(See below in the Comments Section for some good resources, including The Domestic Violence Hotline and several other web resources for people seeking to understand, free yourself from, and/or heal from the effects of toxic relationships.)
Withholding can be an toxic-normal, emotionally and mentally abusive interpersonal tactic, when it’s a chronic pattern and tactic used by someone to harm, demean, or otherwise abuse a person with whom they’re in relationship.
How some abusive individuals can use the simmering silent treatment or cold shoulder that leaves us (or others) “gaslighted,” wondering what the heck happened, what we did wrong (even if we didn’t actually do anything wrong and sort of know that), and feeling confused and off-kilter as a result.
Interestingly, withholding is a tactic that many empath-sensitives who have been on the receiving end of verbal, emotional, and mental/psychological abuse in a toxic relationship have experienced.
When used in a toxic-normal way, it’s also one of the tactics I saw often during the many years that I consulted on difficult (or worse) interpersonal and communication dynamics in various groups or organizations where people were ready to mutiny, sabotage, or just stop working well together (or already had).
Since we’re talking about human interpersonal dynamics and old, ingrained, conditioned toxic-normal habits, though, it’s timeless.
Let’s be clear here, first, that in this article, we’re talking about toxic habits … withholding as a ‘toxic-normal’ habit and tactic used by Narcipathic, dysfunctional types to manipulate and work their funky head games.
We’re talking about these interpersonal approaches used in a patterned emotionally or psychologically abusive way by individuals who are, unfortunately and for whatever reason, prone towards those patterns.
We’re not talking about instances when remaining silent or otherwise “withholding” a response may be a perfectly normal or healthy tactic.
What is Withholding?
There may be other definitions and examples of withholding as an interpersonal dynamic strategy, but here’s a quick snapshot of how I’m using the term here.
I wrote the following excerpt ten years ago about withholding in an article on subtle yet common word-violence tactics in organizational, interpersonal, and group dynamics:
“An unhealthy withholder may elect to withhold praise, feedback, agreement, or information — or any type of communication at all — for the purposes of gaining some measure of control or having some specific (and often malefic) impact on you.
It can escalate from lower-impact (though still damaging) word-violence to a form of mental and emotional abuse.” (J.W., from the former award-winning Ivy Sea Online.)
In its most simple definition, withholding is just that — withdrawing or holding back communication, response, feedback (particularly positive feedback), agreement, acknowledgement, acceptance, and generally giving what’s often called the silent treatment or the cold shoulder.
In face to face interactions in its more punishing or abusive expression, it may be accompanied by visible ‘disapproving’ body language and facial expressions used by an abuser to specifically manipulate and control. In electronic communications, it’s pretty much just sudden radio silence or ghosting, until Mr. or Ms. Toxic needs to hoover you back into their web.
Whether withholding is a toxic-normal or an abusive communication tactic, or is an innocent or even healthy one, depends on the purpose and intent, and it’s often easy to tell the difference between the two.
(For insight into your personal circumstances and questions, consult the web resources listed in the Comments section or connect with a psychologist or therapist who is a specialist in untangling and healing from toxic relationships).
For now, let’s take a look:
When is What Seems to be ‘Withholding’ Actually Innocent, or Even Healthy?
Withholding may not be a toxic-normal subtle-abuse tactic; sometimes it’s unintentional or innocent, or even a healthy adjustment in what has been a toxic relationship pattern, like in situations like these examples:
1. Let’s say Mel is waiting to hear back from Joan about something, based on a previous agreement, and some time goes by and Mel doesn’t hear a word and wonders what’s up. Joan, for her part, hasn’t yet gotten the information so hasn’t communicated to Mel. In her mind, she’s waiting and when she gets the info she’ll get back in touch with Joan about it.
The skillful, considerate approach would be for Joan simply to give Mel updates along the way, letting him know she’s still waiting for the info and will pass it along. So while Joan might not have been particularly considerate or intuitive by holding back rather than giving an interim update, there’s no malicious intent here.
2. Another example of when withholding is innocent is in a situation like this: Let’s say Sam says something quite sudden and quite hurtful, although unintentionally, to Susan, and Susan literally can’t speak for awhile, she’s so caught off-guard.
To Sam, it seems that Susan is ‘giving him the silent treatment’, but to Susan, she literally can’t speak and needs a short period of time to recover before feeling like she can respond. In this instance, it’s not malefic intent that’s behind the perceived silent treatment but a matter of being wired differently — neuroscience (you’ll find a lot about this in a web search, so we won’t go into more depth on it here). The gist, though, is that it’s situational and short-term.
3. A third example of how what seems to be withholding can actually be healthy is if someone is or has been in a relationship with a more narcissistic–type (or other anti-social, dysfunctional) personality and has been used as a source of narcissistic supply.
Once the person who’s been unwittingly used as supply sees the pattern and decides to make healthier adjustments and disentangle from toxic patterns, he or she may withhdraw from the toxic relationship by pulling back or ceasing participation via his or her presence, attention, ‘audience’, energy, reactions to provocations, etc. from the toxic person/relationship and refocus that energy and attention on healthier areas and relationships.
To me, this is more of a healthy, intentional withdrawal from a toxic relationship dynamic, rather than the more toxic expression of withholding, so I’ll distinguish between the two by using these two words.
You’ll also find a good roster of the various toxic interpersonal (and energy-psychic) patterns (and basic healthier strategy tips) at the Out of the Fog site; and the excellent article Five Ways Abusive Narcissists Get In Your Head offers a good overview of key mind-spinning and manipulation tactics.
Additionally, there are also instances when we might withhold information because we’ve promised someone our confidentiality, or it just isn’t our place to be in a particular conversation or revealing certain information. That’s a matter of discernment and good judgment.
When Does Withholding Become a Toxic and Even Abusive Tactic?
Over years of consulting on communication challenges — and just being human and having lived awhile and experienced different types of relationships — I learned that the difference between withholding or the silent treatment being relatively innocent and it being a toxic-normal, manipulation tactic is the intent.
When withholding is used, even unconsciously (due to conditioning), as a type of punishment and/or to manipulate and control, it becomes just such a tactic of emotional and mental (versus physical) abuse, bullying, and interpersonal violence. It’s often one in a whole repertoire of well-practiced and thus effective toxic tactics.
How Does Withholding Work (as a Manipulative Tactic)?
Just as other forms of toxic-normal behavior and communication tactics and strategies do (see some of the other Empaths & Sensitives articles on leveling, offloading, scapegoating, baiting, hissy fits, etc. You’ll find the link below.).
This tactic turns toxic when a person withholds (even if unconsciously) communication, information, agreement, positive feedback, generosity, warmth, or affection in order to punish or manipulate another person for violating some (even unspoken or small) rule or preference that the withholder has.
The intended effect is like other bullying or emotional/psychic vampire tactics, which is designed to put the other person on edge or off-center, feeling confused or unsure of what’s happened, and thus returning to the manipulator energetically as well as apologetically to ‘make things right’.
These are power-over type of tactics used wittingly or unwittingly by personality types that sometimes fall into the narcissistic, passive-aggressive, sociopathic, antisocial personality, and/or energy/psychic vampire behavior categories.
As with the other articles shared in the Empaths & Sensitives Series, the biggest purpose is for us to recognize toxic-normal habits that we’ve been conditioned with, or conditioned to complement, tolerate (habitually), or consider normal in some way.
(Empathic-sensitives are often conditioned early on to be supply for those with little to no empathy, so it can come to feel normal, even though it’s toxic.)
Once we’ve recognized a pattern, we can see it more easily in action and make choices about how we’d like to participate with it, or not, going forward.
It does take practice, because it’s deeply ingrained as normal and thus we may fear others will be angry or ‘not like us’ when we begin simply to require respectful interactions and communication rather than abusive, toxic, or disrespectful interactions.
Taking a deep breath when it comes up, not responding (reacting) immediately or instantly, taking a break for some distance if we need it in the immediate-term, and using skillful communication approaches (like conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, etc.) are all possibilities if and as appropriate.
Here’s a ‘communication skills for tense moments‘ tip sheet from the Ivy Sea Online archives to give you a bit of confidence for the more run-of-the-mill scenarios.
You can learn more about specific toxic normal tactics and response strategies, including the ultimate no contact rule, at Out of the Fog and the Self-Care Haven article recommended above.
One caveat: Know that person doing the withholding, etc., will likely be very accustomed to using these more dysfunctional, toxic-normal strategies and have them work well; they tend to be good at it, having been at it most of their lives. So he or she may not respond to skillful communication responses, but continue to use habitual tactics to provoke, withhold, hoover, ‘love-bomb’, and otherwise re-engage.
So we may have to let them have their hissy fit or tantrum now that we’re aware of the pattern that’s in play, as we go about our business and choose to respond in healthier ways, or be elsewhere rather than being the projection screen for someone else’s habitually abusive, toxic behavior, or psychic vomit (no matter how subtle it may seem — we know the difference between what feels respectful and what feels toxic).
And as with the other articles in this series, this isn’t to point the finger of blame or put ourselves or other people into victim-perpetrator category boxes, nor is it intended or offered as psychotherapeutic counsel; you’ll see that requisite disclaimer in the Series Intro.
It’s about us recognizing unhealthy boxes and toxic-normal patterns, and intending to more and more skillfully unbox ourselves and disentangle from abusive, toxic interactions and treatments that we may have been conditioned to consider normal.
While we can’t change someone else’s behavior or modus operendi, we can change our own awareness and what we do and do not participate with or tolerate, and that’s empowering.
Have a look at the other articles in the Resources for Empaths & Sensitives Series. You’ll find more resources on skillful communication in the Ivy Sea Online content archives and the VIP resources.
If you’re in an abusive relationship, contact The Domestic Violence Hotline for good resources and a.s.a.p. assistance!
January 22, 2015 at 12:26 am
Great advice and strategies Jamie on an issue that can often leave us feeling rejected and unsure in a relationship. 🙂
January 22, 2015 at 12:39 am
True enough, Karen. These are those seemingly subtle (yet not really) things that really can leave us feeling rejected, unsure, and less and less confident. They sneak up on us! So it’s great to share when the chance comes up. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! Love, Jamie
January 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm
Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
Here’s a helpful article from Jamie at Sophia’s Children. I would just add the following observations:
Not that this applies to Jamie’s clients, but it may be relevant for some people reading — that in cases of narcissism, withholding “narcissistic supply” is not abusive. It’s a necessary coping mechanism and way out of toxic relationships.
Because narcissists don’t believe they have (ever) done anything wrong, someone’s withholding may seem like some kind of emotional blackmail, when, in fact, they have removed themselves from continuing an unhealthy, one-way relationship that will never return on investment. I think it’s important to include this topic here, because narcissists will often use any and all guilt maneuvers and trigger buttons to lure their supply back to them for another feast. People having courage to step away from that kind of dysfunction need to know that there’s a difference not only between being innocently “inconsiderate” or maliciously “manipulative,” but also the possibility that withholding represents a necessary step in the liberation process.
On the flip side, in these times of increased awareness, if a person finds him or herself suddenly surrounded by people withholding contact, praise, etc., it is worth at least a conscious inside look to make sure that the withholding isn’t in response to narcissistic behaviors on our own part. Things continue to rebalance, and since most narcissists don’t recognize themselves as being any part of problem relationships, taking an objective look at this possibility (or getting help doing so) can bring peace. If the other person turns out to be exhibiting narcissistic behaviors, then one need not feel guilty for withholding; if the person experiencing withholding recognizes areas where s/he has been too demanding or draining, then s/he has the opportunity to change patterns and make restitution.
Just wanted to add that to Jamie’s important insights, since the narcissism piece complicates an otherwise simpler issue. 🙂
January 22, 2015 at 1:56 pm
Thanks for reblogging this post and sharing with your circle, Laura, and for adding the additional angle of ‘withholding’ as it might apply to one who’s found him or herself as ‘supply’ for a narcissistic person (and the ‘supply’ people are often the empath/sensitives in the family system, as research notes). So withhdrawing in that sense is part of the healthier disentanglement. The ‘withholding’ I describe is as it applies to unhealthy or toxic interpersonal dynamics. Ultimately, it’s all about seeing patterns that have been normalized and disentangling or liberating from them (liberation being a very Aquarian theme, so perfectly timed). Thank you for enriching this important conversation! Love, Jamie
January 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm
You’re welcome, and thanks! I understood the distinction you make, but I know from having extracted myself from narcissistic relationships, as well as helping others to do so, that when you’re in the thick of that extraction process, it really helps to have someone acknowledge, “Hey, it’s OK to withdraw; it’s OK to refuse to be their supply.” Too often, the narcissists manage to lure people back in because our society doesn’t foster healthy boundaries. I know I have a lot of readers and clients dealing with this very issue, so felt I needed to clarify the subtleties. Love and blessings, Laura
January 22, 2015 at 2:24 pm
Exactly, Laura. I’ve been ‘supply’ in those toxic relationships as well, so appreciated your addition of that perspective. In fact, I added an example in the ‘when is withholding innocent or even healthy’ section and put a link to your note and reblog. So they’re linked. And yes, when it comes to the ‘ narcissistic supply’ pattern, it’s very healthy to disentangle and withhdraw the supply, and it can take practice — at least it did for me — because of just what you share: it’s conditioned as normal, polite, safe (and more). Lots more, no doubt, on these topics, so the conversation will continue, but this has been a great addition to the conversation so far. Love, Jamie
January 22, 2015 at 2:52 pm
Thanks, Jamie! I just posted three excellent video resources on extracting ourselves from these sorts of relationships: https://laurabruno.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/excellent-narcissism-resources/
Thanks for helping people to empower themselves! Love, Laura
January 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm
Excellent! And my pleasure. Thanks to you as well for being part of this conversation and the overall Great Work, Laura. Love, Jamie
January 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm
Reblogged this on Aussiedlerbetreuung und Behinderten – Fragen.
January 28, 2015 at 4:24 pm
Hi Jamie, This one hits too close to home. I’m hoping it’s okay if I shoot you a brief email. Amazing how you always hit the nail right on the head when it comes to these brilliant posts!
January 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm
Hey there, Maureen! It’s lovely to hear from you. Yes, of course, send along a direct email to me. And I’m glad it’s good timing — the Muses seem to know these things when they nudge me (and I would guess others among us) to focus on this topic or that. Hoping you’re well. Love, Jamie
January 28, 2015 at 6:01 pm
Hi Jamie, thanks for linking to my blog post and for visiting Self-Care Haven. I really enjoyed this entry as it made clear distinctions between withholding as an abusive tactic versus withdrawing for the sake of self-care in abusive relationships. This is something that can get very blurry and you provided the topic with just the right amount of nuance and complexity. Awesome read!
January 28, 2015 at 6:21 pm
Thank you, Shahida. I enjoyed coming across your blog as well, including the excellent article that I linked to here. Your Self-Care Haven is such a good resource for just these issues (I wish I’d come across it a few years ago when I was in the depths of just such a relationship, but just as well to come across and share it now). The lines can be very blurry indeed, so it’s a pleasure to share info here at Sophia’s Children, and also point the way to good resources like yours. Thank you for that! And thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment, too. ~ Jamie
February 16, 2015 at 2:10 am
If you’re in an abusive or precarious situation it seems healthy to withhold. I won’t talk about my childhood here but there were times where keeping things to myself protected my well-being. And lately, I’m dealing with more narcissists than I ever thought possible. I have confided in people who keep lists then use those list when they turn against me at a later date. Now, I withhold as self-protection.
February 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm
Very true, Patricia. I elected to call that ‘withdrawing’ (as in withdrawing the ‘supply’ as it’s sometimes called) just to distinguish it from the ‘toxic withholding’ featured in this post, but we’re on the same page.
Quite a few of us have shared and understand the experience. I appreciate that you’ve added your insight-from-experience here as well. I’ve read various things recently about studies showing a marked increase in Narcissism, etc.
It’s an awful experience to have people keep those lists or ledgers and then turn it back on you when it suits their agendas! So definitely, I’m with you in believing that withholding in that sense — withdrawing energy, attention, participation, etc. — is a very wise strategy for us. And even now, with a particularly NPD/ASPD family member, I myself do that.
Thank you again for stopping by and adding your voice to the dialogue! Love, Jamie
February 16, 2015 at 5:09 pm
When I was in between homes, I encountered a lot of narcissistic behavior which is still causing me stress. I feel like the people with this behavior are pulling on my energy field and this leaves me feeling exhausted. I’m not hanging out with any of these people, but I live in close proximity to two of them. And one person I completely cut out of my life.
These people saw that I required some help, but the help they gave me had strings attached to it. Some people will tell me that I should be grateful for the help I received, but I don’t agree.
I’m to the point now where I don’t know who to trust any longer. I don’t want to ask for help any longer. And I’m isolating myself.
February 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm
You’re welcome. 🙂 I so appreciate what you’re sharing here, and I’ll bet some of our fellow tribe-of-kindreds readers will as well.
And ouch, yes. It’s such a challenge, and maybe an initiation of sorts, to walk that line, isn’t it? Seeing the patterns, the strings, the conditions, how some will invite you onto a ‘safe’ rug and then give it a good yank!
I’ll be honest … in my experiences, too, it really worked a number on me; my confidence, sense of self, etc. … that ‘mind-and-heart fuq’! Though I started, too, to slowly sense a sort of liberation as I saw those old patterns I was conditioned to participate in.
Encountering that sort of NPD (etc) behavior really IS stressful, particularly at times when, ideally, we don’t really need more of that!
I’m glad you’ve found your new home — I remember from your blog. 🙂 — and may you find true kindreds of spirit, who are generous of heart (no nasty toxic strings attached!), too.
This is a longer conversation, no doubt, but for now … Love, Jamie
February 16, 2015 at 5:49 pm
p.s. Patricia. You wrote, “I feel like the people with this behavior are pulling on my energy field and this leaves me feeling exhausted.” Definitely. Beneath the surface, my sense and experience is that it’s a type of ‘energy vampirism’ … the tactics are about getting and/or unloading energy onto the ‘scapegoat’ or ‘projection screen’ (usually someone who’s more sensitive, empathic, etc. … lots written on this). So you’ve made a really good observation there, that there’s definitely a psychic/energy component as well as what’s playing on the surface in these dynamics. Thanks again for sharing your perspective and voice here. Love, Jamie
February 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm
I’ve heard other empaths talk about this topic, but now I’m experiencing it firsthand.
February 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm
I’m sorry to hear that you’re getting the ‘up close and personal’ experience of it, though it definitely gives us a whole different level of experiential understanding of how these dynamics and energy ‘games’ work, though it can feel pretty awful in the midst of it. The Empath & Sensitives series was born out of that kind of in-my-face experience (leading up to and through the Chiron Return!); I wanted to share what I noticed and picked up along the way, as we tend to do. 🙂
April 27, 2016 at 6:17 pm
“Withholding” is a tactic commonly used by cults and some religious groups. It is bullying in the worst form and those who are strong enough to withstand this type of assault are to be admired. Good article!
April 29, 2016 at 4:54 pm
Thank you, Bev. This is a really good insight about the toxic potentials of withholding as an abuse tactic!
Back some years in my organizational consulting years, there were a couple of particularly troubled work environments where this tactic was a frequently used one, and the toxic effects of it were quite clear, too.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing this insight! Blessings, Jamie
January 30, 2019 at 12:59 am
I think it’s wonderful you’re sharing this dysfunctional tactic (and others) here, so more people who are dealing with this kind of passive-aggressive (or downright aggressive ) behavior can more easily recognize it for what it is! Many of my therapy clients who grew up with a narcissistic parent were ”punished” by the ”silent treatment”, by withholding attention, warmth, communication: withholding the very acknowledgment of their existence. When this occurs frequently from a young age on, we can start to doubt who we are, what we are, and even if we really exist at all. It’s so damaging. It ‘s a form of abuse that is so insidious because it is invisible, and leaves invisible scars – the survivors will wonder for years what happened and what they did wrong. The answer is always: nothing. They did nothing wrong. Recognizing this type of abuse, why and how it occurs is a first step in healing. Thanks for sharing!
September 22, 2021 at 12:34 am
I’m still not clear on any objective distinction between toxic withholding and healthy withdrawal from an abusive or overwhelming situation. I often need to take breaks from dealing with people, and I’d rather walk away from abuse than engage with it. I’ve been accused by a narcissist (who was thrown out of therapy sessions for being verbally abusive toward me in front of the therapist – in other words, it’s not just my opinion that this person is a narcissist and is abusive) of giving the silent treatment or withholding. To me it makes perfect sense to withhold affection from someone who is actively hurting and abusing you. Why would you respond with anything else? I genuinely do not want to be around people who abuse me, so I walk away and ask them not to contact me for a while. I tell them I need a break. I’ve been accused of doing it to “punish” someone…even though I’m just genuinely fed up and want to get away and find some happiness for myself. It seems like the exact same behaviour (silence, absence, etc.) is being categorized in two completely opposite ways and that it’s all down to internal, personal *intent,* which is impossible to prove or disprove either way.
I also don’t understand how having a disapproving expression on one’s face could be a form of abuse. I think everyone’s entitled to feel how they feel, and to show it on their face.
I’m a bit confused!
October 1, 2021 at 2:37 pm
Hello again, Namey.
Thanks again for stopping by, and I hear you — healing from the effects of toxic relationships and the tactics the person used is challenging and requires a lot of sleuthing and, if it makes sense, more personalized counseling with a therapist who really understands abusive relationships and doesn’t fall back on the “blame the victim” crap (which seems harmful, and there are more articles in psychology zines and sites that discuss this issue).
My reply to your previous question (see above, or just below, depending on how WordPress orders the questions and responses!) will offer some helpful resources for this question, too.
In reading over your question, I’ll share only from personal experience and the related years of research in my own attempts to understand and detoxify and heal from those toxic relationship effects.
It really does come down to specific relationships and individuals and whether behaviors are chronic and whether the intent falls into an abuse category rather than a “normal human behavior” range for navigating being human.
Yes, it definitely makes sense for anyone to withdraw from a person who’s hurting or abusing them. The article shared here focuses on an abuser’s behavior (a Narcissist, for example, or someone who uses withholding in a toxic, abusive way — not as an understandable survival tactic of someone on the receiving end of toxic or abusive behaviors!).
So one person may need to withdraw periodically for self-care, whether withdrawing from other individuals who use abusive or manipulative tactics on a daily or chronic basis, or because we’re natural introverts who need quiet solo time to rejuvenate before or following periods of extroversion, noise, busyness, etc.
Another, on the other hand, may use psychologically, emotionally, mentally, etc. abusive tactics on a regular basis to control, diminish, and “gaslight” a person with whom they’re in relationship (we hear about this a lot in recent news of the R. Kelly trial and verdict, for example).
If needed, it makes sense to contact the Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) for referrals, articles, hotline guidance, etc.
That’s why tailored personalized therapeutic or psychological assistance may be best because it delves into our own lived experience, relationships, patterns, conditioning, yearnings, and so on.
It might be best to explore these indepth questions and distinctions with a therapist who can provide that personalized dialogue and exploration, or start with web resources that really go into depth in these areas, like Out of the Fog, Shahida Arabi’s site and Self-Care Haven blog, and so many other wonderful resources on the web these days.
There are many articles written by psychologists, too, on Psychology Today online (just google it — it comes up a lot!).
Wishing you well,
September 22, 2021 at 12:39 am
where’s the line between “short-term” and “long-term” silence? isn’t that relative and subjective? the article mentions that some people just can’t respond right away when they are upset or overwhelmed and distinguishes that from someone giving the silent treatment, but the actual difference between the two isn’t clear to me.
October 1, 2021 at 2:13 pm
Thanks for stopping by. It sounds like you’ve experienced a lot! Any of us who’ve been in a relationship with someone who shows up with Narcissistic behaviors, tactics, and mind-games, knows it can leave you in a real swirl.
Those “lines” — particularly in descriptions or writings — can be hard to untangle or discern and are perhaps best done working with someone personally or continuing your indepth research to discern.
Clearly (as we’ve probably experienced), the “silent treatment” can be used habitually as an emotionally abusive tactic or mind-game; and it can be a natural neuro-response (short term) when we’ve been on the receiving end of harsh or abusive words either because it just makes sense to be quiet in the face of someone having a verbal melt-down and I remember coming across information some years ago about an actual short-term neuropathway “freeze” where it’s just difficult to speak for 20 or 30 minutes after hearing verbal assault. (That info is stored on an old laptop that bonked, so I’ll dig around to see if I have it on a backup somewhere — if so, I’ll share that information in a followup comment). That’s from my personal experience and the years of research to help understand and heal from those relationships.
Of course, a blog post is only going to share a few possible ideas or insights, so here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful in untangling from unexpectedly toxic relationships with persons who fit-to-a-T the Cluster B/Narcissistic behavior patterns.
Your question on “withholding as a toxic tactic” is a good one that I’d refer to sites/persons who have a deep experiential understanding of these dynamics and are called to daily work that shares insights, offers psychological counseling, etc. beyond what an article can provide.
Research on (or conversations with experts on) C-PTSD may offer more indepth insights tailored to your personal experience and questions. (See Out of the Fog and Shahida Arabi’s web resources, below).
The “Out of the Fog” web site features just that kind of information (https://outofthefog.website/). The site has been redesigned and reorganized several times, but still offers a lot of helpful information for people who’ve been, or are, in relationship with individuals with “personality disordered” behavior patterns.
You can also check out Shahida Arabi’s web site and Self-Care Haven blog (Shahida has been referenced in Sophia’s Children posts several times on these topics — find her site here: https://www.shahidaarabi.com/). Shahida’s research and writing focused significantly on relationships with Narcissistic individuals.
Be well and continue with your self-care!