14 Signs You’re Dating A Covert Narcissist

If you’re dating a covert narcissist, it can be tricky to identify that they have narcissistic personality disorder. This is because they won’t have a sense of self-importance that is typically linked to the condition. So now what? Don’t worry — you can still save your heart by knowing what red flags to keep an eye out for, like these 14 signs.

  1. He’s super sensitive. While it’s great to date someone who’s in tune with their feelings, you should be wary if they’re too sensitive. If the guy can’t deal with his emotions, makes snarky comments to act like he’s not bothered by them, or secretly feels angry (which you can see in their body language slip-ups), those are signs they’ve got bigger issues going on than sensitivity.
  2. He can’t handle criticism. If you find yourself walking on eggshells around the guy when you have to tell him something he’s done that you didn’t like, it could be that he’s a covert narcissist. Why? He’ll totally dismiss your comments, make sarcastic comments about them, or act like he’s so much better than you. No wonder you feel weird about talking to him. Meanwhile, deep inside, underneath his bravado, he’ll be feeling humiliated or upset. He just doesn’t want to show it.
  3. He’s passive-aggressive. This is typical behavior covert narcissists will resort to, which can make it difficult to catch right away. When you ask the guy to help you with something, he says “Sure!” with a big smile, but then it eats away at him because he doesn’t want to do it. Look for these signs of passive-aggressiveness in your guy: shifting blame, procrastinating when he doesn’t want to do something, sabotaging someone’s work, or giving you the silent treatment.
  4. He needs constant reassurance. While an overt narcissist will demand attention and praise, a covert narcissist will try to achieve this in a gentler way. He might, for example, always ask you if you think he’s skilled or talented or attractive. At first it might seem sweet, but after a while, it’s going to irritate you.
  5. He plays the victim card. A covert narcissist will act like the victim, even if he’s the bad guy in the relationship. He might also do this in other relationships in his life. This is his way to make you feel guilty or small and to reassure himself that you like or care for him. Ugh, it’s so manipulative.
  6. He puts you down. Although a covert narcissist’s behavior can be more subtle than that of an overt narcissist, it’s still highly damaging. A covert narcissist will find ways to make you feel like you don’t matter, instead of blatantly telling you that you’re not important. So, he’ll do things to make you feel like he doesn’t think you’re important, such as showing up late to your dates or ignoring your calls.
  7. He wants to be seen as kind. Narcissists will always do good deeds that serve themselves. For example, he’ll give you a compliment or offer you a pep talk before your job interview when he knows your friends are watching, so that it makes him look good. See, it’s always about him! He wants to seem like the perfect boyfriend, but he’s too good to be true.
  1. He’s extremely introverted. A covert narcissist is more likely to be introverted than a covert narcissist. He tends to be insecure and afraid of showing others his flaws. He has to work hard to maintain the screwed-up illusion that he’s superior, so he’s likely to avoid being around people if he feels they’re beneath him.
  2. He holds grudges. A covert narcissist will hold grudges if someone has upset or hurt him. He’s also likely to hold onto his anger until he can get his revenge. Woah. This is what makes covert narcissists so insidious and toxic because instead of communicating their anger and other feelings, they resort to manipulation and revenge.
  3. He lacks empathy. You might think your boyfriend is empathetic so there’s no way he can be a covert narcissist, but that’s not exactly true. This is because although it seems like he’s empathetic to you and others, he’s just putting on an act to make it seem like he’s a wonderful, caring person.
  4. He’s always comparing himself to others. Covert narcissists are filled with envy. If their best friend has a larger car than them, they’ll want to trade theirs in for an even bigger car. If you’re getting a promotion at work, they’re going to feel like it’s a greater success than their recent promotion. They’re always thinking of how they’re inferior to others, which keeps them in a spiral of anxiety and depression.
  5. He blames you. He’s all about playing the blame game, and never takes responsibility for his actions. For example, if you’re upset about how he zones out when you talk to him about something that’s important to you and you later ask him about it, he’ll say that you’re to blame because you’re always dominating the conversation, or some other lie in an attempt to make you feel bad.
  6. He turns his insecurities onto you. If you regularly feel off-balance and low on confidence around this person, make sure that they’re not trying to project their issues onto you! He can’t deal with his low sense of self-worth, so to deal with that he tries to make you doubt yourself. Ugh.
  7. He’s an attention-craver. He’s always keen on your attention, such as in the form of praise as this makes him feel that he’s not as worthless as he thinks. He will also use how miserable he feels to get your attention, so he’ll call you late at night to trauma dump on you, without any consideration for what you’re going through or what you’re feeling.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.