Perhaps the most dangerous type of narcissistic man is the one who doesn’t wear all his red flags on his sleeve. This type of manipulator is a covert wolf in sheep’s clothing. Good and kind men do exist, but the fake “nice guy” narcissist isn’t one of them. While narcissists can be male or female, the way the “nice guy” narcissist weaponizes certain social and cultural norms to fall under the radar and victimize others must be explored. Research indicates that heterosexual narcissistic men lash out with the most hostility and antagonism toward heterosexual women above all other groups. It’s important to take into account the different ways this hostility can be expressed. Here are three major red flags you should look out for if you suspect you’re dating a narcissist who uses the persona of being a “nice guy” to win public support and gaslight others.
RED FLAG #1:
He dons a faux “feminist” persona but only uses it to meet his own agendas.
The fake nice guy narcissist is all about empowering women – unless it doesn’t benefit him, that is. This is the type of narcissistic man who may speak loudly on women’s rights to garner approval from women but fails to extend genuine empathy and validation to your lived experiences as a woman navigating a dangerous world. Instead, the fake “nice guy” narcissist enjoys the attention he gets from being perceived as a “savior” to women while he persistently tries to center himself and his own needs over your safety and well-being. There is, after all, a distinction between “nice” and “kind.” Kind men are genuinely horrified at the inequalities women endure and make a consistent effort to understand the extra risks women face. Nice men don the persona of understanding but “become” and embody the very danger that women fear. The nice guy acts “nice” so long as it suits him — but when you threaten his sense of entitlement or ego, narcissistic rage ensues, and you are inevitably devalued. For example, research indicates that narcissistic men hold victim-blaming and sexually coercive beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. “Nice guy” narcissists may love bomb you in the beginning with lavish dates and affection, only to rage when you refuse to have sex with them “in return.” They feel entitled to a woman’s attention and body and feel they are “owed” sex (or sometimes, a full-fledged relationship).
There is a reason the “nice guy” narcissist pretends to be sensitive to the needs and wants of women – he is using this façade so women trust and confide in him. This way, he can better understand their vulnerabilities, manipulate, and exploit them long-term, and have a steady supply of potential victims ready to “serve” him.
The “nice guy” narcissist may pretend he wants a commitment, but he enjoys playing mind games and pitting women against one another to compete over him, especially women who he perceives to be out of his league, as it makes him feel powerful and desirable. The mask the “nice guy” narcissist wears allows him to gain access to safe spaces designed for women so he can hunt for new victims.
While these covert “nice guys” may put on a misleading front of being generous to the women they’re pursuing in the beginning, this generosity and romancing are often short-lived. Genuinely kind men are generous because they want to give to others to make them happy and have an authentic desire to impress the women they’re dating. Fake “nice guy” narcissists only pretend to be generous short-term to get what they want, and will often hold anything they gave you willingly against you, making you feel indebted to them as they exhibit resentment. This type of covert narcissist is usually gung-ho about foregoing chivalry and romance long-term in the name of “fairness and equality” (ignoring the fact that we do not yet live in an equal world) and will punish you if you dare to have any standards or basic expectations of them – standards that they themselves set up for you to expect through their early claims, mind you.
Yet even though they do not believe in romancing women long-term, fake “nice guy” narcissists are all too eager to engage in hookup culture and sexually exploit numerous women with low effort, use women as free therapy, or emotionally manipulate women to feed their grandiose ego. Women should remember that in this modern dating culture of hookups, dating apps laden with instant gratification and situationships, they also have a higher risk of experiencing exploitation, abuse, and even violence, especially at the hands of sexually coercive narcissists. Having an expectation of consistent, ongoing attention, chivalry, and romance can be one effective way to protect yourself in the dating world. Holding onto these standards can help you vet potential partners and weed out low-effort men who are just looking for sex and free emotional labor – so long as you differentiate between love bombing and a genuine desire to impress you.
RED FLAG #2:
He’s pathologically envious of your accomplishments yet uses them to make himself look good by association.
Nice guy narcissists will initially pretend to be happy for your achievements and success. They may even flaunt and brag about your accomplishments to others if they believe it would make them look good to be associated with you. However, as their mask drops, you become privy to their true jealousy and underhanded attempts at sabotage as they constantly begin to center themselves, compete with you, constantly counter your positive qualities, and compare themselves to you. Their goal is to control you so you don’t recognize you deserve better, and to assuage their own sense of perceived inferiority. For example, the “nice guy” narcissist might manufacture chaos and start crazymaking and chaotic arguments before big interviews, exams, events, or celebrations, taking sadistic pleasure in your exhaustion and despair. He may attempt to isolate you from your work and career. He feels threatened by not only your success but the fact that you were able to surpass him in your accomplishments because he has been coddled to believe that as a man he is somehow superior to a woman. As a result, he will likely punish you with belittling remarks, condescending contempt, or a withdrawal of emotional support to make you feel less than. He may even financially prey on you and exploit your resources or emotional labor, only to demean you.
RED FLAG #3
He pretends to be “different” from predatory men and separates himself from them.
The fake “nice guy” narcissist may discuss at length how unethical those “other” predatory men are to separate himself early on from “those” types of misogynistic and aggressive men. In truth, he is just as manipulative as the monstrous men he denigrates – just more covert in his tactics. With his lack of empathy and superficial charm, he will use and abuse women ruthlessly to get what he wants. He often builds a harem of women who give him steady narcissistic supply using his charming “good guy” exterior. He conveys shock and dismay at the behavior of other men even though he himself engages in the same behaviors behind closed doors and often has a long history of victimizing women. Yet he will use the women who do believe in his character (usually women he keeps at a distance so they don’t see behind his mask) as “props” to attest to his nonexistent integrity and to engage in impression management. This allows him to gaslight both you and the public into believing he’s a “good man,” despite the ways he’s horrifically violated others.
If you are dealing with a covert wolf in sheep’s clothing or a “nice guy” narcissist, you’re not alone and it’s important to get help. Whether you’re dealing with a male narcissist or a female narcissist, you may want to speak with a mental health professional about your experiences to process your traumas.