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.
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.
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.