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Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi All,

I have not been on the forums for a long while. I wanted to write about covert narcissism and find out if anyone out there has had a similar experience to me.


The woman who I often call my 'best friend' is someone who I now strongly suspect of being a very toxic individual - what they call a 'covert narcisist'. I don't much care for labels and I am not a psychologist, so I have no right to label her, anyway.

But I watched this video online today about covert narcissism and what they described suited her to a tee. This really explained a lot of things to me. This is a woman who subtly puts me down is many ways and when I call her out, she then turns it around to look like I am accusing her wrongly. She says her 'put downs' are healthy ways of challenging my reality, but I strongly disagree with her on this. Her put downs are nasty and unnecessary.  I think her put downs and subtle criticisms are ways of trying to control me.

Inside, she is very empty. She has no interests in life, outside of socializing. I often wonder why she needs so many friends and seems to use them for entertainment rather than for company. And I have wondered why she labels so many people as 'boring' - people are just people - if you find others boring, then you are not trying hard enough to actually get to know them, in my opinion. It is quite rude to dismiss people in that way.

She can be a lot of fun, but I recently caught her out in a lie. The funny thing is that she actually had no reason to lie to me, so I don't understand it.

Early on, she seemed to take a very keen interest in me and asked me lots and lots of personal questions which I felt made me warm towards her. Everyone likes to be asked about themselves. Now, I feel her interest was only so as to find ways to 'get' to me, by exploiting my weaknesses. Hence, she was able to discover which subtle 'put downs' to use on me.

Her ultimate goal in using me is just so as not to be alone and not to feel so empty inside. She has not borrowed money from me or asked for anything else.

Two of her other friends have recently told me that they strongly suspect her of trying to flirt with their husbands and possibly even more, if she had the chance. This is what brought all my suspicions to a head.

Thanks for listening.



Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi @Sahara 


It's great to see you again


What you write about Narcissism is really interesting - I have a friend who has told me it seems as if my mother might have been naracisstic - I always thought of my mother as codependent but what you write fits her too so - yes - intriguing


You are right - any put-downs - subtle or not - are toxic and I lived with them until I walked out - often over decades - and they do drag us down and I found myself self-questioning too much until she died - it took me a long time but you seem to have got your frenemy's number - people who live empty lives do tend to need other people for entertainment


Yes - her asking you personal questions and a lot of them might be to have a goal to have you there to fill her life and use her "put-downs" 


I'm glad she hasn't borrowed money from you nor anything else but imo time is more valuable - I'm glad you already have her figured out - now you can be on your guide


It's so interesting - but be wary - yes - 


It is so good you are here - 




Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

I was having the same idea about my sister. I am the same in that I do not want to label. But of the person is not treating you as a friend should. Does the label matter?

In my case I was lucky I have good friends who my sister does not really know. When she misbehaved at my wedding they could give me a gauge of reality. I cut communication after that. 


Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi @Dec and @Bestlife ,


thank you both for writing. I'm sorry to hear that your Mum may have been a narcissist, @Dec . That would have been hard. And also your sister, @Bestlife - to the point where you needed to cut contact. That would not be an easy thing to do.


I am thinking of trying to cut contact with my friend, to an extent. I don't know, though, because she has been a big part of my life. I have picked her up on her 'put downs' numerous times and the behaviors have improved a bit. She is more careful in what she says.

One thing I can't deal with is thinking that her interest in me as a person was entirely faked, just to feed her narcissistic supply! This is hard to deal with. I genuinely thought that she was interested in me and liked me. But she had another side which was nasty and which I knew I didn't deserve, as I am always nice to her.

She is nasty about my successes and achievements- but she does it in a round-about way, never really obvious - like snide comments that she could pass off as jokes. Sometimes also she is very, very nice. But now this does not really feel authentic to me. I must say- I don't know who she is!

But I do know she is very empty inside. That was the first sign something was up with her. She always couldn't bare to be alone and needed some form of entertainment, as though she didn't even exist unless she had a audience around her.

Recently, her boyfriend (who was very flaky) broke up with her and it made me feel sorry for her. I don't know what I will do about all this. I don't even know if she really is a covert narcissist or not- or just someone with problems.

Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi @Sahara 


Yes - it was hard with my mother - in the end I cut contact with her - told her she had been driving me away all my life and that was the last day - and walked out. My sister - who is also toxic - had her POA and my mother was in a very good aged care facility so I never went back and only saw her just before she died - and I saw her regret and I have since forgiven her for my own sake and it was a relief


About your frenemy - it must be hard to know what to do about her - after all she might be a person who has problems - I think it would need to be assessed as to how much this is impinging into your life - and a choice - do you need to cut it off straight away or gradually?  - if straight away do you tell her why or just be really busy all the time?


All of this is really hard - she is empty inside and can't bear to be alone - but is she using you to fill this place in her life? If she truly is she needs to find her feet for herself - and perhaps she has something like abandonment issues. How do you figure this out?


Sometimes I have to get up and walk around and think about it - this was just the case - 


So - the question is how would you feel about things if she wasn't in your life.Maybe you would feel guilty - actually when my cut my mother I would ask myself all day if I would go and see her every day and every night I would be glad I hadn't, This went on until she died and now I am glad I stood my ground - we need not give people the right to make us unhappy - over-think things - feel bad about ourselves or feel put down,


My suggestion is to start slowly and see how it goes and find out how your feel - in the meantime keep in touch and get the opinion of other people in the forum - across the demographics here we have enough people that between us we have felt just about everything - it's a great data-base


All the best SaharaHeart



Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

There is a book by Dr Ramani Durvasula. I think its called "Should I stay or should I go". Might be helpful. 

Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi @Bestlife ,

I watched some of Dr. Ramani's videos on youtube. She is amazing, it was very educational. Then I stumbled upon information about passive-aggressive covert narcissists and that blew me away because that is exactly what my friend is like! Thanks for the suggestion about the book.

Hi @Dec,

Thanks for telling me about your Mum. I remember well you writing about your Mum in the past and I had a difficult Mum too, so we will always have that in common.

It's interesting, but the thing with mothers even relates to this current problem with my frenemy. Because I was brought up with a difficult Mum who always kept me second-guessing myself, it made me susceptible to getting involved with other difficult people and being able to tolerate them long-term in a way that may not be healthy. You may have found the same thing?

My ex-partner was real piece of work, but I put up with him for 13 years! Other women would not have done the same- they would have got out. But I was used to being treated badly, so I didn't know any difference.

I actually spoke to my friend last night and all the time I was listening carefully for any kind of manipulative thing that might come up. But it was OK, she has a lot of problems (but nothing she was blaming me for!) She is seeing a therapist and has done so for over 10 years. He is meant to be excellent - I know other people who see him and who highly recommend him.


This is a cruious thing- if you are a Narcissist - would your therapist come right out and say it????? I mean, that would be very confronting, wouldn't it? Perhaps they might suspect it an treat you as though you could be one, but not actually say it? Interesting.

Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Dr. Ramani discusses that in her video. Smiley Happy I believe there are people in this forum who have lived with PDs for most of their lives were not diagnosed. 


Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Thanks @Bestlife ,


I just went and did a lot of reading and researched this question as best I could. It seems that in general, a psychologist would not tell a person that they were narcissistic. The main reason seems to be that they always have to act in their client's best interest and so if it was not in their best interest to receive this label (and how could it be?) then they would not use it.

They might just do a lot of therapy around developing empathy for others, or whatever. But with a narcissist this is kind of difficult, because they already think they are great with empathy, even when they are so not. They pretty much think they are great at everything!

Deep down though, they are filled with self-loathing. It's funny, that is actually the first thing I realized about my friend - not that she was manipulative (which she definitely is) - but that she is so empty.


Re: Covert Narcissist - my friend could be one?

Hi @Sahara 


Yes - we can get so used to people treating us badly that we might imagine that's how people are - empty and self-glorifying - always right and demanding attention - in any way possible


I think I was lucky in that my father and grandparents had better intentions and I knew better - but our mother is the hardest DVD in our heads to turn off - because that's the voice - all we knew - before birth - our beginnings are mostly erased - we are so helpless - but that's how it is


Still - I had a think about the mythology behind Narcissus - who thought he was so beautiful that everyone would do anything to please him. He gazed at his own reflection for so long he never thought about anyone else and died there by the pool. No doubt he saw his own emptiness and he loathed it


Let's not took too long - hey - but alas Narcissus did


First impressions can be really accurate - perhaps because as we learn about them we gather other data and maybe it's right or not but - you thought your frenemy seemed empty that might have been reinforced as you heard what she had to say after all


The mouth speaks what the heart if full of


And listening to this person gathering info you did pass on to her and was reflected back to you in "put-down" ways -  I can see that this person did not have a back-ground of knowledge of many things we mostly see from other people - we often can't wait to share ourselves and do and that's what makes a relationship - shared inner lives


As you and I have shared about difficult mothers and this is a bond - 


It's not easy - ah - personality disorders - I don't really know about labels as in diagnoses regarding disorders but no doubt they exist - the disorders exist - some people have a dx that might be right or wrong but they are the same person as after the dx as before


Personally I would trust my feelings - that inner gut feeling can protect us


I am really interested in this subject and looking forward to hearing more about what you decide



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