The Changed Narcissist pt. 2

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Last week I wrote about narcissists who claim that they have changed so their spouses/supply will welcome them back into the relationship. Many sad stories have come from those who have fallen for that deception. Of course, there is no foolproof way to determine if someone has actually changed or if that person is just playing a game. But it seems to me that there are some things that would indicate real change.

So, what would a changed narcissist look like? The following points are all about a male narcissist who wants to return to his wife. We all understand that some women are narcissists and that not all narcissistic relationships are in marriages. Adjust these as you see fit.


1. He finally understands it is not all about him. Narcissists will talk about their needs, their efforts, their pain, their loneliness, their revelations, their decisions, their inconveniences. But they will not talk about you or your needs. The broken relationship has been a burden on them, but they don’t acknowledge how the relationship was a burden on you. They will tell you over and over how they have changed, how they accept your anger, and how they are struggling to be alone. All about them. Is it a struggle for you to be alone? Are you struggling with your anger? Do you have rights and expectations in the relationship? The narcissist doesn’t talk about that because he doesn’t think about that.

When the narcissist can honestly see and admit how he has hurt you, then he may be changing. When he finally stops thinking about his own struggle and sees yours as valid, then maybe change is happening.

2. He begins to think about what he can give, rather than what he can get. The narcissist makes deals. He expresses what he wants, and you are supposed to do it. He may not even realize that there should be another side to the deal. And, when he does, you don’t know if he will fulfill his side. As long as the narcissist is bargaining, he is manipulating. What if he stopped making deals? What if he just gave, like a loving person would? When he gives you more money than agreed upon because he knows you can use it, even when it makes the month tight for him, he may be changing. When he takes care of chores you need (not chores he needs or likes), because he knows you need them, maybe he is changing.

3. He stops blaming you for the break-up. Narcissists are experts at blaming the victim. Their whole game is to make themselves look good. That will mean you have to be the one who caused the problem. That’s what they think, and that’s what they will tell others. Eventually, you may begin to believe it. Once you do, he wins. Now, if he stops talking about what you should do to change and sees his own failures, then maybe he is changing. If he comes to the relationship without trying to make a deal where you have to give something or give up something, then change might be happening. If he openly and honestly discusses what he did to hurt you, and accepts it from your point of view, then maybe.

4. He goes back to friends and tells them the truth. There is little doubt that the narcissist has already talked to friends about what you have done. He probably did it long before you began to see the truth about him. Certainly, once you started talking about separation, he tried to get them on his side. Now he should go back to them and tell them it was his fault, not yours. He should admit to them that he is manipulative and controlling and that he has hurt you. At minimum, he should speak supportively about you. If he were to do this, maybe he is changing.

5. He’s willing to take time. Restoring the relationship is about winning your heart again. Is he willing to take the time, to proceed gently, to do that? Does he assume certain privileges because he has had them before? Some narcissists simply do not accept that you are committed to separation. They think they just have to say the right words or make the right deal and you will yield. They search for the magic answer so all this will stop. If he is patient, maybe he is changing. If he puts the relationship at such a value that he is willing to take time, perhaps even years, to bring it together again, maybe he is changing.

6. He’s willing to lose. Most narcissistic relationships end when the narcissist says they do. Many end because he finds someone else. Others end because “she is unreasonable.” They will redecorate the story until it is your fault. Whatever it takes to win. Narcissists must win. Their image cannot afford to lose. But if he is willing to do what you want, because you want it, maybe he is changing. I have known men who lost their marriages and blame themselves. No, they were not narcissists, at least from what I could see. But they would tell you that there was a time in their marriage when they were selfish and abusive and lost the best thing they ever had. They understand why the person they hurt is better off without them. Bottom line: they were jerks and they lost. If the narcissist is willing to accept that, then maybe he is changing.

By the way, going online to tell as many as will listen how much suffering you have caused, even when you seem to blame yourself, is just another way to win. Becoming the “expert” on narcissistic relationships because you are one, may be a victory in itself. If he is blogging about his struggle or counseling others, he may have found a different way to come out ahead.

7. He’s no longer angry. Change is hard, but kindness and understanding are patient. We can understand frustration when there is one goal and it isn’t happening. But if the above things are in place, and the narcissist is kind and not angry (over time), then maybe real change is taking place. We have talked before about why narcissists are angry. If there is anything that makes them angry, it is you pointing out their failures by setting boundaries or separating. They get frustrated when they cannot find those magic words or manipulate you into changing your mind. They watch the clock and/or the calendar waiting for “all this” to be over, then get angry when it takes time. If the anger has stopped, maybe he is changing.

Beware of the anger adapting. Anger can change to resignation. Shrugging his shoulders and saying “whatever” may be just a different way of expressing anger. The “sad sack,” the defeated victim, is able to manipulate in much the same way as the angry person. Don’t be fooled. There is a difference between honestly acknowledging your failure and becoming a broken-down moping servant.



So, there you have it. I am sure that you could add to this. My first thought as I read back over this list is: What will the narcissist think? I am aware that narcissists watch this blog. My hope and prayer is that they would see the pain of their spouses and accept the real need for change. My expectations are far less.

I would expect one of two responses from the narcissist. Some will make this into a list with check boxes. They will work on each area until they are satisfied they can communicate that to their spouse. They might even show the list to their spouse someday. Just more bargaining.

The more likely response is that this is ridiculous. “No one could possibly do all of these things. You are suggesting that the narcissist go completely soft, take all the blame, and become a doormat.” Well, perhaps I am. Perhaps this list is tough with expectations that are high. But they are not too high for regular people, people who do stupid things and want to rebuild their relationships. Nothing on the list above is actually unreasonable. Yet, I acknowledge that they might be difficult. I also acknowledge that they are inconsistent with narcissism.

So, can a narcissist really change? Is it even possible? Next week….



Filed under Narcissism

20 responses to “The Changed Narcissist pt. 2

  1. Amy

    In my case, my narcissistic abusive ex never did change. He left in ’09 in a big fanfare, in what turned out to be a very elaborate plan he’d been working on for months. The plan was designed to ruin me. He was so intent on ‘winning’ he had no intention of changing. What he didn’t plan for was me not backing down and just letting him back home. I’d had 20 years of him, and him walking out that door only gave me the resolve and strength to finally say no more.

    He never did change. Three years after he left he reared up and showed his true colors again and even just last year proved once again, he has a hard heart and still blames me in his warped way of thinking.

    The sad thing was, after he left and set off to work making me look like the ‘bad guy’, the one who had kicked him out and would not even consider reconciliation, only wanting a divorce because I was an ungodly wife, I actually worried that possibly I had done something, that somehow at least part of it was my fault that our marriage dissolved.
    But the reality was, I knew I had/have faults and would often try so hard to be a better person, to change and grow during that marriage, but it was him who never took responsibility for any of his actions and only wanted to place blame on me.

    I’ve been remarried for over 6 years, and it’s allowed me to see that what happened in my first marriage was NOT my fault. My ex leaving was NOT my fault. The divorce happening, was NOT my fault. While I still have faults, who doesn’t, my husband acts nothing like my ex did, and I’ve been blessed to have a second chance at marriage and have come to see that the way my ex behaved and acted had nothing to do with me, it was all about him.
    But isn’t that what a narcissist wants? To have everything all about him? LOL Sad thing is, in the end he lost. He lost so much and yet I don’t know that he even really sees that.

  2. cfeather54

    Always right on, Pastor Dave. A year after my narcissist wife divorced me, I still find myself wondering what I could have done to save the marriage. I still find myself placing the blame on me for not being able to make her happy. Yet, I was exhausted and financially broke trying to meet all her whims, trying to do the right thing. But it was never good enough. I begged her on my knees to come back, I prayed and enlisted many prayer warriors to pray for healing of the marriage. I risked, and lost, everything I had worked for so this woman could have what she wanted at the moment. And when she got it, it was not good enough. When all her ducks were in a row, she walked away, the winner and the victim of that which she just had to have. These people are incredibly good liars, actors and actresses. That’s why you just can’t trust them to “come back and start over,” to “change.” Nothing short of an exorcism would convince me otherwise. I’d have to see the demon actually leave the person before I’d trust. Yet the cognitive dissonance lingers, that question hangs over my life, “what did I do wrong to lose someone I loved so very much?” I will always feel as if it was my fault, that I blew it. You cannot win in these relationships. If you finally figure out that person is a narcissist and encourage them to seek help, they leave you because you think they are defective or have bad character. If they stay in the relationship, they take a little slice off your soul every day until you are dead inside. You will always be the loser in the relationship. It is rigged, like walking into a rigged casino. You may get out alive, but you will be an addicted mass of human flesh, broken and destitute, when you are finally kicked out the back door.

  3. Patty

    I remember saying to a friend following an attempt to reconcile “it’s like he has found a playbook. How to win your wife back in 21 days” He was so smooth, so “perfect”, checked all the boxes with words and actions and tears yet it felt fake. I did not trust my intuition, and allowed him to come back home too soon. It was good (but fake) for awhile as he went around telling everyone how “great” we were and how I had forgiven him. He quickly tired of that game and the rage, silent treatments, playing the victim (martyr) began again. It is shocking what you learn once you are away from them. I still can not believe the stories he told our “friends” about me while we were together (and supposedly “good”). I can only imagine what he told that no one has come forward yet and told me. I do not regret giving him many opportunities to “win back my trust” I regret that he was coming me. I often find myself saying, we could have had an amazing marriage if …. anything had ever been real. It was all a lie. Smoke and mirrors. I am grieving the loss of what I hoped would be but I have come to realize could never be.

  4. Molly245

    I am new to your blog. This is so very helpful. Through counseling, I knew some of this but it so clear and easy to understand; it will be a great tool for me.
    Your–BTW reference was just what I needed to read. My Narc. has been doing that and I thought it was a good thing.
    I see now that it is just another way of winning.
    Thank you for all your info.

  5. Pastor Dave, you are once again spot on. Yes, the seven things that you mentioned indicate a “changed” man, but a Narcissist would never do those things. in 100% of the cases, he must look good in front of others (especially the church, friends and his children), launch a smear campaign to turn others and the children against his wife, play the victim, blame his wife for the break-up of the marriage, and deceive himself and others that he is not the problem. He will change his story (lie) to suit his own selfish purposes depending upon the audience – he may pretend to apologize to his wife (to get her back) or the church (to allow him to stay or remarry), but if he must pay a price for his abuse (such as in a legal proceeding, or if the police or child services are called) then he will deny, deny, deny any wrongdoing — and even claim his wife is the abuser and mentally ill. No, they cannot change. And no, there is nothing anyone could do to have a different outcome. As one expert says, “Relationships with a narcissist always end badly…very badly.” The best course of action, once one finally has exhausted all other courses and have come to the conclusion that you can look yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you have done everything in your power to make the marriage work, is to accept the advice of Paul in 2 Timothy 3 (which has a perfect description for a narcissist) and “have nothing to do with them.” Charlene Quint

  6. Pastor Dave,
    First of all, I just want to say THANK YOU for this blog! Your words have brought a lot of clarity and encouragement. I have had a lot of counseling to deal with my narcissist – my parents, but mainly my mom. I have dealt with a ton of shame, guilt, and regret for many years. I am slowly making my way through all of the pain and doing really well right now.

    It amazes me that the pattern with these people is nearly identical! I say my N’s weapons of choice are punishment with the accompanying guilt. I still struggle with walking around in a cloud of guilt. Anything that happens (at work, home, all relationships) – my first reaction is that it’s my fault. The difference, now though (thanks to a great Christian counselor, many amazing and loving friends and family and your blog), I am aware of this and can stop myself from putting all the blame on myself.

    Looking back I can see that this was going on all throughout my childhood. I just didn’t know. I thought I deserved what I was getting. But, now I know. Getting away from the environment and moving away was the best thing my husband and I EVER did.

    The good that has come out of all of it? I would not be the person in Christ I am today if not for all the pain and all of the struggles. He has been faithful to supply me with an large network of people who support me and always remind me of my worth to them and others around me. I know without a doubt that God has called me to be an Encourager. I write a blog myself and theme of it is just that, because I have great empathy for those who are hurting and feel alone. Jesus is truly the answer to dealing with a narcissist (or any other issue, of course).

    Thank you again and God bless you!

  7. Janet

    Wow! This is point for point spot on!

  8. Pam Faro

    Wow, another right on point. As one who returned to the N, not realizing who he was and how he worked. On time it became apparent that he blamed me for the precious separation and was going to make me ‘pay’. As log as my behaviour went along with what he wanted everything was peachy. But it became obvious that it was one sided. As long as I didn’t cross him everything was ‘ok’

    • Patty

      Pam, I can relate. In hindsight, there was always a “you owe me” mentality. In the end, it turned into a you shall pay mentality.

  9. Lean

    Could relate to all. How do I get help from all this mess. I am in divorce process and feel crazy and at fault. Not doing well even though separated. He continues to threaten and blame me- I am financially dependent and feel scared to death. I want to be whole again.

    • Savedbygrace

      Hi Lian I am so sorry you are going thru all this and I hope you can really take in the message”it’s not your fault”. I found going to counselling to work thru these things has really helped me process it.
      I am only just on the other side of divorce and it has been a long drawn out abusive process. Even though it has cost a fair bit I do not regret getting my own legal counsel and not even going down the path of DIY as I knew( as it has been said here) there is no true negotiating and ‘good will’ when you are defying a narcissist. It was very protective for me to be ale to have my solicitor deal with him.
      So there are things you can do to help. The first thing is to prioritise your ( and children if any) safety- physical and emotional. Financially get government help eg apply for child support, benefits etc whatever is available; build a support system of friends/family/ church if possible; get legal aid -either free or your own solicitor to advise on options and your rights under the law ( do not expect your nh will be giving you correct/helpful information).
      Don’t listen to him. He is only seeking to draw you back in – and it is this that is so crazy making. Gift yourself with a break from his rhetoric. You’ll be surprised at how much peace and sanity returns when you do this. For me this meant blocking him on txt, email and unfriending him on FB. I went no/lo contact- when you have kids there has to be some contact but even that can be minimised – and handovers done in a neutral public place and with a support person with you- it helps contain the n as he has an image to project ..
      I hope these suggestions help, it is natural to feel scared and fear is a gift telling you to be careful and to take steps to protect yourself.
      Keep going!- you will feel whole again little bit by little bit -((hugs))

    • Lean, It is extremely difficult to go through a divorce from a Narcissist by yourself. Narcissists, as well as sociopaths and psychopaths, all of which are labeled Cluster B Personality Disorders in the DSM manual, make up almost the entire universe of domestic abusers. It must be done with a group of supportive people who truly understand domestic abuse and will walk with you on your journey. People who have not encountered a Narcissist, or who do not have training in domestic abuse, simply cannot understand. Well meaning friends are not helpful, and those “friends” that the Narcissist has turned against you with his lies and slander campaign (it happens every time) are not safe. Counselors who are not trained in domestic abuse and/or narcissistic personality disorder will be hoodwinked just like other people. Most church leaders are useless in this area, and will actually support the abuser, which is even more traumatic. I highly recommend reaching out to your local domestic violence organization (there is usually one in every county) so that you can get some free one-on-one counseling and join a support group. There you will find a group of people who understand what you are going through, can validate you, can help you understand his tactics (they are very predictable), and can give you tools to deal with him. I also suggest a very tough attorney who is familiar with “high conflict divorce” because every divorce with a Narcissist is high conflict. It is a guarantee that they will lie and abuse the legal system to further their abuse of you. I also highly recommend spending a lot of time with God and good people, and allow Him to comfort you, encourage you, to strengthen you (see Ephesians 6 for His armor), and to show you what He really thinks about these types of evil people. The Psalms and Proverbs are a great place to start. Take up your sword! This is a spiritual battle! You can make it through, and, like the Israelites, God will do a rescue mission from a place of bondage and put you in a promised land of rest, peace on the other side. Peace, Charlene Quint

  10. jmd

    Thank you so much for this blog. We have been in counseling for over a year now picking up the pieces of the damage a narcissist did in our lives. In our case it was a fellow missionary overseas. He got into a position of power and abused us with it severely… the leaders above him believed his story that WE were the problem (he told them we are anti authority and unable to forgive). In the end we were labeled as the problem, our reputation was trashed and we left the field and the organization, and he is still there wreaking havoc. And gaining praise for all the advances he is making! And meanwhile spreading lies about us no doubt. It is so painful to think about that- that he is tainting our reputation with coworkers we care about who should know better but probably don’t realize he’s planting doubts in their minds about us. He’s that good!

    I just had one thing to add to this post because we saw him doing something you didn’t happen to mention… and that is actually blaming himself for our conflict! He is now saying our leaving the field was his fault! It’s like he has just enough spiritual and emotional awareness to say that- which in turn casts a subtle bad light on us because we “wouldn’t reconcile”. He actually tells people that now – a few have come and told us that- and have said “look he’s changing! He knows he hurt you and he’s the reason you left the field!”

    Well- we have no doubt that he is not changing! Because this is the first we’ve heard of him blaming himself. If he was truly feeling that way, and was honestly remorseful, we believe we would have heard from him. It’s just another way he’s learned to gain the favor of those around him by putting us down.

    We were so shocked at the level of skill this man has at narcissistic behavior! In our main meeting confronting him, he wiggled and squirmed his way out of literally everything we brought up- even had tears at the appropriate times! Then at the end of our meetings, he told us it would really help things in the future if we just agreed with all of his decisions. Brick wall! He obviously didn’t hear a word we said. And our leadership there was duped by his slick talking. Such a nightmare! Anyway. Thank you for the truth you send out each week. It’s such a difficult road to walk and having some light and understanding along the way is such a blessing! Blessings, MD

    • I took the liberty of taking your name from the comment. I hope that’s okay. Just to protect you. – Dave

    • I’m so sorry to hear that a fellow missionary has done this, but I am not at all surprised. Evil people cloaked as “Christians” infiltrate every church and para-church organization. Keep up the faith! It is extremely freeing when we get to a point where the only opinion that we care about is God’s opinion – not our Narcissist spouse, or the Narcissist co-worker, or the church who is gullible enough it either will not or cannot call evil what it is, or the people that believe the Narcissist – just God. He will carry you through it, and bring justice at some point. Blessings to you, Charlene Quint

  11. rodney hickman

    i so love getting these has helped me journey through pain which i have not experienced before…and I see how some of my own family members have been caught in the same net..THANK YOU MY FRIEND…KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  12. Janet

    During my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I was meditating on our walk with Jesus:
    To deny our SELF, take up our cross daily and follow Him; surrendering to His will in our lives which brings forth the fruit of the Spirit, His CHARACTER defused through us. The evidence of Christ-like character is SELF GIVING. That is the opposite of the narcissist.
    My N Christian *friend* for 7 years was always needy, always in a crisis, going from melt down to melt down. She kept herself as the focus of our ministry. I called it “the-little-birdy-with-the-broken-wing” acts. It took me those 7 whole years to see that it was a pattern, so many of her “crisis” were based on lies and “facts” she literally made up. This was the technique she had developed over the years since being “born again” to get her narcissistic supply. She stays at a ministry for 7-8 years. Then when those who most heavily minister to her needs and walk with her through her constant crisis catch on to a pattern, realizing they are being used for attention, (“suppliers”), she secretly sees that the gig is up when they start setting boundaries of no contact. She would claim God has called her else where and moved on.
    The church is perfect for the covert narcissist.
    If she could change, and do those points presented by Dave, she would be such a lovely human being. Its such a shame to live a lie like that, to dupe other Christians just to feed your narcissistic supply. What is going to happen when she meets Jesus face to face and have to give an account??

  13. Thank you for much needed insight and clarity. It’s so tiring to to keep them at bay when you can’t move across the country. Keep shedding light on the lies. Bless you.

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