Covert narcissists are very difficult to detect---even for some clinical professionals. If you have been fooled by a few, don't blame yourself. They are charmingly cunning, under cover operatives. In many cases it can take a spouse years even decades to recognize that they are married to a narcissist. They have taken the stinging blows of cruel projections, believing that they were at fault.
The covert narcissist uses the camouflage of being a low key person who doesn't make waves. He/she appears to be unobtrusive even humble. Covert narcissists scurry around, waiting to help you---at your service, especially in the courtship phase and beginnings of the marriage. You wonder:"This is too good to be true but this guy is willing to do anything for me." Many spouses are so taken with this total devotion and apparent selflessness that they don't see the red flags flying in their peripheral view.
Covert narcissists begin revealing themselves with small digs and criticisms. You wave it off and tell yourself that your spouse has a lot of career pressures and you have to be understanding. They play a game which I call "I'm up; you're down" . They know when you are vulnerable and at a low emotional ebb. They often take these times to brag about how indispensable they are at work. This is based on their claim of meticulousness; they don't make any mistakes. This is untrue but the accusations are coming so fast you feel dizzy. Without warning they point out major mistakes you have made (some of them going back decades). They pick away at you until they draw a strong emotional response. They have caught you by surprise and you are very upset. You feel badly about yourself. You are confused and believe that what your spouse is telling the truth. He isn't; it's a lie. You feel emotionally unsteady and trapped. These accusations go deeply into the victimized spouse and reside there. If you have had an abusive childhood and were neglected, it is possible that you have carried feelings of inferiority and inadequacy into your adulthood. This combined with the continuing attacks of your convert narcissistic spouse creates a psychologically toxic environment for you.
Some spouses finally recognize that they are being tormented by someone who has a serious psychological disorder. Many spouses research and discover that they are married to a narcissist who has disguised himself as a good person. He has all of the major traits: lack of empathy, deceptive, frequent rages, manipulative, obsession with a perfect image, chronic patterns of cruelty.
The victimized spouse often makes the decision to sever the marital non relationship. After many years of being the recipient of verbal and emotional abuse, some of these individuals find that quality psychotherapy helps them to re-set their attitudes and feelings about themselves and to recognize that they are good human beings. They are not flawless but real and capable of giving and receiving love. The move forward to lead lives of inner peace, use of their unique gifts and feeling entitled to be treated with respect. To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth, visit my website:thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: International
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life