Covert Narcissists—Wearing the Martyr’s Mask

There is a special kind of covert narcissist who plays the martyr role so convincingly that most people believe he is an individual of extraordinary integrity, even holy. There is always the implication that this person is special because of his extreme self sacrifice for others. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is part of the covert narcissist’s well rehearsed performance and an excellent way of being seen as a very fine human being. I have been in communication with victims of covert narcissists who tell similar stories. Their spouse is looked up to by others as someone who always thinks of others before himself. This is the public persona. He is known for his good deeds through a church or organization that helps those in need. (There are people of truly fine characters who are not narcissists who devote themselves to those who are suffering or need special help or care. I am not speaking about this here.) The martyred covert narcissist makes sure that he/she is seen as indispensable in this role. Members of his group provide him with the narcissistic supply of adulation. I have heard a number of times that these narcissists will abandon their responsibilities to their families in order to perform their “duties” .

Of course when the covert narcissist is unseen by others and inside the privacy of his home—everything changes: his facial expressions, the tone of his voice, his attitude. He is demanding, demeaning, cruel, verbally abusive and is a master at imposing guilt on family members. He accuses them of being selfish and lazy. He doesn’t want anyone to have a good time. Even laughter and levity are forbidden. Wives and children get the brunt of this upside down version of “goodness.” Once this mask is removed the psychological ugliness is fully exposed and activated.

No one believes the spouses and children who live with covert narcissists and how abusive and disturbed they truly are. At home they are accusatory, blaming, have fits of fury and are often menacing if disbeyed. Some spouses decide that they can no longer tolerate this dreadful charade and sever this non-relationship for themselves and their children. This is not easy because the covert martyr narcissist has made a tremendous reputation for himself and many who follow him believe that there is something seriously wrong with a spouse who would leave such a “good person.”

What matters is the truth and the quality of your life. If others don’t believe you, they are deluded. Take the reins in your hands. Truth is powerful. You are entitled to lead a life that is genuine and unobstructed by verbal abuse, toxic projections and false accusations. You deserve inner peace and your continued growth as an individual on every level. To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth, visit my

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
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Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life