When I was younger, I had a thing for a certain type of guy. I was seriously into these “dark and disturbed” types. The rebel without a cause. The guy who wrote poetry, who was probably a starving artist of some kind, and who hated the whole world and like 99 percent of the people in it. He would always have some cause he was super passionate about, and often called people “zombies” or “sheep.” He wasn’t super friendly and being the codependent I was, I would take pleasure in finding this kind of guy in dark corners of parties or other gatherings, and sort making it my mission to get inside his head and make him like me. We would end up having these deep, intellectual, and philosophical conversations that left me feeling like I’d had some sort of religious experience. I’d always be all googly-eyed, thinking that he “saw me” and that we were connecting on some deep level. The only thing was that after an initial couple of meetings, I’d always be left feeling like I’d been duped, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
Can you relate? Let me ask you: Have you ever met someone who seemed to be sort of an introvert – they might have been a little shy, and might have even talked about how they were a highly sensitive person or even an empath, but the more you got to know them, they also seemed to kind of show a weird sense of selfishness and low-key egocentricity?
If so, you might have been dealing with a covert narcissist. This is what we call someone who is sort of an “incognito” narcissist. They might act like an introvert as far as most people can tell. People who don’t live with them might even assume they ARE an introvert – just a little shy, maybe a bit too sensitive.
So, how can you tell someone is a covert narcissist? What are the signs and how are they different from introverts and “regular,” more overt narcissists?
Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about – how to identify covert narcissism. And, we’ll cover the traits you will see in a covert narcissist.
Covert narcissists are also often referred to as vulnerable narcissists, closet narcissists, and introverted narcissists. This is likely due to the fact that they don’t appear to have much self-confidence, as opposed to their overt counterparts. They are the eternal damsel in distress or the martyrs of some oh-so-noble cause.
What is a Covert Narcissist?
In a nutshell, a covert narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (or might, if they’d ever go see a psychologist for a diagnosis), but who doesn’t seem to have the obvious grandiosity factor. They don’t always seem to act as self-important as the more overt narcissist. They don’t appear to feel like they’re better than everyone – at least not before you know them well.
They appear to be vulnerable and oversensitive, which will often manifest in their behavior as hostility and defensiveness. They will be the one who is quietly looking down their nose at you, judging you and everyone else around them harshly and often unfairly.
Covert Narcissist vs. Overt Narcissist: The Similarities
They do have a few things in common with overt narcissists, including:
But how does a covert narcissist differ from an overt narcissist?
Covert Narcissist vs. Overt Narcissist: The Differences
Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist will not necessarily display narcissistic behavior that is immediately recognizable. You might even think they’re an empath because they seem so modest, so sensitive and so very unsure of themselves.
While they will have the standard grandiose fantasies for their life – all of which are sure to be unrealistic and self-centered, not to mention ridiculously over-inflated, they will believe that their dreams are unrealistic and unattainable. They will blame the world for somehow holding them back, but secretly believe they are a fraud. You see a lot of “imposter syndrome” in people like this.
Ironically, the covert narcissist will even feel guilty for wanting what they want, and somehow this inner conflict leads them to suppress most of their true feelings.
This leads to the inevitable for a covert narcissist: their inner conflict translates into outer behavior, such as:
Being unacceptably aggressive when it comes to getting what they want
Covert Narcissists Play the “Poor Me” Game
Your average covert narcissist spends a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves. They practically invented narcissistic injury. But why do they do this? Why does the “vulnerable narcissist” play the “poor me” game so well?
It all comes down to one thing: covert narcissists hate themselves. In fact, they seem to believe that it is possible to hate yourself BETTER.
Though they continue to demonstrate the behavior they loathe, the covert narcissist is powerless to control their thoughts – and their deep inner conscience is NOT okay with the person they are (or have become).
Unlike their more overt counterparts, covert narcissists actually judge themselves more harshly than anyone judges them. And on a deep level, more harshly than they judge other people (at least those outside of his immediate inner circle).
Either way, while they seem to be outwardly unconcerned with the world, they certainly have quietly high standards for their lives. But these may be outside of “normal” high standards. For example, the covert narcissist might be broke, but he might claim that this is because he doesn’t believe in capitalism, and then he will feel superior to anyone who he considers a sort of “servant to their jobs” or who wants and obtains things of monetary value.
So, they will quietly stick to this unreasonable standard to the best of their abilities, happy to secretly look down their nose at the people they deem “lesser” or otherwise inferior to themselves.
For example, let’s say the covert narcissist is a passionate but broke musician who plays exclusively in basements and backrooms, and who does so because they claim they want to stay true to their art and they don’t want to “sell out.” And one evening after a gig, a record executive comes up to them and asks if they have a demo because they think they might be able to get a recording contract. The covert narcissist at that moment is likely to jump at this opportunity – because who doesn’t want a chance to be rich and famous?
But then, once they take the time to put together a demo and send it to the record exec, the guy either never respond or realizes he was more intoxicated than he thought that night and tells the narcissist that the deal is off. This sends the narcissist into a spiral of self-loathing.
And, of course, anytime the covert narcissist fails to meet these so-called “standards” and behaves in any way that their inner critic deems bad or not desirable (by, in this case, agreeing to “sell out” and sending the demo, rather than snubbing the commercial industry that they’ve always claimed to hate), they’re back to square one: hating both themselves and the “zombies” or “sheep” who caused them to fall off-track.
Now, they hate the industry, and especially the music executives who they say always want to commercialize everything. They even justify their rejection by saying that the exec in question just didn’t get their music because it is somehow above their level of understanding.
Later, they might even make up stories about how they were offered a record deal and turned it down because they wanted to avoid becoming a sellout.
Why the Covert Narcissist Lives with Self-Hate: Distorted Self-Awareness
It all boils down to one thing: a covert narcissist understands on some level that their self-inflating ideas are not quite realistic – at least on some level.
So, though they continue to have narcissistic thoughts and even occasional external behaviors, they are always holding himself to a very high standard. They spend their lives competing with the one person they’ll never be able to beat: themselves – or some version of that.
At the same time, they are incapable of openly accepting blame or responsibility for anything that isn’t positive, and in fact they relate any such admission to weakness and “badness” of other people – which, most likely, is because of the angry kind of envy that psychologists say is involved in the creation of any narcissistic behavior.
The Covert Narcissist is a Perpetual Victim
The covert narcissist is often mistaken for an introvert or a shy person because to the untrained eye, they appear to be a pushover who is generally unassertive. They see themselves (and others see them) as victims or as people who aren’t able to obtain what they should have or deserve. People who don’t really know them may say things like, “oh, they’re just a big teddy bear” or “oh, their bark is worse than their bite!”
They will also:
Have outrageously adolescent daydreams about being a big famous something-or-other
Have feelings of being worthless, countered by feelings of being different, separate or “better” than other people
Have a somewhat questionable grip on reality, leading to personal guilt and self-hate.
Claim to be “a little OCD”
Call themselves a perfectionist
What do you think? Any of that sound familiar to you?
Are you concerned that you might be a covert narcissist?
Question of the Day: Have you ever met a covert narcissist? How could you tell? What characteristics do you think most clearly identify the covert narc? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below this video.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
If the silent treatment is a form of narcissistic abuse, does going no contact make you a narcissist? Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of comments from viewers who are worried that they might be the narcissist in their relationship. Most of the time, these comments are on videos related to the silent treatment, ghosting or things narcissists do or say in any given situation.
One of the most common concerns is whether going no contact makes you a narcissist. People learn that the silent treatment and ghosting can be considered forms of narcissistic abuse, and they equate this to the way we treat a narcissist when we go no contact with them.
I get why they feel this way – it’s a little confusing. In both the silent treatment and in ghosting, the narcissist ignores us and/or doesn’t respond when we try to reach out to them. And that’s exactly what we do when we’re using the no contact method to heal ourselves.
So what is the difference here?
How is no contact different from the silent treatment and ghosting?
Are we just as bad as the narcissist for choosing to end contact? Does this make us “one of them?” If the silent treatment isnarcissistic abuse, does no contact make you a narcissist? And what are the differences between the silent treatment, ghosting and the no contact rule? Let’s do this.
First, let’s quickly define the silent treatment, ghosting, and no contact.
What is the silent treatment?
In a nutshell, the silent treatment is a manipulation tactic where the narcissist will stop talking to you for days, hours, weeks or even months in order to punish you for some perceived slight. It can cause serious emotional and psychological damage if you don’t realize what is happening.
What is ghosting?
Ghosting is basically exactly what it sounds like – the narcissist disappears on you without a word. This can be for any number of reasons – they may be attempting to punish you for something, or it may be a totally selfish reason in which the narcissist hasn’t even considered the possibility that you’d be bothered by their absence. Remember, they have a lack of empathy, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t consider your feelings. In ghosting, the narcissist might reappear at any given time, ready to consume more of that narcissistic supply they so desperately need.
What is no contact?
And then there’s no contact, which, if we’re being honest, is both a coping mechanism as well as a technique that is practically required to heal after narcissistic abuse. It involves removing yourself from the narcissist’s life. You stop seeing, speaking to, and interacting with the narcissist. This allows you to clear your life of the negative energy they bring into every room.
So what are the similarities and differences here?
No Contact vs. Ghosting and the Silent Treatment
Let’s start with what’s similar. As I mentioned earlier, in all three cases, one person intentionally avoids the other person. And, in all cases, the end of contact can be done without a word to the other person involved.
But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The differences between the silent treatment, ghosting and no contact go much deeper and are significant. So what differentiates no contact from the silent treatment and ghosting?
1. The Motivation/Intention
As I mentioned, narcissists give you the silent treatment because they want to punish you for something they think you’ve done wrong. Often, this is the result of a narcissistic injury. Ghosting can be done for the same reason, or it can be done out of pure selfishness and a lack of concern for your feelings and wellbeing. No contact is more about protecting yourself so that you can be safe and heal after going through an abusive, toxic relationship. The silent treatment is passive-aggressive and abusive, while no contact is really less about the narcissist and more about you. In no contact, you aren’t trying to hurt the narcissist – you’re just trying to save yourself.
2. What You Get Out of It
Again, the narcissist is often trying to get something from you when they give you the silent treatment. They’re trying to get you to do (or not do) something. Or they’re trying to put you in your place. Or make you submit to their will. But when it comes to going no contact, you want nothing from the narcissist except to be left alone. You don’t have an ulterior motive that involves them at all – you’re just trying to get away from them so you can have the space you need to heal.
3. The Trauma Bonding Part
Another difference between no contact and the narcissist’s ghosting or silent treatment is that no contact is that one of the first steps to resolving the trauma bond developed during your toxic relationship with the narcissist. Since trauma bonding causes you to feel sort of addicted to the narcissist (and you can learn more about that at the video I’ll link for you right there and in the description below), going no contact can be likened to an addict going cold turkey to quit their drug of choice. Like it or not, the narcissist has an almost druglike effect on us after all of the years of the trauma they’ve put us through – in fact, research shows the same part of our brain is affected by them as is affected by drugs. But while most narcissists have also suffered some form of trauma, usually in childhood, their reasons for giving you the silent treatment or ghosting you are usually not directly related to it (but it can be indirectly related since their impulsiveness and lack of empathy probably stem from their reaction to that trauma).
Often, codependents feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in their relationships, and this is often a result of the fact that toxic people over the course of their lives have conditioned them to feel this way. We know that one of the biggest red flags of a toxic narcissist is that they refuse to take responsibility for anything other than positive things they (or others) do. Anything that might be seen in a negative light or that doesn’t portray them as the vision of perfection they have for themselves? They squarely place the blame on literally anyone or anything else.
Now, there is such a thing as narcissistic fleas – and that might be where your confusion is here. Narcissistic fleas are just little behaviors and habits that victims pick up from narcissists, such as verbal bullying, coldness, or an apparent lack of empathy. The good news is these “fleas” can be eradicated with mindfulness and intention.
But how could this be? We are so different from narcissists. We feel deeply and we aren’t bullies.
Well, look at this logically for a moment: when we spend a lot of time with someone, we naturally tend to pick up certain habits and speech patterns from them. For example, when I moved back to the St. Louis area after college, I recorded my outgoing message for my voicemail. After being back for six months or so, I called it one day and totally freaked out – I sounded completely weird to myself. During my years in college, I had picked up a bit of the country twang that people in my college town all seemed to have.
And, on a slightly more relevant note, when my ex-husband would be in the wrong mood, he’d take sort of a bullying tone with communication. He’d always talk in sort of an accusatory way – and even if he didn’t directly accuse me of something, it always felt like he did. A year or two after I left him, I found myself using a similar tone with a friend at one point. Luckily, I recognized it and did my best to change it.
When someone accuses you of being a narcissist
But what if the person you believe is a narcissist turns the tables on you and tells you that you are in fact the narcissist, and not them? What is going on when the narcissist calls you a narcissist for going no contact?
Their logic seems to go like this: “Well, you said that the silent treatment or ghosting is narcissistic abuse. You aren’t talking to me and won’t see me, so you must be the narcissist. Could they be right? Are we all toxic narcissists because we choose to go no contact?”
I think you and I both know the answer to that one. But just to make it perfectly clear, let me fill you in. There are two things to consider here.
The Hoover Maneuver
First, the narcissist is intentionally trying to manipulate you into responding to them, so by accusing you of being the very thing they are, they tempt you to respond to them and reengage – they hope you’ll argue with them so they can hoover you back in, one way or the other. Hoovering is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after the discard. This can be drama-related or it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship or to get you to break no contact. In other words, the narcissist will call you a narcissist to get you to accept the blame for everything that they’ve done wrong (plus anything you did in reaction to said wrongdoing) and then get you back into their little circle of narcissistic supply. Don’t fall for it. That brings me to my next point.
In case you’re new around here, gaslighting is a pervasive and highly-effective tactic the narcissist uses to manipulate you into doubting your own reality, not trusting yourself and your perceptions, and questioning your own sanity. This little mind game is quite effective, especially when done over the course of several years in a relationship, and it helps the narcissist sort of brainwash you into doing what they want.
While self-awareness is scarce among narcissists, they seem to intrinsically and systematically extract narcissistic supply from anyone who allows it. And, whether you were raised by, married to or otherwise engaged with the narcissist in your own life, you KNOW they know they can get it from you. You know they have a freaking map to every button you’ve got – and they won’t hesitate to push them.
So, if the narcissist can insert even a small amount of doubt into your head about the fact that they are the reason that your relationship would ultimately fail? Well, they feel a strange kind of validation and satisfaction. Plus, they’ll use this as part of the sob story they’re going to tell about you in their inevitable smear campaign.
That’s where they’ll tell everyone you know (and even some people you don’t know) about what a horrible partner, son, daughter, sister, brother, employee – or whatever – you are, so that they can get attention from other people, who will feel sorry for them and give them more narcissistic supply – you know, attention, validation, pity. The stuff that narcissists need to keep going.
So, what is the bottom line here? Basically, if you are going no contact, you’re doing that in order to prevent further abuse and trauma being inflicted on you by a person who has proven repeatedly that they will never stop hurting you. You are not doing anything TO them, other than not allowing them to be part of your life. It is not a move meant to hurt them or get revenge on them. It is simply a move to save yourself so you can heal. If someone is giving you the silent treatment or ghosting you, they do not necessarily intend to completely end contact with you – they simply intend to hurt, manipulate and control you. Or, in some cases, they simply just don’t care or don’t think about how their behavior would make you feel. And even if they do, they are unlikely to be bothered by your feelings.
Take the Narcissist Test
How can you be sure you’re not the narcissist in all of this? How do you know you’re not just justifying your behavior by telling yourself that you’re going no contact, but secretly you’re just ghosting a perfectly nice person?
Ask yourself two simple questions:
1. Do you care how people feel and sometimes change your behavior because of how someone else feels?
2. How did or does the person you’re going no contact with make you feel when you spend time around them?
If you are a narcissist, you would’ve answered “no” to number one and you would have varied answers to number two. If you are not, you would have answered yes to number one and most likely, you’d find yourself feeling terrible, unlovable, worthless or otherwise negative when you have spent time with the person in question. They hardly ever make you feel good these days, but they may have once made your heart soar. Still not sure? You can take our narcissism test here.
Doing what I do, I get to talk to a lot of interesting people – and I hear some really revealing stories. For example, I was talking to a client the other day and she mentioned to me that her ex had unfriended their son on a certain social media platform. This caused her to reach out to him and ask why he’d done it – it upset her son and she had to know why he would do such a thing. He admitted that he was childish and the two had an hours-long conversation afterward, leaving my client more confused than ever.
Another client told me about how her father kept sending her strange boxes of things that belonged to her deceased father, despite the fact that they’d been no contact for years. Luckily, she didn’t react, but it definitely messed with her head.
A male client shared with me that his ex had been giving him the silent treatment for weeks. In fact, it had gone on for so long that he assumed the relationship was over. Then, one day, she contacted him to let him know she was pregnant and that the baby would be coming in a few months. He instantly forgot about all of the drama that had gone down between them and rushed to her side. A year later, after he’d helped name the baby and had fallen madly in love with him, he learned that he wasn’t the father – and worse, that the mother had known it all along, but did not tell him because the real father had gone to prison. But now that he was out, she said, he wanted his baby and she wanted him.
And then there was the client who told me a story about how after she’d struggled to end a relationship with a particularly difficult ex, she heard a knock on the door one day, and there he stood, holding his dog. She said he told her the dog was sick and he didn’t know what to do or to whom else he could turn. Of course, she helped him get the dog to the vet and made sure he was okay afterward. They ended up dating for three more months after that.
Sneaky Things Narcissists Do to Get You Back
All of these stories sound different, right? But they all have one thing in common – they are sneaky things that narcissists did to get people back in their lives. And these are just a few of probably thousands of examples of this phenomenon. If you’ve been pulled back into a relationship with a narcissist, or you’re worried that you might be, stick with me, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – sneaky things narcissists do to get you back, plus: how to recognize them and what to do if it happens to you. See the video on YouTube for more, or read more here.
This is Hoovering
When you end a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.
Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.
About a year after my divorce was final, I got a call from my ex-mother-in-law, letting me know that my ex was getting remarried. I was only mildly surprised – mostly that it had taken him almost two years to meet, successfully propose and schedule a wedding with his would-be second ex-wife. In hindsight, I’m actually kind of surprised it took him that long because usually, narcissists move much quicker. Still, I have absolutely no doubt he was dating and being “in love” with someone – more likely, more than one person, shortly after I left him, but for me, I didn’t even start dating until the divorce was final, and that itself took close to a year after I left.
Even though I did not in any way want him back, part of me felt some kind of way about this whole situation. It wasn’t that I felt jealous. I felt…confused. I felt like I wanted to contact this woman and tell her what she was in for. But if I’m being honest, I wanted to know how he was treating her. Was he being nice? Had he suddenly become the person I’d always wanted him to be? Had all the time and effort I spent trying to help him get it together finally benefitted someone, even if it wasn’t me?
Part of me hoped that he would be different for her. But the other part of me knew he wouldn’t.
It would be about five years later that I’d finally speak to her. When my now-husband decided to adopt my oldest son (the one I’d had with my ex), I had to reach out to the ex. He agreed to sign the papers because it might mean that he would no longer be on the hook for child support. Understandably, despite the fact that she’d never met or spoken to my son because he’d spent literally no time at all with my ex, his then-wife was quite concerned about the situation and showed up with him when I met him to sign the papers.
Once everything was resolved, she ended up calling me several times to discuss her husband and their relationship. She wanted to know if her experiences were like mine. It turned out that her marriage was nearly identical to mine, except she didn’t tolerate as much of his crap as I had. This led to his increasing the intensity and frequency of manipulation and gaslighting. Either way, though, she ended up divorcing him not long after. He’d end up married twice more after that, as far as I know.
The one thing I had felt worried about was that he would be better for someone who wasn’t me. But after having the opportunity to talk to both his second and third wives, I learned the truth: he was the same person for them as he’d been for me. He never changed.
Will the Narcissist Change for the New Supply?
Have you ever felt worried that your ex would somehow change for their new “source of narcissistic supply?” If so, you’re not alone. In fact, I hear this question all the time. People want to know: will the narcissist change for the new supply? Will they take everything I tried to teach them and use it successfully in a new relationship? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – narcissists and their new sources of supply – how they treat them and whether their new relationship is as good as they make it seem from the outside.
So, you’ve finally had the nerve to leave your partner, who you’re pretty sure is a toxic narcissist. And now, after years of psychological and emotional mind games, and you’re finally starting to breathe again. You are finally free of this horrible, selfish energy and you feel like you’re a brand new person! Life is just starting to get really, really good.
And then it happens. In-person or on social media, you spot your former would-be soulmate with someone new. You are startled and it feels like you’ve been slapped in the face. But pretty soon, you notice that there’s something different about them. They seem happier, brighter. Relaxed, even. They’re having a good time with a new person – maybe even someone who looks a little like you or who has something in common with you. They’re laughing, talking and even being charming.
“Who IS this person?” you wonder.
You’re confused. You’re hurt. You’re angry, maybe. A far cry from the narcissist you recently knew, your ex has somehow transformed themselves back into the amazing person you fell in love with. But seconds later, almost as if time is moving in slow motion, you realize what is happening. Your narcissist has found their next victim – and they’re in the process of love bombing this person, and for just a moment, you get a front-row seat.
Listen. I know it stings. I know it hurts when you see the person you fell in love with re-emerging after you’re away for a while. And I know that you wonder (at least a little bit) if somehow he narcissist was right all along – and if it really WAS just you.
(Side note: I PROMISE you that it wasn’t you.) Let’s talk about it.
The Truth About Narcissists in Relationships
Time for a reality check, my friend: you were never the problem in your toxic relationship. I’m not saying you were perfect. I’m not saying you didn’t make mistakes. I’m just saying that the majority of your issues in the relationship were a direct reaction to the mind games and manipulation that you were putting up within the relationship.
First, let me acknowledge that while every step in the healing process after a toxic relationship with a narcissist can be very painful, this one is probably one of the most confusing. See, while the bigger part of you knows that the narcissist is never going to REALLY change, this other little part of you still loves them – or, to put it more accurately, the version of them that you once believed was real. The one you signed up for in the first place. And that’s the part of them that they’re parading around now – so it’s like you’re mourning “that version” of the narcissist all over again.
But let me repeat: the problem was NOT you! The problem was that the narcissist took you for granted. They got used to having you around. They got spoiled by your supply. And they got bored, or you demanded that they behave like an actual grownup. Or maybe they got shiny new object syndrome, or they said they didn’t love you anymore, and left you to pursue whatever it was they wanted in the moment. Maybe you just finally had enough and you left the narcissist yourself.
Why the Narcissist Becomes the Person You Fell In Love With When You Leave
Maybe it would help you to understand why the narcissist has suddenly become Mr. or Ms. Perfect again. Here’s the truth: now that the relationship has ended, whether it was the narcissist’s idea or yours to end things, the narcissist was left without a source of regular narcissistic supply – and it is not possible for a narcissist to exist for long without it. Sure, they’ll have their little circle of supply. Friends, family members, even people they’ve cheated on you with. But now that you’re no longer officially together, the narcissist is out there on the prowl again, seeking out the new source of narcissistic supply that they need to save them from themselves.
This is normal – it’s exactly what you should expect from a toxic narcissist. And while a small part of you might secretly hate the new supply, the other part of you sadly already knows that it isn’t going to be all hearts and flowers for this person either. That’s right – if you really think about it, you’ll know exactly know how this story is going to go.
Narcissistic Abuse Has a Standard Cycle
Now, as you know, narcissists are very hard to live with, and even a reasonably intelligent person would feel ashamed that they tolerate the narcissist’s manipulative tactics. This means that the new supply is probably keeping any drama and BS under wraps. And if you’re being honest, you might have done the same thing back then, especially on social media. I remember being really embarrassed if anyone found out what I’d been dealing with, so I told very few people.
This happens in varying iterations and it happens often inside the same relationship over and over for decades sometimes. But if I’m in your shoes at this point, I’m going to make use of the no-contact/low-contact thing and use it to my advantage. That means to block them both on Facebook so you can stop torturing yourself by stalking their profiles. It means you will not listen when some well-meaning flying monkey tries to offer you updates on the narcissist and the new supply.
It means you’re going to move forward and focus ONLY on what you can control (not what you can’t), and since you couldn’t control the narcissist while you were together, you sure as heck can’t now (nor should you want to – this person no longer your problem!). If you have kids together and you can’t go completely no contact, then you go low contact, meaning that you ONLY deal with the narcissist about the business of raising the kids. Nothing else.
But how do you deal with the painful reality of watching your ex narcissist be perfect for someone else?
How to Deal When the Narcissist Moves On with Someone Else
1. See the Patterns!
Start by remembering what you dealt with and by recognizing what the new supply will deal with soon enough, if they’re not already going through it. (And even if you’re tempted to warn your narcissist’s new supply about what they’re getting themselves into, don’t do it – even if your intentions are good. Since chances are they’re still in the love-bombing or idealization phase, and since your ex has likely told them a lot of lies about you, they won’t likely believe you anyway and you’ll end up regretting the decision to reach out.)
2. Realize the Truth!
Don’t sit around thinking that the narcissist’s new supply will end up getting the benefit of all the work you did trying to fix them. It doesn’t work like that. The narcissist is and always be exactly who they are. Narcissists do not change. I’m not saying they can’t – because I believe that if a narcissist were to really dig in to discover and heal their core wounds, it might be possible. But I’m saying they don’t. In all the years I’ve worked in this business, I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve never seen it happen with any narcissist in my own life and I’ve interviewed and worked with a number of psychologists and other experts who will tell you the same thing: a narcissist does not change (not for long, anyway). The most you’ll get is a temporary behavior modification, and that’s only if the narcissist gets something out of it.
3. Grieve the Relationship!
This is one place I failed in my early recovery. Rather than grieving the relationship, I decided to avoid my feelings and just move forward. That turned out to be a bad idea as it would later come back and bite me in the butt – and while the grief process will wait, it will not just go away. Eventually, you’re going to have to grieve the person you signed up for and let them go.
4. Be Honest with Yourself!
Remember that you’re not really mourning the person you lost; you’re mourning your illusion of who you believed they were. It’s an ever-turning cycle that the narcissist will repeat in varying iterations for the rest of their life. Be glad you’re off the wheel.
5. Put Yourself First for Once!
Stay focused on you, and on making your own life better. You have already been tortured enough – if you let this situation keep making you miserable, you’re only allowing the narcissist to continue the abuse and control you from afar. Take back your life, my friend, and choose to be happy, in your own way. Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.
6. Focus on Healing.
It’s time for you to heal and release the anger and sadness. As you work on your own healing, the layers of anger and sadness will soon disappear. One of the hardest things for me and for many survivors of these kinds of relationships was mourning the illusion of that perfect relationship we wanted to truly believe that we had. Letting that go was a big step for me and many other survivors have told me the same thing.
7. Don’t Overthink the New Supply.
NEVER compare yourself to the new supply, unless it’s to feel sorry for them as you take note of the pattern that you’re thankfully no longer subjected to in your life. Don’t do yourself the disservice of trying to think the new supply somehow “better” than you; the truth is that narcissists are very picky, so chances are, if the new source of narcissistic supply “seems” better somehow, it’s only because the hasn’t ruined them just yet.
8. Skip the “What Ifs.”
Don’t “if only” and “what if” yourself to death. It’s common to have feelings of regret after any relationship ends, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder what you could have done differently or whether something you did or said could have been the trigger that caused it all to go downhill. But that’s not the truth, and it’s not helping you – it’s only causing you more pain – and chances are, you couldn’t have changed the situation without going completely insane trying to make the narcissist happy. Remember that the narcissist will NEVER be truly happy, because true happiness comes from within – and they are empty on the inside, at least on an emotional level. Now it’s time to live in the moment and to think about how you want the future to go.
What do you think?
Question of the Day: Have you ever experienced watching your ex-narcissist get involved with a new person, or even just appear to return to the person they used to be, and how did it make you feel? What advice would you offer your fellow survivors in this situation? Or are you currently dealing with this issue? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
I remember thinking I’d met my soulmate within a couple of weeks of meeting my ex. It was so crazy how much we had in common. He was an artist like me and even wrote dark, brooding poetry as I did at the time. We liked the same music and we both loved to dance – the list could go on and on. And while I didn’t think much of him when we first met, it wasn’t long before I was telling a girlfriend that while we seemed so different, I couldn’t believe how much we had in common.
Of course, I’d later understand that he was likely a toxic narcissist, and relationships with narcissists move quickly. So, within less than a year, we’d be living together and married with a baby on the way. It was around this time that I’d be smacked in the face with the fact that much of what he’d claimed we had in common was a complete fabrication. But why would he do this?
Narcissists have a way of copying you, or mimicking you or in some cases, nearly becoming you. And, when you think of narcissistic mirroring or copying, you think of the average narcissist who sort of takes on parts of the identities of other people. But what you may not know is that this behavior, as annoying as it can be, is often the result of an early childhood wound caused by a lack of mirroring. And while narcissists manifest this by imitating people around them, any of us could have been affected by the same childhood wound and could be manifesting it through our own codependency. Yes, I’m serious. Let’s talk about it.
What Is Mirroring?
Mirroring is the usually subconscious replication of another person’s nonverbal signals. In layman’s terms, mirroring is when you reflect back the mannerisms, behaviors, and other behaviors of other people. It causes us to adopt different facial expressions, body language, as well as tone and for some of us, will lead to empathy.
As adults, we may use mirroring subconsciously as a way to create rapport with others. And, despite what a lot of people will tell you, mirroring isn’t a narcissistic behavior, technically. In fact, mirroring is a normal part of the development of humans. It begins as early as the day you’re born and is a requirement for the normal development of babies, toddlers, and kindergarteners. It helps them to develop their identities. But what happens when a tiny human doesn’t experience this important connection during infancy and early childhood?
How Does a Lack of Mirroring in Early Childhood Affect You Long-Term?
As infants, humans will naturally adapt to whatever parenting we get. When our parent is depressed, anxious, stressed, or even distracted often, they don’t always give us the eye contact we need. In these cases, and in the case of a parent who might have narcissistic personality disorder, we are nearly doomed on a psychological level when we don’t get the kind of connection we need for our brains to develop normally.
For most people, the natural times to give this kind of eye contact would happen during feeding, diaper changing, and other kinds of physical care of their babies. And you would think that it’s a sort of natural thing for most people to look at their babies and talk to them or coo at them, right?
Good Enough Parents Vs. Toxic Parents
The thing is that most parents do this naturally, even parents who might not be considered “good” parents by the average person. And even when “good enough” parents do what comes naturally to them, babies and toddlers will reciprocate and even begin to initiate eye contact and connection over time.
But when our mothers have the problems I mentioned or any other issue that causes her to not focus while she’s feeding and caring for us, for example, she might not give us the eye contact that we’d so desperately have needed to properly attach to her. This leads to us losing not only our ability to develop our authentic selves, but it leaves us instinctively feeling that our needs haven’t been met.
That is because we are receiving an unconscious message that we don’t matter – and later, if our mother IS a narcissist, we learn that in order to have any value whatsoever, we must meet her needs (and the needs of others). This kind of perception can manifest in several ways, becoming a big part of the core self we develop. It will, in nearly every case, affect our relationships in adulthood as well.
Two Extreme Ways a Lack of Mirroring Can Affect Your Adult Relationships
Since the lack of mirroring in early childhood leads to you feeling unimportant and that your value comes from how you serve other people, you would naturally become more attractive to someone like a narcissist. You spend your life trying to make the people around you happy and take care of their needs in order to feel like you’re worthy.
While you and I might have developed the “disease to please,” if our mothers were unable to connect with us on this level, those who develop toxic narcissism or even narcissistic personality disorder are affected differently. See, when narcissism manifests, it is because those who develop that way have developed the trademark lack of empathy as a result of not having felt understood, appreciated or tuned in with their parent. So, unlike those of us who became people-pleasers, narcissists are unable to see others as whole people – they can’t understand or appreciate the autonomy of anyone else.
Worse, the lack of mirroring in infancy can lead to a very toxic legacy in your family. That’s because, for example, when a mother doesn’t naturally mirror her babies, chances are she didn’t receive mirroring in her own infancy and early childhood. As a result, unless she chooses to develop the awareness needed to overcome this and to intentionally change the pattern, she won’t be able to offer it to her kids either. This leads to her trauma being passed on to her children, and this can continue in families for generations.
How Does Mirroring Lead to Copycat Behavior in Narcissists?
Maybe you’ve noticed that the narcissist in your life picked up some of your hobbies or ideas – or even certain personality traits you have. Your reaction might have been to worry, and then you might have thought you were reading into it too much. Or maybe you thought it was an amazing bit of kismet and that you’d finally you met your soulmate, as I did initially with my ex.
But by now, you’ve realized you’re dealing with someone who might be a narcissist. And you are painfully aware that narcissists are manipulative. Mirroring can be used by narcissists as an almost unconscious manipulation tactic and it can be used consciously by sociopaths and psychopaths.
When adult narcissists use mirroring, they copy your behaviors, mannerisms, speech patterns, and personality traits – it can really be extreme and for some of us, a little disconcerting. Since narcissists feel like they have no substance, it is almost like they cannot exist without being a reflection of someone else – or more than one person. This, as I explained, is likely due to that early childhood wound of not getting the kind of nurturing they needed on an emotional level – their mothers often didn’t give them the eye contact and recognition that they needed to properly self-actualize.
When the Narcissist Suddenly Changes Their Personality or Behaviors
Often, when you’re in a long-term relationship with a narcissist, you’ll notice a shift in their personalities over the years. For the average narcissist, you might see a sudden shift in personality when they start spending time with a new person. Or, if they are your parent, they might take on some of your own qualities, habits, or hobbies as you develop them, and this might continue into adulthood.
What’s interesting about this is that it can be a “tell” if you think about it. Why? Because when they do suddenly change, you can often just look around at the people in their lives and figure out exactly what is going on. Chances are that they are either jealous of someone and taking on their qualities, mimicking them, or they’re obsessed with them and taking on their qualities, behaviors or mannerisms for that reason.
Why Do Narcissists Engage In Mirroring in Relationships?
As you know, narcissists are by nature very competitive, and when you’re in a relationship with them, it can feel like they want to take your identity in one way or another. In the case of mirroring, they will almost become you on some level. Ironically, they will often find you attractive for whatever quality they will eventually take on, and as the relationship progresses, you may actually lose that part of yourself. for a codependent, this can be devastating and have lifelong effects. But what is the psychology of the mirroring behavior for narcissists in adult relationships?
There are several reasons that narcissists engage in mirroring in adult relationships, including the following.
I’m not talking about the kind of identity theft in which criminals use your information to open up rogue bank accounts to hurt your credit – though narcissists aren’t above it. They never established a real sense of identity growing up, thanks to the lack of eye contact and human connection in early childhood. They might be literally attempting to adopt your identity.
A tactic to win you over
Mirroring in narcissists also happens when they really want to win you over. I like to call this a sort of “soulmate scam,” because they will pretend they like and dislike the same things that you do. For instance, if you love Fleetwood Mac but strongly dislike The Eagles, then ‘coincidentally’ they will too. Meeting someone who is so much like you might make you feel like they’re your soulmate and cause you to warm to them more quickly.
They pretend they are being intimate
Narcissists are not by nature able to express true empathy. Certainly, in some cases, they are able to fake it when they need to, but generally, they don’t have the skills or even the desire to have a connection that is real. But they need narcissistic supply, and in order to get that, they need relationships. They logically understand that intimacy is important. So, they pretend, and they learn to do this by watching your own behaviors. In other words, they fake intimacy by imitating you.
While narcissists will stop actively mirroring you after the love bombing or idealization phase, they’ll also continue to hold on to whatever qualities or traits they’ve picked up from you, unless and until they find someone else to imitate.
So, what do you think?
Question of the day: have you experienced a narcissist who copied your identity, and if so, were you surprised by the answers I shared today on why that happens? Do you agree or disagree with my theory? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
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