Covert Narcissist Discard Signs
Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

Dealing with a covert narcissist can be an emotionally draining experience, especially when, by definition, you are unaware of their hidden agendas and manipulative behaviors.

In this article, we will explore covert narcissism and the subtle signs that may signal the impending discard phase in a relationship.

Specifically, we’ll review 25 of the most common covert narcissist discard signs, offering you insights and guidance on recognizing and dealing with these challenging individuals.

Understanding Covert Narcissism

What is Covert Narcissism?

Covert narcissism is a subtype of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) characterized by a unique blend of toxic traits. Unlike their more overt counterparts, covert narcissists appear humble, insecure, and even empathetic on the surface. However, beneath this façade lies a deep-seated need for admiration, a sense of entitlement, and manipulative tendencies.

Key Traits and Characteristics of Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissists exhibit a distinct set of traits that distinguish them from other personality types. These traits include:

  • Hypersensitivity: Covert narcissists are highly sensitive to criticism and rejection, often reacting with intense emotional responses.
  • Perfectionism: They have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, seeking constant validation and praise.
  • Deceitful Behavior: Covert narcissists often engage in manipulative tactics, such as lying and deception, to maintain control.
  • Insecurity: Despite their grandiose façade, covert narcissists have deep-rooted insecurities and a fragile self-esteem.
  • Entitlement: They believe they deserve special treatment and are quick to become resentful when their expectations aren’t met.
  • Grandiose Fantasies: Covert narcissists harbor grandiose fantasies of success and superiority, which they may keep hidden.

Understanding these traits is essential to recognizing the covert narcissist’s behavior throughout the discard phase.

Understanding the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse

To fully grasp the dynamics of covert narcissistic discard signs, it’s essential to comprehend the narcissistic cycle of abuse. This cycle consists of three distinct phases: the Idealization Phase, the Devaluation Phase, and finally, the Discard Phase. Let’s break down each phase to better understand how covert narcissists operate in relationships.

Idealization Phase

The Idealization Phase is the initial stage of a relationship with a covert narcissist, where they shower their partner with love, attention, and affection. During this phase, they seem like the perfect partner, making their victim feel cherished and adored. However, this excessive love-bombing is not genuine but rather a tactic to gain control and secure their source of narcissistic supply.

Love Bombing: Love bombing involves overwhelming the victim with affection, compliments, and gifts. Covert narcissists use this tactic to create a strong emotional bond and dependency.

Devaluation Phase

As the relationship progresses, covert narcissists gradually transition into the Devaluation Phase. In this stage, their true nature begins to surface. They start to criticize, belittle, and emotionally manipulate their partner. This emotional rollercoaster can be bewildering for the victim, who often struggles to reconcile the loving partner they initially met with the abusive behavior they are now experiencing.

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a common tool used by covert narcissists during the Devaluation Phase. They manipulate their partner’s perception of reality, causing them to doubt their own sanity and judgment.

Triangulation: Triangulation involves covert narcissists bringing in a third party, such as an ex-partner or a new romantic interest, to create jealousy and insecurity in their current partner.

Discard Phase

The Discard Phase is the most painful stage of the narcissistic cycle of abuse. This is when the covert narcissist, having extracted as much narcissistic supply as they can, decides to discard their partner. It is during this phase that the subtle discard signs we’ll explore later in this article become evident and understanding them is essential for you to be able to protect yourself from the cruelty of the discard phase.

25 Most Common Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

In this section, we will delve even deeper into the 25 subtle discard signs that often accompany a relationship with a covert narcissist.

Understanding these signs in greater detail is crucial for early recognition and protection from the emotional turmoil that typically accompanies the discard phase.

#1. Gradual Withdrawal

Gradual withdrawal is one of the initial indicators that the discard phase may be looming. Covert narcissists excel at gradually retracting their emotional presence from the relationship. They may do so by diminishing the quality of time spent together, reducing physical affection, or showing less interest in your thoughts and feelings.

For example, they might stop planning special dates or outings, avoid physical intimacy, or become preoccupied with their own interests while neglecting yours. This slow erosion of emotional connection can leave you feeling isolated, unimportant, and increasingly distant from the partner you once knew.

#2. Decreased Communication

A noticeable decline in communication is a significant red flag during the discard phase. Covert narcissists may become less responsive to your calls, texts, and messages. When they do respond, their replies may be vague, evasive, or lacking genuine engagement. This shift in communication patterns can make you feel ignored, unloved, and disconnected from your partner.

Imagine sending heartfelt messages or attempting to initiate conversations, only to be met with silence or indifference. This behavior can foster feelings of frustration, loneliness, and abandonment.

#3. Lack of Emotional Support

As the discard phase approaches, covert narcissists become emotionally unavailable. The lack of emotional support that was once a pillar of your relationship becomes glaringly apparent. They withdraw the empathy and understanding they once offered, leaving you feeling abandoned and alone in your emotional struggles.

For instance, they may dismiss your concerns or feelings, offer shallow or insincere responses, or avoid discussing sensitive topics altogether. This emotional distancing can leave you yearning for the emotional connection and support you once enjoyed.

#4. Blame-Shifting

Blame-shifting is a manipulative tactic covert narcissists employ to shield their fragile self-esteem during the discard phase. They may begin attributing problems in the relationship to your actions or behaviors, making you feel responsible for its deteriorating state.

Picture scenarios where they avoid taking accountability for their actions or deflect blame onto you. They might accuse you of being too demanding, too sensitive, or too critical, effectively shifting the focus away from their shortcomings. This dynamic can erode your self-worth and foster feelings of guilt and self-doubt.

#5. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that intensifies during the discard phase. Covert narcissists use this tactic to distort your perception of reality, creating confusion and self-doubt. They may employ strategies such as denial, misdirection, or trivialization to make you question your own memory, judgment, and sanity.

Imagine being told that something you distinctly remember didn’t happen or being made to believe that your emotions and perceptions are exaggerated or incorrect. Gaslighting can lead to a profound sense of disorientation and make it increasingly challenging to trust your own instincts.

#6. Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive weapon covert narcissists wield to exert control during the discard phase. They may ignore you for extended periods, withholding communication and emotional connection. This strategy leaves you feeling invisible, unimportant, and helpless in your attempts to reestablish contact.

Envision trying to initiate conversations or resolve conflicts only to be met with stony silence or dismissive gestures. The emotional toll of this behavior can be profound, leading to a sense of powerlessness and confusion.

#7. Withholding Affection

Covert narcissists often withhold affection during the discard phase, further exacerbating emotional isolation. Physical expressions of love, such as hugs, kisses, and cuddles, become increasingly rare. The absence of these gestures of intimacy can be deeply distressing, reinforcing the emotional distance between you and your partner.

Imagine longing for physical closeness and warmth, only to encounter coldness and indifference. This absence of affection can evoke feelings of rejection and loneliness.

#8. Undermining Confidence

During the discard phase, covert narcissists may subtly undermine your confidence through criticism and belittlement. They might make negative comments about your appearance, abilities, or choices, eroding your self-esteem over time. By diminishing your self-worth, they keep you vulnerable and dependent on their validation.

Consider scenarios where your partner consistently points out your flaws or shortcomings, leading you to question your own competence and value. This calculated undermining can leave you feeling increasingly inadequate and reliant on their approval.

#9. Selective Memory

Covert narcissists frequently display selective memory during the discard phase, conveniently forgetting important events, promises, or commitments. They may manipulate your perception by denying past agreements or experiences, making you question your own memory and sanity.

Envision a situation where you distinctly recall a promise or agreement, only to have your partner vehemently deny it ever occurred. This gaslighting tactic keeps you perpetually off balance and doubting your own recollections.

#10. Triangulation

As mentioned earlier, triangulation is a manipulation technique covert narcissists use to create jealousy and insecurity during the discard phase. They may involve third parties, such as ex-partners or new romantic interests, in conversations or interactions to elicit emotional reactions and control your behavior.

Imagine your partner casually mentioning interactions with other people who seem to admire or desire them, intentionally triggering feelings of jealousy or inadequacy in you. Triangulation can lead to emotional turmoil, as you grapple with insecurities and doubts about your worth in the relationship.

#11. Passive-Aggressiveness

Covert narcissists become masters of passive-aggressive behavior during the discard phase. They employ sarcasm, veiled insults, and snide comments to hurt you indirectly without taking direct responsibility for their hurtful actions or words.

Picture scenarios where your partner makes comments that, on the surface, appear innocent but carry subtle insults or criticism. This passive-aggressive behavior leaves you questioning whether you’re overly sensitive or paranoid, further undermining your self-confidence.

#12. Inconsistent Behavior

Covert narcissists can be unpredictable in their actions and emotions during the discard phase. They may alternate between moments of affection and coldness, keeping you off balance and uncertain about the state of the relationship.

Imagine a rollercoaster of emotions where your partner oscillates between showering you with affection one moment and withdrawing emotionally the next. This inconsistency can be emotionally destabilizing, leaving you feeling anxious and on edge.

#13. Isolation

Isolation becomes more pronounced during the discard phase as covert narcissists attempt to cut you off from friends and family. They may manipulate situations to keep you away from loved ones or subtly discourage your social interactions, further trapping you in the toxic relationship.

Envision a scenario where your partner expresses disapproval or jealousy when you spend time with friends or family, ultimately deterring you from maintaining these vital connections. This isolation serves to strengthen their control over you, leaving you feeling increasingly isolated and dependent on their presence.

#14. Projecting Insecurities

Covert narcissists often project their insecurities onto you during the discard phase. They make you feel responsible for their emotional turmoil, projecting their own flaws and vulnerabilities onto you. This manipulation tactic is designed to shift the focus away from their behavior and onto your perceived shortcomings.

Consider situations where your partner accuses you of being the cause of their unhappiness or accuses you of behavior that mirrors their own insecurities. This projection can be disorienting and emotionally draining, as you grapple with unfounded guilt and self-blame.

#15. Emotional Coldness

As the discard phase progresses, the emotional detachment of covert narcissists becomes more pronounced. They no longer display the warmth and affection they once did, leaving you feeling unloved and unwanted. This emotional void can be profoundly distressing and isolating.

Picture a relationship where your partner no longer expresses love, tenderness, or emotional connection. The emotional coldness can leave you yearning for the affection and intimacy that were once abundant in the relationship.

#16. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a behavior where covert narcissists refuse to engage in communication or conflict resolution during the discard phase. They may give you the silent treatment, walk away from conversations, or dismiss your concerns, leaving you feeling helpless and unheard.

Imagine attempting to address relationship issues or express your feelings, only to be met with resistance or indifference. Stonewalling can be emotionally crippling, as it creates a profound sense of powerlessness and isolation.

#17. Manipulative Charm

Covert narcissists may momentarily turn on the charm to manipulate your emotions and keep you hooked during the discard phase. They may act affectionate and loving, only to withdraw their affection when it suits their agenda. This behavior keeps you emotionally invested and confused.

Visualize your partner oscillating between moments of tenderness and aloofness, creating emotional whiplash. This manipulation tactic can make it challenging to detach from the relationship, as you cling to the fleeting moments of warmth and connection.

#18. Idealization and Devaluation

Covert narcissists often oscillate between idealizing and devaluing you during the discard phase, causing emotional whiplash. They may alternate between showering you with affection and praise and then swiftly transitioning to criticism and indifference.

Imagine the emotional turbulence of being adored one moment and cast aside the next. This fluctuation can leave you feeling emotionally unstable and uncertain about your partner’s true feelings.

#19. Boundary Violation

They frequently disrespect personal boundaries during the discard phase, invading your privacy, ignoring your requests for space, or disregarding your emotional boundaries. Their actions serve to undermine your autonomy and sense of self.

Envision scenarios where your partner dismisses your need for personal space, invades your privacy, or pressures you to divulge personal information. These boundary violations can lead to feelings of suffocation and a loss of control over your own life.

#20. Sudden Disinterest

Covert narcissists may suddenly lose interest in you and the relationship during the discard phase. This abrupt change in affection and attention can be confusing and hurtful, leaving you questioning what went wrong.

Picture a scenario where your partner’s enthusiasm and affection wane seemingly overnight. This sudden disinterest can trigger feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and anxiety about the future of the relationship.

#21. Competitive Behavior

They may become overly competitive during the discard phase, striving to outshine you and prove their superiority. This behavior can manifest in various ways, such as seeking attention and praise, belittling your achievements, or attempting to one-up you.

Imagine a dynamic where your partner consistently competes for attention or validation, undermining your sense of accomplishment and self-worth. This competitive behavior can breed feelings of insecurity and frustration.

#22. Financial Control

Covert narcissists may assert financial control during the discard phase, manipulating your financial situation to maintain power and control. They might withhold money, monitor your spending, or make financial decisions unilaterally, leaving you financially dependent and trapped.

Consider scenarios where your partner manages the finances, restricts your access to funds, or uses money as a means of control. Financial dependence can create feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, further cementing your reliance on them.

#23. Neglecting Responsibilities

They often neglect their share of responsibilities during the discard phase, leaving you to shoulder the burden of maintaining the relationship and managing day-to-day tasks. This imbalance can be exhausting and frustrating, as you grapple with increased responsibilities and emotional stress.

Imagine a scenario where you find yourself consistently handling household chores, childcare, or other shared responsibilities while your partner avoids their obligations. This neglect can lead to feelings of resentment and overwhelm.

#24. Chronic Criticism

Chronic criticism becomes a weapon during the discard phase. Covert narcissists may constantly nitpick and criticize your choices, appearance, and actions, further eroding your self-esteem and self-worth.

Visualize a relationship where your partner habitually criticizes your decisions, appearance, or behavior. The relentless scrutiny can wear down your self-confidence, leaving you feeling inadequate and unworthy.

#25. Playing the Victim

Finally, during the discard phase, they may play the victim while painting you as the aggressor. This role reversal is a manipulation tactic intended to garner sympathy and deflect responsibility for their actions.

Imagine your partner portraying themselves as the injured party, claiming that they are the one suffering in the relationship, while framing you as the source of their misery. This manipulation can lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame, making it challenging to disentangle yourself from the toxic dynamic.

Recognizing these 25 covert narcissist discard signs in greater detail can empower you to identify and navigate the challenges posed by such individuals. In the closing thoughts section, we will provide final insights on dealing with covert narcissists and offer guidance on moving forward. Stay tuned for valuable information to come.

Closing Thoughts

Dealing with a covert narcissist and navigating the discard phase can be an emotionally challenging journey. It’s crucial to remember that you are not alone, and there is support available. Recognizing the subtle discard signs is the first step toward protecting your emotional well-being.

If you suspect that you are in a relationship with a covert narcissist, seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor can provide valuable insights and strategies for coping. Remember that your emotional health is paramount, and setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care are essential steps in reclaiming your happiness and well-being.

By understanding the dynamics of covert narcissism and recognizing the signs, you can embark on a path towards healing and personal growth. You deserve a healthy and fulfilling relationship, and with the right support, you can find it.