This time it’s a damned covert narc. At least I think that’s what I’m dealing with. Do I sound mad and upset? You bet I am. I hope I’m wrong but I know the red flags when I seee them. I’ve had enough experience with them.
Hell, about two years ago (as some of you probably remember) I spent many weeks and maybe even months reading and studying everything I could find about all the symptoms and signs of covert NPD because I was so certain I must be one myself. I probably qualify for an advanced degree in this disorder. (Happily, I finally realized I am not one, but CPTSD, an earlier diagnosis of BPD, and my narcissistic “fleas” had me fooled.)
You may be aware I live with my daughter, who is 25. She’s a good girl, hardworking, sweet, empathetic, intelligent, and beautiful (and I don’t just say that because I’m her mom). Sure, she has her bad, even bitchy, moments, but don’t we all. She’s overcome a lot due to her father’s abuse, my complicity and enabling, and sexual abuse she suffered at school. There was a time back during her teens both her therapists and I were afraid she was developing a personality disorder, probably ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) because she had a diagnosis of ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) as a teen. She could not function in a regular school setting because she was in trouble constantly and suspended several times for things like stealing and fighting.
Finally, she went into residential treatment and was helped immensely (she was very cooperative with the very strict program) and today is a much different young woman. She has a ton of empathy I never knew was there. I am beyond grateful for that, and today I can say we are the best of friends. She is also clean and doesn’t do drugs anymore so I am incredibly grateful for that too.
But there’s a downside too. Over the past several years, she’s been engaging in a dead end lifestyle I can only call serial monogamy. She gets serious about one guy, they seem serious about her (for a time), and they even start talking about marriage, but things never progress any further. There’s always something wrong with the guy: he’s too controlling, becomes abusive, or starts to see other people on the side, or she gets tired of them herself. At least one who seemed too good to be true turned out to be a dangerous psychopath.
All of these relationships end, and then she quickly moves onto the next man (she’s attractive and personable so it’s easy for her to find new lovers). I’ve talked to her about furthering her education, deciding on a career (she works in a series of dead end service jobs none of which last very long), and focusing on just herself, but she’s just like I was at that age: she seems to lack the motivation gene or any idea what she wants to do in life (besides find a man she can marry and will support her). She seems incapable of tolerating being single. That’s how I was at her age and I will always regret never developing myself to my full potential and not being more serious about finishing a higher education and finding something I’m passionate enough to turn into a career. She is certainly intelligent enough, but she’s emotionally damaged. Getting her to go to therapy is futile. She simply won’t do it. But that’s a whole other issue I won’t get into here.
It’s painful watching her take the same non-path I took –a road to an adulthood of constant near poverty, frustration, lack of intellectual and creative fulfillment, relentless financial insecurity, and now, for me — a terrible dread of old age without any real safety net. I may be living on the streets if Medicare and Social Security are abolished, and that is terrifying. I don’t have a life partner to provide emotional support, since I never knew how to pick one who didn’t turn out to be an abuser. I feel like I’m way too old (and still too afraid) to enter the dating scene again (I hate dating with a passion). I’d rather just stay single and see how things play out.
Getting back to my daughter, her latest paramour is a man 14 years her senior (he is almost 40). He gives the impression of a very sweet, kind, and sensitive person. In fact, he appears to be a very emotional person who shed tears easily and is constantly apologizing. That should have been a red flag.
At first I thought, “oh, how sweet, a sensitive man not afraid of his emotions,” but I actually think he uses tears and emotion to manipulate others to get his way or to get attention. Using pity is a red flag of a covert narcissist, especially one of the “fragile” or “vulnerable” type. They’re common (especially in women but can be found among men too). They’re dangerous because they’re so hard to spot. We expect narcs to be mean, arrogant, verbally abusive, and never apologize for anything. But not all of them are like that, even though on th inside, they are all pretty much the same and just as self obsessed and entitled. No matter whether their style is grandiose or self pitying, there’s always a yawning black hole where their heart ought to be.
The reason I came to the conclusion he’s probably a covert narcissist and not just a big softie with a huge heart is the way he appears to string both of us along, causing immense anger and frustration.
He has been promising to get her an engagement ring and propose. He was supposed to do it on our vacation last week. We had agreed ahead of time that he would give me half the money for the hotel, plus half of all expenses (meals, etc.). The tab came to over $400. Originally he was supposed to have the cash for me when we got to the hotel and I would pay the whole tab on my credit card. Well, it turned out his employer made a mistake on his check and he didn’t get paid. How convenient.
His employer promised they would rectify this on Friday, the day we returned from our trip. I believed him, sort of. At least I wanted to believe him. But there had been one or two other red flags previous to this, that I didn’t think much of at the time, but I suddenly remembered them and began to wonder if he was trying to find a way to get out of paying me, or if he was getting cold feet about the engagement, since without the money, he couldn’t put the final payment down on my daughter’s ring.
I wanted to have a good time, and forget about all this unpleasant business, and so we did. It seemed worth it, since we all had a great time and he was nothing less than wonderful to both my daughter and me. Not another sign of narcissism or abusiveness, covert or otherwise.
But after we got home, he called his employer and found out they “forgot” again. He was promised they would write up a check from petty cash the next day, which was Saturday. Something felt wrong.
On Saturday he had a sudden “episode” of fainting and an ambulance had to be called. My daughter went with him to the hospital, which said he would be okay. It had something to do with heat stroke from too much sun, plus another chronic medical issue he’s been struggling with. It wasn’t that I wasn’t empathetic or thought he was faking, but the timing of this “emergency” was just really weird. Of course he could not go get his check, so now it would have to wait until Sunday. Even my daughter mentioned to me that she was afraid he might be faking so he could put off getting the money. I have to admit I thought this was a possibility.
I was growing very angry over his failure to pay me back the $400 he had promised me almost a week earlier. We had never agreed that the vacation would be a gift. I also considered that this might be his way of getting “cold feet” since his inability to get the money meant he could not finish paying off her ring and therefore there would be no proposal right now, if ever. What a cowardly way to call off or delay an engagement, if that was what he was actually doing.
Of course, when he got back from the hospital, he was all apologies and tears. He was hugging both of us and saying “sorry” over and over again. I felt a little nauseated by this over the top display of emotion because I felt it wasn’t really sincere and was just a way to keep stringing us both along and buying more time.
So last night, he was all happy and excited and told both of us his company had finally issued a check (it was handwritten). He waved it proudly at both of us. He wanted me to take today off from work to film him proposing to her (this was supposed to have happened at the beach, but oh well). I agreed to do this because it seemed important and I didn’t want to miss it. I had also promised them I’d film the moment. He said he would cash it first thing in the morning and then he would go get her ring and then we’d all go out somewhere special where he would propose.
Well, guess what. This morning when I woke up he was gone. My daughter was in her room mad as hell (not crying, just furious). I asked her what happened, and she said the check was postdated for next week! I asked her if he had failed to look at the date and she said, no, he definitely had seen it but chose not to mention it because he was afraid she’d be mad at him and he “couldn’t bear to hurt her again.” She said she was sick of his lying and game playing so she made him leave until he could get everything fixed and get the money for both her ring and the $400 he owed me. She said if he failed to do that, she was done with him. That’s a good decision on her part. Meanwhile I’ll still be out $400 which he bilked from me to get a free beach vacation, but I guess things could be worse. He promised her he had a way to get the money today. We shall see. I’m skeptical.
Anyway, I’m glad my daughter is beginning to catch on to when she’s being manipulated and abused, because this is abuse, even though this man hasn’t uttered one nasty word, called her any names, or physically abused her.
Abuse comes in many forms. Covert narcissists (and many borderlines) often use tears, guilt tripping, begging, financial abuse, “stringing you along,” and other underhanded, insidious techniques to get what they want. Because they are less obviously abusive and can seem so “nice” and even emotionally fragile and needy, they can instill guilt and pity to get their way. Their marks are empaths who fall for that sort of shit. If they never deliver on their promises, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a person who is never going to be honest with you and will make your life an endless carousel of frustration and anger that’s difficult to target on that person because they “never mean it.”
So, at this moment, I’m (maybe foolishly?) waiting for him to come back with the money he owes and make good on the promises he’s so far broken. But I’m not getting my hopes up, that’s for sure.