Covert Narcissists: Scheme Your Downfall in Secret

Covert narcissists are incapable of forming and maintaining genuine relationships.  So often I speak with clients who have unwittingly married a covert narcissist. (This post refers to male and female narcissists.)

There is no way the innocent party could have known that this individual is a narcissist.  In the case of the Covert it is exceedingly difficult to discern the true nature of this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The covert narcissist is masterfully clever at concealing his malicious, dark, cruel traits.  The Covert is an expert at presenting himself as charming, giving, kind, genuine, empathic and psychologically grounded.  The charm offensive of the Covert is acted out with perfection: a Broadway level performance.

The Covert is above all, Secretive.  These individuals lead several lives at one time.  You have been chosen by them to provide the maximum in narcissistic supplies. You offer an excellent external image. You come from a fine family, are well educated, physically attractive, are socially adept, professionally successful– and the long list goes on and on. You are the perfect “catch” for this person who has calculated your value to him from the beginning.

Soon after the marriage, trouble begins with the narcissist’s drumbeat demands, devaluing, demeaning manner. He picks away at your “faults.” These are manufactured by the narcissist to weaken your sense of self, to lower your self respect, feelings of optimism.

The Covert narcissist knows who you are and exactly how he will tear down your psychological and emotional reserves.  He must extract the maximum amount of narcissistic supplies out of you before he discards and replaces you with someone else.

All the while the covert narcissist is plotting and scheming to control, manipulate and eventually bring you down emotionally, financially, psychologically and physically.  Some of those who are married to Coverts develop chronic illnesses as a result of the accumulated stress, fear, depression and trauma that they have internalized over many years.  At these times that the covert narcissists doesn’t want to deal with you anymore.  When you are at your lowest ebb, he is tap dancing with high energy and a complete lack of care or concern for your well being.

After the narcissist has taken everything from you and more, you are left alone, discarded, disheartened and in some cases, physically ill.

The covert is so secretive and clever that the victim remains unaware of what has happened to them.  Some of those who contact me even say that it was all their fault. Never blame yourself for marrying a covert narcissist.

Know that you can heal from this dreadful series of ordeals, that you will recover fully: emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually.

Begin by putting yourself first. Start getting the sleep you need and deserve.  Eat in a balanced way that works with your biochemistry.  Exercise in the way that works best for you. As you recover, always remember to pay close attention to your intuition–it is the voice of the absolute truth.  Some healing modalities are acupuncture which balance the body, mind and spirit, restorative yoga, gentle walking, being in Nature, finding people who respect you as an individual and whom you trust.  Take time each day to put yourself in the calming part of the nervous system through some form of meditation, prayer, affirmations, etc.  You decide what opens the doors to being calmer, more comfortable and gentler inside of yourself.

You are entitled to heal fully and to use your many creative gifts.  You have turned on to a new pathway: one of hope, health, beauty and a source of continued evolution and transformation.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

19 thoughts on “Covert Narcissists: Scheme Your Downfall in Secret”

  1. I am in the process of divorcing a covert narcissist and have started to find myself again. We were together for 18yrs and he helped me raise my two girls, what I worry about is their mental health. Neither of my girls speak to their biological father for many reasons of their own, but their step-father (the narcissist) was their main father figure growing up. When I said it was over he completely broke off all communication with them….I couldn’t believe it. He feels that if the girls end up not “becoming” something to his standard of course, it can then be my fault for leaving him and his good influence in their lives. What do I say to them to make it easier to be cut out of his life? Not that it’s a bad thing really, but he was more or less their dad in their formative years.

    1. I would have an open conversation with them about the subject of narcissism. While it’s important to try and not “bash” the other person, after the conversation they will then be able to do their own research on the subject and come up with their own solutions. This way it’s not about having a father figure that has abandoned them, but more of “this person has a psychological problem that is separate from them as people”. In other words, they won’t think that his leaving was because they did anything wrong.

    2. Hello Belinda,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I understand your complex dilemma. First of all, we only need one good parent and that is you, your daughters’ mother. How fortunate they are to have you as their loving, hands on mom. How outrageous and predictable that that your narcissistic ex would not want anyone who is not perfect. This is typical of the narcissistic personality. I think that the emphasis is on you and it is very positive. I have had other instances in which the narcissistic “father” wants to hold on to the children to continue to mold them into perfect images of themselves. I think that distance from the narcissistic step father is important. Your daughters are fine human beings and that is wonderful. You are their example and they have followed your lead.
      I wish you many blessings as you move forward in your life and again, congratulations as fine individual and a great mother. Warm regards, Linda
      Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

  2. Hello, I read that your special field is Narcissism. I have been divorced from my narc. husband for 8 years now, separated 10. We had been married 30 years. i feel I am still not heard. I would wish to get in touch with a specialist. I have done ‘everything’ but still am plagued by nightmares of my former house, of him, his new wife. You write that I can be healed, that I will be well. What am I not doing? I have seen therapists, go on long walks, go to the gym, meditate, pray. I never confronted him. I feel have enormous anger inside because I learned what it was very slowly. Now there are terms for these things.
    Ideas?

  3. Thank you for this article. I too was married to a covert narcissist for 8 years. We were together 13 years. Just like your article stated I was the perfect mate…attractive, very well educated with a six figure income, extremely fit, highly ambitious, gregarious, professional and well spoken. He attempted to mirror these traits, but in actuality he was not motivated, not particularly driven to success and instead rode on my coat tails to financial security. After marriage, when I realized the hook he tossed me was barbed…he began to slowly and insidiously beat me down. He convinced me to buy him thousands upon thousands of dollars in tools and other things he wanted. I was in turn praised for buying my clothes at goodwill and garage sales. The financial abuse continued while I attempted to please him by working 7 days a week. He spent it as fast as I could earn it. There were no days off. No vacations. Only the one he planned to his favorite vacation spot…year after year. Once I started wising up to the financial abuse he began the withholding of intimacy. No kissing. No foreplay. No eye contact. Sex was a 45 second act that involved to touching of bodies. He knew that I could and would never come forward as a strong, independent, brave woman and admit that I was in this type of relationship. As our relationship grew more strained his threats, while covert like buying a gun from a private owner, with cash and keeping everything secret became much worse. Eventually, my health collapsed from the strain. The strain of working 2 jobs, maintaining a very large home, raising 2 small children and trying to internalize all the demands he was putting on me. My body physically gave out on me. I lost my physical strength and was initially diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases. He continued to belittle me. He showed zero sympathy and constantly threatened to take the children away from me. He told me multiple times how he was going to set me up, that I was crazy, unstable, unwell. He told all our mutual friends this as well. And it did appear as so. Eventually, I was able to get away from him. Not in the way I had anticipated and I did lose everything. Everything. Home, retirement, savings, all material possessions, my good credit, even custody of my children. Everything that I had built up and worked so hard for was gone, all in less than 18 months. After a custody evaluation and a long bitter year of him filing motion after motion against me, we had a trial and the judge saw right through him. He read the text messages, the emails and the entire 60 page custody evaluation. Hell, I wrote my 50 page biography portion for the evaluator while I was on a family vacation, sans children as he had filed a bogus sexual abuse allegation on the eve of the vacation to prevent them from going with me. I won. I lost, but I won the children against the monster.

  4. Hi there, I am unfortunately a victim of a narcissist, and have only just realised after 14 years , I have written out my own story and how it truly has affected me on more levels than one…. and she was a ‘close friend’ that isolated me from many people . I would love to share my story with you too !

  5. My son’s narc father has had supervised visits with him for over a year. At this time I am healing from the fear and trauma of dealing with said narc for 5 yrs. Lately I’ve grown tired of living in fear and have opened up more during exchanges. I wonder if there is any hope at all in exiting the business relationship with the supervisor and me perhaps supervising instead. The money spent on supervision could be spent on extracurriculars for our son like martial arts etc. I am still traumatized and just don’t know. I thought of asking for a session with him (narc) and his counselor, so I can air my concerns. The counselor already is somewhat aware, I just don’t think she understands narcissism. I guess I just wish things could be different. Will we have to do these supervised visits forever?

  6. I don’t understand why anyone would seem for a narcissist man fit to influence their daughters, but he be not fit enough to stay with themselves. Sounds to me like she may unconsciously be using her daughter’s to keep tabs on the unquestionably jerk but charming dad. After all, these guys keep you love/hating them eternally if you let them. It’s a set up and the girls are pawns in their game. DUMP HIM and encourage the girls to move on too.

  7. Hi ,
    My name is Margy and I have recently divorced my covert narcissist husband after 45 years and I feel that I have wasted my life and I have had 3 children grow up in an awful marriage with this man.I think they have suffered just as badly .I am having real trouble breaking free of him .I had to leave my little dog behind in the Philippines as I could not take her to Australia becauase of their strict quarantine regulations.He phoned me today and told me the dog is very sick and the way he puts it makes me feel guilty for leaving her behind and that he can not cope with it and I should be there for him .He demanded that I return there for him as he has things to do .I told him there is no life for me there and no one to talk to day in and day out .It was like talking to a brick wall. He does not care about my needs at all.I am so worried about my dog and feel as though I could catch a plane and go to her,but it would be going back to a miserable life.I have to forfieght my dog for my freedom and it hurts.I spend a lot of time crying and feel alone and I know I need help .He has left me totally destitute and I have had to apply for government assistance which luckily is available in Australia.Do I stop all contact with this man ?.What about my dog?

  8. Everything in this article is exactly what I have had to put up with for most of my life so far and I thank you.I am so pleased to have found this site and very relieved.It makes a lot of sense to me and its time for me to move on at last

  9. I was consistently bullied by my malignant covert narcissist mother and two covert narc sisters for most of my life. At the age of 40 I had to go to in patient psychiatric treatment for CPTSD due to their physical and psychological abuse. One of my sisters (fraternal twin) was diagnosed as a malignant narc/sociopath and the other one was diagnosed as a covert narc. I was told at the treatment center to go no contact with my mother and sisters and I did but unfortunately I kept choosing “friends” and significant others who were just like each of them and I kept being re-traumatized. In my lifetime I married and divorced three malignant covert narc men. It was during my marriage to my third covert narc that I went to treatment. I had a son with the second malignant narc husband and my biggest heartache has been finally admitting that my adult son is exactly the same has his father (malignant covert narc). I made my son the center of my entire life especially after my divorce from his father and even during my marriage to my third narc husband. After my divorce from my third narc husband, my covert narc son lived with me and really heaped on the emotional blackmail and psychological abuse for seven years. My adult son took full advantage of the fact that I had no family and therefore, no support.He was my only family member in the world. I made him the center of my life and he has psychologically and financially exploited me time and time again. I finally got out of denial and am starting to heal from the abuse at the hands of these vipers.

    Right now I am concerned because my covert narcissistic adult son will be coming back to the United States after being in Asia with the military for three years. He will, thank God, not be living near me but it will be easier for him to contact me since he will be Stateside. In August of 2016 I started to do deep research into NPD and started to finally heal. I have been going low contact with him since that time. I am no longer available to him 24/7 like I used to be for 36 years. His psychological abuse almost destroyed me especially when he lived with me and also when he lived in the same geographic area for 3-1/2 years prior to his going to Asia. He noticed in August 2016 that my energy was different and now he contacts me more just to try to push my buttons. I do not always immediately answer his texts. I make sure to calm myself before responding. This is more difficult on the telephone and for sure in person. He will be coming to visit in early June because he has some things in storage in my area. I will need all the support and guidance I can get. I wanted to know how much you charge for your telephone consultations and if your services are covered by health insurance. Thanks so much for all you do for narcissist abuse survivors.

  10. I too divorced a covert narcissist. I have two beautiful girls that have been in counseling for 4 years now, and thankfully seem to be doing fairly well. The sad part is, they have referred to their dad as being three daddies. Daddy at church, who is all about his daughters, and God. Daddy with his new girlfriend, who they say doesn’t know the REAL daddy. Lastly, Crabby Daddy at home when it is just them and him. In one way it breaks my heart that they see this and know he is not who he pretends to be, and in another way, I am grateful and hopeful that they will not internalize his lack of empathy as somehow being their fault. It is so hard to dance around what he really is. I don’t want to say anything bad, yet, I also don’t want to lie to them. He will NEVER be the dad he should be, and that breaks my heart.

  11. I was sucked into a relationship but not married to , one of those types. It took only 3 months to realize my mistake in being with him me and then my plan to get out took years! (we were living together in a townhouse we bought together that I made payments on!!) I look back at myself and wonder why did I stay …..realizing I was paralyzed and worried about my credit if I just walked away. Plus I was still in the throes of feeling sorry for him ( “he would be homeless if I walked”). I am proud of my inner strength because I never slept w him ( he had no sex drive thankfully and as soon as he showed that evil streak (within 3 months) I turned off and became the “don’t rock the boat just get out”. This entry today is great. Even though I’ve been in my own wonderful apartment now I just recently learned about and am doing no contact. This is healing. I was feeling exhausted and now I realize why. It’s the healing process. I was grieving what I thought he was but really overall I was not ever in love with him. I see my care taking and fearful traits that kept me there. This is helping me get stronger and not let those old traits of mine hurt me again!

  12. My wife married me because i was young and was very popular. i wond up getting cancer twice and a stem cell transplant. my mom soon died and left me a good inheritance i never saw a dime. that is when ugly came out. she confiscated my inheritance. my mom left me a condo. while sick i told my wife i would never be happy there. i told her it is the top of the market and we would get about $384,000. she lied and never called an agent. My reovery got screwed up. the person above us is a sickie herself. every orning she would slam her sliding doors, her kid would stomp. it ruined my nervesand i have never been the same, health, happiness, self respect. her knew thing is her patients at work are very important to her. she is a DR’s assistant. i have come to hate her, and lost confidence in me, which i have never lacked or felt like a loser. she said i’m sorry, like you would if you bumped into someone. I NEVER NEW HATE BEFORE HER. My life has since cancer and y mom dying and leaving money. I HAVE NO FAMILY.

    1. Hello Esther, Thank you for your question. This is a complex issue. Basically, the sociopath can be a socialized type that does not commit physical violence or end up in prison. He or she is completely without conscience of any kind and is very brutal physically, emotionally, psychologically. The narcissist is self absorbed, completely entitled and also lacks a conscience but not in committing crimes that will land this person in jail. Usually narcissists are not physically violent. You are correct—the two can be entertwined. Both lack empathy. There are many covert (concealed) narcissists who get away fooling most people and victimizing them. These are the trickiest ones to recognize since they wear highly believable masks.

  13. I really enjoyed reading this article it really helped me to understand exactly who my husband is and this article describes him to the T…Reading on futher about putting yourself first getting enough sleep getting into prayer group or mediation anything that help soothes the mind i’m all in for it ….I just find myself to the point to where i block him out don’t reveal my feelings don’t do the things that a wife should do i guess what i have been doing was allowing myself some time to toughen my skin and really come to peace about accepting what this relationship is going to be or what it already is ….Obviously he is not the man for me i am trying to find my way out of this relationship due to having a child that does not want us to divorce so thats why i have to do what is going to make me happy as well as our son …There is nothing more u y covert narcississt husband can do to hurt me more than he already has it may sound alittle crazy but I’m pretty much in my own little word figuring out my next move as far as getting out of this unhappy relationship…More suggestions will help to help me …Thanks

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