Dating with a covert narcissist and what to watch out for

We are all wired emotionally to want to belong and connect; these are natural and fundamental to being human. Dating today is pretty much through online apps and sites. The swipe has taken over from the glance across a room or bar.


Sure, you can still meet someone organically through the gym or a shared hobby or by introduction through a friend. But these are rarer opportunities and, at the end of the working day, it has become easier to open your phone click on the various dating apps (like Tinder or Bumble) and search for the person you might want to walk into the sunset with - or more probably by today’s limiting genuine opportunities, to just go with for a walk with in your local park!

The genuine, the well intended, and/or the true are harder to find in the shallow waters of the swipe culture. So, what happens when you do meet someone this way, and you really click? Is it hallelujah?

Well, ultimately, only time will tell. But, here’s a thought and a perilous pattern that so, so many fall both into and foul of. Listen up...

What happens when you are months down the line of shared romantic moments, you have hundreds of hearts and declarations of love and passion, and heart melting videos of love in your message feed, photos of you both together now, not only in your phone, but in a frame in your home... And then, ping!

You get, without a word of warning, a message of how they have been having second thoughts about ever wanting to see you again, telling you what they don’t like or loathe even. And then, after you are just about coming to terms with what might have brought that on or what you might have done to have upset them, they tell you it’s over. Goodbye.

If we were still in the days of letter writing, the ink would hardly even be dry on the last love letter, but now it’s the last message of love - no ink involved - and their towel is still damp on the rail in the bathroom.

You are in shock! That’s what happens to you. Welcome to the world of the covert narcissist and his or her discard.

There were no red flags, it was all fast and almost felt too good to be true at first. And thereafter, for months, until you were utterly convinced that this was your forever person like something out of a romantic novel.

But you know what, it was all a story. The covert narcissist is a chameleon and they can shape themselves into whoever you want them to be and with effortless guile play the part.

You and all your friends will be convinced, but here’s how it rolls out:

  • love bomb idealisation
  • devalue
  • discard

They thrive on your reaction, and that is whether it is good or bad. They don’t care. The reaction is their oxygen until they are bored. They like variation and usually, before you are discarded they will for sure have another lined up, waiting in the wings being drip fed the promise of their “real” heart and affection.

However, there is nothing real about them or who they are. The heartbreak is toxic and surreal because you are grieving a phantom. A run in like this can rock your world and give a whole new meaning to the word “ephemeral” and is a danger to both your well-being and your mental health.

Points to watch out for

Too much too soon, like declarations of love too early or overnight. Real love takes time and is abiding - it can happen quickly and there is such a thing as love at first sight. History is full of real love stories. However, it is always better in our current arena of dating to field things as long as you can leave something of yourself in reserve.

Their jealousy of your past relationships and people you are close to. They aren’t flexible. They take offence easily - there is a slight sense of having to walk on eggshells around them. You know it but don’t want to admit it even to yourself or say it out loud.

Usually, it is their boundaries that stay firmly in tact, like times they are available. They usually end the conversations first and are quite particular about their likes and dislikes, but less flexible about what works for you. And if you are cherry picked by these kinds of people, you will find yourself going along with the way they call things and shape things to "fit in".

Don't do that - remember what, who and the how of what matters to you. Don't walk on their eggshell ground, walk on it with and at a pace and strength normal to who you are. These tactics and their allowing slowly becomes a loss of self and an emptied identity well.

The love bomb idealisation stage alongside the devaluation stage isn’t linear; the devaluation can be and often is then made up for with them being wonderful to you again - something called hoovering. Even the third stage of discard can be reversed back into idealisation and love bombing so, one minute you are on track, and the next derailed. You are going to be quite traumatised after a while and even have slight PTSD symptoms which weaken you.

Please watch out for this patten, most especially if you are vulnerable for any reason and if it happens to you seek help. Sadly, there is no law against emotional violation, and make no mistake this is a violation. But, with awareness, we can all both prevent and protect ourselves against a legacy of this kind of emotional scar.

I treat people who have had this experience. If it has happened to you, please get in touch. Support is invaluable and my fees are on a sliding scale for those in financial difficulty.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.
07771 715072
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