Two Covert Narcissists In A Relationship
Two Covert Narcissists In A Relationship

All relationships based on love and emotion, at some point or the other, face challenges. However, few situations are as bewildering and emotionally taxing as the entanglement of two covert narcissists in a relationship. And it’s this type of relationship that we will analyze in this article.

We’ll begin by covering the basics of covert narcissism. Then we’ll look at the common manipulation tactics used by covert narcissists. And finally we’ll look at the unique challenges that these tactics create when you have two covert narcissists in a relationship with each other.

Understanding Covert Narcissism

To truly comprehend the enigmatic world of two covert narcissists in a relationship, we must begin by delving deep into the mind of a covert narcissist and into the intricacies of covert narcissism itself. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Covert Narcissism?

Covert narcissism, also referred to as vulnerable narcissism, is a subtler yet equally insidious form of narcissistic behavior. Unlike their overt counterparts, covert narcissists possess the uncanny ability to mask their grandiose delusions and self-absorption beneath a veneer of modesty and humility. This facade often leaves others unsuspecting of the underlying narcissistic tendencies, making it a formidable challenge to spot.

Key Traits and Behaviors of Covert Narcissists

Identifying two covert narcissists in a relationship hinges on recognizing the unique traits and behaviors they exhibit. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown:

Insecurity and Neediness

Covert narcissists harbor profound feelings of insecurity and neediness. They incessantly seek validation and admiration from their partners as a means to prop up their fragile self-esteem. Behind their apparent modesty lies an insatiable hunger for external affirmation, making their partners unwitting sources of emotional sustenance.

Manipulative Charm

One of the most disconcerting qualities of covert narcissists is their ability to employ manipulative charm. They can be remarkably charismatic and adept at weaving an illusion of vulnerability that draws people into their orbit. This charm is not an expression of genuine connection but a tool used for self-centered purposes, leaving those ensnared to question their own perceptions.

Lack of Empathy

Empathy is a cornerstone of healthy relationships, but it’s an attribute conspicuously absent in covert narcissists. They struggle to grasp or engage with the emotions of others, rendering them emotionally unavailable partners. The narcissist’s emotional universe revolves solely around their own needs, relegating their partner’s feelings to the shadows.

Emotional Withholding

Covert narcissists often wield emotional withholding as a potent weapon in their manipulation arsenal. They can withhold affection, validation, and emotional support as a means of control. This tactic creates a power dynamic wherein the narcissist becomes the gatekeeper of emotional fulfillment, leaving their partner yearning for scraps of affection.


Projection is a defense mechanism that covert narcissists frequently employ. They project their own insecurities, fears, and flaws onto their partners, effectively blaming them for the narcissist’s internal turmoil. This insidious tactic not only deflects accountability but also perpetuates a cycle of emotional distress for their partners.

Ideal Pairing

In a rather paradoxical twist, two covert narcissists can occasionally find each other and believe they’ve stumbled upon the perfect match. Each partner craves the same elusive combination of admiration and validation, leading to the illusion of a harmonious union. However, beneath the surface lies a power struggle, a competition for emotional sustenance that can turn volatile and destructive.

Understanding these traits and behaviors is the essential first step in unraveling the complexities of two covert narcissists coexisting within a relationship.

In the following section, we will delve deeper into the manipulation tactics these individuals often employ to maintain their dominance and control, creating an environment ripe for emotional turmoil.

Common Manipulation Tactics Used by Covert Narcissists

Now that we’ve laid the foundation for understanding covert narcissism, it’s imperative to explore the manipulation tactics that these individuals frequently employ within relationships. Recognizing these tactics can serve as a shield against the insidious strategies covert narcissists employ. Let’s delve into these strategies:

#1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique covert narcissists use to sow seeds of doubt in their partner’s perception of reality. They manipulate facts, deny previous statements, and invalidate their partner’s emotions, leaving them questioning their own sanity.

For example, a covert narcissist might deny having said hurtful things, causing their partner to doubt their memory and perceptions. They may even claim their partner is overly sensitive or paranoid, further undermining their confidence.

Here are more examples of covert narcissist gaslighting if you’re interested.

#2. Silent Treatment

Another passive-aggressive tactic commonly used by covert narcissists is the silent treatment. When employing this strategy, they withdraw emotionally and refuse to engage in communication. This leaves their partner feeling abandoned, anxious, and desperate for their attention.

Imagine a situation where a covert narcissist abruptly stops talking to their partner for days, refusing to respond to texts or calls. This can leave their partner in a state of emotional turmoil, wondering what they did wrong and desperately seeking reconciliation.

#3. Projecting Blame

Projecting blame is a manipulative tactic wherein covert narcissists deflect responsibility for their actions by attributing them to their partner. They cast themselves as the victim in conflicts, shifting the blame onto their partner. This not only confuses and disorients their partner but also perpetuates a cycle of emotional turmoil within the relationship.

For instance, if a covert narcissist forgets an important anniversary and their partner expresses hurt feelings, they might respond by saying, “You’re so critical and demanding; I can never do anything right.” This effectively shifts the blame onto the partner and invalidates their feelings.

#4. Playing the Victim

Covert narcissists are skilled at portraying themselves as victims in various situations, so much so that there is even a term for it – covert narcissist victim mentality. Covert narcissists craft a narrative where they are the injured party, garnering sympathy and support from their partner. Simultaneously, they avoid taking responsibility for their actions and behavior.

For example, if they are caught lying about an issue, they might tearfully recount past hardships and difficulties in their life to justify their dishonesty. This leaves their partner torn between empathy for their apparent suffering and frustration at the ongoing deception.

#5. Manipulative Pity

Manipulative pity is a tactic used by covert narcissists to exploit their partner’s compassion and empathy. They may exaggerate their suffering or emotional distress to elicit care and attention, effectively keeping their partner emotionally invested and catering to their needs.

Imagine a covert narcissist feigning extreme sadness and vulnerability to ensure their partner’s constant presence and support. This manipulation can lead their partner to feel responsible for the narcissist’s emotional well-being.

#6. Triangulation

Triangulation is a particularly devious manipulation tactic involving the introduction of a third party, often an ex-partner or a potential new love interest, into the relationship dynamic. This creates a sense of competition and insecurity in their partner, ultimately enhancing the narcissist’s sense of power and control.

For instance, a covert narcissist might casually mention an old flame or a new colleague who seems overly interested in them. This can trigger jealousy and insecurity in their partner, driving a wedge between them.

#7. Love Bombing and Devaluation

Covert narcissists are known for their ability to love bomb their partner in the early stages of a relationship, showering them with affection, attention and compliments. However, once they secure the emotional investment, they often transition to devaluation, subjecting their partner to criticism, neglect, and emotional abuse.

#8. Emotional Withholding

Emotional withholding extends beyond just affection. Covert narcissists may hold back emotional support and validation from their partner. They deliberately create a void in the relationship, leaving their partner starved for the emotional connection they initially craved.

Imagine a covert narcissist who, despite their partner’s attempts to communicate their emotional needs, remains emotionally distant and detached. This emotional withholding creates frustration and a deep sense of inadequacy in their partner.

#9. Selective Amnesia

Selective amnesia is a tactic where covert narcissists conveniently forget their promises or commitments. They use this strategy to invalidate their partner’s expectations and maintain control over the relationship. By conveniently “forgetting” important agreements or conversations, they gaslight their partner into doubting their memory and perceptions.

For instance, a covert narcissist might agree to attend a social event with their partner, only to later claim they never committed to it. This leaves their partner feeling confused and doubting their own recollection of the conversation.

#10. Martyrdom

In their quest for superiority, covert narcissists often adopt a martyr complex. They sacrifice their own needs and desires, seemingly for the benefit of their partner or the relationship. However, beneath this selfless facade lies a hidden agenda—they expect admiration and gratitude in return.

Consider a scenario where a covert narcissist goes to great lengths to fulfill their partner’s requests and desires, all while subtly reminding their partner of their selfless acts. This martyrdom fosters a sense of obligation and indebtedness in their partner.

#11. Manipulative Charm

Their charm isn’t limited to the initial stages of a relationship. Covert narcissists can employ manipulative charm at any point to sway their partner’s opinions and decisions. They subtly manipulate their partner, using their charm as a tool to ensure their desires align with their partner’s choices.

For instance, a covert narcissist might employ their charm to convince their partner to make decisions that primarily benefit the narcissist’s agenda. This leaves their partner feeling as though they’ve willingly made choices while being subtly influenced.

#12. Guilt-Tripping

Through guilt-tripping, covert narcissists make their partner feel responsible for their emotional well-being and happiness. They play on their partner’s sense of obligation, creating a cycle of guilt and manipulation.

Imagine a situation where a covert narcissist repeatedly reminds their partner of past sacrifices and difficulties they’ve endured in the relationship. This emotional manipulation leaves their partner feeling guilty and inclined to comply with the narcissist’s wishes to avoid further guilt.

#13. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a tactic where covert narcissists shut down emotionally and refuse to engage in meaningful communication. By employing this strategy, they avoid accountability and maintain control over the narrative of the relationship.

For example, when confronted with their actions, a covert narcissist may respond with complete silence, refusing to acknowledge the issue or engage in discussion. This leaves their partner feeling unheard, frustrated, and powerless.

These are just a few examples of the manipulation tactics covert narcissists employ to maintain their dominance and control within relationships. Recognizing these tactics is essential for safeguarding your emotional well-being in any relationship involving covert narcissists.

Next, we will delve into the unique challenges that arise when two individuals with covert narcissistic tendencies come together in a relationship, shedding light on the complexities of such a partnership.

Challenges With Two Covert Narcissists in A Relationship

As we’ve explored the intricacies of covert narcissism and its manipulation tactics, let’s delve deeper into the unique challenges that arise when two individuals with covert narcissistic tendencies find themselves entwined in a romantic relationship.

#1. Lack of Open Communication

In a relationship where both partners exhibit covert narcissistic tendencies, genuine and open communication can be notably absent. The core of covert narcissism lies in a relentless quest for admiration and validation, making it arduous for either party to authentically connect and share their vulnerabilities. Instead of fostering transparent conversations, they may engage in subtle forms of competition or passive-aggressive behavior, hindering true emotional connection.

#2. Difficulty in Identifying Manipulation

Two covert narcissists in a relationship can be exceptionally skilled at concealing their manipulative tactics. They are intimately familiar with the art of psychological manipulation and may employ these techniques against each other. This mutual manipulation can create a convoluted web of deceit and control, making it challenging for either partner to recognize the subtle nuances of manipulation at play.

#3. Concealed Vulnerabilities

Beneath the facade of apparent self-assuredness, covert narcissists harbor concealed vulnerabilities and insecurities. In a relationship between two covert narcissists, these vulnerabilities often remain hidden beneath layers of manipulation and self-absorption. This concealment can lead to a profound lack of authentic connection and emotional intimacy, leaving both partners emotionally unfulfilled.

#4. Passive-Aggressiveness

Passive-aggressive behavior is a frequent occurrence when two covert narcissists come together. Instead of addressing issues openly, they may resort to subtle jabs, sarcasm, or emotional withdrawal as a means of expressing their frustration or dissatisfaction. This passive-aggressive dance can permeate the relationship, creating a toxic atmosphere of resentment and unspoken tensions.

#5. Hidden Agenda

Each covert narcissist in the relationship frequently maintains a hidden agenda, driven by a thirst for power and control. They may engage in subtle power struggles, seeking to outmaneuver each other in an ongoing battle for admiration and validation. This hidden agenda can erode trust and genuine intimacy within the relationship, perpetuating a cycle of competition and manipulation.

#6. Difficulty in Seeking Help

Acknowledging the presence of covert narcissism and seeking professional help or counseling can be an uphill battle for both individuals in the relationship. Their shared need for superiority and aversion to vulnerability can hinder them from taking the crucial step of seeking assistance, which could otherwise provide valuable insights and strategies for addressing their issues.

#7. Emotional Isolation

Ironically, despite being in a relationship, two covert narcissists may experience emotional isolation. Their self-absorption often takes precedence over their partner’s emotional needs, leading to a profound sense of loneliness and disconnection. The constant quest for validation can leave both partners emotionally unfulfilled and isolated within the confines of their relationship.

#8. Maintaining a Facade

Both individuals may possess the ability to maintain a facade of a seemingly perfect relationship, especially to outsiders. They may go to great lengths to project an image of happiness and contentment while concealing the underlying power struggles, emotional turmoil, and manipulation. This facade can make it difficult for friends and family to recognize the complexities at play within the relationship.

#9. Impaired Intimacy

Genuine emotional intimacy is often elusive in a relationship between two covert narcissists. Their relentless need for validation and control can hinder them from sharing their true selves, resulting in a superficial emotional connection. This lack of depth can leave both partners feeling emotionally unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

#10. Mutual Manipulation

In a relationship involving two covert narcissists, manipulation often becomes a two-way street. They may manipulate each other for control, validation, or admiration, perpetuating a cycle of deceit and emotional distress. Each partner is driven by their own agenda, creating a dynamic where trust and authenticity are scarce commodities.

#11. Fear of Exposure

Both individuals share a deep-seated fear of exposure and vulnerability. This fear can hinder them from addressing their issues or engaging in authentic self-reflection. As a result, personal growth and the potential for healthier relationship dynamics may remain elusive.

#12. Passive Victimhood

Despite their manipulative tendencies, covert narcissists may also adopt a passive victimhood mentality. They may cast themselves as the wronged party in conflicts, further complicating conflict resolution and accountability. This victim mentality can exacerbate tensions and impede progress within the relationship.

#13. Difficulty in Seeking Resolution

Resolving conflicts and addressing issues within a relationship between two covert narcissists can be exceptionally challenging. Their mutual aversion to vulnerability and a propensity for blame-shifting behaviors can impede productive communication and conflict resolution. As a result, issues may fester, exacerbating emotional turmoil and tension.

#14. Emotional Turmoil

The emotional turmoil within such a relationship can be relentless. Both individuals vie for emotional sustenance while simultaneously withholding it, creating a turbulent emotional rollercoaster. This perpetual state of emotional upheaval can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being.

#15. Double Standards

Double standards often prevail within the relationship, with each covert narcissist holding their partner to different expectations than they hold themselves. This disparity can lead to resentment and frustration, as one partner feels unfairly treated while the other maintains a sense of entitlement.

#16. Lack of Authenticity

Ultimately, a relationship between two covert narcissists can lack authenticity. Their constant need to project an image of perfection and maintain control can stifle genuine connection and personal growth. The authenticity and vulnerability required for a healthy relationship are often replaced by a facade of superiority and self-absorption.

Navigating a relationship with two covert narcissists involves traversing a complex landscape of manipulation, emotional turmoil, and hidden agendas.

Closing Thoughts

Having two covert narcissists in a relationship is undeniably challenging for those involved, as it involves a complex interplay of manipulation, emotional turmoil, and concealed vulnerabilities. These individuals, driven by their relentless need for validation and control, often struggle to forge authentic connections with their partners.

However, recognizing the presence of covert narcissism and its manipulation tactics can empower individuals in such relationships to seek understanding, support, and personal growth. Remember that seeking professional help can be a pivotal step toward healing and healthier dynamics. By fostering self-awareness and promoting open communication, it is possible to break free from the cycle of double deception and create a path towards more fulfilling relationships.