’s distracted with other NS and has left me alone. It’s amazing how clear things become after the fog starts to leave. Thank you Kim for all of your articles, words can’t describe how helpful they have been to me.

FYI, Katy Perry has an amazing song “By the Grade of God” which perfectly describes the pain of breaking up with a narcissist, but also surviving it. She wrote it after her break up from John Mayer, whom I believe is also a narcissist.

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    Kim Saeed June 30, 2015

    Maria, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. I’ll go check out that song now 🙂

    Reply
Karin June 29, 2015

Another post that is spot on Kim. I guess the hard thing about ghosting someone is that like bad horror movies, they do pop out of the woodwork. Usually with some new craptastical stunt!

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    Kim Saeed June 29, 2015

    Ha ha…true. They do tend to morph back onto the scene unexpectedly. It happened to me enough times until I became my own “Ghost-buster” 🙂

    Reply
      Karin June 29, 2015

      Instantly, I’m seeing the “Stay Puffed” marshmallow giant exploding 🙂

      Reply
        Kim Saeed June 29, 2015

        LOL! 🙂

        Reply

Interesting article. And so true!!!

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    Kim Saeed June 29, 2015

    Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

    Reply
Anne Nagle June 29, 2015

This is interesting.

Sent from my hudl

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Deb June 29, 2015

I have had no contact with my ex for 7 months. It started when I discovered with certainty, that he was having multiple affairs. The contact just stopped between us. I threw myself into life, had something going on every day, but I’m starting to cut that back. I am healing. But I find myself waiting for the other “shoe to drop”. Is it fear of him coming back or wishful thinking, I don’t know, but he has been on my mind a lot lately. I wonder if she feels the same about him.

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    Kim Saeed June 29, 2015

    Hi Deb, it could be a little of both – fear and wishful thinking. In all honesty, the best thing for your health and future would be to block him so that he wouldn’t be able to come back. Otherwise, it’s possible that you would stay in a state of limbo and lose out on a lot in life, which happens to a lot of people in your situation.

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so confused..... June 28, 2015

Well this is nothing to do with the actors/actress in the story but has everything to do with ghosting. About 3 weeks ago it happened to me, I am still clueless to the reason why. Hurt because I thought everything was great, no issues just having fun. Then one day I was blocked apperntly I had spent a night with him at his invite in between the time I was block and found out. I kind of questioned later and got a response “saving u from a heart ache and I’m having personal and professional issues”. Then that was it, he disappeared never returned a call, text, email or unblocked. He even deleted his cousin which happens to work with me. His cousin doesn’t even get it, these two spend every holiday and celebration together at my coworkers house, however he’s not asking about it,my coworker still seems him at parties however the ghoster acts quite and different, to add to it my coworkers family is still friends on this certain website including the wife of my Coworker. Basically I was in what I was told was an exclusive relationship, thought it was everything was great. Then he died off the face of the earth and blocked me like I don’t exsist. I’m dying to just ask him to explain but I know it won’t do any good so I dont.

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Coquette June 28, 2015

I too had a feeling she cut things off because she finally realized how toxic he is. The main reason I’m more inclined to believe it is one statement he made quite a few months ago after they got engaged. He said “You say I’ve been married twice before, but I’ve been married under circumstances where I was less informed than I am today. So I wouldn’t even consider it a third marriage, I’d consider it a first marriage on its own terms if I got married again.” While I get what he’s saying, I found it incredibly rude to his previous wives as it felt demeaning in a way to their relationships. Sounds like something my ex-N would say. Regardless, I think she’s better off. Always wondered why she was with him since he doesn’t have the best reputation and its pretty rare for people like him to change.

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    Gloria July 1, 2015

    I also found SP’s statement about not considering it his third marriage very narcissistic. Basically discarding his two previous wives. Very disrespectful. I made a comment on a website then about SP being a narc and how he was lovebombing Charlize BIG TIME! Glad she caught on before the D&D began.

    Reply
safirefalcon June 28, 2015

It’s so messed up they write it up like she’s the ‘bad guy.’ Ugh! But that’s common too.

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