Many people think of men when it comes to narcissism. And believe me there are plenty of men that do suffer from this personality disorder.
But there are also plenty of covert narcissists out there that are women. I’m going to address this question as it pertains to women narcissists, as the previous answers address breaking up with men. I have a special place in my heart for men who’ve dealt with these women because I know they’ve been put through the ringer, especially those who have children with these women.
These men tend to experience depression and/or anxiety. They may be hyper-vigilant, and often suffer from some sort of PTSD, depending on the length of the relationship. They also tend to be under-earners, and may have a history of narcissism abuse from childhood. Narcissism abuse is a debilitating experience. It’s insidious and with women it can be subtle until it isn’t anymore. If you happen to be divorcing a narcissist I strongly suggest the book: “Will I Ever Be Free of You?” by Karyl McBride (to start.)
Breaking up with a woman covert narcissist is a bit trickier. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but in using your own experience you may find some things that resonate, or that you’ve witnessed yourself.
1.) Cold; torturing; temper tantrums.
She’s breaking up with you: Most likely, like her male counterpart, she already has another relationship she’s moving into. So now she’s just cold. You love her so much and will do anything to keep the relationship together because let’s say you have a history or kids together. She’s laughing at you, belittling you, and treating you like you’re pathetic.
You’re breaking up with her: Temper tantrums, name calling, abuse, throwing things, quiet rage, controlling you, constant texts, phone calls, emails, threatens suicide. These are some of the experiences that can surface if you take that brave step of leaving a woman who doesn’t truly know how to love. She’s like a wounded, hungry animal and she’ll do just about anything to get her food back.
2.) Controlling how it will end.
She’s breaking up with you: If you share a home together, you’re the one who needs to move out. She’s not budging. If you don’t have a home together, you only get to talk to her when she wants to. And she will want to talk occasionally, when she’s sad or lonely, usually around the nighttime. Clearly her new source fell through, even if it was just for a night, so she needs you now.
You’re breaking up with her: You share a home together, and she’s thrown all of your stuff into the trash, or some equivalent of it. She’s going through your stuff and she’s taking everything she believes belongs to her, including gifts she may have given you, etc. She’s hiding important things from you that you need, like your lap top, car keys, etc…
You don’t live together, so she’s calling all of her friends and telling them how awful and abusive you are. She’s spreading lies about you. Maybe she’s driving by your house at night. Maybe she keys your car.
3.) It’s all your fault, manipulation.
She’s breaking up with you: She needs to find fault and blame with everyone and everything, and she never takes responsibility for her own behaviors. She’s incapable of seeing her part in any of the relationship, or how it ends. So it’s all your fault and you’re to blame for the end of the relationship. She’ll make this known to you however she can. I.E. “I wouldn’t have had to look outside of our marriage if you had given me more attention.” “You never paid attention to me. So now I’m going to someone who will.”
You’re breaking up with her: She’ll vacillate between mock sweetness and covert criticism. “I don’t blame you for wanting to end the relationship. I know it hasn’t been perfect. But it’s been really difficult being with you too. You’re always late for things. I’ve been so patient with you and this is how you’re treating me now? It just feels like you’re so ungrateful. You should really work on trying to seeing the blessings in your life. I just want to help you. Let’s do this together.”
She’s breaking up with you: She has a few key players she’ll involve in the end of the relationship to support her in her decision. They’re usually people you thought you could trust and you believed really liked you. Don’t worry, she’ll let you know who these people are by saying something like, “Well, Jane and her husband think I’m doing the right thing. They told me I’m too good for you. And I agree.” Or she may pull in a therapist or professional. It would sound something like, “Even my therapist thinks you’re bad for me.”
You’re breaking up with her: Same scenario different wording. “Well, Jane and her husband think you’re making a big mistake. They think I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you. They don’t understand what’s happened to you. They’re really worried about you. Are you ok?” Or “My therapist thinks you’re behaving unreasonable. This is normal healthy relationship issues. You just don’t want to work them out. That’s on you.”
5.) Accusations and Projections.
She’s breaking up with you: At some point there’ll be a little bit of a war. Women narcissists don’t let go easily even when they’re the ones leaving. They’ll need to get a few digs in before they go. They’re often accusations, which tend to be forms of projections, meaning they hurl statements towards you that really pertain to them, though they don’t know it. I.E. “You’re abusive! You’ve been traumatizing me for years!” “You don’t care about me or anyone else. It’s always all about you!”
Please note, people who have been traumatized rarely have the ability to clearly state, “I’ve been traumatized.” Because they’ve been traumatized, which can take years to fully process and express.
You’re breaking up with her: “You probably already have another girlfriend. That’s so typical!” “You’re so ungrateful. You’ve treated me terribly over the years and after all I’ve done for you! This is how you’re treating me!”
6.) Undermining of your identity and sense of self.
Regardless of who’s leaving who: Women narcissists will undermine their men especially, but really anyone around them at any given time. They can do this many ways, and by behaving as if they’re superior in some field or area of knowledge, even if the knowledge is parenting.
For example a woman who has some background in the mental health field may say something like, “I’m worried about your mental health. You’re acting paranoid. You’re delusional.” Or she may say something like, “I’m really worried about. You’re not acting sane right now.”
When it comes to parenting they’ll undermine the father’s role and importance regardless of real-world evidence that most oftentimes he’s been the primary care giver of the children and the most involved in the children’s lives.
Ultimately the victim of this abuse can begin questioning himself or herself promoting insecurity, self-doubt, and doubting of his or her own sense of self, who he or she really is in truth.
7.) Pity and sympathy.
Eventually things die down and they play their last card: pity and sympathy.
If she’s leaving you: “You have no idea how hard this has been on me. It’s so sad that it comes to this. Please just leave me alone so I can get some sanity back in my life. If you really cared about me none of this would have ever happened.”
If you’re leaving her: “I don’t know what I’ll do without you. You’ve taken everything from me. I might as well give up on relationships forever. You’ve killed my Soul.”
Please note that let’s say, 99% of all relationships with a narcissists will include a period of time when they’ll try to come back and make sure they still have their hold on you. This includes women narcissists as well.
The time in between may be a few days, a few months, or even a few years. But they will resurface in some way, until finally you say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. They’ll do this through the use of their children, money, time, or just plain contacting you because they need attention. They need constant attention.
When you take your attention away from them, you have the opportunity to begin building a life that truly satisfies your own Soul. And you’re worthy, deserving, and it’s perfectly in your right to have a life of your own that you love, with people in it who love you for you, know how to love you in return, and are capable of loving and seeing you as you are, which is inherently enough.
May you love and be loved well, always in all ways.