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. Hi Ellen, I am in the same boat except my husband claims to be a professing Christian. I went above and beyond to try to get help for us and him. I have had no luck. Either people don't really know how to help us or they really just don't care. This has sure been a stumbling block in my faith. I have given up hope in trying to make it work anymore more. Everything is my fault. We will be married 12 years in April. Haven't had a sexual relationship in 7 years. Nothing. No affection. No care. No empathy. He withdrawls and then when I push him he says I say things to him that I don't say. Its like what he thinks in his mind he blames me for. Its quite crazy. I am not seeking help anymore. I don't have a support group. I am just trying to get the strength to get out of this. I don't want to be mean but I feel I am going to have to because he doesn't take me seriously. I am so sorry you went through this for so long. You will need some time to heal once you are out of it. I did like your last comment about rediscovering yourself. That does sound exciting and empowering. I wish you the best and really want it for you.

  2. I had found this article extremelly useful espetially though the examples given. The question is how to deal emotionally with being in a relationship with a person, who suffers from NPD? The more I try to stay calm, not to react to accusations, just get on with things without expectations, the more I feel that I manifest similar trades, which are then pointed out to me ('you don't even answer my questions any more'; 'you just do all these nice things to your friends to get recognition'; 'you take the kids when I am not there just to show what a nice mum you are'). Walking away, when we have a child together is not easy.

  3. I have been married for twenty five years. My husband exhibits so many of these characteristics it is unsettling. I discovered a couple of years ago that he has been “flirting” with various women. He swears he’s never cheated, but the feelings that I have about it all are essentially the same. He is so kind to everyone but me and our children. He is also addicted to gambling, alcohol, pills and everything in between.
    Now, he says he’s different after completing a rehabilitation program for 45 days and he is seeing a therapist. Of course, he shares nothing with me but only the vaguest tidbit. He’s made it clear over the years that I am not good enough for him. I’ve tried so hard to make him happy but nothing is ever good enough.
    We bought a business together eight years ago. He structured the sale so that I wouldn’t get a dime even though I worked there in addition to my full time job while raising our children and running the household. I thought he was working long hours so I picked up the slack wherever I could. It turns out he was flattering other women, spending his time getting the attention he is desperate for.
    Marriage counseling was a disaster. He refused to accept responsibility for his actions and blamed me for my reluctance to trust his recovery process. He raged throughout our marriage, our son doesn’t have a relationship with him and our daughter is too afraid to make him angry. He manipulates everyone. He has been alcohol and drug free for a while now. He wants us to stay together but he has not addressed the intense emotional abuse, unhealthy behavior with regards to women and possible personality disorders. He’s been trying so hard to be nice to me but I’ve been weary of this because he’s done this so many times before. He will be kind for a while. I begin to think he is changing and I let my guard down. He isn’t able to sustain his affection for me and he slips back into the criticism. Eventually, he’s back to ignoring me, and then comes the rage and outright vitriol.All the while, he is complaining about me behind my back. He’s creative about this. He knows that people who know me wouldn’t buy it so he’s mastered the art of manipulation and he’s careful about how he stabs me in the back.
    He loves to play the victim and can’t take it if someone doesn’t think the absolute best of him. I am completely exhausted. He is like a giant black hole, sucking everything within reach to swirl about his fragile ego. For me, I was drawn so far in, there was no escape and I was torn to pieces. I’m a shell of my former self. I’m trying to figure out how to extract myself from this marriage of pain and humiliation. I saw an attorney and he said that I was entitled to alimony, a portion of the business (because he said I was defrauded) and that he would do all the fighting. I laughed and replied that I was prepared to walk out with the shoes on my feet and my dog. This man has no idea what he would be taking on and I don’t want to have a long and drawn out legal battle. I thanked him for his advice, paid the bill and left. At this point, I’ll be grateful to leave my marriage with my life.

  4. I have never felt so seen. I am currently attempting an amicable divorce from my husband of 26 years. This article was a God-send. Literally. I have needed to understand what was happening for a long time.

    Years of lies and half truths, telling me just enough to get me off the scent. Years of being discarded when he found me less interesting than, well, anything. Never finishing a project but leaving me with the clean-up. Always being the victim of someone else’s actions. Always wanting more and more and more. He got everything he’s ever wanted, and has destroyed it all, looking for more and better. No one tells him No. Never had consequences for his bad behavior. He is the king of his world. He works so hard for nice things and then doesn’t take care of them. The responsibility for maintaining anything after he is no longer interested is mine. But to everyone on the outside he loves me so well. My friend once told her husband, Why don’t you love me like he loves Ellen.

    After finding out about an affair with a 25 year old who worships the the ground he walks on, and deciding he was in love, I decided I’d had enough. Well, he “loved me more, and loving only me was the goal” What insanity have I gotten myself into? How am I living in the twilight zone. I keep saying how did a nice girl like me end up in a mess like this?

    It has taken me a year to slowly figure out how to leave without stoking the fire of his anger and resentment. I’ve had many years of therapy trying to understand how to fix things and be what he needs. He is a bottomless pit. Nothing is ever enough.

    He’s decided to leave his boys, and the country and be a “digital nomad”. Isn’t asking for any custody. Left the country to explore new opportunities and cultures. Always looking for the new shiny thing that makes him feel special and unique. He’s been reading my emails and probably my texts. He has forced me to be sneaky to protect myself.

    I found out this week he is not in the country he said, he’s in another country with his mistress. He says he will never file for divorce and will “flip a switch” and come back to me if we can stay together. At the same time he’s frustrated the divorce is taking so long. I can’t take the double talk any more. I sent him a divorce proposal that I had drafted with the help of my lawyer. He says the divorce will be uncontested. After receiving the proposal he was irate. Accusing me of trying to destroy him. He wants me to get advice and counsel from him only. I can literally never do anything right. Never. I think I’m in for a fight. No, I know I’m in for a fight. I’m not a strong fighter. But I have to protect the rest of my life and find strength to stand up to him. I’m hoping he turns out to be a weak little man pretending to have power.

    I found an incredible group of women who tell me the truth even when I am scared to hear it. They see through his lies and double talk. They believe me and support me unconditionally. They would probably take up arms for me if the need arose. Lol. I am forever indebted to my support system for keeping me sane. They keep me faced toward the truth. They encourage me that life can be better than this and I deserve better. They are helping me believe in myself for the first time I’m a long time.

    Thank you for this article. I can see the subtle abuse I have been entangled in for 26 years. I can see how I have changed who I am and what I want to try to please him. The only thing worse than staying for 26 years, is staying for 27. I am so excited to rediscover who I am and bet on me for once. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. I have been divorced after 33 years from what I now understand was a covert passive aggressive man. When I discovered the word for his behavior that resulted in years of turmoil and never resolved problems, I was driving in my car and listening to a talk show psychologist. The woman caller to the program described her issues with her husband . The talk show host described him as being passive aggressive. The psychologist went on to explain that she too had been married for years to a passive aggressive man, and that not even she could change him. I almost drove my car off the road hearing this. It was like a light had been turned on after years of struggle and darkness within my marriage. I literally thought I was going crazy as my ex's behavior with everyone outside our home was just as you described. The total nice guy. If I had a nickle for every time I heard someone outside our home say he was wonderful and I was a lucky woman to have him, I would be a rich woman.. There were times I felt my own parents cared about him more than me. He was a total Jekyll and Hyde. I suspect Robert Louis Stevenson may have known such a person.
    This moment of enlightenment took me to Barnes and Noble where I bought the book "Living With the Passive Aggressive Man" by Scott Wettzler Ph.D. While reading the book I began highlighting the passages that described my husban's behavior. I stopped when I recognized I was highlighting the whole book.
    When I confronted my ex with the book, to my shock, but not surprise, he sulked and felt sorry for himself. When I asked why he was acting this way instead of expressing any regret or sorrow for what his behavior had inflicted on out marriage his reply was "how would you like reading a book all about you?" Shortly after this confrontation he divorced me and married his mistress. I was onto him and he could not abide that. I feel nothing but sympathy for his now wife. I hope it does not take her as many years as I to see who he really is.
    After years of educating myself I understand now he was not just passive aggressive but a covert passive aggressive narcissist. It explains all the endless questions I had for years, the self doubt, and literally thinking I was crazy. I struggle to this day to recover which is what led me to your article. I have considered writing my own book about my years of doubting myself if only to stop others from following the same path to no end.
    Again thnak you. Every article read, every book, brings me closer to forgiving myself. I can never get back the years of pain, I spent with this awful man, but I hope you and others will educate people so they do not make my same mistake.

  6. I'm honestly blown away and not even sure what to say! This is a nail on the head. I've been feeling so lost. I want to leave my second marriage so badly it's killing me. My first relationship I wasted 11 years of my life now my second marriage I've wasted 9 years of my life with a man who constantly belittles me and ignores my feelings and thoughts but yet everyone outside our home sees him as the perfect husband and father. I just turned 40 yesterday and didn't even get so much as a Happy Birthday from him. Instead I got the usual do everything I've worked all day and my back hurts from him. My whole life is wrapped around my family and my sons mean more to me than life itself but this man is slowly destroying me. I admit that I'm extremely resentful for everything he has put me through.
    I don't pretend to be perfect and I have many issues from the abuse and neglect of my childhood. My adoptive parents where my 9th placement and I've struggled my entire life to improve and get better, even now I am in therapy but last couple years I've been increasingly self destructive because honestly I've had enough..but yet I find myself unable as of right now to have the strength to leave and take my two sons with me. Honestly many times I feel like not living. I've told him more than once when drunk of course that I'm done and leaving him and then the threats spew from his mouth. "I'm the crazy one" you forget he says that your the one in therapy and have taken medication and been in the hospital. No one will believe you and your not taking my sons from me. Which in turn makes me feel like a divorce judge would side with him and take the only thing I cherish most in my life my children. Yes he's threatened to kill me if I ever tried to take my kids and leave. I'm an unfit mother he says…but yet. I have consistently had to rearrange everything to suit the needs of our family. I now work from 5pm to 1:30am 40 hours a week just to suite the needs of my family for day care or a babysitter we cannot afford. I get up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep to put my sons on the bus to turn around get household chores done and make sure bills are paid. Yes I took over the money to make sure the bills get paid for when we first met he was behind on everything. He works and does the dishes but says…your not the one that has to fight putting boys to bed, you don't know how hard my job is, oh your hurting well I'm 10 years older than you and broke my back so my pain is worse. Oh you had a shifty day at work well try going through what I went through. Hey where did all our money go I never get anything from my paycheck and you keep spending on stupid shit. You do nothing you are nothing.
    One of my sons is having a really tough time in school and at home and he's now bad with anxiety and my husband just keeps saying oh my God stop whining. Anything I do is not good enough and doesn't matter. He's had two DWI's and if I mention anything about it it's all my fault for I'm crazy and pushed him too far. He says I don't give him enough sex and I'm not kinky enough. Every time I try to better myself or improve I'm selfish.
    I am so emotionally mentally and physically drained at this point I can barely function. I'm alone and have no support and don't know where to turn and two of my biggest fears is if I try to leave he will take my children and if I stay he will ruin my children. I keep saying to myself just make it until boys are 18 or out of the house then leave then I think but there not only getting taught by him how to treat a woman but also seeing and being taught total dysfunctional life and relationships. I feel wrong wither way and now I have a hard time even trusting my gut or my decision making ability. I want so badly to protect my children and be the best mom I can be but failing miserably. I've been pushing strength to survive since I was born but feel my strength fading. I know I need to leave with my children and no I'm not looking to take them away from him and want him to be apart of there lives but I'm slowly dying and fear is stopping me from doing what needs to be done. If I can't have my children in my life I won't survive I will die literally! I've researched about getting a divorce with children and society makes it extremely difficult and complex and completely unfair. I want nothing of martial assets I just want my children that's it! I don't know what to do anymore except I know I don't have the strength to take it much longer and this is all extremely unhealthy for not only me but my children…my poor children don't deserve this 😭

    1. I’m so sorry. I can relate to what you are going through. It is really hard to keep going with only you doing self-talk to yourself. A big circle, round and round.
      Our 47th anniversary is in 10 days. I cannot stand to look at him. He has traded me for on-line porn. We have no physical or emotional attachment.
      Haven’t had sex for 20 years. He tried to play the me getting old and not fun compared to the sex divas.
      He gets very defensive if I say anything about it and tries to turn it around on me.
      He blows everything off like I am making a big deal out of nothing.
      I will pray for you. I am seeing a counselor which he never will. Our kids are grown and we have 3 beautiful grandchildren. It’s so very hard to deal with. 😢 hugs

  7. I am a visual person so it was nice to see all this laid out in written explanation. It gives me words to explain the big concept pictures my instincts draw.

    I noticed when he wants to drag me down, or I have found a means out of his continual misery, that he begins to spin. He turns reality on its head to make me dizzy and drag me down gaslighting, manipulating, and downright being a liar and a bully.

    I deep dived into why and discovered it was a lack of self. He has no worth inside himself so he spins out of control. He believes: If I get happy, if I get successful, I will leave him. He forgets I promised to get him out, free of the toxicity, and help him rebuild.

    He doesn't realize that he is creating the misery and soul draining negativity that robs us of any goodness in our relationship. He rides my coat tails, and mirrors and pairs to learn how to be a decent human being. He was never taught how to reguard others, complete tasks, serve and humble himself, nor live with any sort of selfless self sacrifice.

    Just reliability was an issue when I met him. We started building from the ground up. His will was right. His morals and ethics were intact. He has a soul, and goodness. I decided to take on the project, because I loved him.

    I rewrote his story. From high school failure to MBA with high honors. From poverty level jobs to faithful, selfless work leading to 6 digits in 5 years.

    I gave him everything I have, and yet now when I am ready to write my own chapters, spread my own wings, he is being his mother: odipital, feeding on her children like the witch in Hanzel and Gretel: holding me down and sabotaging me.

    Our children are seeing through it all and are following me closely to navigate his landmines. Thankfully he travels most of the week so the children get about 5 days of normalcy, stability, and skill building before his drama starts.

    I have found just not making myself available when I instinctively know he is going to start something helps. So does being hyper independent.

    I stick to my guns. I do not let him dissuade me from things I know are right, and I keep pressing forward. I keep a clear head, I refuse to enter into the spin, and I keep choosing light. I keep finding the way through. I keep digging my way out moment by moment, decision by decision.

    I am just tired at the moment. I am burned out. I keep reminding myself I saw value in this even though it feels impossible now that his inner monster is surfacing.

    I look at how far we have come. I rebuilt the overt narcissist's scapegoat into a successful man. Now I get to deal with the childhood trauma he stuffed down and covered over that is causing the covert narcissism. Safety leads to trauma surfacing. Time to deal with it.

    I am going to exhumed that soul she murdered, and by the power of God the dry bones will become flesh and be filled with new life. He will have new value, new purpose, and never will he be the same. God makes all things new: to fix the spinning, he needs identity. Not in me, I am just flesh and blood. I cannot supply that. Then he will just feed on me.

    But first I needed to understand this rediculous behavior that is draining my energy. Covert narcissist.

    That is probably why I keep seeing a baby brown recluse spider in my mind. Just enough poison to do some damage, and drain me, not enough to kill nor maim, and it won't face me in the light of day.

    A baby whirlwind that can't get the speed to destroy much, but makes you drained and dizzy.

    Thanks for the insight. I needed to process it all. I have my heading now. I know which direction to go.

  8. Best description I’ve read of a covert narcissist. Exactly how my husband behaved. Just come out of a 20 year marriage. You know they are being totally being unreasonable but some how they end up making you feel guilty. Tears me apart that everyone thinks he is such a great guy. I know he will be telling people that he did everything for me and this is how he gets repaid. Still struggling to come to terms with it all.

    1. I totally agree 100% with the article and your comments. married 19 yrs here. there is great reassurance is knowing this is a pattern and that I wasn't bad or crazy!

  9. I literally gasped, couldn’t stop shaking, and crying while reading this. It’s exactly what I have been going through for 13 years. I just couldn’t explain what was happening. I have felt so broken. Like I am going insane and it’s my fault all of this is happening. I am mentally and physically falling apart. Only what I can feel like is a slow death of my soul. I used to be a vibrant and outgoing person. Now I am a husk of a person. This man has been sucking the life out of me. Yet I am finding it hard to leave because I want so badly for things to work. Also I feel so stupid for trusting and letting myself get financially abused. I don’t even know where to start with leaving. I have children and nothing of my own. I will never be able to recover from this.

    1. I was where you are, four months ago. Twenty years of marriage, four kids and a business together. But I'm completely broken. The woman I once was, has been destroyed. I'm a shell of my former self. He systematically destroyed me, and he did it so covertly, blaming me for it the whole time. Even now, four months after leaving him, he still blames me 100% for the demise of my marriage and is angry and in disbelief that I left.
      Leaving was the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life. It took almost two years to gather the courage to do it and even then, with a small support network, I almost didn't do it. It was so incredibly hard.
      You WILL be okay if you leave, I promise. Slowly, you will find yourself again. You will be able to breathe again. You will remember what your favourite colour is, what your favourite smell is. You'll remember how you like your coffee – how you *actually* like your coffee, when you're allowed to go to the coffee shop by yourself and pick whatever one you want.
      He controlled all the money – even the money that I earned. And he got mad at me because I didn't earn enough (I earned more than him).
      When I left, I walked away from our home, our business, our cars. I had to go on a benefit (social welfare) to pay my rent. But now, four months on, I'm so glad I left. Sure, some days are still hard. Some days are *really* hard. But mostly, I'm happy. And my kids have noticed how happy and relaxed I am now, and how much I smile.
      I desperately wanted things to work, too. I dedicated literally half my life to this man, and when I married him, I fully intended to grow old with him. But I'm slowly accepting that it's not going to happen.
      I still wear my wedding ring. I (perhaps stupidly) still hope for reconciliation. But deep down, I know that things will never be any different.
      I feel stupid, too. But I'm healing.
      If you need help, reach out to a women's refuge centre/shelter. They have the resources to help you. My social worker was amazing. She held my hand (figuratively) the whole way and walked me through it and even now, four months old, she is still a great source of support when things get tough.
      I wish you all the very best. Marriage to a covert narcissist is absolutely soul-destroying.

  10. I haven't read through all of the comments, but from the ones I did read and the article itself, I've realized that not all, but a lot of this behavior closely resembles me. I had an argument with my girlfriend earlier (it was fairly one-sided, with me doing the shouting and her keeping quiet and eventually breaking down) and then after analyzing some of the things she was saying against my behavior, I had to do a search to see what exactly is wrong with me. My search landed me here, and I have to honestly say I'm disgusted at my own behavior and motives that I myself didn't even realize the reasoning behind, aside from the obvious fact that it was in some sort of pursuit of self-gratification. My girlfriend loves me very much and shows it constantly in the things she says and does, and I have consistently been hot/cold with her without being able to put a finger on "why?" After reading this article, I realized that I have a legitimate problem and need to seek counsel, so I can take healthy steps to overcome it. Daniel's assessment of the "nice guy in public, covert narcissist in private" was uncomfortably accurate. I genuinely find joy in helping others, yet secretly crave recognition despite never wanting praise spoken to my face, because I don't know how to take compliments. Things just haven't adding up for me, but I figured there had to be an official explanation for my inconsistent and conflicting behavior. I think the challenge with diagnosing something like covert narcissism is in the fact that people are multi-faceted and we all go through so many life experiences that impact us and tend to shape and be shaped by our perceptions. It's easy to "blame" our behavior on events and make them the catalyst, rather than putting ourselves under the microscope to see if the issue is actually deep-seated personality problems. To all of the women, children, and men who have suffered from relationships like this, I sincerely offer my sympathy. I know I wouldn't want to date or be married to someone like me. If you are a person of faith, please keep me in your prayers as I work to actively overcome this toxic behavior and learn to be more loving, supportive, empathetic, and emotionally available.

  11. This article perfectly describes my husband of 45 long exhausting years together in marriage. It also reinforces how i missed the early warning signs while we were dating.

    I'm exhausted yet still on hyper alert .

    The adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" unfortunately truly applies. The inconsistencies in his behavior and their random, chaotic repercussions leave me fretfully anticipating the worst all the time. Yet the rare moment I do let down my guard–WHAM!

  12. Reading through everyone’s post, I have noticed there seems to be a trend of the marriages lasting decades. Why does it take so long to recognize, come to terms, and divorcing. Even in my case, I’ve been with my husband for 13 years and reading this article is like my life in words. This article has put into words what I have struggled to articulate for many years. Does this confusion speak to the skill of the narcissist, my co-dependent nature or something else?

    1. the length of the relationship reflects the skill of the CV to choose as a source, someone who is strongly empathetic, who buys into and sympathizes with his victimhood. The years and years of subtle abuse makes recipients perpetually think the problem is them, which is the intended goal: find someone willing to take all the responsibility. I think many of us are nurses, wanting to help heal, give of ourselves.

  13. This article hits home so much with me. I knew something wasn't right, 2 weeks into our marriage. Everything changed so quickly. The things that I can relate to the most are:

    1. Sex- I have read several posts on here and I have actually commented, after sex, I feel so used. There is no kind of affection whatsoever. There is nothing even leading up to having sex. No kissing, NOTHING!

    2. Silent Treatment-Any time he gets mad at me for anything, big or small, he ignores me. He withholds affection and doesn't speak to me for days.

    3. He is a different person behind closed doors-My family never saw the side of him that I saw, so they couldn't relate. He is getting more desperate though and has began to show that side of himself to them as well.

    4. He does not communicate his needs, then gets mad when I don't do it- I had no way of knowing that I was supposed to do it (whatever it might be).

    5. He turns EVERY conversation around and makes it about him-If I am upset about something that happened at my job and trying to vent about it, it becomes about him.

    There are so many other things…I could go on ALL day.

    Thank you for publishing this article, it is an eye opener.

  14. As a covert-narcissist, who is currently in therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder, how do I gain empathy? I don't want to be this person, but I've been this person for 35 years. What do I need to tell my therapist?

  15. Oh my God. I’m shell shocked. I have been destroying my own brain, health, self-esteem, self-worth and dignity for 15 years entirely certain I was a monster. Knowing there was something wrong, but unable to pin point it and always focusing on my reaction and apologizing for said reaction, vs addressing what I was reacting to. I’ve been saying this for so many years. DH goes into a state of silent victim funk which makes me feel bad and give into his needs every time. I could go on and on but long story short— every word felt like someone was reaching into my soul and carrying a piece of it into safety security for the first time in 15 years.

  16. Oh. My. God. I just divorced my husband after he admittedly was unfaithful to me. I gasped at almost every word of this article. I could never explain to anyone, including my therapist what I actually went through.

    Thank you! I feel a sense of relief knowing that there's nothing wrong with me (at least not to this degree) but HE is a Covert Narcissist!!! I've read this twice just to get it in my brain. I pray to God for anyone that is in or has been in a relationship with someone like this. It is hell! His friends and family have ostracized me because "he's such a sweet man".

    1. I’m still in my marriage though he has left our marital home claiming he’s “waiting on me” He has put me through hell and I’ve fought back and pray daily knowing God allowed me to experience “Job” experience in Bible to get angry enough fighting for my very life and the life of our now adult children especially our daughter whom he has sucked the life out of just like he did to me which actually put me in the hospital and our daughter. I’ve recovered which doctor's know is a miracle from every form of infection etc that should have ended my life. Counseling has never worked for my marriage and barely works for me because it’s all about respecting him and letting go of my perceived pain when it’s still happening because he still tells me what to do and ignores me at the same time gaslighting me and using current technology to avoid proper communication which has not been there from the beginning being told by his Pastor before our marriage in premarital counseling. He is aware of all his mistakes and that he has damaged me in all ways yet quickly changes the story to protect his fragile ego attempting to get me to believe his version on my life which can not be proven by him expecting me to prove the “facts” when my doctors know the facts. He has our adult son doing the same. Thank God that I was put through hell to break this narcissistic pattern with my adult children whom during my nightmare rejected me as well going to the “normal” strong parent who still is controlling and manipulating them when they are both married nearly destroying our children who have found spouses that truly love them.

  17. I am sitting here and it's almost 1AM and I am astonished that I have finally found what I had been trying to put words on for 31 years. My husband is out partying with an old highschool buddy that's not married, and most likely out with other women. I have always had the feeling that I couldn't trust him, well one because he has lied from the beginning of our marriage , causing me to want to end it right then. He was throwing money away on a old rusted out hot rod while I was working , paying the bills, cooking, cleaning and managing the finances. He threatened that suicide and cried and begged me to come back home. I left for about a month. I went back because everything we had I had purchases while he was racking up credit card debt. I had gut feelings that he was cheating on me but could never prove it. He always denied doing any wrong , saying he would never do that. I should have left him for good then ,even though I would've taken a loss financially, because now 31 years later and after having one child , and she is 22 years old , out of the house, and he's not happy that she's gone, He liked her to be codependent on him. He handicapped her, because she didn't go to college, couldn't hold a job , ended up in a bad relationship with a super controlling abusive boyfriend and my husband was thrilled the day she said she needed to move back home. All through our marriage he always put her above me, and she knew it. He would mock me in front of her, and he was the Disney dad, no discipline only praise from him. I tried to be the voice of reason, but that doesn't work when the other parent just enables and gives in to her every demand. She has no empathy, compassion and only cares about herself and what she can get from people. I couldn't understand why she turned out this way as this was not what I had tried to teach her. Come to realize now that she and her dad are exactly alike. He has no empathy for anyone, and thinks only of himself. He doesn't communicate his feelings with me, there's never been intimacy and if I tried to communicate this , I would either get gaslighted or stonewalled. I wrote him letters, sent him texts, emailed him for years with NO response at all. I would ask him if he read it and he'd get mad and say yes and he didn't want to talk about it. One letter I was apologizing to him for getting angry at him for not responding to me , and for yelling out of sheer frustration. I know I shouldn't have reacted that way , but it was the ONLY way he would listen. I hated it, that isn't who I am, but it's who I've had to become to get one tiny piece of anything through to him. So because of this horrible communication pattern , which was non existent on his end, but come to find that he deeply resented me, even hated me. I found on his phone he was having an affair with my hairstylist who was also his. They both have ADD and she convinced him to come off his meds. He blames all of his irresponsibity and bad behavior on the ADD, but has never once went to a therapist for it. he doesn't care how it affects our family. He owns his own business because he refused to be held accountable by anyone. He went along to church with me for a show, it was all pretend. He lied and denied the affair , told me I was crazy and nothing was going on. Then I grabbed his phone a couple weeks later when he had assured me and the marriage counselor it was over and he promised to stop talking to her outside of his haircuts, but it was all there in a text to a friend , they were going out on walks, kayaking, and who knows what else. He says because he didn't have intercourse that it wasn't an affair and got very angry that I accused him of this. Told me I was crazy , and when I would ask anything about her, he'd get this big smirk on his face , laugh it off and call me crazy. Even AFTER I read the text message he told me that he didn't really do all those things with her. So who is he lying to , me or his friend? After he gets caught in a lie, he continues in it and gets very angry about being confronted. He tells me he can't live like this anymore because I keep accusing him of things. I'm accusing him of what he is actually doing and he is denying and I am starting to doubt my own sense of reality. I found out he was taking business assets out of our home and moving them to his friends place. He denied that as well even though I knew he was , and I had proof he was. Once again I was the bad guy for daring to ask him any questions or confront him on these things. That's when one night he casually said he didn't want to be married anymore. I was in shock. He acted as if I was just a casual fling not his wife who had done everything for him, stayed home raised our daughter, managed the household with 3 German shepherds, did all of his bookwork and all of the finances.
    So I told him I was going to go to a divorce attorney, and then he said he didn't want a divorce, he changed his mind. At this point I had spoke to a mediator who said because of him bleeding all of the money from his business and stealing our assets, I need an attorney. After I put a retainer down, he got nasty and tried getting information from me that was private and confidential. He tried hacking into my emails, and he was spying on all my texts and emails through our Mac computer which was downstairs , which he conveniently had my apple id attached to it and not his, so he could see everything I did and I couldn't see anything he did. When I asked him to enter his apple Id so I could disconnect my devices from his, he became extremely irate and refused. he accused me of wanting to spy on him and get information that I didn't need to see. Come to find out he had this hairstylist convinced that I was this horrible abusive wife, calling me uncaring , unloving, uncompassionate, unsympathetic but ONLY to him. That is NOT me. I am the opposite of all those and HE is all of those. But he convinced her, gained her sympathy and thinks he can start over with someone new, who doesn't know that he's a phony and a fake. Then he finally started doing some of the projects around here that he'd let go for years. I thanked him for each one, but that wasn't enough. He's been sleeping on the couch for 2 months and I get the feeling he thinks I owe him something for doing what he's supposed to do. I don't want him to even touch me because he thinks it's fundy that I poured my feelings out to our counselor and he lied and continued cheating. I can't trust him, I don't feel secure as he hasn't saved a dime from his business of 24 years and he is now bleeding all of our finances because he wants to leave me high and dry. When he does the things he's supposed to do, he posts on FB so everyone can see what a good and nice guy he is. He has to put on a show for people. So most people think I am the abusive one. I feel invalidated , unheard , unloved, and downright emotionally abused for the past 31 years. I am done, but this divorce is already taking a massive toll on my health because of his lying, deceiving, covering up what he's doing to screw me over financially and here he always told me he would never want a divorce. He pushed me to file so he could tell everyone what a bitch I am, including lying to my daughter about me. He wants our dog, the 2 year old who replaced the one who died at me feet. Because I am home, I spend all my time training these dogs. This one was the hardest . He threatened me more than once that he will fight for her to the death. Maybe he is planning to kill me now, I don't know what this man is capable of. He is a stranger to me, a man I never really knew. He said he couldn't share his feelings with me because he believed I would talk him out of them. His feelings that he did share , were everything that I had told him I felt repeated back to me, without him ever validating my feelings. I feel like I am living in some kind of warped reality. Everything he's ever said has been a lie. I can't believe that I am 54 years old , now going to be on my own and he thinks it's funny and told me I guess I'll just have to do what I have to do. So 31 years of my life wasted on this and now he's making a divorce a nightmare as well. I don't know how I'm going to support myself and he has drained all of our money. I cannot believe that I allowed myself to fall for believing one word out of his mouth ever. Even in our sexual relations there was Never intimacy. I complained about his and that also made him angry. I pray to God to rescue me from this abuse and help me to find a way out and never want to look back, ever.

  18. I feel like you were a fly on the wall watching my 21 year marriage. Reading through the 7 traits, I kept saying " YES!" It's like you literally were in my life observing what happened. The only difference was, he left and divorced after 21 years… but he blamed me for being too critical. As he was leaving he vented stuff I never heard through our 21 years of marriage. Stuff I never knew bothered him or he was stewing about. Throughout the marriage I was the constant clean-up crew for his behavior. I am not saying I was innocent and perhaps my delivery of my concerns/issues should have been different. I never felt loved or cared-for by him, and the lack of engagement in our family life has left devastating damage to our children as well. He has completely abandoned the whole family, and although he wanted to see our kids "occasionally" when he could fit it in his busy lifestyle. His lack of love for them has left a bitter taste in their mouth as well. The whole thing makes me sad.

  19. The best is when after they yell at you/criticize you, they expect you to just open your legs. Then you get told off for not being close.
    I'm in the same boat here. I have two little ones and I am at a lost. He has started showing his anger towards me, in front of the children. This I can not not stand the most at this point.

  20. I was fortunate the ex covert narc ended up having an affair with a colleague ~ dont have to listen to people droning on about what a great person he is anymore
    Triangulation set me free

  21. I wait patiently for my estranged covert narcissist husband to come back from this evil psych mother in law type who tries to dominate him after she dumped her pensioner husband who did all for her but couldn't be bothered to support him in retirement.

  22. This is such a good article. Thank you. Well, I'm working on leaving this marriage. I've been married for twenty years to this much older guy (14 years older) who is eccentric, extremely handsome, charming, bright, talented, very disarming, rock star, and he works as a therapist because he is an MSW with a counseling license. It's been a total nightmare, like a horror movie, being in a relationship with him and being married to him. I am so exhausted and burnt out. He has ADHD but also some type of personality disorder. He's such a hypocrite and does not practice anything he preaches. He's self-absorbed and literally has tantrums. He's been disrespectful, condescending, callous, oppositional, explosive, and abusive for years. But, he's super respectful and kind to me in front of other people. I should have left him years ago, but I was a really devoted stay at home mom and I felt trapped. But now I'm working on getting a second career and getting rid of him. He's so unhealthy. I'm so upset about the lost years. I'm not perfect. I can be whiny and complain, but he's callous and vicious. I really wish I had left ten years ago. He has been an okay dad; I'm glad he hasn't been directly abusive to our son. But I'm so sorry for staying so long. My son heard lots of yelling from the other room at night; I sent him to therapy and he's doing okay thank God. But I really regret arguing with my crazy making husband. I don't argue with him anymore. I tell him to leave and take a walk when he's being disrespectful and abusive. If another woman is reading this, I say get out now. Don't wait. Another good resource is the book by Lundy Bancroft… Angry and Controlling Men.

  23. PLEASE, I’ve been married to a covert narcissist for 40 years. Until a few years ago, I never would have thought. But I’m quite a psychology geek and now at 61 am pursuing a MS in Positive Psychology. My own husband is my experiment. And I know NPD very well.

    I have had the unique view of a man who, in his early years, was much more of an overt narcissist. In fact, he seemed nearly sociopathic before I met him. He was 28 and I was 20. I was the perfect partner, young, dumb and empathetic to the hilt. BUT, as my husband grew older, his ego deflated. He was no longer in business and his arm candy (me) was more like arm puke, lol. Just saying, it happens. When you get old you look, we’ll, OLD!

    I WANT TO OFFER MY HUSBAND AND I TO HELP WITH RESEARCH AND, IN FACT, ILL BE RESEARCHING MYSELF. While this may sound like a silly, ridiculous offer, it needs to be done. That is, research into a personality disorder that has hijacked cyberspace. Let’s fix this thing, or at least make it better!

    My husband agrees or at least says he agrees that he has NPD. But we all know where that leads: nowhere. My dilemma is clear and I’ve found the answer. My dilemma is that I feel sorry for him and could NEVER I know the Abuse he underwent as a child at the hands of his witch demon of a mother. In the words of Dr Phil, “I don’t ask myself why he is the way he is, rather why NOT? I understand how he HAS to be Right and why criticism is so painful. I’m not going to lie, my life with him has been very painful and he has wounded all three of our sons. I’ve started to leave several times in the past few years, but CANT. My answer to my dilemma is to stay with him, unless he walks away first, which he won’t I’m sure.

    Ironically, I’m healing from a long life of toxic shame and am a huge empath – opposite of my husband. My husband is the Perfect tool to sharpen my confidence in myself. I am becoming more free by the day. I feel more sorry for him by the day and just could never leave him. So, I’m going to try some covert therapy on this man with covert narcissism – he asked for it, but I’m going to try a positive approach. I’ve got some ideas and will be presenting my studies and results.

    With all the child abuse in this country alone, and the inability to cure NPD, we are going to have to come up with ways to carve a path for all the narcissists. We can’t just continue to bash them – not that your article and research did so, but many make money over those with NPD. So what do we do with those who “can’t be cured” but need curing?

    If someone with a PhD wanted to do research on this disorder, we would be the perfect couple. My husband would get therapy but at the same time, he’s not quite sure what his symptoms are. But for whatever reason he believes me when I tell him he has NPD.

    Doctors who need subjects have two right here.

    Please contact my private email I’ve left below. Please put me in contact with doctors who may need to talk to us.

  24. Oh my God I am going on 30 years. I’ve known for years there was something wrong and I know it has to do with his family dynamic growing up.I didn’t know there was a label for it until about a month ago. I have been miserable for years. Everything, everything that they say that describes the covert he does. We are currently not speaking at all as I am being punished for my most recent infraction of calling him out on one of his deliberate bad behaviors. he never seems to remember or it’s always something I did to do it or hey I’m just crazy. I have been wishing he would die for years. I can’t leave Because I can’t take my dog if I go. I can’t leave my dog behind he knows I love the dog he’ll never let me take the dog

  25. This article is my life completely…. He's always nice out in public, and closed off and resentful at home. I've told him many times, you don't smile at me or touch me unless you want sex. Even then, the sex is not intimate or fulfilling. I'm so lost as how to move forward. We have a child and I don't want him to think that this is normal and healthy. Because it's not…. So much mental and emotional abuse….

    1. Alicia –

      YES! I dealt with the same behavior. He wouldn't touch me either unless he wanted sex. It made me feel "used" like I was only good for my body and he didn't like anything about me. I am sorry you're going through this. Just know that you are precious to God. He sees you. He loves you. He knows you. He will take care of you. God takes care of the orphans and the widows (and I consider myself a widow now that my ex abandoned the family). God will take care of you and your children.

  26. My husband has been marking absolutely everything that belongs to me with symbols, letters, numbers and what looks like cartoon characters. The floors and walls in the house are no exception. These marks are barely visible so when I mention it, I am called crazy. Among these marks are threats such as " Kill KV" (My initials) " All his" and " Buy KV". He denies any wrongdoing telling me that someone has set him up. He has given me a number of knives lately with the same marks and subsequent denial. Does this sound like Narcissistic rage? Should I be concerned? He has also changed dramatically over the past two years.

    1. I would not write on a blog about this stuff. I would speak to either law enforcement, or if that feels too extreme, to a therapist or religious leader. it may be nothing. It may be something big. Just don’t ignore it.

  27. Your article was enlightening. I've been married 40 years, and I always knew there was something off with my husband, but I couldn't put it in words.

    When we get into arguments, he's brutal, wanting to inflict pain. He calls me names, makes fun of my body, gives me the silent treatment, or threatens to leave. And recently he said he wanted a divorce, which he quickly walked back. He always turns the argument around and attacks me by dragging in things from the early years of our marriage (some of which is fiction). He's hypersensitive, arrogant, and can't take criticism.

    In the early years of our marriage, he was passionate, and we were close, but he emotionally disengaged somewhere along the line–maybe when he had a porn addiction. He has also had erectile dysfunction, since his 30s, which makes sex frustrating. Due to this, the lack of closeness, and the pain I feel for the awful things he has said to me, I've withdrawn sexually, and he resents that. He puts the blame totally on me.

    During the past few years, he has become more openly selfish. He seems to have little regard for me at times. He wouldn't get me medical help when I needed it. He viciously berated me on the morning that I had to have major surgery. It's like he sees my medical problems as some kind of competition.

    He never seems to care or understand that I'm grieving over a loss, and that has pushed me further away from him. That happened recently when he acted as if I was being ridiculous about grieving for a cousin who had died.

    I would say that, yes, he has made me feel "off-balanced or inadequate." He's often in a sullen mood, distant, making me feel like he hates me. He never tells me he loves me or gives me compliments.

    I'm not a perfect person either. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, which is debilitating at times, and I'm temperamental.

    Is there any hope for our marriage?

  28. Thank you so much for this article. It is right on target. And if I didn't know better, I could swear you have lived with me in my house, watching my marriage. Everything you have said describes us. We are in a long slow dissolution of this relationship. He has asked for an end but on other days he behaves like everything is back to normal and wants to talk about future plans. I am not yet financially stable. I may need a couple of years to get there. What can I do to survive the crazy making? And to be a loving and supportive mum to my kids?

  29. My wife has begun gaslighting me and calling me narcissistic when I try and explain to her my position in any disagreement. She will then go through the house proclaiming, "Stay away from your father. He is in a mood". I then tell her that everyone is always in a mood. There are good moods, bad moods, happy moods, sad moods, etc. I however disagreed with what you said, and because you got angry that I disagreed with you; you now involve others to spotlight me as having a problem of being in "a mood".

    We created a shared google account specifically as a portal where we can stay "in the know". Our bills get sent there. Emails from teachers get sent there. We keep track of sports season schedules there. Planned appointments, etc. I have asked repeatedly for several years that if there is anything that is going on with any member of the family; please put it in our shared calendar so that everyone is aware of it. However, I am typically the only person that updates it even though I rarely have my cell phone on me and each of them are so addicted to their phones that they are rarely without them.

    If I am in the room, but doing something that occupies my mind elsewhere at the time (doing the household budget, checking weather or news, watching an instructional video, etc) and there is a conversation going on between her and any of our children that involves scheduling and am not paying attention to the conversation – when the even arrives and I am caught off guard by the announcement, she will insist that I was in the room when the conversation was going on and it's just my bad memory. I then ask, did anyone put it on the calendar? Each of you have only your schedule to worry about, I have mine plus 4 others. She will then get the kids in agreement that, "It's just Dad's bad memory".

    She works during the school year and is off during the summers. I work for another company from home and also own my own business online as well as volunteer with our children's school in band, ROTC, athletics, and drama. She goes to all of the events but isn't involved in the parent's side of things in the booster clubs or anything other than attending. During her downtime (of which she has much) she spends the majority of her time on her cell phone playing games.

    If the topic of her lack of libido comes up she replies, "And there it is. That's why you're in a mood. Fine, I'll take care of you later." She never instigates sex, and is careful to be asleep most nights when I climb into bed. Even if we were just talking 5 minutes earlier. We will go weeks on end without any intimacy. When it does happen, it has to be the same way every time. On the rare occasion (once every few months) that she is in the mood, she will then turn the tables and say, I don't know what you're upset about – I've gone without it for 2 months. For all practical purposes we have a sexless marriage (6-10 times a year).

    We rarely argue, and do get along 90% of the time. When we do argue she passes it off as my being "in a mood" instead of listening to my point of view. I'm an empath by nature. She doesn't possess the ability to look at the world from a different point of view.

    She calls me narcissistic. I think she's gaslighting me. She had an affair on me 5 years ago. I decided to stay as long as we got counseling and even told her to pick the counselor since she was uncomfortable seeing one that we knew, and was acutely aware of the affair and knew the man she cheated on me with. 5 years later, she's made absolutely no effort towards counseling.

    I'm considering leaving in the spring.

  30. Thank you for this article. Do you take new clients right now? I’m suffering from years of living with a covert narcissist. I didn’t know that was wrong for most of the time, yet I would daydream of being from his control snd dismissive attitude. I had no idea what I was marrying.

  31. I wondered for years what was going on, even to the point of asking my husband to get tested for Alzheimer's since he always, always, always "forgot" things that he had promised to pick up from the store with the only car we had. Things that he promised me he'd do that day while I put my plans on hold for hours before I finally broke down and asked what happened with another, "Oh, I forgot" or "oh, that, I decided not to". The boasting about his "good deed for the day". The needing fawning praise for every little thing he did. All the while just steamrolling over anything I decided, anything I suggested. Eating away at me for years until today, when I feel so unseen I don't even exist at all. Holding grudges for years and randomly exploding about them. And people blame women for that behaviour! And forgiving everyone's bad behaviour towards him in public so everyone could see he's such a forgiving, "nice guy". I've had enough and getting out.

  32. So how do we leave, how do we have that conversation? I am 24 years in, with a son 21 year old, and 1 year old grandson. Who has shared custody of my grandson. My son sleeps on the couch, because my husband took his bedroom when he moved out and sleeps in there and has refused to give him his room back. My husband and son were both diagnosed with Aspergers. My husband does the majority of what I have read, he has his own room, and his dream shed. Our yard is a mess and he never offers to do any DIY. He's been in and out of work, we lost one house through his actions and just recently the same again he never worked for nearly 2 years and relied on his mother to pay, I got into so much debt to support my family. I'm exhausted and so unhappy. I believe I have trauma bonding. I can't sit and have any conversation about how I feel or the state of our marriage. He shouts and talks over me calls me names, he calls me the narc, say I've abused him it goes crazy and then I can't even remember what we said it's awful. So how do I have this conversation? I know I should leave but I never see it through.

  33. After many years I reconnected with a former friend/ dating interest during the pandemic. We spent a lot of time together outside just walking as friends. Eventually we got vaccinated and took the relationship to the next level. We fell in love. I thought he was the one. After several months something just seemed “off”. I couldn’t put my finger on it but being that I only had that feeling in a past relationship with a classic narcissist many years ago it didn’t make sense. This guy was the nicest person ever and nothing like that other guy. Time goes on and still something is “off”. Communication is a big issue. We never had a productive discussion in which I brought up something that needed to be discussed. Everything seemed like a circular argument. I usually avoided these types of conversations so as not to rock the boat. After almost a year of dating I discover this article. After I read it my blood instantly ran cold and I stayed up all night crying in panic and realized I may have fallen for another narcissist again. I was just unaware I’d the “covert” type. Sigh.

  34. I’ve been married 25 years and together 27. He has no empathy and goes from nice to mean so quickly. The kids feel his wrath when he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. I’m always depressed and can never gauge his moods. He did move out at one point but did get back together. His financial decisions have put us in really bad situations too many times to count. He treats our oldest who’s 18 and on the spectrum horrible and refuses to acknowledge his mental Illness. Always blaming him or someone else for anything that doesn’t go his way. There’s way too much to write here.

  35. I have been living this life for almost 10 years. I've tried to find the problems and i've tried to live with the problems. But this article explains my marriage to a dot. Still i love him, i don't want this to be inevitable. how do i break through to him about this? which are the right words because i have tried and just succumbed and it feels like i am just going to have to live this until it ends eventually. can i make this work? is it possible for this knd of person who is incapable of actually realising intense emotions, to just really try ? not just this. help me. my son needs a father and i believe he is the love of my life.

    1. This is your husband’s problem to solve, not yours. And it’s a long-term therapeutic issue because we would consider it a personality issue. If he isn’t interested in getting help, you are helpless to change him. You are impacted by his personality, but you cannot be the one to change it. I’m sorry. –Dr. K

    2. I'm sorry Jarika, but I have lived my whole life with "Narcissists" of all kinds. The Covert Narcissist Husband is the worst. I was with one for 8 years, and he was committing Adultery. One night I finally caught him in action and called him. He was nervous, but decided to discard me, my daughter, our home and all of his stuff here (including all kinds of evidence) to be with THE NEIGHBOR OVER ONE STREET FROM US. I was gathering evidence before he left, but still… that was shocking. He had 6 full-time girls, and 40+ other people he was sleeping with (guys and hookers as well) all going on during the work day and on the weekends.

      I was raised by Narcissists and I'm a Highly Sensitive Person. They are attracted to me all the time. The Covert Narcissist (and I'm 90% sure he's a Psychopath as well) are very tricky. He was secretive, introverted, lied by omission and was a pathological liar about everything, and was a "workaholic", and was always rushing and rushing. Couldn't sit still. In reality, he is an Evil Demon(s). He was cheating on me the whole 8 years we lived together and were married. He was sleeping with tons of people during his workday. He owns a Boat, and he was going there to sleep with them, and he made movies too. He had a whole Internet set-up and his own private Laptops and phones and would go there numerous times a day and watch the sickest porn ever and masturbate over 3 times a day… during a work day!! and Sleeping with other people. And he slept with me too!! I am so grossed out. He is a HUGE LIAR!!

      Go on YouTube and start watching Dr. Ramini and other videos. There are many great videos about Covert Narcissists. There are also coaches on YouTube that have recovery programs and help for people involved with these things. Please! Get your son away. This thing that left me put a loaded gun in my face in front of my Special Needs Daughter, he beat me up… he abused me Financially, Verbally, Emotionally and Psychologically. None of this is helping your son at all. In fact, he can learn Narcissistic Traits (all 4 of this guys sons are Narcissists, one of his sons got in my face screaming that he was going to kill me – I have never done anything mean to his family, NOR HIM). I treated this thing like gold, paid for nearly everything, cleaned, cooked dinners, made lunches, paid for his son all the time, did his laundry, always was nice and complimented him, etc. THEY DON'T STAY!! OR IF THEY DO, YOU ARE HAVING A CRAPPY LIFE. You are being "ignored", "not taken on dates", "getting smart-ass comments", "getting nothing from them emotionally", "sex will become mechanical, because they are having it with so many other people"!!! Then, if you question them, they get madder and meaner and as you can see, at the end, he attempted to murder me. He has been Stalking and Spying on us. He has no Remorse, No Guilt, No Apologies… in fact, I have been receiving the SILENT TREATMENT FOR A YEAR LOL!!! If you are receiving the Silent Treatment ever!!! LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP. IT DOESN'T GET BETTER, AND THEY USE IT TO GO AWOL AND TO GO TRY OUT NEW GIRLFRIENDS OR BOYFRIENDS. They are truly Evil inside, they need constant adoration and you won't do it for them… beginning real soon after meeting them. Get out and get a Real Man!! Who has Self-Esteem, isn't a Coward, and a Man who can actually LOVE!! NARCS DO NOT CHANGE… THEY THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN US PEONS… AND THERAPY IS FOR LOSERS! LOL!! EVEN IF THEY WANT HELP, GO SEE DR. RAMINI'S YOUTUBE VIDEOS. I have a close family member who is a Covert Narcissist. Gets so much worse when they age!! I can barely speak to them.

  36. I've read this article many times while struggling through a rough recovery process from this sort of abuse. My father has an official NPD diagnosis, but I didn't really fully understand narcissistic abuse 'till my formerly 'nice guy' husband transformed into someone I hardly recognize. We're now on our third marital separation and I've been subjected to harsh silent treatments, invalidation, stonewalling. gaslighting, coercive control, financial abuse, intimidation, threats, and a lot of other crazy-making stuff. I feel emotionally exhausted. One of my main issues just now is getting over the trauma bond and preventing myself from chasing my husband (he often distances or abandons and waits for me to reach out to him — and thus far, I always have, much to my chagrin). I want to learn how to become stronger and stop giving in to either baiting texts or to the long silences either. I want to learn how to rebuild my self esteem and my life. (Weirdly, it was my watching the movie Gaslight that finally demonstrated to me that I needed to get out of this mess as so much of the emotional manipulation done in that movie was something I also experienced — and I had much the same reaction: feeling uncertain of myself, questioning my own sanity and sense of perception and having a crippled self confidence).

    I spotted that you offer coaching? Is that online at all? Do you offer individual coaching for recovery from this sort of abuse? If not, do you know who would? I feel I primarily need help in recovering from the trauma bond and also in helping me to get through what feels like a grieving process. Thanks in advance.

    1. We do offer coaching. It’s something you can certainly try. You can also contact your health insurance company to find a qualified therapist in your panel with covert narcissism experience. Ask directly when you speak to them. –Dr. K

  37. This is my husband because when you open the dictionary and look up covert narcissist his pictures there. And after 30 years of extreme emotional abuse and him being clinically diagnosed with NPD I am filing for divorce this week because if I don’t I will end up taking my own life I am broken and beaten down I need help I’ve been in therapy two days a week but if you don’t understand covert narcissism nobody can help you except somebody who does please help me

  38. Although not married to one I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with my ex. It was subtle. He was the charismatic, friendly social guy publicly which attracted me to him in the first place. The beginning was romantic dates, cooking for me and pulling out all the ropes then he would go quiet and I wouldn’t hear from him as much at times. Then progressed onto the silent treatment after a year and withdrawing affection whenever I would call him out on communication or being absent emotionally. I started to realise he was punishing me. One time he ignored me for three weeks and denied it, saying nothing was wrong. As I wanted to keep the relationship I let it go as I didn’t want to go through the same drama. It got to the point where I began to try and make it up to him for offences I didn’t know I did. Yet he did the ‘nicest’ of things for me especially in front of my and his family. This made it difficult to let go. The last straw was when I didn’t really hear from him over the course of about 2-3 weeks for no reason I would call and message and he kept saying everything is okay and he will get back to me and never did. I felt like I was losing my self from the gas lighting. I prayed and just went no contact out of instinct. I feel so free and glad I found the strength to do so. I don’t need closure I create my own I have peace and no longer feel on edge. It was difficult because I cared for him but realised the emotional manipulation was getting worse and started to feel like a deliberate way to control me. Over two years we were on and off I started to recognise some of the signs but wouldn’t picture him as a narcissist because of the good deeds and love bombing but if I ever missed his call or didn’t get back to him in a timely manner I certainly paid for it. That’s when I realised something in the water wasn’t right and I’m so thankful I can heal and move on before it got worse. Ironic thing is he wanted to be a therapist I’m not sure if that was a camouflage or genuine. I hope other people can safely leave any situation that strips away their sense of self. Life is too short to be treated less than. You are great and deserve better don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

  39. Im literally just putting the pieces together. Been with my husband for five years too and I've always felt inadequate and crazy. The manipulation, the gaslighting, and not to mentioned how he controls the narrative of people sees me. Im the bad behaving wife not that I'm reactive. Is divorce the best answer? Are the able to become self-aware?

    1. That’s a larger conversation with a skilled therapist. You need to talk very specifically with someone who can get to know you well. -Dr. K

  40. This is insanely accurate, I am the wife of a covert narcissist and I just started putting the clues together after 5 years. I can't believe how true this article is….I'm baffled.

  41. My mother is an overt narcissistic. Just realized it after 1 year of marriage, then I asked myself how lucky I am to find a good husband, not a narcissistic one. But then this "good husband" is never happy with anything, especially his job. The fun and loving husband with a cheerful laugh is disappeared. This situation became worse when he had a massive problem with his job and he got depression, then his traits were uncovered, leaving me in a great shock.
    I am not perfect, especially having a narcissistic mother; I quickly get into rage and anger. But even after I did my best to be an "angel"(just like you wrote in this article), he always suspected me, always had negative thoughts about me, and accuses me to think about things that I swear I did not have thought like that.

    Now I'm trapped. 10 years of marriage, but I feel so lonely that sometimes I miss my younger version.
    I can't divorce him, since he had not done anything obvious. He doesn't cheat on me, he still works for our family, and he doesn't do drugs or alcohol.

    I'm confused and think maybe it's after all my own mistake. Maybe it's just my imagination. However, after I read your article, it is so similar to my husband's traits.

    Everyone has their own challenge, maybe it's mine: having narcissistic ones in my life.

    1. It certainly sounds like it is a “normalized” relationship you grew up with. However, it is not. Try finding some help to become more regulated with your rage and anger. This won’t serve you, regardless of who you are with. You can also benefit from this type of help, based upon the things you are describing. My best to you. Dr. K

  42. I have no money yet in the necessity of divorce after thirty years since the age of 17 years old. I feel completely lost insecure embarrassed humiliated throughout not just by him but by his entire family who never accepted me and I never knew why till now. Remarks like he’s to good for you, if this was my home I’d kick you out immediately, party reunions I’d be sorry mostly alone in a far away table.

    He never wanted to change his hours from 3:30 till 12:30pm I worked very hard to dress myself and dress my children and there needs throughout first a boy and a girl ten years after a girl now recently with out no live ever received they where emotionally hurt deep and in shock but now they understood my loneliness and all the true reasons to all the abuse received and neglect along with physical I list 2 children in the process and he gave me an std along with leaving me all alone with nobody to believe me nor help me I lost my job 2011 by a serious accident in which i used all of my settlement money in replacing furniture and appliances that he sold out saying he needed the money to pay the mortgage. I learned that he had an open relationship through out the time at work along with 10 more woman that included my mother from her early 46yrs old and this went on behind my back on his days off or in the mornings before he left to work while I was at work. I cought her many times leaving from my home in a hurry as I have no time to speak. I had many other reasons to suspect but I also come from a very manipulative mother whom has always made me look as the very bad one in the entire family and nothing she ever has said about me is true at 6 hrs old she’d punch me in my vagina among other things and false accusations to shut me up from speaking and telling my father which is how I would threatens her to stop. As I grew older she protected herself by always inventing something new to make me angry and then say you see she is so violent. Well when she saw my friend at the time she went for it and never stopped. I wasn’t ever acknowledged and much to afraid to speak about the strange actions they where both taking.
    I’m sorry but I truly have nobody and my two girls are already hurt enough and my sone very angry and disoriented. I am gods child and I feel even he has abandoned me

    1. Call a mental health clinic in your area, Maricela and get the help of a trained therapist to discuss your life. You need to have some support. You deserve to be able to have a kind, listening ear to help you to manage your life. –Dr. K

  43. My life is a living hell. 27 years now.

    I tried to leave 15 years ago and it was torture. He stalked and harassed me so badly, and did not help at all financially with our children to the point of my starvation practically, and I finally caved and went back because our children were suffering tremendously and he plain did not care how much they were hurting.

    He now has installed malware and surveillance on all my devices, vehicles, throughout my home and abruptly took all my bank accounts away three years ago without any warning.

    It is supposedly illegal however the police dept didn’t do a damn thing because he is a retired marine officer.

    I just live each day as it comes and hope I make it through it at this point. I am unable to call or text any therapist. He posted my private diaries online. I wish I knew why these people are so vicious, hateful and just plain cruel to those who love them.

  44. Oh. My. Goodness! Finally, in words what I have been living with for the past 28 years. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for putting into words what I never could! You can't believe the relief I feel at this very moment. I'm in the process of divorcing him, I'm afraid it's going to be an ugly ordeal, but now there is a name and I'm not just plain crazy. Did I say thank you? THANK YOU!

  45. Thank you so much for posting this! I've never found an article that encompassed my husband's behavior quite so completely. I recognized everything in this article down to a T. After 7 years of being emotionally tortured and fearful, I finally left him. He's since followed me close to where I relocated in the guise of loving the area where I chose to live. He continues to torture me mentally and has told me that if I try to divorce him, he will ruin me financially because "he has no choice."

    I left after recovering from a suicide attempt, where I ended up on life support for several days. It was unclear whether or not I would survive, but thankfully, I was gifted with a second chance at life. After I got my strength back, I left. His continuous abuse nearly destroyed me. I've developed several health problems as a result of his treatment towards me, but I am slowly gaining my life back.

    I am so grateful that articles like this exist. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish what's happening when you're in a relationship with someone like this. I'm finally starting to realize that I'm not the one to blame for the abuse he heaped upon me.

  46. Everything I just read is exactly my experience with my partner, he's however reached a physical level of abuse towards me. And I'm between leaving him or trying to get him to see he needs help but the only way I know how to do that is by verbally expressing communicating it to him it never goes well

  47. Yep. Nailed it! Going on eighteen years for me. Best decision I ever made was not to have kids. Now I just have to figure out how to afford leaving his narc ass.

    Also have to add, he HATES it when I have fun. Whether it be a concert we go to together ( I like to dance and talk with strangers) or just doing something fun around the house that doesn’t include him, he will find a way to reign me in, leash me, and squash my joy. There will be no fun had while he’s around! Later he will accuse me of behaving inappropriately, or something else to make me feel " wrong". He’s allowed to have fun, though, and often attends old college reunions without me so he can do a variety of drugs and behave like a teenager.

  48. The last portion hits the nail on the head of how I feel daily. Unfortunately we have a 4.5 year old daughter, and though I love him I also desperately want to leave him because I am tired of feeling this way. However, I will not leave her alone to be manipulated by him. I truly believe he does not do it on purpose. But after three years of asking him to seek out individual counseling he will not. I don't see any way out of this personal hell. When I call him out on his manipulations he says I am the one being 'abusive'. I am not perfect, I have many habits that I picked up from my parent's unhealthy relationship but I have done individual counseling for many years and worked very hard on myself, unlike him. He believes that because his parents had a 'perfect' relationship nothing is wrong with him.

  49. Oh my gosh you just described my marriage . Will be 40 years together this month but I'm making plans to get out .Very toxic relationship has caused a lot of anxiety and I'm not sure if I'll ever trust anyone again, cause I don't now.Great article.

  50. Holy … wow… like so many comments below, THIS is the best article on covert narcissism EVER. T … I relate. I am now swimming in confirmation that I have needed for so long, as I prepare to go into divorce court to seek the justice i deserve. He set out to destroy me…. leaving me destitute. All while my mothers abuse was coming up for me and as i was being diagnosed with cptsd, his mask came off…. and he then stole from me, used the courts to destroy me, separate me from my money and belongings while discovering his affairs and secret bank account. Ten years before my mother took my home from me. Because I offered her to share my property … once she had 52% she forced the sale and left me homeless. Around this time when my the mask dropped from my ex, as I was vilnerable, my golden child brother started to break down too… he then committed suicide. Only to find out, as she weirdly blurted out , SHE encouraged him…. and in the meanwhile had us all confused as to why she wanted his will so bad…. later to find out, she convinced him to relinquish his will to her as well…. yes, T… I am sick to my stomach too

  51. Good gravy. Having known my husband’s morher far too well, I can now at least articulate the damage she inflicted on her whole family, especially her sons.

    But I have to ask – whether it’s simple self-doubt or decades of gaslighting at work- if he is a covert narcissist, what the holy-molies does that make me????

    Gah. I hate this.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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!!

  57. 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

  58. 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.

  59. 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

  60. 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

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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!!

  69. 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!

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. 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. 😆🙄

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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

  77. 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]

  78. 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!

  79. 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!

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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

  83. 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

  84. 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.

  85. 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

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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.

  90. 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

  91. 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.

  92. 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.

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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

  96. 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….

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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.

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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!

  103. 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…

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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!

  107. 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.

  108. 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.

  109. 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.

  110. 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%

  111. 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.

  112. 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

  113. 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.

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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

  117. 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.”

  118. 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.

  119. 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?

  120. 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.

  121. 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

  122. 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!

  123. 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.

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