The Covert Narcissist Husband

Revised on 6/1/21.

What is a Covert Narcissist Husband? In this post, I’ll describe both the 7 traits of a covert narcissist as well as subtypes and how these traits show up in marriage. We’ll talk about why the covert narcissist is so hard to recognize because they appear so “nice” and “humble” and even anxious to please. They care about what other people think of them and they appear so helpful, and yet the Covert Narcissist is just a less happy and more complicated version of the NPD.

Have a narcissistic wife? Go here.

impossible to win a fight with a covert narcissist husband
You will never win an argument. His defensiveness and his lack of genuine interest in you will prevail.


In a previous post, we’ve discussed the problem of narcissistic personality disorders.

It’s a mistake to think that all narcissism is characterized by a larger-than-life expansive grandiosity. This blatant and overt narcissism isn’t the only expression of this personality disorder.

Another form of narcissism is closet narcissism, which is essentially covert in its expression. These men are often shells or what might be called “empty suits” who look to other people to fill their sense of selves. These marriages are often long-term because despite the wives feeling drained and unhappy, they simply can’t articulate what’s wrong.

Closet narcissist husbands are often prickly pears, hyper-sensitive, and perhaps less keenly aware of their need to dominate by manipulating others. Nevertheless, the behavior leaves their spouses feeling off-balanced or inadequate.

All narcissists demonstrate confidence and superior bearing. The extroverted narcissist can often be blatantly in your face about their giftedness. But unlike the open narcissist, the covert narcissist husband is more subtle and indirect in displaying his superiority. He expects people to tell him he’s special, rather than having to toot his own horn.

At Couples Therapy Inc. we work with extraordinarily successful couples. Many of the men we see have concrete reasons to be proud of their achievements and project an air of confidence. But when does feeling good about yourself spill over to covert narcissism?

Sex and the covert narcissist husband

Covert narcissist husbands are emotionally disengaged and passionless toward any perceived demand, including the “demand” to love. Sex can start out steamy. The wife will talk about being “love bombed” by a man she can’t believe is so perfect for her and eager to please. Later making love will end up feeling like a “favor” he’s doing to you and for you.

While initially, the covert narcissist husband will be an ardent lover who is responsive and eager to please, that soon fades once the relationship becomes established. Instead of a partner who is anxious to get away and have private sexual time together, he acts lackluster. You won’t “feel” him in bed. He will become passive, but deeply resentful if you don’t show him your admiration.  Wives of covert narcissist husbands often end up feeling “done to” before these same wives gradually withdraw sexually.

He’ll then resent you for your lack of sexual interest, despite showing no real interest himself. Your “disinterest” in “pleasing him sexually” is a constant insult he must endure. He wants you to “get help” for your lack of enthusiasm for being sexual with him but takes no responsibility for playing a role.

passive aggression is a sign of covert narcissism in men
He’ll secretly take away your power while denying he’s doing that.

7 Essential Traits of a Clinical Covert Narcissist Husband

  1. Passive-aggression. Clinical Covert Narcissist husbands are heavily passive-aggressive. Like the blatant narcissist, they may feign interest in what their wives want. However, they’ll seldom spontaneously show interest in a sincere or sustained way.

They’ll “forget” their wife’s work weekend trip (planned months in advance…) and “accidentally” plan a fishing trip he’s “really been looking forward to.” With a long-suffering tone, he’ll agree to cancel HIS event “as a favor to help her career” and stay with the children, “sacrificing” his fun. Without ever saying so, his wife will simply stop planning weekend trips, especially for pleasure, because she feels his covert misery.

Covert Narcissist husbands conveniently forget spousal requests but make no effort to correct the mistake. Or they’ll complete the job incompetently. When confronted with their behavior, they whine that their wife is being “too picky,” or “OCD” in expecting a competent performance, implying she’s a nag, or he’ll mope as he attempts to “meet her demanding standards.”

In the face of failed expectations, he’ll provide some half-hearted, self-serving explanation of why he didn’t follow through. His wife feels his resentment, but it remains unspoken. He exhibits no active joy in her company or desire to celebrate her or their love.

2. He’s “nice” and “helpful.” This helpfulness demonstrates that he is being a “good spouse.” The wives of covert narcissist husbands may feel a withering contempt wrapped up in a superficial long-suffering or “helpful” demeanor. He learned this strategy early in childhood, often from a harsh and abusive or guilt-inducing parent.

For the average person, doing one’s share is an organic acceptance of adult living. In contrast, his “helpfulness,” is designed to boost his fragile sense of self. It is also a weapon he uses to defend himself and torture his partner.

He can “help” while ending up causing her more work. He may complete promised tasks 80% of the time, but the last 20% will be unpredictable. And if you mention it when he doesn’t do it, he’ll resent you and point out how critical you are of him.

He can’t do anything to please you.

The fate of the covert narcissist is to keep track of the folly of others to ease the imagined “unfair judgments” leveled at him by those same people. He’ll exhibit contemptuous behavior such as smirking, stifled mocking laughter, or eye-rolling. But that’s reserved for private interactions. In public, he’s a stellar husband and proves it to anyone who’s watching.

3. He’s withholding and resentful. Wives are often confused that their covert husbands can be so helpful and so resentful at the same time. So he won’t ask you to do anything for him but will resent you for not doing it. Asking for help is loading your gun.

He substitutes superficial “niceness” in place of genuine honesty and emotional involvement/engagement. He doesn’t tell you what he really thinks (until he does…). He’s too “kind” for that. He’s too “considerate.”

You, on the other hand, are the “mean” one who talks directly about what you want, sets goals, and expresses your disappointment. HE isn’t “allowed” to do that. HE keeps his critical comments about you to himself. He silently takes your “abuse” (i.e.: expressed disappointment) but is hurt by it. He resents that you get to express your wants, while he doesn’t. What he wants, he won’t say. “Why bother? Who cares about me?” It’s infuriating.

When provoked, he’ll spew a litany of withheld resentments, and cruel comments which shock their unsuspecting partners. But moments later, the covert narcissist husband will accuse you of being so hostile he sometimes “just can’t take it” and has to “give it back to you.” You will never realize that expressing valid disappointment is considered abusive by the covert narcissist.

And you, as the wife, end up carrying all the anger he won’t directly express inside of you. You will feel frustrated and upset by the on-again-off-again style of “engage-ignore.” When he wants you, he’s hurt if you are unavailable. If you want him, you’ll pick up from his behavior that this isn’t the best time.

Try and be an “angel” and you’ll fall short. He’s not going to trust that “act.” He knows how “mean” you are and how wary he must be of you. And you are left wondering how you can be nicer to him, so he’ll like you more.

4. Impeccable hyper-sensitivity. Covert Narcissist husbands have an impeccable hyper-sensitivity. They will take offense to criticism real or imagined. They bristle at any suggestion that they have failed in any way, even when they clearly have.

At the extreme end of the narcissistic continuum, these husbands can be extremely emotionally abusive. Wives may feel emotionally abused but are told they are being emotionally abusive. A wife’s reasonable demands for love, attention, engagement, and sex can be relabeled as cloying, never satisfied, demanding, and overbearing. Your covert narcissistic husband claims that he has been wronged by you if you dare complain about him. And he’ll remind you of all he has done, and how little you’ve appreciated it.

The wives are left asking themselves: “Was I ungrateful? I thought I complimented him…a lot actually…”

Their most obvious narcissistic traits are to be witheringly dismissive but in a way that’s hard to put your finger on. Even attempting to identify the expression will be met with complete denial. Or he will skulk off into sullen silence and withdrawal which could go on for days or even weeks. They tend not to comment on how upset they are, preferring to be perfectly self-contained and aloof. Don’t ask the covert narcissist how you’ve offended him. He expects you to not only know but to see how obvious your transgressions are. When he feels any imagined attack, he attacks back.

5. Don’t look for outward supreme self-possession. The smugness/superiority is hidden. Blatant in-your-face narcissist husbands are obvious. You can see them coming. They crave attention and demand approval. Covert Narcissist husbands may be sly and much harder to spot. They keenly observe, evaluate, and often silently render abrupt and sometimes merciless judgment. They ruminate about how they aren’t adequately “appreciated.” They have an air of being “absent” or demonstrate overt bored disdain. But when asked directly: “Is something wrong?” they’ll deny it.

6. Utter and complete self-absorption. It’s sometimes easy to confuse the Covert Narcissist husband with a garden variety introvert. Here is the essential difference:

Introverts may be quiet, but they are fully capable of bestowing attention and paying careful attention. They can love freely and ask good questions.

A covert narcissist husband, in contrast, is a reliably poor listener. They pay far more attention to their own relentlessly evaluative inner dialogue. They make a quick real-time assessment of a person or situation. When it captures their attention, they can be delightful company. When it doesn’t, it is clear that they deem it dull, stupid, or beneath them.

7. Vitamin E deficit  All clinical narcissists have a lack of empathy for others. And a sense of entitlement. Even when their wives complain about the negative impact of their husband’s behaviors, their Covert Narcissist husbands somehow manage to shift the discussion back to their own needs or accomplishments. Or get rageful.

Their wives’ unhappiness is a personal injury to them, an intolerable judgment that they hostilely reject. The sentiment seems to be: “You can’t be unhappy with me. That offends me and hurts my feelings!”

If you feel like it’s challenging to talk about your own feelings without the conversation turning around to him, you’re witnessing the empathy deficit. And if you are expected to simply “know” what he’s thinking, feeling, or needing, you’re experiencing the mind-reading that is linked to his feelings of deep entitlement.

If he withholds vital information from you, it is because he “knows” how you’ll react and doesn’t want to “hear it.” His internal ruminations trump whatever real-world thoughts or feelings you may actually have. He doesn’t have to ask you, he already knows.

Covert Narcissist fathering

Not only with you, but even with his children, he seldom makes genuine eye contact. He engages in narcissistic parenting, claiming the children just don’t “like him” as much as they like you. His statement justifies his parental withdrawal in preference for hobbies or more solidary pursuits.

Even the dog hates him.

When he is disengaged (not that they were particularly engaged in the first place) his empty presence is felt by the entire family.  Children are acutely aware of this “on-again/off-again” parental switch. Like intermittent reinforcement, kids will hungrily try to hold their father’s attention. Sometimes they’ll get his attention if they find a subject that interests him. If not, they find that Dad simply won’t ask them any questions, he’ll act annoyed, or will walk away absentmindedly in the middle of their sentence.

As a young man, the covert narcissist was punished for speaking his truth. Now he simply refuses.

Clinical and Sub-Clinical Types

Are all displays of narcissism bad? Not according to research. If narcissism is on a continuum, those in the more “normal” range of behavior can bring desirable traits to the relationship, while being capable of keeping in check their own needs and desires in favor of their partners. They have a healthy sense of self.

In contrast, clinical covert narcissists have fragile self-esteem. They project confidence but are terrified of the vulnerability and painful self-doubt they feel inside. This is one of the central overt features of the covert narcissist. The overt narcissist actually has often undeserved confidence, but they’ve learned to ignore any evidence to the contrary.

The covert narcissist, in contrast, lives with this painful awareness of being a “faker” and this awareness makes him both reactive and thin-skinned. His belief in his deep worthlessness results in a reactive need for constant reassurance, even admiration, from others. But it must be done cleverly and without being too obvious. If it’s pointed out to him that it’s normal to want to be recognized, he’ll deny it is anything HE personally craves. He’ll try to hide his desperate desires, but when the praise doesn’t come spontaneously his resentment will increase. He’ll covet it. Nurse it.

How they act that out is also more covert than their overt counterparts.

He’s a “Nice Guy.” He just doesn’t like YOU.

What is often confusing to wives is that on the surface, this man seems like an all-around “nice guy.” He’s well-liked and outgoing in public. Everyone says so. Those ‘out of the know’ think you are the luckiest woman alive to be married to him. But they don’t live with him. They don’t feel what you feel: that he just doesn’t actually like you but won’t say so.

He considers your actions a clear demonstration that he’s made a mistake in marrying you.

You’ve let him down terribly by “criticizing” him and not appreciating his specialness. And yet, this is never said in words. But it’s a “mistake” you’ll feel acutely. You’ll know that he truly prefers to spend time doing other things rather than living with, engaging with, loving you.

But he won’t leave. Or if he leaves, he won’t be the one to initiate divorce.

He will never be the first to divorce because he’s much too nice for that. He’ll drive you to do it, and often after 20-30 or more years married. These marriages are often long-term, and when they end in divorce, all the casual acquaintances will dispair.

“They were such a nice couple. He is such a nice guy. She left him. Terrible that she’d leave such a nice guy.”

Do You Need Hopeful Spouse Counseling to Recover from Covert Narcissism?

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and couples struggling with conflict avoidant and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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  1. I read this article & felt like I needed to throw up. This is so accurate, I don’t even know what to do with the information. I suppose I’ll just continue processing for now…it’s been 24 years & 5 children; an entirely lose/lose situation it seems.

  2. This is exactly my story. Thank you for making me feel validated. I am trying to leave, working through some obstacles. Twenty-five years of marriage. I could never understand his behavior, but because he is publicly quiet and ‘nice’ the word narcissist didn’t come to mind. It was only when I reached my END, my ultimate feeling of ‘finished’ that I researched how a human being can have NO empathy, remorse, and certainly no apologies for their behavior. The word NARCISSIST was in every Google reference. I knew his behavior was covert and abusive. Now I realize he is a covert narcissist and every article about narcissistic abuse speaks to my story. This one, however, tells it most completely—and I feel heard. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. Haha, this described my ex to the t. We co parent now. His family, including my own mother are making me put to be the bad guy for leaving him. I'm so confused as to why none of them would believe my claims that he was abusive emotionally. They would say " well I've never seen him act that way in person" and even called me crazy and then coddled him afterwards. That was more damaging to me then enduring that relationship. When I would tell my mom the stuff he was saying and doing she would say "well did you ever dress nice for him" or "well I really like him" or " all men are like that, relationships just arnt for you and you've always been hard to get along with" excuse me! How is having boundaries and opinions making me hard to get along with?! I hate coparenring our 2yo with him. If I remind him to do something he's forgotten he will roll his eyes no matter how sweetly I say it. And I always be mindful to say it sweetly so he doesn't feel attacked cuz I know his ego is fragile and it still doesn't work. I still get the eye rolls. If I ask for a favor which is rare and typically very small he will say ya,…I guess.

  4. This article blew my.mind. thank you thank you for this. Reading it was like reading about my life . It has been 20 years of slow burning hell… and I did everything I could to change myself and calibrate to the situation. 20 years and 3 kids later, when you get called jealous, possessive, needy, with zero listening skills, and any attempt at conversation is met with rage or withdrawal, suicide threats in front of the kids, alternating with grand gifts and words…you start doubting yourself so severely that I thought I was going mad and I didn't know who I was anymore. Everything was wrong with me. I must be the problem. Then why isn't he leaving??
    And then my therapist gently suggested a possibility…and me being the hardworking, I furiously researched it. I knew my husband was definitely not a narc the way I had come across it. In fact he hinted I was one and I felt extremely bad about myself. I had zero self worth. And then i found this website and this article. And literally everything fell in place. All the pieces of the puzzle. I literally cried in relief and anger and shame and "how could this happen to me? An assertive confident smart intelligent woman like me?"
    Anyway….I have equipped myself with more knowledge and information and more therapy. I have an exit plan. Thank you so much for this…and all the women who write in to share their experiences. It's highly validating. I am.not crazy.

  5. I have read this article LITERALLY 10 times!!
    Crying the ENTIRE time!! My insides feel like they’re going to explode because I’m shaking so hard!!
    I have been educating myself for about a year.
    I know SOMETHING wasn’t right.. but didn’t know what.. I’ve been SEARCHING for THIS!!
    The nail head was not simply hit here…THIS shit took the entire house down!!
    I’m shook!!!
    Thank you!!

  6. I am exhausted, I am in shock and total disbelief, that I his wife of 20 plus years, 3 children has become so insignificant. He has these blowups, everything wrong in our world , gets blamed on someone else, mostly me, or the fact he is a piece shit. i usually am slaughtered with the most hateful 7 disgraceful words, in front of anyone. He says he has no secrets, and is not messing with anyone else , behaviors, community children say otherwise. he does have a history of no childhood trauma, diagnosis of bipolar, ocd, ptds. He is on some medications does not take them as directed regularly. His hidden interest is men and porn. He has no consideration for my feelings or compassion for what the children and I are going through in this siutation. he rolls his eyes, or screams, or avoids. it has been established that one of his playmates is hiv positive. I am so confused and hurt. i do not want this , he was suppose to keep his vows, as i have mine, happily. Is there any chance of coming out of this, seems I have two choices continue to be insignificant, and be ok with him showing interest elsewhere while I am tossed to the curb or leave. I dont want either , what I want doesnt matter.

    1. You’ve answered your own question as I read this comment. Now is the time to get a private therapist and answer it publicly for yourself…Dr. K

  7. Wow I so wish I read this article during my divorce from my covert narc ex husband. This article is so insanely on point down to the way it felt when doors were closed and he was no longer seeking everyone’s admiration. The key to remember is that there are people in our lives that see. It seems like they are few but cling to those people because once you’re out of the abuse, it is the most freeing feeling in the world.

  8. My husband has been threatening to divorce me for the last 4 years. Usually when I confront him about his hurtful behavior. The cycle goes. He does something insensitive that wounds me. I talk to him about it hoping for an apology, he doesn't apologize and gets defensive. He accused me of being overly demanding and labeling him an abuser. He says he will never be good enough for me, so we may as well get divorced. However, I have recently discovered that he never takes it further than that. He has completely ignored me and has been sleeping on the couch for the last 5 months but has not made any attempt to either reconcile, or seek out a divorce. My counselor told me that I have been a victim of narcissistic abuse for the last 20 years of our marriage, but all the books that she told me to read on narcissism didn't seem to completely fit him. After reading some of it, I even worried that maybe I was the one that was really the narcissist and not him, but my counselor assured me that was not the case. Then I read this blog, and this fits my relationship with my husband exactly. Even down to the part where he moved himself to the couch, but won't actually initiate a divorce. He read my journal where I poured out my hurt from all the things my husband has done to me, and instead of feeling sorry or apologizing, he can't forgive me because I was so upset that I wrote my pain down in my journal. Then he found a counselor that sided with him and told me that I shouldn't write things down, because they can be seen and cause someone pain. My counselor paints a hopeless picture. She says that Narcissists will never change. She has been helping me to learn how to set boundaries and not take on unearned guilt, but as far as a loving relationship with my husband, that it will never happen, because he is incapable. Is this true? Is it hopeless? I am a Christian, and I take my marriage vows seriously. If my husband is waiting for me to initiate a divorce, it will not happen, but even after 20 years of feeling like nothing more than an object for my husband's pleasure, I still was holding on to the hope that someday he will love me. It is hard to let go of that hope. Should I let go? Is there help for a covert narcissist?

    1. “Should I let go? Is there help for a covert narcissist?” It’s the question so many of us want to ask when we’ve grown tired of the abuse. The simplest answer is who’s problem is it?

      In your description, it sounds like your problem, not his. So if you are willing to accept the situation as it is, it will continue. He doesn’t seem to be too upset by the arrangement.

      You don’t HAVE a marriage. That’s the great deception. You took vows that you took seriously, but if you were the only one, it wasn’t a marriage it was an “arrangement.” Dr. K

  9. This article is written as if they were looking through the window at my marriage. I’m 48 my narcissistic husband is 28 and I just put everything together. We just begun the divorce process. The only question I left with is there any way to help him. All the videos I’ve watched online seems so venomous are there no good outcomes?

    1. If he wants it, he will seek it out. If you are the only one invested, give it up. It’s his issue and he has to manage it, not you. Dr. K

  10. This sounds like my life of 14 years in may 2022. I thought I was crazy – but my two kids keep me going as I can’t imagine how they would cope with a split home.

  11. Wow, Daniel!

    This has absolutely nailed my marriage to my still deeply loved but at times cruel Australian husband of almost 36 years, in every single detail – literally as if God had just downloaded virtually our entire marital history into your understanding.

    You obviously have long experience, exceptionally astute, well – articulated – articulated insight, and (most importantly) a compassionate heart.

    Thank you again for your exceptional insight. Reading this post from you has been truly helpful.

    God bless you and your ministry.

  12. I truly believe my husband is a covert narcissist. I’m so unhappy and have been for a while. I feel trapped in this marriage. We have 3 kids together, daughter is about to be 12, 2 sons one 9 and the other 7. They love their dad but they also see what a terror he can be especially towards me, but also with them at times. I’m not perfect I have had my own issues, and some of it stems from things I’ve endured with him. 2 years ago I was so depressed and suffered from addiction issue and tried to take my own life. He found me and “saved my life”, I went to treatment for my addiction, but it was devastating to hear him say “ Something told me to go home and check on you and I found you barely alive, and thought to myself it wouldn’t be murder if I just leave you there.” Then to only find out 9 months later that he’d been speaking with another woman prior to that suicide attempt and continued the entire 3 months I was in Treatment and continued after I got out of treatment until I found out about it . Of course he denies any affair but even his mother knew about it and lied to me on his behalf. Then of course his rationale was it’s my fault bc I was not having sex with him or talking to him except about the kids. And how could I have any to say bc I had lied continuously about by drug problem. Anything he’s confronted on is always explained away as being my fault.”.you did this, so you’re the reason I’ve done this.” I’m continuously called “crackhead” and *see you next Tuesday* by him. Situation today his mom had hurt her back and the job I have now is not full time, he texts and asks what time I’ll be off of work and I told him, he asked if I could take her to the ER. I did. But close to the end of the ER visit I texted him regarding his mom and how she basically wasted our time bc she in admission described pain of 12/10, but the dr said you need to follow up with your primary to see about your back and surgery, tell me what you know helps with your pain (she’s had previous back surgery and compression fractures), and she said I’ll just take my ibuprofen 600, which is what she had at home and had taken prior to going to ER, yet you describe pain is 12/10…I just felt frustrated with why the urgency to go to ER if you weren’t going to get any relief from said pain; any way so he says he’ll talk to her, then I guess he communicated with his sister, she starts calling and texting the mom, and I have to endure an hour car ride home getting fussed at about the sister knowing and why I would say she refused pain relief and what was the point in the trip etc. so I get home and tell him look don’t put me in that situation again, that if he’d taken her he wouldn’t have contacted his sister until he was away from his mom (which is what has happened prior) bc he knows how his sister starts in on everything and never hear the end of it from the mom, to which he gets in my face and yells “don’t take my mom to the Dr again,” I said “I won’t why didn’t you take off and take her”, and he replies “I actually have a respectable job that needs me there unlike you, just keep smoking crack you c***t” I’ve just finally taken all I can take. I feel trapped financially and for my kids, however I truly feel like if I don’t get out soon it’s going to kill me and cause even more damage to my kids. If I attempt divorce he’ll just shame me more in public regarding my past problems and I don’t want to lose my kids, I’m terrified of him raising them solely bc of his anger and meanness. I’m sober and have been but I fear my past will be used against me and custody of my kids, and I can’t financially at this point support myself and kids alone. I’m just venting and needing some sort of feedback on my situation. He’s just got everyone convinced I’m so bad and he’s just the greatest. He is a master at gaslighting me, to where I question my own sanity. I’m just needing out but terrified that I’m not going to have my kids.

  13. My husband unexpectedly died almost 2 years ago. He was the poster boy for covert narcissist. I wanted to leave, but he would never have allowed me to leave. I never wished his death, but honestly his death probably saved my life. I truly believe we would have been a murder/suicide if I ever tried to leave him. He made it very clear that he would never let me go and that no one else would ever “love me the way he does”. He hated me, he loved me, he constantly accused of me cheating but then would tell me how wonderful I was. I felt like I lived in a house of eggshells. I have grieved his death, been angry that I will never be able to confront him, have felt guilty for not grieving long enough and still have problems with letting go of my anger and also my sadness. I feel as if he is still controlling me despite him being dead for almost 2 years. The effects of his gaslighting and control for over a decade is very damaging.

  14. Between Olivia and Mercedes that is my life identical. The only difference is my little boy is a beautiful auburn Mastiff and my only true companion.

  15. I think I was in my cupboard narcissist relationships a bit of chaos a little later in the week would blame things on me when they went wrong and because I got sick of waiting for him to change he also blames our break up on him not the fact that he was drinking and would not change for me does this sound like a kovid narcissist 🤔

    1. It sounds like a troubled marriage, and someone who couldn’t take responsibility for his action. That could be true of many types of people.

  16. I feel my husband is a covert narcissist. We have been married 32 years, very troubled marriage. Things are getting worse and I need help. Not sure where to turn but thought I would check here.

  17. My hysband is cuffently giving me the silent treatment…3 days now, and sleeping in a separate room from me. I cook, clean, do his laundry, make him cocoa and brownies…make 4x thevsalary he does, but I'm a piece of shit. He curses me at times, and picks fights so he has an excuse to leave at night. He is taking my life away from me…and he s so possessive that I can't breathe!!

  18. This article resonates with me. I left an 11 1/2 yr marriage last summer because of the emotionally abusive treatment from a covert passive aggressive narcissist husband. I spent the biggest part of those years trying to figure out the relationship or lack of. I thought dementia was involved until I began to read about covert passive aggressive narcissistic behavior. BINGO!! It all made sense then. Well, at least as much sense as that demonic personality type can make. The divorce is not final yet but the smear campaign is daunting. It finally became apparent that it was essential to my well being to leave the toxic situation no matter what. Praying for strength for others hurting due to those same issues! The wake of the aftermath is most challenging but your well-being is so worth it!

  19. I’ve known for a while that my husband was a covert narc. we’ve been together for almost 13 years and only recently were married because we had a child. I know that I also have narcissistic traits but I acknowledge them and strive to combat them, but he is very comfortable with the way things are. I want so badly to divorce and move on, but I’ve made the decision to stay for my child (I know it’s not recommended, but I can’t let him or his family have the influence that they would if I wasn’t around). It’s sucks because I want more kids, but it wouldn’t be fair to them to subject them to this behavior. My dad’s a narc and it’s very damaging. I don’t know what kind of person I’d be if my mom didn’t stick around for my and my siblings sake.

  20. I was with my ex for 9years. He left me 2 years ago, and I’m still a wreck. I truly believe he was / is a narcissist. I sure could use some help healing.

  21. This is why psychology is a soft science borderline on pseudoscience.

    How to turn everybody you don't like into a narcissist by Daniel Dashnaw. 😆🙄

  22. I would love to pursue a discussion with you about covert narcissism. I think I am married to one and I think staying married is killing me.

  23. My ex- Wife thinks am a Narcissist but I don’t think so , how can one sure? What test I need to do this I live in country where they don’t believe in going to therapist not even if you drink too much

    She is afraid our kid can copy my personality disorder if I can control myself around her
    She says am
    Posesive aggressive passive and manipulative because I refuse to let her move on, I can’t underwear how someone can leave me. Behind
    Insisting she takes me back for over 5 years.
    But she just kills at me and we get into argued

    What shall we do the kids in in middle

    She says she wants help with our kid and that all. Should we. Stay separate or is there any hope in regaining trust?

    1. You say that your wife has divorced you. She has already spoken. She no longer wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. You can seek out family therapy for divorced couples to be sure you are on the same page regarding your children. This is not “couples therapy.” It’s parent guidance. Focus on working effectively together for the sake of the children and ignore your own efforts to re-unite. Listen to her when she says she no longer wants to stay married.

  24. Try 40 years of feeling worthless! The only time my husband seemed pleased was when I was earning money. He is everything you wrote about. I'm pretty sure my mother is a CN I am the scapegoat in both families, his family are all CN except his Grandiose deceased father who they all still worship even in death. They are all so evil nice it took me 39 years to figure out this screwed up family. I would describe my husband as a male chovenest on top of CN I am literally nothing more than a servant and narc supply. But I'm a fighter even before I knew what I was fighting! I buy what I want and choose what I want to do now that he is retired he can go pout I don't care because I look at it this way, IV done my time I'm not moving out and get very little to be able to live on since I was the caregiver not a career person. Reflecting back I should have left while still young but that's life. Stay strong out there.

  25. I asked for a divorce just before Christmas and I am now realizing I married a covert narcissist. My big concern is the fact that my 11 year old daughter is being groomed by my in laws. I am concerned because I am seeing her exhibit many narcissistic traits. I want to do everything I can to make sure she doesn’t end up as a narcissist.

    1. Hi Kristy,
      Realize that you do have a counter-influence, and can teach healthy values to your daughter as well. At 11 years old, she has and is picking up many values from the culture and friends around her, as well has her family. Take every teaching moment to teach principles you believe are adaptive with a good self- and other- balance. It’s all any of us can do, honestly. –Dr. K

  26. Dear Olivia, I hope you see this. I am writing you because I know exactly what you are going through. Only it took me 40 years!!! I agree with Dr. K. There are alot of us going through this, however, only someone who is going through it, often unfortunately, will be able to really understand. You do need support. I belong to a group called Flying Free Sisterhood. You can google this and get a free subscription where you will get an email every week that includes a podcast from Natalie Hoffman. She wrote a book called "Is it me; Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage", and I read this book for the first time many months ago, but just got into the program which you can sign up for for $29.00 a month. The program has helped me sooo much. I have met and call other women who are going through the same thing and it's a life line. There is also a lady in this group offering free counseling so she can get her hours to get qualified to get her Life Coaching Certificate with the International Coaching Association. To be honest I know now that this is my calling as well. I did get my masters degree years ago and still working on those 2500 hours to get licensed here is California and now I totally believe I want to help others!!.

    Yep my life has been good, bad and ugly ( which means complicated, depressing and crazy) and just ridiculous to put it nicely. And just like you it's this exact type of Narcissism. I just found this article yesterday, just before bed and didn't sleep much last night because of it…. I've met a lot of women in our situation, but this type seems to be lesser known or heard of or understood and much harder to explain. It is the most deceptive of all of them I feel. It took me months of research to find this exact article that hits the nail on the head. I would say that the deception in my marriage is off the charts and that gut feeling I had for most of those years off and on, well I didn't get how my body was keeping the score", which is a name of a book by the way and how my 2nd brain was screaming at me and saving "Warning, warning something is very wrong here, as the hair on the back of my head stood up and I felt sucker punched over and over and over!! UGH My empathetic, big heart that wanted so badly to understand and to save my marriage, only got broken to pieces!! Eventually all the confusing moments started to make sense, all those red flags. I get it now and even though it's taken me way too long, and it's very hard to forgive myself and so many people I reached out to who were clueless, and not caring enough to help me in any way, I am finally seeing the light and making my own plans to escape and help others.

    Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Please don't give up, there is hope out there. I know a lady in our group that just escaped with her 3 kids just last week, you can do it too…. Now I need to print this article out because wow it will finally help me explain my messy marriage to my 2 adult daughters etc, when I finally escape. Thank you Dr. K for this excellent article!!!

    I love our program for many other reasons too, such as their "butterfly" stories from 34 women who have gone through similar situations as you and are getting out eventually… even though some have to plan for a very long time. But knowing and going through all this with other women is very helpful and healing. Natalie does everything she can to help other women as she went through a marriage like this for 25 years and had 9 children!!! Her experience is one of the worst I have heard and now she is remarried to a wonderful man and spends so much of her time helping others and making her program affordable.

    You can email me and get in touch if you want to…. not sure they will allow me to share my email on here, but it's [email protected]

  27. I was in a marriage IDENTICAL to what you have described in this article…. IDENTICAL. I often thank God that He let me out of it in 6 months as opposed to 6 years. I did not realize I was in an emotionally mentally abusive relationship until after it was all over. I simply had reached a point where I had questioned my own sanity so many times that it just was not healthy and I filed for divorce. You definitely have described what I have never been able to explain so I'll be sharing this article with many people because I'm so glad that there's somebody in the world that understands. So thank you so much for taking the time to write this!

  28. This is the most accurate description of how my life has been for the past 8 years that I have read to date. I was so confused and felt so messed up for the longest time. When I began to realize what was actually going on it all made sense. This article will help me to describe to friends and family that have never been subjected to this abuse. Thank you for writing this!

  29. Can this be written to be gender neutral or at least admit that the covert narcissist can be the wife and doesn’t have to be the husband?

    I just moved out of my family’s home due to 29 years with a covert narcissist wife. This article nails the description of our marriage.

  30. Is there an article for the CN wife? Is it as easy as replacing he with she in this article? It seems very disproportionately male vs female narcissist but I have a strong inclination that I’ve suffered from narcissistic abuse.

  31. Wow. You just described my husband to a T. This is the first article that really could not have been more clear. He is definitely a covert narcissist. He would never admit any of this. We've been together 13 years and have 3 children together. Most days I am a mess, stressing and worrying about how much I get done or just simply wanting to make sure he is happy when he gets home from work. I cry every single day. To everyone we know he is so great and perfect. And because I've always put him first I have Noone except him and my children. Our children are fully aware how he is and I still try to convince them otherwise. I have no self confidence anymore. I recently read about gas lighting and realized he has been doing that since the very beginning. I can't leave him because I am a stay at home mom and everything he will say is his. I would end up leaving with nothing. He refuses to do therapy and tells me it's nonsense. I think he just could never handle anyone telling him he is wrong. His front is very convincing. How do I convince him to go to therapy? I feel inadequate and extremely frustrated. I cab show him proof and he still lies and denies things. And has convinced other people I am crazy and unappreciative. I can't afford a therapist either. I'm stuck and lost and completely stressed and miserable but yet still feel I am in love with him. Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated and may save my life honestly. Would showing him this article help at all? I feel he would just flip it and tell me that's what I do. Like usual. But his truth is never what the the reality is. He is delusional.

    1. Hi Olivia,

      You understand your bind better than anyone, I suspect. And you’ve convinced yourself that it is an impossible bind that you can’t do anything about. The issue isn’t your husband. He appears quite content with the way things are, as he’s doing just what he wants to do and you are the one paying the price.

      You don’t need marriage counseling, and it’s seldom effective with covert narcissistic disordered spouses anyway.

      What you need is what you’ve eliminated from consideration: Someone who will help you to believe in yourself and to take a real close look at the bind you’ve created for yourself. If that’s not a paid therapist, maybe it is a person who works in the ministry, or a co-counselor who works for no or little money. Maybe it’s a neighbor or your sister or Mom.

      But your first step is to believe yourself enough and believe IN yourself enough to decide that you and the children simply don’t deserve to be abused any longer. Right now, material considerations are placed ahead of your emotional wellbeing. And your three children get a ring-side seat in understanding “your” version of what married life is all about. “Marriage is what causes Mommy to cry every day.”

      By the way, “I can’t leave him/her” is a standard thing spouses who are married to narcissists say. They are brainwashed into believing that they couldn’t possible be effective in the world without the abuser. That’s how brainwashed and gaslit you are. “I must put up with this abuse. I simply have no other choice.”

      That’s powerful magic right there. Until you can get help in figuring how you’ve come to believe that, you are utterly, utterly stuck. YOU ARE. You are all locked up, and you are ignoring the key to the lock that is in your pocket.

      No one can help you at this point unless you realize it’s time for a serious, serious change. And the entire process will probably really suck for you. Suck for your kids. And only years and maybe decades later will you look back and say to yourself: “That was the best decision I ever made.”

      Today? Tomorrow however? It will be hell.

      Sorry I can’t offer you a magic bullet. But check your pockets. You might find the key and decide to unlock the bind yourself.

      My best to you,

      Dr. K

  32. You have very accurately described my overt narcissistic husband. I carry this secret around in silence in order to protect his “nice and perfect guy” reputation, and my fear of being blamed for being the one with the problem. I am completely broken because I don’t have one soul that I can share this secret with.

    1. Congrats, Debi. You’ve said it out loud. Now go tell someone else. He’s not perfect and he’s not very nice. And he doesn’t need your blood, sweat, and tears to keep him safe. Try telling him and you’ll see just how quickly he’ll kick you to the curb. He’s a pretty strong dude after all! – Dr. K

  33. I feel this describes my husband 90% of the time. He was in the military and I got a different man after deployment.
    He cheats and he lies, but he thinks he is a nice guy, because he doesn't hit me.

    He regrets marrying me or having kids with me, but when I say we will divorce (again, we didn't it once four years ago) he don't want to. Or works relentlessly to gain my love and trust back.

    As a background story: While he was deployed in 2004, I was sexually assaulted. I confessed years later, after many sessions of individual therapy for me to heal and gain the courage.
    I wish I hadn't. As everything he does to me now, ie., cheating, emotional affairs, overall disrespect (getting mad at me for no reason or accusing me of things I don't control) are all things I should be ok with, because I "cheated" on him while he was in the war.
    I can't say: hey you are raising your voice at me, because it ends being an argument, on how I am the worst wife ever, because I went out while he was in the war and that happened to me.

    I feel I am in this continuous cycle of abuse. Then five minutes later he is acting normal and even kissing me goodbye. I feel so lost and out of balance.

    1. He can decide to get help for his trauma, or he can keep traumatizing you.

      You can stay in the situation, or you can decide to stop being traumatized and get distance.

      But you are powerless to change him. Repeat that to yourself over and over.

  34. I would like to know why my husband said:
    The reason he has romantic relationship with other women is because I have deep problem, that he had talked to professionals, that I have zero emotional intelligence, and that it is only an escape for him. He said he'd stop because it is not a big issue for him; he can stop anytime. When confronted by our friends why he did not stop, he goes through the same reasons.
    He said I am a narcissist.
    He said he does not understand why his children (we have 2 sons in college and in high school) would not like him, that he has no problems with them. (It is my older son who asked me not to invite him back home after he moved out; my younger son told me to stop believing his lies.)
    He said the reason our sons do not talk to him is because I control them.
    He said in order not to divorce me (he had filed legal separation but when my attorney asked for discovery, he withdrew the legal separation.), I must to DBT for at least 1 year. Attend a codependency group and find a sponsor for a year. Take and pass a communications course.
    My husband says he would keep an open mind about me, if I can change, but he doubts I can.

    1. You describe a very abusive relationship, Monica. I hope you are able to get both comfort and clarity with the help of a good therapist.

      Sounds like you’ve been gaslit for some time. Thanks for sharing your story. –Dr. K

  35. WOW! This is how I feel about my husband!! 17 years together and I am at a loss. I am afraid to leave as I cannot protect and provide for my child. How do you protect your child and their well being in divorce? He is neglectful as a parent. The in-laws are as well. The other woman in our marriage is his mother. She behaves the same, often neglecting and ignoring my child/me unless she stands to benefit from public praise. She worships my husband, but treats her other son much the same as she treats me, my child. She is two faced and often cold indifferent towards us in private. In public or the company of her husband, she's loving, considerate and kind. Give my husband an audience and he is husband of the year. Within in the walls of our home, every word to the "t" below and more. How do you protect your young child in a divorce from Jekyll & Hyde? Or is that why these marriages end after several decades because the only way to protect your child is to stay? Doesn't that teach them codependency?

    1. You ask good questions that need personalized answers. Seek out the counsel of a wise therapist to explore your own unique and relevant answers. This isn’t a “one size fits all.” They are powerful questions.

  36. This is my soon to be ex-husband and I've yet to find an article so superbly written to sum up the entirety of my experience. Only I fought so hard for my marriage that I drove him to initiate divorce, it's been hell and it's not over but I put my faith in God and He's seeing my through this nightmare. Thank you for this article. It's so validating.

  37. This is my husband. No other article I’ve read every time I tried to make sense of his behavior has described him to a T. My family does not like him and he hates that because he knows that they now know who he is. Every time I’m with my family, he thinks we’re talking about him and thinks they’re “brainwashing” me to hate him. He took me to my mom’s to pick up our kids. He waited outside while I visited. I come out and get the baby in the car. I comment in what I thought was a calm voice but was still sarcasm none the less. I said “thanks for helping me put the baby in the car” It was cold outside and my tooth was in pain and I was upset he didn’t get out to help. He asks “why did you say that? because shit stain let you go in front of him” (talking about the pizza delivery guy that let me and the baby walk through the driveway first. I guess since this pants were sagging my husband’s hateful nickname of choice was shit stain) then tells me the reason I made the comment about him was because me and my family were inside talking about him the whole time and he doesn’t know why I’m there to begin with because of how they’ve treated me. Goes on to scream “f your family” twice in front of the kids in the car. We get home and he’s still going about how much he hates my family and they’re the reason why I came back with an attitude towards him about not being a gentleman. It’s all my family’s fault and mine that I let them brainwash me into being upset at him for not being a gentleman. It all makes no sense. I tell him to please stop talking about my family in front of the kids, he doesn’t listen so I yell. After yelling it’s “why are you yelling in front of the kids why are you so angry at me you weren’t like this before you were there with your parents” as if he didn’t just talk badly about my family in front of the kids but I’m supposed to keep my composure? I’m not allowed to yell. Not only that but when we’re home he takes something away from the baby, baby cries, the oldest comforts his crying baby brother and my husband tells him “oh what are you scared of me are you gonna go to your grandma’s now and run and tell her that you’re scared of me” he’s messing with my kids heads now and apologizes later on all calmly as if he didn’t just treat us all like crap because he hates my family so much. If I try to tell him how everything he did made me feel, he turns it around on me. “You’ve been attacking me all weekend! Telling me everything I don’t do!” Refers to me telling him to please figure out his car that’s been broken and sitting out back for months now. I cannot and I repeat CANNOT tell this man ANYTHING about himself nicely, calmly, angrily. He takes it as an attack or insult any time I try to tell him how something he is or isn’t doing is making me feel. No matter how I approach him. I promise you it never gets brought up how I made him feel “attacked” about anything until I confront him about something he’s done. Instead of him just apologizing and taking responsibility it’s always MY fault he acts the way he does because I’M the one who has been “attacking” him. I’M the one who always shows him I don’t care. I do everything for this man. I’m so tired. I’m gaining weight. My hair has been falling out. I’m exhausted from the kids and hate asking him for help because when I do, everything he’s done for me gets thrown in my face if I ever come at him with any complaint later on. I always go back and forth about what I’ve done and if it was really me who said or did something so wrong that me and the kids deserved to be treated that badly. He’s always had anger problems but if I get angry or react to his hatefulness it’s not ok because then he REALLY gets angry and doesn’t know how to stop. That is until someone accepts his apology and moves on as if it never happened. He doesn’t stop being angry until he gets what he wants. I feel like I’m constantly walking on eggshells and can never voice my opinion or how I feel. I’m dying inside and have truly lost myself. I no longer feel strong. I feel weak and helpless. I feel ugly. I feel insane. I feel trapped.

  38. Just read this and it made it all OK. I am divorcing my CN husband after 20 years together. Almost there. I had everyone saying, but he’s so lovely. You are so happy. How could you do this? I have just had the most miserable time. Survived cancer and sepsis. Only one that worked. Always thinking I wasn’t doing enough. While he had fun cycling, pretending to work for me. Going on holiday. Drinking coffee. Making our son’s life miserable because he was too like me. But it was my fault. I needed to try harder. Because he just wasn’t happy. And. It. Was. All. My fault. Now we are separated it’s not much easier. As he still has this version of me. Aggressive. Unreasonable. An abusive bully. And he’s so damaged by it. And we have two children and he makes it as hard as possible. Because I am free and he hates that. He wants to control me. Tell me where I can live. When I can see the children. Approve any holiday plans. All the while trying to damage me. my reputation. Stop me moving on. He’s taken the dog. I won’t see him again. The cruelty. And to think I thought I loved him and was happy sometimes. Those times were when he wasn’t picking on me. Ignoring me. Stopping me. I must remind myself it’s over. But the scars are deep.

  39. Wow! I have struggled for 16 years to describe my toxic marriage. This article has helped me understand my husband’s actions and why I’ve felt confused and empty for a long time.

    This has confirmed that I can not and will not let myself or our children continue to be victims of my husband’s covert narcissistic behaviors.

    1. It’s exact depiction of I am going through, this blog helped me to understand what’s going on in my life. I feel so light today, I have been constantly dismissed by my own parents and siblings and I was lead to believe that I am an abnormal person seeing issues in an otherwise perfect gentleman

  40. This is almost carbon copy my life with my husband of 30 years. Except the bit about relationships with our children and the dog. He has built incredible relationships with our 4 children to the exclusion of the mother. And the dog too! He has time to play ball and walk his dog at least twice a day, promising me and others he’ll come back to them regarding vitally important stuff but frequently just doesn’t.

  41. Like I am reading my entire 20 years with my ex husband in one article. After all this time I finally have an explanation to what made me feel so bad about myself. I am not a bad person. I am loving mother, friend and partner. It is still shocking to realise how I let myself been treated this way for so long. I left and became a happy person who found love first within herself and now also with a really sweet man. But I still need to work through the fact I was with someone for so long who only used me as an object for his own egocentric needs.

    1. Me too. I’m still shell shocked that the man who “checked all the boxes” for me turned out to be an abusive asshole. I forgot to add “kind” when looking for a life partner. Oops!

    2. You lucky s-o-b. Im finding this at soon to be 45 and a lifetime of what could habe been happiness, is gone. Ive been drawn to these guys since I was 15 due to an autistic mother.

      But guess what? Life is a school and we are here to learn. Lesson learned. Be happy.

  42. This is the best explanation of my circumstances that I have read relating to a covert narcissist.
    I no longer feel crazy for thinking things were not right. Especially the sexual ‘love bombing’ element as I had never thought of it that way before but it makes total sense now.
    Thank you

      1. This is a really curious diagnosis for me. I’m a father and ex husband to be (separated for almost 8 of last 20 year relationship) I displayed almost all of these characteristics, yet over the last 8 years after couples counseling, therapy and life, all professionals have been almost certain I was married to and continue to live with an overt narcissist. She controls her mother, my daughter, and me, will never apologize even when she realizes her outburst was based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication, she will simply no longer be upset about that topic, so she will change that topic to a different one where she is slowed to be upset and that proves everything is my fault, someone else but ultimately not hers. I’ve noticed that I, my daughter and her mom, all show these characteristics when interacting with her criticisms, that we are emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally inferior to her, are oblivious to true reality and that any opinions we have that differ from hers are a sign of disrespect.

        So my question is, are Covert narcissists commonly those that live with Overt narcissist loved ones? I apologize to those women who’ve commented because it definitely sounds like your needs were never attended to, and that sucks, but I seemed to never give my wife what she truly needed either.
        So how can you tell if you are victim of an overt narcissist and simply surviving the constant attacks with eye rolling, smirks and passive aggressiveness OR a covert narcissist Married to an overt narcissist. Her behavior by all standardized measures show her to display clear overt narcissism with all 3 of us so in my case it seems that part is not in question. Sorry if this can’t be answered without 20 sessions and meeting everyone in the family to get a proper assessment but maybe you can answer the main question succinctly. Either way this is my response to reading the article. I want harmony for my family and currently it’s toxic and it’s incredibly difficult for everyone, including her because we are all seemingly flawed beyond repair and she is deeply dissatisfied by our behaviors with her.

        1. Labels aside, no one on Earth is “always right” or “always wrong,” and only the emotionally immature think so. When a spouse looks down at their partner, we call it “contempt” in Gottman language. It’s the most harmful of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” It only happens in very troubled marriages. So skip the labels and ask yourself (because you are in this conversation and have the best chance of getting something out of it…): “Was my behavior a logical reaction to an impossible situation?” “Were there other things I might have done but chosen this path? Why?” Passive-aggressive behavior can be learned, but it is also a worldview. Pay particular attention to your tendency to continue these destructive behaviors in new relationships, and if you do see it, get individual help.

  43. Why does this whole article assume that the covert narcissist is the husband/ father and perhaps not the wife/ mother? Surely there is good info here but it makes the reading tedious as you try to decipher the scenarios in your head.

  44. Oh dear…. I have wasted my entire life. Every single thing you have written I got colder and colder because I was saying yes, Yes, Yes, To every single point you made to their behaviour. Oh dear…
    I am slightly special needs and it takes me forever to see things, so a covert narcissist had a field day with me.
    We only have one life, one shot and one chance. These horrid, horrid people do not bat an eyelid to the destruction they cause and the precious time and lives of people they steal. Once you start to figure them out they panic and start to seduce their next victims, then once lined up disgard you and run skipping and jumping into their next victim’s bed. I would like to live long enough to see the law changed and these destructive, abhorrent people can be put in jail and pay compensation to the lives they have stolen and obliterated.
    I think the author of this accurate piece of information should start a match making agency for us. So we find a loving, kind warm partner. Moreover our lives have already been wasted and why shouldn’t we spend at least a few years with someone that loves us. With such insight, care and depth for letting people like us know before it’s too late and we die unloved and alone at the hands of a covert narcissist you could indeed have a very successful match making agency.
    Anyway thank you for writing this, I can now pick myself up and watch another sunrise without swollen eyes and a shattered heart.
    And if anyone else has read this and has also said yes to all that has been written…. you are worthy of so very much more as I can bet you are also very empathetic. It is not love you feel for them it’s a fear of starting all over again and a crushed inner ability to judge a person correctly, and all that wasted love and time. You can not love them because to love someone they have to be kind, loving and warm. You can not love someone who is cruel, unkind and 100% selfish and self centered.

    1. Your own comments are as accurate as the description of a covert narcissist. Its a desolate experience and for me 18 years…your right about one’s fear moving forward to. Good luck in your future. X

  45. I wish there was a way I could comment to each and everyone if you. GET OUT of this relationship and do it as quickly as you can. The only thing (once you are out) that you will feel so gravely sad about is not doing it sooner. This “nice guy” I was married to for 15 years has sincerely caused me from what feels like a form of brain damage. I am utterly destroyed and weakened in every aspect of my being. His manipulative tactics caused me to question the very things that make us human beings like trusting your gut, those natural things that occur as a result of something. My brain was programmed to not respond in the same way because of what he did to me. His alcoholism was also so covert that I didn’t even see how bad it was near the end. Once covid hit and I realized I was saying the same thing over and over again everyday… I became more vocal about it and not accepting his responses… that’s when it became volatile and he attacked me.
    I am forever grateful to my state for supporting me in keeping this man away from me and my 3 wonderful children who on the sidelines of what was happening too suffered from his manipulative abuse. He is no longer in our lives to torment and hurt.
    These are seriously sick, deranged, twisted human beings who don’t have the outlook aura of any of these traits. This has further isolated me and my kids from some who can’t believe this happened to us because… “he’s such a nice guy”

    I send all of you suffering from these monsters, a hug of support and the most needed thing you crave someone to tell you genuinely, “you are not crazy!”
    Much love!

    1. Oh how this is a mirror on my own situation….been separated for 3 years now…but we have both custody of our daughter so I will never be totally free from him….

  46. This article was validating for me. It exactly describes my ex husband, our marriage, and his fathering.even down to the length, 30 years and his refusal to leave, and I had to divorce him. For 34 years I thought I was going mad, how could I explain to others why I was so unhappy, after all my husband was so “nice”. Thankyou so much. I am printing this off so I can keep it to refer to when I start to doubt myself and to help explain to my friends and family.

  47. I’m scared by how much this describes my husband and our relationship. The constant “forgetting” to help me, and then griefing me when I remind him. The shutting down emotionally so I can’t talk about issues and have to hold back my thoughts and feelings. The veiled, constant anger. One example that happened just tonight and led me to writing this comment: I had been working around the house on and off all day, while he played video games. I didn’t ask him for much help, and he did help when I did ask, but he makes me feel like any work I do is my “choice” but any work he does is “forced upon him”. He has told me that before about housework by saying, “no one asked you to do (so and so)”. So I was just trying to make the bed and was just finishing up when he was crawling into bed, and he just starts complaining about everything. He said, why did you tell me to come to bed if it wasn’t ready? I told him I was going to finish making the bed around him. He was heavily implying that I hurry up, so I got stressed out and almost fell off the bed onto my head putting a pillowcase on one of the pillows. Instead of immediate concern, he was pissed and said, “well now I’m awake”, meaning that I was now stressing him out and he would be punishing me by staying up all night. He left the room, and I urged him to come back to bed. He came back got into bed. I asked him (in what I thought was a polite and appropriate tone) to pull the sheet straight since he has right there and I have knee problems so I was pulling the sheet straight at the bottom. He started to give me a very frustrated tone and I said something like “what’s with the attitude?” He immediately got pissed off and left the room again, saying “well, I’m really awake now!” I beckoned him back yet again and he then sniffed the pillow that I pulled out of the dryer early to try and get the bed ready. He said it smelled like shit and he couldn’t sleep in the room. He left to sleep on the couch (that still has pee smell from potty training our puppy) to “punish” me. I “fixed” the pillows for him by rearranging them and asked him back to bed yet again. He fell asleep without discussion. I felt like I was going to throw up but couldn’t exactly put my finger on the reason why. Then I started googling lack of communication and ended up on this page after seeing “signs” that matched my experiences. Is this indeed signs of covert narcissism? My head is spinning from these types of encounters with him and it is seriously affecting my memory, judgment, and emotions. Please let me know if this sounds like covert narcissism to you. Thank you.

    1. Sad Girl,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this. It sounds like you are turning yourself inside out trying to please him, but very little of what you do accomplishes this. It can be crazy-making. Sometimes I think that is the goal though. It seems as if he can keep you focused on what you did “wrong,” (which is probably nothing at that point,) then you may wind up so focused on fixing “it” (which could be a problem he actually created) that you don’t have the energy or the clarity of mind to see what reality may be, or how poorly he is treating you. I can say from experience that if you are able to find a therapist who is knowledgeable about these types of behaviors, they are worth their weight in gold. If you can be selective about finding one, even better. A therapist should not pile more guilt or shame onto you. They should be understanding and supportive. Journaling, either electronically or traditionally, can also help you recognize – and remember – what has happened. If you start journaling, you may be shocked at the incidents you didn’t remember until you saw them again in your journal. There are also some good books, and a handful of good YouTube channels where some psychologists present helpful information. There are also other survivors out there who provide information and ideas as to how to help yourself recognize what is happening and how to move forward. You are not alone, even though you may think you are, you are not alone. Take care of yourself and good luck.

  48. I joke (but it’s not funny) that the more I know my husband, the less I know him. We’ve been married 31 year and I truly love my “nice guy” husband. He blames me for every decision we ever made TOGETHER, saying it was my decision – not ours. I remember a marriage counselor telling me (probably 20 years ago), “he hides behind his niceness.” I say to him, “I just want you to talk to me with the same kindness you do to strangers and acquaintances.” After trying to get him to take vacations for the past 25 years, and him always saying we can’t afford it, but then spending lots of money on all his favorite tech stuff, I finally told him this year I was taking a vacation, and he could either come along and decide to have fun and not complain about it, or I would bring a friend (or go alone). He came with me and we had a good time – he still didn’t start any conversations/ask me questions, and I wonder if the entire week would’ve been silent if I wasn’t such a good conversation starter/question asker. He’s passive aggressive about everything, is an only child, his parents didn’t discipline him, but he was an “easy child” in their words. I have literally been looking up Adults with Asperger’s and other things, trying to figure out what’s going on with him and why he doesn’t go any deeper than he would on an elevator with a stranger or why he only talks about stuff that a roommate would. He wasn’t like this when we dated or for the first couple of years of marriage. But he’s let me know that he’s not cut out to be married and with kids (our kids are grown now). And another thing that’s unusual to me – he can’t name one person he knows that is an inspiration to him. There’s tons more, but I’m just wondering if he fits this category. (I was married for 5 years, before, to an extroverted obvious narcissist – life of the party, charming, everyone loved him – until they saw the warning signs. He was emotionally and verbally abusive.) My sister tells me that I’m very attentive, loving, and welcoming and that it looks to her and her husband that I’ve tried everything to get him to connect and engage. He just doesn’t change and doesn’t want to. And seems to not want to be known or know me, really. And I’m not one to try to change someone anyway. I just don’t understand the personality that doesn’t want to grow in a relationship. And I’m so tired of being expected to read his mind.

    1. It only makes sense when you realize that he lives in a very little world, and change will bring him out of a world where he has a ready villain for all that ails him (you!).

    2. Hi Barby, you have described my situation perfectly! I too arrived here researching the very things you did, including Asperger’s! My husband also tells me he isn’t cut out to be a dad/grandfather, yet he is. The kids learned over the years, as the grands are now, that I am the go-to parent and the one always there to listen to and engage with while hubby hides away in his home office playing video games, watching sports, etc. Basically doing all the ‘fun’ things he wants to do and showing up at dinner time to talk about his fun day in his hideaway while dismissing any other talk around the table. When we first dated and early married life I was very social, lots of friends, on a bowling league, went out dancing, etc. Now, I have no life outside the house and no real friends have survived my marriage. He wouldn’t say don’t go bowling, don’t go out with your friends, no…he would say “oh I thought we were going to watch a movie, or do this or that” or worse, say nothing and then I would come home to a dark house, all lights out, doors locked and him pretending to be asleep, then the exaggerated waking up and “oh, you’re finally home?” then back to pretend sleep as he wasn’t interested in my night. This was followed with days of sulking, quiet treatment. I finally quit going out and stopped bowling. To be clear, he wasn’t this way early on. He would go dancing with me, out with friends, etc. He slowly quit going, used any excuse, until I finally started to go without him. That’s when he (again, slowly) showed resentment that I dared to have a life/fun without him. He rarely makes meaningful eye contact, unless he wants something from me. He does things half-assed and wants constant praise for anything he does to “help me out”. He definitely has anger issues that he has learned to hide/bury deep, but I do worry that one day they will come bursting thru and aimed straight at me. Everyone says he’s a “nice guy” but they don’t live with him. My sister asked, 20 years ago, why is it we both work full time, yet I come home and immediately start dinner, check on kids, do household stuff, etc and he comes homes, brags about his day and hides in his office till dinner is on the table? I jokingly said bc he has zero attachment/interest to anything that doesn’t enhance him and his thoughts at the moment. No I look back and think how right I was, and how stupid I was to not pack up and leave while I was still young and healthy. Now I feel trapped and angry and depressed. My health is failing (cancer) and I’ve been beaten down mentally and emotionally to the point I think why bother to leave now? He however, has seemed to come out of this as such a wonderful, supportive husband who is here for his sick wife, etc….I want to scream! My saving grace is to know that others are out there, just like me, and thank goodness for this article! I hope you find a way to be happy no matter how you move forward. I’m trying to take each day with a semi-positive attitude as I pray to find a way back to my happier days.

  49. This is spot on….I was married to a CN for 41 years. It took me so long to realize I wasn’t the problem, that I wasn’t “too sensitive” and that the silent treatment was a weapon he used on me. The last several years his anger escalated to yelling at me, calling me names, pointing his finger and shaking like he wanted to punch me…all for small things he felt was criticism of him. He couldn’t even remember what he said (so he said) because he “blacked out”. I decided to finally leave as I didn’t want him to “black out” and kill me, and I was just so beat down emotionally and psychologically, I didn’t enjoy life anymore. My advice to anyone that lives with a CN (put downs as jokes, anger at you that you can’t figure out, the silent treatment, etc…) is to leave and don’t look back. They will all claim to get healing really fast but if they wanted to treat you better they would. Mine treated the family dog better, and he kicked them around and punched them, he even shot them in the head when they were old and sick. He said it was merciful. If you go back they will increase the pressure and guilt you for leaving the first time. Just go, save yourself some years of heartache, and trauma. BTW, you’re doing your children NO FAVORS by staying, they are learning bad patterns of behavior and may turn out like him. They won’t necessarily appreciate you being there for them all the years their dad ignored and rejected them. They will feel sorry for him and turn on you. Leave while they are young.

  50. You just described my husband. Like others, I spent years wondering what did I do wrong, how can I be better for him. We married early, I was young and craving to be loved by someone. It’s no wonder how this person knew how to find me, I was the perfect victim.

    I wish I had known, I wish I didn’t have children with him. But I do, and this is my reality. I’m suffering from multiple health issues, I’ve gained 25 pounds and feel weak and drained all the time. This marriage feels like a slow suicide.

    I ended up not pursuing my dreams and being in an unstable, low paid job – he says I’m worthless and insecure and that I don’t do anything for our family. At the same time the society tells you to “count your blessings and be grateful”. I feel so guilty all.the.time.

    After 13 years of this, I recently opened up to 2 friends of mine – all the 13 years poured out of me like a river. It felt as if I was talking about another person, this is how much ingrained in me is the belief that I’m wrong and he’s right.

    I want nothing more than to leave him, but I’m being aware that he will still be a parent to our children and I will still have to deal with his toxic behavior. It makes the decision to leave even harder. Will it worth it? Will my kids be in danger with him, when he slyly shows his resentment? This is my biggest fear. He always finds ways to punish me, and do the exact opposite of what I (dare to) ask, then blaming me for being oversensitive, abusive, judgmental.

    I think he’ll eventually use the kids to do exactly that and I’m scared my kids might get injured from his lack of care and attention. He has shown signs in the past: our 2 year old fell of the stairs while he was supposed to look after her. Instead, he was on his computer. When I took her in my arms after the fall, and while she and I were both in shock and crying, I told him ” how did that happen, you were supposed to look after her”, only to immediately have him lash out at me and accuse me of abusing him once more. My 2 year old baby had just landed at the bottom of the stairs and all he would say is that I was abusing him. I remember I spent the next 24 hours at the hospital, didn’t sleep and just wished my little one was OK (she was, fortunately). But I’m not OK. I’m furious at him. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that makes it even harder to prove at court or to anyone, actually.

    He never takes responsibility and always plays the victim. He uses that to gain my sympathy and have me care for him again. But I don’t want to stay in this marriage anymore. My feelings alternate between feeling sorry that he can’t be genuinely kind and thoughtful, and feeling angry he treats his family this way.

    I wish he would just leave and never come back.

    1. First, I’m so sorry, and I hate to say I’m going through something extremely similar with my husband, who I’ve been starting to slowly see as the CN I know he must be… But I just wanted to say, do you feel like it might be worth it to talk to a lawyer to see if you’d be able to get full custody in your case? If you had hospital records, it might be worth a shot…

      I say this because we have two kids (an infant and a 3 yo) and the older one was in his care when I was working and he was a stay at home dad months before we were expecting our second. And long story short, I knew he’d been neglecting our at the time infant/young toddler because he could never tell me what he ate at all during the day anytime I’d ask (and no new used dishes or anything would be left around but the dirty ones from before that day would stay in the sink, and our child would literally be crying and hungry), his diapers would never be changed, my husband would let our baby just fuss and throw himself around at night until he literally fell asleep in the floor instead of doing a bedtime routine or anything where they wouldn’t sleep until anywhere between midnight and 4 am, he’d never do bath time either unless I stayed up after work to do one, and he’d sit our baby on his lap all day while he played his video games and would just give his phone to our one year old to watch videos on, even though I’d specifically ask him to not give him more than an hour of screen time, if any at all – and this plus a bunch of other stuff that killed me to think about all day everyday at work wondering how my baby was doing was for entire 13 hour workdays I’d be gone for. But I never had any “proof” to show for it to anyone else and still don’t… Otherwise I might be more likely to get the hell out and take them both with me somewhere else, away from my husband… But now I’m the stay at home parent, and I’m trying to make up for all the dreams I sacrificed too by starting my own business every waking second I can spend trying to do so, but I basically feel like a single mom of two kids because he won’t stop ignoring us when he’s not working. He leaves me to do everything and I feel afraid of even approaching him for anything for the exact reasons you mentioned, even verbatim (among other reasons listed in the article and ones I’m sure you probably deal with, too and you said it so well with the slow suicide and feelings of guilt… It’s spot on, and I hate the thought of anyone else going through anything similar whatsoever…). And yet he’s still somehow able to make me feel like I’m the one being abusive to him. Somehow.

      But yeah… I was just curious if the thought had crossed your mind at all, or if you’ve been planning a way out or how things are just going in general…? That last part really got me too, because lately I’ve caught myself actually fantasizing about something horrible happening to him, like being in an accident or anything to keep him from being in our lives and without me having to go through the process of divorce or risking him retaliating against me or my babies. I’ve already had one ex assassinate my character in our small hometown I feel like I can’t even go back to anymore, and Idk if CNs do the same thing but I wouldn’t put it past him…

      And about your daughter, I feel so sorry reading what happened to her and what you had to go through with all of that, and my heart really does go out to you… My husband has done something similar a few times but never anything warranting a hospital visit… I’m so sorry. I hope you both and your other kids are okay and managing to survive, but even if you never see this I’m sending good energy and thoughts your way, and hearing stories like yours and everyone else’s here just fills me with so much rage and grief, but at least we all came here and walked away with more understanding and awareness, and hopefully confidence too, than what we had before. Thank you so much for commenting with your story too, because I haven’t read many here, but keeping what you wrote in mind moving forward will make it easier for me to resist all the gaslighting and blame shifting and everything else he’s been putting me through, and I know I can’t be the only one you’ll have had that effect on just from sharing. Thank you.

  51. Thank you for this article. Like everyone here, I relate to EVERYTHING. I have been with my husband for 24 years (the first two years were great). I started noticing that he would punish me (for god knows what because he could never tell me what was wrong) by withholding love, communication, and sex. He never apologized for anything but I was always the one who would meet him halfway and apologize and vow to work harder. I also found that he lied a lot and, when confronted, somehow turned it around to make it MY fault. I brushed off his childish behavior because I kept telling myself that he is a good person and really loved me, when he did not.

    I used to be a happy, sexy woman but years of emotional and physical neglect, including a constant circle of confusion around any important decision-making or relationship concerns leaving me unsure about what we were even talking about in the first place, has left me completely overweight, overwhelmed, and depleted. I have tried everything that I could think of including talking, screaming, throwing things, hiding in a corner, ignoring problems, begging for answers, leaving, etc. to no avail; he still would not stay on topic and address my concerns and needs without turning it back around to him (as if he was the one with the issue while totally ignoring my needs). I am a very kind, open, honest, fun person but I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore. He actually left me several months ago and he still has some kind of power over me. When I filed separation papers he said that THAT WAS MY DECISION TO MAKE IT LEGAL and he didn’t want that (turning it around like always). I tried asking him why he left and why he doesn’t want anything legally changed and he said that he’s unsure about the future. I really think that because he cannot escape the truth that I tell him and I still confront him on his lies and neglect that I drove him away; I know his secrets and he can’t face them. Although he left, he doesn’t want to let me go just in case his plan (whatever that may be, probably pursuing another woman), doesn’t pan out.

    I am lost without the man that I have spent my life with but I know now, thanks to this article and it reflecting the hell that has been my life for decades, that his niceness is not evidence of his love for me; his nice guy act is just an image that he uses to cover up his insecurities and cruel tricks that he uses to keep me tethered to him.

    Again thank you and please continue to research this disorder. I hope the best for all of you who have been the victim of this type of narc. Get out and get help.

    1. Jerry, you are 100% right, women can be all of these things also. But, this article is speaking to women regarding their husbands. Further, I find it fascinating that you felt it necessary to add the “also find it obvious that someone is angry at a man. Yep…we’re angry and exhausted. ~ Cheers!

  52. This article described my husband as if it was written about him! 10 years of marriege, lots of tears, tearing my self down, depressions, loneliness, humiliation and general despair, I am finally coming to terms with it. I have known for a few years now, what he is, but I am still strugling to accept the fact, that it is all true, that this is to be my destiny and that I stayed for such a long time accepting his abuse (we have been together for 18 years). I have finally announced my wish to separate, in a form of a formal brief 2 days ago and it has been terrible since then. Only anger, and lashing out from his part…blaming, yelling, then silent treatments…Hope to be able to leave this devil’s hole soon…

  53. After hundreds of hours (truly) trying to find an accurate example of my husband’s narcissism this article hit the nail on the head 100%. I am so thankful I found this this article. After 27 yrs of what I thought was the most perfect family and life, things took a sudden and horrific turn. I now look back and see the signs, the slow chipping away of what I thought was a wonder life and family. Through investigation I learned my husband had been cheating and smearing me for many years. I was completely unaware as he was a master at his game. You could knock me over with a feather with what I learned about him and that I would divorce my “perfect” husband. But what haunts me is that in the end he was so dismissive and terrible to his only child, our teenage daughter, who was a daddy’s girl. He ripped her heart out and broke her which is absolutely unforgivable, utterly traumatic and gut wrenching to witness. She is doing well in college now but he rang a bell that can never be un-rung and that will stick with her for the rest of her life. And though she loves him she will never truly trust him again. Divorcing after a long-term marriage with a Covert narcissist is such a shocker to friends and family and is so hard for people to understand. I did not gossip, smear or use the term “narcissist” of my husband to others, but instead only said that I loved my husband very much but apparently he was not happy in our marriage and that I was more surprised than anyone. (Only my immediate family an closest friends knew the full details) I did not want people to hate or sneer at my daughter’s father as that would have been so damaging and embarrassing to her. It was very difficult yet so important that I did not tell everyone the truth and details of my husband’s failings in order to undo my smeared and shattered reputation. Because of this and in time people made their own assessments and I rose to to top. It was incredibly difficult but was so worth it in the end. And my daughter learned from example how to ride out a devastating storm with honor, dignity and elegance.

  54. So, I’m working through this current situation with my husband. He has been texting with a couple worker, saying “it’s platonic” but the texts I saw felt/read a little iffy to me. (He has cheated on me in the past. I could say more but that’s not the point.)

    As for the CN attributes? Does yelling at me because he’s angry count? Or hitting himself because he “never gets anything right”? Or always keeping his head in a book or biking legos rather than playing with the kids “cause he doesn’t know how”, (he’s genuinely tried once or twice but that’s it) even though I’ve tried to show him? Or constantly asking “why I married him” or asking “why I love him?” While saying that I’m neglecting him because our sex life is almost non existent _because_ it’s “not my fault” even though I “never initiate” and I “don’t love him, it seems to be tolerating” him?

    He is so smart. He is not the man I dated. He doesn’t buy me gifts (even if I have expressed an interest), he rarely writes notes anymore. He does give hugs and kisses but that’s about it. Everyone loves him and thinks he’s the best husband and father. I just don’t know anymore. I am emotionally and mentally exhausted from the day to day with him. 8 years and counting but I feel guilty even thinking of leaving cause “I’m the only one who can tolerate him” and “he’s the only one who can tolerate me.” There’s so much I could say on this. . .

    He also struggles with depression but drags his feet on getting help. Well he drags his feet on everything – from chores (mowing the lawn, dishes, etc), to asking me what to make the kids for dinner cause he has no idea what to make.

    I honestly feel like I am his mother sometimes, I’ve even told him I’m not his mother I’m his wife (I forget the context). He laughs wryly and rolls his eyes a lot if I ask him to do something and then gets upset if I do it before he gets it done. He hates himself and looks to me for all of the love and attention he needs to feel better. Can anyone please tell me if I am wrong in thinking he’s a CN (I even had a coworker tell me she feels he’s a narc) or am I just thinking too much? I know every couple has their rough patch. Ours has been quite a long time I feel. . .

    1. I’m in almost the same boat and can’t really see it in my own marriage (I guess I’m too close to it), but I can clearly see some CN features in what you wrote about your marriage.

      My spouse has hit himself out of frustration before (usually in the head), he used to always ask if I was happy with him, our sex life is non-existent (gee, wonder why? lol), and I am constantly emotionally tired on a daily basis to the point that I almost always cry myself to sleep each night.

      If it helps for even a little bit of validation, your experience is eerily close to mine and you’re not crazy about thinking he’s likely a CN. (Now if only I could make *myself* see it so clearly in my marriage…)

    2. The feeling in my gut while reading what you did write (I know there’s tons more where that came from), says your husband is a shining example of a CN. Hope you haven’t forgotten how to trust yourself.

    3. Yes. What you are dealing with is a man who is refusing to take personal responsibility and grow up who acts like a man-child. Having a man-child is EXHAUSTING, sucks the life out of you and drains your soul. The descriptions you are giving are similar to what I was experiencing as well. Until he is willing to take personal responsibility for himself, get help himself for himself and take ownership of himself, you will just continue in the relationship without positive growth and change in the same viscous cycle you are dealing with. Reading the book “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist” was very enlightening for me. I was able to get the audiobook free from the library so I could listen to it. Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He Do That?” is another good book. Leslie Vernick has a free relationship test you can take on her website to see if you are dealing with a destructive spouse.

      The Arno Profile was very helpful in figuring out what was going on with ex. There are 4 temperament types but the Arno Profile has a 5th one called Supine. It is astonishing how spot on this is for ex. Unfortunately, he is all the weaknesses and none of the strengths are true for ex (only for control and manipulation purposes). Once I read through this, it was spot on and I started to understand the covert narcissism, manipulation and deception ingrained in the depth of who he is. After 20+ years, there is no hope for change. My question was, how can we be married over 20+ years and he doesn’t know anything about me as a person? It’s truly astonishing. He doesn’t know anything about me because he isn’t invested in me but he’s only invested in himself and what he gets from me or the kids. It truly is mind boggling. For my own health, safety and sanity, I had to separate and eventually divorce him.

      **Inclusion Weaknesses of The Supine: Indirect behavior that expects others to read their mind, high fear of rejection, and harboring anger viewed as “hurt feelings”.
      **Control Weaknesses of The Supine: Aggressive disorders, open dependence, defensive against loss of position, weak willpower, a tendency to feel powerless and at the mercy of others.
      **Affection Weaknesses of The Supine: The inability to initiate love and affection. They require constant reassurance that they are loved, needed and appreciated

      You being confused is a ploy in a relationship with a destructive person to keep you second-guessing yourself and diverted from the core issues. These destructive behaviors from a covert narcissist is also abusive. This is an excellent visual on the systems of abuse.

      I became enlightened to some of this information when I went to my local DV organization and talked with an advocate. I was irritated that a friend even would suggest such a thing but I went anyway so I could say I went. That meeting changed my life and I will be forever grateful to my friend who was insistent that I go. Let’s take the word violence and take it down to its root word violation. Domestic violation is a violation of your right to live in peace and safety in ALL areas of your life. I was not peaceful and I didn’t feel safe. Abuse is so much more than you think and physical violence encapsulates so much more than physically striking someone. The systems of abuse chart I gave you the link for also lists so many other aspects to physical violence.

      *** “I’m the only one who can tolerate him” and “he’s the only one who can tolerate me.”
      This is a common abuse tactic, not healthy, and not true. You are not obligated to stay with someone who denies your personhood while expecting you to parent them and be their personal servant. It’s not healthy to “tolerate” one another.

      Couples counseling is NOT recommended when there is destructive abusive behavior present. Destructive abusive behavior is not a marriage problem but a personal problem that needs to be dealt with within the destructive abusive person themselves with a knowledgeable counselor who can assess him correctly and work with him directly to address the core issues of his destructive abusive behavior, covert narcissism and entitlement.

      1. Clearly, no therapist should accept a couple into treatment where there is a particular pattern that research describes in detail. However, there are couples who do engage is abusive behavior that both feel remorseful for, and are wanting a way out of. We see this abusive behavior arising only during “flooding” most typically, and not as a part of everyday life. We’ve taken great pains to provide many details in this article. The commenter is right that violence includes much more than physical violence and that is important for all who read this to understand. Thanks for the resources.

      2. I can see you have done a lot of work…wow do we ever grow from this…..I’m interested in seeing where and what your doing and where your going. I’m separated and really finding and loving my life.

    4. sounds like it to me. Im trying to start the separation and he is already playing victim with co-worker. its always so much fun with these guys

    5. Sounds like he has the traits for sure. You sound like you hold down the fort on your own. I’m in a marriage with a CN so this may sound odd but honey, get your ducks in a row, do whatever you need to do and take the kids and go. This isn’t healthy for anyone. He needs way more than you can give! I’m working on it myself. Best of luck.

  55. When reading this I was amazed at how many things that I could identify with! All the books, articles didn’t say all of this (or maybe I didn’t understand.

    My concern now, if I am one now. Somethings that I look at myself and say……I don’t try to interact as much, there has been too many times were things can be used against me. I have a hard time listening to him because I don’t know what to believe, even if he reads an article, he will embellish it, than he gets mad if I ask questions.

    He is super sensitive, very prideful. He doesn’t want anyone to know that I make more than him, and insults his friends where the wife makes more. I so want a normal relationship, just don’t know how. My first husband was very abusive (hitting, yelling, pulled a gun on me)

    It is so hard!

  56. This is my 12 year marriage all over I’ve mentioned splitting up because it’s unfair for both of us to be unhappy and he tells me that I’m breaking up the kids home and wrecking their future, how could I be do selfish…it’s all down to me. I told him we could be amicable and make it work, he told me he’d take everything.

    He had a bad day at work today and boy how we’ve all felt it. I had some news about an illness my mum has today and when I told him he suggested a treatment that’s completely unrealistic for her. When I said she couldn’t have that he turned it all around on him. I’ve been dismissive and rude to him by saying she wouldn’t do it, I’ve hurt his feelings. So now this evening I’ve not been worried about my own mum but about how I’ve offended him and how am I going to walk on eggshells and avoid an argument with the kids around. He’s not a doctor but he knows everything about every subject and is the most intelligent person on earth.

  57. Part of me is laughing inside….probably at myself. I’ve been married 13 years but together 17. I’ve tried all sorts of marriage counseling and tons of prayer. Your article describes my husband to a T. It’s taken me a long time to recognize this is the way he is. I don’t depend on my husband for anything. I’m certain he’s been unfaithful but he covers his tracks well and would be sure it was hidden from everyone. He is a born-again Christian, and who am I to say he isn’t. Life with him is empty. He acts like a model husband in public but my daughter and I see a different side at home. It’s like he’s here, but he’s not here. If he’s mad at me he’ll do little things to punish me. He might put in a small effort to change and he will then think everything’s ok and his effort ends. I left him for 2 months but I came back as God called me back….perhaps not to change him but to change me. I’m no longer afraid to call him out and no longer feel like I need to keep trying to change myself in order for him to love me. I have a long way to go yet. It is hard to keep my eyes on God and not my husband. He’s made some improvements and I’m grateful for those. I think the biggest help has come from other Godly men who are not afraid to confront him. It is a shallow marriage. My family sees the truth and has encouraged me to leave. My faith keeps me here. Lately I cry out to God to release me from this marriage. Our daughter will graduate in 3 years. With these uncertain times in our country staying seems safer.

    1. I get exactly where you are. I have 3 years until my son graduates. I have told my husband how i feel like roommates, etc…. what I want to relay to you is that after finding pornography, I left. Neither my son or my grown, married daughter asked me to “work it out” or were really surprised that I finally left. In the past few years it wasn’t much of a marriage and a bad example for them I suppose. We have been married 28 years. I understand the “in these times” we were always preparing for hard times… may God bless you.

    2. I can identify with you. It’s been 21 years. Last 2 years, I have been standing up for myself and not let him belittle me. He knows that I understand who and what he is. He’s in therapy and recently been prescribed medication for ADD. I’d told him I was finished if he didn’t get help. I’ve emotional separated myself from him and have outside interests with women who are a positive influence. They help remind me of who I really am, and not what my husband projects onto me. I feel lonely with him. Always on his phone. It’s definitely Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have a separate bedroom where I can have a little peace, away from the up and down lifestyle. I’ll hold on a little while longer to see if counseling helps. I’m 68 and retired. Can I start over? Not with a new relationship but with a new life for myself and to get my sanity back.
      God help us. Thanks for sharing.

    3. Im in the same boat. my kids and I see it. he is a textbook covert, liar and just weird. his mom os identical and he worships her. I mentioned separation and he exploded and threatened to screw me. now he is playing victim with everyone. I feel bad for him and hope God is very loud and clear on what I should do.

      1. On Nov. 1, 2021 I was getting ready to leave my CN husband too. I totally relate to everything that was mentioned in this article. We have been married for 37 years, but living like roommates the whole time since we have a mostly sexless marriage (only 3 or 4 times a year and only when he initiates it. I am not allowed to initiate it.)

        After years of believing that everything was my fault and that I just needed to “try harder” and love him more (I was the queen of trying) I finally gave up. I used to be a happy, optimistic person and I realized last year 2020 that I had lost myself. I didn’t know who I was any more or even what type of thins I liked to do. I have been through depression twice. I could feel myself headed in that direction again after our last child of 3 children was married and I was facing the reality of living with a man who didn’t really love me or want me. So I decided to in-house separate.

        I got a decent paying job after 30 years of not being in the work force and I had been saving up my money so I could move out. We had been in-house separated for 3 months. I was getting ready to call a one-bedroom apartment for myself all the while praying and asking God to speak loudly and clearly to me because I was having difficulty hearing and understanding him because of all of the emotional chaos and trauma in my life and the brain fog that goes with it. (In 2020 I learned he had a porn addiction. My whole world as I knew it . . .or as I thought it was. . .came crumbling down. God had revealed his porn addiction to me in a dream about one week before that, but I didn’t understand the dream until a week later.)

        The very next morning after saying that prayer asking God to speak loudly and clearly to me to let me know whether I should stay or go. . .I broke my ankle as I walked out the door on my way to work. God couldn’t have spoken more clearly or loudly. I had no choice but to stay for at least one more month while my ankle healed. At first, I was angry because I didn’t want to stay. I had finally got the courage to take the first “step” towards leaving him when I broke my ankle. Then God gently reminded me of my prayer to him the night before. So I stayed.

        We are no longer in-house separated. We are trying to work things out. We have a good therapist who understands CN and is a former porn addict. He calls my husband out on his inappropriate behavior towards me and although it makes him angry my husband listens and is trying to implement the changes that our therapist is suggesting. So far so good. But I am cautiously optimistic. He lied to me for many years about many things and I naively believed him. Not any more. I will believe his behavior from now on and not his words. My instincts told me for many years that he was either looking at porn or he was being unfaithful or he was a homosexual and he vehemently denied it and I believed him because he is a minister with a successful ministry. Well, I won’t believe him any more. Those days are over! We have a long way to go.

    4. I wish I could reach out to you directly. I’m a few steps ahead on the path you’re walking. God is good! Learn all you can about loving yourself and detaching. Ask God to send you to the right resources. Continue to call your husband out. Be calm and assertive. Your legitimate concerns will be not be heard if contaminated by anger. Surrender to God not to mistreatment. Love yourself enough to speak up even if it incurs his stonewalling. I have seen MIRACLES, but I first had to be ok with the fact that the marriage might end. We recently renewed our vows.

    5. “Godly men who are not afraid to confront him” . . .those are hard to find. But yes, as Dr. Weiss says, “Men make men.” If another man calls my husband out for his behavior, my husband listens and will take and follow his advice. But I could say the same thing until I was blue in the face and he doesn’t react at all not to my anger, tears, pleading, my calm voice and reasonable conversation . . .nothing.

  58. This article hit home. But the question is, how can I really know that my husband is a narcissist and gaslighting me? Maybe I really am the problem and maybe I am the one manipulating the situation to make it seem like he is the problem. How do you tell the difference?

    1. Read what you wrote. You are questioning yourself and off balance. Tell tale signs you’ve been gaslighted. IMHO, you are the one on this website examining your own behavior. They don’t question their behavior as it always someone else’s fault.

    2. These are exactly the thoughts that have been going through my head lately. Maybe it really is ME who’s the problem. Maybe I am the one manipulating everyone around me to hate him. Maybe he really is just a decent guy who got a hard knock by marrying me.

      1. An Escher drawing, isn’t it? Are you straightforward? Do you gaslight? Do you manipulate him to avoid responsibility? Do you envy others for their achievements and secretly work to demonstrate where they fall short? It’s not a difficult thing to figure out. Look at the criteria and ask yourself “Do I try to change for the better, or am I happy with myself, despite my spouse’s concerns?”

    3. Beth,
      I am not qualified to answer your question. I would like to gently point out that you are self-reflecting and considering whether or not this could be you. Have you heard your husband ask anything like this of himself regarding his behaviors? Do you try to understand his point of view? Does he try to understand yours? Sometimes, rather than questioning myself, I think of what I try to do to understand him and whether or not he puts in effort to understand me. Or, does he blame-shift and deny the problem, which then causes me to question myself. If he is accusational, is what he says about me accurate at the time? Or, is it projection? I used to feel like mine took up residence in my headspace to a point where I questioned many things about myself. With therapy, and hard work, I learned to separate who I really am from who he said I was. Best of luck.

  59. This was such a great and insightful breakdown. It was as if I was reading my marriage on the Internet. I’ve recently discovered this about my husband and often doubt myself but this. This right here confirms it 100%

  60. Dr. K … my husband’s way of being matches your description. Is he aware of his manipulations … are they calculated? When I tell him that he has offended me or neglected our relationship or been overreactive and blaming with the children, he says, “well, I didn’t know” in tones of confusion and innocence. Did he know?

    1. You have just told him. We all make mistakes. The question is: Does he change his behavior once he realizes that he has hurt his family? If not, he knows he’s hearing the same complains again and again and not changing.

  61. This is the best that I have every read that explains my husband .I have suffered in a marriage for 23 years thinking he was bipolar. Now I know he is not this describes him to a T he is a covert narssicist and I’m not crazy thank you so much

  62. HP, you can do it. It will take time and you’ll go back and forth about if you made the right decision, but you’ll feel way better someday.

    I agree, it’s just uncanny how accurate this article is. I came back to it today after the 2nd childcare scheduling “i don’t remember agreeing to that” this week (even though IT’S RIGHT THERE in a text message). I have read the article over and over to remind myself I am not crazy.

  63. My husband is like this. I don’t even know what to say. The look of contempt and hostility, the volatile outbursts where he isn’t swearing “at” me and the gaslighting were initially mind boggling but now I see them for what they are…cruelty and manipulation. The world sees him as so nice and wonderful. No one is all bad or good. Now he is has taken on a less predictable shape since I began divorce proceedings. He always said he hates to lose and refuses to be hung up on or lose face. Now I’m scared. The new tactics make sense but the simmering hostility and attitude makes me know something bad might happen but I’m not quite for sure exactly what that might be. I know I’m worth more than this but to realize my husband never enjoyed “me” the person, that I’m just another thing to supply a certain need at all costs is intensely painful.

    For everyone who has broken free and everyone still trying, i have such tremendous respect for you.

    1. I feel your pain. I’m just realizing my husband has been manipulating me and I believe he is a covert narcissist as these signs fit him and his actions perfectly. He is a master at making me feel non existent and devalued but in public he’s adoring. I could give so many examples. Thank you for the kind words.

    2. I really admire you for leaving! I left two days ago for good after 5 years of abuse, mental torture manipulation gaslighting physical sexual financial abuse, character assassination lies cheating. This guy is evil and a monster! I can’t believe I married him and stayed in this destructive relationship so long. I don’t know how or if I’ll ever recovery from it but I know I won’t go back.

  64. This is my 11yrs of marriage still enduring. The article gave me such peace after reading. My husband also has adhd, he doesn’t move a muscle at home. And when he does even one task, the whole world gets to know how helpful he has been. I almost run the family like am driving a car with one wheel, but at the end of the day when I cry for help while I’m overworked and overburdened with families responsibilities, he makes me feel extremely guilty about my expectations on him. When we track about solving my problems, before I realize, the topic would already be about solving his problems. This article made me feel empowering coz I always struggled to let the thrrspists know what I’m dealing with. There were many therapists who asked me leave him but there was one who commented that “after all this pain he gives you, he is still a good guy.” I really hope I find a good therapist who can help me navigate through this situation.

  65. Is it common for the Covert narcissism to only manifest in the love (attachment) relationship? I feel emotionally isolated because no one else sees the pathology, not even his own family because he is a successful person who is considerate and functions well in relationships that don’t require self-disclosure, reciprocity and accountability.

      1. I love my husband and I’ve done everything I can think of to hold our family together but I’m to the point that everyone it would hurt will get over it but if I don’t get out I will be mentally broken for most likely the rest of shortened life. No I’m not suicidal, and never do that to my 3 daughters while they still need me. But if I’m still this broken once they’re grown, I honestly can’t say it wouldn’t happen. Hes a full blown Covert narcissist and even when he see how his actions prove him to be, it doesn’t change the smugness and refusal of accountability. He literally fights himself to stay a Covert narcissist. He is purposely toxic but when I point that out of course I’m either crazy or telling him what I am in his mind. He’ll use things he’s done and say it was me when he’s stating “examples” his VA psychiatrist has no clue and just confirms his position as victim and helps him believe and blame me for the things he is doing himself

  66. This pretty much domes up my 20 year marriage to my husband. We have 3 children together 16,12, and 8. He recently got into a relationship with a 24 year old. After finding out he’s broken things off with her but reached backed out 3 different times. I’m so broken. I want keep the family together for my kids, but how do I cohabitation with this man? I feel stuck.

    1. I used to feel stuck, too. I was raised in a Christian home that no one should ever divorce and that kids of divorced homes are “at risk” for so many issues that isn’t it better to stay? That was my logic for many years. I was also a stay-at-home-mom and my husband made me feel like I didn’t have choices anyway. I mean, if I left him, where would I go? Who would watch the kids? How would I provide for myself? Wouldn’t they end up screwed up, resentful and in therapy one day due to their parents divorcing? All these things permeated my brain for so long and I felt like my only option was to put on a brave face, suck it up, & maybe one day when my kids move out, maybe I’d leave.

      One day, after learning about all kinds of stuff he was doing (a whole book in itself so I won’t go there), I finally made the decision that staying could not possibly be the only option. I made the decision to divorce & I thought this would devastate my teen kids. When I told them, they immediately started opening up to all the crap they’ve been through! They had just never wanted to open up to me & tell me what they were experiencing because they assumed I’d always defend their dad (& truth be told, I would have at the time). And that’s when I said to myself “I’m harming them more by staying.”

      My ex-husband hated my decision to divorce, but not because he loved me & wanted to keep our marriage, but because he knew his power & control days were over the moment I learned that I had options. The moment he realized that even his good job couldn’t be lorded over me anymore.

      Almost a year later, it’s just me & the kids. My 16-year old son is treating me with more respect than ever before & doesn’t just hide in his room all day. He laughs with me, is nicer to his sister, and I’ve caught the 2 of them actually hanging out, something they never did while I was married. My 15-year old daughter has grown in her confidence & her self-esteem has improved. She quit hanging out with a group of girls that used to have a ring-leader that was narcissistic & mean. And my daughter said, “I want to raise my standard of who I hang out with and what kind of people I surround myself with.” She now has a group of really great friends who are also empathetic and kind. It started with me raising my standard and now she is doing the same.

      I stayed for 18 years “for the kids.” Turns out, my only regret now is that I didn’t do it sooner. I had stayed in the marriage because I thought it was important to teach my kids that marriage is important & sacred. Turns out, that’s what I taught them by leaving. IF divorce is the right move, start with a separation. I spent one year separated from my spouse & the results were astounding. Getting my kids out of the current environment was the best thing I could’ve ever done. They see their mom as a protector now and the one who will defend them even from things they don’t fully understand. They trust my judgement now and talk to me way more than they ever used to.

      As it turned out, God ended up providing everything I needed. A home, a job that works with my kids’ school schedules, and so, so much more. I learned that God loves me and my kids more than He loves marriage. And He still loves my ex-husband, but God doesn’t say “You have to stay abused because I love him, too.” No. God loves him enough to hold him accountable and He cares for the broken and abused. I can safely say now “I left for my kids & I.”

  67. Hmmmmmm Only husbands can be a narcissist?? This article is way too gender biased for me. You have missed out on the husbands who have wives that are a narcissist. Why?

      1. On the wife one there is a section for “possibilities to have Therapy work” what is the majority for husband relationships to work?

      2. Looks and sounds like it was written by an angry man. Why didn’t you write ways to deal with the narcissist man? Does your knowledge not cover this? If you don’t allow this comment does that make you a narcissist? I guess I’m a narcissist too!

        1. Personality problems are hard to write about, Jerry. Most clinicians aren’t optimistic about the chances of marriages working with a narcissist of any ilk. As you can read, it’s not a term thrown around wildly. Boundaries are a good thing for dealing with any narcissistic personality disorder, male or female.

  68. This has been my entire 18 year marriage I always knew there was something not quite right about my husband but it took me until 15 years of marriage to connect all the dots. I went into therapy and started exerting myself in the marriage and that’s when things got progressively worse. I started reading about his behaviors, how his actions never match his words and all the other dismissive, neglectful, passive aggressive behaviors and that’s when I found covert narcissisism.This is by far the best article that I have read that clearly and simply describes my relationship with him in perfect detail. I could never have explained it better myself!!

    He treats me as if I don’t exist, he won’t speak to me unless he needs something, food, to run an errand, to make a call to pack a box. Sex has become for me unpleasant. I didn’t think that was possible considering that up until 3 years ago our sex life was pretty good or so I thought. He doesn’t seem to create any intimacy and when he tries it’s forced and it doesn’t seem genuine. No matter how much I try to discuss he says he’s trying but you see no improvement. He says he wants a great marriage but he puts zero effort into it and insists he’s really trying!! Most of the time I feel like some sort of an appliance, I am used when needed and put on the shelf when he doesn’t need me. At one point he was discussing retirement we are in our late 50’s and all he talked about is what he would be doing and I asked him “where am I” and he said you’re there and I was like “what am I doing” and he again said “you’re there”.

    I have poured out my heart to him, tried every way possible to communicate what I need but again doesn’t seem to care and has very little interest in creating authenticity, mutual respect, and honesty. He insists he loves me and that he wants the marriage but his flirtations with every woman he can to shore up self esteem clearly indicates that he doesn’t know love or respect, otherwise he would honor his vows and respect me but he can’t seem to care, as his need for attention and validation trump whatever I am feeling and I am just collateral damage.

    I didn’t think it was possible to be so lonely while being with someone, but I am. I make sure to not go out too much with him alone because he treats me like I don’t exist and I have to constantly be talking about him to keep his interest and attention otherwise there is flirting, ogling, making intense eye contact with strangers and then insisting it’s not happening, and that I am delusional, too sensitive or crazy. It’s downright disturbing and extremely dysfunctional, but I truly think he actually believes everything he says. He truly believes he’s a great guy so if he’s a great guy he couldn’t possibly be treating his wife so terribly. When out with couples he can’t seem to do too much flirting as others would notice, so he seems to act much better. The mask is always on when others are around!!

    You can tell he doesn’t really want the marriage but he won’t leave. But Daniel’s article says I am supposed to do the leaving because great guys like him don’t leave the marriage, which is so true. Every day he’s telling me I am unhappy with his silence, disregard for my feelings and just being absent but not once no matter how many times I ask do I ever hear the truth just the continual dribble with how much he Loves me and how it’s us to the end!! I Know now that I picked him because I didn’t love myself because if I had loved myself I would have seen who he actually was and it would not have taken me 15 years to figure it out. I know who I am now, so yes it’s been a painful 18 years but I know my worth now and I am finally realizing that my value is just in who I am, it’s not in doing or catering to someone or shoring up someone’s self esteem but just standing in my truth with my good and my bad parts and knowing that no matter what anyone does to me I will SURVIVE!!


    1. Your part about the retirement….this was a huge issue for me because my husband talked about his BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) would be to own a yacht. I looked at him and said, “a yacht? Why a yacht? I hate yachts….I don’t want to be on the ocean”. He said that would show pre eminent wealth….that he made it!!! I was like but I don’t care about any of that….where am I in this dream of yours and he said, “you’ll be there “ wow?

  69. Aah..this article was absolutely my entire 9 year marriage to a covert narcissist. And now that I am aware (it's only been 2 months since he moved out after me divorcing him), I am freaking addicted to learning more and finding support from people who know what this is. The unfortunate part of this is that we have 2 young children. A 7 yr old boy and a 6 yr old girl. I feel sad for them, as I know that they will have suffering in their future from him. Already he's disappeared. Will pop up here and there with toys for them (while giving me no financial support for the bills, as he has no job..but buys toys with the little money he has, as if they don't already have a million toys..just like he'dbuy me gifts he couldn't afford, when all I wanted was his time..sigh). Anyway, I believe this to be the best description of my marriage of all that I've read thus far. It is so very enlightening and empowering. I now talk to him like he's a robot. It's the only way to fight through all of the emotions and disgust I have for him. I read an acronym..JADE..Don't Justify, Argue, Explain or Defend. All of these amount to nothing with a covert narcissist and will leave me frustrated. I wish I'd known that the 1st year in..sigh. But God's speed, ya know. Thanks for this article.

    1. Ok, I am in the same exact situation as you. Literally the same. And I am also addicted to finding more and more out about vulnerable narcissism. It’s the only thing that helps sift through the past 10 years. I feel like I’ve done so much research I should be going for an advanced degree.

  70. This 100% describes the man I was married to for 22 years. It broke me. I lost Close to 200 pounds and he made fun of me for having hanging skin. I finally divorced him when our child was 20, ten years ago.
    I did go through lots of therapy. I met and fell in love with the most amazing man I’ve been married now for six years. A very happy and healthy loving marriage.

    I have had no contact with my ex spouse for 8 years

    He suddenly died this week and I am experiencing a range of feelings indifference To sadness for my daughter to guilt because I know he let his life and health go after I left him. I do know that I did the right thing in divorcing him to save my own life but I do feel compassion/pity for him. I just wish I didn’t feel guilty but I know that’s part of old codependent ways.

    1. We often see when one spouse excels at the expense of the other, divorce can be a dramatic change. Your divorce enabled you to develop and thrive. He did not. And now, after his death, you see just how he didn’t do as well without you. And, because you are a compassionate woman, you feel sad for this situation. Perhaps you have been trained emotionally to feel “responsible.” And you can see that, recognize that, and let it just “be.” I am happy that you were able to get out and move on with your life. And, as you well know, the decisions he made after you left were his alone to make.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      Dr. K

  71. My husband is verbally and emotionally abusive. He wants to control everything in the relationship. He hates working for other people. He prefers to own his own business, but it’s not enough to pay the bills. He accuses me of cheating with members of his family, people at church and in my community. He makes up wild stories about me and other men but can never show proof because he’s telling lies. He listens to my phone conversations with my mother, borrows money from my family and never pays them back. If something goes wrong with his business it’s my fault. If the mortgage is due and we’re short, it’s my fault. I’m retired and living on a fixed income. He was jealous of that because he cannot draw down retirement because he’s self-employed and nearly 60 years of age.
    He smokes marijuana a lot and I noticed that it makes him delusional. I don’t know what to do.

    1. It sounds like you have described your situation very well. Your husband behaves very badly. Exploiting others, verbally abusive, paranoid, controlling. I think now is the time to present yourself to a psychotherapist and say all the things you’ve said here. Your sharing here is only a first step. The second is getting actual help for yourself

    2. Leave him! painful as it sounds you deserve better and need to preserve or aquire self worth,get a divorced this is an unhealthy relationship to be in get out now!

  72. This describes my almost 24yr marriage exactly. I do still examine myself to find exactly what I’m doing wrong and while sometimes I find things, most of the time I don’t and I just have to continue day to day pretending nothing happened, while transgressions continue to pile up. I spent over a year turning a portable building into an office. My perfect office. I have MS, so my activity levels can sometimes be sporadic, meaning that working FOR someone is quite difficult. My CN husband started a contracting Biz and I was all to happy to be his parts manager. Things were going great! I was working finally and had my office finished so that on bad days, I could work from home. When covid happened, he lost his contracts and therefore I was out of a job. This terrified me, as prior to his landing the contracts, he had been withholding affection (to the degree that a non-affectionate person can withhold) and I asked him when we could spend time together and work on “us”. His answer was basically when I get a job so he doesn’t have to stress about bills. So I just knew when he lost his contracts, we would be on the “outs”. He hasn’t said anything or acted any type of way because the unemployment was coming in to cover the bills. But in my state unemployment stopped 2.5 months ago. I finally found a job, working from home in the office I poured many hours of sweat equity into, which I start next Monday. The last week or so, he’s disappeared into my office all evening after he gets off work doing something digitally (videos or something he can make extra income on). I don’t bother him while he’s in there, so I didn’t know what had been going on. Today, while he was here for lunch, I went in my office looking for something, only to see that he had taken my TV off the wall and had started using it in place of his monitor as a second monitor for his laptop (yes I set him up his very own workspace in MY office. I’ll never know why it had to be the TV and not his actual monitor which he dumped in front of MY workstation). I was LIVID! I came back up to the house and said “that’s not going to work. Everything is taken apart. I wish you would’ve come to me with what you needed rather than dismantling my office.” I never raised my voice or said and curses. Yet, when I text him to say I couldn’t find what I needed because he had moved stuff around to his liking and that I wouldn’t apologize for being angry that my hard work was dismantled, I would apologize for not waiting until after he got off to say something, because he was angry and stormed out. He then text me back “I’ll f&£<ing find it when I get off, but one more time of you talking to me like that and I’m gone. You can have it all”. I didn’t cuss at him, yet he felt it was ok to cuss at me?
    I’m not new to the threats to leave, although since my MS Dx they’ve been almost non-existent. He doesn’t just threaten though. He actually leaves. Our children are grown now, but it’s not like that stopped him before they were. He would leave me for months at the time when they were young. No job, for awhile no license or car, no family, no friends that weren’t his. I had to depend on them to get me back and forth and he was always “put out” or “put upon” when I needed help. I begged him to come home, not just because of my financial status, but because I loved him. God only knows why. I can’t talk about how I feel because he gets frustrated. I cry a lot, but I’m just a leaker. I cry when I’m angry, sad or happy. Tears express the words my brain won’t. But, he shifts to unreasonable anger any time I cry. He’s NEVER been physical, understand that. His words or lack of them, is plenty control. How do I stop loving someone who only knows how to verbalize “I love you” and not how to physically express it? I’m about to lose my husband of 24 years because I expressed an emotion he didn’t like, and that means I lose my house AND my transportation AND my job, because I can’t pay the internet I need at home for work. Do I go back to being the submissive “anything you want” wife in order to keep the peace? I didn’t like that person. In fact, I HATED that person. That is not me.

  73. This article is very very good. I wish I had had it two years ago while in couple's counseling that was handled very poorly. The counseling was nearly as traumatic as the relationship because he was able to use all the things mentioned to "woo" the therapist while continuing to "forward his agenda". I felt very, very alone. It's taken me 2 years, with the help of an individual therapist, to recognize that he's not normal and it's not me. He still sends me messages that he loves me (well, unless he's interested in someone else, then he treats me like total shit) but I don't respond, because I don't need to. Unfortunately, we have a child together, and it's really reassuring to have that part discussed here. We were together almost 15 years and I did NOT know why I felt bad!!

    1. Someone who is narcissistically impaired can use the “language of therapy” to continue their manipulation. This is the reason why you have to fall back on your internal barometer. “Is this genuine? Do I feel manipulated or is he manipulating the therapist? Does he actually want to hear what I’m saying, or simply push his own agenda?”

      And you are also correct that it’s often confusing why you feel so bad in these relationships. You’ve been conditioned to consider yourself “mean” or “unreasonable” or somehow not taking his feelings into account.

      Therapy is so helpful because a good therapist can help you to examine what has happened and to help you process that effectively. Glad you found help and got clear.

    2. Thank you so much for posting this, beet. I had a very similar experience. I told my couple’s therapist that I wanted to stop coming because I didn’t feel that he was showing up genuinely. I couldn’t understand why he was doing that, when I thought the point was for us to get help. I was willing to be so transparent, and he was putting on a show. Your sharing helped a lot– and this whole article was incredibly helpful. It is all so spot on that I finally feel like I am both understood, and understand, the feelings I’ve had since we met. Now, begins the process of getting out.

  74. I want to give hope to those living/suffering with a Covert Narcissist. With the help of a skilled therapist you can dissociate/separate emotionally from the CN and get your life back. After 38 years, the last 10 years of which have been emotionally abusive, I became anxious, depressed and physically ill. Thanks to a therapist who specializes in overcoming abuse – I no longer allow fear to stop me from speaking my mind and I am able to laugh at his vicious and mean words. Even if you decide to leave you still need to work on yourself so that the CN can no longer hurt you.

  75. Thank you for putting words to what I have not been able to explain. I read this article for the first time a few weeks ago. First time I heard of covert narcissist. But it didn't sink in. Yesterday my husband of 19 years and I had our first meeting with our second marriage counselor. His behavior was textbook. Then I reread this article last night. All I could do was think yup, yup, yup. I feel so hopeless. I know the only way to survive is to divorce and I am working on my exit plan. It is just so much to wrap my head around.

    1. I believe it is worth calling your husband out on his passive-aggressive behavior in couples therapy, without an assumption that he will magically change. It is also worth it to realize that you are your own best barometer about whether he’s being honest or not. You can’t “make him” be honest. You can only point out the whiff of falseness and call it as you see it. It may be useful if you have investment in doing so, of outlining your “exit plan” for others to understand what you mean.

      1. Dr. K, writing as someone in a similar situation, do you think it is worthwhile to show this article to the CN? Thinking whether or not to share with my husband?

  76. Wow. This is my husband of 25 years. Currently getting the silent treatment because I called him out on the contempt and lack of empathy at home, while oozing empathy and concern for people who don't know him well. I just can't take it anymore – I want a peaceful, happy life. I'm trying to figure out how to extract myself – would be great if we could just part amicably but I doubt that's possible.

    1. Very similar situation. He shunned me whenever he didn’t like what I posted on social media or if I called him on his passive aggression and gaslighting. He would either not talk about it or go off on a tirade. Never a conversation. Then, the week my mom died, he says he flipped a switch and was over me. Took the money and opened up a new bank account. Rented a room elsewhere. He is now divorcing me for being emotionally abusive. Wish I’d left him ages ago. I don’t see our divorce being amicable though I miss him after 23 years and my heart is broken. Please find a way out before your husband does it in the cruelest way. I didn’t think mine had it in him. I was wrong.

  77. I have been living in the abuse cycle for the past 16 years. Ever since I came across a few videos about covert narcissist I started to try to set boundaries and assert myself calmly while he rages, the abuse got worse and more extreme. I noticed that he actually gets off at calling me names and devaluations that I previously reacted to, like freeloader. Now I hear that every time he rages. Another thing that is very unsettling is the feeling of lack of safety in my relationship, every single disagreement he turns on me almost instantly and after some time threatens me to leave me, saying things like: “Let’s see how you can do this life without me. It will only go from bad to worse for a ugly person like you.” Last time this happened because he forgot my birthday, and when I told him the day of that it upset me, he created a story that I deliberately didn’t remind him (even though I did two weeks prior) so he would fail. And he turned it all to be my fault. I am a stay at home mom of 2 kids with no family in the country. We moved us 10 times within last 10 years across 4 different states because he would quit jobs stating that he had no choice since his bosses were mean to him and didn’t appreciate his input. He wouldn’t keep a job for more that 8 months. I wanna be free so bad. And I wish I had the guts to just leave. But my fear of the unknown frequently overpowers me since I have 2 kids to take care of and I haven’t had an outside job in the longest time and the outside world seems foreign to me. I’m hoping that one day I will have a victorious story to tell and it will all be just a nightmare of the past.

    1. Start by getting help. That’s the first step, and a useful one. A good psychotherapist can help you get perspective and figure out “which side of the street” the issue is on. It’s not an all/nothing issue. It’s a step-by-step process. Don’t wait to take the first baby step.

      Dr. K

    2. please call the national abuse hotline…they will connect you to your local advocacy program and get you help. I did this and although its been difficult few weeks, i spoke up about what had been happening to me, as his passive aggression turned to physical violence and i couldn’t stay anymore. There are programs available that will help you. You just have to take the first step. Its scary, but tell them everything even if it hasn’t been physical.

    3. The state of feeling unsafe in your home hit so hard for me. This is exactly how I feel with the CN, if I cave and start externalizing my emotions or thoughts because it’s easier to let them out then keep them in, I don’t know what I’m going to get in return. Sometimes invalidation and condescension, other times he’ll bite and attempt to talk it out with me. When he does talk, it seems like he’s bored or that I need to figure it out fast snd finish my thoughts. Idk it just doesn’t seem genuine. I hope one day soon you will find the courage to leave, no one deserves this for their life. The kids will be OK.

    4. Maria,

      I feel for you, there are wonderful programs across the United States, like f cobb stated, call the hot line. Find the nearest woman shelter for abused women.

      Get a bag ready to go in case you need to leave right away, have all documents that you need, children’s birth certificates, marriage license, your birth certificate, social security cards.

      Start trying to save money, even if it is a dollar here or there, hide it well.

      My thoughts are with you.


  78. Hi, my husband and I have been together for 7 years and married for 2. I am 28 and he is 36. I moved away to a different state with him so that he could attend medical school. Since then, he gets upset when im gone (visiting friends or family in our previous state), but is cold and emotionally distant when I am home with him. It’s like he wants me with him just so he feels less alone but purposely wants me to feel alone. He never has friends (although he tries hard to make them), only acquaintances who think that he’s such a great guy.

    Recently, *my little brother died. A few months later, my husband dropped out of medical school after speaking with his advisor. He told his advisor that he was doing poorly in school because the death of my brother (who he had only ever met or talked to during Christmas) was too traumatic for him. But yet he told me “I can’t care or ask you how you are doing because I’m not okay”… he’s genuinely never asked me how I’m coping emotionally or if I’m okay…and now he’s about to start trauma therapy to appease his advisor…

    Neither of us have kids but were planning to within the next two years. I graduate from my medical program in spring 2022. But now he won’t graduate until 2023. I want a baby so badly but I’m not sure it’s smart to have one with him. Because he now won’t graduate until 2023, he says it’s gonna be 3-4 years before he is ready to have a baby. This past weekend I realized that every single one of his last 5 girlfriends, has never gone on to have children of their own (I’m younger than they are). It’s like he sucked away their 20s and now he’s done the same to me.
    I just feel like he wants me here but doesn’t want me. I’ve been hoping it would get better, and have wanted to stick it out since I’ve already put in 7 years and because I want to start a family sooner rather than later (I’m not 21 anymore)—but reading this article is so spot on that now I’m not sure it ever can.

    1. Don’t make major relationship decisions based upon an article. Get excellent marital help with an extensive assessment. That’s available to you now. Don’t put it off.

  79. Thanks for this. Im constantly made to feel like im in the wrong. being told that i dont love him, that i settled…feel like im being pushed to react…anytime people come over…when they leave..he is upset..becos i supposedly belittled or criticised him in friends presence.i asked him to go to we have 4 kids together….1 time he says yes..the next time…if i love him for him then why must he go for counselling…its very passive aggressive…This has destroyed my self worth and boundaries..which has also impacted other areas of my life. Praying we can work this out and move forward.

  80. This describes my 33 year marriage. He now doesn’t give a shred of warmth or human touch but refuses to leave. He has been an unreliable provider so expects me to support him without receiving from him normal appreciation, gratitude or any reciprocity. If I want something he opposes it or spoils it. He implies he’s henpecked and takes no action to rectify any of the hurt he’s caused. I want to find and join a support group for CN partners/spouses until I find a way to be rid of him.

  81. This describes my 27 year relationship with my stbx exactly. I also grew up with an abusive, narcissistic mother. That’s why the stbx picked me. I’m doing the things that I need to do to heal and find myself again. We have a 19 year old and 17 year old kids who he manipulates against me. How do I stop the cycle of abuse he has taught them?

    1. Just by being honest, open, and vulnerable with them. When they grow and look back, they will see who has “played it straight” and who has been “messing with them.” You might have to wait a while. Be patient with your kids as they grow up.

  82. My ex covertly narcissistic spouse had adhd and was a sex and love addict. So all he wanted was thrills and sexual attention from me. I was the one who pulled away and tried to explain that I didnt feel attuned to and cared for and a woman isn’t sexually interested in a man she has to coddle and baby. So he cheated and I eventually kicked him out. Now he is sayin “we” decided to separate because of us not getting along and therapy not working. Naw man, I told you to go because you wanted me back but I could tell you were not a sufficiently changed man and a safe partner.

    1. It sounds like you have a pretty good idea who you are and what your truth is. And you recognize that you can’t control what he says or who he says it to. Nice work!

  83. I definitely enjoyed this read. I believe this describes my husband perfectly. We have been together for 24 years and I just don’t know what more I can do to help my marriage.

    1. Same here! Wondering if anyone else had the same love bomb/impotency in the same hour or the hyper vigilance and threats and controlling rage when you tell them you're leaving. It really gets old. I hope it gets better and we get to enjoy the time we have left in peace.

    2. 24 years of marriage also and warning signs and red flags all along the way. I made so many excuses to myself and my sons for their step-dads bad behavior and have finally begun to see him with clairity. He has enjoyed one health problem after the next that i have lovingly and helpfully dealt with even tho often he disregards Dr.s advice. I needed a last minute ride to a Dr.s appointment after 3 days of insomnia for a blood pressure check up and he was a complete and utter A–! We hollered at each other the whole drive there( i usually don't engage with him when he`s in a mood but my lack of sleep kept me from keeping silent). I lost control and hit him over the head with my cell phone. My rage toward him kept me away from home for 4 nights till i felt safe to be around him. That simple drive to my appt. showed me what I`m married to and since I`ve been trying to cohabitate with detachment. Thank you for an accurate description of a covert narcissit spouse.

  84. This blog is spot on. I lived this for 22 yrs of marriage. I'm still trying to out the oieces together after now being divorced for 9 months. He tooknme through a whirlwind during the separation when I thought it would push him to do the right things to reconcile. Instead, on the surface, he acted like he was. He got therapist as I requested but twonseparate ones called me and asked to meet with me to figure out what was going on and he never went back to either. Additionally, he scheduled one marriage session after my dv counselor advised me that it will not work with him. I went to that one seasion and I talked tonwhole time while he rarely said anything unless the therapist really promoted him. After the session, he barely said anything tobme and got in his car and drove off. The therapist reached out to me too and asked to meet one on one and pretty much said she sidnt think our marriage would survive. There were many times during the separation he would say he'd do one thing but not follow througn, not call, etc. It was like I was in thw twilight zone. The conversations we did have were circular and mind boggling. He ended up getting another woman during the separation and I didn't find out until after the divorce. It has been so hurtful but he acts like this is a very serious relationship. His family doesn't even speak to me. Even in attempting to co-parent, he doesn't speak to me. Will not looknat me when I drop the kids off, will not answer his phone but will only respond to text messages. I only contact him about the kids. If they have oerformances, he'll attend, ait in the back, and leave instead of staying to congratulate child afterwards like all the other parents. When I drop or pick kids up, he won't walk to the car even if they have a lot of stuff. It is crazy. The kids love their dad but say he's on the computer or his phone all the time and they never know when the conversation is over. He cares for them but they cannot put their finger on it but my oldest will say, "daddy is with us but not with us." At the same time, he'll ensure their well fed, sometimes take them to movies and ice cream but mostly, they stay home all the time when they are with him. They say, he rarely asks them questions and if they watch a movie together he's on his phone too or if they play a game, they have to tell him it's his turn because he's on the phone too. He's very much into youtube and drones. He's good at it and hasa yourube channel with 20k followers but these are all surface relationships. If he takes the kids to the park, its to fly his drones. This was a point of contention in our marriage. I supported his hobby but when I told him he was too engrossed in it, he got very upset and told me that I was trying to take away the only thing he has. I just was asking him to spend more time with me. He said, it's not my fault we have conflicting work schedules. I could never criticize or disagree without him being extremely sensitive. He always claimed how nice of a guy he is, call, cool, etc. When we had arguments, nothing ever got resolved. He said my expectations were too high, etc. I always felt love was conditional and felt he hated me. He was jealous about my career and even friend success but in the surface or in front of others be supportive but deep inside resented it. I cried an ocean in this marriage and it started to take a toil on my health.

    1. So it may now to time to accept that this is your ex-husband. He will only text. He will consistently disappoint the children. He will blame you for his failures. He will engage in another relationship while he’s separated and claim to be working on the marriage.

      Now it is time to focus on you, and what you need to move on.

      Put him into a tiny box, care for your children the best you are able, and grow into the woman you were meant to be.

  85. Thank you for this incredibly insightful and entirely accurate article. Had he not abandoned our two children and me three years ago this month, next week would have been my ex-husband and my 20th anniversary.

    For months and months after he walked out, I literally had no idea why. He simply discarded us like a used tissue. Of course, he had begun disengaging with us a long time before that and of course the harder I tried to save our family, the more resentful he seemed to become. The worst was his casual indifference to both the kids and me—like we didn’t exist.

    At first he blamed the stress of our kids and their additional needs (at least to me) and he would tell me I was the only good thing in his life. Then suddenly I became the enemy and I heard from friends he had begun a campaign to quietly call in to question my mental health. We were living in the UK and only seeing family and friends in the US once or twice a year.

    I would take the kids to the States to give him a “ mental health breaks” from his stress from work and the kids. I learned later that he was using that time to cheat on me.
    After one such trip, he arrived at the airport to pick us up with a first-ever tattoo, new hair style and clothes, minus a wedding ring to announce he would be moving out when he found a new place to live. No explanation. Nothing. It took him three months and I told him it was like death by a thousand cuts knowing he was leaving but not yet gone, the night he left in a taxi kissing me and saying i was the love of his life, then finding out the next week he’d moved in with one of the people he’d been having an affair with.

    He made no schedule to see the kids, barely spending any time with them over the following months. Following a very bad car accident where I nearly died, i had to arrange for friends to keep the boys for several weeks while I was in the hospital. Eventually I was contacted by social services who informed me that unless I could make other arrangements the children would need to go into temporary foster care until I was out of the hospital and able to care for them as he had informed them he was unwilling to care for his own children!
    I packed us up and we moved back to the USA the following month as soon as I was physically able in order to be closer to my family and to get away from him.

    That was nearly 2 years ago. The trauma and pain are still there but much better. To date, he has not seen the kids through his own choice. Apparently the new person doesn’t care for kids any more than he does. And he never contacts me or the kids to ask how they are.

    Luckily in the UK, there are very clear laws for divorce and support, including for samesex couples. So I get child support and spousal support. But it still doesn’t take away for the loss of twenty years of my love and life I poured into a relationship with a person who existed only in my mind. Because the good, loving kind hearted husband and father was a figment of my imagination. Once the mask was pulled away, I saw the true monster behind it for who he truly is.

    1. Thank you for such a shocking example of the heartbreak endured in a CN marriage. In addition to your pain, what hurts so bad is to see how the children are equally discarded.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your story and the extent to which your own love could blind you to someone so insensitive.

  86. Amazing article, amazing comments. This describes my husband to a T. It’s as if you know our marriage inside out. Other articles online don’t even come close.
    Being with him there was just something I couldn’t put my finger on, and I often felt like he didn’t care and that he hated me. There was also this strange dynamic where he wanted me to be his mother figure yet resented any attempts at emotional closeness. Mother me-go away. Still trying to figure that one out. Still married to him. It’s sucked me dry.

    1. The process of leaving a CN is also a challenging one. Threaten to leave and for a little while, you'll feel some of the love-bombing that caused you to feel in love in the first place. But it won't last.

      It is challenging to realize that someone "hates you" but it's not personal. He hates needing you. He puts you down in hopes of not needing you or anyone. But it doesn't work. He needs your approval. But like a starving person with an impossibly tiny mouth, he simply can't take in what you offer to him.

      The thought to leave can happen many times over many years. Then, he simply gets up and goes. It shocks you.

      He's gone, he's "moved on" and 10, 20, 30 years of marriage are "the past." And you with it. And that's when all of the real feelings come out about you. He'll tell you he's not into you, and hasn't been for decades. He acts happy and things you should "get over it." (the marriage) And he expects you and the kids to need nothing from him.

      He's moved on. Why haven't you?

      1. This article is Godsend, I have never ever seen such an apt article to understand covert narcissism. It feels like every sentence is true to the bone. I wonder whether any hope to treat the CN to have empathy or the wife has to make a choice to leave or live miserably!

        1. I wish I had a clear answer for you, Sheila. Working with any personality disorder is a long, challenging road with no promise of arrival. And it is a path your husband has to choose for himself, not because he is trying to “please” you. Does he recognize his lack of empathy? Does he own it as a problem he wants to overcome, or does he blame you for labeling him? Not giving him a chance? Criticizing him?

          I also would encourage you not to self-diagnosis but seek individual or couples therapy to learn if your convictions are true.

          Good luck!

  87. I just read this article and it describes my husband exactly. After landing in the ER after a particularly rageful session of emotional abuse, my therapist mentioned that she thinks he is a covert narcissist. Is there any chance that he can get help? Our marriage saved? I do honestly believe he wants to be different but doesn't know how and then get hijacked by the shame and insecurity. Do you do couples counseling with this type of dynamic i.e. with a covert narcissist and his wife.

    1. I'll point out the obvious to anyone reading, Kiri: You ended up in the emergency room, and you are asking how to help HIM.

      This is the most puzzling part of being married to a CN: The wives often feel an unreasonable loyalty to him, despite is enormous abuse. You have a therapist. Keep working with her.

    2. This is my husband completely. We’ve been together since high school. He’s all I know & I genuinely love him. We have 4 kids together. So it’s not just about him & myself. We also have to think about the repercussions of any actions that would happen to our kids.
      I would know personally as I’m a child of a really messed up, hate-filled relationship that dissipated when I was around 2 1/2. Im 37 now & still trying to work on that issue with my psychiatrist.
      Not all relationships/marriages are the same. Some can be saved. Some just can’t. I’m currently on permanent disability due to having a complete mental breakdown after my husband more or less pulled the rug out from under me & I found out about so many things he was doing behind my back, yet I didn’t suspect any of it! I thought we were happy.
      From my shock, horror, disbelief, disgust, severe pain, betrayal, I completely fell apart & lost my trust in him, lost my self esteem, self worth….just lost myself after finding out he was having an affair, addicted to porn, signed us up for a swingers website & put pictures me on the internet plus secretly filmed us being intimate.
      With all that being said, I don’t think anybody should be encouraging wives to just walk away! You don’t know their personal sumituation & it could turn out to be detrimental to children, families, & the spouses themselves. Unless you are their doctor, you really shouldn’t advise women to just leave & “move on”.

      1. I think it is generally accepted that some chronic “hard reasons” for divorce are not only accepted as valid, but widely applicable to most people. But you are right, not all. It is a decision that nobody else can make but you.

        However, what needs to be appreciated is that some people are truly sorry, in a heartfelt way, for the damage they do to someone they love. They vow to change, and these promises are beyond empty words. They mean it, and they show these changes in word and deed. Others either don’t apologize or are transparently exploitative when they do. In other words, they “say what you want to hear, not what they feel.”

        There are many good books on the impact of being a child of a narcissistic parent, because, as was pointed out in the article, a narcissist doesn’t only make a terrible spouse, but a terrible parent as well. To argue that you stay in a marriage with a narcissist “for the children” is hardly doing your children a favor.

        But we do know that it’s not wise to give psychiatric labels to your spouse. Often a narcissistic spouse puts that label onto others.

        And reading a single article shouldn’t be motivation alone to leave a long-term marriage.

        Get outside perspectives. Speak to a therapist, or even objectively present your situation to 5 of your closest friends and ask them if you think you are helping either yourself or your children in staying in this marriage.

        Then you can decide for yourself, which, of course, isn’t the same as deciding to divorce. Many people remain in terrible marriages for their own unique reasons. And this is simply a fact of life.

  88. This article is so accurate, I have to thank you for putting what I've been living into words.

    The whole scenario is so crazy making. My husband is so secretive and evasive he won't answer the simplest of questions. If I'm talking he leaves the room, doesn't respond to anything I say and is always secretly angry about something. Everything has to be his way and if it isn't I will pay.

    I could go on and on but I'd just be basically repeating your article.

    I'm finally at the stage after 10 years that I need to get out of this before it kills me.

    Good luck to you all!

    1. People who love each other do not keep secrets. They yearn to be known. They want to share. If you are talking, they want to focus on what you are saying. And if they are angry, they acknowledge that and talk about what upsets them.

  89. Nailed everything to a T! Further saddens me as I have consistently lost hope and my whole life has been a lie. How does a marriage survive covert narcissism?

    1. A marriage to a CN survives when the CN is the planet and you are (the annoying) stars that pester him. It survives by a constant, persistent hope that if THIS happens, things will be different. The "THIS" keeps changing, but the man does not.

      A marriage with a CN survives by slowly eating you up, Mary. You are the food group. And while you are slowly dying inside, he'll remind you that you simply aren't giving him what he needs. He needs someone happy, someone, who is more loving, more giving, more sexy or whatever.

      And you'll try to change to be that person, but you'll fall short.

      Happy wives don't seek out articles and read the comments looking for hope. Happy wives are happy to live and to love passionately with happy husbands who do the same.

    2. You can hang on forever being abused if you want. But the key word here is " survive"… Why would you want to? Why do you have to accept abuse from a man who will never love you? I have been with a narc 15 yrs – married for l0 ( he is 69) I am his 3rd wife and as loyal, faithful, honest, trustworthy, and loving as I've been – he has made me the "enemy" by his perceived slights. I am divorcing him. FINALLY. WE deserve to be happy. Anyone stuck with a covert narcissist will never be happy. Please get out. IT DOES NOT GET BETTER and every day that goes by – a piece of your soul goes with it until there is nothing of you left.

      1. Thank you for putting your husband’s age. Mine of 13 years is ending by my choice. Still clearing out the guilty bits that aren’t true, helpful or kind. Finally dawned on me that his lack of kindness, tenderness, and empathy is his CHOICE and not my responsibility…thinking if I did everything “right,” I’d “earn” it. Came into our marriage with a home, my own car, no debt, retirement savings, a well-raised daughter, a good career, friends, and a solid co-parenting relationship with my daughter’s father. He brought a car, debt from his marriage, debt from his delinquent sons, and a soon to be halved-retirement savings. Oh goody, but having been raised my a narc mom, I was smitten with the challenge of finally earning unending appreciation for all of my hard work and good outcomes. Fast forward 13 years and I am happily leaving with no home, no car, 1/8 of what I had in retirement. Still have a great job, great relationship with daughter, and her father recently assured her I would be able to manage now and soon thrive. Now looking forward to the day instead of being disappointed that I woke up.

  90. I disagree that the Covert Narcissist was abused as a child. My husband was an overly spoiled child actually. Still is by his parents to this day. Many Narcs may have been abused but many are just grown up spoiled brats.

    1. So again, narcissists are often spoiled as children and indulged. That's the overt type. CN's, if indulged, it came with a price. They were given to, but made to feel shamed. The example I use:

      … as a child the boy wanted a bat with a famous baseball player on it for Christmas. He got a "no-name" bat and was obviously unhappy on Christmas morning. The parents shamed the child for what he wanted, instead of accepting what he got. Then he learned not to tell people what he wanted because he'd end up feeling terrible for asking.

      Is this a reason to be self-absorbed or withholding?

      No, it's not an excuse. It's a way to allow the CN to move beyond former conditioning. But they need to want to change to be loving and open.

      It's not something to "agree" or "disagree" with, Amanda. It's research that has been done on people who have these particular traits.

      And just because someone was abused as a child does not mean that they will grow up to be CN's. Many people previously abused have gotten help and grown up to be loving husbands and wives.

  91. This is my partner , weve been together for over 20 years and he has taken every ounce of self worth out of me , I need him to leave , I’ve asked him to leave instead he stays and doesnt say a word I actually hate him now with every fibre of my being thays left

    1. This is exactly me he won't leave either! I hate him everytime I see him I get enraged. So of course now I'm the bad guy and he has my kids thinking I'm goin crazy. What do I do? My kids are mad at me cuz I am mean to him. I just want him to leave so I don't have to b angry all the time.

  92. My husband has ASC (or Asperger’s) and behaves like this! His family are all on the spectrum too but only be and his mother are covert narcissists like this.
    What I am struggling with is that my husband often wants to change. I can sometimes (most when his bags are almost packed) get him to understand the way he behaves is hurtful. He actually wants to change and has agreed to attend therapy to do that.
    Can they be helped?
    Does the fact that he recognises all this and wants to change mean he’s on the right side of the continuum? (After 22 years? ?)
    And what kind of therapy actually works for people like him?

    I hope you have the time to reply, I have NEVER read anything so accurate and insightful in my life. I know that a lot of women with Cassandra Syndrome feel validated by this. Thank you x

    1. Someone who is neurotypical (on the spectrum) isn't a covert narcissist but you are right: they do resemble it. We have four people on our team with specialized training in helping neurodiverse couples. Most therapists do mislabel these marriages and their interventions are ineffective. Look up our posts on neurodiverse couples in the categories section and see if this fits. If it does, contact us. We're happy to help.

  93. Perfectly written, however, my (now ex) covert narcissist husband WAS the one who wanted/files the divorce papers, so the “never be the first one to divorce” is incorrect.

    1. I agree. Mine contacted a lawyer in 2015. That was dropped. I filed in 2017 and he convinced me to drop it promising he'd do better. Blah blah blah. Here we are in 2021. This "marriage" has been over for a very long time – but for some reason he just continues to string me along and actually admitting he had no respect for me. I was shocked. He had no respect because I stayed. I allowed him to beat me down – I looked weak to him Narcs respect power, money, status, and control. I had none of that. It is finally over. Whether he files ( let him pay the filing fees and show up in court) or I do — that is a mere formality. Do we want to spend the rest of our lives like this?? WE DESERVE HAPPINESS TOO> None of us is coming back to do it all again. GET OUT.

  94. Liked the 5 tell-Tale signs of a covert narcissist husband, husband has a drinking problem….it’s just beer. 6-8 average a day morning to night.
    Oh well, I’ll figure this out. I always do!

    1. Well maybe me has a whiskey problem and the black outs are terrible! The things he says and then in the morning tries to love on me and doesn’t remember, is so annoying. I have recorded him but the things he says are so hurtful I can’t even bring myself to play them back to him and sometimes it gets physical. I know That makes me an enabler. I just don’t know what to do. I love him and I don’t want to break up my family.

  95. Daniel,
    Thank you for your post regarding the Narcissist husband.I was directed by my Heavenly Father to go online in 2018 and type in the word- Narcissist. We are both in love with the same man, i.e., my husband.

    He is a full blown clinical covert Narcissistic husband and a great poser. He cannot tell the truth, is very deceptive in our relationship, his only desire is to shop and has through over a million $’s, but has NEVER saved one penny, yet he says he never had enough!

    He cannot tell the truth, thinks he is superior to every one else, is very pleasant in the company of others, especially females; the only time he acts or poses nice is when he is in the presence of others. When we are “home alone”, only God knows what I have to endure; without Him I could not survive!

    1. Wow Ellen you have just described us. My marriage. I am legally separated but still must play his game if I want to receive my alimony without all the drama

  96. I found the entirety of this article AND the comments, not only interesting, but also educational and truthful. I definately recognized many of the descriptive applications as having been in my life and character composition, as well a number of them STILL in my life, unfortunately! Because we are (Born-again) Christians, we have a higher calling than many to remain together. There has NOT been marital unfaithfulness with either one of us and we are about to celebrate our Golden (50th.) Anniversary, something rather miraculous these times! I have a multitude of faults and sins in my life BUT am COMMITTED to remedy my passive/aggressive and partially narcissistic issues and characteristic ways and habits, consigning both to the Bible’s entreaty to “Live with your wives as Christ loves the Church (world-wide body of those Christians who own a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! WE are working together on my lacks and have agreed to create periodic physical separation from one another to allow “space” and healing to perform their progression while staying constantly in touch with one another via text, email and or telephone conversations. It is faith, love, prayer, the Bible, God’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness that will keep us together, along with a healthy and constant dosage of communication with one another in truth.

  97. The husband benefits from a “smidge” of narcissism. The wife is obviously just a B. Misogyny is ugly. You should work on getting yourself past it.

    1. Sorry J. I just follow the science. Low levels of narcissism help boost resilience and confidence. Narcissism is not misogyny.

  98. Ce n’est que par les relations qu’on entretient entre nos différentes connaissances qu’elles nous restent accessibles. — Shnuup, sur l’hypertexte (SELFHTML -> Introduction -> Definitions sur l’hypertexte)

  99. “A “normal Covert Narcissist Husband” is only slightly more narcissistic than the average husband. They are much far down on the lower end of the narcissism spectrum than the Clinical Covert Narcissist Husband.”

    Please explain what you mean by that. Are you saying all men are narcissistic and there is a level of normal?

    1. Hi Kelly. No, I was saying that there’s a difference between an annoying covert narcissist and a toxic narcissist. Narcissism operates on a continuum.

    2. No, all PEOPLE have a narcissistic dimension. Research, for example, tells us that teens, pregnant women, and people managing illness are measurably more self-focused. Narcissism is a dimension, a continuum…and we all move up or down depending on our circumstances.

  100. This article has given me something to think about. Still, is a subnormal Narcissistic husband a good spouse when he uses outright silence, shares nothing about himself, performs musically and loves to have attention yet “forgets” what he has himself suggested to do for me? Example: I’ll drive you, I’ll buy the groceries, I’ll buy you nice things, but refuse to speak of himself and seems to listen, but is always “confused or forgot.?”

  101. The worst is not being able to speak – or be heard – about my feelings. He crafts these “exercises” to get our needs met and uses them to his liking. When it’s my turn to use same exercise he criticizes me so harshly for not “doing it right” that he grinds me into the ground and leaves me there crying. Concern for my needs? Forgotten. Never followed up on. Shows no interest in participating in making repairs or amends. Of if he says sorry it lasts ’til the next time he perceives an imaginary insult then either passive-aggressively comments or puts me down. When I complain he says he was “only joking”. It has been 1 year and I still have not had my hurt feelings healed or addressed from dozens of fights and arguments. We are in therapy and it seems to only give him more ammunition and terminology to beat me up with. He promises to keep agreements then breaks them. Any time I want to discuss feelings it’s the same. He is obsessed with assigning blame – and whenever I talk about my feelings he spins it mid-sentence asking me “so now I am the one to blame?!!!” “this is all my fault, huh?” then the conversation does a tailspin and I am recovering from and defending against accusations of blaming him. Or being accused of accusing him – it is all crazy-making. The term “word-salad” is great because that is what “talks” become when he gets aggressive and triggered. He makes o sense, calls me adjectives like psycipathic or bipolar or schizophrenic – meanwhile not taking repsonsibility for any pain he causes me nor calming down enough to actually listen to what I am saying. I get little compassion and no empathy. He constantly is telling me I need therapy because of how I react to him – haha, I need it BECAUSE of him! I have PTSD and am shut down from the unpredictable squabbles he conjures out of nowhere. We can be having a great day, a wonderful moment, then he sabotages it with some insult, demand or sarcastic comment. Because something I did (or usually, didn’t do) triggers him unbeknownst to me because he lives in a world inside his head where he is apparently being treated unjustly. We have many good times in the past, but now my trust is gone. Couples therapy is not helping. It seems a game. He lures me back in with sweet words and tones, then things calm down for a few days or a week at most. Then *blam* another incident is happening. I can see the trail women take, thinking “this is what I have to endure for the trade-offs I see in this relationship…” the benefits of stability, insurance, a home, not having to date and search for a mate any longer. BUT at what price? My health is suffering greatly. There is much to consider in spending time with these individuals who are so entitled they can’t see straight.

    1. My heart goes out to you! I was married to a covert narcissistic man for 24 years. I just recently found out what the disorder is called. I I realize now the damage caused by being in this relationship. Its going to be another 24 years for me to recover

    2. I’m in the same situation as you are and I am 63. I want to leave my relationship but husband makes a nice salary and pays the bills and my health insurance. I want to move to another state and meet some friends and be very selective of the men I date if I ever have the courage again. My father is a overt narcissist and my sister is a overt narcissist and now we aren’t on speaking terms for a few years now. I feel as though I’m all alone. I’m mKing plans to move in the next year or two so I can be free of this bondage.
      You could also leave and find another place to live as you would have money from your marriage.

    3. You totally described my entire relationship with my ex!! Everything you said was the exact same things from my marriage, with the added issue of him doing the exact same things with our kids!

    4. I have never read a comment that parallels my experience as much as yours does.we are both professionals and he is admired by his patients. He could never get as much admiration from me. Without going into details I would say that this article is the best I have read on the subject because it addresses the wife’s desire to change the relationship with true love and concern, while any attempt at deep conversation threatens the husband and is seen as an attack, from which he withdraws emotionally, rather than deals with the emotional issues. I feel as though there’s constantly an elephant in the room that only I am aware of.
      I have gone to a few counselors for this and was told it’s best not to engage in couple therapy bc this relationship is diagnosed as emotional abuse, and these men rarely want help. Being married 31 years, I agree as I have always been the one to want therapy or “ force” him into biblically based marriage conferences. Never has he ever talked about wanting to improve our marriage.
      I’m not sure how he can live this way. I am jumping out of my skin in pain and loneliness and hurt. I see this is a 2 year comment so I hope things have changed in your life. I’ve just resorted to accepting a loveless marriage wondering when something is going to “ give”. I’m the blame for every problem. Thankfully I have a strong will because my focus is mostly on the Lord as my kids are grown. Having the kids leave and losing the reason for his living, made our relationship even more strained.
      Yes the PTSD very real.

  102. My covert narcissistic husband almost killed me. Couples therapy with a personality disordered individual is not recommended. A marriage retreat won’t fix it. Get out. Now.

    1. Wow I married one be for I realized what he was and had 2 children with him. I seriously need help with dealing with him. I’m loosing my mind.

      1. No, your not losing your mind. You are being manipulated by a very sick man. He is a expert at sabotaging ypur self worth. Their’s nothing wrong with you! Be strong. Read everything you can about his weakness. Make a plan to get out. Start saving money! You can survive this. Hold on to yourself. You are not alone! Join a Facebook group for support. Or do FaceTime therapy. Reach out to your local domestic violence organizations. You can survive this. Im praying for you to the goddess inside all women.

  103. When these men and women in some cases, have a severe case of this there is nothing that can be done, one weekend of couples therapy are you kidding. This is deep inside of them they are horrible to the person they choose to torture , usually their partner.

    1. yes, it can work in a weekend with an extremely narcissistic spouse.
      Here’s how.
      The hurt partner can clearly see that they will never change and they get clarity.

      1. Really? This sounds hopeless. You mean my husband will never change and all this does is give me the clarity I need to do what exactly? We are Christian. He wants help. Leaving him would throw him to the wolves. He wants the tools to identify weakness and inner lies so he can change into the likeness of Love. There must be hope for these people. What are the steps we can take to help him be whole and truly love?

        1. I’m in the same boat as you being a Christian. From the 3 counselor s I saw, I was told that they don’t change. So you either decide to live with it or not. In my heart since then, I really believed God would open his heart to his behavior towards me. It’s 12 years since the last therapist. Nothing has changed. In fact things are worse.

  104. I’ve read every website I can find. This trait has been referred to on many of them, as a mental disorder. Or is sometimes, explained by simply saying, “He just doesn’t care, he can’t show empathy”, etc.
    As if he’s broken or something, so this is an excuse. Maybe these people can’t feel empathy, but they sure do recognize it when they want it for themselves. My husband is a flat out self absorbed prick. Problem is, you cannot call him on any of it, because he refuses to admit anything, if it means something negative about himself. He’s not broken, he knows right from wrong, he’s intelligent enough to understand that it’s NOT ok, the way he behaves, because he hates it when someone does it to him. I’m married 40 years. Know what I’ve learned? Take the bad with the good, learn to ignore his shit (whenever possible) and make YOURSELF happy. If his behavior cannot be ignored, then pay him back, with the same. Let him know when he’s not being truly listened to. Forget when he asks you to do something. It’ll piss him off, but watch if he calls you on it, bet he doesn’t, and we know why.
    If he’s intolerable, do whatever it takes to leave.
    If you want to stick it out, get ready, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

    1. Its a nightmare . Nobody understands except the target they have chosen, so you cant explain it to ppl, escpecially my family who he has completely bamboozled. Its exhausting I cant take it anymore. 22 years. I got him out once and let him back, huge mistake he refuses to let me go.

      1. I’m in this same situation. My husband makes me look like I’m batshit crazy to everyone else… even to my own family. I didn’t realize that this was a disorder until recently and now I’m not even sure how to get out… we have three kids together and I’m worried for them. I don’t have a family to fall back on or anyone for that matter. All I know from everything I read is that it will not get better and I need to get a plan in place to get our children and I out safely.

    2. Great advice, Shell.. Agree l00% – I am with a self absorbed, abusive, prick just like you ( unless you got out) for 13 yrs – on/off. I finally married him thinking I could handle him – yes, they are challenges and I thought I could make a difference by calming the chaos/drama in his life. Um. No. They THRIVE on chaos and drama. It takes a VERY strong person who is very grounded and knows their worth to be involved with one of these people. For unusual reasons, I stopped living with him 5 yrs ago. He complained that I “abandoned” him to gain sympathy from everyone in his orbit – All BS. We are not kids – I am now 70 .. Why do I stay? I use him like he uses me. I am a convenient “fuck” buddy and great for his public image. He has a great retirement package that I could never afford on my own. Health benefits, extra SS, possible pension if he dies before me.. etc. etc. I used to love him in the beginning – but he destroyed it all. His own kids don’t even like him along with most of his “friends”…… He lives in his own little fantasy world.. He’s the “biggest and the best” according to him. I just play along — Have come close to dumping his ass – but at my age.. does anyone believe I would even WANT another man? That ship has sailed. BUT if you are stuck In quicksand like so many, believe narcs NEVER CHANGE………. They will lie in therapy — ( if you can get them there) I learned to be mentally tough by my Dad – the worst narc in the World — my husband is an amateur compared to what my Dad was. Save yourselves. IT DOES NOT GET BETTER. RUN!!!!!!!!!

  105. This is my soon to be ex husband – he proposed a month after meeting me, told me he loved me on our first date, then when I started noticing his imperfections and terrible decision making, he left as fast as he got in.

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