5 Warning Signs Of Covert Narcissistic Abuse In Your Relationship

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Heartbreak

Are you feeling uneasy about your relationship, but you can't quite figure out why?

In the beginning, your partner showered you with attention and affection. But now, that's disappeared, and you feel — well, it's hard to describe. Used? Criticized? No longer free to be yourself?

Maybe you're experiencing covert narcissistic abuse.

It's easy to be attracted to a narcissist. They're often magnetic, confident, sexy, and exciting. Just by being around them, you feel special.

But narcissists are fundamentally incapable of real love. They cannot care about another person's well-being.

RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist

Covert narcissistic abuse isn't always easy to pinpoint.

Covert narcissists only care about their own ego, about being regarded as attractive, successful, and admired. They're looking for a "supply" — anything, or any person, that boosts their ego.

In order to maintain their self-esteem and protect their egos, narcissists feel the need to control the behavior of others — especially their romantic partners.

The essence of covert narcissistic abuse is control.

But narcissists are slick — they can often control you without you realizing what they are doing. This abuse is highly destructive to you.

How do they impose this control? By providing or withholding approval — although their methods are subtle.

For example, covert narcissists may say they're helping you "up your game" or "reach your potential," when they're actually criticizing you.

They express concern about your misinterpretations or forgetfulness. But they've been causing these lapses by gaslighting you — lying and denying in order to make you doubt your own perceptions.

They point out that your friends and family really aren't the type of people you should be associating with. Their real objective is to isolate you and remove your support system.

The secret to spotting covert narcissistic abuse in your relationship is not to examine what your partner is doing, but to look at your own feelings and behavior.

RELATED: 3 Disturbing PTSD Symptoms That Surface In Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

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Here are 5 warning signs of covert narcissistic abuse in your relationship.

1. You feel confused.

This is the biggest warning sign that you're involved with someone who has narcissistic, antisocial, or psychopathic traits or a full-blown personality disorder.

You're never quite sure of what they want or the status of your relationship.

2. You're walking on eggshells.

You don't say what you want to say or do what you want to do, because you're afraid that you'll upset or provoke your partner.

You never know when they will lash out. It's easier to stay quiet.

3. You're always apologizing.

It seems like you're always apologizing, even when you didn't do whatever you're apologizing for.

In fact, if you work up the nerve to question your partner's bad or inconsiderate behavior, they react with anger or self-pity and you're soon apologizing for raising the issue.

4. You're always giving in.

More and more, you're the one who concedes, gives in, and goes along. There's no discussion, only requests from your partner, which, you know, are actually demands.

You've learned that if you don't agree to the demand, you're probably in for a period of the silent treatment.

5. You're hypervigilant.

You find yourself monitoring your partner and your environment, sensitive to every sidelong glance, change in tone, and cryptic text message.

You try to anticipate what your partner wants — even as they keep moving the goalposts.

Covert narcissistic abuse creates toxic relationships.

In a healthy relationship, you and your partner support each other, negotiate day-to-day decisions, and share both responsibilities and joys.

If these red flags are familiar to you and you're doing all the work of the relationship, maybe it's not really a relationship, but covert narcissistic abuse.

RELATED: 7 Traits That Make You A Prime Target For A Narcissist

Donna Andersen is the founder of Lovefraud and author of "Love Fraud — How Marriage to a Sociopath Fulfilled My Spiritual Plan," which is now available as an audio book. She is an expert on sociopaths in relationships and offers personal consultations.