Living with a covert narcissist can be a trying and emotionally draining experience. Covert narcissists, also known as closet or vulnerable narcissists, can be just as destructive as their more overt counterparts, but in a subtle and insidious way. They are skilled manipulators who can make their victims feel crazy, paranoid, and guilty for things that aren’t their fault.
Covert narcissists are master manipulators who use a variety of tactics to control and exploit their victims. They may use gaslighting, a tactic where the narcissist manipulates their victim into doubting their own perception of reality. For example, the narcissist may deny having said something or done something, despite the victim having clear evidence that they did. This can make the victim question their own memory, and can lead to feelings of confusion, paranoia, and uncertainty.
Another tactic used by covert narcissists is triangulation, where they bring a third party into the dynamic to gain control. They may use this tactic to create jealousy or competition between their victims, or to gain sympathy or support from the third party. This can create feelings of insecurity and mistrust among those involved.
Covert narcissists are also experts at emotional blackmail, using their victim’s emotions against them to get what they want. They may use threats, guilt, or even silence to control and manipulate their victims. For example, they may threaten to leave or harm themselves if their victim doesn’t comply with their demands. They may also use guilt-tripping to make their victims feel responsible for their own suffering. This can create a sense of obligation and responsibility for the victim, making them more likely to comply with the narcissist’s demands.
Covert narcissists are emotionally unavailable, making it difficult for their victims to form a healthy emotional bond with them. They may also be emotionally withholding, refusing to validate or acknowledge their victim’s feelings. This can create feelings of rejection and abandonment for the victim, and can lead to feelings of low self-worth and self-esteem.
Passive Aggressive Behavior
Covert narcissists are often passive-aggressive, expressing their negative feelings indirectly. They may use sarcasm, criticism, or silent treatment as a way to communicate their displeasure. This can create confusion and uncertainty for the victim, as it is often difficult to know how to respond to this type of behavior.
Covert narcissists often have an entitled attitude, believing they are entitled to special treatment and privileges. They may see themselves as above others and may have a strong sense of superiority. This can manifest in various ways, such as demanding preferential treatment or expecting others to cater to their every need. This can create resentment and frustration for those around them.
Narcissism is often rooted in childhood trauma, such as emotional neglect or abuse. Children who grow up in emotionally invalidating environments may develop a narcissistic defense mechanism to protect themselves from further emotional pain.
Certain personality traits, such as grandiosity and entitlement, may also contribute to the development of narcissism. Individuals with these traits may have an inflated sense of self-importance and a strong need for admiration and attention.
Experiencing A Narcissist Husband
Valuing and Devaluing
“I never knew what hit me. I met him and he was charming, charismatic, and attentive. But after we got married, he slowly started to change. He became controlling, critical, and emotionally unavailable. He would gaslight me and make me doubt my own perception of reality. I felt like I was going crazy.”
“He always had to be right. He would argue with me and make me feel guilty for things that weren’t my fault. He would use my emotions against me and blackmail me into getting what he wanted. I felt like I was walking on eggshells around him and I never knew when he would lash out.”
Living with a covert narcissist can have a serious impact on one’s self-esteem and mental health. Victims may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the emotional abuse. They may also develop codependency issues, as they often become emotionally invested in the narcissist’s well-being.
Effects on friends, partners and family
The effects of living with a covert narcissist can also extend to one’s friends, partners, and family. They may become caught in the middle of the narcissist’s manipulation and control tactics, and may also suffer emotional abuse as a result. They may also struggle to understand the victim’s experience and may question the victim’s perception of reality.
Living with a covert narcissist can also have an impact on one’s employment. Victims may struggle to focus and perform at work as a result of the emotional stress and trauma they are experiencing at home. They may also struggle to establish and maintain professional relationships due to the manipulation and control tactics used by the narcissist. Additionally, a covert narcissist may directly try to impact your work by attempting to get you fired as a form of control or slandering your reputation to your colleagues or employer.
Tips for Dealing with a Covert Narcissist Husband
One of the most important things you can do when living with a covert narcissist is to set clear boundaries. This means communicating your needs and expectations and standing firm when they are not met. It’s important to remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, and that you should not tolerate any form of emotional abuse.
Don’t Engage in Arguments
Covert narcissists are skilled at manipulating situations to their advantage, and engaging in arguments with them can be a losing battle. If possible, try to avoid engaging in heated exchanges with your partner. Instead, use “I” statements to express your feelings and calmly state your boundaries.
Maintain a Support System
Living with a covert narcissist can be emotionally draining, and it’s important to have a support system in place. This can include friends, family, or a therapist who can provide emotional support and guidance. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone and that others have gone through similar experiences.
Seeking help from a therapist or counselor can be an important step in dealing with a covert narcissist. They can help you understand the dynamics of the relationship and provide strategies for coping with the emotional abuse. They can also provide support and guidance as you work through the trauma of the relationship.
Take Care of Yourself
Living with a covert narcissist can take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being. It’s important to make self-care a priority and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This can include exercise, hobbies, or spending time with friends and family.
Consider Your Options
If the relationship becomes unbearable, it may be necessary to consider leaving. It is important to remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and love, and it is not your responsibility to fix or change your partner. Seek professional help and support as you make this difficult decision, as leaving a relationship with a covert narcissist can be challenging.
It’s important to remember that healing and recovery is a process and it may take time. It’s okay to take things one step at a time and to not put pressure on yourself.
Counseling and Therapy
Individual counseling and therapy can be an effective way for victims of covert narcissism to process their experiences and work through the emotional trauma they have suffered. They may also learn coping mechanisms and techniques for dealing with the narcissist in their life.
Support groups can also be a valuable resource for victims of covert narcissism. They may provide a safe space to share their experiences and connect with others who have gone through similar situations. There are many free large online support groups such as /rNarcissisticAbuse on Reddit which has over 130,000 members.
Living with a covert narcissist can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. However, with the right support and resources, victims can work through the trauma they have suffered and begin to heal. It is important for victims to seek help and take steps to protect themselves from further emotional abuse. Remember, it’s not your fault and you don’t have to go through this alone.
Luchner, A. F., Mirsalimi, H., Moser, C. J., & Jones, R. A. (2008). Maintaining boundaries in psychotherapy: Covert narcissistic personality characteristics and psychotherapists. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45(1), 1.
Narcissism and Abuse. (n.d.). The Hotline. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://www.thehotline.org/resources/narcissism-and-abuse/
Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC, D. K. (n.d.). Warning Signs of an Abusive Husband. Warning Signs of an Abusive Husband. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://www.guystuffcounseling.com/counseling-men-blog/bid/28065/warning-signs-of-an-abusive-husbandshow less