A leading relationship expert has revealed the subtle signs you are dating a ‘silent abuser’ and why they make the most dangerous type of partner.

Louanne Ward told the work of these master manipulators, known as covert narcissists, can be so subtle their victims take years to realise damage is being done.

Often by the time they realise what’s going on their toxic partner has already cause huge amounts of damage to their physical, social and mental health.

‘They are often able to conceal their actual character until you are thoroughly trapped. They make every effort to break through your defences and win your trust,’ Louanne told FEMAIL.

She added that most covert narcissists also struggle with other mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and low self esteem. 

Louanne Ward has revealed the dangerous difference between overt and cover narcissists and warns 'silent abusers' can be the most dangerous partners

Louanne Ward has revealed the dangerous difference between overt and cover narcissists and warns ‘silent abusers’ can be the most dangerous partners

‘Because these are well hidden, identifying covert narcissism can be extremely challenging,’ she said.

But it isn’t impossible there are some ‘obvious warning signs’ that can help you identify whether your partner, or potential partner, is a covert narcissist.

Louanne says covert narcissists, who can be both men and women, will often shower their partners with unexpected gifts.

‘For the majority of people, this is a giant green sign; nevertheless, for a covert narcissist, it is a trojan horse. When you’re being swept away by a tornado of presents and grand love gestures, they’re progressively praising their influence over you,’ she warned.

Male ‘covert narcissists’  

Use their charm to lure people in

More likely to be obsessed power and or money

Have a higher sense of entitlement and grandiosity

More likely to be serial adulterers or betray those close to them

Unable to handle criticism

Use love bombing to manipulate their partners

Envy comes in the form of power and control

Female ‘covert narcissists’  

Overly vain

Envy comes in the form of beauty and social status

Sensitive and overreactive

Insecure and needy

Constantly need attention and validation – sometimes this can manifest as being addicted to social media

Use their sex appeal, bodies and looks to lure people in

Never able to admit they are wrong

Male and female covert narcissists can look slightly different

Male and female covert narcissists can look slightly different 

Negging comments and backhanded compliments are also often used by these silent abusers.

‘They re experts at cryptic insults because they are adept liars and live in continual fear of being exposed. In fact, those in relationships with covert narcissists spend days trying to analyse their partner’s double meanings and disguised insults,’ she said.

‘Playing innocent’ is also a huge red flag. 

Louanne said they will ‘forget’ important events or deliberately sabotage them by being late before behaving like they have amnesia or are hearing about it for the first time. 


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These silent abusers also lie a lot, bait their victims to get control and love to use toxic tools like stonewalling, the silent treatment and ghosting. 

They also like to use gaslighting to derail their victims.

‘This is done by discrediting you and turning people against you, denying facts, accusing you of imagining things, trivialising your emotion,’ Louanne explained.

They also ‘avoid real intimacy’.

‘In spite of all the compliments, sexual insinuations, and continual romantic gestures they disappear when things get personal,’ she warned.

‘The trouble is they try very hard to make you believe that they find you attractive, while keeping enough of themselves hidden that you never really get to know them. This erodes your self worth and confidence over time.’

How to ‘deal’ with covert narcissists 

Though it may be challenging, Louanne says you can take steps to safeguard your mental health when interacting with a covert narcissist.

The following could be helpful 

1 – Establish clear boundaries: The first step in dealing with a covert narcissist is to establish firm boundaries. 

This means you must define what is and is not acceptable behaviour. 

Keep your communication with them clear and concise, and don’t let them overstep your boundaries.

2 – Stay calm and confident: Because covert narcissists thrive on emotional reactions, it is critical to maintain calm and confidence when dealing with them. 

Don’t let them get on your nerves, and avoid getting emotionally involved in their games.

3 – Stay out of their drama: Covert narcissists will try to involve you in their troubles and make you feel guilty or responsible for them. 

Don’t waste time worrying about them, focus on what you want to accomplish in life.

4- Don’t feed their ego: Since covert narcissists crave attention and admiration, it’s critical to avoid feeding their ego. 

Don’t shower them with compliments or validate their false sense of superiority.

5 – Seek Help: Dealing with a covert narcissist can be emotionally draining, so seek help from friends, family, or a therapist. 

They can offer you emotional support and assist you in maintaining your mental health.

They will also refuse to listen to their victims, so if you find yourself needing to repeat yourself or ask for your partner’s attention a lot it is a giant red flag. ‘

‘When they do listen, it’s usually to gather information that they will later use against you. For example, they could use something you said months ago to disprove you or make you question your own judgement,’ Louanne said.

She recently spoke about ‘regular’ narcissists but insists their undercover counterparts are in a league of their own.

‘Because covert narcissists tend to conceal their symptoms, we’ll never fully comprehend their prevalence,’ she said.

Louanne revealed she would prefer to be in a relationship with an overt narcissist over a covert one

Louanne revealed she would prefer to be in a relationship with an overt narcissist over a covert one

She noted that some of the red flags are similar between overt and cover narcissists, but said other personality traits can help victims uncover the truth.

Covert narcissists often use fake empathy to get their victims to trust them, only to use them against them later.

They also use envy and jealousy as a tool and believe others see them as superior.

Covert narcissists also portray themselves as ‘shy but friendly.

‘They are often socially withdrawn and sometimes avoid social situations for fear of not being the centre of attention. I

‘They appear outwardly happy but have a dark side which can manifest in outburst of rage if they are challenged.’

They also ‘over compensate’ with gifts, holidays and other forms of love bombing to win you over.

Why you should take time to understand covert narcissist: 

They might be hard to spot, but if left unchecked, they can wreck relationships and cause untold amounts of emotional distress. 

Here are the four most compelling reasons you need to be aware of the less talked about covert narcissist:

1 – Self-preservation: You may be subjected to emotional and mental abuse at the hands of a covert narcissist without even realising it. 

Alternatively, once identified, you can better protect yourself and make informed decisions about the relationship.

2 – To avoid being manipulated: Covert narcissists are well-known for their ability to deceive people without drawing attention to themselves. 

By learning how to predict and adapt to their actions, you can protect your energy and keep yourself safe from harm.

3 – Assisting others: Sometimes we are unable to help others because we are ill equipped to recognise concealed narcissistic behaviours in their partners.

However, once you know the traits, behaviours and certain patterns that are commonly displayed by covert narcissist’s, you may just be able to help out a friend or family member struggling to cope. 

Most of whom can feel isolated and confused and sometimes in devastating emotional distress.

4) Improving relationships: Whilst it may be challenging, understanding the true traits of a covert narcissist can help you recognise your own subtle narcissistic tendencies.

All humans have a level of narcissism even you! But with a deeper insight it can awaken you to the importance of empathy, self reflection and the value of boundaries. 

All of which means, the more knowledge you have in this area of human behaviour, the more you can work towards building relationships that are both healthier and more rewarding

They fish for compliments and have an underlying fear of inadequacy.

And finally criticism is their kryptonite. 

‘They are incapable of dealing with criticism, despite how well they hide it. Despite their mask, they harbour feelings of anger and humiliation deep within, which frequently leads to an outburst later on.

Louanne revealed she would prefer to be in a relationship with an overt narcissist over a covert one.

‘They can turn your friends and family against you by charming them into believing you are the one with the problem,’ she said.

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