It can be quite easy to spot an overt narcissist in a crowded room. They go out of their way to be seen for their appearance, share interesting stories to seek admiration, stir up energy about their accomplishments to receive compliments, and the list goes on…
But, then there is the covert narcissist who plays it coy when they are out mingling or engaging in an intimate conversation. They tend to lack the grandiose sense of self by being subtle about their moves by being shy, withdrawn, and self-deprecating. However, they still believe they are better than other people, especially their romantic partner.
What is narcissism? Here are a few traits to look out for:
Grandiose sense of self-importance
Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions
Needs constant praise and admiration
Has a sense of self-entitlement
Exploits others for their own fame and fortune without guilt
Exaggerates their accomplishments and talents
Lacks empathy for others
Seeks reassurance for their vanity
While the covert narcissist seems less forward about their actions, they still have a similar goal as the overt narcissist. They have a deep desire to be admired for their importance, just at a slower speed or volume.
Think as if you are playing an old love song on the record player. The overt narcissist will want to crank up the volume to be known they are having a good time. Whereas the covert narcissist will play the same song but the volume doesn’t have to be loud. The song stays the same as they both want to have a good time to seek out admiration for their choice of music, but the level of volume differentiates between the two subtypes.
How does one form narcissism? It comes from unresolved childhood trauma and abuse before the age of five based on parents or caregivers not being able to meet the child’s basic needs for healthy psychological development. It doesn’t have to be negative trauma either, whether the child is overly pampered or emotionally neglected, you end up with the same type of person. Typically, one parent of the child has some form of narcissism themselves which is why a child ends up taking on their personality traits, behaviors, and temperament throughout their romantic relationships.
So, how do you know if you are in a relationship with a covert narcissist?
Here Are 5 Behaviors You Will Notice With Your Covert Partner:
1. Passive Sense of Superiority
The covert narcissist believes they are better than their partner, but they don’t outright say it. While they seek admiration and attention, they do it by keeping their partner on the hook by giving just a little bit of what they need only to make their partner beg for more. Their actions are quite passive-aggressive and will even use backhanded compliments to seek superiority over their partner.
Often they stray away from emotional intimacy because it's better to keep their partner at arm's length distance which gives them a sense of unattainability to be chased and admired by their partner. Because of this nature, they can be experts at lying, charming their way through arguments, and mastering manipulation to achieve an outcome in their favor.
2. Difficulties with Intimate Relationships or Work
They struggle to maintain personal relationships with a partner or colleagues at work because they are in a ME mindset and solely self-centered with their needs. The covert loves to create confusion with their partner by creating power struggles to keep their partner pinning for their love. When it comes to relationship problems, they will often blame their partner for the issues and take zero responsibility for their part. Accountability is something that is quite foreign to them.
Coverts make their partner question themselves or second-guess their decisions by playing mind games. It’s another way for them to create leverage and one-up their partner to fulfill their sense of superiority. This is how they maintain power in the connection making you feel less valuable as a partner. By exploiting you, it creates another window of opportunity for manipulation and control. With that being said, they attract heart-centered partners who are loving, compassionate, and caring who can be easily persuaded by their words and actions.
When it comes to working, they will not perform job responsibilities that they believe are below them. In fact, they can struggle to maintain jobs or working relationships because they have a sense of entitlement that drives them to only perform tasks that are suitable in their eyes.
They tend to operate on conditional terms in love or business, as they only do what is convenient for them on their timeline. For example, they may wait hours to respond to a simple text message, days to respond to an email, cancel plans last minute, or even simply stand you up with a lame excuse the following day. And most of the time when it comes to gift-giving, they do it for a sense of control or to buy themselves time. It’s rarely about being generous and more about them doing it for their own ego and personal goal.
3. Avoids Social Situations Like The Plague
Since the covert narcissist has more introvert-like qualities, they tend to avoid social situations because they believe they are above others or fearful someone will see their weaknesses. They like to keep a low profile of mysteriousness because this is what makes them intriguing to others and especially their partner.
On the flip side, they tend to envy others, including their partner, who have it all together because they are constantly comparing themselves to others. While you wouldn't be able to tell, they actually have low self-esteem which makes them even jealous of their partner. In fact, many times if they do attend a social gathering they will not invite their partner so they can be admired by their friends and family like the prized child.
4. Sensitive to Constructive Criticism
The narcissist has a shallow disposition which makes them more sensitive to criticism or responsibilities for their part in the relationship. While on the outside they can appear calm, cool, and collected, internally they aren’t able to process their emotions keeping them on the surface. Having an underdeveloped sense of self keeps them from feeling worthy of love or success, even though they would rarely say or show it.
If their partner makes a joke about something the covert hasn’t fully accepted about themselves, it can cause them to play the victim by either stonewalling or making their partner feel guilty for even saying a word. In other words, they will make their partner pay the price for being playful even if the covert started the playful banter first.
Everything needs to be on their terms so they can dictate the direction of the relationship and maintain control at all times. They tend to lack empathy or mutual understanding with their partner because they are emotionally neglectful of themselves and the relationship. Because the covert is self-consumed, they are unlikely to be responsive to their partner’s needs unless they seek professional help to heal their childhood wounds.
5. Experiences Bouts of Anxiety and Depression
The covert tends to internalize a lot of situations by attaching their worth to others. Because of their sense of emptiness, they experience highs and lows of emotions wavering back and forth with anxiety and depression. The relationship with themselves is very fragile making it challenging to fully love a partner because they are fixated on their needs and wants which tend to go unmet because they don’t know how to speak up. They struggle to express their true feelings, making it challenging to share with their partner when things aren’t working for them. Coverts tend to struggle with communication, especially when things feel intense in the relationship.
During their childhood, they didn’t learn how to share or cope with their feelings or if they did, they were replaced with toys, food, or gifts to appease them for fulfillment. As of today, the covert narcissist depends on external vices to fulfill the void with them which keeps them from being emotionally available with a partner. If they have a bad day, they will buy something to appease them as they seek materialistic goods as a need to cover the pain.
If you are in a relationship with a covert partner, please reach out to seek professional guidance by setting up a call. More than likely it will be hard to create change in the relationship dynamic without assistance from a trained professional, as the covert will call you crazy or controlling by trying to seek an equal partnership. We are here to help guide you to creating a loving relationship where you deserve love and emotional support with your avoidant partner.