We’ve all been in relationships that have ended. Whether through a mutual decision, a loss, or against your desires, it’s happened at least once in your life. Friendships, partnerships, marriages, and business relationships begin and end at some point. The ending can be painful, especially if it’s unexpected or if it happens by surprise.
But when a relationship with a covert narcissist ends, it can be a whirlwind, a tornado, a quick path to destruction. An awakening. In this post, I’ll discuss things to expect when a relationship with a covert narcissist (or someone with these traits) ends.
What is a Covert Narcissist?
A covert narcissist is an individual who is highly sensitive to criticism and uses tactics of manipulation and passive-aggressiveness towards others when feeling slighted or out of control. These people have extremely fragile egos. They often experience intense feelings of shame and strong feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. To cope with these feelings, they feed off of the energy of other people. They may study others and adopt qualities that they like from them, in attempts to create a relatable persona. They also downplay the accomplishments of others, try to “one-up” a person, or do whatever they can to confuse, manipulate, or invalidate someone else.
According to The Psychiatric Interview in Clinical Practice, the criteria for the covert subtype of narcissistic personality disorder includes:
“The covert narcissist:
- is inhibited, shy, or even self-effacing
- directs attention more toward others than toward self and is uncomfortable when he becomes the center of attention
- is highly sensitive and listens to others carefully for evidence of slights or criticism or for praise and flattery
- responds to slights or criticism with inner anger and/of intense shame, humiliation, and self-criticism; responds to flattery with an exaggerated feeling of pleasure mixed with a sense of superiority and a feeling of having fooled people, mistrusting their motives
- is highly envious of the success and recognition achieved by others
- is unable to commit to others with unconditional love; lacks appropriate responsiveness to others; may not return letters or telephone calls because of a desire to be pursued; needs a constant source of gratification, as in the old song, “When I’m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near.”
- lacks the capacity for empathy derived from figuring out the appropriate outward response; however, this response does not allow him to feel connected to the other person
- has compensatory grandiose fantasies that substitute for real accomplishments
- has a tendency toward hypochondria based on a response to feeling defective and inadequate; self-preoccupation easily focuses on health”
If after reading this you think to yourself, “I know someone like this,” they may have narcissistic tendencies or be a covert narcissist.
The Relationship is Over: What to Expect?
After over one hundred breakups and makeups, the relationship is over for good. You feel a sense of peace knowing that it is really the end this time. But before you can settle into some comfortability, a nightmare begins. When the covert narcissists realizes that you’ve had enough of the mind games and their shenanigans, fury will take over.
“How dare you decide to walk away from my abuse and control over you?” they think to themselves. It’s like a slap to their face that you have the decency and strength to finally say enough is enough and walk away. Because of this, be prepared for one or more of the following:
You’ve ended the relationship with the covert narcissist because you caught on to their game. Maybe you caught them cheating for the 4th time and realize that they won’t change. Maybe you found out they’ve been living a double life and prefer the same sex. Maybe you’ve learned that they stole money from you without your knowledge. Whatever it was, be prepared for them to say that THEY discovered all of these things about you.
If they cheated, they’ll say you’re the one who cheated. If they’re gay or bisexual, they’ll say you were sleeping with your best friend. If they abused you in anyway (physically, sexually, or emotionally), they’ll make themselves the victim and call you the abuser.
They’ll tell lies about you to anyone who will listen. This is their way to save face in case you decide to share your story. They’re already one step ahead of you. If you do expose them for their true identity, people may not believe you because you’re informing them about things that the covert narcissist has already said about you, which you know are lies. Unfortunately other people may believe them and not believe you.
The covert narcissist is so charismatic and is an expert at lying. They can think of a lie on a whim. They’ll lie about any and every thing. The lies they tell about you, they’ll say with a straight face. Without flinching. Without blinking. Without thinking. And people will believe them.
Get ready to have your name dragged in and out, up and down through the mud. Get ready for people to think that you are the psycho when in actuality, you are a victim of emotional abuse and manipulation, and likely have complex post traumatic stress disorder or any other type of trauma from being in that relationship.
Cyber Stalking or Stalking in General
When you take your power back and decide that the covert narcissist no longer has control over you, be prepared for the stalking. Now, they may have already been stalking you without your knowledge, but now, the stalking will be amplified.
Shared Location Apps
They may have convinced you to use a tracking app “in case you get injured or lost while hiking.” Well, you agreed and downloaded an app that shows each of your locations. If you forget this app is on your phone after the breakup, they can still track your location through it. Be sure to delete any apps that can show them your location, or stop sharing your location with them wirelessly.
If you stop sharing your location with them, they may put a tracker on your car. They want control, so they want to know where you’re at and what you are doing at all times. If you suspect that there is a tracker on your car, you can go to the police department and have them check for one.
Another way that covert narcissists stalk you is through cyber stalking. If you keep them as a friend or a follower on any of the social media platforms, they will monitor what you are doing. Blocking them is a good way to minimize how much they know about you. If you have mutual friends with them, they’ll ask them about you, your whereabouts, or your life in general. Tell your friends not to give them information about you. If you have their friends or family on any social media platform, it may be a good idea to block them as well.
The covert narcissist may create fake accounts and send you friend requests or start following you. Keeping your profiles private is a way to prevent this from happening. Just keep in mind that when your profile is public, they can find a way to monitor what you are doing.
Hacking Your Phone or Email
The covert narcissist wants to know everything about you. They will go as far as sending spam to your email address, that if you click on, will give them instant access to your email. My email has been compromised for months. It started with an email that appeared to be from Microsoft Outlook. As soon as I clicked on it, the covert narcissist was in.
You can tell if your email has been compromised in several ways. One easy way is if the covert narcissist mentions something that you did not tell them. If they are stalking your email address, they will know certain things such as trips you’re planning, things you’re buying, job opportunities, and whatever else information goes to your email address. If they happen to say something that there’s no way they could know, consider that they have access to your email.
Further, if you notice emails being sent to the trash that you didn’t read or important emails being marked as spam, the covert narcissist may have access to your account. I first realized that my email address was hacked when I was waiting on important lab results. The email was deleted before I could ever see it. Any emails related to my lab visit were also deleted. It was as if I never went to get my labs drawn or had the tests ordered. The covert narcissist will do whatever to make you feel insane. They will do anything to hide their disgusting behavior that puts you at risk. If you notice important emails suddenly disappearing, your email may be compromised.
Hiring a private investigator that specializes in technology crimes is helpful. They can detect if your email has been compromised through a variety of avenues. One way is by checking the IP addresses that have accessed that email. If there is a different IP address that has accessed your account that is not yours, they can check where it is coming from and identify the hacker.
Private investigators can be expensive, but they can be worth it if your account has been compromised or if you’re gathering evidence that you’ve been harassed, stalked, or manipulated by someone. They’ll help you get evidence that may be difficult to obtain by yourself.
Sending You Spam
The covert narcissist wants to make your life miserable. They are so empty and miserable within themselves that they will do whatever they can to bring you to their level. When you end a relationship with a covert narcissist, they will send you spam.
You may begin to get spam phone calls throughout the day. Maybe you’ve previously received spam calls on occasion here and there, but after the relationship ends, be ready to receive multiple spam calls on a daily basis.
You may also get texts or emails from websites or businesses that you did not sign up with or that you did not give your information. I’ve received emails from Zillow, DoorDash, and restaurants saying “Thank you for your order,” or “Please confirm your account.” Many times, they will do this in the middle of the night so that you wake up to it in hopes that your day will start in panic or frustration.
They may even go as far as to using your email address to sign up to adult websites like Only Fans. I’ve received an email from Only Fans saying, “please confirm your account,” when I did not sign up with Only Fans. After that, I received an email from Google saying that someone was trying to access my account.
You might also receive emails from pornography websites or other inappropriate sites that you’ve never accessed or signed up for.
They will do whatever they can to try and intimidate you. Their goal is to cause confusion and to instill fear into you. Just observe and keep a record of every odd email or text you receive that you know you did not sign up for or subscribe to. Their origin can be tracked.
Solicit Others to Stalk You
When the relationship with a covert narcissist ends, get ready for random people to show up at your house unsolicited. The covert narcissist will stoop so low as to pay people to stalk or harass you. There may suddenly be a random car parked outside of your house every day at the same time. Maybe you see the same person on your walk for the 5th day in a row. You never saw this person before and now it seems more than coincidental that you’re consistently running into them.
Frequenting Common Locations
The covert narcissist will wait in parking lots of grocery stores near your house or any place that they know you’re likely to go. They will do this so they can “run into you.” You may think it’s a coincidence that you’re both at the grocery store, but the truth is, they were hoping you’d be there and were waiting for you to show up.
For example, if during the relationship, you went to Trader Joe’s every Saturday morning, they will be waiting in the parking lot on Saturday morning, hoping that you will show up. Change your routine. Do things differently. If you were with them long enough for them to learn your habits, it’s time to shake things up.
You’ve been through this plenty of times. You’ve decided that you are done with the relationship and before you know it, you are sucked back in, just like the hoover vacuum. Hoovering typically happens when you begin to withdraw from the covert narcissist or if you’ve told them you are through with them.
In these moments, they panic because you, their main supply, has decided to no longer be their victim. They realize that now they must pretend to be the person that they pretended to be when you met so that they can reel you back in.
During hoovering, you may experience numerous tactics that the covert narcissist uses to suck you back into their toxicity.
The covert narcissist will begin to love bomb you. This is when they basically profess their love for you, show over-the-top affection, spend extra quality time with you, and overly praise you. Their ploy in this is to flood you with a rush of oxytocin, the love hormone, and get you latched back on to them. But it won’t be too long before all of the affection, praise and flattery stops and they become a dried up well again, devoid of compassion or emotion.
The covert narcissist will send you elaborate gifts or things they’ve promised to get you in the past that they never did. They’ll start to send you things that have been in your Amazon cart that they knew about. They’ll buy you beautiful dresses, jewelry, gadgets, and whatever they believe will buy you back. Don’t fall for it and don’t accept any of their gifts. They are only giving you gifts to try to regain control.
Future-Faking and Empty Promises
You talked about a romantic getaway on an island for years. But you couldn’t go because they didn’t have a passport. The covert narcissist will tell you that they’re about to get their passport so you guys can finally go on that vacation. Don’t fall for it. This is what future faking is. They will talk about things they “plan” for the future that they don’t ever intend on doing.
These energy vampires will make false promises in hopes that they can hoover you back into their cycle of abuse. They will promise to change, promise to get help, promise to stop gaslighting you. They’re only making these promises because they recognize that they’ve lost you and they are desperate to retain their control over you.
Around the holidays is a prime time for narcissistic hoovering. The covert narcissist will reach out to you a few days before your birthday, on your birthday, on Christmas, or New Years to remind you that they still exist.
Holidays can be a vulnerable time for many people; especially for those who are prone to being a victim of a covert narcissistic abuse. Covert narcissists know this, and so they will use holidays to try to re-enter your life. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It could be a month or 4 years later. If they are running low on supply or if they want to see if they can make their old supply their new supply, they will reach out.
What You Can Do
It can be a real pain in the ass to engage with covert narcissists. There are several things you can do at the end of a relationship with them and if you’re experiencing any of the above tactics.
Go No Contact
If you are serious about the relationship ending and you have no plans of getting back with them, cut off all forms of contact with them. Granted, this is not an option for some people whether because of kids or any other reason. But if it is, this is the best way to break free.
Block them on all of your social platforms. Block and delete their phone number. Change your phone number. Move. Do not engage with them in any way.
A covert narcissist that I knew still had access to me through Snapchat. I rarely used Snapchat so I didn’t realize this for a long time. One day I saw him on my friends list and I removed him. He messaged me saying, “I can’t see your stories anymore.” It had been more than 7 years since I’d seen this person. However, he was still tracking me through social media.
As soon as I got that message, I blocked him. Although I had no verbal contact with him, there was still contact on his end because I forgot to block him on Snapchat. It is imperative that you analyze all avenues in which the covert narcissist can contact you and revoke their access.
Ignoring the cover narcissist is different than going no contact. Going no contact and ignoring them can be done at the same time. Ignoring the covert narcissist involves observing their behavior and acknowledging it. That’s it. Remember, the covert narcissist wants to get under your skin. They want to see you angry, they want to see you cry, they want you to explode.
If you observe their antics, accept that they are immature indignant individuals with the emotional maturity of a two year old, and ignore their ploys for pernicious plunder, they have no power over you. However, when you get angry or frustrated with the fact that they’ve hacked your email or have smeared your name through the pits of hell, then they remain in control.
When you ignore the numerous spam calls, the uncanny rearrangement of your emails, or whatever else the covert narcissist is doing, you are winning. You recognize that this is going on and you accept it for what it is. You do not allow it to disturb your new found peace in any way.
Notify the Police
If at any time you feel endangered, threatened, or have enough evidence of harassment, cyber stalking, or stalking in general, file a police report. Covert narcissists are unpredictable. Don’t underestimate the depths they will go when they feel shamed, threatened, or out of control. These people have no remorse, no empathy, and are only concerned about portraying a false public image. If they feel that they’re true identity will be revealed or if they’ve lost control, they may cause you harm whether physical, emotional, or sexual.
Letting the police know will at least keep a record of the instances in which you’ve been attacked, harrassed, threatened, or stalked. However be prepared to not be believed. The police may invalidate your concerns and may even gaslight you when you inform them of the abuse you’ve endured. This is why working with a private investigator can be helpful. Proving emotional abuse is HARD. Covert narcissists are so passive with their abuse and are very careful to not get caught. Collect all the evidence you have and make it known. Even if they don’t believe you, if something happens to you they will likely suspect the person the complaints were made against.
It’s been a rollercoaster. You feel dazed and confused as if you are in a fog. You realize that the entire relationship was a lie. You now know that you were used for the person’s gain. Now that you’ve come to this realization, it is time to start healing. Healing looks different for everyone.
Spend time alone
The most important thing I must say about healing is DO NOT start dating after the breakup. Give yourself at least one year to recover. I say this because if you’ve been in multiple narcissistic relationships, there is something about yourself that you are unaware of that leads you to attract these types of people. Spending time alone will allow you to find yourself again.
In a narcissistic relationship, it is easy to forget who you are. You may forget who you were before you became the covert narcissist’s victim. Personally, I stopped engaging in my hobbies. Before the relationship, I would write, dance, read, and do anything that brought me joy. After being in the relationship for some time all I did was watch TV, worry about the news, and question my sanity. So much cognitive dissonance was created that I had no idea who I was. I was a shell of a person.
Spending time with yourself can help you to rediscover who you are. It is also a wonderful way to block out the distractions, thoughts, and opinions of others. If you are easily influenced, distancing yourself from other people for some time can give you the mental clarity that you need.
Work with an experienced narcissistic abuse recovery coach or therapist
If you are able to, work with a therapist or coach who has experience and knowledge about narcissists, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic relationships. Also, working with someone who uses a trauma-informed approach is essential because it is likely that trauma you’ve experienced in the past made you susceptible to being a victim of manipulation and abuse. Healing underlying trauma can change your life and give you insight into why you do certain things, have no boundaries, or are a people pleaser.
Take it one day at a time
Healing is non-linear. It can be painful. Some days you may miss the covert narcissist, despite the years of abuse they subjected you to. You may even have Stockholm syndrome and not be aware of it. This is why it is important that you work with a trustworthy, experienced professional who can guide you through this difficult time. There will be days of despair where it feels like you’ve entered a Dark Night of the Soul. There will be good days as well. You may start to feel like a new person, a better version of yourself before the narcissist. It may be a bumpy ride to healing, but staying present and taking it one day at a time can help you get through.
Get in touch with your body
If you’ve read The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel van der Kolk, then you know that traumatic experiences are stored in the body and there is an intricate connection between the mind, body, and soul. Doing things like yoga and meditation can help you become more aware of your body and your thoughts. Taking a yoga class with a trauma-informed yoga teacher can be helpful in processing the trauma from your relationship.
Additionally, therapeutic approaches such as EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, and Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy are all excellent ways of working through the trauma in your body. But if you are unable to find anyone who specializes in these therapies, there are plenty of yoga videos online that you can use to help yoke the body, mind, and spirit.
Endings can be painful. But the beauty about endings is that closely behind are beginnings. In life we are constantly going through a cycle of death and rebirth. When something ends, a new thing begins. Life is like the seasons. Constantly changing, endings inevitable as well as the start of new life and new beginnings.
Although draining and gut-wrenching, the silver lining in surviving narcissistic abuse is that you learned. You were forced to learn that there are vile people on this planet who thrive off of the suffering of others. You learned that there are people who are so jealous and envious of others that they will do whatever they can to try and bring them down. You learned that you have no boundaries and need to work through your own trauma to stop attracting these life force suckers.
You learned to stand up for yourself and not to live in fear. You learned that they are actually the ones who are afraid. They’re afraid of their true selves. They’re afraid of what people will think about them. They’re afraid of seeing other people happy.
You learned how to spot a covert narcissist from a mile away and do what you need to do to protect yourself from them. Now when you meet someone and they immediately tell you how great and amazing you are, how many things you share in common, how crazy their ex is, then a red flag goes off and you know to run far in the opposite direction.
With that being said, be mindful that you may begin to remember certain interactions with the covert narcissist and process how manipulative they were being. Be mindful that their tactics to draw you in may begin to ramp up. Do whatever you need to do to stay protected and on your path towards healing. Be mindful that because you’ve experienced so much trauma and have gotten used to being hypervigilant or on edge, that moments of peace may be extremely uncomfortable. This is because you aren’t used to it. Take it one step at a time and whatever you do, don’t go back to the abuse.
If you’ve experienced the wrath of a covert narcissist, comment below. How did you handle the situation?
- MacKinnon, R. A., Michels, R., & Buckley, P. J. (2015). The psychiatric interview in clinical practice (3rd ed.). American Psychiatric Pub.
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