When people first learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the almost always learn about overt narcissists. They read that narcissists are always loud, brash, braggarts who openly use & abuse people. Which is mostly true. Overt narcissists are absolutely that way.
What is equally true is not all narcissists are like that. Some narcissists come across as insecure & passive, even offering apologies sometimes which overt narcissists don’t do. They make you feel sorry for them. If you’re romantically involved with one, he may not even be someone you were attracted to at first. Somehow though, he acted in a way that gained your attention. He pretended to share your values while also gaining your sympathy, thus making him attractive to you. He probably says things like he’s never loved anyone like he loves you, he’s waited for someone like you his whole life & other lies.
Over time, the mask slips & a much more devious & sinister person comes to light. Yet when you have believed that this person was good, believing that they are cruel doesn’t compute. You think the abuse can’t be real. You must be paranoid. You must be imagining things or reading too much into it. After all, when you approach this person, he blames you & says he is the victim of your cruelty. Someone so good wouldn’t abuse you..
Or would they?
Covert narcissists are extremely good at hiding their abuse. So much so even victims don’t always consider it abuse. They make excuses- “she just doesn’t know any better,” “He was just kidding!” “She was just trying to help…”
Confronting a covert narcissist never goes well. They tell you that you’re crazy, wrong, reading too much into things, they never said or did what you believe they did & more.
In this position, victims often submit to the twisted beliefs of the covert narcissist, losing their self-esteem in the process & doubting their sanity. Some try harder & harder to please the narcissist, never being able to do so. The narcissist constantly changes what they want so you aren’t able to please them. The victim’s self-esteem continues dropping, & they try harder to please the narcissist, & the cycle continues.
If the covert narcissist is a parent, the parent will do their best to gain their child’s sympathy. They commit emotional incest on a constant basis, treating their child as a partner rather than a child. They burden their child with their woes about their failing marriage or other inappropriate topics. If still married to the other parent, they expect the child to get involved with marital problems or protect the parent from the other parent. They portray themselves as the real victims of this dysfunctional situation, not the child, nor do they care that they & possibly the other parent abused that child
Covert narcissists are a thousand times worse to deal with than overt narcissists, in my opinion. At least with an overt narcissist, you know what you’re getting. They are bold & “in your face” with their actions, leaving you no doubt what they’re like. Covert narcissists keep you guessing. They use your natural instincts of kindness against you. While overt & covert narcissists both can make you feel like you’re crazy, chances are you will figure out that you aren’t much sooner with an overt narcissist. Coverts are not only great at manipulation but also using pity to get what they want. Victims don’t want to think the covert narcissist is trying to make them feel crazy, & they’re afraid of upsetting him, so they are less likely to question what they are told.
Covert narcissists are everywhere. The mother in-law who won’t let go of her adult son & quietly treats her daughter in-law like dirt when no one is around. The father married to an overtly narcissistic wife who fails to protect his child, instead wanting her to comfort him because his wife abuses his child & it’s hard for him. The husband who everyone thinks is a good guy, but behind closed doors, criticizes his wife in every area possible, compares her unfavorably to other women & makes her feel guilty for not measuring up. The parent who sexually abuses their child.
These people are incredibly dangerous! Covert narcissists should NOT be underestimated! Be aware of what to look for with covert narcissists, & protect yourself accordingly!! Have good, strong boundaries. Pay attention to their words & actions. Don’t let your guard down around them. Keep conversations very superficial. Most of all, pray. Pray lots! Ask God for wisdom on how to deal with this person.