Covert Narcissists: Martyrs in Sackcloth–Endless Pity Parties

Covert narcissists are so clever that they fool most people. They are like skilled double agents, trained to the highest level. They present themselves as humble, self-effacing and lacking entitlement. They praise you excessively, telling your how attractive you are, how much you have accomplished. They admire you–“I could never have achieved what you have done. You are talented and brilliant and beautiful besides.” These comments roll out of their mouths like watching your streaming breath on a cold winter night. They put you on the highest pedestal. They have never met anyone like you. They feel so lucky and are in awe. Many women lap this up because the level of acting is high. Covert narcissists have their scripts down to every gesture and word nuance. They know when you are at your most vulnerable and take advantage with perfect timing.

If you become involved with a covert narcissist and something goes wrong–he/she is not getting everything he wants, he will play the martyr in sackcloth role. “I have given you myself unconditionally and look how you have hurt me. I can’t take this kind of abuse.” You might as well reverse these words because it is the covert narcissist who has eclipsed your life, made outrageous demands, who constantly lies, breaks promises and humiliates you. And then there is the pseudo self pity. “I thought my life had changed when I met you. You make things so hard for me. You are so demanding I can’t stand it. You married me to get ahold of my money and leave me for someone else” There are too many pity parties to count. Some spouses and partners of covert narcissists feel guilty and believe that this person is the victim and that they must do everything they can (even if it disrupts their life horribly) to soothe and give in to the covert narcissist’s bottomless “needs.” These “needs” mean constant worship and adulation, jumping the minute he makes irrational demands, believing his chronic lies, returning for more verbal abuse, allowing him to exhaust your psychological and sometimes financial resources.

Take the time to learn how to quickly recognize the covert narcissist and to keep him out of your life. If he/she is part of your life now and you realize who this person really is, seriously think about severing this relationship. Take care of yourself first—the covert narcissist is only watching out for himself despite his sackcloth and ashes and endless pity parties. To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth, visit my

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: United States and International
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life