Can a Narcissist Change?
My guess is that if you are reading this blog post, then you have a significant other who is selfish, lacks empathy and remorse, and lies about everything. My other guess is that you also think that they can change, and that you are dealing with a logical person–but you aren’t. And, if you are like the rest of us, you for sure aren’t familiar with personality disorders, the different types of Narcissists, or what Narcissism really is.
You’ve probably been dealing with their crazy-making behavior for awhile now. Maybe you thought that their cheating, lying, and maybe stealing was due to their issues with drinking, or drugs, or their childhood, or your fault, or for some other seemingly valid reason. And maybe they’ve been claiming their bad behavior won’t happen anymore, or maybe even that it’s your fault. Either way, you’ve probably been around this mountain enough times to where you started to hear the words “Codependent” or “enabler” and are wondering if there is any truth to them.
But even if you can get a Narcissist to go to therapy (which is a lot like getting a cat to take a bath), there are several reasons as to why this is the worst thing you could do.
1. The Narcissist doesn’t think they have a problem. Narcissists never really believe that they have a problem. All of their behavior is someone else’s fault. Even if they admit to some sort of problem, odds are their admission comes across as insincere (because it is). The first step in fixing any type of issue is that the person has to admit they have a problem. Since they don’t see the problem, there is no fixing it.
2. There is a solid chance they will charm the therapist. Narcissists, especially covert Narcissists, can be very charming. And because they are just so damn charm and Narcissists, they more often than not fool therapists into believing that they are full of insight as to the problem–and that the problem is you! They can get even the most skilled therapist to believe that they are the victim in the situation, and that you are the manipulator. Obviously, this can be very traumatic for a victim, as it really adds to the crazy-making, and the victim is further victimized–but now by the well-intentioned, but duped therapist! If the therapist does see through them and recognize them as a Narcissist, a good therapist will pull you aside and tell you to no longer seek couples therapy with your partner, as it won’t help, can make them worse, and they won’t change anyhow.
3. The Narcissist learns all the victim’s weak spots. When you take a Narcissist to couples therapy, and then open up about everything that’s going on, and all of your hopes, and fears and issues, you are giving the Narcissist ammo for his next attack on you. Everything you say in therapy can and will be used against you.
4. The Narcissist learns which behaviors of theirs are the most obvious, and then they learn to hide them better. When you (or the therapist) point out which of the behaviors of theirs is causing the most trouble, a really cunning and charming Narcissist will take a mental note of everything that you are saying. They may even alter their behavior–but if they do, it’s only because they are setting you up for another fall. They love to win, and make no mistake, they are always working towards making that happen. If you’ve caught onto their manipulations in one way, they’ll keep doing what they are doing, but they’ll get better at hiding it. Cheating is perhaps the most obvious, and most frequent example of them hiding things. A Narcissist will give great lip service about how they are sorry, and how they want to make things work, but rest assured if they cheated in the past, they will always cheat. It’s too much fun, and ego validating for them to not. Bringing their behavior to the surface can just make them more dangerous, more manipulative and more convincing.
Narcissists do not change and they don’t grow out of it. If you are thinking you need therapy, then I’d strongly encourage you to go alone. Like I mentioned, therapy will just make them worse, and besides, there’s lots of insight you can gain about this relationship and what warning signs you overlooked, as well as how to how to spot a narcissist to avoid this from ever happening again. But whatever you do, do not go to couples counseling. If you have a therapist who feels that they can fix the Narcissist, save yourself the money and time, and fire them.
I would also encourage you to join some support groups, and make a plan to get away from your situation. No one deserves to be manipulated or gas lit by a Narcissist. Please also keep educating yourself on Narcissism, as well as Antisocial Personality Disorder (many Narcissists have personality traits of both). Leaving a Narcissist is much easier when you know what to expect and be on the lookout for (flying monkeys and hoovering are the two big ones).
I also want to add that this isn’t your fault. These people are master manipulators, and can fool just about anyone. The best way to prevent a relationship with another Narcissist is to see the warning signs, develop some high standards and solid boundaries for people you let in your life. (((hugs))) to you.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.