Apologizing to a Narcissist

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jul 15
apologizing to a narcissist

In a normal relationship, if one has made a mistake, they feel remorse and typically follow up with an apology.  This usually leads to the other party forgiving the offender or at least acknowledging their heart-felt attempt to make amends.

Not so with a Narcissist.

When you apologize to a Narcissist, they feel like they’ve won the lottery.  You are always wrong, anyway, so for you to admit a mistake is akin to boarding a train for a one-way guilt trip.  Instead of the situation being dealt with in a mature way, there are a few possible scenarios that will ensue following an apology to a Narcissist:

 1.  Self-Righteousness:  This is the equivalent of being pointed at and ridiculed on the playground with the goal being to make you feel like the biggest idiot in town.

See how wrong you were?  Isn’t it just a load off now that you can see how right they were?  Thank goodness you’ve finally admitted to your senselessness.  Now that you know your place, the both of you can get on with life as usual.  What took you so long, anyway?  Hey, now that you’ve finally admitted to being a moron, how about celebrating…by taking them out to lunch on your dime.  After all, you’re lucky that they’ve decided to throw you a crumb of mercy and acknowledgement.

Eat out on that for a while.

Narc Check:  This contemptuous ridiculing plays on any feelings of shame you may possess deep down.  Not the “good” kind of shame that helps us strengthen our empathy and compassion, but destructive, toxic shame.  Narcissists use this second type of shaming against their victims as a means to condition them into hopeless compliance.

2.  Complete Rebuff:  You’ve been carrying around a bit of guilt about something you said or did during one of your low points (which was brought on by the Narcissist).  You relapse into thinking they have at least a fraction of human emotion and will welcome your apology.  You decide to say you’re sorry…perhaps with a cutesy text or a heartfelt email to convey your regret to them.

Their response is that your actions were the worst they’ve ever endured.  They wondered when you would finally confess to this unforgivable sin.  The devastation was so awful, they just didn’t have the power to bring it up.  They’ve tried to block it from their consciousness and now know why you’ve never had a successful relationship in your life.  Forgiveness will be difficult but, by the grace of God, they are trying.

Narc Check:  While this is one of the standard responses you can expect after apologizing to a Narcissist, it’s quite possible that whatever you’re apologizing for never even registered with them.  However, now that you’ve highlighted a perceived injury, they will use it as a way to make you feel like the worst person they’ve ever met.  Furthermore, it will become artillery for psychological torture and justification for a future injury they will inflict upon you.

3.  The Rap Sheet: You say you’re sorry about something and they not only chastise you for it, but tack on several other alleged “crimes” you’ve committed.  At the end of the conversation, you will wonder how you ever had any friends or partners in your life at all.  See how flexible they are…how they’ve overlooked your faults because they care about you?  In fact, you may as well forget about ever having another relationship because there’s no way anyone else will ever tolerate your criminal behaviors like they do.

Remember how you bought your grandmother a gift, knowing that he needed that money?  What about when you took the day off because your child was sick…didn’t you know he was waiting for your paycheck to pay his personal taxes? How dare you even think of giving two dollars to the Salvation Army bell-ringer?  When are you ever going to get with the program and stop being so selfish?  How do you live with yourself? (Read more about Narcissists and money here).

Narc Check:  This is when the Narcissist will peel a piece of truth from something innocent that you did, and season it with twisted, far-fetched accusations.  These allegations wouldn’t make sense to the average outsider, but you’ve gotten so used to these tirades that you actually start to doubt yourself for throwing that birthday party for your niece.  Maybe you should just deposit your check directly into his bank account next time.  Never mind that you will hate yourself for it.  At least there’s the chance the Narcissist might throw you another crumb.

If you still feel the need to apologize, don’t leave anything to chance.  Try to do it in front of someone and move on, showing no emotion. However, be prepared for the above scenarios.  It may even behoove you to not apologize at all because apologizing to a Narcissist never resolves anything except making them feel they have the upper hand.  Although it may appear successful at first, there will be certain fallout when you least expect it.  Journal about it, pray about it, but don’t give them the satisfaction.

**Narcissism knows no gender bias.  I use the term “he” for the sake of brevity

Copyright 2017 Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach

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(35) comments

[…] for me, acting in that way usually led to regret, shame and a need to apologize to my abuser.  Of course, he seized upon these incidents as justification for his own abusive behavior and/or […]

Reply
Niecy February 21, 2017

Thanks for this. All of those things happened. I’ll give an example from the 3rd one given:
I gave one of the girls that visited my house a toy. My mother raged, and she made me go to my room without a fan (and I would usually have the fan on in my room).
When I told my relatives and dad about this, their response: she need to save money so you shouldn’t have given the girl your toys. Your mom paid for that!

Reply
john November 5, 2015

now I’m terrified I just sent a letter to my NPD ex co worker, living in a small town makes him impossible to avoid, pray for me please

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    Kim Saeed November 5, 2015

    Praying for you, John!!

    Reply
      john Hawkes November 5, 2015

      thanks mate , he has been trying to trip mu over and over for almost 8 years now, I have to tiptoe on eggshells, if I get one syllable wrong LOOK OUT. I’m trapped in his web and I cant see a way out, he would be loving it

      Reply

[…] for me, acting in that way usually led to regret, shame and a need to apologize to my abuser.  Of course, he seized upon these incidents as justification for his own abusive behavior and/or […]

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Anne August 19, 2015

I didn’t see here the response that now that you are finally apologizing, the NPD doesn’t believe your apology. They don’t believe you sound sincere enough: you haven’t worded it right. Your tone or body language are all wrong. You end up on your knees with tears streaming down your face, asking what they want from you as an apology. What will they accept?

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    Kim Saeed August 25, 2015

    Anne, this could be either 1 or 2, depending on the context.

    I’m not sure there’s any apology they would “accept”. Even if they give the appearance of having accepted it, they are plotting ways to make you pay into infinity.

    Reply
nathaliehickson August 12, 2015

Reblogged this on Nathaliehickson's Blog and commented:
Learning & be aware

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HB April 19, 2015

Dear Kim, you have already put one of my poems on your site, thank you very much. I don’t want to overdo it, but maybe this one will reflect the feelings of others too in the same situation. I cannot claim to have suffered as much as many of your readers and I am deeply grateful about that. Also although I am still in pain I do believe some good can come out of relationships with narcissists (particularly when they’re over!) They are certainly a learning experience. My friendship with one certainly made me reflect about myself a lot (along with losing any confidence I had in myself..) I still feel like I am unworthy and unlovable, but I believe with a strong network of friends we can fight back! I still ask myself what I did wrong. Love Heather x

Enslaved

You broke me once, then tortured me twice,
Crawling back, you stabbed me thrice.
A thousand times I begged and pleaded,
When you and your love were all I needed.
Twisting the knife as deep as you could,
Not wanting to leave though knowing I should.
Didn’t I apologise for the wrongs I did?
Wasn’t it enough as in despair I slid?
Swallowing me whole, consuming my existence,
Overwhelmed and meek, incapable of resistance.
My faults are too numerous, I am a naughty girl,
Bad through and through, angry comments you hurl.
What could I do to put it right?
‘Nothing’ you said; get out of my sight!
No longer trusting me, despising my name,
Turning away, leaving me to drown in shame.
Time has gone by and you won’t return,
Possession of my mind, images still burn.
I am soulless, shattered, a vacuous being,
Chained in obsession, shackles not freeing
Suffocating slowly in toxic air,
No will to fight, there’s no point is there?
Why you hated me so much, I don’t understand,
When all I wanted was to hold your heart in my hand.
Not a tear in your eye, less than a nothing,
Killing my heart and not even noticing.
Alas my friend peace be with you,
I can give no more, I am through.

Reply
Anonymous October 22, 2014

Beautiful post. I’ve unfortunately had run-ins with multiple narcissists over the past year, owing to low self-esteem and a desire to be a people-pleaser on my part; my husband and I had just moved across the country, and as a stay-at-home mom, I was pretty desperate for friendship. Once I finally realized what I was dealing with – and that I wasn’t at fault for their behaviour and/or feelings – it became much easier for me to understand and manage.

I recently read John Cloud’s book on Boundaries, which has helped me make sense of myself. I highly, highly recommend the book – it is particularly useful for dealing with narcissists and other boundary-less people. Here’s a fun run-down of what I’ve dealt with this year, all the while struggling with depression/anxiety issues myself.

Narcissist 1: An in-law who throws tantrums every time she wasn’t getting her way. The tantrums would be followed by phone calls from her and from her family members berating us for not acting in accordance with her wishes. Each episode would end after we repeatedly apologized for hurting her.

We put up boundaries and pulled way back. She took offence and cut off contact, also requiring the rest of the family to shun us. Earlier today I sent her a very general note stating that we’re sorry if we’ve hurt or offended her. After months of having to apologize to her on a daily basis, however, this is the limit to what we’ll do. If she doesn’t accept it, she doesn’t. We respect that.

Narcissist 2: A ridiculously high-strung former co-worker who had come back into my life a few months earlier. We chatted on the phone a few times, and I repeatedly helped her with work/life issues. Assisted her with an editing project, and she misinterpreted what I was saying as being harsh. She attacked me in email, saying that I was insensitive and not a real friend…that there were so many times she had wanted to tell me the truth but hadn’t. (Huh?) It realized where there was a miscommunication and apologized wholeheartedly and genuinely…but she blocked my husband and I from Facebook and then sent me a note saying that if I wanted to be her friend, I would need to shape up. Something about me not being there for her when she moved to a town 120 miles from me a few years earlier (and when she repeatedly flaked out of every commitment she made).

Ummm, yeah. I’ve written her off entirely.

These were the two narcissists I’ve faced recently. To add to it, a difficult friend married to a narcissist cut me off after I questioned a parenting decision for my own child’s best interest – akin to my asking if they kept guns in the house – and I experienced a high-class manipulator who I’ve had to cut off.

My best suggestion is to know your enemy, and keep your boundaries up. Normally-functioning people can respect your boundaries. It’s those who have problems of their own who will never be able to accept you as a distinct person from them…and those are the people who will forever try to ruin you for it. Run fast, or let yourself be demolished.

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Living Uniquely Normal September 1, 2014

Kim, I just found your blog and I can’t tell you the joy I feel to know that I’m not crazy! My son married a woman who appears to have NPD. I could not understand how the relationship our family used to enjoy had been severed by the new in-law by such drastic measures until I stumbled on information about NPD just 3 days ago. Because we are such a tight knit family this has been very painful for everyone. But my son is clueless in how he has been manipulated. He has lost all but a few friends and is not allowed to have more than a minimal relationship with his father over the last 16 months. The most painful part since they became engaged, then married, is that they just had a baby girl last week. No one in our family is allowed to show pictures or go to see her without an invitation, we have seen her for about 15 minuets the day after she was born. The DIL was behaving so inappropriately that we left. I was crying in the hallway and refused to go back in so she would see me cry. I found out the hard way that crying seems to fuel her fire of cruelty. I’m looking forward to learning more in your blog about how to cope with her and to love our son and his daughter through this.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

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Anonymous August 28, 2014

I am trying to get away from my narcissist boyfriend. Im so drained and worn out. He always tells me to apologize for getting upset when he yells at me. He tells me that I am crazy because I don’t like that after 4 years he just shows up at my house when he feels like it and then can disappear for 2 days. Please help me. I’m sick of crying!
Jazzy K

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    Kim Saeed September 6, 2014

    Anonymous, you may want to consider not letting him into your home anymore. You need to make it a safe haven from his abuse. Also, going No Contact will help break the spell that you are under. Make this the day that you say, “No More!”

    Reply
Lovedancer July 27, 2014

This is so true…I sometimes apologized when my conscience couldn’t take holding in my genuine remorse for acting out, in response to narc-induced anxiety and frustration, in some or another way (behavior I’d never done before being involved with the narc). Invariably, as I predicted and feared, I’d end up at -1 because it just gave him more ammunition to use against me. I always predicted this outcome, too, but I nonetheless couldn’t resist the attempt at heartfelt communication/connection.

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    Kim Saeed July 28, 2014

    Lovedancer,

    Been there, done that…got the t-shirt.

    It literally took me a few years to finally get over my innate need to apologize to the Ex-Narc, which was hard because my personality is “Mediator”. Had to go against my nature to survive.

    Reply
    K September 15, 2015

    Although this whole post (and the many comments) resound so achingly with me… this comment by Lovedancer rings true particularly. I’m still with the Narc husband in my life… but not for much longer as I’m carefully crafting my exit plan and have wonderful family who will support me. 🙂 K

    Reply
      Anonymous September 16, 2015

      I’m so glad you have that plan and such good support! All the best❤️

      Reply

Great post, Kim. I recognize the #1 scenario. You can apologize and they never will. They make you crazy then they wonder why you don’t want to ever talk to them. In the end they’re always the victim, so “I’m sorry” is definitely not in their vocabulary.

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Persia Karema July 17, 2014

Reblogged this on Blog Of A Mad Black Woman and commented:
“When you apologize to a Narcissist, they feel like they have struck gold” ~ Kim Saeed

Reply

Reblogged this on beautifullybrokendisaster and commented:
This is brilliant, and sadly I believe describing more of my life than I care to admit

Reply
    Kim Saeed July 17, 2014

    Thank you for the re-blog <3

    Reply
Anonymous July 16, 2014

I dealt with all 3 scenarios recently when my ex forced me to apologize to his mother & sister for all of the wrongs I committed against them in the 2 months following the birth of our child. I thought I was trying to keep the peace in the family so we could move on, but everything escalated from there. What followed has been months of abuse from all 3 of them, apparently I am everything that was ever wrong with the family (I’ve only been around for 2 years) and my life has been turned completely upside down. My ex and I have been tangled up in court & financially crippled for months…our son isn’t even a year old yet. I feel like my life has been ruined.

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    Kim Saeed July 22, 2014

    Wow, Anon. Your story sounds very similar to mine. Funny, isn’t it, how we are responsible for the misery they were in before we even came onto the scene?

    I know it seems your life is in ruins, but this will pass. Try to check out the healing tools I have here on the site and get yourself into a different place mentally.

    Reply
silkred July 16, 2014

I made this mistake too – when talking with a friend about the affect a joke I made had had on the narcissist a friend thought that even if I did not think I was wrong sometimes an apology was a good way to clear the air…

I made this apology – the narcissist replied with acceptance but only if I complied with a list of things I had to do. I remember thinking what a self richious idiot but at the same time in the spirit of moving forward I did those things…

Later the wording – the self depreciating comments I made in that apology were used by the narcissist in public to suggest that I deserved the abuse I was then upset about…

specifically one of the sidekicks of the narcissist had written to people I was going on holiday with to take part in a course they were running telling them I was not fit to take part – when I found this out the narcissist used my apology as ‘evidence’ that I deserved this attempt at screwing up my summer as in the past I had had to apologise to others about my behaviour…

This narcissist is a covert malignant manipulator – the sidekicks latterly were the ones who would express the abuse – but he was always at the center of it…

I have made a no contact break from them all… can stand the thought to share space with any of them – and enter counselling very soon to try to deal with the anger an upset to have had someone affect the arrangement of my life in such a way…

I look to his actions however as an expression of his own fear – he was utterly unable to have someone among the group who had opinions counter to his and who did not adulate him as the others all do now… it is his own fear that is at the root of all this…

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Gabrielle July 16, 2014

You understand the mind of a narcissist so well! God! for years I actually fed into the whole dynamic..they size us up for easy prey!

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Sofia Leo July 15, 2014

Oh, this is all so true! Experienced each and every one (and many more) with the ex. So happy that’s over!

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    Kim Saeed July 15, 2014

    Me too, Sofia!

    Reply
Stephen Bach July 15, 2014

Hi Kim,

If I may, I’d like to add another slant to the topic of apologizing to a narcissist:

Apologizing to a narcissist can also provide justification for their behavior, and allows them to blame you for their transgressions. i.e. “If you weren’t off wasting time at that baby shower for your sister, I wouldn’t have been sleeping with the next door neighbor.” Once you have apologized, you have opened the projection door wide open and all the narcissist’s horrible behaviors can and will be projected onto you and made your fault.

I do disagree with the statement that you should never apologize to a narcissist. I feel that withholding an apology to a narcissist for fear of their reaction is censoring what is truly healthy behavior in order to accommodate the narcissist’s feelings and reactions. It’s walking on eggshells. Apologize when necessary, and if that apology isn’t accepted respectfully, walk away.

Stephen Bach

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    Kim Saeed July 15, 2014

    Excellent input, Stephen. Thank you for that.

    Regarding the apology, I completely understand where you are coming from. Although, I can say from personal experience that in almost nine years, not one apology I offered was ever accepted civilly. In fact, they only resulted in scathing verbal assaults, which is also often the case for many of the people I interact with. Over time, it can lead to critically low self-esteem and lessened ability to perceive things in a healthy way.

    Reply
      Stephen Bach July 16, 2014

      I totally hear where you are coming from, Kim, and I’m sorry that you had to endure nine years of scathing verbal assaults. I have been there, and it is a horrible way to live.

      Isn’t it unfortunate that living with a narcissist essentially forces one into codependent patterns in order to have a chance at survival? It’s not possible to interact in a healthy way with someone who has no interest in interacting in a healthy manner, so one is forced to adopt an unhealthy pattern in order to sustain the relationship or leave the relationship.

      Reply
Carrie Reimer July 15, 2014

Kim, I had to laugh at this post because I have been there! OMG! the memories! so glad to be away from that. It’s been over 3 years now and the memories fade thank the good Lord! and now I can look back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. I actually did give him my whole paycheck and it still wasn’t enough, then he had to “lend” me money because I was always broke.
I remember one time asking him why he would never apologize and he said because he would never hear the end of it if he did. I didn’t realize at the time that he was a narcissist and they project onto others what they themselves do. The thing with Narcissists is; if they apologize it is supposed to be a “get out of jail free” card, they are to be forgiven immediately and the offending behaviour never mentioned again. Leaving them free to do it again and again and because the previous times have been erased from history and can not be brought up again.
Most people when they apologize do so with every intention of never doing it again. But when you apologize to a narcissist for anything it is never forgotten and in fact it is embellished upon and proof that you are of such poor character that if you could do “that” you are capable of these other things whether you did them or not.

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Auren July 15, 2014

My ex-N was a covert narcissist. When after the break-up I apologized for how selfish I had been, how much I must have hurt her for f.ex. wanting to wait a certain time before moving in together, until we both knew each other better, and some other equally self-serving crimes that went against her will and needs, she texted she was crying. I answered don’t cry, I realize it now and it’s not your fault. She answered, I’m crying of joy! Sometimes, and so many times, they reveal their true selves, that it comes a time where they leave you no choice but to open your eyes 🙂
Thank you Kim, I have been following your website for quite a long time and your insight, humor and other resources have been invaluable to me. My gratitude and love to you.

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    Kim Saeed July 16, 2014

    Thank you, Auren, for sharing that and for letting me know my site has been helpful to you. Gratitude and love to you, too <3

    Reply
theinfiniterally July 15, 2014

You nailed this perfectly! The parts about the cheap narc gave me a laugh. My narc HATES me being generous with other people!

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