Divorcing a Covert Narcissist

Narcissism has become a prominent topic of discussion in recent years. When we think of a typical “narcissist,” we often envision someone with an inflated sense of self-importance and an insatiable need for attention. These individuals show little concern for others’ feelings or boundaries, making it challenging to interact with them, especially in intimate relationships.

However, not all narcissists fit this stereotype. There are individuals who exhibit tendencies that are quite the opposite of overt narcissism. They may appear more sensitive and reserved, but still, their behavior can be difficult to navigate, particularly in close relationships.

This article delves into the distinctions between overt and covert narcissism, shedding light on their unique traits, behaviors, and the challenges they pose in divorce situations. Let’s explore this complex topic step-by-step:


Narcissism, a personality trait characterized by excessive self-centeredness and a lack of empathy for others, has various manifestations. While some narcissists fit the overt stereotype, others display covert traits that make their behavior more subtle and complex.

Overt Narcissism: The Stereotypical Narcissist

Overt narcissists are the ones we typically associate with narcissism. They exude vanity, self-centeredness, and a sense of superiority. Despite their outward self-assurance, they often mask deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.

Covert Narcissism: The Quiet and Self-Deprecating Narcissist

Covert narcissists may appear modest and self-deprecating, seeking validation and approval from others. However, beneath this facade lies the same core issues of insecurity and a desperate need for a sense of self.

The Common Root: Insecurity and Inadequacy

Both overt and covert narcissists are driven by their insecurities. While overt narcissists seek attention through grandiosity, covert narcissists use subtler tactics to gain the admiration they crave.

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Possible Behaviors of a Covert Narcissist

Covert narcissists may appear empathetic, but they struggle to genuinely connect with others. They often fish for sympathy by highlighting their flaws and weaknesses, making it challenging to distinguish their self-deprecating behavior from genuine humility.

How a Covert Narcissist May Hurt Their Partner

Covert narcissists can be emotionally distant and abusive partners. Their fear of criticism leads them to blame their spouse for any problems in the relationship. They resort to manipulative tactics like the silent treatment and gaslighting to maintain control.

Reacting to a Divorce Summons: The Covert Narcissist’s Response

A divorce summons may trigger extreme reactions from a covert narcissist. They may perceive it as a betrayal and resort to manipulation to garner sympathy. If unsuccessful, they may become aggressive and emotionally abusive.

Strengthening Yourself During the Divorce Process

Divorcing a narcissist, whether overt or covert, can be grueling. Staying focused on the future and minimizing communication can help. Seeking support from a therapist, support group, or trusted friends is vital to navigating this challenging time.


Dealing with a narcissistic spouse in a divorce can be emotionally exhausting. Understanding the differences between overt and covert narcissism can provide insights into their behavior and how to protect yourself during the process.


Q1: Can covert narcissists suffer from depression and anxiety?

Yes, covert narcissists can suffer from depression and anxiety. While they may hide their vulnerabilities behind a self-deprecating facade, they still experience the same underlying insecurities and emotional struggles as overt narcissists. These feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection can contribute to the development of depressive and anxious symptoms.

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Q2: Are there support groups specifically for individuals divorcing a narcissistic partner?

Yes, there are support groups specifically designed for individuals going through a divorce with a narcissistic partner. These support groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and receive emotional support from others who have faced similar challenges in dealing with narcissistic behaviors during divorce proceedings.

Q3: What are some effective co-parenting strategies when dealing with a covert narcissist?

Co-parenting with a covert narcissist can be challenging, but there are some strategies that can help:

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