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.

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?

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 passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Dr. K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Good luck!

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

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

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

    2. I&#39;ll point out the obvious to anyone reading, Kiri: You ended up in the emergency room, and you are asking how to help HIM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good luck to you all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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