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Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist? 5 Manipulative Traps They Use

hard to leave a covert narcissist

2. Deflecting Accountability

Extreme deflection of accountability is a second common tactic a covert narcissist uses. Denying culpability may be an almost everyday occurrence. Rewriting history in order to exonerate himself or herself, the narcissist often makes a person feel crazy.

For example, say the narcissist consistently refuses to go to the dog park with a person, but when the person mentions it, the narcissist says, “I go with you all of the time!” Although this is completely false, the narcissist vehemently believes the lie. The narcissist changes experiences in his or her own mind to excuse any fault. Arguing does not help the situation as the narcissist refuses to budge.  

3. Projecting Blame

Robustly projecting blame is closely linked to deflection but maybe more damaging because projections are unfair attacks that detract from a person’s sense of self. Also, a projection is usually about the partner who is criticizing, not the person who is being criticized.

For example, say a partner consistently completes all of the chores around the house. One day, he decides to forgo some housework in order to go watch a game with friends. Upon his return, he notices the narcissist did a load of laundry. He thanks the partner and the partner utters, “You do whatever you want. You are so selfish. You only think of yourself.” Obviously, it is the narcissist who is selfish, not the partner.

Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist? 5 Manipulative Traps They Use
Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist? 5 Manipulative Traps They Use

4. Inflicting Guilt

Continually inflicting guilt is another painful weapon a narcissist wields. This happens when a narcissist does something nice for a person then throws it in the person’s face when attempting to control the person, or when trying to take advantage of a person’s empathy.

For example, say a person conveys to the narcissist that separation is necessary. The narcissist may say things like, “How can you do this to me when I helped you start your own business?”

A projection may follow, “Were you just using me?” The narcissist may also say things to imprison the person in the relationship using guilt. “If you leave, I’ll never be the same.” Or “You will devastate the kids. You are ruining everyone’s life. I hope you are happy.” Exploiting a person’s conscience to manipulate and control the person is never acceptable.

Related: 7 Signs You Are Being Manipulated By A Narcissist

5. Acting Passive-Aggressively

Routinely acting out in a passive-aggressive fashion is also a tendency of a covert narcissist. This typically transpires when a person doesn’t comply with a narcissist’s wishes.

For example, say a person interviews for a position the narcissist does not agree with. She lands the position, but her new boss mentions that she needs to “clean up” her LinkedIn page. She checks it out and discovers the narcissist messed with it, subtly creating a sloppy and unprofessional appearance. When she approaches the partner, the partner claims he was trying to help her and accuses her of being “ungrateful.”

These emotional manipulation tactics are often unconsciously motivated by insecurity, so the narcissist may be unaware. Reality is also distorted by the narcissist’s unconscious defense mechanisms, which may make it nearly impossible for the narcissist to see. Yet, these narcissistic dynamics destroy healthy conflict resolution, tear apart a person’s self-esteem, and undermine a person’s strides towards success.

They may have a destructive impact on a person’s life over time. Assessing a partner’s motivation to examine these compulsions is necessary and professional help may be helpful. Yet, if a partner is unmotivated to trust a person and honor the request to address the problems, the safe solution may be to exit the relationship.


Written By Erin Leonard
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist? 5 Manipulative Traps They Use
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Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist? 5 Manipulative Traps They Use
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Dr. Erin Leonard, Ph.D.

Dr. Erin Leonard, Ph.D. is an award-winning researcher, author, and psychotherapist. For more than 20 years, she has helped her clients recover their well-being and improve their mental health. With years of training and a clear understanding of what goes into providing a compassionate approach to psychotherapy, Dr. Leonard provides unique counseling and therapeutic services in the Michiana area. Her extensive training and wealth of experience ensure her clients experience improvement quickly Dr. Leonard specializes in individual, couples, and family therapy. However, her practice is a safe and open space for anyone with the need to be heard, understood, and treated.View Author posts