You’ve probably heard the saying “misery loves company.” For a narcissist, that is a pretty accurate description. They might pretend to be confident or happy but deep down they often have a default setting of self-loathing, self-pity and misery—looking to bring others to a place of misery with them. One of the many tools in the arsenal of a covert narcissistic abuser, to do just that, is an insidious form of abuse called, sabotage.
Covert narcissists often sabotage their victims by operating in stealth, almost undetectable, undermining ways. By all accounts, their hidden ways and partially veiled actions could almost seem innocent or accidental.
“The actions of psychological abusers are initially so well disguised, their venom goes unnoticed. It is similar to clear toxins in a glass of water.” ― Shannon Thomas, Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse
While there are times in a healthy relationship that circumstances could arise that actually are innocent, the toxic nature of sabotage is often revealed by underlying patterns of emotional abandonment, manipulation, and gaslighting—denying harmful behavior, minimizing, or blame-shifting. When those toxic traits are present in a relationship, it is more than likely that these circumstances are not accidental or innocent. You may, in fact, be dealing with sabotage by a covert narcissistic abuser.
While the following is not an exhaustive list of covert sabotage, hopefully these eye-opening examples will help give you clarity and paint a picture of what exactly covert sabotage may look like.
A narcissist does not want you to be healthy—body, mind, soul, or spirit. Being in control is a huge motivating factor for a narcissist so the stronger and healthier you become, the more threatened they feel. Sabotage is often used as a tool to keep you in a weakened or dependent state.
There are often two ends of the spectrum when it comes to narcissists and finances. Most times, they are either irresponsible with money or very controlling and possessive with it. Either way, the common denominator between a narcissist and money is the secretive and destructive ways in which they often use money.
Narcissist often will sabotage your self-confidence because it makes you easier to control. After all, if you don’t trust or have confidence in yourself, it’s easier for them to insert themselves as an authority in your life and control you.
Unfortunately, children are often used as pawns by covert narcissistic abusers. If they aren’t using their children for supply, often they are using them as a tool of abuse towards their victim.
Most times a covert narcissist may not speak bad of you outright to your children. They are aware that your children know who you truly are and they most likely wouldn’t believe outright lies. Instead, they often will undermine you in subtle ways to confuse and discredit you in the eyes of your children.
A narcissist usually does not have any close relationships. The friendships that they appear to have are often very shallow. Narcissists have very little, if any, capacity for emotional depth. They view you having close friends as a threat to them. Either directly or indirectly they often demand all of your time, resources, and attention. Anyone else, even your own children, may be seen as a threat to them getting what that they want.
Narcissists usually believe that they are the ultimate authority and expert in any area. They want you believe they are as well. Having trusted leaders in your life are seen as a threat that may expose them for who they really are. A narcissist does not want their true colors exposed as they have often lived their whole life under a façade that they want to keep firmly in place.
Making memories and sharing special moments is a natural way to create a positive and healthy bond between people. Narcissists often sabotage special moments because they are incapable of having a healthy connection, almost never are interested in other people unless it benefits them, and want to keep all the attention on themselves.
Ruining a special moment, holiday, or celebration is something that often gives a covert narcissist great joy, as sucking the positive energy out of a room often makes a them feel powerful. Usually, narcissists will make special moments, celebrations, or holidays memorable in all the wrong ways.
As a side note, narcissists can be incredible gift givers or seem happy to celebrate when they feel it is something that will make them look good in the eyes of others. If there is no audience, they usually “forget” special moments or ignore them entirely because they just don’t care.
One thing a narcissist may pretend to have but is incapable of actually possessing, is having character, integrity, and a true and deep relationship with God. They may pretend to have prophetic dreams, prophetic words, visions, or supernatural experiences to make you think they have a relationship with God. They may be at church often and may even read the bible but they never actually live out what they claim to believe. Anyone who truly has a relationship with God will eventually produce fruit in their lives.
As stated earlier, a narcissist wants all of your time, attention, and resources for themselves. They often act as professional hope-squashers and want to keep you in a place of feeling heart sick. If you have a dream or a goal, this is a prime target of destruction for them as they often view it as a direct threat to them.
Triangulation is a form of manipulation in which one person seeks to control two other people in a situation for their own benefit. The aim is to divide and conquer. It is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead using a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle.
“Normal people have a hard time comprehending that abusers go to such lengths, but they do.” ― Shannon Thomas, Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse
If you find yourself in a relationship where sabotage is a constant reality, I would encourage you to reach out to trusted friends, mentors, or counselors for help. You may instinctually want to defend yourself but that often is a fruitless endeavor as the abuser isn’t usually interested in reality, telling the truth, or actually resolving issues.
When our lives are hidden in Christ—He is our defender and protector. Ultimately what God thinks of us is what matters most. I am praying for God to expose every area of hidden sabotage in your life. I also am praying that God would bring safe people and counselors into your life, to help walk with you, as you untangle the web of covert abuse and sabotage you may be experiencing. May Holy Spirit give you great wisdom, healing, grace, and strength as you look to him as your protector and defender.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” – Psalm 18:1-2