Imagine feeling like you’re in a relationship with someone who constantly undermines your self-esteem, disregards your emotions, and leaves you feeling emotionally drained. This scenario is all too familiar for those who have been in a relationship with a covert narcissist. In today’s video, we will discuss the intricate dynamics of covert narcissism and how it manifests in the ending of relationships.
First, let’s define covert narcissism. Unlike the overt, grandiose narcissist who seeks admiration and attention openly, the covert narcissist operates in a more subtle and manipulative manner. The covert often appears shy, introverted, and even self-effacing, but beneath the surface lies a profound sense of entitlement and a need for admiration. They present themselves as kind, humble, and even loyal. However, this is not who they truly are. The covert narcissist has a combination of extreme low self worth and grandiose entitlement. This seems contradictory however, the covert narcissist has a false self. In his early childhood the covert was abused and/or neglected. He received inconsistent messages from his parental figures, usually the mother figure, about his worth. As a result he develops a false self. The false self is a defense mechanism to the abuse. Fast forward to today and your involvement with the covert narcissist. You are interacting with the false self and not a genuine person. The covert narcissist has no idea who he is. He has no identity. For this reason I believe narcissistic personality disorder is the most debilitating diagnosis for the narcissist and his intimate partners.
Covert narcissists often display a range of behaviors that can be detrimental to relationships. These include:
Manipulative Behavior: Covert narcissists are adept at manipulation, often employing guilt-tripping, passive-aggressiveness, and victimhood to control their partners.
Lack of Empathy: They struggle to empathize with their partners’ emotions and are often dismissive or indifferent to their needs.
Gaslighting: Covert narcissists frequently gaslight their partners, invalidating their feelings and perceptions to maintain control and power in the relationship. There is debate amongst mental health professionals if this is intentional or if it is just who they are and what they do. My opinion is that it is both.
Victim Mentality: They may portray themselves as victims of circumstance, deflecting responsibility for their actions and behaviors onto others.
Idealization and Devaluation: Covert narcissists tend to idealize their partners in the beginning stages of the relationship, only to devalue and discard them once they no longer serve their needs or the relationship is no longer fresh and exciting. Coverts often devalue their partners subtly by using passive aggressive techniques as well as withholding and or the silent treatment.
So, how do relationships with covert narcissists come to an end? Narcissists are individuals and the methods they employ are as diverse as the narcissist himself. There are similar techniques and behavior that most use, so let’s take a look at those. Some ways they can end the relationship are
Devaluation and Discard: As the relationship progresses, the covert narcissist’s true colors begin to emerge. They may become increasingly critical, withholding, or emotionally distant, leading to a gradual devaluation of their partner. They may tell her they no longer want to be with her and leave. They may stay in the relationship but treat their partner in dismissive, abusive and uncaring ways. Often the intimate partner doesn’t know what they did wrong and will try harder and harder to please the narcissist.
Triangulation: Triangulation is when the covert bring a third person into the relationship, forming a triangle: the covert, the intimate partner and the third person. Covert narcissists may seek validation and attention from external sources, such as friends, family, or even other romantic interests, further undermining the relationship. They do this to undermine you, make you jealous and feel insecure. They may even triangulate with pets.
Silent Treatment: In moments of perceived criticism or rejection, covert narcissists may resort to the silent treatment as a means of punishment and control. They may literally just not answer you when you speak, pretending that they didn’t hear you. They may tell you, “I don’t feel like talking,” and refuse to interact with you for days, weeks, months and if you stay, even years.
Ghosting or Abrupt Endings: Instead of engaging in open communication or conflict resolution, covert narcissists may abruptly end the relationship without explanation or closure, leaving their partner feeling confused and abandoned. This is the most difficult ending for the intimate partner to come to terms with as they have no idea of what actually happened. I will hear clients say, “Everything was fine and then I never heard from him again.” The partner is left wondering what they did wrong, feeling abandoned and traumatized.
Probing and Hoovering: Even after the relationship has ended, covert narcissists may probe their former intimate partners with a text that says, “How are you?,” just to see if you will respond. Or they may send a meme or a short one sentence text. They are looking to see if you will re-engage with them and if there is a possibilty they can return to you. Once they believe they can return they use hoovering. This is an attempt to re-engage their former partner through manipulation and charm. They will engage with them in a kind, flirty manner and the intimate partner believes they are “back together.” The devaluation and discard process happens again and the partner finds themseves discarded a second time.
Some narcssists discard permanently and others merely view their partner as a toy that they put on a shelf to later come back and want to play with again. The covert narcssist leaves you in a perpetual state of confusion, not know if if you are in a relationship or not. They will act as if they are in one and then act as if they are not. There is no consistency in their behavior.
Covert narcissists view their intimate partners as existing to satisfy them. When they have no use for their partner or become bored of her, the partner will not hear from them. Again, think of a toddler who plays with a toy and then tires of it. This is what the intimate partner is dealing with because the narcissist is developmentally a toddler.
In conclusion, navigating a relationship with a covert narcissist can be emotionally tumultuous and draining. Understanding the dynamics of covert narcissism is crucial for recognizing red flags and establishing healthy boundaries in relationships. By prioritizing self-care and seeking support from trusted friends, family, or mental health professionals, individuals can heal from the wounds inflicted by covert narcissistic relationships and embark on a journey towards self-empowerment and healing.
If you would like to receive therapy for covert narcissistic abuse from me personally, please reach out at thetayloraustingroup.com
If this video was of value to you today, please subscribe to the channel, like the video and comment below on your experience with a covert narcissist.