Quick Links

Wind Haven Favicon

Wind Haven Foundation

Powerful Effects of Narcissistic Women on the Empathetic Man

narcissistic women
Empathetic men navigating relationships must learn to identify and protect themselves from the harmful behaviors of narcissistic women.

It is important to acknowledge that narcissistic abuse impacts both men and women. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. While overt narcissism is easily recognizable due to its blatant self-display and arrogance, covert narcissism is subtler and more insidious. Covert narcissistic women, in particular, can present themselves as vulnerable, sensitive, or humble while engaging in manipulative and abusive behaviors. This post explores the red flags of covert narcissistic women and the detrimental effects their behavior can have on empathetic men, who often become their targets.

Understanding Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is a form of narcissism that is less obvious than its overt counterpart. Covert narcissistic individuals display narcissistic traits but in a more hidden or subtle manner. They often portray themselves as victims, are hypersensitive to criticism, and harbor deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and envy.

Consider this scenario: A couple, John and Jane, frequently dine at the same restaurant. Jane meticulously studies the menu online before each visit, yet she always bombards the server with unnecessary questions about the menu items. This behavior, though seemingly harmless, illustrates a deeper pattern of seeking validation and control, typical of covert narcissistic tendencies.

While John patiently accommodates Jane’s requests, Jane hijacks the server’s time. The server, handling multiple tables, gets caught in a prolonged interaction, which could have been shorter and more efficient. This not only delays service for John and Jane but also impacts the experience of other diners who are waiting for their orders or seeking assistance.

Key Characteristics of Covert Narcissism

  1. Fragile Self-Esteem: Unlike overt narcissists who display grandiosity, covert narcissists have fragile self-esteem. They constantly seek validation and reassurance from others.
  2. Victim Mentality: Covert narcissists often present themselves as perpetual victims of circumstances or the actions of others.
  3. Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Instead of direct confrontation, covert narcissists use passive-aggressive tactics to manipulate and control their targets.
  4. Hyper-Sensitivity to Criticism: They respond to any perceived criticism with excessive defensiveness or withdrawal.
  5. Manipulative Behavior: They use guilt-tripping, gaslighting, and emotional manipulation to maintain control over their relationships.

Red Flags of Covert Narcissistic Women

Empathetic men, due to their compassionate and understanding nature, are particularly vulnerable to the manipulations of covert narcissistic women. Recognizing the red flags early can prevent emotional and psychological harm.

  1. Excessive Charm Followed by Withdrawal: Initially, a covert narcissistic woman may be extremely charming, showering the empathetic man with attention and praise. However, this is often followed by sudden withdrawal and coldness, leaving the man confused and anxious.
  2. Constant Need for Validation: She frequently seeks reassurance about her worth and abilities, often from the empathetic man, who is inclined to provide it.
  3. Playing the Victim: She often narrates stories where she is the victim of unfair treatment, eliciting sympathy and support from the empathetic man.
  4. Subtle Criticism and Undermining: Covert narcissistic women may subtly undermine the man’s confidence and self-esteem through veiled criticism or backhanded compliments.
  5. Gaslighting: She may distort reality, making the man doubt his perceptions and memories, thereby gaining psychological control.
  6. Passive-Aggressiveness: Instead of addressing issues directly, she may use passive-aggressive tactics such as silent treatment, sarcasm, or backhanded remarks.

Effects of Narcissistic Women on Empathetic Men

Empathetic men, who are naturally inclined to support and care for their partners, can suffer significant emotional and psychological damage when involved with covert narcissistic women.

Consider how Jane’s behavior in the restaurant scenario mirrors the manipulative and demanding nature of covert narcissistic women. John’s attempts to accommodate her and the impact on the server’s time illustrate the emotional exhaustion and loss of boundaries empathetic men experience in such relationships.

Emotional Exhaustion

Empathetic men often find themselves emotionally drained from the constant demands for validation and support from their narcissistic partners. The cycle of idealization and devaluation takes a toll on their emotional well-being, leading to chronic stress and anxiety.

Loss of Self-Esteem

Constant manipulation and subtle criticism from a covert narcissistic partner can erode an empathetic man’s self-esteem. He may begin to internalize the negative feedback and question his own worth and capabilities.

Cognitive Dissonance

The contradictory behaviors of a covert narcissistic woman—alternating between affectionate and abusive—create cognitive dissonance in empathetic men. Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. This psychological stress arises from holding conflicting beliefs about the partner and the relationship.


Covert narcissistic women often isolate their partners from friends and family, either through direct manipulation or by creating a sense of dependency. This isolation increases the man’s vulnerability and makes it harder for him to seek support.

Development of Anxiety and Depression

The prolonged emotional turmoil can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The empathetic man may feel trapped, hopeless, and unable to see a way out of the toxic relationship.

Coping Strategies and Recovery

Recovering from a relationship with a covert narcissistic woman requires awareness, support, and self-care. Here are some strategies:

  1. Education and Awareness: Understanding covert narcissism and recognizing the signs can empower empathetic men to set boundaries and protect themselves.
  2. Seeking Support: Therapy or support groups can provide a safe space for men to process their experiences and regain their self-esteem.
  3. Establishing Boundaries: Learning to set and enforce boundaries is crucial in preventing further manipulation and abuse.
  4. Self-Care: Engaging in activities that promote well-being and self-love can help rebuild confidence and emotional resilience.
  5. Cutting Ties: In many cases, the healthiest option is to end the relationship and distance oneself from the narcissistic partner.


The covert nature of narcissistic abuse by women can be particularly damaging to empathetic men, who are naturally inclined to provide support and validation. Recognizing the red flags and understanding the profound effects of such relationships is crucial for prevention and recovery. By educating themselves and seeking support, empathetic men can heal from the trauma of narcissistic abuse and rebuild their lives with healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Share the Post:

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.
Abuse Cycle - Domestic Violence Trauma Recovery

Domestic Violence Resources

Click Sign Up And Give Us Your Best Email Address To Get Our Free Domestic Violence Resource List, Fillable Safety Plan, & Bug-Out Bag PDF.

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.

Frequently Asked Questions
Contact Form

How can I make a donation? You can make a donation on our online donation form. Donations benefit victims of Domestic Violence and are tax deductible.

Which payment methods are accepted in your online store? We accept all major credit cards.

What is your refund policy? For a complete overview of our refund policy, please visit our “Refund Policy” page.

How can I access my account? To access your account, you can visit our menu and select the “My Account” link or click below:

My Account

How do I submit a speaking request? To request Wind Haven to speak at your next event, please submit the contact form and put “Speaking Request” in the subject field.

To be considered, the Message Field should contain the following:

Date Requested

Time Requested (i.e. From 11AM to 1PM — Time Zone}

Event Location (City/State)

Event Venue Name

Type of Event (Church Service, Conference, Workshop, etc.)

Targeted Audience (General, Singles, Couples, Leaders, etc.)

Organization Name and Organization web site

Primary Contact (Name, Email, Phone)

Any additional details pertinent to your event

Your request will be reviewed and someone will follow up with you.

Contact Us

Get Your FREE Boundaries E-Book!

Empowered Boundaries: Nurturing Personal Growth within a Toxic Marriage

A Body, Mind, and Spirit Guide to Keeping Safe and Strong in a Toxic Marriage

By completing this form you consent to be added to our mailing list. You will receive a confirmation e-mail to confirm your subscription. You will receive an e-mail whenever we post a new blog article.

Get Your FREE Domestic Violence
Strategy Guide Bundle!

Give Us Your Best Email Address  & Click Download To Get Our Free Domestic Violence Resource List, Fillable Safety Plan, & Bug-Out Bag PDF.

By completing this form you consent to be added to our mailing list. You will receive a confirmation e-mail to confirm your subscription. You will receive an e-mail whenever we post a new blog article.

Internet usage can be monitored and is impossible to erase completely.

If you are concerned about internet security & safety due to abuse, close this screen and clear your history, cookies, and browser cache. You can re-open our website in a secure location in a private browser window. 

Safe computers can be found at your local library, Internet cafe, shelter, workplace, or computer technology center; avoid using shared computers when researching things like travel plans, housing options, legal issues, and safety plans. 

Click Sign Up Below to Get Your Free Domestic Violence Resource List, Fillable Safety Plan, & Bug-Out Bag PDF!