About People Who Push Your Buttons

The world is full of many people.  Some of those people seem to have a knack for pushing every button you have.  Something about them constantly gets under your skin.  It seems like every single time you speak to them, you walk away angry or hurt.  Possibly the worst part of it is when you say something to them, no matter how gently you phrase it, somehow they twist the conversation around to the point you end up feeling badly for upsetting them. 

While many people don’t want to believe this, those people are almost always covert narcissists.  Yes, it does sound harsh to label them as such.  No, I don’t know the person you know who behaves this way.  Yet, I feel safe in standing by my statement that this person is almost certainly a covert narcissist.

Covert narcissists love to push people’s buttons.  They say cruel things to someone either about that person or those the person loves.  That person’s family, job, hobbies, beliefs, likes, dislikes & more are all targets for the covert narcissist’s criticism.  However, their nastiness often happens only when their victim is alone with them.  If the victim is with the narcissist & at least one other person, the narcissist is often as sweet as can be.  That way, if the victim gets angry at the narcissist’s fake behavior, they aren’t believed.  They would look foolish because others only see the good behavior.  An example I can give of this behavior from my own life happened with my late mother in-law.  My husband & I eloped.  Not long after we got home, we visited his parents as we did constantly during that time.  His mother & I were alone washing dishes while he & his father were elsewhere in the house.  His mother told me how she & his father were horribly disappointed that my husband married me instead of an ex.  A short time later, my in-laws had a party.  At said party, my mother in-law told her sister, “I want you to meet my beautiful daughter in-law!”  I obviously was angry & disgusted, but who upon seeing this would have believed how awful my previous interaction with my mother in-law had been?

Covert narcissists also like to play dumb regarding so many things, including their button pushing behavior.  Playing dumb is very advantageous to them.  It means people think they can’t do much so they do things for the narcissist.  They get joy from being able to make people do things for them.  It also works well when they push other people’s buttons.  If the victim confronts the narcissist, the narcissist can play dumb & claim they didn’t know what they said or did would upset the victim or that they were simply trying to help.  Either way, if a victim is unaware of this tactic, often they will feel badly for misunderstanding the narcissist.  They will let the issue go.  As an added bonus for the narcissist, this also teaches the victim to be more tolerant of abuse.  Victims come to think the narcissist truly doesn’t know any better, so they need to overlook anything that the narcissist says or does that is upsetting. 

The truth about covert narcissists & their button pushing behavior is they know exactly what they are doing.  They aren’t naïve.  They only play naïve in order to get their way.  No one who is truly naïve knows exactly who they need to hide certain behaviors from & has the self control to do this.  Also a truly naïve person wouldn’t know that certain things are especially upsetting, let alone continue to do them regularly.  This is especially true if you have told this person their behavior upsets you.  Anyone who knows something is upsetting & yet continues to do it knows just what they are doing & make no mistake, this is abuse!  A normal, functional person with even a minimal degree of empathy would stop doing hurtful things upon finding out something they say or do hurts other people. 

I know this can be hard to believe, that someone you care for is this type of person, but accepting this fact is truly life changing.  Understanding the truth about people in your life & learning ways to deal with them enables you to have much healthier relationships.  You have more peace & joy.  Best of all you learn to avoid abusive people.



Filed under Enjoying Life, Mental Health, Narcissism

17 responses to “About People Who Push Your Buttons

  1. Cynthia, this opening to a paragraph speaks volumes:

    “The truth about covert narcissists & their button pushing behavior is they know exactly what they are doing. They aren’t naïve. They only play naïve in order to get their way. ”

    My high school counseling friend would say to students “Do not cede your power. You are the boss of you. You choose how to react to someone, not the other person. If you don’t take offense you are not offended. ” With a narcissist, avoidance is the best strategy, but limit conversations whenever possible if you cannot, as they are thinking of ways to take advantage of you. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Lee/Lady Quixote

    Ohhhh… your mother-in-law telling you that she and her husband were disappointed that their son had married you rather than his ex — that is hateful and cruel in the extreme.

    What on earth did you say in response? If I had been in your shoes, I don’t know what I would have done. Probably I would have cried, but I think you are stronger than that.

    A good comeback might be to say: “Well, I am disappointed, too. I’m disappointed that you did not die while you were giving birth to my dear husband. After he was safely delivered, of course!”

    But seriously, if that had been me in your shoes, I probably would have just put down the dish I was washing, walked away, and cried. It took me too many decades before I finally learned to stand up for myself.

    You are awesome, and I would LOVE to have you as part of my family. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • It sure was! My response was silence. Back then, I knew nothing of NPD & was also shocked anyone could be so hateful. I mean, I knew she hated me but seriously? Disappointed that he married me instead of someone who was pretty awful to him?! I had no clue how to respond. I am disgusted with myself it took me 4 more years to go no contact. That comment alone earned no contact.

      Your comeback is good! LOL Later I wish I would’ve said, “I’m disappointed too.. maybe I would’ve gotten a decent mother in-law” (Father in-law actually liked me so I don’t think he shared her feelings)

      One thing I did learn growing up was to hide as much hurt/anger as possible from people like this, in other words, narcissists. God’s intervention I assume. Anyway I would NEVER have shown her how much that comment hurt me & given her that satisfaction.

      awww… thank you so much! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • Linda Lee/Lady Quixote

        It sounds to me like you handled it with great dignity. Silence, in that situation, is good.

        Please don’t be hard on yourself for waiting four years to go no contact! When I was sixteen years old, a very caring psychiatrist told me that he had spoken, at length, with every adult in my family: with my grandparents on both sides, and with my father and my mother. He told me that he had never met such a cold hearted group of people in his life, and he couldn’t understand how I could be related to them, when I was “so loving.” His words, not mine. Then he said “My advice to you is to get as far away from your family as you possibly can, as soon as you can, and never go back.”

        it took me decades to finally follow his advice.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Sometimes I think silence has been a saving grace for me because if I said what I truly wanted to say, it’s about kill people. That situation being one example. Also one cousin of mine who showed up at my mother’s burial to brag she was there for Mom yet screamed at me as Mom was being buried. Some of her comments were so stupid I was stunned into silence. Looking back, if I told her what I thought of her & her trashy mother conning money out of my mother just after my father died, her harassment when my father was dying, her false accusations of my granddad, she couldn’t have handled it. I hate not speaking up to some people but I do realize there are times it’s best not to.

          Your psychiatrist sounds wonderful. One of the few who saw the true colors of people like your family. What a gift! Going no contact is so hard & it seems impossible when you’re in your teens. I get why it took you so long.

          And thank you for understanding. ❤

          Liked by 3 people

        • Linda 😊
          I love your psychiatrist ❤️ I would definitely wish to have a father figure like him. Did you try contacting him later on in your life? I am sure he would have been proud of you to see you flourish in life regardless of what abuse you went through.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Linda Lee/Lady Quixote

            Yes, about 10 years ago I did a search online and found the doctor’s home address. I sent him a letter, thanking him for saving my sanity and my life. I never received a reply. He is very elderly now, so his health may not be good. But he will be acknowledged by name in my memoir.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Cynthia have you ever thought that your Momster and Momster in law are twin sisters separated at birth? I find them very familiar they are full of self hate and projected it onto you through their nasty comments. Who knows if your husband had married his ex still your mother in law would say those same vile comments to her because she feels that she is the mother in law and the girl is daughter in law and hence your MIL is superior to her so she have rights to say anything she wants to say to her.


        • Kinda, yes.. they’re opposite sides of the same coin. My mother overt, mother in-law covert. They met twice & clashed terribly. Too similar in some ways I think. & you’re right, both were full of self hate & projected it onto me.

          I have zero doubt if my husband married her instead of me, she would’ve been subjected to the same things I had. The difference is she would’ve gone along with things & not protested like I have. Sadly she has plenty of issues. I know this because she’s stayed very close to these people since my husband ended their relationship 30+ years ago. Pretty messed up.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Narcissistic Mother and Narcissistic Mother in law having fight is very hilarious. What happened at last? 🤣

    I am not surprised that she would go through what you went through too but her not protesting is irony given how she treated your husband.


    • Well, it was the first time they met.. Father’s day, 1997. His mother was having a big party because she lived for that crap. She insisted I invite my parents. I said it wasn’t a good idea. She kept pushing. Hubby said just do it. I did & Mom was less than thrilled. She had no desire for any relationship with my in-laws. Dad was excited.. he was even more extroverted than her so all he saw was “yay! People!!” lol My mother acted like a total jerk at the party, trashing me & bragging about her amazing mom skills. It was bad.

      The next time we saw my in-laws, his mom told me my mom was never allowed in her house again. In a way that was a relief. I was afraid they’d bond over their mutual hatred of me. Hating each other was simpler for me.

      Oh, & my mother in-law never invited my parents to anything again!! Oldest sister in-law did.. she invited my parents to her parents’ surprise 50th anniversary party. She knew at that time I was considering no contact, but did it anyway. Hubby did confront her & she said she just invited everyone in their parents’ address book. She said she had no idea “who those Bailey people were.” Nice.. either I don’t even mean enough to her to remember my last name or she deliberately did that just to hurt me. Neither was a good scenario.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am glad that they both did not bond with each other. Two abusers hating each other is definitely good for the victim.

        Your sister in law surely knew who your parents were. People like her love to push buttons for thrill. What if she thought that if your Mother comes over there would be drama and she can enjoy by watching it?


        • it really is good. I was so afraid they’d like each other because I knew that’d be bad for me.

          Absolutely she did. She’s like her mother, a covert narcissist. She loves pushing buttons then playing the innocent victim.

          I don’t know.. my guess is it was primarily to hurt me. If I had acted up towards my mother though, it could’ve proven her & her mother & sister right, that I’m a horrible person. And, proven it in front of their entire family. No doubt others would’ve seen how “terrible” I was too so more would’ve turned against me & that would’ve made her happy.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Wow these people are truly masterminds but they are very dumb too to think that you will flare up in front of whole family. It’s frustrating how they want to make themselves feel better by torturing us.


            • I’m not positive that was the motivation but I think so. It makes sense if you think how narcissists think.

              I know.. as if I would’ve given anyone that show! My mother’s & my relationship was a private matter so no way I would’ve gotten that upset in front of all those people.

              Very frustrating indeed, but that is what they do. Seems to be the only way they can feel better about themselves.

              Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s