Sydney Hills Counselling Blog

Are They A Covert Narcissist? Warning Signs and Survival Tips

It’s extremely easy to spot the typically obvious Overt Narcissist; they’re non-conformists and are generally speaking, obnoxiously loud, boisterous, insensitive and outspoken. There’s virtually one in every workplace and/or social circle and they can usually be recognised by their pompous attitude, embarrassing vocal expressions, and public humiliation of someone or another. However, beware the Covert Narcissist! This type of Narcissist is a completely different species to the Overt Narcissist, and it’s only when you’ve been reeled in by one, can you come to know just how dangerous and manipulative they can be. If you or a loved one is struggling with someone who may be a covert narcissist, reach out to Sydney Hills Counselling by calling (02)9159-6277 to learn about and recover from narcissistic abuse,

Covert Narcissists commonly present as kind-hearted, caring individuals, whilst at the same time, they manage to cunningly trap their victims in their villainous web of lies, deceit and manipulation. They are indeed the indubitable ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’, and manage to disguise themselves as ‘Mr Nice Guy’ (or Gal) extremely well, luring victim after victim into their manipulative game. Covert Narcissists disguise themselves as being charming, empathic, and full of light and love. Behind their angelic facade, however, lurks an individual who simply isn’t capable of having these feelings. The sad thing is, the Covert Narcissist’s victims just don’t see them for who they really are, because they are more cunning, deceptive and capable of delivering the same devastating cruelty as the Overt Narcissist. The only difference between the Overt Narcissist and the Covert Narcissist is that the Covert Narcissist wears a deceptively guileless mask, behind which lurks something dangerous and sinister.

People are usually taken aback when the Covert Narcissist falls from grace because they appear to be so kind and caring. They usually appear to be a fantastic wife, a wonderful husband, a loving mother or a doting father. The family of the Covert Narcissist are often told, “Wow, what a fantastic husband you have”, “Your wife is the best!”, “You are so lucky to have a Mum / Dad like that”. The family members can feel frustrated and confused, because what people are telling them just doesn’t align with what they’re experiencing. They often feel belittled and devalued by their spouse or parent, and they never feel as if they are good enough or that they matter enough. They may also begin to doubt themselves and think that how they’re being treated must be their fault and that there is obviously something wrong with them.

The Covert Narcissist makes those close to them feel as if they are the ones with the problem, whilst projecting an innocent persona to everyone else in the public eye. They have a knack for making their significant others look ‘bad’ and will do everything in their power to protect their own reputation and the false self they project to the rest of the world. The Covert Narcissist will make their victims feel as if they are suffering alone, and that nobody else will believe what they are really up to. When in an argument with a Covert Narcissist, significant others will usually feel as if they are at a dead-end; they always seem to be outmanoeuvred.

The Warning Signs that you may be in a Relationship with a Covert Narcissist.

They Love Bomb You: When a Covert Narcissist first enters your life, you will be made to feel as if you are ‘The One’. They will shower you with their undivided attention, love and affection, beyond your wildest dreams. They will make you feel that you are the most important person in their lives. Their generosity will know no bounds; flowers, expensive restaurants, expensive gifts, special outings, declarations of ‘forever love’; you name it, the Covert Narcissist will deliver it! However, please beware! The Covert Narcissist delivers too much, too quickly. Declarations, such as “You’re the One”, “I’ve never met anyone like you before”, “I think I’m falling in love with you”, and “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me” within a very short time of meeting, seem too good to be true and they are; these declarations are all just manipulative lies. The Covert Narcissist will engineer him /herself to become the centre of your universe. They will start to create a vision of a future together, promising you whatever they think it will take to make you fall for them. They may involve you in choosing new décor for their home, their renovation plans, choosing a new look for them, not even considering whether you want to do this or not. The Covert Narcissist is an expert at doing their research. If you are vulnerable in any way, they will sniff it out in an instant and you will become a prime target for their narcissistic abuse.

If you begin to suspect that Mr. or Ms. Covert Narcissist isn’t ‘walking his or her talk’ and you dare to call them out on it, fully expect to be given the cold shoulder at best; and discarded at worst. Also, don’t ever expect that you are ‘the only one’. The Covert Narcissist needs constant Narcissistic Supply, so if they are planning on giving you the heave-ho, they will usually have another conquest lined up just in case; they always need a backup, just in case you begin to doubt their integrity and suspect they are playing you. The Covert Narcissist will also usually have a string of exes (or at least one) who are still lurking menacingly in the background. The Covert Narcissist is also great at playing ‘smoke and mirrors’ and will tell you quite innocently, that their last relationship (in which they were the victim of course), ended months or years ago, when in fact it hasn’t quite ended. Covert Narcissists aren’t capable of closure and will always have a new relationship ready to start before they end their current one.

Covert Narcissists are Master Chameleons: Covert Narcissists are very perceptive and pay very close attention to the information you provide them with, and will use these snippets to charm and win you over. “You love hiking? Really? It’s my favourite thing to do!”, “You love the Beatles?” “They’re my favourite band of all time!”. “This is fate for sure; we’re just meant to be!”. The Covert Narcissist is an expert at feeding you information that matches all of your values and desires so that they can win you over as quickly as possible. You are their prize to be won, but beware, they will quickly and brutally discard you if you ever challenge them or call them out on the lies they are telling you, or the manipulative tactics that they’re using to get what they want from you. Just remember that to the Covert Narcissist, your needs are irrelevant, and their game is not to please you; it’s about getting what they want and need at all costs.

Covert Narcissists will project a false Image to reel you in; they will repeatedly appeal to what really matters to you. They will feign declarations of loyalty, honesty, and trustworthiness, and they’ll tell you that they will never cheat. Just remember, that if someone has to convince you of their positive traits, this is a massive red flag. People who are honest, trustworthy and sincere, don’t have to repeatedly convince you of how wonderful they are; it will be obvious in their actions and behaviour.

They have Superficial Relationships with Friends and Family: The Covert Narcissist is especially needy and will demand a constant supply of love, adoration and attention, whilst all the while, pretending that they don’t. They are emotional vampires and count on the kind nature of those around them to supply them with what they need. They keep score, and every moment they invest in your relationship comes at a cost to you. Covert Narcissists may have a few people whom they call friends, but these relationships are usually superficial at best; the time they spend with their ‘friends’ is generally infrequent and inconsistent, and sometimes years can pass between meetings.

Covert Narcissists Lie; a lot! Lies are synonymous with being a Covert Narcissist. Their lies will increase in number and wickedness as your relationship with them progresses. You will find yourself in an endless loop of confusion and doubt, leaving you exhausted and anxious. The Covert Narcissist is the master of covering up. They will cheat, dabble in numerous addictions (porn, sex, drinking, gambling etc) or obsessive ‘acceptable’ pastimes (excessive exercise, ritualistic spiritual or religious practices, the latest stringent dietary practice). Don’t attempt to uncover the Covert Narcissist’s actions or behaviours, or you risk a severe backlash. The Covert Narcissist will retaliate harshly for being shamefully exposed and will stop at nothing to punish you for your outrageous accusations. They will also often claim that their behaviours are all your fault; that you made them do it.

Gaslighting is the Covert Narcissist’s Master Weapon: The Covert Narcissist uses Gaslighting to gain more power in a relationship. It makes their unsuspecting victim question their own reality. The Covert Narcissist will lie straight to your face, even though you know what they’re saying is an outright lie. Their goal is to keep you unsure of anything they say or do, and keeping you confused is their ultimate goal. The Covert Narcissist is also adept at denying that they ever said or did anything even though you have proof. This makes you start to question your reality and sanity and the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs. When dealing with a Covert Narcissist who gaslights, take into account their actions, rather than what they are saying. What they’re saying is usually just words; what they’re doing is what is more important.

Survival Tips for Dealing with a Covert Narcissist:

Remember that the Covert Narcissist is Dangerous. If at all possible, cut your losses and get out. Move on; you can’t win or get anywhere with a Covert Narcissist. If you challenge them, you are at risk in every way and they will never let you win.

Get some Professional Help and Emotional Support: Being in a relationship with a Covert Narcissist, delivers an immense load of abuse and you will need professional help to recover and rebuild your self-worth. If you don’t heal the wounds of this type of narcissistic abuse, you will be once again vulnerable to another one of these predators, and repeat the pattern of abuse. Seeing a professional, registered counsellor at Sydney Hills Counselling, can help you to understand Covert Narcissism and how it can impact your long-term health and recovery.

Surround yourself with people you can count on:  After a breakup with a Covert Narcissist (especially if you were the one who ended the relationship), they can become extremely nasty and vengefulYou will need a safe place to go and some solid emotional support. When you need support, reassurance and a hug, turn to the kind, loving people in your life who can provide safety and love for you. Failing this, community organisations can provide support and assistance for those people leaving abusive relationships.

Remember that Covert Narcissists never really go away:  Covert Narcissists can suddenly reappear in your life again, even after long periods of absence. They casually choose to show up without notice. Covert Narcissists are brilliant actors and may attempt to use the same emotional hook that lured you in the first place. Remember, that Covert Narcissists never change, so be firm and maintain no contact with them at all costs.

Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be extremely painful and challenging. If this article has raised any concerns for you regarding your own (or a significant other’s) relationship with a partner or family member, whom you suspect may be displaying signs of Covert Narcissism, please contact Sydney Hills Counselling on (02) 9159-6277 for a confidential chat regarding how we can best help and support you. We can then guide you to recover and help you start the path to healing. You can also email us at [email protected].