8 signs you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist, according to psychology

It’s right up there with the most challenging things you’ll ever face.

You’re in a relationship with someone who seems perfect, or at least they did at first. But something’s off.

You’ve attempted to understand, you’ve done everything possible to make things work but it’s like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

Sometimes it’s not even obvious.

You can’t shake this nagging sensation that there’s more beneath the surface, even if your heart, mind, or body are telling you otherwise.

Here’s how to recognize the unmistakable signs that you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist, according to psychology, even though it might shatter your perception of reality.

This is your guide to discerning the overlooked yet significant signs that will help you understand why your relationship isn’t working as it should.

1) You’re constantly second-guessing yourself

We’ve all had those moments of self-doubt.

It’s normal to question your decisions and actions every once in a while.

But you see, when you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist, this becomes your everyday reality.

You’re constantly second-guessing yourself, feeling unsure of your actions, thoughts, and feelings. 

You start to believe that you’re the one in the wrong, even when you’re not.

Being with a covert narcissist can cause you to lose trust in your own judgment. This isn’t just an occasional wave of self-doubt but a constant state of confusion.

When you start feeling like this, it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship and the person you’re with.

2) You’re always feeling on the defensive

The thing about being in a relationship with a covert narcissist is that it’s like living in a constant state of defense.

It seems like no matter what you do, it’s never enough. Every word and every action is scrutinized, and criticized.

Some days, it feels like you’re walking on eggshells, terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing and setting off another round of criticism.

Even the simplest conversations turn into arguments. The peace and harmony that should be present in a relationship are replaced with tension and conflict.

And the worst part?

You start to believe that you’re the one causing all these problems. That constant feeling of being on the defensive, it’s draining and it’s toxic.

When your relationship starts feeling less like a safe haven and more like a battlefield, it’s time to reevaluate who you’re sharing your life with.

3) Your accomplishments are belittled

I remember when I got a big promotion at work. I was over the moon, filled with excitement and pride.

Honestly speaking, I couldn’t wait to share the news.

But the reaction I got was far from what I expected. Instead of being happy for me, my partner seemed indifferent, even dismissive.

They quickly brushed aside my achievement, shifting the focus back onto themselves or picking apart my accomplishment until it felt like nothing special.

It was as if my success was threatening to them. Instead of feeling celebrated, I felt small and insignificant.

This wasn’t a one-off situation either.

Each time I achieved something, no matter how big or small, it was met with the same indifference or criticism.

This could be a sign you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

In the end, it’s their way of maintaining control and keeping you in your place.

4) They never let you win an argument

You’d think that in a fair and healthy relationship, both parties would have an equal chance of winning an argument.

But when you’re with a covert narcissist, that’s rarely the case.

They have this uncanny ability to twist any disagreement to their advantage, no matter how right you might be.

The truth is, it feels like playing a rigged game where you’re bound to lose every time.

Even when you come armed with facts and logic, they somehow manage to turn the tables, leaving you feeling defeated and questioning your own sanity.

Now, this is a classic tactic used by covert narcissists known as gaslighting. It’s their way of manipulating the situation and keeping you under their control.

5) They’re always playing the victim

Another sign that you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist is that whenever things go wrong, they always have a way of turning themselves into the victim.

Even if they’re in the wrong, they manage to twist the situation to make it look like they’re the ones who’ve been wronged.

Every disagreement, every conflict, they somehow manage to paint themselves as the victim, and before you know it, you’re the one apologizing.

It’s a masterful act of manipulation that leaves you feeling guilty and confused.

And guess what? 

They never take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.

This constant victim-playing is a telltale sign of a covert narcissist. It’s their way of escaping accountability and keeping you in a state of guilt and confusion.

When you’re always made to feel like the bad guy, it might be time to take a step back and reevaluate your relationship.

6) Your needs are always secondary

I remember when I first realized it my (ex) partner was a covert narcissist.

It was my birthday, and instead of doing something I wanted to do, we ended up doing what they preferred. It seemed like a small thing at the time.

But then, it became a pattern.

My needs, my wants, and my desires always came secondary to theirs. It was always about them – their needs, their preferences, their convenience.

In other words, I felt invisible, like my needs didn’t matter. It was as if I was an accessory in their life, not an equal partner.

Just think about it.

When your needs are consistently sidelined for the sake of your partner’s, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

After all, they have a way of making everything about them and relegating you to the sidelines.

7) They lack empathy

One thing that really struck me was how little empathy my ex showed.

It didn’t matter if I was upset, hurt or just having a bad day. Their responses were always cold, detached, and almost robotic.

It was like they couldn’t or just wouldn’t understand my feelings. Even when I tried to express my emotions, they seemed more annoyed than concerned.

Over time, I realized that their inability to empathize wasn’t just limited to me. They seemed indifferent to the feelings of others too.

This lack of empathy is a common trait among covert narcissists. They’re often so wrapped up in their own world that they fail to recognize or understand the feelings of others.

I know it’s a harsh reality to face but an important one to acknowledge.

8) You feel drained and exhausted

Last but not least, being in a relationship with a covert narcissist is exhausting.

It’s not just the constant disagreements, or the endless criticism, or having to always put their needs before yours.

It’s the psychological and emotional toll it takes on you. It feels like you’re constantly running on empty, with no time or energy for yourself.

You start to lose sight of who you are, your self-esteem takes a hit and you find yourself feeling unhappy more often than not.

As a result, this constant state of exhaustion and depletion is a clear sign that something isn’t right.

The final reflection

If you’re seeing yourself in these signs, it’s likely you’re in a relationship with a covert narcissist.

But there’s the silver lining – this realization doesn’t have to chain you.

With understanding and conscious effort, you can regain control over your life. The first step is to acknowledge and accept what’s happening.

Start by reflecting on the patterns that have emerged in your relationship. Notice when you’re second-guessing your actions or opinions, or when you’re constantly on the defensive.

Ask yourself – is this relationship enriching my life? Am I feeling loved and respected? Is my emotional well-being being considered?

It won’t happen in a snap. Change is a process.

But with consistent introspection, you can start setting boundaries and demand respect. Each act of standing up for yourself builds self-esteem and courage.

When we prioritize our self-worth and well-being, we create space for healthier relationships. Our emotional stamina is replenished.

So, be compassionate and patient with yourself during this journey.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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