Thanks for your prayers. I do feel them. This week I am out of the office all week attending a coaching conference. Next week my younger sister and her family will be here for a visit. I’m looking forward to some time with her. We hope to take a four-wheeler through the desert in Sonoma, so if we do, I will post a picture of our adventure.
In a few weeks, we will start the Walking in CORE Strength Group. This group is only offered twice a year so if you need to build CORE strength, this group is for you. Click here to learn more.
Today’s question: How do you really know if someone who is already a covert Narcissist type but undiagnosed is truly safe again? And who's to say that he won't revert back just as soon as you are codependent on them again for income and support and living in peace and harmony and love if it was never there to begin with on their end?
I have a second question. What if the well-being of the victim needs to be the more important reason to not live together? We've been married 21 years and have 8 kids. We are separated but not legal yet. I keep hearing people tell me, “but what if he changes enough, as he is changing. What if in five years he's all better and you will regret leaving.” I tell them, “who cares! It's not about him at this point but rather my safety and sanity and my well-being and that of the children as well.” Maybe I need a coaching session?
Answer: This question is similar to last week’s question about how do we ever know whether or not someone has really changed or is now safe to live with again.
You say your husband is undiagnosed but describe his behaviors as “covert narcissism.” For readers, unfamiliar with this label let’s review some behavioral indicators that someone may be narcissistic, either overt or more covert.
First, everyone has some narcissistic traits in his or her personality. That is not necessarily bad or pathological. It can be actually helpful or necessary when a person needs to be assertive with someone, or exercise good boundaries or healthy self-care. A person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is self-absorbed with no regard for another person. Some people (more overt narcissists) are very flamboyant in their narcissism and entitlement thinking. They are arrogant, demanding, and aggressive and believe they are entitled to exceptionally special treatment. People are used as objects to mirror their magnificence. When you fail, or don’t want to, or need some attention or care of your own, you will be devalued, dismissed and eventually discarded.
A covert narcissist is more hidden in his (or her) narcissism and less easily detected. The common term for the more covert narcissist is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They are more undercover in their aggression as well as more passive/aggressive because they care how other people view them and therefore they do all they can to protect their image of a great (or godly) person.
A covert narcissist may show signs of humility but beware because they are very good pretenders. Both types of narcissists (overt and covert) are, at their core selfish, but with the covert narcissist, it is much harder for other people to detect the selfishness outwardly.
A covert narcissist is not as bold or brash as an overt narcissist and outwardly not as confident. He may have a more victim mindset and tends to blame other people for his problems.
Neither type of narcissist is capable of empathy for the pain caused others nor does a narcissist truly listen to people’s concerns or feelings. The covert narcissist may pretend to care in order to maintain the image of a good person but genuine concern or empathy is lacking in his consistent actions.
That said, to answer your question it’s unlikely that a narcissist changes because narcissists never see a need to change. It’s always everyone else’s fault. It is almost impossible to detect if a covert narcissist has gained the necessary genuine self-awareness to change because narcissists are excellent liars and pretenders. They can play the role of a changed person when it suits them to do so and often fool helping professionals including trained counselors and psychiatrists. Therefore, you are right to be cautious and not trust him.
But something else you said deeply concerns me. You said, “And who's to say that he won't revert back just as soon as you are codependent on them again for income and support and living in peace and harmony and love if it was never there to begin with on their end?”
What concerns me in this sentence is where you say “as soon as you are co-dependent on them again.” That worries me. It’s true that narcissists are usually married to highly co-dependent people who do not exercise good boundaries or good self-care. Has that been you?
While your husband is or is not doing his work to change, I hope you are doing yours. If you don’t, you will continue to be vulnerable to the same types of relationship issues that you’ve experienced with your husband, even if you don’t reconcile with him. You also share eight children together so I suspect you will still have to have some contact together to co-parent them. Therefore, it is crucial that you do your own work in order to get healthier. Even if he doesn't change, I hope you want to change and not revert back into co-dependent thinking and behaviors .
Yet, I am encouraged by your second question of “What if the well-being of the victim needs to be a more important reason not to live together.” Exactly! I’m glad you see that your safety and sanity matters. And that your eight children’s safety and sanity needs matter as well. (Click To Tweet)
Reconciling with him only feeds his narcissistic mindset that says his needs are most important. Everyone else’s needs come secondary.
It’s a fantasy to think that this kind of person is going to change in five years and be a completely different person. Don't feel pressured by the well-meaning but uninformed counsel of your friends. They have never lived with him, nor will they have to live with him in the future. Only you know what you and the children have been through and is it something you ever want to go through again? If not, then stay separated.
Friend, are you married to a covert narcissist who has changed? If so, share what woke him up, how long the journey of change took, and what work you had to do in order to stand strong.
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