10 warning signs you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist

Are you questioning the dynamics of your relationship? Wondering if you’ve mistakenly entered a relationship with a narcissist unsure of the signs?

It’s important to understand that not all narcissists come across as self-centered or overtly domineering. 

Some wear a cloak of subtlety, operating behind the scenes: these are the covert narcissists. 

To help you navigate this tricky terrain, here are ten warning signs that you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist.

1) They always play the victim

Covert narcissists have a knack for flipping situations to make it appear like they’re the victim. 

And while anyone can have a bad day or feel mistreated at times, covert narcissists constantly portray themselves as victims. 

It’s a strategic move, designed to deflect attention from their own toxic behavior and to elicit sympathy.

Isn’t it puzzling that the same misfortune always seems to befall them? 

Always take a step back and view the larger picture when your partner seems to perpetually find themselves on the receiving end of injustice. 

This could be a signal of their covert narcissism.

2) They lack empathy

One of the hallmarks of a covert narcissist is their startling lack of empathy

They seem incapable of understanding or sharing the feelings of others. 

Often, they may come across as slightly disconnected or aloof, especially in situations that require emotional comprehension and participation.

For example: 

You share with your partner about a difficult day you’ve had, expecting understanding or comfort. 

Instead, they seem indifferent, quickly changing the subject to something else, completely disregarding your feelings.

When empathy is consistently missing from a relationship, it’s a telling sign. It may not be obvious, but it’s a crucial clue to uncovering the covert narcissist.

3) Passive-aggressive behavior

Covert narcissists are experts in passive-aggressive behavior. 

They use this tool to control, manipulate, and cause psychological harm, often without seeming overtly hostile. 

It’s not about open conflict with them, but subtle comments, backhanded compliments, or neglect that slowly erodes your self-esteem.

In other words, it’s sly and sneaky.

If you’re feeling belittled or undermined but can’t quite put your finger on why, you may be dealing with a covert narcissist. 

Observe their behavior patterns. Over time, passive-aggressiveness emerges as a consistent, destructive force in the relationship.

4) They are overly sensitive

Here’s the scenario:

You gently point out a minor mistake your partner made, expecting them to acknowledge and correct it. 

Instead, they react defensively, perhaps even accusing you of always criticizing them. You’re taken aback, confused as to why they’ve reacted in such an extreme way. 

Here’s the thing – covert narcissists tend to be hypersensitive to criticism. 

Even the slightest hint of disapproval or disagreement can result in them lashing out or withdrawing into a sulk. 

It’s a paradox, considering their tendency to hurt others, that they react so defensively to perceived slights.

Are you constantly walking on eggshells around your partner, fearful of upsetting them with a casual remark or constructive criticism? 

If so, this kind of fear-based interaction is a classic sign that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

5) They avoid responsibility

When things go wrong, a covert narcissist is never to blame. 

They’re experts at dodging responsibility and shifting blame onto others. It’s always someone else’s fault – never theirs.

Do you often find yourself shouldering the blame for issues in the relationship, even when you’re certain it’s not your fault? 

If your partner consistently avoids taking responsibility, it’s time to question their motives.

Not only is this highly unfair, but it’s incredibly draining to deal with someone who can’t take accountability for themselves. 

6) They’re highly judgmental

things that show youre intuitive 10 warning signs you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist

If you constantly feel judged and belittled, or if your partner always seems to focus on the negatives, this could be another red flag. 

Covert narcissists are often extremely judgmental of others. 

They have a knack for pointing out others’ faults and failings, sometimes under the guise of “constructive criticism”. 

Here’s an example:

Your partner regularly points out your flaws and makes negative comments about your friends or family. For instance, they might say, “Your friend Sarah is so lazy, how can you stand her?”

This behavior serves a dual purpose: it undermines the self-esteem of the victim and bolsters the narcissist’s feeling of superiority.

Remember, everyone has flaws, but constant criticism isn’t normal or healthy.

7) They are controlling

Behind the seemingly harmless facade of a covert narcissist lies an insatiable need for control. 

You might not have noticed this when you first met them, but over time it’ll become obvious. 

That’s because they subtly manipulate situations and people to have things their way. 

Covert narcissists exert their control in an underhand way, making it difficult to recognize unless you know what to look for.

So, are you slowly losing autonomy in your relationship

If your partner is dictating your decisions, friendships, or lifestyle choices, it’s time to pause and reflect. 

And remember – controlling behavior, narcissistic or not, is a form of abuse, and something you should never tolerate. 

8) They’re always right

Does your partner always have to be right? Do they dismiss your thoughts and opinions? 

Picture this:

You and your partner have a disagreement about a movie plot. 

Even when you fact-check and prove them wrong, they refuse to concede, and perhaps even accuse you of trying to belittle them.

Here’s the thing to remember – in the eyes of a covert narcissist, they can do no wrong. 

They believe they’re always right, and any suggestion to the contrary is met with denial, defensiveness, and even anger. 

Rational discussions or arguments are practically impossible because they won’t acknowledge other perspectives.

9) Their emotional needs take precedence

In a relationship with a covert narcissist, their emotional needs will always take precedence. 

It’s sad to say, but you’ll always come second. 

Their problems are always more significant, their pain is always deeper, and their needs are always more urgent. 

It’s a one-sided emotional exchange, and you’re always giving more than you receive.

This can be incredibly draining. A healthy relationship should consist of two people who both value and prioritize each other, as well as themselves. 

10) They engage in gaslighting

And finally, covert narcissists are masters of manipulation, and one of their favorite tools is gaslighting. 

They distort your perception of reality, making you question your memories, judgment, and sanity. 

It’s an insidious form of mental and emotional abuse that’s hard to recognize.

So, think about it:

Does your partner frequently dismiss your feelings or memories as incorrect? 

Are they manipulating your reality? 

If you find yourself doubting your own mind, you may be experiencing gaslighting – a significant warning sign of a covert narcissist.

How to deal with a covert narcissist 

Now you should have a better idea of whether you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist. You may already be running for the hills or you may be considering how to make things work if possible…

Here are a few tips to help you out: 

  • Set boundaries: Establish and maintain clear boundaries about what is acceptable behavior. Be firm about these limits and let your partner know when they’ve crossed them.
  • Maintain your self-esteem: Protect your self-esteem. Engage in activities that boost your confidence and remind you of your worth outside the relationship.
  • Don’t take it personally: Try to view the narcissist’s behavior as a reflection of their personality disorder, rather than about you personally. This can help you detach emotionally.
  • Seek support: Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself. Sharing your experiences with others can provide much-needed perspective.
  • Practice self-care: Invest time and energy in self-care activities. This could include exercising, meditating, or pursuing a hobby. It’s important to keep your physical and mental health in check.
  • Educate yourself: Learn more about narcissism and how it influences behavior. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the situation.
  • Professional help: Consider seeking professional help. Therapists and counselors trained in dealing with narcissistic behavior can provide valuable tools and strategies.
  • Reevaluate the relationship: If the relationship is causing you consistent distress, it might be worth considering if it’s healthy or beneficial for you. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being and walk away if necessary.

Remember, dealing with a covert narcissist can be challenging. It’s essential to safeguard your mental health and well-being throughout the process.

Kiran Athar

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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