The “amorous” vulnerable covert narcissist is a most interesting character. Such folks are narcissistic, to be sure. But almost everyone finds them likeable. Perhaps that’s because they don’t appear narcissistic at all. In fact, their ways of relating make them quite lovable. They can be quite charming. And they can come across as the most loving of characters, too. But there’s a big difference between these skilled attention and admiration solicitors and folks who genuinely love. Unfortunately, that’s not readily apparent at the front end of a relationship.
See also: Amorous Narcissists Can Charm Convincingly
Revisiting the Vulnerable Versus Grandiose Dimension of Narcissism
Vulnerable narcissists are more benign than the grandiose types. These more “neurotic” narcissists have some degree of conscience. They’re also largely inwardly needy and insecure. They seek the attention and admiration of others to fill an emotional hole within them. And what makes them relatively benign is they don’t set out to purely and heartlessly exploit. What they mostly want from you is to meet their need. And they’re equally willing to fill any emotional holes you may have. It’s a contract of sorts: “I’ll appear to value you if you’ll value me.” Still, the contract is based in narcissistic need. So, often, what they appear to value in you is really some aspect of you that resembles them. At it’s core, all narcissism is pathological self-love.
See also: Toxic Self-Love
Grandiose narcissists are more malevolent. They can even be malignant. They lack conscience. So, when they use and exploit you they’re not unconsciously filling an emotional void. Instead, they’re heartlessly relishing in their conquest and domination of you. There are “amorous” narcissists of the character-disturbed type. Such folks are often serial sexual predators and exploiters. To a grandiose amorous narcissist, you’re merely a trophy – living proof of their greatness and power.
Two Main Varieties of Narcissists
Vulnerable Narcissists and Relationships
The Name of Their Game
An amorous vulnerable covert narcissist can be quite skilled at spotting the vulnerabilities in others. And because such types have high ego needs themselves, they’re particularly adept at reading the ego needs of others. They understand when and how you might need building up. And they’re often gifted in the art of “ego massage.” They know just what to do to make you feel good about yourself. And because they often have good “connection” skill, too, you can easily be swept off your feet. Just one encounter with them can make you feel like they’ve known you your whole life. You can even feel like you’ve found your true soulmate. They appear to fully understand you. And that’s because – at least at the level of ego neediness – they do!
The Covert Dimension
Character-disturbed and disordered types hide their true nature and intentions consciously and deliberately. It’s the way they most effectively abuse and exploit you. If you knew who they truly are and what they’re capable of at the outset, you’d never involve yourself in the first place. But with more neurotic, vulnerable types, it’s different. Their full nature is hidden alright. But that’s not because they’ve consciously, deliberately concealed it.
Neurotic narcissistic types haven’t honestly reckoned with themselves, let alone others. They barely know what drives them. If they did, they might even be horrified. And they have some degree of conscience. So, they actually want to be decent as well as appear so. But their ego needs are too high and they’re too oblivious of other motives to be genuine. And the games they play (see above), while to a degree unconscious, by nature simply have to end problematically (see below).
Involvement with an amorous vulnerable covert narcissist is like being part of a “mutual admiration society.” And this can feel powerfully satisfying for awhile. It can even become an addiction. Not surprisingly, some describe these charmers as the archetypal “thief of hearts.” They’ll win your affection for sure. But eventually, the shallowness of their true relationship with you has to show itself. And that’s when the inevitable emotional let down occurs.
Involvement with an amorous vulnerable covert narcissist has been the ruin of many healthier relationships that have fallen on difficult times. A spouse may have come to feel estranged from a partner who truly loves them but for various reasons has emotionally distanced. This is fertile ground for a thief of hearts. Even more sadly, it often takes quite a while for the person whose heart has been stolen to realize that the person who made them feel so good is, nevertheless, a thief at heart. By then, the relationship of real substance could easily have been destroyed. A sad ending indeed.
Response to my interview with Ande Anderson of Avaiya online university continues to be phenomenal. You can access the interview here. You can also access the latest episode of the “New” Character Matters podcast on YouTube or by visiting the Character Matters archives page.
10 thoughts on “The Amorous Vulnerable Covert Narcissist”
This category of narcissist sounds like a person with co-morbid Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
BPD is misogyny on display. It’s the male dominated medical establishment creating a label and applying it to women who have been traumatized by men. The percentage of women with the BPD label slapped on them far outweighs that of men.
So many abused and traumatized women and girls are hatefully, inappropriately, and incorrectly labeled as having BPD and then “treated” inappropriately.
It’s a hateful label. Watch what happens to women and girls labeled with BPD. They are treated very badly by the medical establishment and the world at large.
BPD is made up. It’s the misogynistic medical society labeling women and girls subjected to and traumatized by men’s (and boys’) violence and abuse of women (and girls).
To clarify: The negative associations and attitudes that frequently accompany the diagnosis of BPD I do believe reflect some animosity. But disturbances of the self are serious business, and can occur in either gender, although because women are more often the victims of ego-fracturing trauma, they certainly get diagnosed more frequently, albeit sometimes erroneously. Let’s keep the various issues clearly separate, however. The “treatment” and attitudes women sometimes receive from the establishment (even when the diagnosis is appropriate) a is a completely separate issue from the reality of disturbances of the self and how serious those conditions are. And it’s also important to recognize that all of our various attempts to categorize illnesses must necessarily be subject to constant scrutiny and revision. In science, we are always learning. And from a health ethics perspective, the reason to accurately diagnose in the first place is to get it right when it comes to intervention, whatever the state of the art might be at the time. That said, abuses and misguided notions abound. And some of those misguided notions are rooted in signficicantly negative attitudes toward women. But once again, I must insist that’s a separate issue from the reality that disturbances of the self do exist and warrant appropriate assessment and treatment. To make a blanket assertion that “BPD is (merely) misogyny on display” is simply inacurate and also unhelpful. And just because some in the medical establishment don’t properly appreciate the role of trauma in the etiology of the syndrome or that sometimes diagnoses are made hastily and not in proper considerationof all the facts, or sometimes with bias, doesn’t mean that BPD as a syndrome is simply “made up.” I’ve done my best over the years to help individuals suffering from a deeply damaged and fractured sense of self build up a sense of self that would permit them to function without all the manifestations that invite the hateful attitudes we sometimes see. It’s hard work, because so many times the trauma involved in fracturing the person and their identity was both deep and severe. It does a great disservice to those courageous victims and those caring professionals like Linehan (who “invented” the treatment modality proven to really help) to make these blanket and frankly untrue statements. The point about the negative attitudes and connotations is valid and should rightfully stand on its own. You make other valid points as well. But I simply can’t allow misinformation to appear on this blog without comment. Please be careful about sweeping generalizations that are largely under-informed. I’ve made this plea before. Too many folks come to this forum looking for something hard to come by these days: truth that is both helpful and potentially healing. Thank you.
I know what I’ve seen and experienced. Look at any group of battered women. At least one or more of them will have been said to have BPD. BPD! An incurable, pathological personality disorder. Said to be manipulative and conniving and the person responsible for her distress and terrible circumstances!
None of those women labeled “BPD” that I met, or became aware of, exhibited a pathological personality disorder. Yet, they’d been diagnosed as such. And such a label makes the person RADIOACTIVE to the medical establishment. I’ve watched how they are treated differently.
And if BPD did exist and was legit, then why is there any treatment? Personality disorders are incurable, according to the medical establishment. Thus, treatment is futile, just as it would be for a psychopath.
Battered women used to be inappropriately said to be “hysterical” and there was good ol’ “histrionic personality disorder” as well. Such labels are weapons. Look, for example, how women who defied some straightjacketing gender (made up) roles/expectations have been labeled through the years. Suffragettes are a ready example. Many were diagnosed back then as being personality disordered, worthy of commitment to mental institutions because they believed women should have the right to vote! Dastardly women! How dare they!
So yesterday’s hysteria and histrionic personality disorder became today’s borderline personality disorder.
You uphold the medical establishment because it is your field and it works for you, a man. But women have long been harmed by the male dominated field and such is no secret. Look at Freud and his backwards theories which are still taught and hold inappropriate relevance yet today. Freud backtracked because of pushback from the establishment concerning sexually abused females. He saw their trauma and recognized it as such and then was pushed to pathologize them in the end. This happens a lot in the medical field, most especially in the mental health field.
I write the comment in hopes of being helpful and healing to any battered woman who might read the comment about the combo of NPD and BPD and have been hatefully slapped with the BPD label and believe the above article applies to her.
Also, psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists love the medical field and many become psychologists and psychiatrists. Lots of women are harmed. The field is not as wonderful as you believe it to be. So many battered women are inappropriately labeled by hostile misogynists in the medical field.
Another case in point, very current study, showed that even today, doctors dismiss women’s pain and validate men’s pain despite research showing that women tend to understate their pain and perform painful tasks longer (showing greater pain tolerance) and yet doctors presume women are being hysterical and exaggerating and overly emotional/irrational when going to doctors about pain they are suffering.
How many women have been told “it’s all in your head” by medical doctors versus men ever being told such a line? It’s no small thing to assume bias and misogyny infects the mental health field, too.
But Dr. Simon is right about generalizations. I should be more specific. Perhaps the classification and treatment of BPD (for example, DPT) is good for some, I’ve just seen it used as a weapon and smear on battered women and those traumatized women don’t need to be discredited, smeared, and inappropriately treated as radioactive.
For those with a fractured sense of self, that’s another matter. I’ve seen BPD used as a slur and a weaponized, discrediting tactic and so many battered women are given such a classification despite it being totally inappropriate. Male clinicians, most often, assign such a label to abused women, further damaging their lives, as that label with follow them for life and alters, for the worse, the way the medical establishment interacts with them.
I’ve also met, or known about, more predatory, misogynistic, horrible men in the mental health field than not. So, reading you blog, and your kind words and compassionate writing, is a nice contrast, being a man and all. So my thanks to you.
Dr. Simon’s comment is probably best. And upon reflection, my initial comment should have been modified and better worded.
His blog and his books are a wealth of information.
I appreciate your mindfulness in the other comments. Again however, it’s my obligation to highlight inaccuracies. True, negative connotations and disparaging attitudes are sometimes applied by character-disturbed individuals both professional and lay to anyone diagnosed with a personality disorder. And yes, sometimes the diagnosis is made and negative labels applied without sufficient consideration of other factors. All valid points. But BPD is a real syndrome, and it is NOT, as some purport it to be, “an incurable pathological” personality disorder when it does occur. It is part of a spectrum of disturbances of the self, most often has its roots in severe trauma, and is amenable to appropriate treatment. It is not sufficient criteria for hospitalization, although some folks meeting the very strict criteria for hospitalization may – either correctly or incorrectly – receive the diagnosis, especially if they’ve made repeated life-threatening self-harm attempts. And BPD is not a reflection of character disturbance either, unless it’s accompanied by features of other pathologies, such as antisocial personality traits, psychopathy, etc., and such disturbances are more often diagnosed in men. There’s a plethora of information on the blog about all these matters. One last thing: The lack of integrity and basic human decency that has traumatized so many is certainly not limited to character-impaired or sexist mental health professionals. We’re awash in a virtual sea of character dysfunction. My work has a twofold purpose: to help folks who’ve been in toxic relationships recover, empower themselves, and have the best chance of avoiding a similar future experience, and to provide the kind of intervention and tools necessary to assist those misguided souls who have come to their senses be better people and help end this nightmare of character dysfunction. It has to start with each of us. And what we say and how we say it matters as much as what we do and how we do it.
Sorry you need to grow up.
My ex wife is a covert narcissist, her mother pumped her out not male involved
I have spent years trying to figure this out and YES, covert narcissists are borderlines. People need to understand the DSM-5 is a book intended for medical coding and for universal language. Most practitioners will tell you cluster Bs fall into ALL the categories. So please stop trying to figure this out. Btw, it’s all just a clinical way to say — not partner material.