He'll secretly take away your power while denying he's doing that.

What is a Covert Narcissist Husband?

In this post, I'll describe both the seven traits of a covert narcissist and how these traits show up in marriage. We'll talk about why the covert narcissist is so hard to recognize; 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. Still, the Covert Narcissist is just a less happy and more complicated version of the NPD.

You can read here about narcissistic wives.

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

Most people believe that a boastful braggart characterizes all narcissism. Not so.

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 self. These marriages are often long-term because, despite the wives feeling drained and unhappy, they can't articulate what's wrong.

Closet narcissist husbands are often hyper-sensitive and perhaps less keenly aware of their need to dominate by manipulating others. Nevertheless, the behavior leaves their spouses feeling confused and at fault somehow.

All narcissists can look confident and act like they are better than others. Extroverted narcissists are vocal about their giftedness. In contrast, the covert narcissist husband may feel superior but has learned to hide it. 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 accomplishments, and it shows. This isn't narcissism; it's positive self-esteem.

Sex and the covert narcissist husband

Covert narcissist husbands are emotionally disengaged and passionless toward any perceived demand. This includes 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.

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 his showing no genuine interest. 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.

7 Essential Traits of a Clinical Covert Narcissist Husband

1. 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, 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 will claim that 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 he reserves for private interactions. In public, he's a stellar husband and proves it to anyone who's watching.

2. Passive aggression. Clinical Covert Narcissist husbands are often passive-aggressive. Like the overt narcissist, they may act attentive to 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...). He's "accidentally" planned 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." He will stay with the children, "sacrificing" his fun. Without ever saying so, his wife will stop planning weekend trips, especially for pleasure, because she feels his covert misery. It kills her own joy.

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 lame or self-flattering explanation of why he didn't follow through. It doesn't even have to be convincing. He doesn't appear to care whether it is or isn't.

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.

3. He's withholding and resentful. Wives are often confused that their covert husbands can simultaneously be so helpful and resentful. 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" for 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."

On the other hand, you 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 that 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." He 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 learn 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. Exaggerated hyper-sensitivity. Covert Narcissist husbands are extremely hyper-sensitivity. They will take offense to criticism, real or imagined. They despise even trivial complaints because these imply that he has failed somehow, even when they clearly have.

When extremely covertly narcissistic, these husbands can be highly emotionally abusive. Wives may feel emotionally abused but are told they are the ones who are being emotionally abusive. It is disorienting to the wife.

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 you have wronged him 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..." This is gaslighting.

Their most apparent trait is the subtle way he acts dismissively. It is done in a way that's hard to put your finger on. Even attempting to identify this attitude will be met with complete denial or outrage that turns into the "silence treatment."

This withdrawal could go on for days or even weeks.

Don't ask the covert narcissist how you've offended him. Instead of expressing his upset and asking for what he wants, he expects you to know what drove him to this state. Can't you see how obvious your transgressions are? When he feels any imagined attack, he attacks back.

5. Don't look for outward signs of confidence. His smugness and air of superiority is a mask he removes only with certain people.  Covert Narcissist husbands keenly observe their world and often evaluate it harshly before the world harshly evaluates them. They may or may not tell you who they judge harshly.

Sometimes they hold these feelings for YEARS before blurting them out like it should have been obvious. They ruminate about how they aren't adequately "appreciated."

They have an air of being "absent." Even with the job of parenting, they look down on the task. But when asked directly: "Is something wrong?" they'll deny it.

6. Self-absorption and introspection about the wrongs that the world has done to him. A covert narcissist husband is a poor listener. They manage a hostile internal voice so it is hard to pay attention to anything else.

Many can be clever, judging or sizing up a person or a social situation. When it captures their attention, they can be delightful company. It is clear that they deem it dull, stupid, or beneath them when it doesn't.

7. Empathy Deficit All clinical narcissists lack empathy for others. And share a sense of entitlement. The negative impact his behavior has on his wife is not worth discussing.

Try, and the Covert Narcissist husbands bring the conversation back to their own needs or accomplishments. Or get rageful.

If they are forced to listen, 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!"

You're witnessing the empathy deficit if you feel it's challenging to talk about your feelings without the conversation turning around to him. And if you are expected to "know" what he's thinking, feeling, or needing, you're experiencing the mind-reading linked to his feelings of deep entitlement.

If he withholds vital information from you, that's legitimate. He "knows" how you'll react to the news and doesn't want to "hear it" from you. 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 don't "like him" as much as they like you. His statement justifies his parental withdrawal in preference for hobbies or more solitary pursuits.

Even the dog hates him.

When he is disengaged (not that they were engaged in the first place), the entire family feels his empty presence. Children are acutely aware of this "on-again/off-again" parental switch. Like intermittent reinforcement, kids will try to hold their father's attention hungrily.

Sometimes they'll get his attention if they find a subject that interests him. If not, they find that Dad won't ask them any questions, he'll act annoyed, or walk away absentmindedly in the middle of their sentence.

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. They are also 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 their vulnerability and painful self-doubt. 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," making him both reactive and thin-skinned. His belief in his profound 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 his resentment will increase when the praise doesn't come spontaneously. He'll covet it. Nurse it.

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

Is my husband a narcissist?

As tempting as it is to label your spouse a narcissistic husband, even spouses trained in mental health should avoid labeling their own partners. Address the specific behaviors you want him to change, and keep the labels to yourself. Good couples therapy can often help a confused spouse separate out the marriage and the man who is "beyond hope" from those who need an attitude readjustment.

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 only see his mask. They don't feel what you feel: he just doesn't like you but won't come out and say so.

He considers your actions a clear demonstration of his mistake in marrying you.

You've disappointed him 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 prefers to spend time doing other things rather than living with, engaging with, and 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, often after 20-30 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."

Ready for a change in your relationship?

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

Dr. K

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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  1. Thank you Dr. K for this article. It resonates so much with me and I am currently "stuck" in marriage for 15+ years, a relationship for 20, with 2 kids, with a "really nice guy." I have suffered from years of gaslighting without realizing it. The "fishing trip" example you mentioned actually happened to me, the day after our wedding when we were supposed to be going on a group activity that I had planned. I have gone through all the emotions and confusion that you mention as a result of his subtle abuses, where he always identifies as the victim and smears my image at any moment possible – and where the kids and the cat always like me better, so he can go watch football for hours, and I can never get away because it's not worth his silent rage and contempt that results. I am enduring this at the moment only because I don't see the alternatives, financially and emotionally for our children, as a better choice. I think if I try to leave him in this situation it will be ruinous for everyone, even if the pain is short (like 2 – 3 years). So, my plan has been to just keep buying time — removing myself emotionally, trying to shrug it all off — until finally this year something snapped. Now he fears that I am serious about divorce so he is "love bombing" me. It's hard on me emotionally but even harder on the kids I think, and right now I'm going along with it the best I can just to keep things calm because I have finally (after many many years of asking) motivated him to get individual counseling. I am under no impression that this counseling will be life-changing for him, but now the cat is out of the bag that our marriage is on the fritz, and I am hoping this step will allow us to divorce amicably. I am somehow satisfied to know that I'm aware of all his tricks, games, and manipulations, and I am in control. I just have to think of it like being with a boyfriend who you are planning to break up with, and hopefully setting the stage for a drama-free divorce (next year, maybe 2) to mitigate the pain for everyone involved. I would love to hear your thoughts… and yes, I am in therapy also and have been for many years. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this article. This is spot on for my husband. After four years of marriage, his pornography addiction came out after multiple attempts throughout the years of me asking since I suspected something, and his repeated lies and then gaslighting me into thinking it was all in my head. Now, within a month of his addiction coming into the light, he's also expressed resentment against me, calling me controlling and manipulative. He tells me all the ways he resentments (one of which is not being supportive of him playing video games and calling them childish when we have responsibilities like a house, a child etc), and then he also told me he fantasizes about another life, not necessarily with a particular person, but just a different life with a different woman, all the while telling me he loves me and wants our marriage to work. I don't even know how to proceed. I watched my mom suffocate in a marriage to an overt narc and experienced abuse by him as well as a child. One of the huge reasons my husband was so appealing to me when we dated was his cool, even temper and his heart for others, and now it seems like the only one he's thinking of himself. I just don't think his words of wanting to fight for our marriage are genuine when he's telling me he resents me and is fantasizing about another life and with a hard porn addiction. I'm not sure what to do.

  3. I’m 74 and I want to offer a ray of hope to the women here suffering the pain of these seemingly impossible relationships. From 1983-2007 I was also married to a man who exhibited every negative trait mentioned in this wonderful article. It’s like you are living in an alternate universe and can’t seem to lift the fog and finally see the reality of the situation. I had multiple and varied reasons for why I stayed, from fear of the unknown, what would others think, and even familiarity with the dysfunction that I would have to compare with Stockholm syndrome. What triggered my awakening was coming across the books by Patricia Evans on abusive relationships and seeing my husband’s personality explained on every page. It still took awhile to sink in, but I now had solid reasoning to validate my experiences and help lift the cloud of confusion. I can honestly say after I left and had my own place that it took a couple years of what I can only describe as PTSD symptoms but also the indescribable total relief of having peace and quiet and a feeling of being free. The feeling of freedom that washes over you is so emotional that you will feel it for a long long time and it will make you protect yourself and not ever let this happen again. You will gain confidence and self awareness in your ability to see things as they really are. I did not date or have another relationship in 10 years after that split. I learned so much about myself and how I contributed to my inability to take action sooner than I did and that my own quality of life is a priority and I’m my own best advocate. I learned to value myself and that I’m worth being treated with love, kindness and respect at at times. You can all reach this same place and experience how wonderful and different your life can be. I am now married to my soulmate, and it’s proof that kind, loving and supportive men exist and your life will be greatly enhanced by that kind of love. My prayer is that you can all see this is possible Dr you. Much love my sisters.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. It is giving me hope in a difficult time. I’ve retained an attorney, hired a realtor, and blocked my ex’s phone number. I feel heartbroken and lonely but know it’s the right thing. Everyone’s comments on this article have provided comfort and strength— thank you, sisters

  4. Wow, I feel so moved by the article and comments I feel compelled to leave a comment

    Almost two months ago, my husband (together 6 years, married for less than 2) sat me down and unleashed years worth of resentments against me he had been storing up inside. I was blindsided. He said I need to make serious changes because he won’t stay in this kind of relationship. I was gutted thinking I single-handedly ruined our marriage. He watched me cry and sob over this without ever tearing up himself, showing compassion, etc. He looked at me with contempt

    A few weeks later, he admitted (over text) to having and emotional and sexual affair with a “close friend”, starting when I was only a few months postpartum with our first child. He acted as though telling me this was a favor to me, HE had a really hard time during my pregnancy, and my reaction was blowing way out of proportion

    My husband was always the “nice” guy, always kind to my family, is beloved at work. I was absolutely floored that he was capable of having an affair

    He claims that I broke his self esteem down to nothing over several years by being vocal about needs going unmet, his lack of interest in doing family activities on the weekend, his lack of participation in keeping up the house

    He gaslighted me so convincingly for a long time that my mental health was out of control, my medication for depression were not right. At times I felt I needed to check myself in for treatment, as I was clearly able to see his version of reality

    In couples therapy, my therapist was struck by how condescending he was to me, making me the “identified patient,” and scapegoating his affair on my “mental health.” I hadn’t been able to see this on my own because the gaslighting had made me question myself so much

    I’m in the process of filing divorce and I want to be grateful that I’m getting out of the relationship 6 years in as opposed to 10,15,20 or more. He has been unable to take true accountability for the affair and blames that I basically pushed him to do it

    1. Ya, and he won’t take responsibility for it, either. Be prepared for the wild stories about your “abuse” and how he couldn’t take it anymore. And make sure you recognize that you will need time to heal. Perhaps years, after you have no more contact with him. You have children, so be prepared for him to use them without conscience, to “get back at you” and hurt them in order to do it. My best advice is to go “grey rock” which is no reaction: no tears, no anger, no confusion, nothing. Find a very good divorce attorney who has worked with narcissistic men. They will not be surprised by the outrageous demands. Then make everything go through a third party. I say this to all of the women reading: It takes years to recover from this type of marriage, and you will remain very much still “under his spell” continuing to blame yourself. Or yearn for the “love bomb stage” that you thought was true love. Or believing he will change. The more contact you have, the more you will be impacted by the sad stories, the tearful efforts to reunite (if it suits him) or the hostile attacks. Whether you feel grateful now, Anon, you will feel fortunate that you didn’t have even another month of this type of crazy-making. Thanks for your comment. -Dr. K

  5. Thank you so much for this article. This article describes 30+ years of life with my husband (who I am currently separated from). It is the most accurate description of my husband that I have read in the past 4 years of separation, protective orders, police visits, court hearings, suicide threats, mental hospital, etc. He has been diagnosed with MS, borderline personality disorder, DID, sex addiction, kidney failure, Lupus, and more. Whenever I call him out on his lies, he tries to guilt me for attacking someone who is suffering with health issues. But he has not thanked me for the decades that I took care of him with his MS diagnosis.
    We still share a joint checking account until our youngest graduates from high school in two years. In the meantime, I am also finishing up my masters degree in hopes of cutting all financial ties. Upon our sons graduation, I will file for divorce. He tells everyone that will listen that he is a changed man while actively lying.
    Lying is not an accurate description of his actions. He fabricates stories, characters, emails, etc. It is so much more than a lie. He had a double life of cheating, dating websites, porn and promises of good sex to other women while at the same time, telling me that he loved me. He was fabricating lies and cheating from the moment we met. He uses his poor health as a way to gain sympathy and to play the victim. He is in such poor health yet he runs hundreds of miles a week for years. He has an obsession/addiction to running. He runs all the time. He also lies or exaggerates about his health. His best friend is a priest so he uses the Church in his attacks against me. He had a double life that he hid from me for decades. He frequently tells me that I am full of hate and he does not understand where all of the hate is coming from. I have done nothing but protect myself and the children by seeking protective orders and not responding to his hundreds of emails, and texts. Very few people know the truth. A lot from our community feel sorry for my husband and do not know or understand my perspective. I do not care but it is beyond frustrating for me and the kids when he succeeds at fooling everyone around him that he is such a nice guy who made a mistake, and the kids and I are unforgiving and have hardened hearts. I am grateful for my children and that they see what I see, otherwise, I would lose my mind. I still cannot believe someone is capable of living his life in such a way. My heart is broken.

    1. I am struck by your story. It is so classic. These people can be hyper-concerned about their own health, demanding that accommodations be made for their bad behavior, because of it. At the same time, they show total disinterest in the care you provide. It is never thoughtful enough, caring enough, or “enough enough.” In contrast, they find your own health conditions of no interest to them whatsoever. I believe you do the smart thing not protesting other’s perspectives of you or him. “Flying Monkeys” who advocate for these husbands will not believe you, and to quote Shakespeare, others will believe “doth protest too much” making you look guilty.

      The wisest course is the one you’ve taken, which is to expect nothing, trust nothing, protect yourself, and try to heal. Healing, in this contexts, means you were love-bombed, mirrored in your hopes and dreams, and then discarded one you fell ing love. He never loved you. He’s incapable of love. You just bought the lie because in all likelihood you are a person who is open to self-reflection and of generous heart. You kept looking inward to see if there was any truth to what he was telling you. Giving “the benefit of the doubt” is toxic to you. He projects his own hatred of you. He hates you because you are able to do something that he never will: Love. He hates your capacity to love him and wants to make you suffer for being such a fool. He will use anything and anyone to prove to himself that you are below worthless.

      Know that because you do not have complete cut-off from him, he will continue to manipulate and hurt you. If you can find a way to have a buffer between you and he, do so. Your great crime is to have once loved him a great deal. Now he is punishing you for that crime by soiling your name to anyone who will listen with his lies and harmful stories.

      As you begin to trust yourself, you will begin to have destructive thoughts and feel heartbroken less and less. Hard to believe, I am sure, but eventually he will become “someone that I used to know…” You will tolerate no lies from others, no fabrications to improve their image, no slanting what you said for their own purposes. You will want to be around people who see you for your radiant self. You will leave wiser and skeptical of others, but eventually just wiser, because you will learn to trust your internal judgment. Then you will be free to love again.

      I wish you all the best during this time of heartbreak. Remember my words: “He never loved you. It was a mirage he set up to get you to supply him with what he demanded. Because he never loved you, there is nothing to go back to, no genuine “good times” to recreate. You were fooled because you were open and willing to love. That was your only crime.”

  6. This article is so helpful. I’ve spent 3 months since the violent discard, trying to put my finger on exactly what I endured, and this article outlines it. The only difference in my story was the violent physical discard. He snapped. I wasn’t being subservient enough. It was like someone suddenly turned the volume way up. The level of rage that came out of him was life altering. And then he went right back to the quiet covert narc that he is.
    And he served me with divorce papers. (Thanks-one less thing to do).
    I am disoriented, heartbroken, and FREE.

    1. Yes, I have heard about the flash violence or threatened aggression from other people. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. It’s a good thing he served you. It is often not done, as they fear looking like the “bad guy.” However, get the very best lawyer you can afford and do it soon. Often the divorce process is horrific and LONG. Thanks for your comment. -Dr. K

  7. I recently started to believe my husband is a covert narcissist. Can these people change? Is it possible for them to truly be a better person or is change not likely?
    Thank you, you're writing is spot on.

    1. It is a personality disorder, so it is resistant to change, because it is “ego syntonic” meaning they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior. However, like all personality disorders, with the right situation as motivation, and a good therapist, yes, they can change. But it will take many years and few are willing to stick it out, preferring a “miracle cure” when therapy starts to get close to the heart of the matter. -Dr. K

      1. Dr. K,

        Is there any correlation of ego syntonic patterns to those commonly identified with Aspergers or ASD level 1?

        I’ve found many similarities/ parallels in behaviors, patterns, and pathologies to existing research on neurodiverse marriages. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.

        1. I’m not exactly sure what you mean, so feel free to ask again if this doesn’t answer it. Neurotypical individuals are often confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but the similarities are only on the surface. If you are “mindblinded” then of course you are going to embrace your own point of view more enthusiastically because you can’t see or understand anyone else’s well.Those who are on the spectrum have had pretty bad experiences with neurotypicals often, so they may be externally pleasant and agreeable. He or she may also have learned that expressing their views might lead to big trouble so they might be withholding. Those on the spectrum are typically hypersensitive by biochemistry, so check on that one. And “masking” is a very common trait because in order to pass in the neurotypical world, they have to “play the part.” It is exhausting, however, so they often drop it when they walk in the door. Self-absorbed I already addressed, and of course an empathy deficit, at least on a bodily level. If you can cognitively explain what your experience is, calmly and rationally, they are about as empathetic as the next person. So right you are, Jean! Lots of similarities, at least superficially. -Dr. K

  8. This article so sums up my husband of 38 yeaars. I didn't suspect him of narcissism as he is different to my first husband who was frankly terrifying and also my mother who was openly abusive. I realised about 15 years ago that these people were narcissists and I did a lot of self work to get rid of the feelings that had dogged me all my life. It's only recently that I came to realise that my husband was one too. I was young and vulnerable whrn we met and starting over after an awful first marriage. I got the love bombing followed by a speedy marriage which very quicly cooled off leaving me feeling terribly sad and rejected. I stayed because I didn't quite know what was wrong and we had a family so I felt I had to succeed with it. He will never discuss anything, he is dismissive of everyting I say and do, yet nice as pie to everyone else, until he falls out with them, which is always their fault never his. He is out and about in public as he performs in pubs and posts videos of himself performing on F/B, he craves peoples admiration for his narcisisstic supply. In private he sulks and whinges and even finds fault with his young grandchildren going off sulking when we go out and complaining to me afterwards. I no longer have love left for him and know that I have to leave and start over – not easy in your mid sixties and for the second time but I deserve better than this life of living with an emotionally blunted man who laughs at me if i say the least little thing, he accepts no responsibility everything is always my problem according to him.

  9. Your article is spot on Thank you I have been in a marriage with a covert narcissist for about 14 yrs now When I first met him he was a single dad good looking very nice and charming and he worshipped the grounds I walked on he wanted me to move in with him quickly I moved in the 1st week😟 poor judgement😔 I thought I hit gold when I met him single mom nursing student with a 2 yr old son I told him that I would keep my apartment for a year and if it works out between us I will not renew my lease red flags ( I believe to this day he held back until my lease was up) showed up early in that 1st yr that I chose to ignore sex stopped the 2nd week( we only have sex at least 9 times a yr ) I met him and then he didn’t want me to touch him intimately and he sure didn’t touch me he blamed me and that he worked long hours and he need to go to bed early to get up for work his career as a bus driver was demanding so I did my best to try to believe that was the reason but by the 2nd month I knew something wasn’t right I reached out one night to touch him he told me to stop doing that something told me to get up and leave then but no I just couldn’t I didn’t have my rent control apt anymore His anger was on 10 he punched walls and doors doing arguments then after every argument he would tell me maybe the relationship wasn’t for me that if I couldn’t accept him maybe I should move out and if I did gather my things to go he would say he loved me and my son and he didn’t want us to go (manipulation ) this would happen after every argument or conversation for years that I would have if I was talking to him about how the relationship wasn’t working he never wanted to go out with me or the kids and he if did he wouldn’t be happy about it or engaging and as soon as it was over he would floor it home he never ever accepts responsibility he projects his feelings on to me he shuts down for hours only to tell me he ‘s tired or sleepy he doesn’t curl up in bed next to me or hold me and if he does do it only after asking him to do it feels phony not loving snoring in my ear when he has a sleep apnea mask that he know he has to put on he gas lights me and he has never been genuinely kind or nice to me when I was sick it’s always like I’m bothering him he becomes in my opinion angry if I wake him up with a problem the one thing I can’t stand is he stops talking to me for hours even if we didn’t have an argument then after a couple of hours ask if he can get me something The only reason why I know he is one is because I have been studying and learning everything I can for the pass 3 yrs about narcs because one evening I happened to come across it on my feed on Instagram there was a women and she was telling women to be aware of narcissists because until then I never heard about them he also do the the dead eyes thing too like he’s not in his body he also does the inappropriate yawn like he ‘s bored if I’m having a conversation with a stranger in a store or a neighbor he jumps right in the conversations he also never ever been on my side being with a narc is basically abuse it is abuse mental abuse!!! I have anxiety now 😔I can go on and on but I will be here all night but that women on Instagram saved me and if I can help someone with my shared experiences I’m glad btw I have set up boundaries I can’t afford to leave him just yet start nursing school next yr then I out of this nightmare for good god willing ☺️

  10. I have been with a man whom I suspect is a covert narcissist for almost 13 years now, married 11. We moved countries and in his home country he was very loving and attentive and affectionate. Once we moved to my home country he became cold and distant and withholding. Our sex life stopped over 7 years ago because I always felt he wasn't really present; he was just going through the motions with his eyes closed. He does not make eye contact with me. He reminds me how much he sacrificed for me to come to my country, and yes, I agree he did give up a lot. But he is not the same man I dated and was married to when we lived overseas. He NEVER apologizes for anything mean or rude that he has said or done to me, and I find myself questioning if I'm the problem in our relationship. He has NEVER complimented me or told me he loves me unless I tell him first. Lately I've realized that he doesn't seem to even like me, and he's completely uninterested in me as a person, because he is not curious about me or my life before him at all, and has never asked me questions about myself. I feel like he put on a big show of interest when he met me and then once we were a couple he stopped pretending to be interested. He has NEVER hugged me and even though I've told him a number of times about how I feel and what I need from him as far as attention or warmth or affection, he seems to listen but not hear. He will not take any advice or suggestions from me, and treats his friends with more warmth and affection and interest than he does me. I want to extricate myself from this situation but I don't know where to begin because we have a house and I have run up a lot of debt paying our expenses because he quit his job and works intermittently. I don't think he would be violent toward me if I left, but I found out he punched his ex-wife in the face and knocked out her teeth when she took him to court to divorce him. I'm stuck between wanting to leave but being afraid of the consequences from him.

  11. I resonate with so much of what you said. I'm struggling because I have severe unmedicated adhd. It's hard for me to know if I'm being overly sensitive to criticism from my rejection sensitivity or if he is a closet narcissist. I am very introverted. I have the type of adhd where I fear being a disappointment, fear of mistakes, fear of social anxiety. However, before this relationship these things weren't as noticeable and did not bother me. Now, I feel like he is constantly criticizing me and not constructively. He points out all my flaws and mistakes. He is always right even if I prove him wrong he is still right. He can not apologize and the fights are my fault. He makes me think I'm going crazy when I tell him the faces he makes, the tones of voices he uses, the snarky comments he makes are hurtful to me. He's impatient. He tells me I'm overly sensitive and that he was not annoyed, he did not have a tone, he did not make a face. We fight so much just over me not understanding why he's mad and him telling me he's not mad when clearly I can see he is. He is controlling. He has not and makes excuses to not meet my family. He tells me being friends with ppl I work with is stupid. He does not compliment me. He does not kiss me. Hugs feel forced. He doesn't look at me when we have sex and there is no intimacy. He doesn't even show that the sex even feels good, sometimes I'm not even aware that he has "finished" like he can't show that he feels pleasure. I ask him why he loves me and he never has an answer. Even though i can tell him why I love him. He sucks the joy out of life. I'll be in a wonderful mood just after work smiling and somehow his negativity spreads to me and I'm miserable like him. He does that to me a lot. I'll wake up in a good mood and he sucks that away. One thing he does that is wild to me is take all the things I feel he does and flip them to make it seem like I'm doing them. He tells me I'm always negative when all I can think is that he is the negative one. He tells me all I do is complain when really all he does is complain. It makes it so confusing. I am afraid to be myself and I've lost who I am trying to be the person he wants me to be. Constantly telling me what is good and bad for me. I cry with him more than anyone I've been with in my life. I don't know what to do because there are good times sometimes. He can be generous and helpful. I'm a recovering addict who finally got off medication assisted therapy because of him. However I'm not sure if that is because he was helping me or controlling me. I feel like I'm rambling as I could go on forever about what he does that isn't right. I just now that for the last 2 years I've felt like something was not right with him. There is something missing there. Relationships aren't supposed to be like this but I have never had a healthy relationship as I was an addict who dated other addicts. In some ways this relationship is the healthiest one I've ever had and in other ways it's the most toxic relationship I've ever had. Its so confusing. And my adhd makes it harder to see clearly as I struggle with emotional regulation, attention, focus, memory, communicating my thoughts, interrupting. I tell myself it must be me and my shit is too annoying to bare. Regardless if find myself to be happy, easy to get along with, funny, friendly, empathetic and everyone likes me at my job. But when I come home I can't be myself and I'm very unhappy after 4 years of suppressing my loving, easy going, happy go lucky, even my silly humor. I cry more than I'm happy and I can't take it anymore!

  12. I believe we (the victims) keep looking for the fault on ourselves because we actually wish that to be true. If we are the problem, we can fix it and then fix the relationship and be happy. 🙁 So, understanding that the fault is not on us is at the same time a relief and a disappointment because we face the reality that there’s no fix and we have to live.

  13. The way you describe this terrible type of partner could easily be wrongly attributed to many husbands who are not in fact covert narcissists. While you do put a short disclaimer at the end you confuse several issues by using so many words in quotes and including gaslighting and emotional abuse to further conflate the issue of narcissism.

    You seem to overlook the parental and societal conditioning which most men receive that leave them ignorant of emotional intelligence, i.e. boys don't cry. Any woman who reads your article would find exactly what they want to hear without taking any accountability of their own possible shortcomings with communication.

    My wife of 19 years (total of 27 years together) has asked me for a divorce and has implied that she thinks I am a covert narcissist. She has also subscribed to Dr. Raman, another doctor who seems to diagnose every unhappy marriage as a sign of narcissistic abuse and advise only one solution: divorce.

    I hope you realize that you may be destroying people's marriages by being careless. My children love me. I don't ignore them. My dog loves me. Yes, I have had some anger problems about 15 years ago, but I worked on them. My wife, who used to be codependent, has become much more confident in her career and personality in the recent years, while I was experiencing a setback in my career and a drop in my confidence. She clearly lost some respect for me and eventually she lost attraction to me. Articles like yours just help her to play the victim, so she doesn't have to face the fact that she may be married to a normal man who loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

    1. I can’t comment on your marriage, but the men I describe here are not “everyday men.” Covert narcissism has a distinct cluster of symptoms that chronically undercut their partner’s self-confidence, and gaslight women into thinking that “nothing is wrong with me” when clearly something is. The style is much more than “men don’t cry” as many covert narcissistic men are quite able to show emotions.

      If your wife has turned to the internet for answers about the troubles in her marriage, she is clearly in pain. Rather than focus on my writings, I would suggest you examine what might be true for you and then sit down with these traits you’ve gathered and talk to her plainly. Assume she is a reasonable woman who would not be swayed by reading or listening to information that isn’t true about you. Divorce is a big step. If you are invested in saving your marriage, be grateful that you can turn to information like this. You can make your case by trying to understand how she might be right, rather than by how I might be “destroying marriages.” My job is to save marriages, but to also discuss some cases where this is going to be challenging to do. I’m sure you celebrate your wife’s greater confidence. It sounds odd that such a confident woman wants to pathologize you for some clearly irrational reason. Seek out science-based couples therapy, but first go into “admitting mode” and stop insulting her by assuming she has absolutely no reason to doubt you or your behavior. She just might. -Dr. K

    2. Funny how you take no accountability whatsoever for you wife wanting a divorce. Go through the many times you ignored her complaints and you have your answer. Whether you are a narcissist or not, you clearly did a poor job being a husband otherwise she would still be with you!
      Be humble and acknowledge that you have simply failed. Have you even tried enough? I doubt that!

  14. I just want to thank you for this amazing article. Everything you have written resonates so clearly with me. I am contemplating divorce at the moment. Everyone thinks my husband is great so I will face a huge backlash if the divorce happens.
    To give you an example he made a huge thing about giving this drug addict/criminal man, he met at church, money and some of our possessions to prove how 'nice' he is, but he can't even talk properly to my eldest daughter or show her any love. I keep telling him that charity begins at home but he can't seem to understand what he is doing.

    Getting divorced seems such a huge step. We have been married 13 years

  15. Hi Dr. K
    Perfectly written article. I believe 100% that I am married to type of man. I have 8 very detailed behavior that my spouse shows on the regular basis. You mentioned mostly all of them. Please, how can I get more info on this to better help me understand what Im experiencing and what I can do to help myself combat this awful personality disorder. Thank you

  16. Thank you for writing this, much of it I and I'm sure many others, can relate to.

    My entire adult life has been spent with such a person in a 46 year marriage. Prior to that a childhood with narcissistic parents, being blamed for whatever went wrong, so I always tried to be better and please them.

    My husband had an abusive father well respected in the church and community but behind closed doors belittled him. I felt deep compassion and wanted to help him

    His first rage on our honeymoon storming out of our hotel room at night and into the rainforest. I chased after him in the dark apologizing because he said it was all my fault. Regular outbursts followed week after week with him screaming at me, punching holes in walls and doors, kicking out windows, driving erratically and scaring me to death. I kept fawning, apologizing, trying to keep the peace., trying to make him happy. My gut knew there was something wrong with him but I had no clue what it was or how to deal with it and I was frightened by his anger. I begged him often to get help for his father's damage but he wouldn't.

    Later on when angry numerous times he would grab a knife from the kitchen hold it to his chest and threaten to kill himself saying "see you what you are making me do!" And in the recent past take an overdose of whatever pills he could find resulting in me calling an ambulance, him being kept in hospital on a psych hold, which he then him blamed me for.

    Why did I stay? Because I had no idea I was being abused. I was set up for such a man by my upbringing. It wasn't until the last few years that I realized I have wasted most of my life on the man. I am divorcing him.

    Don't be like me.

  17. "Those first 6 to 18 months of 'paradise' were you loving him and him loving you loving him."

    Bingo! This was a light bulb statement for me. It wasn't him loving me. It was him loving the way I loved him and how I made my whole life about him often to my own detriment. I remember him smiling and saying how content he was.

    Nearly 20 years married now. For years I was trying to get back what we had in our first 18 months of dating! There were red flags but I dismissed them because of the intensity of my love for him.

    "You don’t have control over him, and you never did."

    I knew this deep down but I really tried hard to keep him interested. Its always an effort to get his attention. I lost myself. But slowly I've found out who I am and I actually couldn't care less what he does anymore.

    Since I read this article and all the comments and started learning about npd and other personality disorders, I've slowly started building an independent life. Very, very slowly. He's financially controlling. I have no access to our money unless I ask him. (I'm rolling my eyes and shaking my head – at myself – for thinking this was ok because I loved and trusted him)

    Anyway, it's made me who I am now and I'm looking forward to a bright, free, peaceful future ahead. There is always hope. For me! His journey is none of my business.

    1. Hi Sandee4 Gain financial literacy. If you don’t, you will be surprised to learn how little financial resources you’ve actually accumulated over the last 20 years. The worst think you can do is to storm ahead into a separation or divorce knowing nothing about your joint financial situation because you “trusted” your NPD. You will be shocked to learn that he considered joint resources “his” because he made more money or made “all the money” and feels utterly entitled to steal it (or try to) in the divorce.

  18. As others have commented, this article describes my CN husband of 29 years. I’ve tried many times over the years to separate, but he unleashes such evil behavior on me that I always end up making peace.

    I’m disabled, hopeless and at times—helpless. I can’t leave as I have no family and would have no health insurance. (Luckily there are no children to live this misery.) I keep asking myself, “WHY did you allow this man in your life? There were so many “red flags.” I feel like an idiot.

    Any advice as to strategies that work to survive this? I’ve tried being nice, keeping quiet, speaking my mind, etc., but nothing seems sustainable. He is so mean and cruel at times only to be nice and sweet the next day. I feel like I’m on some evil roller coaster to hell. Most days, I wish that I could just disappear.

    Thank you for the article. At least I now have a name for his dysfunction. I am also tremendously grateful to the hundreds of people who took the time to post. Love and light to all of you! ❤️

  19. Oh wow! I just had this spark in my head. My husband is exactly like what is described here. I am in shock right now. Each and every word describes him. I don't know what to do now. I am in the middle of raising two teenagers and I have a long way to go. Can a narcissist husband change with treatment?

  20. This is the best article I have ever read on covert narcissism, and I have read countless articles, journals, blogs, you tube videos. I can speak from 20 years being married to someone who displays every single thing, every sentence, the dialogue used, the tactics absolutely perfectly as though it was me who had written it about my relationship. He was always a victim, I had no idea and was genuinely trying to help him with whatever struggle he was having. It was 8 months ago that I was able to end it.

    I am an optimist, very empathic, the communication and bouncing ideas and thoughts amonst people is something I enjoy. I believe in reflecting on my own behaviour as well as others. ilie in allowing ourselves to emotionally proceesss things and then getting back up and attempting again. I don’t like to see people in pain and I like to be a shoulder, not to fix them but to help them through their pain or dilema. I was always good at reading people, yet I was fooled in my own marriage by someone who claimed to be the victim.

    I am now the shell of that person, and it is so hard to find my way back. It is like they want you to suffer like they do, they don’t like a happy spirit. Subconsciously, before I realised the extent of the problem and worked out what was going on, I shut off emotionally. It’s like I made my heart was a stone just so that I could get on with everything that had to be done without crumbling. Not to mention dealing with his traumas, and the kids and the business, and the housework…..etc

    The more I discovered the more everything I had lived for 20 years was a lie. I won’t allow it to destroy me, but I know I can never be who I was. Too much manipulation has happened. I have gone from someone who completed uni top of class, an honours degree, started and grew a successful business while raising 3 little kids at the time, and cooking and keeping the house in order bills, cleaning etc…. Now I find it hard to even do the laundry. It’s not a depressed feeling, it’s weird to describe. I will find the new me, bu it is not as easy as loved ones think.

    So if you have someone in your circle who has experienced this, do not place your judgement on how long it takes to heal. They can’t just over it, It was not a normal relationship, it was filled with lies and manipulation that went under the radar as they were in the guise of somebodies pain and problems. A life full of blame, fear, obligation and guilt. They mess with your head and you don’t know its happening. So give them whatever time they need without judgemental opinions on their recovery.

    To all the survivors, it is so hard but with perseverance and persistence we will rise again, slightly new, and we will find our place in the sun, and the happiness we deserve.

    So thanks again for such an perfectly on point article.

    1. Hi Niki,

      The path back to finding yourself is a long one for most of us, but when done well, it leaves us better. We learn to trust ourselves like we were never able to do before. We are less invested in what the outside world thinks about us, and more invested in being kind and strong FOR ourselves. Thanks for your comment. -Dr. K

    2. Niki,

      Thank you for sharing your story. It was like you were reading my life journal. I know I need to find my own path, but, I'm just not sure where to start. It's mostly a financial thing, but I'm also concerned how nasty he will become if I file for divorce. I don't know if I'm ready, emotionally, to deal.

      Wishing you all the best in your new journey!

  21. This is the situation for me. And it’s just so hard because I’m such a strong independent woman and while he loves that and brags about it to people, he also hates it because I stand up for myself. And I point out the gaslighting.
    I know he loves me. I know this is due to the abuse and his shitty father growing up. But he won’t get counseling. He won’t admit his mistakes. Or if he does he forgets.
    Im just so frustrated and angry it this point. He’s just so mean when he gets into these moods. It’s like everyone against him, but really it’s because he creates these alternate realities in his bed and won’t listen to reason.
    I dunno. Im rambling.
    But I’m about to have a baby and I’m just terrified. I just wish I had known about covert narcissists before. Because I read this crying in my bed after a horrible day that somehow turned into me being an unsupportive wife who is never there for him.
    Again, rambling. Sorry I’m incoherent about this it’s just really crazy to read something and realize, wow. This is him to a T.
    How did I get myself into this situation and how do I fix it? Can he get counseling and resolve this? Is it possible? I mean I love him, even after all the horrible things he says about me out of anger, I do love him. But, he really does suck the joy out of my life more often than he puts joy into it. I don’t know how to move forward.
    We just bought a house, I’m just about to have a baby. But I know that raising this child is going to fall on me and I’ll just add more to my responsibilities while he’ll complain about how it affect it him somehow. Ugh.
    I dunno. I’m at a loss.

    1. Hello Trinity,
      You are me, about 17 years ago.
      19 years of marriage, multiple financial crises and 3 children later, I can tell you that it will 100%fall on you.
      Please, please don't sit on this.
      My eldest is an adult now, and tells me all the time she wishes I'd left him and she didn't have to grow up with the instability, and seeing how he treated me. And still treats me – it's taken this long somehow to realize fully that I am not the problem.
      I'm only now starting the process of separating.
      I too am caught thinking that he loves me and it's only his abusive past causing him to treat me like this.
      But my therapist reminded me that the reason doesn't matter. What matters is how I am being treated – that he is hurting me. And she helped me realize that is what should inform what you need to do. Whether he means to or not is honestly immaterial.
      In fact, if he actually loves me, yet still refusing to get the help he needs makes it worse, the more I reflect on it.
      It is a kind of torture, feeling like the man I love may not actually exist, and I may never fully know the truth of it. And wondering if he ever actually loved me, or if I was just his convenient prop.
      I've been with him since I was 16. I barely remember a time before him. I don't even know who I am. I chose my studies, career, everything, based on him. He never forced me – but it was always a very subtle but strong pull in a certain direction, and eventually just doing things to keep the peace and make him happy and comfortable became my norm. I don't even know what I like for myself.
      Don't let this happen to you. You don't get the years back.

      1. I want to reinforce what was said, here, by Sophie. Many women get caught up in a detailed story of their husband’s traumatic childhood. It was horrible. No child should have had to live through it. And they did. Okay. Now what? It might have left them with NPD and unable to truly love anyone. It did not give them the right to inflict pain on anyone else. It required them to go through long and challenging psychotherapy that they’d prefer to avoid. Especially if they have NPD, they don’t want the false image of themselves to be looked at and challenged repeatedly. Okay. So now what?


        Here’s the thing that is so important to get: You can’t heal them, even if you have a professional degree in counseling. You can’t heal them nor should you allow emotional, physical, sexual or psychological abuse. THAT IS YOUR JOB TO STOP.

        So how can you stop it, you ask? That’s all you want, for him to stop it and for you both to go back to the way it was when you first met. “How can I do it, Dr. K?” I will tell you. You do it by having extremely clear boundaries of what you will and will not tolerate. You do it by not expecting water from a stone. Those first 6 months to 18 months of “paradise” were you loving him and him loving you loving him. That’s over. It’s not coming back. He can stop his abusive behavior or he will continue it. You cannot control him or his decision-making. You don’t have control over him, and you never did.


        Thank you, Sophie, for these wise words. I agree. -Dr. K

    2. Run as soon as you can. Don’t waste years and years of your life with this type of man. Mine 36 years and recently divorced. They don’t change. They suck the joy out of your life. Run!!!

  22. This is my marriage, this is my husband. 16 years of his victimhood, everything being my fault, seeming nice but truly passive aggressive in every way.
    After years of him saying that I was cold, hateful to him, and constant accusations that I was cheating, he just recently admitted he has been addicted to pornography our entire marriage. But even that is something I’m supposed to forgive and forget immediately, while he brings up everything he feels I’ve done wrong to him. It’s always “Yes I know I did wrong and I hurt you, but I asked forgiveness and you’ve hurt me too.” I feel like I’m not even allowed to process this devastation because he is twisting everything to be equal and that we’ve both messed up.
    Worse, he is using God and scripture against me now too, saying he’s repented and that all sin is equal to God and I must forgive or else I’m wrong. He is lecturing me constantly about how hard my heart is, how sad he is that I’m at this unforgiving point. It’s maddening and cruel. If we did not have children I would have filed for divorce as soon as he admitted what he’s been hiding for so long.

    1. It is really not “the point” that he’s done anything wrong, because he can’t take responsibility for what he’s done. If you try to hold him responsible for his actions, it gets turned around to become about you. As you’ve pointed out in your comment, HE is hurt. He has God on his side. You have problems. YOU are cold, hardened, unforgiving. If “both of us” have made “mistakes,” than “both of us” hold no responsibility. It is almost as if his admission is his gift to you. You are now wrong for not accepting it as such. Your feelings about his betrayal aren’t important. Only his feelings matter. Trust yourself, always, and keep your good heart to yourself. Thanks for your comment -Dr.K

    2. I am so sorry to read of your experience. What you describe is emotional, sexual, and spiritual. God has nothing to do with this kind of behaviour! It is another form of abuse to turn this onto you. Besides, to repent means to stop what you are doing. I have seen this in action. It is a constant blame game with no responsibility. Here is a fantastic website I found and highly recommend: https://www.confusiontoclaritynow.com/
      It sounds perfect for your situation.

  23. Wow you have described my 36 year marriage to a T. Yes it really got going after I came home from a spine surgery, then another surgery a year later and now it's cement in his mind. Great read and great validation. 😘

  24. I was unable to continue to read this article in its entirety due to Dr. McMahon's decision to imply that it is men who are narcissists. I am within 48 hours of discovering that Covert Narcissism disorder exists and that I am in the early stages of divorce to a covert narcissist WIFE. I mention this only to make clear that this article could have just as easily been written with the word spouse in replace of husband. The sexism is nauseating. Also, I admit that I am a live wire and hypersensitive to everything as each moment that passes is accompanied by a clearer and stronger realization that I have been the subject of abuse for years and I have lost the ability to determine reality and fantasy.

    I guess I could have just said. This article feels sexist and it triggered me.

    1. Clearly, Chris, you are a thoughtful person, as evident in your comment. I’ve done a post on Narcissistic Wives. There are some differences, given gendered upbringings, according to the literature. I chose to focus on men because, well the title says that is what the post is about. However, I put a link to that right up front, so it will be less triggering to men who are married to women with these soul-crushing traits. Thanks for your comment. -Dr.K

    2. I agree. I am the male partner of a female covert narc as well. the article seems spot on, with the roles reversed and a bunch of male bashing.

  25. This was my husband, but after 8 years of marriage he divorced me with no actual reason, so many excuses of how perfect he is and how ungrateful i was.
    But after divorce he turned into a clear narcissist only with me though, other family members and friends won’t believe me when i tell them how he is acting and how he is talking to me after the divorce, to be honest even I couldn’t believe that this is the same person, but after reading so many books and researches i came to acknowledge that i was living with a covert narc who took off his mask after discarding me.
    I still wonder why did he divorce me, i was still a good source of complaints and supply for him.
    Now he won’t even give me back my belongings” clothes and personal stuff” , i wonder if there is a specific way i can make him give them back to me, as i live out of the USA so courts are not an option, i mean a specific way to ask him that fits his personality disorder.
    Please help
    Note: when i ask for them he lashes out on me and threatens to throw them away, even when i make friends ask to pick them up he refuses “ I thought that could work as he keeps his covert mask with people and pretends to be an angel.
    Thank you, waiting for advice

    1. Truly, I don’t know of any way that you haven’t already thought of. If he is holding on to them, he keeps his hooks in you. It might be his motive. -Dr. K

  26. I actually found this hard to read and it took me a few attempts. I’ve just split with my cover narc and it’s only just dawning on me that that’s what he is after 2 years together (he blames all of his behaviour on ADHD – even his mates with ADHD were telling me he was just an idiot). This describes his behaviour to a T. The mask started to slip once we split – once he got a new supply his behaviour has been appalling and I’ve had to block him (he was desperate to stay friends). I knew I’d need strength to make the final separation away from him but didn’t realise how much. He has a new partner but didn’t want to let me go and has spent the last week being so manipulative and harassing beyond belief. It’s taken me pleading with his new gf to get him to leave me alone before the police are called – I’ve now had 2 blissful days of peace

  27. This was my marriage, all that is described above. My husband kept us from having children in the craziest of sneaky ways. I did not dream such subterfuge existed. After years of quiet abuse, I obtained a divorce. I wondered if I was making the best choice however, in the middle of the divorce, my husband totaled his vehicle while driving drunk. This was after years in which he engaged in so much gaslighting, he made me believe I was crazy to even think he had a drinking problem. During the divorce, he tried to take an additional unwanted $100,000 from my settlement. Somehow this money was his and quietly the story of how he was owed it and how it was my fault were introduced into the divorce proposal. That money directly belonged to me. I was horrified. Mercifully, after threatening additional proceedings, I retained my money. Otherwise, I would have left with $14,000 and furniture.

    How does one describe the cold loneliness of marriage with a CN: the mangled dreams, the theft of marital joy, the loss of self and the hazy world of gaslighting. Gaining one’s footing is so hard. It is gut wrenching to look into the face of the person you love and yearn for a glimpse of empathy and see there are arrows of contempt instead.

    Instead, of love, my husband ridiculed and at times hollered if quiet tactics were unsuccessful. What little I asked for was turned into how unfair it was for him. I apologized for things that never occurred because I was quietly deceived. I learned to ask for even less. In the end, I was even denied the opportunity to do nice things for him because it meant he could always show how he did not need me but I was bothersome to need him. I served no purpose other than to be there in the capacity he saw fit. I meant nothing and everything all at once. If I went upstairs and left him downstairs, he’d grumble asking where I was going yet when I returned, he’d ignore me. I grew up in an abusive home. Reliving a similar experience felt like my heart was crumbling.

    I still love him. I lost so much in the divorce. Since the divorce, I developed a serious cardiac condition. I feel as though my heart is broken both metaphorically and physically. I am young yet I feel as though I’ve lived many lifetimes. Despite this, I believe life is full of good despite hard experiences.

    For those still married to a CN, know you are whole with or without your spouse. Your desire to love and be loved are beautiful. Your spouse should be a source of strength, not confusion. It is a sign of strength to want to partner with someone and it is shameful for someone to belittle that desire. A CN does not want to join you on life’s path. A CN wants to hold you back in their quiet misery. Your spouse isn’t evil. No one is all good or bad. However, their actions are evil and if unchecked, can bring you to your knees.

    If you want a divorce or want to stay, there is no wrong answer so long as you and your children are safe. However, a CN seems to want more and more until you break. It is hard to endure. If you leave, please know you may feel you are living in a parallel universe. The person before you is the man or woman you thought you married but also the imposter you are rightfully divorcing. I still find it hard to separate my marriage hopes from the man I left.

    My heart leaps for happiness who have healed and moved on. It also wishes nothing but blessings and courage who are still on their journey with a CN.

    1. I had to reach out… thank you for taking your time to write this I needed this. I'm gathering the little strength I have left to leave.

      If you are on facebook there's a group called covert narcissists. Its helped me cope a lot. I hope you find your peace.

  28. I’ve been with my partner for 3 years. She’s coming to her breaking point with me I see a lot of my own behaviors here I just don’t know how to correct myself.

      1. After being married for 32 years, I am going to try to get my CN husband to seek counseling. How do I find someone who will be able to deal with his CN? In the past when we have seen counselors, he makes himself sound so perfect, like nothings wrong. And I’m the one with issues.

        1. I am glad you asked this question. My answer is directed to any woman reading who has the same question.

          Know that you cannot diagnose your husband, no matter how many posts you read or Youtube videos you watch. You might be right. He may be. But you also might be wrong.

          Second, narcissism can be seen on a spectrum from 1-10. Those at the lowest end, like Echo in the Narcissus story, have fallen in love with a narcissist and have no voice. She could only echo his last three words, given her curse.

          Those between 4-6 have a healthy amount of narcissism. We might consider them securely attached in a sort of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” way. The feel good about themselves and good about other people.

          Between 7-8 we see problematic behavior where they act unaware of how their behavior impacts others. They feel entitled and justified in their demands, but it is not over the top. They can admit how their behavior is hurting others but don’t know how to stop. Whether this is sincere or feign, it is enough to begin.

          With the right help and guidance, they can learn how to change their behavior in concrete ways. They can learn to begin to think about “we” (meaning you and the family) instead of just “me.” The Gottman Method is ideal work for this type of marriage. They will provide you the tools to redirect bad behavior. Even some Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy might help the 6-7 in that range, in that it reminds them of how good it feels to need someone and be vulnerable and open.

          However, when you get higher up the scale, you will find an intolerance for vulnerability except in service of manipulating your feelings. “Crocodile tears.” Effective theatrics designed to Hoover back in a wife who is fed up and on her way out. Therapists often fall for these tactics. They see your justifiable anger as “inconsolability” and begin to focus on inadvertently gaslighting you into greater understanding.

          Weekly work, in my opinion, is useless in accomplishing needed work. You need to have a thorough assessment and extended clinical time to make your own assessment of your marriage. You need to know what makes a healthy marriage and whether you and your spouse have the ability to do that.

          In assessment, it needs to be extensive (We ask 800-1000 questions to each of you for a solid reason. We devote a weekend which is time to allow the true nature of your relationship dynamics to emerge (we use 2 hours on Friday and 7 hours on two additional consecutive days).

          It is easy for anyone to look good and act “concerned” in short periods. It is possible for them to twist your words, feign deep love and affection, and question why you are just so angry all the time when they “mean well” and “try hard.”

          You need time to tell your story in a calm and impassioned way and without interruption. The history of it in some detail. And it is essential to realize that your couples therapist isn’t there as a judge to decide which of you is sick and should be held responsible. A Gottman certified therapist is there to try and figure out what is wrong with the way the two of you relate to each other and to help you adapt a different strategy. We offer you strategies that work. That is all you will need to make your own assessment.

          For those who are in a marriage with a CN person, you have another goal in attending a weekend intensive. Your goal is to learn the strategies well, know when you are doing them effectively, and then watch what your CN spouse does.

          Particularly when it comes to one particular exercise: “complaining” within the Gottman method. I find a true CN’s simply can’t do it consistently. It is too “exposing.” It requires them to be vulnerable and ask you for something in a civil way.

          They will dodge, be sarcastic, cut steps and simply ignore the directive. They will “forget” to do it. They will forget HOW to do it. They will claim to have no complaints against you (WOW!). In reality, they see their hidden resentments as golden bullets they are holding onto, polishing, gloating over. If you divorce them, then they will try to kill you with them until you suffer a painful death.

          They will become defensive, hostile, contemptuous, and outright angry when you do as directed and make effective complaints. When your words are perfect, they will blame your “tone.” I call “foul play” when that happens over the weekend. I expect them to accept a complaint nondefensively when done correctly. I watch your tone and will call you on it, if necessary.

          This one exercise is a simple one, but you will learn a tremendous amount about your husband and his capacity for mutuality through it. If he is 7-8 on the scale, he will learn the benefits of “we.” He will be reluctant, but once he understands, will welcome the ability to share his complaints and have them heard and respected. In other words, he will improve in being self-disclosing and you will both adapt.

          You will also learn how to talk to him in a way that makes him least defensive. Someone who is 7-8 will be a bit prickly. They will never be a 5. However, they can become more loving and thoughtful. Maybe this change will be enough, if they stop their noxious behaviors of lying, manipulating, humiliating and the like.

          If he is 9-10, it will be pretty obvious over the weekend, but especially afterward. He will complain about how this entire time was wasted, how the science-based exercises are “stupid” and how it is all your fault. The homework you’ll be given will be cast aside. He will refuse all follow-up. I will be courteous and kind (all of our therapists are) but candid and direct. We will allow no blaming, shaming, or redirection. We know what behavior works and what doesn’t we accept that we can force no one to do anything. However, we are also blunt that if someone acts in these destructive ways, they will become (or are) the “disasters of marriage.” If they change a very specific set of behaviors, they can become the “masters of marriage.” It isn’t rocket science. It isn’t impossible to learn. But for those who are truly character disordered, it demands mutuality and none of the drama, “perfection,” or put-downs they’ve become used to. Do, or don’t do.

          I will caution you, however. If you go in hoping that the therapy will “change” him, or that you will somehow be vindicated in your diagnosis of him, you will be disappointed. If this is a 9-10 CN, you will have proof that your husband cannot or will not engage with you as an equal. But this doesn’t “prove” anything. You will still have to do incredibly painful work to decide what to do next. And, like many of the women here, you will not be “saved” from his destructive wrath if you decide to leave him.

          I will be writing more about this in the upcoming blogposts.

          Hope this helps. -Dr. K

        2. Find someone who says they work with “personality disorders.” It won’t be that easy to find someone as these types of disorders aren’t reimbursed by insurance companies, although he likely has accompanying ailments that do. The problem is, he is likely to stop when the therapy is starting to work. But it’s worth a try! -Dr. K

  29. Wow!! This literally describes my husband to a T! We have had issues for awhile, and tried counseling 3 times, all of which he criticized and refused to return. I’m reaching that point after 14 years of marriage that he isn’t ever going to change and it actually is getting worse as he ages past 40. It has significant impacted our kids, especially my 10 year old daughter who he also employs some of these CN behaviors with her.

  30. Been married to this for 7 years and I am still a virgin but his WhatsApp dp is a happy picture of us. Refuses to annul. I am estranged from my fam. Moved to another country. Need to gain the guts to just call a lawyer and annul this!

  31. This is me and my spouse to a T I know how much he loves me, but he discarded me out of shame and left me and my son and all my kids without anything and his trying to fight my divorce and not pass anything but yeah I know how much he loves me and he’s not with anyone else because of all the recorded conversations up until he left where I wanted him to take accountability and go to therapy. I still believe therapy would help us keep our family together. I hope you can help me with this because he really is just immature emotionally and was neglected as a child and I know how much he loves me and needs me.

  32. I'm almost at a loss for words…as I was reading your article on covert narcissistic husbands, I was in shock at how the information described my partner exactly. It is just bizarre how he fits this description to a T. I am hopeful that there may be therapy for our situation but also very sad that there are so many other couples dealing with the exact same issues that I am in my relationship. I look forward to seeing what this type of specific therapy can do for my relationship and also myself since I have been subjected to this type of abuse for 12+ years now. Thanks for giving me hope!

  33. I echo the numerous other posts about being thankful for this article. Your article on "how to stop subtle gaslighting" is also helpful.

    Could you please write a follow-up article on how to communicate with a covert narc husband and how to get out of a situation of being gaslit and emotionally manipulated SPECIFICALLY when you are trying to divorce a covert narc husband (yes, after 20+ years together) when they say things such as: 1. you aren't acting like your normal self – you are not the same person I've known for the last 20 years; 2. clearly you've been seeing a therapist because you keep repeating the same mantra; 3. I don't understand where this is coming from; 4. you are annihilating our child's life (1st grader); 5. I don't think you have thought about what is in the best interest for our child, including their safety and wellbeing; 6. I think I should have more custody of our child because you aren't thinking about their best interests.

    My guess is that these types of comments are not uncommon and it would be so helpful to have a "comprehensive" (more or less) list of of what we could say or do in response to each of these types a comments/tactics (and more) that a covert narc might use to make us feel guilty so we stay. I've read parts of Bill Eddy's Biff (brief, informative, friendly, firm), but these seem focused more on emails/texts, though I could see how the technique could be translatable to in-person interactions. Perhaps a chapter covering In-person Biffs for divorcing (not yet divorced) parents?

    Additionally, guidance on how to cope when you see that the covert narc father is already manipulating our young child so that he gets his narc supply from them by saying things like: 1. I don't know why your mother is doing this and I'm confused too; 2. I don't know what our living situation is going to be like; and other types of comments where he is projecting his feelings and insecurities onto a young child.

    Couples and individual therapy was rejected by my husband once I inflicted "narcissistic injury" upon him by sharing how he made me feel during a couples' session. I was the "cruel" one and that what I said painted him to be an abuser because I had become afraid and weary of his negative reactions.

    Thank you again. This article has helped me to finally see the truth and reality of why I had been unhappy, but not quite knowing why, for a significant portion of my relationship with my covert narc husband.

    1. You’ve done a good job discussing the very painful manipulations that make leaving so difficult. I would like to emphasize again that while the patterns of narcissistic abuse might be patterned, the individual “hooks” that keep us involved have to be worked through individually with someone who understands narcissistic abuse. The short and mostly unsatisfying answer is for the spouse (yourself in this case) to begin to ground yourself once again in “reality.” Learning to trust yourself, your own beliefs, values, guiding principles after decades with a narcissist is a huge challenge. It takes time and working with a trusted other (therapist, close friend, relative, etc) that supports you and believes in you. And the more you try to address the many questions (you’ve listed 6…) the more you begin “dancing with the devil” so to speak. Conversations between people are best engaged in when there is good intention and an honest exchange. What so many women in your situation have found is that there are neither in their marriages. Their words and their meaning are twisted to “prove a point.” Honest exchange seldom happens without hidden motives. There is a dogged single focus on a goal, his goal, and at any cost.

      The guilt you feel is a normal human emotion. It has helped you be the loving, caring person you are. However, it also makes you vulnerable to the type of manipulation you are describing. You want to respond honestly and candidly to his questions. However, my hunch is that you have tried this before, unsuccessfully. When you try, you end up feeling as if you are the villain that is inflicting pain on a helpless victim. You’ve ended up “seeing things the way he sees them.” That has not served you because a narcissistic view is intentionally distorted, self-serving, and disinterested in equity.

      Staying because of guilt isn’t a marriage, it is an “arrangement.” And initiating divorce is most often an intense emotional experience, even if you have iron-clad reasons. Emotional abuse is harder to articulate, especially with a “nice guy” who always looks so great in public.

      As far as your children, I wish there was a magic solution to that. It will take many years for them to be emotionally mature enough to recognize that one parent leaves them feeling terrible and the other one does not. Just makes sure you are the one who does not, and be supportive without putting him down. Keep in mind that he’s “half of them.”

      Thank you for your comment.

  34. Wow, wow, wow. If this isn't my husband, nothing is. I just feel so sad and depleted. We've been married for more than 44 years and I feel lonelier and lonelier each day. It's like subliminal torture. I feel like my soul is being slowly sucked out, piece by piece for the past 45 years. He makes comments to people about me, thinking he's being funny. For example, the other day I was buying a new set of chef knives and as I was checking out, he says to the cashier, "Be careful. My wife may get you with these" (LOL). If I was that cashier, I'd be thinking that this guy's wife is probably a nut case. Or when I was in ICU with sepsis…I coded twice and he never came to see me. Said he had a cold. Right. Well this devastated any feelings I had left for him. Still, whenever I get upset with him or call him out, he resorts back to the 'retreat-ignore' routine. Followed with, "Do you love me? Why are we together then if you feel this way? I don't know what I did that was so wrong."
    How do I go on to have some fulfillment in life while living with this man? It's too painful to think how my remaining 20 years will be spent in one sad state.
    I can't talk to anyone about it. No one would believe it. EVERYONE says he's the 'nicest guy'. I could never tell our children because it would crush them. No one has a clue about this prison I've been living for decades. I can not bear to destroy other's 'image' of him and cause them so much pain. How do I go on to live a life as a couple, yet separate? We are older now and so the 'start over' train has left the station. And b/c we're 'seniors' (he's in his 70s, I'm in my 60's), there are health issues for him especially…he's losing his memory so this has added a different level of 'crazy' to his behavior and withdrawal.

  35. I grew up with narcissistic parents, so of course I was the people pleaser and tried to always be "good" thinking that would make it better. Then, after all the years, even knowing what I know, I still ended up marrying someone like this. I want to leave and I can't, because I own the home we're in and the mortgage and he won't leave. In our worst fights, because I'm so hard headed that I speak up and fight back; not that it seems to matter, he still manages to turn everything around on me. I'm always at fault. I honestly don't know why I even try to fight back, cause all I'm doing is defending myself for things I know I'm not doing which he doesn't hear it or see it that way. I can look at my actions and know where I do go wrong, and I'll apologize for my part, which the next fight, even if he claims he knows he needs to do better, he acts like he does nothing and uses that I have apologized to point out that I admit I'm wrong. I can try to point out that he plays a part; doesn't get anywhere. I just get more frustrated/hurt/resentful and want to end things. The things he says when he's mad, it's hard to not want to just pack up and leave, but he can't afford the house, it will just mess up my credit as I can't afford two places. I only saw glimpses before we got married, but now I feel trapped in the situation. I'm not saying I'm perfect, and I'm fully aware that women can also be narcissists, but I'm genuinely good in relationships, I know how to communicate and compromise and actually talk about things….but I can't communicate with him effectively. I honestly don't know what to do; but I am starting to shut down emotionally because it is a lonely feeling. Everyone outside of us, thinks he's great, sweet, loving, empathetic, caring; everything I thought at one time too. After a fight, he will revert back to that, but I already know it's around the corner, next fight, he'll call me names, call me a liar, say I said something I didn't say, scream at me, put his fingers in my face, tries to be intimidating; and then it's all about what I did to him. If I mention what he does, he tells me I'm blameshifting, he says I don't listen; i have video of me not saying anything while he's screaming at me. He found out about that and that made him more mad. I pushed for counseling, he did one to appease me I guess, and right before the counseling warned me not to say too much. Like what? He brings his Mom into it so he can tell them what "I" do, and they take his side, which I get, they aren't around to see it like I do. Just over a year married, and I want out because I don't see it ever getting better. He won't leave, and according to him, that's a great thing and it's cause he "loves" me. So, what can I do? Do I even have options?

    1. Don’t write it in a blog comment, Venus. Speak to an attorney about what your legal rights are. You might find you have more options than you thought. Next move will be yours. -Dr. K

  36. I just had my entire marriage described to me on a random post on the internet. I am simultaneously relieved to FINALLY have any understanding about what is going on with my husband of 15 years and horrified by what my future may look like.

    I feel like a complete fool and feel utterly trapped: like my life is a prison. I KNOW he would make any effort to ruin me if I ever divorced him.

    Strangely, the only piece to the puzzle that doesn’t fit (of the dozen + reference points you made above) is the parenting piece. We have a 7 year old child and he is actually a pretty good dad, aside from being VERY overprotective to the point of paranoia, but I just chalk that up to what I’ve heard called “old dad syndrome” where they are very overbearing with kids…(as he is 14 years older than me).

    He also undermines my parenting authority in front of my son and is occasionally verbally abusive to me whenever I disagree with him on anything in front of our child…so not exactly wonderful parenting, but not all the full blown narcissistic traits.

    Is it still possible for a covert narcissist to be a concerned parent and reserve their worst traits for their spouse?

    Anyway, thank you so much for writing this…at least I feel like I’m not crazy. Or, a monster…which is what he casts me as whenever I mention any normal human need, concern or emotion. I guess I will have to remain an expectation-less robot forever.

    1. People are different. Seven year olds can be more easily parented than a more self- possessed teenager. Keep in mind that if your child idolizes him, it will be easier for him to parent well (if he is personality disordered, which I can’t know from a comment…)

  37. This is my alcoholic husband to a "t" he just left us again. I am an" unaappreciative psycho". Nothing he does is" good enough". He is no longer able to put up with my" abuse." This article made my hair stand on end. He has told me that when he is with me he doesn't feel good about himself. I make him feel horrible. He has completely emerged himself in aa social life.

  38. I am interested, do you think it is common to fluctuate between thinking it is my husband, but then maybe its me!? Could that be a symptom of being perpetually gaslighted?

    Im sure this is him. He is never willing to talk about anything important ever. If I raise an issue even calmly he escalates it and then leaves the room, only to return moments later cheerful as if nothing has happened. Instead of saying things directly to me he says them to the kids in another room so I can hear. It's weird. If I accuse him of being passive aggressive he flies off the handle. I expressed to him recently that I have a need for more comfort from him when I am ill or feeling overwhelmed. He responded that for an independent person I place too many demands on him. He escalated the discussion again and then a week later referred back to the conversation calling it a screaming match. I never screamed just made a simple request. Whenever anyone in the family gets sick, he always immediately starts to experience symptoms and has to be cared for. Its never quite right timing wise and always feels inauthentic. There have been times where he has feigned illness only to actually fall ill a few days later with whatever bug was going around. He purposefully does the washing really badly and it has become a really mean spirited interchange where he does either just his own washing or the kids but always leaves mine in a pile. There is no way to renegotiate these patterns and Its always my fault for being too picky. He is like a stone wall. We haven't had sex in a very long time. He claims he has made efforts to initiate intimacy but I have never noticed. If I point this out he gets angry and shuts down. The list goes on, and on,and on Its exhausting! and depressing. Im mainly worried about the kids I suppose.

  39. been married..just going on 24 years…

    i guess my story starts with day one first date.

    nice boy scout kind of guy career oriented…
    met a t church.

    shy ..timid…..a "regular " boy scout/

    he is 12 years older.
    than myself.

    dated two years..married..

    the onw thing we both cared about was singning ..church.



    ..but ..had this odd sense…about j……i am a social person..photographer..
    j…..is a numbers guy….analyiss tec.

    it wast until ..threee years..in our moving to different state.

    his mood…erratic…behavior..presented itself..

    (J..just retired…so we moved).

    so, j .then became more .more…pecking at me…
    J..became very introvert……."hiding " behind his computer land.

    long and short of it…the gaslighting..stonwalling…the manipulations….totally thru me for a loop.

    the trash degrading…negative words…CAME TUMBLING DOWN ONTO ME.


    becasuse he retired….from career……
    I BECAME the pasty……


    last year …grabbed my stuff.. moved out.

    its scary.


    ( I WAS THE "DUMB" ONE).







    1. Sounds pretty much like my story. It started

      when we were dating .I was too nieve to see

      the signs (I didn't even know what

      narcissism was!)

      There was also phys. abuse (to me & our

      kids! I should've called the police, but didn't.

      Instead I packed my bags & left. It was a

      real eye opener for him. He changed some–

      to make living with him tolerable so I

      returned. (That's been 2 years now, and still

      no phys. abuse.

      (He knows if he lays a hand on me, I'm

      gone–for good. I have the upper hand


      As far as him hibernating (w/ his computer)

      I found immediately after supper chores are

      done, I go & hybernate/work on my hobby.

      (At that point, I really don't care what he's up

      to and I'm lost in my own little world. It's

      quite relaxing. 😌) If he needs my help–at

      that time–I can choose whether to help him

      or not. (Quite often, he's too prideful to even

      ask for my help….that's ok w/ me!) I am still

      married to this man and probably will be till

      death (unless physical abuse….)

  40. All of the above comments ring so true for me. Approaching retirement and absolutely dreading what the final part of my life will be like living with this person 24/7. We don't have kids and I no longer have any friends or connections outside of our marriage. He does exactly what he likes, expects me to sit at home and be the housekeeper – doing all the jobs inside and outside of the home. 26 years together / 20 years married – the last 10 years have been like a living hell for me. Rollercoaster emotions and outbursts from him. Keep getting sick, feeling depressed and nothing like i used to be. I was the happy go lucky, kind, caring person who was always with others, helping them and having fun. Now I have gone into a shell of a life. I don't see anyone apart from people at the fitness club that I joined, but don't feel like having much to do with them as I feel so miserable. I am always on my own, I go out for long walks alone and dread being indoors with him. He flies off the handle at the tiniest of things that don't suit him at the time, I have no way of predicting his behaviour so I try not to speak too much as I am in fear of his outbursts. We haven't been close intimately since a major illness I experienced 12 years ago and he makes me feel guilty for not being healthy enough to comply. He reminds me regularly that he is the bread winner (I no longer work due to my health) and makes me feel bad when I want to spend money on myself – even if it is for essentials. The only way out would be for me to leave but I know he would fight me financially and probably leave me with little to no money. I don't have any private pensions, only the state pension which isn't paid out until mid 2024. I really feel for all you but totally understand how it is living with the Narcissist.

    1. I was in a relationship for 8 years with a man who displayed all of these behaviors and more. It was great in the beginning. I have 5 kids, and he was super to them. 1 was still underage when I moved in with him (after 2 weeks because he just blindsided me with the love and care I needed). A few months later I had neck surgery. He made sure he couldn't take me and I believe he had his boss make up a fake memo telling him he couldn't take off that day for any reason because they were busy. He also had an affair with his boss off and on for 13 years. He didn't like hospitals. Then 1 day my daughter called and said he kicked her out. I went home and he said we argued too much and he wanted peace. That he didn't sign up for kids. He knew I had 5 and 3 grandbabies. Then had the nerve to ask why I was upset. He started an argument another time with my daughter that escalated quickly and he kicked me out saying it will never be resolved so I needed to go. It was his fault and he threw me out! Later his cat died. She had leukemia and he chose hospice for her. He blamed me for her death as well as my daughter and her friends. He again threw me out. Then my mom passed away. He was great until the funeral was over because my brother was in town. When I leaned on him for support he said I was too clingy and needed help or medicine. Everything that went wrong in his life was my fault and he took it all out on me and threw me out. Making me feel awful about myself. I'm on disability for physical as well as mental. He made sure it was clear I knew it was his house, his cars, his phone plan and his way. It was only our house when it needed cleaning. I killed myself keeping things nice for him to mess them up and watch me clean them back up. I'd tell him to clean up after himself and he'd get up and leave his mess. Then he'd get mad at me and call me a b. He always said, "I work!" I started sitting alone in our bedroom every day and him in the living room. Friends stopped coming around, my kids rarely visited and the ones who did come around said they didn't like being around him anymore. He tried to pick fights in front of them and blatantly disrespected me in front of them thinking it was funny. He would give me the silent treatment for up to 5 days and missed our anniversary this year. He said anniversaries are for couples who get along. This past fight was it. It scared me so bad. He threw dinner out the door and said that's what he thought of me. He spit on me and called me awful names and took my phone so I couldn't call anyone. His friends were there and did nothing to stop it, and he told them he allowed me to live there and drive his cars and I continuously do things to make him mad. He was bragging about how others he had dated called the police on him. He told me to get out and get out of his life. I left with what fit in my sister's car and haven't been back because of his violent tendencies toward me. I saw a demon in him that night. I left my animals behind and now he's saying I can't have them and name calling and threatening to destroy my stuff. Asking "can't you just move on and get over me?" He thinks every woman gets hung up on him and wants him. He has ED and does nothing for it. We hadn't been intimate in forever. That was my fault too. I'm realizing he has made me sick with him. Misery had it's company. I'm healing after 5 weeks, but the flashbacks are awful. He acts like I never existed or mattered. Just threw me away like I was nothing to him. He's 56 and I'm 53. He cares more about what people think of him than what is right. He plays nice guy around them and I'm the problem. He exaggerates things I do and makes things up on me to tell others. He told me I wouldn't be anything if it weren't for him. He said he'd never marry me because he saw what I did to my ex-husband. I divorced him… Ok. For being verbally abusive and I found myself in it again but 10 times worse. It was turning physical and I was living in fear. I lost myself. He always put me down and never praised me for anything. I was the live in maid and slept on the couch so he and the animals could get the bed because he "worked." I'm slowly getting better. I'm mad at myself for being a fool. There's so much more he has done. I'll never be the same again…

  41. Never let a perfect stranger on the internet dictate such a major life transition. Get yourself into therapy, allow the therapist to really get to know you in detail, and provide you with sound advice. Keep a diary, also, no matter what you decide. You might want to look back on patterns of behavior. It’s easier with some historical record. -Dr. K

  42. So – what next? If I’m not prepared to get divorced – is there any hope for a narcissist? Or am I choosing to live in a trauma induced environment and raise my kids in the madness too?

    1. First, you are diagnosing your own spouse. The first step is to talk to someone in detail about your current situation and get an informed opinion about your options. Begin your own therapy and talk about your life in detail. You can suggest that your spouse get help as well, but you can’t force the issue, obviously. -Dr. K

  43. It's as if you interviewed my now ex-husband for this article. 25 years married, a 22-year-old daughter who said, "I don't feel like I have a father. I feel like I have this strange man in my life who doesn't really know me, doesn't really listen, yet wants to be attached to me for some reason." My heart aches for her as I know how crucial the father/daughter relationship is in a girl's development of her self-esteem and example for her future partners. As for me? I'm now 62 and rebuilding my life.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard from other children of narcissistic parents who eco the same sentiment. It is never too old to rebuild your life. One step in front of another! -Dr. K

  44. This is spot on! Thank you. Divorcing a covert narc who is intent on destroying me. He’s taken me through the criminal justice system trying to get me convicted for finally snapping back at him (the courts saw straight through him) he’s trying to get social workers onside (they see through him too) he’s moved on with someone else (in less than 9 months) and yet he is intent on destroying me financially through the legal system now. Why????? Why won’t he let me go?? It’s all about control and his sick little need to win. It’s exhausting 🙁

  45. I am the am the man described in this article. I have read comment after comment, and it sounds like a lost cause. Is there any information on how help someone like me? All I read about is how to get out of a relationship with someone like me.
    Do you suggest couples therapy or just therapy for myself?
    I need help!

    1. I would suggest individual therapy before considering couples therapy, yes, in the case of covert narcissism, and not to self-diagnose. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you to identify cognitive distortions.

  46. Your article was so validating and really clarified what I had experienced in my 15 year marriage. Thank you! Nevertheless, I must point out that you cannot say with certainty that covert narcissists don’t leave the marriage or file for divorce first, as they very much do!
    Once the covert narcissists no longer sees you as a good supply, they discard you. Once they can no longer manipulate you, they discard you. Once you see behind their mask and call them out, they discard you. I was discarded. I was discarded when I told him I no longer believed a word that came out of his mouth. I called him out on his lies, manipulation and gaslighting. He went into a narcissist rage. I told him he scared me, something was very wrong, and he needed help. He attempted to stonewall me, a very common behavior of the covert narcissist to shut you down. I pursued him to continue the conversation. He called the cops on me. He falsely accused me of slapping him and pushing him. There were no marks. It never happened. He wanted me arrested and thrown in jail, but the officers (3 of them) did not arrest me. The next day, the covert narcissist went to the county court house and filed a complaint against me and was able to get a Civil Protection Order against me. I was served by two sheriffs and forced to leave my home with the clothes on my back, no where to go. He cut me off financially. I am in grad school working on a master degree in trauma counseling. I am not working. A week later, he filed for divorce. So you see… covert narcissists do file for divorce once their mask slips and you see them for who they are. The COO was his way of discarding me. It was the ultimate stonewall and it was meant to silence me. They cannot have you expose them for who they are. They cannot have you hold them accountable, so they silence you!

  47. I am a spouse of a covert narcissist. We have been married 47 years, we are both Christians, and for some reason, all the behaviors that have been going on for years are now getting much worse. I don’t know how to manage him. Divorce is not an option. Now that I have retired, life is really difficult. What can I do? I am usually an enthusiastic and happy person, but I feel myself getting depressed and sad more often. I need tools to live with him. We have been to a counselor, but my husband is always really nice and fake with the counselor.

    1. Coping effectively is an ongoing challenge for women who choose to stay married to men who have been diagnosed as narcissistic. The “grey rock” method is sometimes advised, but that can be difficult to be authentic and a “grey rock.” I would suggest all women in your situation get a good coach or therapist who can help them to define boundaries and learn how to reinforce them. Couples therapy is not recommended for the reason you just stated.

  48. This article describes my 18 year marriage (20 yrs together) more accurately than anything I’ve ever read or tried to articulate to family, friends and even therapists before. It’s as if you were able to take all of my thoughts, feelings and memory of the last 18 years and finally put them into coherent words for me. It gives me such relief!!! I could cry! NO ONE believes me that I’m in an emotionally abusive marriage, and no one will help support me to get out. Starting the whole process secretly on my own with a women’s resource center. Just worried about my 5 kids. Please keep writing and giving more exposure to this topic for women like me. It’s not out in the open nearly as much as it should be.

    1. I understand how u feel as well, I just read my entire relationship on a website. This is exactly my husband to a T. I feel incredibly empty inside and my children also feel his effects.

  49. I want to thank you for this. I found it by accident but it totally explains my 20 year marriage. I always thought a narcissist was someone thinking they are so great but he was the opposite. The covert part really explains it. Since I found your article I have read several books about it and can really see the whole thing for what it was. I left 10 months ago and haven’t been this happy in so long even though I am up to my neck in debt. He was financially abusive as well and I also just learned that was thing. We have a wonderful daughter together and his issues are showing up with her now. His communications are terrible. He has a bad relationship with his dad who has his own issues. I know that’s where this all comes from. I have been in therapy for several years and was the only way I could ever have the strength to leave. He would never get help and is an alcoholic which makes everything worse. But I am on the road to happiness. Thanks again!

  50. I married one and did not realize it at the time. He is all that is described above and more. The kids hate him and my mother, like the song says, "My mama don't like you and she likes everyone". Been married for 16 years and he doesn't realize it but we are on our last leg. It is a shame but I am worth more than this. Just read this and thought to myself, how many people are like this and how did they become this delusional?

    1. I think the most direct answer is: “They stopped trusting themselves (their internal sensations) in favor of trusting him.” We know deep down when we pay attention to ourselves that something is off. But we listen to his words and we think: “Well, he says the right things. He must love me.” And I believe for a lot of partners, they were raised to distrust themselves in favor of trusting “the other.”

      The simplest to say (and hardest to do) is to begin to rely on one’s feelings for “knowing” the truth, instead of ignoring one’s deepest knowledge in favor of another’s words.

      Love is blind, but you don’t have to be.

      Thanks for your comments.

  51. I am in this kind of relationship. But I also have been in the past. Divorced. Attorney. He destroyed my life… well he tried to. And severely affected the relationships with my children (or better said, non-relationships at this point). I am now involved in an even worse relationship that has escalated to physical abuse over the last several years. I am 47 years old. And still a very attractive woman. Healthy and have a kind spirit … I’m not incredibly depressed, despite my circumstances. But I think I do need help. I don’t have money. Medicaid insurance. And the money I do have is in his control. It’s not enough to change my life anyway. He has said he would pay for therapy…

    1. Check out your local community mental health center that will accept your Medicaid and give you help without anyone else’s money. You have a lot of life ahead of you. Learn to choose partners more skillfully.

  52. Reading this article and so many of the comments brought tears streaming down my face, a feeling of being understood and the release of emotions a needed support after months of not being able to see my therapy team.

    I have been married for 23 years and in the past year and a half have really only begun to understand that I am not at fault for everything. This was only possible while physically distancing myself (not fully and definitely not emotionally) for 7 months as I received treatment for a severe eating disorder, anorexia nervosa – restrictive with purging. It took me many months of an amazing therapy team to see the pieces of my life and how they have built where I stand today. As a young girl, I had undiagnosed OCD and ARFID. As I went through life, the my experiences sexual abuse by a babysitter, rape at 16 with an amazing son born from it, started to shape who I was and my self-worth. I met my husband when I was 19 and he had the facade of being supportive and caring- the need to be adored and a white knight syndrome. I have always thought all failings were of my own. We continued our lives together with me living in the shadow of his larger-than-life personality and envying his sense of confidence.

    He helped me believe that the only way to prove my love was through sex and if not given freely, it would be coerced through emotional manipulation or other sexual acts which I would dissociate through. If not given at all, there were many nights that he would use my body as a tool/prop to satisfy his own need with porn. Only now I realize that is not okay and not a normal part of a marriage. His sense of me as a piece of property only intensified after I made a critical mistake in our marriage and hurt him deeply by cheating on him (4 years ago) extremely triggering for him and I understand that. His constant recording, monitoring of all activities, opening my mail and signing my signature, and invasion of me has intensified worse than it was before. He is jealous of any interaction I have…with my kids, dogs, family, or friends and as a result i let many of my relationships suffer. I was made to believe that it is what I deserve.

    Coming back from intensive treatment, I was able to hold some of my growth but without the means to continue treatment (lost job after a year on leave and still trying to get a new one) and needing to come home to provide stability for my kids and ensure they are not the brunt of his lash outs, I am able to see how interconnected things are. I should have listened to my first treatment team and a few others that I cannot heal nor stay in recovery in this environment.

    And then I get angry at myself for not being strong enough to communicate my needs and take action. Even after reading up on many of the tips to dealing with narcissistic behavior, I again fell into the cycle last night. With my oldest son and 4 children together (with the youngest being only 9 and the others adults), I often wonder if I can just last another 9 years. I can see a light in the future but not sure I am strong enough to walk towards it.

    How do others find the strength to not fall into the cycle and to begin to take steps towards a future they can grow in? I don't feel I have a support network I can rely on.

    1. I do believe that you have established a support system of clinical helpers, and that’s an important level of support. Keep that up! The key issue is to understand how you have been seduced into the interactional pattern that is destructive to you. That’s what you can get help to understand more clearly. That, and that another 9 years will not be a cakewalk for your child either. I wish you great strength and wisdom.

  53. PA

    O M G I can’t believe this, I am certain this article is written about my husband 100%,
    For years and years I have been soul searching and trying to work on improvring myself, improve my attitude and my thoughts, as to why I am the crazy one, why I am the problematic wife, why I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, questioning myself and not understanding what was wrong with ME!
    O M G!! It’s NOT me! To finally get clarity is gobsmacking.
    He is always so charming and liked by everyone. Women chase him, right in front of me mind you, and he thrives on it, even men are under his charm and think he is such a gentleman. I am envied by women, saying I am the luckiest woman, I have everything in my husband!
    We have been married for almost 44 years with 4 adult kids and 4 grandkids. All my attention is for my kids and grandkids, which he gets very jealous about, saying I always put him last. I realised today he might be right, With all the horrible things he has said to me and awful things he has done to me, the disrespect and disregard he has shown me since before we were even married, it’s no wonder I put our kids and grandkids first.

    I am crying and feel sad for my heart and soul for the torture I have been putting myself through for over 44 years. I have never spoken to anyone about how he has is treating me.
    I convinced him on two seperate occasions to see a couples Counsellor with me. He said straight off “I am the love of his life, he adores me and doesn’t know what my problem is”. that our an end to couples therapy both times. The Counsellors immediately fell under his charm. I had nowhere to turn and thinking I was not a normal wife!! Thinking I was useless and worthless.

    Thank you for this article, it has enlightened me and given me hope and a little strength. I just need to find courage to stand up for myself successfully with him.
    I don’t know what looks like right now but at least I now know I am not the problem. Don’t get me wrong I am by no means perfect either, nobody is and I still don’t know where or who to turn to for help.

  54. You just described my 30 year marriage to a T! Put 20 years ago I apparently demeaned him as he called it. And has held a grudge and behind the scenes ruin my credit stole my identity, turned my children and family against me and ruined my stole my passion. My business. Once I opened Pandora’s box it has been the most devastating and traumatic experience! When you discover you have come face to face with a person who has no conscience or the ability to be honest or real and it was all a lie. And you were chosen because of your believe in yourself and would be easily manipulated and controlled! It’s a complete violation and betrayal of one’s sense of self and any way of defending yourself of their false sense of reality! By the time you realize that you have under a character attack everyday for thirty years. And the psychological warfare that you were under. It’s to late. And if you yourself have had any unresolved childhood or betrayal issues ir any kind of unresolved emotional or psychological problems! It usually results in not being able to recover from it! In my case that was what he was relying on! But the fastest and best way to heal is knowing one’s self! They are master manipulators and that’s the only way they get their selfish needs met. It’s not personal for them. You could be anyone. So the quicker you accept the reality of the situation. The wicker you can detach and do what you can to protect yourself. They take away your support system will isolate you and leave you with just the clothes on your back. By the time you realize what is happening they have already convinced your family and friends of whatever they can get them to believe and so it only makes it worse to try and convince them of anything else. I have lost my kids and my family. My home, my business, my future, my retirement, and have to start all over again at 58. I can’t be verified by the IRS or Social Security, the credit bureaus. It’s really difficult to say the least. But mental illness is a devastating thing and destroys people and family’s. I have a grandson who just turned one and I have never even seen a picture. The best thing I can tell you is stay true to you. Know that it’s not your fault. Seek help from a professional who specializes in personality disorders. And as long as you know yourself no matter what they say or convince others of, you need to detach from that stuff. Concentrate on yourself, taking care of yourself and getting professional help. And in time things will start to get better and you will be able to get back the the things that are important and your family and friends will come around. You had no control over what happened and it doesn’t matter what he says or did unless you let it! Take your power back and know it will take time and patience and perseverance. You will recover and be able to have a better life without his mental illness become yours.

  55. I have been married 20 years and this is exactly the man I've been married to. I recently left to try a "healing separation", and only 3 months in and I'm already sure I won't be going back. Couples counseling isn't really an option because he refuses to believe he has a problem (after all, he is such a "nice guy"), and I no longer have the strength to try to work it out.

    I realized that I keep reading articles such as this one because even though I already KNOW he's a C.N., I keep thinking I'm the one who is the problem and was wrong for leaving. I've been reading these things to get reassurance that it's not me, it's him. The last paragraph resonated (about them not initiating divorce but basically making you want to leave), and gave me a little sense of comfort about making the decision to separate for my own well-being. Now I have to work on deciding what my next steps are and how to handle my decision, no matter what it is. Thank you for writing this!

    1. You are welcome. Yes, chronic doubt about “whether you are doing the right thing by leaving” is a very common thought in these sorts of marriages. After all, everyone tells you what “a nice guy” he is!

  56. takes us so long to believe in ourselves after the emotional abuse and our adult children confirming it is not normal after being around friends parents in a normal , unconditional loving relationship . We don't see it because we love the other person and have feelings emotions empathy. These covert narcissist have none. And as they get older they are the victims and you question yourself. It's called crazy making, you feel like you are going crazy. And in reality you are just trying to understand it all. Mental health and personality disorders were not talked about until the last few years and people are now talking about it more and getting help. Years ago it frowned upon and even worse the victim would victimized again when asking for help or medication for depression. Covert narcissist will literally kill your soul and spirit, you are not yourself anymore. You think it's the change/midlife/menopause, making you feel that way ( in a long term relationship 33 yrs) then before you know it your life has been nothing but caring and taking care of your family and always put yourself last because that was what you were suppose to do as a mother / wife. I was never allowed to go to school to further my education my income was supplemental. He was the provider. Until you get independent they will always act that way and treat you that way. They don't like equal even though they say they do, they want you codependent. As soon as you are not, they change for a little bit then right back where it use to be and because he changed for a min, you saw hope. It won't change its a cycle . So you either learn how to deal with it and understand it isnt you and don't take it personal, or move on. It's heartbreaking because you truly love this person. Just understand you will never get the same in return.

  57. It's like you wrote this about my husband. Seriously. Knowing that the world will never understand how awful he really is is extremely frustrating. His mother is even worse and I don't understand how I didn't see it before we were married. I guess they both hid their true personalities as well as their strange relationship with each other just long enough. Now it's like a nightmare that never ends. You nailed it – they will threaten divorce over and over and then completely play the victim if you go through with it.
    Good article, thank you for writing it.
    Side note: it appears that your number 3. is missing.

  58. Would love to request a therapist, but your site “recaptcha” requirement is not working. You hit it to verify one isn’t a bot and it just spends and never does anything.

    1. Thank you for letting us know, we will look into that and in the meantime, send you some information over email.

  59. This has been one of the easiest articles to read compared to many others. This was like taking the words out of his mouth and my thoughts out of my head. I’ve been researching this for a very long time so I already know. However this article should be shared because it is so easy to read and understand. I’ve been with him since I was 16. I am now 23, with a 3 year old son. It’s very heartbreaking knowing now what is to be true and yet I have no way of getting out. I guilt myself a lot. And I’m not sure what the future holds.

  60. My husband and I have been married 30+ years three children five grandchildren. He only relates to sex as it’s an obligation for me to him. He always belittles me like I can never keep the house clean enough or keep his laundry done. I have to listen to him every 3 to 4 days telling me how he only has one pair of jeans left or one pair of underwear or socks And he has a probably 100 pair of socks because if he doesn’t have what he needs clean he’ll go buy more. He never gets rid of anything and calls me a hoarder. Him helping is cooking dinner and making a mess that consist of me cooking dinner, three times and walks out of the kitchen and never scrapes a plate or puts away anything so I spend the rest of my evening cleaning up his mess , when I cook he stands over me watching to tell me how to do it the majority of the time. I can’t drive my own car if he’s in it because I’m not good enough, we have no conversations unless it’s about what he wants. When we go out with friends. It’s only the people that he chooses , we’ve had a place at the lake and for a few years and I’ve never been able to invite any of the people that I have , my friends unless they’re his friends. He talks down to all our family , my son the most . He’s a racist against black and Mexicans and my granddaughter that we’ve been raising since she was five months old and is now 17 is 1/4 Mexican. She’s been telling me for a few years now that he’s a narcissist and that she can’t stand being around him. She asked me yesterday if she could start seeing a therapist because of him and her parents who she hasn’t spoke to in over eight years. He’s the life of the party when we go out with friends, at mine and everyone else’s expense . Everything in our life that hasn’t went right is my fault , and he never lets me live anything down not even some thing from 25 years ago.

  61. The information you have given is the exact husband i am living with for the last 34years. It is like you were talking about him….. everything is exact behavior he exhibits. I desparately need Spouse Counseling to Recover from Covert Narcissism.

    1. Be sure to ask ahead of time: “Do you have experience working with women or men who have left spouses who are covert or passive-aggressive narcissists? If they have no idea what you’re talking about, try someone else. -Dr. K

  62. This is very much my husband, he is definitely a covert narcissist. He always feels entitled and overconfident, and most often he doesn't accept opinions. He imposes a Mr. Nice Guy character though he is very kind and helpful by nature. What I don't like about him is that he always considers others over himself, even if others have already done wrong to him, he still thinks that it is his mistake. Even if he is already belittled he is still humble. I just want him once in a while, to consider himself.

  63. Here's a black humour joke–
    What's worse than a husband who's a covert narcissist?
    A covert narcissist husband who is also a litigation lawyer.

    Absolute hell.

    Together for 46 years, married 42, 3 kids and 3 grandbabies. It all means nothing to him except what more can he take from me. Because (in his words) it's all transactional. Me, family, friends, community, our life together, just a business transaction. Of course there's a new (younger, $) woman to feed his narcissistic supply, too much effort to leave me otherwise. Which he actually said to me "wasn't worth the effort to leave before".

    Ouch! It hurts so much……

    I wish I had known about covert narcissism years ago. Instead of just wondering why I was constantly walking on eggshells.

    1. Check local therapists to ask: “Who has experience working with personality disorders?” Then pick one and plan to be uncomfortable, feeling “unfairly accused” and “misunderstood.” See what you can learn throughout it, and expect it to take 1x a week for a few years, at least. Longer, if you have a history of trauma.

  64. Wish there was a button to swap gender roles for this article. It's a little difficult to keep doing it mentally, keeping the pronouns and narrative properly intact. Why "husbands"? Why not "spouses"?

    This is my wife to T.

  65. You’ve literally described the relationship I’ve just left. We dated for 3 years… only seeing each other on Sundays because of our schedules. Every Sunday was a joy with him, although I spent most of the date listening to him talk about himself. When I moved in a year ago, the fireworks started and a switch was flipped. I realized that I truly didn’t know him. Living with this man was a rollercoaster of highs and lows. He would stonewall, gaslight, manipulate… and not just with me. He did this with his 14 year old son who lived with us. It was heartbreaking. Halfway through the year living together, I started to lose interest in anything sexually related with my ex. His horrible behavior was such a turn off. Also, he never initiated, I always had to do the work for a healthy sex life. He claimed to “stop trying” when he never started. Whenever we would have a disagreement, it would lead to a massive meltdown. He would scream at me to get out of his house. He didn’t actually want me to leave, he was doing this to end the discussion and control me. He would later promise to work on communicating, but never did. He kicked me out a few times… it was shocking and insulting. I was so attached to his son and the two cats, so I stayed. However, I told him that if he did it again, I would actually leave. Well, he did it again… he kicked me out after another senseless meltdown. I moved out 2 weeks ago, and I’m seeking therapy. He is a deeply selfish narcissistic man who is loved by his coworkers, yet he terrified his son and girlfriend at home. His coworkers have no idea who they are dealing with. He has only been working there for a little over a year. Perhaps one day they will see the truth. He truly is a monster. I feel so sorry for his son. He’s such a kind and loving child. I told my ex’s mother and sister some of what happened. They promised to check in on the boy, but had nothing to say about the emotional abuse. I suppose they had always known about him, but hoped for the best. What a nightmare. I’ve lost 4 years of my life to this man, but I’m slowly gaining self respect and dignity back. I know the warning signs and red flags now… I will never let this happen to me again.

  66. Wow. That article perfectly described my husband and I. We have been married for 5 years together for 12. My dad died in 2019 and things have just been bad. He completely turned on me claiming that I'm someone I'm not. I feel like all the things in the article are true. What do I do. We have 3 kids together.

  67. Thank you so much! This is the most relatable article.

    I’m not sure what to do. I have teenagers with a CN and don’t know if I should I stay or get a divorce. It’s gotten more intense over the years. Though I worry if we get a divorce, the smearing and all the other tactics will get worse and then it may affect the kids’ stability, including some of their relationships. I also think after a divorce, the kids and I can have peace (and happiness) in our home. I make an effort to have fun now, especially when CN is gone, but his tactics also drain me – I’m tired a lot, especially when he’s around. I keep going back and forth, is divorce, or (5+) more years the better option?

    1. Consider working with an individual therapist who have a good working knowledge of covert narcissism. It will help you to get clearer no matter what you decide. -Dr. K

  68. Hello!
    My husband is a covert narcissist (I absolutely believe this after 23 years of marriage). He lies regularly, takes my things and puts them in different places, comes across as a people pleaser but there is no close or "real" relationship, his reputation is of utmost importance to him, he denies almost everything, I believe he is either hacking my phone or looks at it regularly, doesn't get together with his friends unless they call him, his mother once told me he was "special," I saw him have a really weird contorted face not that long ago which was very unsettling (first time I saw that), schmoozes people, especially women, plays only the good guy with our son unless I push him into being an actual parent (even then has a very difficult time being a parent), smoked a cigarette the other day in a restaurant bathroom (!), doesn't let people in on the highway, will do things for me but only 80% so I then get mad and he has lame excuses (ALL THE TIME), will actually get something from the store I said not to get (don't buy this if you can only get it in the large bottle – and then brings home the large bottle). Living and being married to this person is maddening. He flips everything around on me, never says he sorry FOR ANYTHING. For a long time I apologized to him! Then I started paying attention and realized it was actually him, but he twists and turns things so much it is confusing. Then I started reading about gaslighting and realized THAT'S what he is doing. He is a major gaslighter. HELP! We have debt that needs to be paid off, have a son in college (sophmore), I live in a city with no family and only a few friends, one of which thinks he is amazing (UGH). I don't think there is any help for him – there are so many things wrong here. He is going to the Amen clinic tomorrow for a spect brain scan that I told him he had to get. I'm at my wits end and don't believe I can continue living like this. I can only be "happy" for a few days or a week before he pulls something again that brings me way down (like missing items).

    1. Gaslighting is serious abuse. I also find it interesting that many people find it impossible to get out of debt when they live with a covert narcissist because they refuse to cooperate with a budget or hide money. Find a therapist or trusted other to talk to. Learn how to maintain your own boundaries. It’s not an easy process and it will take time. I wish you courage. -Dr. K

  69. Wow…just..wow. Finally an article that is so incredibly accurate about covert narcissism. You’ve really described my experience and said things here that I’ve been searching for for years. A few years back, right around the time I couldn’t take it anymore and was crying out to God for answers I had a dream that my spouse was “an empty suit”. He actually looked like a cartoon that had air pumped into his suit but underneath was nothing. There wasn’t even a body. And he strutted around trying to appear important.

    I’m so grateful I got out soon enough that in 10 years it’ll be a just a blip in my younger days.

    I also dealt with compulsive sexual entitlement (Omar Minwalla) on top of covert narcissism. I could go on and on about my story but I will go back to this article for years to come. Bless you 🙏🏼

  70. This is exactly my husband! You nailed it all! Thank you! I've felt crazy for decades. We were married 35 years, and he basically lived a second life all of those years and admitted it. I had to file for divorce just like you said, and now, his second wife has left him. He doesn't fit the overt narcissist category, but this covert definition fits perfectly!

  71. What would you recommend therapy-wise for someone trying to recover from 30+ years of covert narcissistic abuse (which is EXACTLY as you described above)?

    1. I would recommend committing yourself to a skilled individual therapist who can help you regain your dignity. It will not be short-term work, FYI. Check your medical issues as related to this abuse as well. -Dr. K

  72. Thank you for this article. It leaves a knot in my stomach. This describes my friend’s boyfriend to a T and she keeps making excuses for him. They just had a baby, she spent her entire pregnancy crying and unsupported by him. He had no empty and is so selfish. But to the world, he is such a nice guy! And to make matters worse, she is about to move across the States with him, away from her family and friends. I sent her your article, she admits that he is like that but is unable to stand up to him and is still wanting to make the relationship work! He doesn’t like me because he knows I can see him for who he is. I am so worried and heartbroken and I don’t know what to do. I sure hope she’ll wake up before the big move. Thank you for writing this article. I still hope it will help her see him for what he is.

    1. It’s time to help her to help herself, Jenny. Forget about your focus on her marriage. Understand that it is her empathy and understanding (features your probably love in her) that prevent her from advocating for herself. This she needs to use more wisely. Encourage her to get individual help. -Dr. K

  73. Of all the articles, blogs and other information provided regarding narcissism; marriage and divorce; your article was so painfully accurate I had to reach out. For 32 years I’ve felt as if I was crazy…

  74. I had a very hard time reading this. Most of the time I feel like I'm going crazy…its all me.. This is my 2nd marriage 17years
    First marriage 24.

    1. Feeling like you are to blame is a frequent occurrence. That’s not by accident. Many CN husbands paint themselves as victims who are abused by their wives. -Dr. K

  75. Married for 40+ years and have a long saga. Your article describes my H almost to a T. I've been diagnosed with ptsd dt my H. I'm in a Zoom group now which says couples therapy doesn't work when the H is a narcissist. They have to have prolonged, individual therapy and even that is doubtful. If you've had success with couples where the H is a covert narcissist, could you send me info if you are currently scheduling? We could self-pay. Thanks –

    1. Hi Carol, It would be a much more positive sign if your covert narcissistic husband were writing to ask how he might be able to change to save the relationship. This would indicate that he sees something, anything amiss in himself. This is one of the reasons why couples therapy is ineffective with this or most other (what we call) “ego-syntonic” personality disorders. Ego-syntonic refers to ideas that are acceptable to the self and compatible with one’s values and ways of thinking. Most narcissistic husbands believe that you are the problem…that you need to change, that they are fine the way they are, or if they aren’t fine, you are to blame. Couples therapy, to work, needs two people who are willing to accept their contribution to the problem and be willing to make changes in themselves. This is what is often missing with narcissistic spouses. They come wanting the therapist to agree that YOU need to change. That never works out well. -Dr. K

  76. Your article had dropped my jaw! This is literally my life. My husband is well love by all, would do anything for anyone, with a few exceptions me and the kids.

    The last line of your article blew me away. I am currently in a long term marriage (just over 30 yrs) and feel he is pushing me to divorce him. I have always told people he is a narcissist but no one believes it because he will jump through hoops for anyone outside the home but inside different story.

    He also does not really seem to have any emotions, like either way, he always is happy 24/7, nothing ever bothers him, unless of course I am along for his assistance. That has always felt weird to me.

    So shocked, but happy to finally be able to put a finger on it.

    1. Thank you for reaching out, someone from our team will send you more information shortly about Dr. K’s availability.

    1. Nope. There is only a tiny percentage of health insurance companies that pay for couples therapy. If yours is one of them, you can submit the claim yourself. -Dr. K

  77. May I please have your contact information for your couples therapy. This is the first time I have ever read anything that has been so spot on with how everything is happening , how I am feeling, what my husband seems to be feeling, what he does express and show and say. There is a very troubled childhood for him and I believe still affects him now but help henjiar won’t seek unless someone does the seeking for him. Please I am begging for help to save my marriage

  78. Hi – I’m not in the market for a couples therapy because I’m already separated. But I just want to say that I never read anything, until now, that captured my experience so perfectly as your description of the covert narcissist husband. Reading this helped me so much to give language and clarity to the painful confusion that I endured, and still deal with in our coparenting relationship. I just wanted to thank you!

  79. I cannot believe that I have just read this article-I could have written it.I was starting to blame myself entirely for a disastrous 43 years of marriage to " a nice bloke".The small details you describe are so perceptive and accurate in describing my relationship .I am at a stage where I am beginning to think I must be the abusive one and that the unloving , unempathetic , emotionally cruel but "truly wonderful "man I married is a victim of me.
    Your words have given me a new sense of sanity and renewed belief in my own analysis of the situation.Sadly I have to continue living in this isolating emotional desert as my husband will not cooperate in moving to separate and to work out a financial arrangement. I am currently working on how to live separately under the same roof
    Thank you for this illuminating article which I will keep close and 're read and maybe even commit to memory !!!

  80. This is truly amazing. My ex husband! Did you know him? I was with him for 27 years have been divorced for 14 and still try to make sense of my marriage. Everything that is said about the covert narcissist husband rings so true it hurts. His latest statement to my two daughters is that he was too good for me and how could I possibly leave someone like him! That says it all.
    I continue my healing but the sadness I feel is still palpable. It was so difficult to escape and build my own life but I did. How could I fall in love with someone so lacking in any real feeling for anyone but himself? That is a question I am still trying to answer.

  81. My husband never comes down Christmas morning to see the kids opening their gifts, he always makes an argument so he doesn’t have to take part, he leaves his gifts from the kids unopened and makes it out like we’ve done something, he then likes to give the quiet treatment and sulk for days, the atmosphere makes us all very edgy and anxious, he really seems to get off on controlling the mood of the house. The kids are all old enough to know what’s going on and it makes them incredibly sad and angry…he’s like this in general but worse at Christmas

  82. My wife accused me of being a covert narcissist during a one-and-done MC session in Aug 2021. Which caused me to really evaluate myself because I felt that our marriage of 20 years simply suffered the normal wear and tear of life plus having two teenagers around.

    Then she stopped talking to me completely from Sept thru Feb. Had applied for and was hired for a job (her first in about 10 years). Never said a word about the job to me; not where she worked, her salary, what her boss or co-workers were like. She just went about her business while slowly removing me from her life.

    I see my mistakes now. That doesn't necessarily make me a narcissist. And she's not perfect either.

    I over-focus on the kids and not enough attention to her. Yes, I did tend to elevate my needs higher than hers. Yes, I did not give enough emotional support. I was not always there when she needed me. She does tend to reject a lot of things; Mother's Day flowers, Valentines' Day; gifts I selected for her, she almost always returned them. After a while I just started giving her a card and cash.

    Is it narcissistic to want to please your wife with something? Most of our arguments were almost always something financial. She is not a heavy spender on luxury stuff, but she is just not good with money; never wants to write out a budget, doesn't manage her checkbook.

    Sex life was fine, no complaints but then Pandemic came and with both kids home from school, sex was out. She has a fear of discovery. Also she went thru a phase of menopause which I'm not sure that is complete or not. She's 50 now.

    I supported her interests. She enjoys painting and is actually quite accomplished in it. Then she said I didn't spend enough money on it.

    In this past year, in addition to the 6-month silent treatment, she turned her back on me completely; not sharing meals, not sleeping in the same bed anymore. Her behavior grew more and more hostile, I don't want to use the word contempt but that's what it felt like. She finally consulted a lawyer and filed for divorce after I couldn't take it anymore and blew up at her. Maybe she planned it this way.

    Mean, heartless words about our marriage right before I left.

    Ok, look, I admit to being lazy, watching football on Sundays, spending too much time on the Internet, reading books, following the markets. But I was a steady worker, don't drink, never laid a hand on her, was a good father, went to Church with them on Sundays. Was on good terms with her family. No infidelity. Selfish, I mean, who isn't?

    I'm not in love with myself. I don't go beyond shaving showering and getting dressed. I don't try to lead people or influence their behavior. Did I manipulate her or intimidate her? I'm trying to search for examples but I can't find many. I gave her a lot of freedom. Out with her girlfriends sometimes to 1 or 2 in the morning. Let her spend hours on the phone, and I mean a 2- or 3-hour phone call was not out of the ordinary for her when she hooked up with her girlfriends.

    I think she brainwashed herself, or someone else brainwashed her into believing things about me that are simply not true.

    I'm far from perfect, but I am no narcissist.

  83. My husband is like that and I finally said I wanted a divorce and he lied of course and screwed me over financially. He broke everything I liked, just the purple one, he continually set out to destroy me and my feelings and everyone thinks he's wonderful including my daughter because used to make me so angry. He coopted people at tennis so everyone shuns me because he's such a NICE GUY. I could write a book on him and his behaviour.
    Now I am stuck and feel so bad all the time, when I should be over the moon and instead feel devastated, I despise him. People need protection from people like him.

  84. Some good points it seems…. But laced with that same old ambiguous bullshit that fits all relationships at some point on the spectrum between ideal and unpleasant…

    It’s just frustrating to see that a lot if this is simply someone searching to finding the right amount of justification to valid a decision they made or considering to make…

    Not an answer, rather someone of authority or expert to co-sign their actions … regardless… of anyone or anything else…

  85. This has got to be one of the best articles written on bringing to light the covert behavior the victim endures. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it or is not educated on it; it can seem like the victim is the altered one. Thank god there's more and more education being provided.
    Thank you

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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.

  90. 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.

  91. 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

  92. 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.

  93. 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!

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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!

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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?

    1. As a therapist who is also married to a covert narcissist, you stated you have BPD; as a therapist I would address/target the trauma you experienced as a child. If you haven’t disclosed that to your therapist, I would start there.

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

  103. I feel like you were a fly on the wall watching my 21 year marriage. Reading through the 7 traits, I kept saying "oh.my.gosh. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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

  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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.

  109. 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

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

      1. I’m worried about the woman’s message about the threats written on her possessions. I wonder if she used her real name. If so, that post could put her in danger. Are you able to remove it?

  112. 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?

  113. 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?

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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.

  118. 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.

  119. 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.

  120. 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.

  121. 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

  122. 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

  123. 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.

  124. 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

  125. 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.

  126. 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.