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Relationship with a covert narcissist - any advice/options?

Community Member

I have been with my girlfriend for 5 years now. Despite everything I love her dearly.

She is incredibly charming, attractive and intelligent. I was (and in ways still am) hooked. What I found though was only a month or so into the relationship things changed. I've had a long battle with anti-depressants - they caused all sorts of issues, unfortunately some in the bedroom. My GF took this extremely personally, I was yelled and screamed at on more than one occasion despite my best efforts to try and reassure her it wasn't her fault.

This manifested into a sexless relationship - I would guess we have had sex a dozen times maybe in the 5 years we've been together. We express intimacy in other ways which is fine but there's problems there. We have only just started sorting through this but it's a case of going one step forwards, two steps back. I have what I consider to be a normal libido, hers is extremely low.

The issue is even the slightest hint of criticism causes here to react severely. I look back on the last 5 years and realise I've been treading on eggshells for a big part of that time. It's preventing us from working through issues in the relationship. Whenever there is an issue, I end up being the one to apologise - it's the easiest way to keep the peace.

The way she treats me varies widely. Sometimes she is very affectionate and warm, other times extremely cold and silent. If I try and talk to her when in a bad mood, in the past it has caused a full blown tantrum. I used to think it was my fault. I started bending over backwards to try and make her feel better, I thought I wasn't good enough. I figured if I work hard enough I'll make her happy and things will be better.

There's so much more I could write about but I'm running out of space. I'm exhausted at times and I get little to no support from her in any of my own pursuits or interests. I have depression and anxiety and again I get very little support from her. She asks how I am going but I can tell she isn't actually interested.

I've been reading about narcissists, particularly covert narcissists. Just going through the checklist of common traits... it's describing my GF perfectly. It explains so much. She has no friends, often puts people off-side, and in many ways is very selfish. She is always the victim, even when it's obvious she was the one at fault.

Has anyone got experience with covert narcissists? Is there things I can do to help? Or am I stuck? I would be so grateful for any advice.

17 Replies 17

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Thankyou for a well written post

My first marriage lasted 11 years, 11 years too long. Almost immediately after our wedding she used a most effective tool- silence. I didnt know until many years later that it is a form of narcissism. Eg She'd sleep till 2pm and with two tiny kids to look after. I'd work 3 jobs and look after the kids as she didnt. So she was lazy. I'd end up yelling and that would be the catalyst for not talking one word to me for 6 weeks or more. It was hell.

Also she had a near non existent libido. That problem in itself is hard enough to tolerate but with all the other stresses it all manifested. After 11 years I was so low I made an attempt. I saved myself from that act, one week later I left her, knowing I would not survive staying with her.

I think counseling would help you a lot and it may highlight some deficiencies in her outbursts that seem childish . Unfortunately incompatibility might be the core of the problem but counseling is worth a try. You could be an "enabler" in the relationship as your situation reminds me of mine a lot. My ex wife knew I ran around for her so she played on that and I ended up totally burnt out and suicidal.

I hope I've helped. Repost anytime


Community Member

Hi buddy.

Welcome here to the forum and for reaching out and can imagine how much suffering that you are going through. Walking on eggshells as in trying to keep them happy is exactly what you are doing that will enable what we call inappropriate bad behaviour for someone who experiences a personality illness.

"She asks how I am going but I can tell she isn't actually interested," this is the biggest sign of behavioral issues. Someone who experiences bad behaviour will ask this quest, usually and always in the first instance.

I recently asked for time out from my ex who has NPD and I have so much experience. Toxic people will make your blood boil and wipe you out in one clean hit, especially if this is the first time dealing with these behaviours.

Personality illnesses are reaction based so if you are clean cut and tell her that you will not be accepting her behaviour and that she must take responsibility for her actions, then let her be.

You need to not give her any reactions - people who experience behaviour issues are ALWAYS looking for a reaction.

People who cannot control their thoughts, have difficulties controlling themselves, if they cannot commit to being healthy, they cannot commit to being healthy for others and if they do not love themselves, they will not others.

The only people who may be able to help is the local mental health unit or mental health team because people who suffer and cannot control their personality/ behavior usually need to be medically seen or admitted for investigation.

Pease look after yourself.

Hi TonyWK, thank you so much for your reply

It's funny you mention about the sleeping in/laziness. My GF's home is a mess. Dirty dishes, so bad she actually has an ant problem in the kitchen. She seems unable to clean up after herself. She manages to find time to watch TV etc. though. On the weekends I stay over at her house - I like to be up fairly early to get things done. She prefers to sleep in till 9 or so. If I get up early, she gets annoyed as it causes her to wake up. So I end up having to lie in bed awake until she wakes up! Otherwise she will be stroppy.

The bedroom situation is draining to say the least. I've tried to talk about our issues there and she is so defensive. Her only method of defence is to attack it seems. She once told me that I'm like "all men" who really only want sex and nothing else. Given I had been with her for 3 years or so - getting counselling (she wasn't willing to attend when I suggested couples counselling), trying all I could to help her feel comfortable. I ended up still being the one to apologise. There's only so much rejection one can deal with.

There have been times in the relationship where my depression has become so bad that it was what I consider dangerous for my safety. I'm fortunate enough to have a supporting Mum and some friends I can go to when the going get tough.

I feel like I'm demonising her, which is not at all my intention - I love her and care deeply for her. I don't believe a lot of her behaviour is necessarily deliberate. You may be right about me being an enabler though. I can see how I actually am rewarding the behaviour. Things as they are at present can't go on a great deal longer.

Thanks so much TonyWK

Hi Jsua

Thank you for your reply I really appreciate it

You are so right - I'm starting to see how I'm actually feeding her bad behaviour. I've tried for 5 years to try and support her, thinking if I did the right things etc. been a good enough partner she would be happy, and we'd have a great relationship. I realise I'm fighting what appears to be a losing battle.

The silent treatment isn't happening again. The next time it happens I'm not putting up with it. Most of the Easter long weekend consisted of me getting the silent treatment.

We've been together a long time and she wants to progress the relationship to the next stage... i.e. me proposing to her. I just don't see it happening with things as they are. She has put a bit of pressure on me regarding this, something I find odd given how angry she has been with me when I've even diplomatically tried to address concerns about the relationship with her.

I'm seeing my counsellor next week so will get their thoughts too.

Meanwhile I'm doing lots of reading about covert narcissism to try and understand ways I can stop enabling the behaviour.

Hi Buddy, welcome back.

I won't lie, it can be a really tough situation to experience, it can be really confusing and a lot of the times you feel like you are a bad person and you may start to doubt yourself. I cannot stress enough that you do speak to someone about your concerns and really try to focus on yourself. A lot of healthy partners, without realising it may start to believe that they have something wrong with them, they may feel like they are not good enough, they may feel an overwhelming amount of neglect - this is the real tricky part because it is a form of abuse and can have such a toll on who you are and one may even lose track of who they are - depression.

I would recommend looking after yourself as much as you can and I also want to let you know that this situation, what your partner is going through, doesn't make her a bad person, she just needs to accept that treating others, especially you like this is not healthy in any form and is not your fault.

Please put yourself.

You are learning fast.

The following link is the clearest example of what we are talking about with silent treatment.


I can honestly say that after 11 years of that I was insane as it led me to my attempt of suicide. I'm lucky, I recalled my father telling me months earlier "better to be the best part time father than no dad at all".

Amusingly once I drove to collect my children years later. Her second husband appeared at the gate and asked me..."Tony I have a problem with C... I need your advice". "Dont tell me L....she wont rise in the morning for work, leaves you with all the cooking house cleaning finances...." So that exonerated me, I felt proven of my issues with her. This is because, as that article above says...these lazy people have a good knack of turning things around to blame you.

The next partner I had (10 years) was a closet alcoholic. I tried hard to get her off the booze. One day we argued she said "It's because of you that I drink too much and end up hitting you".

Partners that tolerate these people are devoted and tolerant, until its too much to bare.

Not all people act this way. You say you love her, not doubt you do, unfortunately love is more than adoring a personality. It should include consideration, care, near equal effort, appreciation and a big one compatibility. Ironically my first wife was not interested in sex. I'd known from my past relationships there was nothing wrong with me there, it seemed very lazy people have little interest in love making but that could be a sweeping statement unfair to some.


Community Member

Hi Batticus

My young son is married to a Narcissist. His life is not easy. Tony will give you some very good sound advice. One thing my son has found helpful is a link I sent him to a Facebook page....Melanie Tonia Evans. She has podcasts and tools to help people understand how a Narcissist thinks and operates and also how you may be unwittingly enabling them. I hope this may be of some help to you. You are not just supposed to survive in a relationship, there is a better life for you out there. Good luck.


I think my partner maybe a narcissist. I can never do anything right I am always in trouble in front of other people it’s looks as if he is perfect partner but behind closed doors I am yelled at constantly put down I am lazy I am selfish I am self obsessed I have now got severe depression and if it’s cry he can’t stand it I feel as if I al loosing my mind and he tells me I made him that way

Community Member


Im currently going through a separation with my husband who I believe is a malignant narcissist. IV suffered emotional abuse for years and financial and physical abuse. When he heard me talking to a DV line crying he got in car and went to police to get a AVO on me . I had to escape family home to safety . He has taken my son I'm currently fighting for my child back and trying to figure out how to get our belongings back . Too anyone encountering a narc please take pics write down a diary keep evidence . I always documented everything even DV calls these people will railroad you when you least expect it . Have a escape plan I sticky taped my documents under drawers as he would hide needed documents to prevent me from leaving take car keys hide birth certificates . I'm still coming to terms with what this marriage has done to me .

May I add he waited for me to be 5 days out of surgery. To do this so my healing has not happened.

Narcs are dangerous and I recommend reading as much about it as possible education is key and never let them know your on too them . Unfortunately I thought I could change him and as soon as he found out I knew what he was my existence was in danger