Is Your Ex A Covert Narcissist?

covert narcissist


Note: This is part 1 of our 2-part series on covert narcissism. Find part 2 here: How To Communicate When You’re Divorcing a Covert Narcissist.

Are you feeling manipulated by your fragile, low-functioning ex? Do you often feel off balance, wondering what you did to upset your former spouse – who always appears to be offended by something? Especially you?

You might be surprised to learn that this delicate, introverted person may act the way he or she does because they suffer from grandiosity. While they come across as insecure and vulnerable, Covert Narcissists (CNs) have the same sense of entitlement as Overt Narcissists (ONs); it’s just that their blend of narcissism “looks” different.

Wondering if your ex fits the bill? Read these 7 classic signs of a covert narcissist to find out.

Superiority. Both ONs and CNs develop a false sense of superiority to mask their vulnerability and feelings of inadequacy. While ONs act like divas and VIPs, CNs express their arrogance in more subtle ways. They’re judgmental and self-righteous. They often communicate through body language instead of words. They may transmit their disdain by avoiding eye contact, glaring at you, sighing dramatically, playing the martyr, or quietly dismissing you when you don’t share their point-of-view, which is, of course, always right.

Chaotic relationships. The introverted CN may not seem like a drama queen, but his or her “wounded bird” self-concept fuels chaos and conflict. Your CN ex may feel so threatened by your relationship with your kids that they make parenting time drop-offs all about them, burden the children with their feelings, or treat you as if you’re incompetent or dangerous because you don’t share their parenting style.

Empathy-challenged. CNs have trouble understanding the impact of their behavior on others. If you tell them they hurt your feelings or caused you difficulty, they play the victim. The conversation is now about how you hurt their feelings (by pointing out what they did to hurt yours) and how you owe them an apology! Having to step out of themselves and acknowledge that they hurt someone they care for, or cared for at one time, challenges their perception of themselves. How can they be special and also make poor choices? In order to keep their fragile ego in tact, they must tune out other people’s opinions and feelings.

Passive-aggressive. Covert Narcissists don’t tell you how they really feel. They agree to do something they don’t want to do – because saying no makes them uncomfortable — then don’t follow through. When you confront them, they don’t take accountability. They seem befuddled by your frustration, and act persecuted when you tell they you’re upset.

Ultra-sensitive. CNs dish out judgment and criticism, but they can’t take it. They appear mortally wounded by the most miniscule personal slight. They may respond with self-righteousness or withdraw completely in order to nurse their wounds.

Terminally unique. “No one understands me” is the mantra of the covert narcissist. Delve into their history, and you’ll find a victim narrative. They don’t cause problems; others betray them or conspire against them or simply don’t appreciate all they’ve done. They lack accountability and self-agency because they believe the world owes them.

Self-absorption. CNs tend to withdraw from people and situations that don’t directly address their interests. That wallflower at the party may not really be shy; he or she simply can’t be bothered to engage with people who are different, or who won’t immediately reorganize the conversation to focus on them. CNs are so consumed by their own thoughts that there is simply no headspace for them to listen to yours.

Are you dealing with a covert narcissist in your divorce? Before their “undercover” self-centered derails the process, learn how to protect yourself by formulating a clear legal strategy. We can help. To get answers to all your questions about divorcing your narcissist ex, including parenting time and parental alienation concerns, please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation. Take the first step towards securing your future. Call us today: 888-888-0919.