Is there any hope that a narcissist can change?

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Aug 08
can a narcissist change

Hope is a beautiful and powerful thing. It can be the fuel that keeps you going when you’re tempted to give up. It can help you see past circumstances in the present moment that might not be ideal, allowing you to hold onto the prospect of better times ahead. 

Many inspirational people have pushed through hard times and went on to achieve great success and abundance in their lives, all due to the power of hope.

Jim Carrey, the comedian, had to drop out of high school at the age of 15 and get a job as a janitor to help support his family.  Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television show as being ‘unfit’ for TV.  J.K. Rowling once lived on government assistance and her first book, Harry Potter, was initially rejected by all 12 major publishers.

But, they all held onto hope and were able to realize success beyond their wildest dreams.

However, the bad side to hope is that it can also keep you stuck in a hopeless situation, such as the case of relationships with narcissistic individuals.  Holding onto hope that a narcissist — your narcissist — can change is a pipe dream that leads to a wasted life.  So, to answer the question…

Can a narcissist change?

No one can say that it can’t happen.  However, the probability of a narcissist changing is approximately zero.

In other words, I cannot guarantee that a narcissist would never change, but I would bet large sums of money that they wouldn’t.

The chance that a Narcissist will change is about the same as my constructing a drone for the Department of Defense, all without an instructional pamphlet. 

It’s like the legends of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.  There are people who adamantly insist these creatures exist, but no one has ever really seen them. 

The same goes for a narcissist making lasting change.

When Hope is Destructive

Hope and narcissists, when combined, don’t produce happy endings.  The narcissist keeps you hopeful for the POSSIBILITY of things, but you’ll find yourself always chasing the ever-elusive carrot.

Are you hooked on the narcissist’s potential? Determined to try one more time because maybe they’ll change?  Do you cling the smallest hint that this person gives a care?

Before you know it, years will have passed and everything will be exactly the same as it’s always been. Often much worse because you’ll have developed chronic illnesses, lost your career and any future employment opportunities, and your relationship with your children will be down the drain.

It’s hard to give hope a bad rap. It’s hard not to sympathize with people who hold onto hope. It seems honorable. But in the case of narcissistic abuse, it keeps you STUCK.

When it comes to hoping the narcissist can change — Hope is your nemesis. You need to throw Hope out of the window of your speeding vehicle and launch a reality campaign. 

Why?  Because the power of Hope is so strong, narcissists will use it to exploit you infinitely. The goal of a narcissist is to do whatever makes them happy in any given moment. Your goal is to enlighten them to the power of your love so they will devote themselves to you. 

Your Love +Devotion = Free Labor, Unrestrained Freedom, and Leisure for the Narcissist

So, they use Hope to keep you trapped.

Hope doesn’t want this truth to rise to the surface of your conscious mind.  Hope tells you, “You can make this work.  You can change him/her.  All you need to do is be nice to them and they will go back to the person you fell in love with.”  There’s only one problem with that.  The person you fell in love with never existed.  It was all a lie.  It’s probably the biggest lie you’ll come to acknowledge about your Narcissistic partner.

Hope wants The Charmer that you met in the beginning.  The Charmer that told you everything you wanted to hear, fulfilled all of your needs, and made you feel special.  The Charmer was your soul mate.

Your Logic, however, knows better.  Your Logic knows The Charmer was a lie.  Your Logic knows that your partner is really a Dark Villain.  However, Hope usually wins out over Logic. Then, you resent yourself because you let Hope tag-team against you with the Narcissist.

You know that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach after you forgive the Narcissist, yet again, and they go back to their evil ways in four minutes flat?  That comes from letting Hope take the wheel in your decision-making in regards to your abusive partner.

The only antidote to being defeated by false Hope is honoring yourself and releasing that which doesn’t serve your highest good. Make a list of deal-breakers. Implement boundaries. Be your own best friend and advocate and take a hard look at the truth. 

Real Hope

When you hope you’ll someday know happiness—when you get a fulfilling relationship, the right house, the right job—Hope allows you to avoid reality.

We all want to feel happy. We all want to avoid feeling pain. That’s what makes Hope so enticing. It distances us from the moment and propels us immediately into something better.

But, holding onto Hope in spite of devastating reality is self-sabotage of the highest degree.

Hope is like the Siren Song.  In spite of the crashed boats on the rocks and skeletons floating in the water, Hope makes you look past these atrocities and towards the beautiful horizon.  You’ll barely notice the deadly capsizing of your boat until it’s too late. 

Hope and reality combine for authentic hope.

Real hope combines a hopeful outlook with a solid grip on reality. This is the stuff of commitment.

Be steadfast in living in reality at all costs. Make a commitment to yourself to no longer deceive yourself into thinking your relationship is just going to suddenly improve and become fulfilling and normal.  In order to live a healthy life, you must be honest with yourself about how compulsive your own behaviors are with respect to your relationship, and how abusive your toxic partner really is.

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About the Author

Kim Saeed is a narcissistic abuse recovery expert on a mission to help abuse survivors to heal, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. She also hosts a podcast called Heal, Grow, Evolve, where she aims to help people create meaningful lives and relationships after emotional abuse. Listen and subscribe at www.healgrowevolvewithkim.com

Leave a Comment:

(48) comments

Jilly March 28, 2017

I sent my narcissist packing 4.5 months ago because I felt so ill and he told me I was attention seeking I was in hospital 12 hours later, definatley no empathy! I have had proper NC for 4 weeks and today I laughed at something on TV for the first time since we split. I am tortured and devastated by thoughts of what he is doing without me, I think he has a new supply ( one of my so called friends ) I am still thinking the relationship breakdown was my fault I am still not sure if he is indeed a narcissist I have to read Kim’s articles and these posts for validation, so Thankyou guys it really helps other victims or should I say survivors ( I don’t feel like one yet! ) I hope this pain will end soon and I don’t want thoughts of him whirling around inside my head I’m so sick and tired.

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    Dickie July 29, 2017

    I hope you made it. That’s the only hope we need. These guys cannot feel. They are not working from a set of emotions but from a sense of what he needs right now to satisfy his own selfish needs.

    Reply
    Sandi Spice Dickens September 12, 2017

    Stay Strong n pray. The worst thing in the world is loving a Narcissist. I have been through it with my Narc soon to be ex husband off n on for 17 yrs. What a waste of time. I know what u are going through n u are NOT alone. Hugs.

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JLC January 12, 2017

As soon as I went no contact he moved in a new girl from another state and bought her a brand new car (for precisely the amount that he bullied me down in our settlement agreement). Now he is posting relentlessly on social media (I have him blocked, but keep hearing about it) and taking her to all of the social events with our mutual friends. It’s insane and I feel like an exile in my own town because I’m avoiding my usual spots so I don’t see him. I accidentally ran into him last week and – just as I predicted – received an email from him 2 days later. However, the relief I feel at finally ceasing to respond is incomparable. I know that this tacit abuse will end sooner or later. I spent 8 years suffering with a man I now realize was a monster. I’m grateful he has another girl to torture instead of me, although I feel sorry for her. But who packs up and moves in with a stranger less than 3 weeks after meeting him? I feel stronger than I ever knew possible since I got the strength to finally leave. He lied and cheated and abused me for years and I was so confused and convinced it was me that was the problem that I couldn’t even function. Now I am free and I am so grateful I made it out with my life and my sanity intact.

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Moments Of Inspiration September 13, 2016

The power of God can change everything!
Heck, look at church,
it’s full of broken people,
The type of people society gets away with, and they all have problems (some of the most serious problem people are in church).
Yet somehow, over time, these people seem to be able to climb the social ladder and stabilize.
I’ve seen drug addicts turn from their ways,
Alcoholics,
Abusive people all of a sudden become aware of their abuse and repent.
People with serious lack of, or no communication skills, rising up to becoming a ‘normal’ person communicative wise!
I myself was a thief, and I changed my ways.
But truth be told, that didn’t happen overnight.
It took time, to change my mindset.

But the biggest change, was my faith.
I’m not going to evangelize here, but it literally opened my eyes to right and wrong.
Not like the rest of the world sees it. But to truth, that allowed me in a non-judgemental way to change myself to becoming a better person.
Not some sort of fantasy, but a reality, where I’ve seen few people give themselves into faith like I did, and have seen similar results.

Can a narcissist change?
Yes,
when he understands his issues, and is genuine about wanting to change it, and tries.
He must be given grace to at least try to change.
If it’s not with 1 partner, it has to be with several.
And the people who have suffered under it, are best off if they can look back to that relationship, and remain honorful towards the man (or woman), even if a lot of bad happened.
The woman who judges the man who is struggling, is struggling herself but doesn’t see it either.
Reminds me of the story of the one who is without issues, throw the first stone.

We all have issues. And I understand that sometimes it’s better to remove yourself from a bad relationship. But it’s even better after you do, to see if you can somehow mend again, when this person truly has changed.

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Lauri September 5, 2016

I can’t believe I was fooled for 6 years. I always blamed it on his combat PTSD. The crazy thing is I use to tell him that he use to have emotion when we met after being cold to me for years. He always said no I never did. And me saying yes you did. Little did I know he was actually telling the truth but I didn’t realize he was a Narc then. So crazy that’s one thing he was honest about. I know he wouldn’t have said or admitted that at the time if he knew that I knew he was a narc.

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Brianna August 30, 2016

This will be my 3rd day No Contact. Purchasing the course in 2 weeks when I have the money. Want to buy one of youre nooks Kim in the meantime but no clue which one to start with

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    Kim Saeed September 1, 2016

    Hi Brianna! It might be best to hold out for the course, because you get PDF copies of BOTH of my books with it 🙂

    Wishing you all the best, Brianna!

    Kim
    XoXo

    Reply
beareed August 15, 2016

My tought is that he cannot find another supply, and he obesses on the time you feed him with authetic unabashed naive supply of you. He cannot accept the supply is gone. Instead he thinks, ‘How dare you be coursgeous fighting for your life in a new direction and leave him naked to himself.’ Think of addict’s behavior… At least that helps me. My heart is broken open to you and all of you fighting. Thank you for sharing a place to anchor against the winds of recovery.

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Mb August 15, 2016

I love your articles. I just don’t know how to get through the withdrawal

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    Kim Saeed August 15, 2016

    Hi Mb, I can relate…that’s precisely what makes going No Contact so hard. It’s almost impossible to do on your own…

    Reply
Kate Davis August 15, 2016

What do you do if they continue to intrude into your life? My computer was hacked. My cell phone. How do you prove it? It’s like a nightmare!!

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    Kim Saeed August 15, 2016

    Hi Kate, I dealt with that and it was definitely no picnic. I have a colleague who has a solution for that and we’ll introduce it in the near future. In the meantime, what kind of phone do you have? iPhone or Android?

    Reply
      Kate Davis August 15, 2016

      IPhone. I crashed it to get my SMS mirror off it, but I still don’t trust it. The worst was the computer. I’m still afraid to go online for too long. We’re getting divorced after 25 years, but still why does he need access to everything I’m doing. He left me and it’s the best thing he ever did.

      Reply
Cindy August 12, 2016

Love the question, love the 9+ weeks of no contact. Do I still think of him, sure? Do I still wish things had been different for 6 years, sure?
The reality is, I was the one that brought love, understanding, stability, compassion and empathy (and great sex) to our lives.
I once believed that anyone could change their thoughts and actions. Not so with the personality that is required of the Narc.
I recall neighbors who’s wells have literally gone dry and they have to hire a company to drill and hope for an immediate hit.
Well, no pun intended, his well was always dry even with promises of a new tomorrow.
I am grateful that there are no more lies, rages and scapegoating coming my way from him. And you betcha that my eyes are wide open now for any man or woman that I allow into my life who means to do harm to me.
I’m coming to terms with my cancer. I will take a gazillion days of cancer over a millisecond of his abuse.
xoxoxoxoxo

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your triumphant story, Cindy. I wish you all the best in your recovery. My sister is a cancer survivor, so there is much hope <3 <3 <3

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Anonymous August 12, 2016

Instead of wondering why they left, now ask “What beauty can i create in the space they no longer occupy?” Personally, i felt like i was released from jail and lucky to get out with (most) of my sanity. They robbed you of however many years? Don’t let them rob you of another minute of your precious time by giving them another thought!!

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2016

    Beautiful, Carolyn. I’m going to share this on my Facebook page, but don’t worry, I won’t mention your name <3

    Reply
Rhonda August 12, 2016

I went for years with the narc (I won’t call him my narc any longer) promising to return to therapy, where I realize now going once a month, missing appointments, etc., is useless; promising to go back to the neurologist for the biofeedback work, and never doing so, all the while sourcing on the side and getting his supply elsewhere while I naively thought things were possibly going to turn around for us. It’s a journey of discovery, horrendous pain at the betrayals by someone we thought loved us, realization that they’re incapable of love as it’s defined, and then up and out of the darkness. Thank you Kim for your help for all of us!

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    Kim Saeed August 12, 2016

    And thank you, Rhonda for your kind praise and for sharing your insight <3

    Reply
Ella August 12, 2016

Yeah so did my ex …. I never existed for him …. he’s happy with his new supply. Actually just like we were in the beginning until he started to destroy our relationship…and of course he says it’s my fault… I was devoted to him, I worshiped every step he did. I know I did everything and beyond to save the relationship but I know his cruelty was uncontrollable… Now he has new vibrant women, just like I was before he drained me, new excitement and I’m here crying my heart out. Nothing is making me happy… Yeah I know the cycle … I’m positive he will do the same like he did with me, with his ex, with his 2 ex wives. (one of suicided herself).
Even tho I know history repeats itself but that still doesn’t lessen the pain that I’m feeling seeing them happy and jolly.

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    Mb August 15, 2016

    Oh my word. This is my story too. 😑I lost my teaching job and ended up in the hospital plus heard his ex tried to kill herself.

    Reply
sonali August 11, 2016

Maybe they could change…if they wanted to. They don’t. It’s just so much easier for them to totally drain the life out of you and then move on to a new target like you never existed.

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    Matt August 12, 2016

    This what mines did

    Reply
Psycholobitch August 11, 2016

They just can’t change. They don’t have the capacity to ever have empathy or mutual relationships. It’s SO SAD.

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    beareed August 18, 2016

    Sad… For a while and then once in a while. Listening to Kim’s book “how to go no contact” and grateful to have the audio to fill my head when I get OCD on the hope and the sadness.

    Reply
Melinda August 11, 2016

I think some people can change, but that doesn’t mean I will ever allow them back into my life. I can pray for them and try to forgive them, but they are NOT welcome in my life anymore.

Narcissists have to be sincere about wanting to change and they must admit they have a problem. Too many of them are in denial because they want to blame somebody else.
I’m done with being the scapegoat. Narcissists are responsible for looking within themselves and trying to become better people…until then, they are toxic to others.

I had hoped that my ex would change. That he would stop the rages, the blame, the accusations, the verbal and emotional abuse. But he didn’t.
I had to let him go and I also had to let go of the hope that he would change. People will only change if they want to. He didn’t see a problem with his treatment of me, so I made the choice to walk away.
Loving him wasn’t going to fix anything. Trying to reason with an angry, abusive person was futile…so I had to be the catalyst for change by ending the relationship.

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ann justas August 10, 2016

Have been there. For over 4 years he kept up the facade of being a great guy. It really seemed like we were made for each other. Didn’t realize that he continued to see his supposedly “X” girlfriend for 5 years before me and throughout our relationship. It has been 2 years since the mask came off and I experienced the cold hearted discard. He couldn’t make up his mind who he wanted to be with so I succumbed to his lies and experienced 2 more discards. Finally told him I wasn’t doing this anymore. Totally broke my heart but really what rational person would want to risk putting up with that for the rest of their lives. No contact really does help you clear your head so that you can be rational. It really does become a mindless foggy existence and you can’t see how bad it is until you have been out of it with no contact. You revisit all the experiences and conversations and you see it, not from your perspective but from his as you now know him to be, not from what you would have expected from the man he pretended to be.
The NO CONTACT advise that is repeatedly given really is essential to get your life back.

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    Laurie August 11, 2016

    I was in a relationship with a narcesist for four years. I was discarded no less than 7 times. No contact works.
    One day at a time. A person will regain their inner strength. I feel better already.
    Yes he is in the back of my mind still, but it gets better everyday.

    Reply
Yin Yang August 9, 2016

I read these posts all day every day searching for my inner strength. I know what he is, who he is and that he will never change. I have changed everything about myself that I no longer know who I am. I can’t even smile anymore. Everything about this relationship has destroyed me as the woman I used to love. I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I have lost my sanity. This page is what keeps me going.. I appreciate all of you for sharing your stories. knowing I am not alone helps me to sleep at night. i’m so scared.. I am waiting for him to discard me because I can’t walk away…

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    BetteAnn August 9, 2016

    Dear ‘Yin Yang’. I so desire to encourage you with living words. Perhaps by telling you I’ve been in the space you’re describing.
    Perhaps we can unpack some of your sentences and alter them?
    Instead of ‘can’t even smile anymore’ to ‘not smiling about this situation but there are things to smile about?’ Instead of “can’t” you can look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself LOVELY SELF is still there-just hiding! You are not insane only devastated and abused.
    I pray for you to be strengthened to leave….and live…and love.

    Reply
    emily August 9, 2016

    I can relate to yin yang, i feel like i have lost myself and cannot find her. hate who i have become.

    Reply
    libertygal1776 August 9, 2016

    I am right there with you. I cannot believe what I have become. He nearly discarded me last week and I panicked and convinced him to stay. I feel like I have lost my mind. I should have went NC then. He’s given me more than enough reason to never speak to him again….but I begged him back. I disgust myself.

    Reply
      Sandy August 11, 2016

      Libertygal, I really think disgust is a positive emotion because, unlike people who eternally try to analyze, evaluate, and repair their toxic relationship, people who can honestly look at things and realize how absolutely DESPICABLE they’ve been treated are more likely to reach a disgust breaking point which motivates them to act and free themselves of the misery. Whatever gives motivation, latch on and use it for your ticket OUT. It will get better if you will care enough about yourself to stick up for YOU.

      Reply
    sharon September 3, 2016

    Yin Yang. I absolutely understand that feeling. One of his friends one day pointed out that I never laugh or show any kind of emotion and then the chord struck. I was watching a comedy and realised that I was not laughing anymore. I had become another person- not me. That’s when I knew I had to leave so I planned and left as soon as I could. Its been just 2 weeks I am not in contact and in hiding. I know my head is a mess right now but I also know I will get through. I am blessed to have so many who have there for me.

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Ndraughon@gmail.com August 8, 2016

Kim – you knocked it out of the park with this post. Furthermore, society likes to provide us with hope stories in our childhood which also allows us to disregard all the signs and signals that the relationship is toxic. Thank you so much for your posts.

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Sandy August 8, 2016

If they repeatedly cause you pain and/or ignore your pain, that is not love. That is a self-serving, soul-sucking black hole which will devour you if you let it. Sounds awfully dramatic, but it’s the truth. Think about it next time you are crying all alone and he/she could not care less. Such are the clues things will never get better. Leaving may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it will be one of the smartest things you do, guaranteed. LOVE DOESN’T REPEATEDLY HURT YOU!

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    Kathie August 9, 2016

    Sandy – your words are the truth of my life. Leaving after 45 years is devastating. My whole life has been nullified. None of it was real. He never cared. He has lost his 4 children and 9 grandchildren, and he is happy. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

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      Sandy August 11, 2016

      I can’t even imagine the level of trauma you experienced, Kathie. You can’t wrap your head around it because you are incapable of the warped thinking they operate on. I can tell you that escaping him will become less and less painful and all-consuming of your thoughts, and one day you’ll realize how very much better you feel to be free. I know I still have what are now fleeting thoughts of my ex, but they are quickly dispatched when I remember the reality of his cruelty and avoid lingering memories of all the ways he purposely pretended to love me. I wish you comfort and strength to triumph, so you emerge a stronger and smarter person for it.
      PS-His “happiness” is an illusion fabricated to cause you pain. They say these narcissists are eternally empty and devoid of the ability to meaningfully relate to another. You are the one with a true shot at happiness, especially once you scratch from your life people who cause you pain. Hang in there!

      Reply
        Kathie August 11, 2016

        Oh Sandy – thank you for your kind words! They came at just a moment when I really needed encouragement. It seems so wrong to be “glad” of finding others who have gone through this same horror, but it does help me to feel less crazy.

        Reply
          Sandy August 11, 2016

          So glad to help even a little. It does help to know you’re not alone. It probably is a bit shocking too, to be able to read so many accounts similar to your own. Just hang in there and stick to your guns. I was absolutely miserable, anxious, afraid, and despondent not too long ago—but truly I feel so much better now. I would encourage anyone having a really hard time to reach out for help in your community. There’s so much relief to be found—I called our crisis hotline here and have improved by strides and bounds since doing so, despite my inability to pay. I’ll be praying for you…

          Reply
beareed August 8, 2016

Moved by the following analogy: “You’ll barely notice the deadly capsizing of your boat until it’s too late.” Thank you for the life jacket, Kim via LMR. I may not yet be swimming, but the boat sank and I am floating 🙂

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avesraggiana August 8, 2016

About the best they can do is fake it. They can go through the motions, ape the feelings of empathy, ape taking responsibility, and ape apologising, but they FEEL NONE of it. Absolutely NONE of it.

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MSK August 8, 2016

When you finally run out of hope with your narcissist, that’s to me- when the healing begins and when you implement NC for the final time.

Hope kept me sick for a long time. Hope in abusive relationships is pretty much loading the gun and handing it back to the Narc. And they will shoot again.

We always want to give someone the benefit of the doubt because we are good hearted people. But there has to be a cut off point of how much hope you will allow to alter your reality.

When you show people that they can walk all over you, why wouldn’t they think any differently?

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    Kim Saeed October 2, 2016

    A very insightful comment, MSK. You are right and I hope others see your evolution from self-defeating patterns to empowering ones. Wishing you all the best in your recovery.

    Hugs,

    Kim

    Reply

I agree! I clung to hope for so long and he never changed ever, just came up with other ways that I should change so that the things he did wouldnt bother me anymore.

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    Kathie August 9, 2016

    This! This was my life for 45 years of marriage!!

    Reply
Karin August 8, 2016

Nope. Never. Non. Jamás. Nein. Etcetera etcetera and so on.

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