Overt And Covert Narcissist In A Relationship
Overt And Covert Narcissist In A Relationship

Narcissism is a term that’s thrown around quite often in discussions about relationships. But within the realm of narcissism, there are two distinct personalities – the overt narcissist and the covert narcissist. These personalities can significantly affect the dynamics of a relationship.

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of overt and covert narcissists in a relationship. We’ll explore their defining traits, how they operate, and the impact they have on their partners.

Understanding these aspects is crucial for anyone dealing with or curious about the intricacies of narcissistic relationships. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey with compassion and insight.

Understanding Overt Narcissists

Definition of Overt Narcissism

To comprehend the nuances of overt and covert narcissists in relationships, we must first dissect the overt narcissist’s character. Overt narcissism is characterized by an extravagant display of self-importance and an insatiable need for admiration.

Overt narcissists are the ones you might recognize more easily. They often exhibit grandiose behaviors, seeking the spotlight and constantly talking about their achievements. Their sense of entitlement and self-centeredness are prominent, and they tend to dominate conversations.

Typical Traits of Overt Narcissists

Here are some key traits commonly associated with overt narcissists:

  • Grandiosity: They have an inflated sense of self-importance and regularly boast about their accomplishments.
  • Entitlement: Overt narcissists believe they deserve special treatment and often expect others to cater to their needs.
  • Arrogance: They come across as self-assured, sometimes to the point of arrogance.
  • Lack of Empathy: Empathy is often a missing trait in overt narcissists. They struggle to understand or care about others’ feelings.
  • Manipulative Tendencies: They may use people and situations to their advantage, often without remorse.

Impact of Overt Narcissists on Their Partners

Being in a relationship with an overt narcissist can be challenging. Their behavior can lead to:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Constantly being in the shadow of an overt narcissist’s grandiosity can erode their partner’s self-esteem.
  • Emotional Drain: The emotional demands of dealing with an overt narcissist can be exhausting.
  • Control Issues: Overt narcissists often seek control in the relationship, leading to power struggles.
  • Isolation: Partners may find themselves isolated from friends and family due to the narcissist’s dominating presence.

Understanding Covert Narcissists

Definition of Covert Narcissism

While overt narcissists are more overtly self-centered, covert narcissists operate in a subtler manner. Covert narcissism is characterized by an underlying sense of superiority and an intense need for admiration, often masked by humility or shyness.

These individuals may appear introverted, modest, and even self-deprecating on the surface, making it challenging to spot their narcissistic tendencies.

Typical Traits of Covert Narcissists

Let’s explore some key traits commonly associated with covert narcissists:

  • Insecurity: Covert narcissists are deeply insecure beneath their facade of modesty, which can drive their need for constant reassurance.
  • Needy Behavior: They often require excessive validation and may become upset if they don’t receive it.
  • Passive-Aggressive: Covert narcissists may resort to passive-aggressive tactics when their needs are not met or when they feel slighted.
  • Manipulative: Like their overt counterparts, covert narcissists can be manipulative, though their tactics tend to be more subtle.
  • Controlling: They may try to control situations and people behind the scenes, subtly influencing outcomes.

How Covert Narcissists Operate in Relationships

Covert narcissists have their unique way of functioning within relationships. They may:

  • Play the Victim: Covert narcissists often portray themselves as victims to elicit sympathy and attention.
  • Control Emotions: They might use emotional manipulation to maintain control, making their partner feel responsible for their happiness.
  • Maintain a Facade: They carefully construct an image of modesty and selflessness, making it challenging for others to see their true nature.

Unique Challenges Being in a Relationship with a Covert Narcissist

Being in a relationship with a covert narcissist comes with its own set of challenges:

  • Emotional Confusion: Partners may feel constantly confused by the covert narcissist’s mixed messages and behaviors.
  • Self-Doubt: Covert narcissists can erode their partner’s self-worth and create self-doubt.
  • Walking on Eggshells: The fear of triggering the narcissist’s passive-aggressive or manipulative behaviors can lead to a tense environment.
  • Isolation: Similar to overt narcissists, covert narcissists may isolate their partners from friends and family.

Overt and Covert Narcissist in a Relationship: What to Expect

Because overt and covert narcissists are very different, when an overt and covert narcissist come together in a relationship, the ensuing dynamics can be intricate and emotionally taxing. Let’s delve deeper into what you can anticipate when these two distinctive personalities collide.

#1. Power Struggles: Battle for Dominance

When you have an overt and covert narcissist in a relationship power struggles are inevitable.

Overt narcissists are driven by their insatiable need for admiration, often seeking to assert control and dominance within the relationship overtly. They thrive on being in the spotlight, monopolizing conversations, and making decisions without considering their partner’s input. This dominating behavior often leads to a constant struggle for power, where their partner’s wishes are frequently sidelined.

Covert narcissists, however, employ a subtler form of control. They may feign modesty and a willingness to yield but subtly manipulate situations to ensure their desires are met. This passive-aggressive approach often leaves their partner feeling unheard and powerless, as the covert narcissist quietly steers the relationship in their preferred direction.

#2. Manipulation: The Art of Control

Both overt and covert narcissists are masters of manipulation, each with their distinct strategies. Overt narcissists employ direct tactics, resorting to guilt-tripping, emotional outbursts, or extravagant displays of anger or sadness to achieve their goals. They make it clear that they expect their partner to comply with their wishes, using emotional pressure as leverage.

Covert narcissists, on the other hand, specialize in subtle manipulation. They skillfully use passive-aggressive tactics, such as sulking, playing the victim, or employing subtle emotional blackmail. These tactics can be challenging to detect, and victims may find themselves gradually giving in to the covert narcissist’s demands without realizing the extent of the manipulation.

#3. Idealization and Devaluation: The Emotional Whirlwind

In the early stages of a relationship, narcissists often idealize their partners. They shower them with affection and attention, making their partners feel cherished and adored. However, this phase is fleeting, and the way overt and covert narcissists handle it differs:

Overt narcissists may abruptly shift to criticism and devaluation. They may become overly critical, belittling their partner’s opinions or achievements, causing emotional turmoil and confusion.

Covert narcissists, on the other hand, tend to gradually withdraw affection and support. They may create emotional distance by becoming aloof or emotionally unavailable, leaving their partners feeling devalued and perplexed by the sudden change in behavior.

#4. Lack of Empathy: Emotionally Unavailable

Empathy is a rare commodity in narcissistic relationships, and how overt and covert narcissists demonstrate this lack of empathy varies:

Overt narcissists often outright dismiss their partner’s feelings, portraying an inability to understand or care about them. They may even ridicule their partner’s emotional responses, causing emotional pain and isolation.

Covert narcissists are skilled at feigning empathy, but it’s often a façade. They may appear to understand their partner’s feelings but lack genuine understanding or concern. This emotional distance can leave their partners feeling isolated, as if they’re emotionally adrift in the relationship.

#5. Gaslighting: The Tangled Web of Reality

Gaslighting, a manipulative tactic, is a tool frequently used by both overt and covert narcissists to control their partners. So what happens when you have an overt and covert narcissist in a relationship?

Overt narcissists may blatantly deny their wrongdoings, even in the face of evidence. They might resort to aggressive gaslighting, making their partner question their sanity and memory.

Covert narcissists employ subtler gaslighting tactics, such as selective forgetfulness or creating confusion around past events. They subtly manipulate reality, causing their partner to doubt their own perception of events and leaving them feeling emotionally disoriented.

#6. Emotional Rollercoaster: Living on Edge

Being in a relationship with either type of narcissist can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Their unpredictable mood swings and erratic behaviors keep their partners constantly on edge, unsure of what to expect next. The volatility of the relationship can lead to chronic stress and anxiety.

#7. Blame Game: Shifting Responsibility

Narcissists are quick to shift blame onto others for any issues within the relationship, but how they do it varies:

Overt narcissists directly blame their partners for problems, often using harsh words and criticisms. This blame can be relentless and emotionally damaging.

Covert narcissists subtly imply their partner’s responsibility, often using passive-aggressive tactics. They may play the victim, making their partner feel guilty for their unhappiness. This perpetuates a cycle of blame and guilt within the relationship.

#8. Validation Seeking: Thirst for Admiration

Both overt and covert narcissists have an unquenchable thirst for validation and admiration, but their methods of seeking it differ:

Overt narcissists are more overt in their pursuit of admiration. They demand constant praise and may become upset or angry if they don’t receive it. Their need for validation is often expressed loudly and aggressively.

Covert narcissists seek validation in subtler ways. They may use passive tactics like playing the victim or fishing for compliments indirectly. Their constant need for affirmation may leave their partners feeling emotionally drained and manipulated.

#9. Isolation: Separation from Support

Similar to their overt counterparts, covert narcissists often work to isolate their partners from friends and family. This isolation strategy makes their partners more reliant on the narcissist for emotional support, further entangling them in the toxic dynamic.

#10. Boundary Violation: Crossing Limits

Narcissists typically disregard personal boundaries, but how they do so may vary:

Overt narcissists may boldly invade their partner’s privacy, control their social interactions, or make significant decisions without consulting their partner, displaying a blatant disregard for boundaries.

Covert narcissists employ subtler tactics to cross boundaries. They may emotionally manipulate their partner into surrendering their personal space and decisions willingly. The violation is less conspicuous but equally damaging.

#11. Competing Needs: Partner’s Needs vs. Narcissist’s Demands

In a narcissistic relationship, the needs of the narcissist often take precedence over their partner’s needs. This leaves the partner feeling unimportant and unfulfilled, creating an imbalanced dynamic.

Overt narcissists are more overt in their demands, often blatantly prioritizing their own desires without considering their partner’s feelings or needs.

Covert narcissists may appear more accommodating but subtly manipulate situations to ensure their needs are met. This passive-aggressive approach can be emotionally draining as their partner struggles to assert their own needs.

#12. Emotional Drain: The Exhausting Cycle

Navigating the constant emotional demands and drama of a narcissistic relationship can be emotionally exhausting. This persistent drain on one’s emotional resources can lead to burnout, increased stress, and a diminished sense of well-being.

#13. Difficulty Leaving: Breaking Free Is Hard

Ending a relationship with a narcissist can be exceptionally challenging due to their manipulative tactics:

Overt narcissists may resort to aggressive guilt-tripping, emotional outbursts, or threats to keep their partner from leaving.

Covert narcissists employ subtler methods, often playing the victim or emotionally manipulating their partner into staying. Breaking free from this emotional entanglement can be an uphill battle.

#14. Relationship Instability: A Chaotic Rollercoaster

Narcissistic relationships are marked by instability, with frequent ups and downs. This instability can create a sense of chaos and uncertainty that adds to the emotional turmoil within the relationship.

#15. Safety Concerns: Escalating to Abuse

In extreme cases, narcissistic behavior can escalate to physical or emotional abuse, posing significant safety concerns for the partner. It’s crucial to seek help and support if you find yourself in such a perilous situation.

Understanding these complex dynamics is the first step towards navigating a relationship with an overt or covert narcissist.

Closing Thoughts

Navigating a relationship with either an overt or covert narcissist can be emotionally draining and challenging. But when you have both an overt and covert narcissist in a relationship, the wheels can come off the relationship.

These unique personalities bring their distinctive tactics and dynamics into the partnership, leading to power struggles, manipulation, and emotional rollercoasters.

We hope you found value in this article as we unpacked what could happen when you have an overt and covert narcissist in a relationship.