Leaving a covert narcissist is extremely difficult. Expect them to systematically turn up their manipulation tactics like you’ve never seen before, which is made even more difficult if you have no idea what you’re dealing with.
When I went through the gruelling process of leaving my covert narcissist ex-husband, I still had the tricky process of kids and joint assets to deal with.
This is why I couldn’t go completely No Contact, but had to settle for Low Contact instead.
This may be the exact situation in which you’ve found yourself, in which case, my biggest advice is to educate yourself on what to expect. If you attempt to leave a covert narcissist without fully understanding the emotional abuse that is about to get slung your way, your life will unfortunately be made all the more difficult.
Leaving a covert narcissist, whether going No Contact or Low Contact means setting very high boundaries within yourself and sticking to them at all costs.
If you do need to have any kind of contact with the narcissist, keep it to the absolute bare minimum. This means no conversation, no loitering and definitely no being in the same space as the narcissist.
Leaving a covert narcissist will not be easy and you can fully expect that the narcissist is going to hit you with some real resistance, so it’s essential to enter your new reality firmly and resolutely.
I’d like to share a piece of my own story about leaving a covert narcissist in the hope that you will powerful enough to leave yours.
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Leaving a Covert Narcissist
Getting Hoovered Back In
I’d done so well with cutting my narcissistic ex back to basic contact about the kids and nothing else. It helped that he had a new supply on the scene, so he wasn’t as fixated on me so much anymore.
READ: The Narc’s New Supply →|
But as time went on, I could see now how my boundaries had slowly eroded a little at a time until he’d wormed his way back in.
Having kids together meant that we still had weekly meet-ups for them to be collected. Along with that, we had some property settlements that had to be finalised, which resulted in more occasions of needing to see or speak with each other.
During that time he had managed to work his way back in by oversharing information about his own life and prying into my personal life. All in complete innocence and ‘friendliness’ of course.
Little did I know that he was pulling me back into his grip.
Then came the blow up.
An issue had arisen about payment for the children and he totally lost it. Flying into a complete rage, he outright stated that he wasn’t going to pay anything (side note: he hadn’t paid any child support for the first 12 months as it was).
Then the word salad began and before I knew it, I was in.
He bounced from…
“Why should I have to pay?” and “You chose to leave!” to “I’m broke, I can’t afford it,” to “The fathers always get screwed over!”
What started as an adult tantrum, then quickly moved into utter victimhood.
I wasn’t backing down and held firm that it was what had to be done. So, he switched tactics to ‘poor me.’ His girlfriend was too busy for him, he was in too much debt… on and on it went.
You can probably guess how I (a codependent who was well and truly primed to be the over-giving “fixer”) reacted. With love and compassion of course.
I offered to help him with a budget and anything else I could think of to help make his position easier.
READ: Toxic Tale of the Empath & Narc →|
By the time he left (he kept stretching out the conversation), I thought we were in a good place of understanding. That while he may have been stressing about money, the payments had to be made.
How could I really have thought it was over?
The situation went on for days. Of course, being the oversensitive covert narcissist that he is, he detected a tiny thread of ‘tone’ in my voice. It’s funny how they can pick up on the tiniest little things that trigger their narcissistic injury, yet miss huge things that they see no value in.
His aim of the gaslighting and wearing me down was to negotiate a cheaper rate, because he didn’t believe he should have to pay the full amount. Of course not, he’s completely entitled, so why should he have to?
My covert narcissist ex continued to rant and rage until I eventually caved and said that I’d look at it. In other words, he worked at me relentlessly until he’d worn me down into submission.
At this point, he immediately flipped to being calm and rational and “wanting to work this out pleasantly so that we can remain friends.” That way he could rewrite the story whereby the whole thing was all my fault and I was the irrational one.
READ: Common Gaslighting Terms →|
Recognising the Manipulation
The whole situation of child support after leaving a covert narcissist left me feeling numb and sick. I was wracked with loss of appetite and anxiety for days.
That old familiar foe of guilt and confusion had been thrown back into my life.
It took me a hot minute, plus some conversations with a few good friends who are familiar with this behaviour (and had the outside perspective), before the clarity came.
His behaviour was textbook Covert Narcissism:
Flying into a rage when his ego was bruised and he was told what to do
Getting the victim caught up in a confusing word salad
Gaslighting to make the victim question themselves
Throwing accusations at the victim to make them feel as though they need to defend themselves at every turn
Manipulating every statement for their own selfish gain
Playing the ‘nice guy’ and throwing the victim under the light of being ‘difficult, crazy and unrealistic’
An undercover manipulation tactic used to have someone question or doubt their own reality, memory and ideas. A deep sense of confusion is often a telltale sign that someone is being gaslighted.
Gaslighting = emotional, mental & psychological abuse.
Taking Back the Power
The next time I dropped the kids off to my covert narcissist ex-husband, I could literally feel his energy clawing out at me.
I was pleasant, but did not linger or make any conversation. I dropped the bags and got the hell out of there!
After driving off, I realised that I actually felt bad (maybe even guilty) for not making eye contact when I said goodbye, or for cutting it short without any chit chat.
I really had to analyse this bad feeling for not giving him the narcissistic supply that he so readily thinks he’s entitled to.
It’s simply the program. He automatically plugs his energetic cord into me and siphons away, while I stand there and give kindness and empathy, all the while, allowing the depletion of my own life force energy.
This really was one sick and twisted game that had to end!
I recognised that as an empath, I was feeling his low vibrations and taking them on as my own. In order for me to feel better, I needed to make him feel better. So, that’s why I automatically wanted to give. Not because I felt sorry for him, but out of self-protection.
It was time for me to truly see these interactions as they were and see him as he truly was. Although his false mask may create the illusion of an innocent enough person, he’s actually an energy-sucking vampire.
Did you ever see Men in Black, the 1997 movie? I can’t help but draw a similarity between narcissists and those aliens in human bodies. On the outside, they look just like us, but if you were to unzip their exterior suits, you’d see who they really are inside – grotesque and twisted!
Going Low Contact with the Narcissistic Ex
Although knowing full well that I was going to be hit with backlash and resistance, I was finally in a powerful enough position within myself to go 100% low contact with the narcissist ex.
I had gotten to that place once before in the past and I can tell you that life was so much dandier because of it! But my crown had slipped and he’d found a loophole.
Alas, he had proven to me that he could not be trusted with conversation of any sort because words were his weapon.
There is no such thing as innocent conversation with a narcissist, everything you say and do will be used against you at some point in the future.
To enforce this new low contact reality, the changeover with the kids had to be very quick and any conversation that he tried to pull me into must be denied. My rebuttal for when he tried to push the boundaries was ready, “unless it’s about the kids, no conversation is necessary.” Then I had to close the door or get straight into the car and drive away.
The narcissist needs you to enter their low vibrational arena of mind games and manipulations in order for them to twist your reality. By not engaging, you avoid entering their arena, which in turns gives them no power over you.
Any contact should be through text messages, email or some other form of written communication. Keep it short and factual. If he threw things at me to try and get me into another word salad, I must ignore it, no matter what he says.
I was fully expecting to be hit with some of these gaslighting statements:
“Oh, so it’s like this now, is it?”
“You’re so petty!”
“I’m just trying to remain friends.”
“So, now we’re going to be one of those ex couples.”
“Why are being such a b****?”
“You’re being so difficult!”
“Why are you ignoring my texts? I just thought we could work together to sort this out.”
As the position of power shifts, the narcissist will lash out. They absolutely despise losing power.
Stand strong and choose yourself.
Making Lemonade out of Lemons
Even though the experience of being pulled back into the narc’s grip has been traumatic, I’m actually really glad that it happened.
Sometimes we forget just how bad things were and exactly how manipulative they truly were.
For me, I needed this situation to play out so that I could actually see the reality of what my entire relationship with the narcissist had been like all along. It was a micro example of the macro.
When you’re constantly being gaslit, manipulated, devalued, love-bombed then discarded by someone, over and over again, it’s fair to say that your sense of reality is completely warped. How the relationship actually was, versus how your memory chooses to remember it are two very different things.
Now I had the evidence and ammunition I needed to go low contact once and for all… and to stick to it at all costs!
Low Contact Tips for Leaving a Covert Narcissist
If you’re in a situation where you need to go low contact with a narcissist ex, it’s probably safe to assume that it’s because you don’t have the option of going no contact.
The whole idea is to keep any contact that must be made to an absolute bare minimum. Stick to the facts and don’t give them any extra time or information than what is necessary.
Communicate with the narc at the lowest amount necessary for what is required of the situation.
If you’ve got kids together, only communicate about the kids. Maybe you’ve still got property or business together that needs to be sorted. Keep the communication to strictly the facts about whatever needs to be organised.
Our Family Wizard is a great app for keeping all communication organised with a high conflict ex partner who you’ve got kids with. The best part is, the app can eliminate having to talk to them in person.
Prepare yourself for the fact that the narcissist will want to engage a heck of a lot more than you do. Words are their weapon and by you reducing the words, you’re disarming them.
They will want to try to get you into a conversation, so make sure that you’re busy and need to keep moving. Resist the urge to defend yourself against whatever they throw at you and remember that the nice things they say are just empty ‘hoovers’ to attempt to hook you back in.
If you were ever to practice complete detachment from a person’s outrageous behaviour, now is that time. And practice is the word. Don’t beat yourself up if you do get caught back up in the drama (trust me, it happens to all of us throughout the process!). Just use it as an extra tool in your tool belt for next time.
Choose one mode of communication and stick with just that. Email or text messages are the best way to go, so that everything is recorded and you always have time to think about your response.
When you’re talking on the phone or in person, you have to think on your feet and can often get caught up in their word salad. Avoid that as much as possible!
CONTACT – Only communicate when it’s absolutely essential
CONVERSATION – Do not engage in idle chit-chat
MEETINGS – If you have to attend meetings with them, arrive exactly on time and exit straight after
BE UNAVAILABLE – Do not be available for them, make excuses if you must
ASSISTANCE – Don’t ask them for help in any way
CALLS – Avoid taking phone calls from them, keep it all to short messages/ texts
GREY ROCK – Stick to single-word responses and be as uninteresting as possible
SAY ‘NO’ – Start getting comfortable with saying ‘no.’ You don’t need to explain yourself – ‘no’ is enough
Going low contact with a narcissistic ex in a lot of ways is harder than going no contact. You still have to face them sometimes, meaning you’ll have to practice constant vigilance and hold your boundaries firm.
You’ll feel like you’re constantly having to wear your armour and counter-intuit their every move. It’s exhausting.
Be extra gentle on yourself and make sure that you’re taking time out every single day for self-care. Take a hot bath, read a book in the sun or cuddle up on the couch with your kids or pets with a movie. Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself when dealing with a narcissist.
Remember, you are a person of love, strength and integrity. The narcissist embodies none of those things. You are choosing yourself.
READ: Self-care After Narcissism →|
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