Covert Narcissism: Sometimes healing a relationship is one-sided
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A word from Janet:

As we sat enjoying our tea, I knew I wanted Linda to write a blog post for me. I rarely have others write, but she said something that resonated with me and that I believed would resonate with all of you.

She spoke about an issue some people have that the church is often ill-equipped to help with. Sometimes the usual answers don’t provide a solution. 

Linda had done women’s ministry for many years, with excellence. During that time, she encountered many women who had been through, or were going through, problems in their marriage. When Linda spoke about her own marriage, I knew it was a story others needed to hear. 

Every marriage has challenges, and often the church’s response is to counsel the couple to “draw closer to God and that will draw them closer to one another.” Sermons, Bible studies, and books are delivered with a message for “the middle” of the congregation. Often, those on the edges are left feeling disconnected or misunderstood. While great sermons and lessons contain powerful biblical truth, often those words of truth cannot provide a solution. Why?

All people are created by God with free will. None of us has the power to control or limit the free will choices of another. Some people are born or raised with issues and disorders that mean average solutions are ineffective. In other words, sometimes healing a relationship just isn’t possible. Spiritual healing is a choice each person must make for himself or herself, but not a choice that can be made for another. Sometimes our choices cannot heal a relationship because the other person’s issues or choices won’t allow for healing.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13–14).

I learned a lot from Linda about a topic I was not familiar with. The more I read, the more I began to understand the need for Christians to be aware of those people the church might tend to condemn rather than counsel or comfort.

Linda has come through a personal storm that God is now redeeming for a greater good. I wanted to share her article and her website so that it could be a help to all of you—possibly for one of your own relationships or maybe to share with someone you know.


Now I Get It! Married to a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

by L.L.

“Mom, what you have done is crazy-stupid-brave, and the greatest gift you could have given me.”

Those were the first words of my son’s email. 

They affirmed the steps I had taken to identify the confusing marital fog that engulfed me so long—enough years for my children to now have families of their own.

I had believed the empty nest would ease our relationship stressors. Later, the anticipation of the joy of grandchildren fueled my optimism. The expectations of new freedoms in retirement offered the last remnant of hope. Instead, retirement revealed an increased intensity of emotional abandonment.

The journey to clarity

The bewilderment that washed over me when my last hope vanished shattered the dream I had nurtured since childhood—a spiritually mature and joyful marriage. Where had I failed? We had all the outward trappings but lacked the soul of a mutually loving relationship. Marriage conferences, books, prayer, Bible studies, support groups, and personal counseling failed to uncover one mysterious underlying dynamic.

After a particularly confusing conversation with my husband, I retreated to sort swirling emotions birthed from a confused and wounded heart. 

Access to counseling during that time provided emotional support, but nothing truly explained my quandary until one webcast provided a checklist for a disorder called Covert Narcissism. I listened to it over and over while checking off each indicator. Finally, I was able to say, “Now I get it.” 

A combination of both despair and relief set me on a convoluted journey of grief, loss, healing, lament, and personal spiritual growth. 

I learned that narcissistic characteristics cluster on a spectrum. Everyone has some qualities of self-centeredness. We need enough for self-care. As individuals move up the spectrum with increasing displays of self-focus, relationships grow more challenging. Those at the far end of the spectrum lack empathy as well as the ability to self-reflect. They also relate to others through a wide variety of distorted thinking patterns. 

My husband came to counseling enough times for the counselor to determine the diagnosis of Covert Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

My effort to identify this missing piece of information was what had prompted my son’s email. He, too, now had an explanation for his own emotional wounds. 

Examples in Scripture

Seeing this same disorder in Scripture has added a new sense of awareness to my Bible study. 

Jesus described false teachers as those who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). Some believe Judas, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, displayed characteristics of a covert narcissist (Matthew 26:14–16). 

In the book of Esther, King Xerxes’ actions offer examples of Grandiose Narcissism (Ester 1:1–12), while Haman (Ester 3–8) demonstrated Covert Narcissism traits. 

King Herod’s jealousy and grandiosity (Matthew 2:16) finally had an explanation. 

Jesus pointed out the Pharisees’ outward righteousness but inward darkness when He called them white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27–28). 

The power of truth

Jesus spoke of an essential element to the Jews who believed in Him. “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32). As I examined truth, I learned it extended beyond knowledge of Christ’s atoning death and gift of salvation. The word for truth in this passage expands the meaning to “what is true in any matter under consideration” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

Willingness to see truth

I am discovering that the Lord reveals truth to me in proportion to my willingness to see it. Seeking truth has propelled me into God’s grace of healing.

My defense mechanisms of rationalization, denial, and false belief that I could love enough to fix things needed to be released. I had to radically accept that narcissism was something I could not resolve. 

That radical acceptance required giving up my hope—perhaps one of the most painful steps of faith I had to take. Giving up hope felt like I was abandoning a foundational element of my faith. My hope, though, had been misplaced. My hope now rests on WHO Christ is rather than expectations of WHAT He can do.

God’s faithfulness in all things

I know now that my heavenly Father’s heart had always ached with me as I hid my tears and attempted to ignore my deep emotional woundings. He had seen my struggles to honor Him in my marriage. 

God had also waited ever so patiently for me to stop my human striving and to reach out to Him in surrender. When I acknowledged my pride and asked for His guidance and perfect will to be accomplished in my life, I felt something shift in my heart. It was the stabilizing calm that truth brings.

My heavenly Father has been faithful in each step of faith in truth-seeking and healing. I face each day with fresh hope in the future my heavenly Father has for me as His beloved daughter.

Best of all, I get to watch God do the very same for each truth-seeking woman who brings her brokenness to Him.

Now I Get It is available at or in print at Note: Now I Get It is written under the pen name of Alice Neyland. Follow “Now I Get It” on Instagram, Facebook, and at