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

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Navigating the stormy seas of love can be tough enough as it is, but throw a covert narcissist into the mix and you’re really up against it.

You’re in love, or at least you were once. But now things aren’t quite the same and you can’t put your finger on what’s changed. Trust me, I’ve been there too.

It’s not always a dramatic revelation. In fact, it’s often a subtle shift in the dynamic, a slow and insidious slide that leaves you questioning your own sanity.

Ever noticed that gnawing feeling that something just isn’t right? Despite everything seeming normal on the surface, you can’t shake off this gut feeling that you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist.

So how do you know for sure?

Well, I’m here to help you understand those subtle warning signs that might have been hiding in plain sight all along. 

Let’s get started. 

1) You’re constantly second-guessing yourself

In a healthy relationship, you feel confident, secure, and valued. You trust your judgement and your partner backs you up.

But when you’re with a covert narcissist, it’s a completely different story.

You find yourself constantly doubting your decisions, questioning your own perceptions of reality. It’s like you’re walking on eggshells, afraid to say or do the wrong thing.

This is because covert narcissists are masters of manipulation. They have a knack for making you question your sanity, a tactic known as gaslighting.

So if you find yourself second-guessing your every move, feeling confused and unsure of yourself, it could be a sign that you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist.

It’s not normal to feel this way. A relationship should enhance your self-confidence, not erode it. If this isn’t the case, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

2) Your feelings and opinions are constantly dismissed

Relationships are about give and take, about mutual respect and understanding. Your opinions should matter, your feelings should be taken into account. That’s the hallmark of a healthy partnership.

But when you’re with a covert narcissist, you’ll notice that your thoughts, feelings and ideas are regularly brushed aside or belittled.

It’s like you’re talking to a brick wall, your words falling on deaf ears. They always think they’re right, and you can never win an argument. It’s their way or the highway.

If you’re constantly feeling unheard or dismissed, it’s a warning sign that you might be dealing with a covert narcissist.

Everyone deserves to be heard and respected in a relationship. If that’s not happening, it’s time to reevaluate the situation.

3) You often feel isolated and alone

There was a time when my social calendar was a bustling hub of activities. I had friends to meet, places to go, people to see. But then I met him.

Slowly but surely, I found myself seeing less and less of my friends. My world started to revolve around him and his needs. He would often make subtle remarks about my friends, making me doubt their intentions.

Looking back, I realize that he was slowly but strategically isolating me. It’s a classic tactic used by covert narcissists. They make you reliant on them, creating an environment where they are the main character and you are merely a supporting act.

If you find yourself feeling more alone than ever despite being in a relationship, it might be a red flag that you’re with a covert narcissist.

Take a step back and evaluate your social life. Have you lost touch with your friends? Are you cancelling plans just to appease your partner? If so, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship.

4) They’re charming, but only behind closed doors

Covert narcissists often have two faces. In public, they can be the life of the party, the charming and charismatic person everyone loves. But when you’re alone with them, a different picture emerges.

It’s not uncommon for covert narcissists to display their charm and affection in private, while acting cold and distant in public. This is because they want to maintain an image of being perfect and desirable to others, while controlling and manipulating you behind the scenes.

This disparity can leave you feeling confused and bewildered, questioning whether it’s really them or if you’re just imagining things.

If your partner showers you with affection one moment, only to dismiss you the next, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

Consistency is key in a relationship. If your partner’s behavior fluctuates wildly depending on who’s around, it’s time to take note.

5) You find yourself constantly apologizing

In a healthy relationship, both partners take responsibility for their actions and apologize when they’re in the wrong. But in a relationship with a covert narcissist, you’ll find the blame is often shifted onto you.

You could find yourself apologizing for things you didn’t do or for situations that aren’t your fault. They’re masters at shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, making you feel like you’re always the one messing up.

It’s an exhausting cycle that leaves you feeling drained, guilty and confused.

If you’re constantly saying “I’m sorry” while your partner never seems to be at fault, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

It takes two to tango. If your partner is never willing to own up to their mistakes, it’s time to consider if they’re truly the right person for you.

6) They exhibit a sense of entitlement and superiority

Covert narcissists often believe they’re special and superior to others, even if they don’t show it openly. This inflated sense of self can manifest in them expecting special treatment or seeing themselves as above the rules.

You may notice that they often disregard your needs or opinions, due to their belief that their needs or opinions are inherently more important. They may also show a lack of empathy, finding it hard to understand or share your feelings.

This sense of entitlement and superiority can lead to one-sided relationships, where your needs are constantly sidelined for theirs.

If you find your partner has an unyielding belief in their own superiority, with a blatant disregard for your needs or feelings, it’s another red flag that you could be involved with a covert narcissist.

In a healthy relationship, both partners’ needs are important. If you find yours are consistently being ignored, it’s time to take a closer look at your partner’s behavior.

7) They’re often envious of others

Covert narcissists often struggle with feelings of envy and resentment. They can’t stand it when someone else is in the limelight or when they perceive someone else to have something they don’t.

You might notice that they often belittle your achievements or those of others, subtly undermining your success to make themselves feel superior. This could be as subtle as a sarcastic comment or as overt as a full-on rant about how they deserved the recognition more than you did.

Their envy is rooted in their need for validation and superiority. It’s another tactic to manipulate you into feeling less than them.

If your partner can’t celebrate your successes without turning it into a competition, it could be another sign that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

Your partner should be your biggest cheerleader, not your biggest critic. If they can’t celebrate your achievements without making it about them, it’s time to reconsider the relationship.

8) Your sense of self-worth is dwindling

Perhaps the most significant sign you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist is the impact it has on your self-esteem.

Over time, their constant manipulation, belittling, gaslighting and blame-shifting can take a toll on your sense of self-worth. You might start to feel worthless, constantly doubting your worth and abilities.

You might even find yourself losing your sense of identity, as you’ve become so focused on appeasing them and meeting their needs that you’ve forgotten about your own.

If you find yourself feeling less confident, questioning your worth, or feeling like a shadow of your former self, it’s a major red flag.

A loving partner should build you up, not tear you down. If your self-esteem is suffering because of your relationship, it’s time to take a step back and reassess. You deserve to be with someone who values and respects you for who you are.

Final thoughts

If you find yourself nodding along to these signs, know that you’re not alone. Being in a relationship with a covert narcissist can be a confusing and lonely experience, but recognizing these signs is the first step towards healing.

It’s crucial to remember that this isn’t your fault. Covert narcissists are experts at manipulation and can make you feel like you’re the problem. But you’re not. They are.

The road to recovery may be challenging, but it’s worth it. Start by acknowledging your feelings and validating your experiences. Reach out to a trusted friend or a mental health professional. Speak up about what you’re going through – you’d be surprised how many people have been in your shoes.

Try to surround yourself with positive, supportive people who build you up rather than tear you down. And most importantly, remember to take care of yourself.

It’s okay to put your needs first. It’s okay to establish boundaries. It’s okay to say no.

As you embark on this journey towards healing, remember: each step you take is a testament to your strength and resilience.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Because at the end of the day, you should be in a relationship that brings out the best in you, not one that suppresses your spirit.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” You deserve more than that. You deserve respect, love and happiness.

So here’s to new beginnings and healthier relationships. You’ve got this.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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