Malignant vs. Covert Narcissists

The Differences Between Malignant & Covert Narcissism & How To Handle a Divorce

“Narcissist” is a term that some people like to throw around as an insult whenever someone insists on getting their own way. So when it comes to divorce, almost everyone thinks that they’re getting divorced from a narcissist. However, experts believe that only about 5% of the population actually has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So while it’s unlikely that you’re married to a narcissist, it also isn’t impossible. There are four main types of narcissism: grandiose, covert, malignant, and communal. Here, because of how complex these topics are, we will just discuss malignant and covert narcissism. It can be difficult to identify these symptoms, especially in the case of covert narcissists. No matter which type of narcissism you are dealing with, it’s best to hire an experienced Arizona divorce attorney to represent you and your best interests. For your free consultation with our firm, use our online form today. 

Divorcing for a narcissist in Arizona

A Brief Explanation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder, or narcissism for short, is a condition that causes people to feel an extreme sense of self-importance. It is more common in men than in women, but you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of narcissism based on your spouse’s gender. Many of the symptoms of narcissism play into that inflated sense of self-importance. Narcissists love to be the center of attention and receive admiration. They are often averse to criticism, and can have issues feeling empathy for others. Narcissism can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, but this usually takes several visits, and by nature, narcissists are opposed to seeking mental health treatment.

What is Malignant Narcissism?

If your spouse is a malignant narcissist, chances are that you’re aware that your spouse is dealing with some type of personality disorder. Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary defines malignant narcissism as a combination of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, aggression and/or sadism, and paranoia.

This is considered by many to be the most serious type of narcissistic personality disorder. You can expect a malignant narcissist to show typical narcissistic traits like entitlement, arrogance, and lack of empathy. However, the antisocial personality disorder element brings traits like disregard for rules and authority, hostility, deceptive behavior, and an inability to plan in advance. In addition, a malignant narcissist will probably display signs of aggression towards people and objects. Sadism involves enjoying causing someone else pain. Clearly, these are all serious symptoms that could be harmful to someone in a relationship with that person. 

What is Covert Narcissism?

A covert narcissist can be much trickier to identify than a malignant narcissist. They are less obvious than other types of narcissists, especially malignant narcissists. However, you can still expect them to seek validation and admiration from those around them. Other types of narcissists may loudly and rudely put you down, but covert narcissists will do it in a more gentle- and insidious- fashion. They may portray themselves as the victim in every situation. Sometimes they will just delay situations to make sure they remain the main focus. Covert narcissists will leave you feeling emotionally neglected. They are also likely to take part in a manipulation tactic called gaslighting. 

Gaslighting: A Covert Narcissist’s Favorite Weapon

Gaslighting is a common technique employed by narcissists, whether covert or otherwise. It includes a wide array of behaviors meant to make the target question their own memory, perception, and sanity. It comes from the 1940’s film Gaslight, in which a man dimmed the gaslights in the home shared with his wife as a part of his plot to steal her fortune. Gaslighters will deny and misdirect so that their partners believe any issues in their relationships are their own fault. They may constantly deny the things they do or say, or even refuse to acknowledge the target at times in order to gain control. 

What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

There are many things that could cause someone to have any of the types of narcissistic personality disorder. Biology is widely believed to be a factor in any type of narcissistic personality disorder. And while nature plays an important role, nurture may be just as, if not more, important. Parenting styles may have a lot to do with the development of narcissistic personality disorder. Abusive home situations tend to create narcissistic individuals. So do parenting styles that are overly authoritative or permissive. Children who grow up with no sense of stability also can develop narcissistic personality disorder. It can sometimes be impossible to figure out exactly why someone has developed narcissistic personality disorder, but what you can do is take steps to protect yourself and move on from your relationship. 

Tips for Dealing with a Narcissistic Spouse

Chances are, if you’re married to a narcissist, you’ve experienced some level of partner abuse. While verbal and emotional abuse may not leave the scars that domestic violence does, it can still be traumatic for the victim. We always recommend that anyone leaving an abusive relationship seek some form of mental health treatment so that you can move forward with a healthier idea of what is normal in relationships. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for more resources and information about leaving an abusive relationship. 

One vital consideration when divorcing a narcissistic spouse is to make sure you have all your important documents safe and ready to go. An abusive spouse may try to hide your passport or driver’s license to prevent you from leaving. In fact, it may be better to leave with little to no notice to your spouse. Narcissists may not be capable of the calm and reasonable discussion that most spouses deserve when they learn they’re getting divorced. Also, in abusive relationships, the end is the most dangerous time, and the abuse could escalate. If you can, prepare a discreet go bag and keep it somewhere that your spouse won’t find. 

Another thing we like to recommend to our clients who are getting divorced from narcissistic spouses is to keep a record of all the important events in their relationship and divorce. This can be especially useful if your spouse likes to gaslight you. Keep this journal secure from your spouse, and use a privacy password if you keep it digitally.

Arizona Divorce Attorneys Experienced With Difficult Cases

At AZ Family Law Lawyers, we understand just how stressful it can be to marry- and divorce- someone with narcissistic personality disorder. We are prepared for any tricks a narcissist may throw your way. When you retain a divorce attorney, all contact regarding your case must go through us first. This allows us to filter out communications that are just to harass and antagonize you. This makes for an overall less stressful divorce process.

Your family members will be thankful you have that time and energy for them, rather than legal research, drafting, negotiating, and more. To learn more about hiring an affordable Arizona divorce lawyer, contact us for your free case evaluation. Our consultations are both free and confidential. You can ask any questions you have about our services and the divorce process in general, and you will receive a low quote for legal representation, with monthly installment options available.


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