Do You Confuse Admiration with Love? Tales of a Covert Narcissist

Written by an Anonymous PsychAlive Contributer

Relationship SkillsA reader who commented on the article “Narcissistic Relationships: the Perils of Loving a Narcissist”  raised an interesting question, “Why would a person go back to a Narcissist?”  His question resonated with something I read recently in Alice Miller’s book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, a statement that may provide an answer to this readers question;  a statement that also had personal meaning for me.  In one chapter, Miller describes the childhood origins of a form of narcissism that is different from the widely recognized Grandiose or Overt Narcissism — a more subtle or covert type of narcissism.   

Every child has a legitimate need to be noticed, understood, taken seriously, and respected by his mother. In the first weeks and months of life he needs to have the mother at his disposal, must be able to avail himself of her and be mirrored by her…the mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and the baby gazes at his mother’s face and finds himself therein…provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being… [if she is not] … the child would find not himself in his mother’s face, would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of his life would be seeking this mirror in vain.

When I read Miller’s words, I realized that I had always longed for my mother to look at me with accepting eyes, to accept me for who I was, without criticism or disapproval. I was painfully aware that I would never get my wish – my mother has been dead for several years now and so I began to feel let down, slightly depressed. And as I read further, I became aware of the important link between depression and the life-long futile search for “mirroring” that many people, including me, unconsciously embark on early in life. The lack of mirroring that Miller wrote about seems to be an important factor contributing to the development of covert narcissism and the quest for someone who might provide the kind of mirroring we missed in growing up.

In my case, I was depressed as a child and adolescent, but enjoyed a brief respite during college and the first year of my marriage. It turns out that my feelings of depression and emptiness are symptomatic of the flip side of Overt Narcissism. I was a counterpart of the more charismatic, grandiose Narcissistic – I was, in fact, a Covert or “Closet” Narcissist, a shy, compliant, and eager-to-please individual who tends to confuse admiration or praise with love.

My own search for mirroring and acceptance began quite early in life.  When I was five, my father, whose warmth and love I briefly basked in, left my mother, an aloof, intellectual and hypercritical woman who hired nannies to care for my sister and me. I had been my father’s favorite, at least that’s what I imagined.  I remember riding on his shoulders through the house and backyard. I was his “little Janie,” waiting patiently at the front door to greet him when he came home from work, to bring him his newspaper, slippers, and robe. As long as I gravitated toward him, I felt what I thought was love coming from him toward me. For my 4th birthday, he gave me a pearl ring, for my 5th, a gold watch – then he was gone and I became depressed.

I was too afraid of my mother’s tirades to look to her for what I longed for and now missed in my father’s absence. I tried to stay out of her way and avoid her criticism and abuse by being an exemplary student, getting mostly A’s in school. At least I could be approved of, or perhaps even admired by her and by other people for my intellect. But mostly I lived in fantasy, entertaining elaborate fantasies in which I was a dedicated assistant to a famous World War II General, always helpful, willing to serve, empathic and intuitively understanding of his struggles. I thrived on the triumph of battles he fought and won.  In real life, I continued to search for a man to serve, to defer to, and to live through his achievements and successes.

In my marriage, I found self-affirmation in the reflected glow of my husband’s successes and accomplishments in the political arena.  As my part of the deal, I provided him with “narcissistic supplies,” by building him up and submerging my own opinions and ideas, keeping the focus on him, his ideas and his opinions, which were, in my mind, far more important than mine. There were times during our marriage when my husband failed to live up to his larger-than-life image. I usually reacted by suppressing the anger and disappointment I felt at the loss of this source of my reflected self-esteem, and withheld my support or praise from him, which only exacerbated my feelings of depression.

There was another “closet” or hidden part to my narcissism. Secretly, I felt superior to certain people, friends and co-workers, who I saw as less intelligent than I imagined myself to be — an attitude that is typically attributed to the grandiose form of narcissism.  Later I learned that my type of narcissism, the “vulnerable or hypersensitive” type is characterized by rejection sensitivity, low self-esteem, constraint, self-consciousness, shyness or social anxiety, the appearance of empathy, as well as shame and depression. According to psychologists Dickenson and Pincus, vulnerable narcissists deny their “underlying expectations of entitlement, [which] leads to brewing anger and hostile outbursts, [and] which are followed by the experience of shame and depression.”

After our divorce, I entered therapy where I came to realize that my problem did not lie with my husband, the trouble lay within me.  I desperately needed to be involved with someone who was “great”, who was “somebody” in order to have a sense of self, some modicum of self-worth. According to Daniel Stern, (The Interpersonal World of the Infant), in the absence of “mirroring” from the mother, the infant’s development of a “core self” can be seriously compromised — that’s partly what had happened to me.

Now to get back to the reader’s question, I believe that the lack of early mirroring on the part of a parent or primary caregiver is one of the major reasons why “a person would go back to a Narcissist.” After my divorce, I remember struggling against a powerful compulsion to become involved with another overt narcissist, someone who needed my build-up, so that he could experience, through me, the mirroring that he may have missed as a child.

Fortunately, at this point my therapist recommended that I read Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, by Robert Firestone, Lisa Firestone and Joyce Catlett. There I learned methods for challenging this compulsion. By working through the journaling exercises, I gradually modified my defensive ways of relating to men, which had included building up a relationship partner, which was a disservice to both of us.

Here are some other insights I gained from reading the book that may be helpful to other people:

  1. Be sensitive to yourself when considering your choice of a partner. Be aware of the seductive charm and charisma of the Overt Narcissist. Look for someone who is not self-centered; someone who is interested in other people and who considers their feelings; someone who is not vain or egotistical. Look for a person who is unassuming and down-to-earth rather than someone who is charismatic or the “life of the party”.
  1. Identify the critical inner voices or destructive thoughts that promote vanity, “You’re smarter, (better, more beautiful) than most other people. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” Also become familiar with thoughts that foster vanity’s down-side, which is low self-esteem: “You’re so unattractive. You’re such a failure. You’ll never amount to anything.” It really clarified my thinking about these two sides of vanity when I worked through the journaling exercises in Chapters 2 and 3 in Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice.
  1. Develop more equality in your relationship – strive to be independent, to say your opinions, don’t hold back your feelings and thoughts, be an equal contributor to the relationship. Guard against slipping into a polarized position, taking on the parent (Overt Narcissistic) role or the child (Covert Narcissistic) role in your relationship.
  1. Realize that every child needs to develop primary self-love and self-compassion as the prelude to developing love for other people. However, as an adult, you no longer need mirroring or acceptance from your parent in order to experience love in your life. It’s also important to be aware that there is a process of grieving to go through as you give up the hope of ever getting what you wanted and needed as a child.
  1. Recognize how Overt and Covert Narcissism function to relieve existential anxiety. Both are a powerful defense against feelings of insignificance and helplessness in the face of a finite existence.

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I really think your therapist is wrong. I’m married to covert narcissist. He is like a cult leader, brain washing and extremely manipulative, controlling and abusive he has no empathy and I think is incapable of unconditional love. It’s all about using, exploiting and draining and getting narcissistic supply. I am an empath, I have people pleaser syndrome and a codependent. It’s a real problem. Search for covert Narcissist on youtube you’ll realize it’s not really what you’re like. They are attracted to people who are naive and vulnerable they are not attracted to overt narcissists!


I too am married to a covert emotional manipulative narcissist. I didn’t know it until I started googling why this wonderful man wouldn’t do anything to change his ‘lack of desire’ for me. He was a porn addict. That’s the only thing he admitted to. After much therapy and no change I recalled me therapist telling me about gas lighting. And that’s where I uncovered the terms covert narcissist and covert manipulators. I was stunned. Putting all the puzzle pieces together while reading about all the tactics they use. Soooo many Aha moments. It was surreal. I realized this man never loved me. No matter how good he appeared. He cared nothing for me and only needed my supply. And I was a good supplier. There are no physical scars on me but the emotional scars I feel I will never recover from. And how difficult it is to explain to those who are closest to us because they only saw how good he was. Good luck to you. I am sorry you are going thru this 🙁


Just finally ending a very long relationship with a covert narc, raised children who, unbeknownst to me, were gas-lighted by her and turned into “flying monkeys” against me because they were told so many horrible lies about me to the point where I was basically the bogey man to my own children. They still believe their mother was the victim and I was the victimizer.


Dear AH….

You’re situation sounds so much like mine… All the Aha moments… I mean, I was stunned. Divorce isn’t always possible either, and since they are the “holy, so loved by everyone” fakers, they would just get their way anyway.

My life has been ruined by my relationship, and what does one do, at my age, when there is no where to go.

The only positive that’s happened in all this time, is after my husband watched the O.J. Simpson special (not the made for T.V. Special), he FINALLY said to me “I think I need help”! Well, after 8 sessions of therapy, my husband has not been back since May. He says he still wants to go though, so I’ll see what happens.

I so wish we could re-live our lives and end up with different people for us, as we deserve love too. My only happiness now, is that I have three successful children, and one amazing grandson, who I love so much, that I’ll never let him grow up to be like his grandad.

I pray for you AH, and send you loving vibes, and the knowledge that you are never alone!

Love to you~~~~~~~~


Me too! Married 13 years to a covert narcissist and had NO IDEA. Since we separated in April and he literally had a serious girlfriend in less than a month that he introduced to our daughter I started figuring it out. And it all suddenly makes sense. I always thought there was a piece missing in him. He was empty. A total shell.

Now I’m reliving the last 13 years from a different perspective and it feels like CPTSD. All the gas lighting has completely screwed with my head.

So glad it’s over. But now I have to heal. And navigate the relationship between him and my daughter.

Good luck to everyone!


You have to stay the course and do the hard work. Mostly though you have to forgive yourself for not seeing clearly sooner.
One of the things I found most appalling was whenever I had an accident or a serious emotional situation n my life my partner has consistently not been “There For ME”. Which to me is shocking because to me that’s so important in a relationship. If your partner isn’t a strength for you when your down and struggling with an overwhelming “life circumstance” then what good are they really? You may as well be alone! And on the flip side you’re doing backflips when the tables reverse to be there 300% and you might be thinking yourself making excuses for your partner thinking bad upbringing and poor parent figures or whatever and thinking they’ll see and feel your actions and efforts and realize that “That is the right way to be supportive to be your partners rock in time of need” because you were just so totally there for them and supportive and then a few years pass and something happens again you need them and bam same total lack of empathy, compassion, emotional support… just ZERO. UHHHHGGGGGGG. 🙁
I wonder if I’m the only one who’s experienced this phenomena? Of course the other signs are there too. You give them a wide berth and eventually you catch them in a lie. Having been so naive to just trust without question you then, totally shaken by this reality, start to pay closer attention and realize there lots of lies, half truths, manipulations, guilt trips, gaslighting… it’s all very demoralizing but the biggest flag is how it’s “ALWAYS ABOUT THEM” constantly day in and day out. Me Me Me Me Me and your needs are unimportant and your feelings minimized and your consistently trampled emotionally.
Some say when evaluating a partners behavior ask yourself would you want your child to be treated like this?
I wish you all the best in your healing. Love yourself a little today. Start right now!!!

Nicola Jasmine Sykes

Oh my goodness… This resonates with me.
I have been in a relationship with a man for 18 years who does what he wants, is very entitled, porn, wasting money, alcoholic secret drinking, he even took my centrelink children’s payment off me to stop me complaining about that he wasn’t working or paying for anything when our kids were little. He set up a business under my name and didn’t pay tax. I found out a few years later that I owed the tax Dept $6000. I had no inkling until they rang and said I owed them all this money. He blamed it on me and said it was from the job I had at the time.
His mother is an alcoholic and sends me nasty texts and rings then hangs up the phone, tells me I’m bitter for not wanting to speak to her anymore. (She organized to take the kids out one day and turned up intoxicated).
When ever I bring up a legitimate issues with him (above issues) he screams at me and blames me, cries, denies everything and says I’m the one with the issues and that I’m ungrateful and that he’s not the bad guy. (Villan in his words).
I told him 18 months ago I wanted to leave and he went on an alcohol bender and head butted a big hole in the bedroom wall. He is also very passive aggressive, spends and drinks excessively, ignores people including our children. No body speaks to us in our community. People cross the road when they see me. If only the knee how I felt internally. All mixed up, terrified, confused and stunted.
I’m terrified of leaving and feel trapped. I feel like I’m the one with the issues cause on the other hand he takes us all away for a weekend and everything is perfect and he pays for everything and is sweet as pie. I think maybe I am just ungreatful and that I have some sort of personality disorder. I’ve never been so confused and alone. I’ve become sooo isolated. I feel like an empty shell.

Naazia Syed

You poor soul. That’s classic gaslighting right there – you’ve been made to feel like you’re the crazy one. Please, please, please see a psychologist or counsellor. It might seem expensive but it will be worth it in the end, or try a university training psychologist (they’re usually free or cheap).


I write as a psychology graduate as well as person who was very recently in a relationship with a man I am quite sure is on the pathological narcissism spectrum, and much more towards the covert/anxious/vulnerable expression. I want to tell people who are finding out about Covert Narcissism, to be very weary about Youtube, even though it has a lot of useful information and where I initially understood what was going on.
BUT most of the people who post on YouTube are angry and traumatized, because abuse is painful and many people have been scarred after years and years of being tricked and manipulated. I understand they would be, but there is a very alarmist and negative feel, as well as many bits of subjective, incomplete or mos-information presented as if it were facts. Narcissists are depicted as demons, evil and beyond any hope for improvement. Yet they are human beings, with deep emotional scars themselves, and even though there is no excuse for their abuse, understanding where their behaviour comes from will definitely help healing faster than learning why “you are a victim”. After all the power of LOVE is also what keeps empaths wanting to care and supply for the narcissist. Rather than being a victim of an abuser, you are the victim of a need to love and be loved. And if you are a loving person, you will naturally orient towards the ones who need love THE MOST. And as twisted the situations that this puts us in sometimes, as blind as we can become to our own self-care, we find fulfilment in them as well. Yet if you are googling this now, if you have “aha” clarity moments when reading about narcissistic abuse and manipulation, it means that it’s time for you to detach from something that your body and mind recognizes as toxic, as not SAFE. Now it is time to reset and understand and do what’s best for YOU, even if it breaks your heart and theirs. It’s a hard process, but being conscious of it is the first step. I recommend reading EVIDENCE-BASED articles instead (or as well), to work with a therapist if you can afford it, to share some findings with your partner (even if it gets them angry), to TRUST yourself, to find someone who will listen to you without judging, and without needing to understand. Then while you develop self-love and boundaries, you’re allowed to have compassion for this person, whom you probably love regardless of their psychological shortcomings. I left the narcissistic relationship I was in because I had understood, but it took a couple back and forth. At some point, we had mirrored each other so much that I believed I could be the one who’s the narcissist. But then seeking help in itself doesn’t make me a very good Narc (: It’s still hard some days, but I’ve got to have my own back now. Accept that you have become addicted, and that recovery to finding your true wellbeing, path and purpose is possible, with a little help. Stop hiding behind your love mission, and remember that this is an OPPORTUNITY for you to get back into alignment. If you do go to YouTube, I highly recommend Teal Swan (especially the videos “why can’t I leave the relationshop” and “narcissism”) and Dr Ted Grande who has some evidence based examples and a bit more objective in his approach. Remember that this is your own journey to figure out your own truth before accepting anybody else’s. Humans are all unique and connections as well. Find humour, STAY SAFE, and enjoy the rest of your life (even if there’s a moment of storm to endure). IF you’re the narcissist in this and have recently understood because you lost too much, do seek help, THERE ARE therapies that have proven to better people’s conditions, you deserve to be happy and loved as you are. You just haven’t learned to do that without hurting others, it is not your fault what happened in childhood, but you will never be happy until you find that child and become your own adult. It is NEVER too late to learn, IF there’s a genuine desire. Peace to you, and good luck

Jenn Martineau

You’re one of the only people in my research, that brings awareness to the fact that the covert narcissist is almost always painted as a monster. The hardest part of my own healing has been to walk away from the genuine parts of him that I was friends with for a full 8 years before we were ever involved romantically. I did not provide him with supply back then. So, I know there is a part of him that is a victim to his own demons. To walk away from someone whom I know to be suffering seems heartless and selfish. I feel completely helpless to help the man I’ve loved for 20 years. Its hard for me to accept defeat and turn my back as he drowns. But I also can’t let him break me down any farther. Its the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.


Thank you so much for this. It’s been so hard leaving someone who I love so much but is destroying me, and having my loved ones insist on me leaving him and not caring about him. Your post made me feel a little bit better.

Trenay Hansen

You make some very good points!! Thank you for sharing your experience, knowledge and advice!!
I love that you mentioned the fact [that is all too easy for some victims, myself included, to not think about], is that something in us made us drawn to the relationship and also stay in it.
Your words are very uplifting and what so many of us needed to hear. You are truly inspiring. <3<3<3

On another note :p
I totally agree with you about youtube having some users posting videos about covert narcs that contain more of their opinions then actual facts, which just aids in spreading misconceptions or just flat out destructive views.

I also watch Dr. Grande and he is awesome.
Idk if you (or anyone else who may happen to read this)have seen his video titled
"Vulnerable Narrasissitic Abuse"
but if you havent I highly recommend it.

**(Dr. Grande calls it vulnerable instead of covert narcissism)

Denise Rodriguez

I agree with you. Reading your post I was shocked at how much I relate to your relationship, I feel sick. I too think of my husband as a cult leader. I hope you have found peace and love. God bless you


Just maybe, Natasha, we need to find the strength to face exactly what we are even if we feel stigmatised. It’s a pittance compared to what we’ve made everyone else feel like.


Well, you know yourself better than anyone, but I find it hard to believe that you’re really a covert narcissist. Covert narcissists are quietly self-serving and lack the empathy that would be required to write an article like this one, which will help many. I was raised by one overt and one covert narcissist. It took me a very long time to understand that my mother, the covert narcissist, cared only about herself. She hid it well. I didn’t want to know, as it felt safer not to think that both of my parents were monsters.

You sound very much like a co-dependent, which is a very typical outcome from having been raised by narcissistic parents. I understand the feelings you’ve experienced them and I have experienced them myself – the terror of being all alone and defenseless in a world where your parents don’t love you and your attachment style is disorganized or poor. It’s empowering to imagine that your secretly smarter and better than others and that this will keep you safe. I suspect you know that truth about that though, and a narcissist would not be able to deal with it. That being said, this is an excellent and informative article and I couldn’t agree more with the five points you lay out at the end. I’m glad that you found a helpful therapist, as no one deserves the childhoods we endured.


I don’t get it. My inner voice isn’t critical of me but of those I’m surrounded by at the least. Most of the time though I am oblivious of others to be too critical of them. Usually I’m too eager to communicate with others which causes people to become irritated of me and judge me pompous. So how the hell do you fix that? I understand the mirroring aspect since I can never mirror back any proper way to communicate that allows me any form of emotion connection with anyone.


Sounds like you’ve had a tough go in life ongoing which has lead you to be self absorbed. Your just overwhelmed with it all maybe searching in vein for answers and looking/hoping for happiness? You have no issues talking to people so you are outgoing but you feel others respond negatively…? So tone it down. Let others start a conversation if they decide to and if not then so be it… if you talked to a person who didn’t want to talk they’re probably reacting to that wanting to not be bothered which they probably see your outgoingness as bothersome so they respond negatively?? Or are your comments devisive and off putting? I have a dog and one of the hardest concepts for him to understand is that everyone he meets doesn’t want to greet him warmly or greet him at all! Can you relate?
I should think just listening patiently and nodding expressing empathy should get you headed right regarding mirroring but I don’t know. Maybe try social media and get your strokes that way…act like a horses a$$ like everyone else and never have to get too close? That’s the modern paradigm is it not?


The cognition behind this piece is haywire.

I concur with the comment by “Julia,” dated Feb. 19, 2015.

The symptoms described in the piece are, in general, far more consistent with co-dependency traits than narcissistic ones. Although aspects of both conditions can overlap in some cases, they don’t necessarily or always do.

A very muddled piece, which has no business ‘appearing’ as a serious article. It belongs under a comment section, as one person’s individual experience. It should NOT be presented as something credible written by a qualified psychologist, LCSW, LMFT, etc., which, given its highly confused view, is a disservice to readers.

Nevertheless, good luck to anyone who is sincere and genuinely, honestly dedicated to healing, repairing, and integrating the fragmented pieces inside, and for the better.


It is possible for a covert narcissist and an overt one to get into a roller coaster relationship trying to fill their needs like the one described in the article. However, if you are manipulated to feel guilt and concern by a narcissist, you are more likely a co-dependent person who needs a stable parent figure and a narcissist has found you. Narcissistic relationships can be confusing. Often both people will want to get praise, security and ego gratification from each other and co-dependency will result between two narcissists.

I tend to become easily used by narcissists. I also find that American culture worships the narcissistic personality type. In the atmosphere I grew up in this type of person was viewed as “successful.” A narcissist can derive superiority from being talented and an overachiever– an intellectual, artist, poet, therapist, writer — someone with a PhD, etc. I have friends like this. I was taught to seek out the company of overachievers, rather than seeking out people with whom I could genuinely share love. The culture I grew up in devalued love. It valued money, genius, material success and accomplishment instead.

You can test a person this way: do they always want you to play a lesser role? Do they subtly want you to serve their ego, not your own? A narcissist can approach making this happen in many different ways. You won’t notice at first. But eventually, you will end up off balance with this person. They use subtle means to rope you in. They will praise you. They will be charming and intelligent, but focus all the energy on you. Initially your friendship will be exciting and wonderful. But this goes out the window once they get the hook in you. One day you realize you are no longer an equal in the relationship. You started to depend on their attention (which people have every right to do in friendships). But a narcissist will withhold it. It is Pavlovian training: they dole it out when it serves their purposes. You are the child who is fed only when you are pleasing to mommy and daddy. You start to sense that part of you isn’t welcome — the part that doesn’t suit the narcissist. (Usually this is an important part, the part that has your own needs!) You cannot have a down-to-earth, straightforward relationship with this person. They turn the world around so you are always on the lower rung. You loved them, opened up to them, thus giving them all this material to work with. They will turn it around at you. Point out you are insecure, have “problems”, need therapy — whatever works for them. They will make you apologize for your own needs, for being who you are — and you start to feel disgusted with yourself. But you also feel obligated for their feelings.

Yet narcissists are very tricky because they sometimes truly have positive qualities that people love. They are not always pure evil. They offer some things you want in your life, but with the dangerous price tag. They are likable but self-interested politicians, not above using human beings to gain their power and control. They will share your secrets with others to serve their own needs. When they sense you are catching on, they start praising you again — and use love and concern to reel you back. But there is no real objective. It is a game intended to keep the status quo going.

Some of the most dangerous narcissists I have met are therapists. It is easy for someone to use this role to feed off clients who they can keep in a more vulnerable role. Therapy can be used like a Venus flytrap. You experience your own inner strength and power getting sucked away from you in that kind of session. I have a therapist who is not like this, but I also have encountered three covert narcissist therapists. That is something to be aware of.

Kaleb St Clair

oh my god trust me they do not change… I’ve been through hell and back with a covert overt narcissist for seven years and they have not even attempt to make any changes all they have done is take risks and done nothing more than destroyed my life and everything around me…… remember that’s why they are called covert they’re sneaky their stealth and they are losers

Kaleb St Clair

they can sit with a therapist all day long everyday of the week every day of the year they are sneaky they are stealth they are impossible to deal with anyone that read this believe me trust me know and prove it if you want to put yourself through that do so but it is going to be a complete sheer waste of nothing more than energy time money cheating lying pornography so on and so on and so on your life will be a dreadful hell


I’d agree. Just trying to sort out the manipulations, half truths and full on lies will twist a reasonable person into an emotional knot. You might even garner all your evidence and attempt to “pin them down” but they’ll just mindfuck you into oblivion. Others have said attempting to reason with one of these is futile and demoralizing and that’s been my experience. Your attempts at making the relationship healthy will likely be met with wrath and punishment silent treatment, them ignoring you and no sex you’ll think a hard breakup is forthcoming but them after a period of time they’ll reel you back in and you’ll be literally begging for any scraps of affection or emotional consideration from these imposters and they’ll give you just enough to hook you back in cause I’m sure they sense your getting ready to head out of the BS relationship yourself and then it’s repeat repeat repeat same cycle of emotional abuse,withholding affection, making you think you are the problem and the guilty one etc… while they covertly go on serving their own needs 300% behind your back with other more entertaining sources of supply or whatever keeping you forever on the hook and miserable unfulfilled and mind****ed into oblivion!

Rune Fardal

The writer sounds more like a codependent…not a covert narcissist. Writing like this show self insight, covert does not have that.


I am a covert narcissist and have behaved terribly in my 37 years on earth and have hurt people emotionally along the way and believe it or not, I’m trying to get help now. So I was excited to finally find a covert narcissists own perspective and sharing their struggles with us, but alas, I too believe this person is a classic co-dependant. My suffering partner of two years will attest.

It is great to see that their are plenty of support groups and forums for victims of people like myself, ever since my wonderfully strong girlfriend held a mirror up to my face and I finally saw myself for what I was and what I’d done I was then able to start taking accountability for everything that’s gone wrong in my life and stop blaming others. I still need a lot of help and although I’ve improved ten fold their is a long road ahead us. But where can I find such help? I have so far failed to find one site offering advice for those wanting to change.

Covert Narcississts are the lost souls that people have long given up on. We are the devil incarnate and to be avoided at all costs and our victims (sometimes justifiably) would have us all rounded up and dumped on some far away island never to emotionally or physically harm another fabulous, empathetic, generous and genuine woman or man on this planet. They all feel misunderstood, but maybe in a way, they truly are. Remember, these destroyers of people’s lives were once victims too as children.

We manipulate and take for our own self gratfication because this is how we were taught to survive at a young age and I don’t fully believe that we all intend to hurt people or realise when we’re doing it, especially the ones we love. It’s just in our nature and no one has faith in us to change. What if we could do just that?

I don’t think we should all be ostracised and hopefully the way we look at sufferers and not just their suffering partners can change overtime. So I will continue to seek help and the first step will be through therapy. Perhaps one day I might even buck the trend and write a book to help others. God knows just one of us needs to follow through with something once in our life.


Brett, I recommend you read some of Dr Craig Malkin’s articles and, from what I can gather, his book “Rethinking Narcissism” would answer some of your questions. He believes that it is possible for narcissists to change if they truly want to.

Kimathi Moore

Brett, I personally disagree entirely on those with Naricissistic PDisorder not being able to heal. Of course it’s possible in my opinion. It does require a great deal of self reflection and learning how to identify, acknowledge then substitute your innermost limited beliefs about yourself, e.g. ‘unto myself I’m not much’ or ‘i need others to sustain myself’, ‘my idealized version of myself is better than who I really am’.
DBT has proven successful with Borderline Personality Disorder, but to begin with this could be beneficial for someone with NPD. However, with Narcissism the first thing I believe is to be able to not over identify with the emotion of rage when one faces critique, in fact for N’s the goal is to become acquainted with a more real belief that verbal critique cannot harm your identity or harm your personality for that matter.

Hopeful Empath

Brett I really appreciate what you say here. Thank for the courage. I have been married to a covert narcissist for nearly 23 years and always knew there was something deeply wrong but I never knew he was a narcissist. I have just discovered everything through a long lost friend who heard my story and and said my husband fits the profile. We are the classic textbook empath/covert narcissist couple. I want to ask if you could share lore about what exactly your girlfriend did to show you in the mirror and what made you really see. I believe that is the important part. I believe my husband would want to change if he could see. But he stays blind and in this game of smoke and mirrors and blaming me. Can you give me some insight? Because I have hope. But I am so weary and my 4 kids are suffering. Thank you!!!


Successful intensive psychotherapy can and does exist. People with severe limitations to mirroring/empathy can learn how this effects their relationships (to self and others), grieve their painful early primary relationships, and develop new experiences/capacities to authentically relate..


Unfortunately at a younge age of 16 I have expirenced some of the worst mind games and physical abuse they can cause it good to know I’m not crazy and there are others like me


I can’t work out whether I or my partner (or both) are covert narcissists. Though I can’t put my finger on in what way, I know my parents were both some form of narcissist. I’m certainly self-critical, perfectionistic, and have an idealized version of myself which is an internal yardstick for my self-worth. I’m also incredibly sensitive to criticism from my partner, and find it hard to take a joke. I often fluctuate into criticising her for not showing/supplying enough love to me (clearly I have low self-esteem neediness issues). But, at the same time she rarely makes sacrifices on my behalf, often hiding behind her anxiety in order to avoid having to do social things with me. I also feel like she doesn’t show small personal actions of love to me. Lots of people on here are talking about diagnosing their own partners – but where can I go for FREE therapy or guidance online if I myself am a covert narcissist?


umm so I recently found out im a covert narcissists… I can say from my experiences that I have every symptom but no its not black and white there’s a lot of grey areas and no I feel like I was truly the victim and everything that was wrong in my life was the other persons fault but like my ex boyfriend… I’ve only had two in my life and I guess without knowing I did blame him a lot and spent most of my relationship with him being upset over everything but he was very good at cheering me up. I would cause little fights just to be admired. he’s a great person and we remained friends and I believe in God and I knew something was off so when I broke up with my first ex to be with my second one I prayed that I fall in love with him slowly which actually happened and I asked him if he could be the one strong enough to change me. and yes he is by not letting me manipulate him (I do it without really thinking about it all I know is that I want his attention and to be adored and for everything to go my way) if he didn’t start to pull away I wouldn’t have fallen for him, I’ve never fallen for anyone before and I’ve known him since I was 15 years old during the time of my extremely abusive childhood so I guess I’ve always let him in my heart. I’ve always wanted a relationship with my mom but I can’t cause I can’t be around her short temper and always negative thinking. I can literally feel it weigh on me with her negative vibes. I’ve “replaced” my mom with every childhood friends mom and they gladly excepted me but still I feel like im constantly searching for a mom. my mom has done so much damage that im upset to even want to try with her. I believe that being a Christian since I was 11 and I honestly believe I would be a lot worse and never see what im doing wrong. if I didn’t have my ex basically break my heart then I would still think it was all his fault. he still truly cares for me and says it everytime he comes over to visit his kids which gives me so much hope (for the millionth time us breaking up in 3 years) if you think people can’t change watch me prove them wrong 😁 cause I aint going to be no monster haha there’s sooo many things I found out about how my thinking is different than others and now I want to focus on how to think in the right way and the first step is not being the victim and admit my wrongs… I have a lot of questions about myself but I can always answer questions to help people understand. I like helping

here’s my email incase someone needs answers [email protected]


To anyone looking for more content about covert narcs, there are 2 mental health professionals that I strongly recommend, both on YouTube.

#1 Doctor Ramani
She has a lot of good videos  She is quite well known in her field for her work on overt narcs, but she has some very informative and helpful videos on covert narc’s too that I highly recommend.
In particular she has a 3 part Covert Narcissist video “series” where she goes very in depth explaining what a covert is, why they do what they do and how they treat and abuse the people closest to them, whether it be a partner or family member.

#2 Dr.Todd Grande

The video of his that helped me the most was a video titled
“10 Signs of Vunerable Narcissistic Abuse”
(He calls it vunerable instead of covert)

Watching both Dr. Grande and Dr. Ramanis videos explaining the exact type of abuse coverts use on their victims, aided me TREMENDOUSLY in fully breaking up and letting go of the covert boyfriend I was dating, and had been for a little over a year. Admittedly i actually watched ALL their videos on coverts, lol.
Having a name for what the covert does(or did)is not only very validating but it is also healing in a way. It made it a lot harder for me justify or excuse my covert exes abuse after learning the exact tactics, why coverts engage in them and what their likely goal/ motive is.
It makes the covert totally transparent which results in you becoming less susceptible to their manipulation and abusive treatment because you see it exactly for what it is.


My life was recently upended by my fiancé whom I believe to be a covert narcissist. For 2 solid years he was my best friend & all that I had ever ask God for. I was a 47 year old, divorced, single mom with a 10 year old daughter when he and I met. He and I met on a dating website. I was not physically attracted to him, but I loved his heart. (or what I believed to be a good heart) he was so patient & kind and after several weeks I finally let him meet my daughter (I am very guarded when it comes to my daughter, in the 9 years that it was just the 2 of us she only met 2 men I ever dated and this narcissist was one of them). What followed was 2 of the best years of my entire life- I was spoiled, doted on & felt like I was placed on a pedestal, to the point that I was almost embarrassed at all the compliments & attention. My thinking was ‘wow, it’s amazing to have found someone that actually thinks I’m wonderful too’ but at the same time I recall thinking that it seemed overboard to the point of feeling insincere with all the syrupy sweetness (but I was not going to complain, I had finally found my one & only). A year into our perfect relationship he proposed to me. Looking back, the proposal had an oddness to it that I felt at the time, but dismissed- he proposed to me on the day my ex husband remarried- I’m happy for my ex, he and I have remained friends since our divorce, but getting engaged on his wedding day felt weird. The night he proposed he took me to a fast food, hot dog restaurant & when we returned home he hollered from the kitchen ‘do you love me? I was playing a game on my cell phone and replied ‘of course, you know I do’ and I look up from my phone and he’s standing there with a ring. This man was extremely romantic and paid attention to every detail….but he half proposed from the kitchen while I was playing a game on my phone, after taking me to a hot dog joint on the day my ex husband remarried.
It had an impulsive, unplanned feel to it, but again, I was just happy to have him in my life. Six months after the proposal getting him to help me plan for the wedding is like pulling teeth, I can’t get him to help chose colors, venues, get involved or help in paying deposits etc. The next thing is I notice his family is acting strange to me, they aren’t all smiles and hugs as they once were, but maybe it’s just me? All his family lives 1.5 hours from where I/ we lived and I had not been around them and knew I couldn’t possibly have done anything to upset anyone, except the tension I was feeling from his parents, siblings and his 2 adult children was becoming so thick it was undeniable. He denied noticing anything was amiss – long story short, I read a text message he sent to his daughter in which he said I was angry that he was texting her- I was stunned, he was saying things that was completely untrue and encouraging angry comments from her and then agreeing !!!
I was crushed, shocked and angry and confronted him about it….. 4 days later while I was at work he text me that he couldn’t trust me and could not live with me and let me know he had moved all his things out. That was 3 months ago and I’m still reeling from the pain, confusion, triangulation and stonewalling (we tried briefly to ‘work it out’ but that was a new lesson in emotional cruelty that I had never seen in him) I believe him to be a covert narcissist- early in our relationship (2 weeks into dating) he suddenly blocked my phone number after misinterpreting a text from me- I was panicked that I had met someone I genuinely liked and that a silly misread text messed it up….I see now that it was a test to see how vested I was and in what reaction he would get. I’m learning, but not all covert narcissists are the same- lots of articles titled ‘signs you’re dealing with covert narcissist’ did not apply to him, but many of his behaviors fall right in line with covert narcissism. I sit here on edge, hoping with everything in me that one day he will return & bring the color back into my black and white world but at the same time I also hope I never hear from him again because I know how the story eventually ends again and again, yet I am still afraid that I would fall weak. I’m planning to look into some of the suggested videos/ books suggested here in hopes of finding healing.


Look up professor Sam Vaknin on YouTube and see if his interpretations resonates. It certainly did for me. I wish you all the best.

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