LIFE HACK 14 red flags you're dating a covert narcissist

14 red flags you’re dating a covert narcissist


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When we start dating someone new, we often don’t really know them that well, do we? I mean, they could be anyone, really. 

And with so many bad people around us, we really have to learn how to gauge the person we like. 

That’s why, in this article, we’ll be learning what some potential red flags show you’re dating a covert narcissist and what to do about it. 

1) Excessive self-centeredness

Okay, it comes as no surprise that narcissists are self-centered, right? Still, I think it’s a huge red flag that they’re too focused on themselves. 

To you, that might feel like they’re not really interested in your thoughts, feelings, or what’s going on in your life. 

And you’re probably right – conversations tend to revolve around them, and they don’t show genuine curiosity about your life.

That also means they lack empathy. 

2) Lack of empathy

A lack of empathy means they struggle to understand or care about how you feel. When you’re going through a tough time, they don’t provide the support or comfort you need. It can feel like you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t get your emotions.

Of course, when you’ve been with someone only for a brief period, it’s hard to spot this straight away. 

But if you catch them totally unfazed by other people’s misfortunes, then that’s a big red flag you shouldn’t dismiss. 

3) Manipulative behavior

Narcissists often try to manipulate others into doing what they want of them. That could be any number of things, but it involves using subtle tactics to control situations or people. 

It could be anything from guilt-tripping to playing mind games. You start noticing when you get a feeling like your decisions are being influenced without you realizing it.

For example, they create jealousy or competition by involving a third person. They just casually mention someone, perhaps their ex, to try to incite insecurity in you and make you more dependent on them. 

Or they initially shower you with excessive affection, compliments, and attention. Once you’re hooked, they gradually withdraw, keeping you longing for those early, intense moments.

4) Victim mentality

But if there’s something they love doing the most, it’s playing the victim. And if your partner always sees themselves as the victim, that’s incredibly exhausting. 

They avoid taking responsibility for their actions by blaming others or external circumstances. 

And if you think things are challenging now, just wait till you’re married. Resolving any issues, like their unusual and lax behavior, will become impossible. 

For example, picture a situation where your partner portrays themselves as the constant victim, making every setback or challenge seem like a personal attack. 

They’ll say things like, “Nobody appreciates how hard I work,” implying that they’re unfairly treated despite their efforts.

5) Subtle put-downs

Instead of direct insults, covert narcissists often use sarcasm or backhanded compliments. 

These remarks effectively chip away at your confidence over time, creating a hostile atmosphere in your mind and also in your relationship.

It’s just how they are and the way they behave towards others. You can put up with it or leave. Chances are, they will never change this inconsiderate behavior. 

If you stay in the relationship, make sure you set firm boundaries and emphasize that this type of behavior won’t fly with you. 

6) Insecure yet arrogant

Despite deep-down insecurities, covert narcissists often project an arrogant front. They seem extremely confident, but it’s a mask to cover up their inner doubts. 

This can create confusion about their true feelings and intentions. It’s also hard to know if that’s a common occurrence or a one-off behavior when you only dated for a short amount of time. 

For example, they’re insecure about their looks or image and compensate by appearing too confident or arrogant. 

This means they’re excessively bragging or have a preoccupation with showcasing material possessions (cars, money, jewelry) as a way to mask underlying insecurities.

7) A constant need for validation

And because they’re insecure, they constantly crave praise and approval. They seek validation from you and others to boost their self-esteem. 

This becomes draining when you feel pressured to continually reassure them. But at least this kind of behavior quickly comes to the surface, and you can then realize that something’s off with them. 

Will that be enough off-putting for you to sever ties or not, is up to you, isn’t it?

8) Difficulty handling criticism

Another thing narcissists don’t like at all is listening to criticism and feedback, no matter how good-faith or constructive it is. 

That means that if your partner reacts negatively to criticism, you’ll always have a tense environment. 

They simply become defensive, dismissive, or even hurt when you bring something up. 

That’s concerning because constructive feedback is essential in any relationship, and a partner who can’t handle it restricts its growth.

9) Sense of entitlement

Narcissists also believe they deserve special treatment or privileges without earning them. This attitude leads to a lack of consideration for your needs and an expectation that their desires should always come first.

I can’t even imagine what it looks like living with an entitled partner, but I’m sure it ain’t pretty. 

Still, it’s a big red flag that their overinflated ego believes they’re entitled to anything. And so is the following:

10) Jealousy and envy

Excessive jealousy and envy make any relationship feel suffocating. A partner who can’t celebrate your successes and is too possessive is probably struggling with feelings of inadequacy.

That’s why they’re so jealous when you’re talking to someone who they feel is a treat to them. 

But they’re also envious of others who they perceive as more successful, wealthier, or better looking. 

11) Lack of accountability

I already mentioned they love playing the victim, right? But that’s just because they run away from any responsibility and never want to admit their mistakes. 

Owning up to errors is a crucial aspect of healthy relationships, isn’t it? That’s why the absence of accountability results in headaches and recurring issues.

At work, they’ll simply blame anyone and everyone, and they won’t have qualms about throwing other people under the bus if they think that will save their skin.

And at home, if they neglect to do something, they’ll simply blame you for not reminding them. 

12) Isolating you 

Dating someone new is extremely exciting in most cases. You get to know them better, and you spend sleepless nights just talking to each other. 

But for a covert narcissist, that’s the best time to start isolating you from friends and family. 

This could be subtle, like discouraging you from spending time with loved ones, making it harder for you to maintain a support system outside the relationship.

They want you to spend ALL the time with them, and that’s something you probably don’t mind because you like them. 

In a normal relationship, that’s a non-issue. Still, when you’re dating a covert narcissist, it means you’re heading for a potentially devastating situation. 

13) Boundary issues

Narcissists have no issues with stepping over your boundaries. They invade your personal space, touch you without consent, or ignore your need for physical distance.

They also ignore or downplay your emotional needs, dismissing your feelings or manipulating situations to suit their preferences.

That’s why you must recognize these boundary violations and, if necessary, assertively communicate and reinforce your limits to protect your own well-being.

14) Mood swings

Mood swings of a covert narcissist create a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment, they’re affectionate and charming, and the next, distant or irritable. This unpredictability can leave you feeling on edge and uncertain.

However, the narcissist might also use sudden shifts in mood to control the dynamics of the relationship. 

For example, they switch from being loving to distant as a way to keep you seeking their approval or trying to “fix” the relationship.

How to deal with a cover narcissist you’re dating

Dealing with someone who’s a covert narcissist in a new relationship can be tricky. Still, there are practical steps you can take. 

First off, be clear about your boundaries. Let them know what you’re comfortable with. But also, trust your instincts:

If something feels off, don’t just ignore it. 

Next, keep doing your own thing and maintain your interests and friendships. Watch out for any attempts to control or manipulate you, and if you notice it, talk about it calmly. 

Communication is key here, so share your thoughts and encourage them to do the same. 

If you need help, talk to friends or a therapist for support. It’s important to take care of your mental and emotional well-being. 

And if the relationship makes you unhappy, it’s okay to reevaluate and put yourself first. 

A healthy relationship should make your life better, not worse.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Take the free quiz here to be matched with the perfect coach for you.

Click the above link to get $50 off your first session – an exclusive offer for Hack Spirit readers.


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