I Mistook My Covert Narcissist Husband For A Simple, Easygoing Man — The Crucial Sign I Missed

I hadn't cried at all while I dated a seemingly easygoing man. I now cried in a cyclical pattern married to a covert narcissist.

Man with many emotions, walking out of the door, leaving woman spiraling in her confused feelings Khosro via Canva | cottonbro studio via Canva | Biserka Stojanovic via Canva

My husband and I had just bought a townhouse. We were two years into our marriage and he went out with our next-door neighbor. I woke up in the middle of the night and realized he was still not home. 

I couldn't get back to sleep. I was worried something had happened to him.

Five hours later he walked through the door. I was furious — and not for the reason most would be. I never worried about my husband having a wandering eye or cheating on me. I was angry that I had been stressed and worried until morning.


RELATED: 8 Ways To Identify A Covert Narcissist (It's Easier Than You Think)

"Where have you been?" I said.

"We played cards all night," he said. "And then we went for breakfast."

"Are you kidding me?" I said. "Who doesn’t come home all night and who doesn’t let their wife know they aren’t coming home?"

"Don’t you ever speak to me that way," he said.

For the next three weeks, my husband said nothing to me.

This is without exaggeration. He cohabitated with me without so much as a word between us. There wasn't even a pragmatic, "Can you pass the salt."

I didn't realize it yet but this was tame. This was before a covert narcissist employed more brutal tactics.


I was confused. I thought I had married a seemingly easygoing man. 

We dated for nearly six years before we got married. I never witnessed this arrogant coldness. I was with a guy who appeared anything but controlling. But I now lived with a man who alternated between laid-back and intolerably difficult.

I didn't understand what a narcissist was. I hadn't yet heard my husband’s diagnosis of covert narcissism.

A disturbing and controlling cycle began to emerge within my marriage.

As long as I stayed out of my husband’s lane there was peace. If I veered into his lane there was a price to pay. If I demanded anything of him or called him out on anything it did not end well for me.


A covert narcissist induced unrelenting tears. This wasn't ugly crying. It was a violent surge of tears until my face was covered in welts.

I hadn't cried at all while I dated a seemingly easygoing man. I now cried in a cyclical pattern married to a covert narcissist.

Covert narcissists do not present like overt narcissists. They do not appear controlling. They are passive-aggressively controlling. It’s a sneaky form of control that involves even more manipulation

A covert narcissist inflicts and maintains their control less obviously.

Essentially, I knew the rules and I knew not to break the covert narcissist's rules.

RELATED: My Ex Was A Covert Narcissist. Don't Make The Mistakes I Did.


I started to assimilate into my role as the wife of a covert narcissist.

I understood how to keep the peace. My husband ignored me. There would be no conflict if I didn't get in his way, ask for something to be done, need something, or demand anything. As long as I didn't interfere with his work, his priorities, or anything he disagreed with all would be okay.

My husband may have ignored me. But make no mistake: I was controlled.

Again, there were rules and I knew them. 

But sometimes I couldn't avoid conflict.

I needed to be picked up — not by him — from surgery or from the hospital when our son was born. He had to take off the day when our second baby was induced. My mother was sick and dying and it interfered with his business trip because I refused to go with him. These are the types of things that were unacceptable.


This was when he reminded me that he was in control. 

There were many other times, too. He watched me paint our living room and dining room with a brand new infant strapped to my chest after just getting off bed rest because he refused to. He ruined my birthday and Mother's Day and Christmas because he knew these were important to me. He showed up late to important functions I had planned just to show I didn't control him and that he was a busy man. He went away on work trips for a week and never called home. 

I cried when I lost my mom and the covert narcissist fell fast asleep beside me.

It didn't matter if it was an average day or an important one. The covert narcissist would remind me he was in charge and I better not be too much trouble.


These were the days he would blow up when I needed him — AKA got in his way.

It started a month of welt-inducing tears. 

I felt crazy and confused and I knew there was something unnatural about my husband.

The seemingly great guy would disappear and the covert narcissist would tell me, "He’s a big boy and I’m a big girl. He doesn’t ask anything of me and I shouldn’t ask anything of him."

RELATED: 5 Warning Signs Of Covert Narcissistic Abuse In Your Relationship

But in fact, he was asking everything of me. It was his world and I was just living in it. 

He asked me to quit my job to help him grow a business. He asked me to move after I said I didn’t want to leave my family. He pushed for a wedding when I wanted to invest in a house. He wanted a townhouse when I wanted a charming old bungalow. He refused to go to the Maryland beach I grew up on so we went to his Jersey Shore.


He refused to let me take my childhood cat or get a dog until we had children.

It didn't matter what the major decision was because a covert narcissist controlled it.

In some ways, you could say I was controlled by neglect. 


I was ignored and neglected by a covert narcissist. I served a purpose in the life picture he was building. And when I stepped out of line, the covert narcissist reminded me it was not my life to live. It was not my life to get what I wanted.

I was married to a man who wouldn’t do anything he didn’t want to do. And he wouldn’t let me do anything he didn’t agree with. 

When our marriage began to fail, my husband the covert narcissist repeatedly said one thing to me.

"Everything will be fine," he said. "When you go back to being who you always were."

"Not going to happen," I said.

My husband's comment was telling. The covert narcissist thankfully could no longer control me.


If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or visit thehotline.org.

RELATED: How To Leave A Narcissist Safely And Peacefully

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.