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Can a Narcissist Change? The Real Truth If You’re Looking for Hope

No one likes narcissists. But you might actually love one. So, you might wonder, can a narcissist change, or is there no hope? Read on to find out.

can a narcissist change

When you fall in love with someone, you want to believe that they’re perfect. Of course, deep down you know that nobody is actually perfect, but you’re willing to accept a few flaws. However, what do you do if the person you fall for turns out to be narcissistic? Can a narcissist change, you might wonder? 

And we’re not talking about a very small amount of narcissism that most of us have within us from time to time. We’re talking about a full-blown narcissist with a tendency to manipulate. 

The problem is, if you’re in love, then chances are you’re blind to it and already in the narcissist’s grips. So, you stay because you want to think they can change; in fact, you believe they can change because you see the good in them. What you’re seeing is nothing more than an illusion. 

Can a narcissist change? That’s a common question we hear time and time again. Whoever asks it usually does so because they want to hear a positive answer, that yes, a narcissist can change and become the person they want them to be. The truth? It’s not impossible for a narcissist to change, but it’s highly unlikely. 

[Read: The 7 stages of narcissistic relationship pattern you must face to move on]

Can a narcissist change for the right person?

It’s important to remember that narcissism isn’t something that only narcissists display. Every single person walking on this planet shows a little narcissism occasionally. Sometimes we’re selfish, we have illusions of grandeur, or we manipulate to get what we want. It’s not right, but we all do it sometimes. 

However, a narcissist doesn’t just do it sometimes, it’s part of their personality and something they see as normal. Narcissists believe that they are the greatest and that you are there to back up that theory and make them feel good. 

They also believe that you are nothing more than a toy to play with and put back down whenever they see fit. Narcissists don’t have empathy and they can’t love in a regular way. With that in mind, can a narcissist change for the right person?

[Read: What it really means to fall in love with a narcissist]

No. They can only change for themselves and the likelihood of them actually looking in the mirror and thinking “hey, I think I might be acting negatively, perhaps I should seek some help to pull things back in” is up there with the chances of it raining money. 

This isn’t the answer you want to hear, but the truth is that while a narcissist CAN change, they first need to have the desire to do so. We’ll explain why that’s not likely to happen.

Why would a narcissist change if they believe there’s nothing wrong with them?

A narcissist doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with them, they believe whatever the problem is, is your doing or your problem. It has nothing to do with them. 

They’re the best, their opinion is fact, they’re successful, they’re adored, and that’s the world they live in. If a narcissist hurts you by saying something that makes you cry, they don’t have that pulling on the heart-strings sensation that most people would have. 

They don’t sit there and think “I shouldn’t have said that, I must have hurt their feelings”. Simply, they don’t care. They can’t tell that they hurt your feelings because your feelings don’t exist in their mind. 

[Read: The narcissistic victim syndrome and how to find your way out of this mess]

So, if a narcissist doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with them, why are they going to go to their doctor and talk about what’s going on and why they think they might have narcissism? They’re not. They don’t think they’re narcissistic, they think they’re amazing.

The bottom line is this – if you don’t believe there’s a problem, you can’t change. 

[Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

Can a narcissist change for love?

We have said that a narcissist can’t change for the right person, because the only person they can ever change for is themselves, but can a narcissist change for love?

Again, no. 

Narcissists do have feelings, but they’re so absorbed in them that they can’t put themselves in anyone’s shoes but their own. Again, it comes down to having no empathy. They completely lack that key feature required to have a kind, loving, and healthy relationship. Without it, everything is just labels and tears. 

[Read: What it really means to love and be in a relationship with a narcissist]

Narcissists have relationships, but they’re not healthy ones. The person they’re with isn’t going to have their needs met or even recognized. It’s no surprise that many people who escape from narcissistic relationships require help afterward to come to terms with everything that they’ve been through. Emotional abuse can really take its toll. 

So, how can a narcissist change for love when it’s not true love that they’re feeling? 

Why do we believe a narcissist can change?

Why do we even want a narcissist to change and cling to the hope that this person who is kind one minute and bullying the next will suddenly drop their negativity and illusions of grandeur and just be the charming person we originally met? Because we don’t want to believe that they’re anything but the image we have in our heads. 

Nobody wants to see the bad in someone, and we naturally look for the good, especially if we’ve got feelings for someone. We overlook the negative things because the good things are too good to let go of. We also don’t want to give up because we don’t want to feel like we’ve failed. [Read: How do narcissists control you so subtly and how do we let this happen?]

In narcissistic relationships, it often takes more than one attempt to leave the narcissist. The reason is that they’re so good at turning the charm on and off.

When you first meet them, they’ll be the epitome of charm and wit. You’ll fall for them very quickly and they’ll love bomb you with attention. It will feel like a total whirlwind and you’ll quickly develop an attachment that feels extremely strong. 

[Read: What is love bombing and how to spot the manipulation early on]

However, once they know that you’re hooked, they’ll start to allow their true colors to shine. The clever thing is that they won’t just drop the act and show you their true side all the time; they’ll weave it in and out. Once they feel like you’ve had enough or you’re wavering, they’ll turn the charm back on and pull you back in.

It’s the knowledge that they have good in them, or an illusion of good, that makes you stay. It’s also what makes you want to believe that they can change. [Read: The 3 stages narcissists use to blow hot and cold and keep you hooked]

How can a narcissist change?

The picture we’ve painted is a pretty dismal one. We make no apologies for it because it’s not a very hopeful situation in all honesty. However, there is a very small, minuscule change that a narcissist can change. For that to happen, the stars must align. 

Can a narcissist change and reprogram their mind away from the personality disorder that drives their narcissism? With a lot of therapy, a lot of time, a few hiccups along the way, and a huge willingness to make a change, yes, they can. Is any of this likely to happen? Probably not. [Read: A relationship with a narcissist and what it means to love one]

The first step is for the narcissist to recognize that they have a problem and feel like they want to change it. Then, they will need to go and see their doctor and explain how they feel and the experiences they’ve been having. The doctor will assess the situation and will probably refer the case to a trained therapist in narcissism. 

A lot of therapy is required for a narcissist to change because, at the end of the day, you’re re-wiring the brain and changing a personality defect. This therapy isn’t easy; it’s extremely draining, upsetting, challenging, and confusing for a person. 

That isn’t helped by the fact that for any of it to work, the person has to be fully committed and to put in effort every step of the way. [Read: How to deal with a narcissist in the best way you can – A full must-know guide on narcissism]

Psychotherapy is the prime treatment option for narcissism, including cognitive-behavioral therapy. The person needs to want to get better, understand, and change. 

Very few narcissists actually go through this entire process and free themselves of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even then, there may be odd traits that endure. However, this doesn’t mean that there is zero hope at all, just not a huge amount. 

How to tell if a narcissist is open to change

While it’s rare that a narcissist wants to change, it can happen. So, if you see any of these following signs, this will give you a glimmer of hope. [Read: Why people fall for narcissists and 12 secrets that make them so addictive]

1. Self-reflection

You can’t change what you don’t recognize. So, the narcissist has to do some self-reflection in order to realize what they need to change. Once they are aware of it, then the change can start.

2. They listen to you

When you voice your concerns about them or anything else, they actually start to listen. Usually, narcissists don’t listen to other people at all. So if they are actually hearing what you have to say, that is a good sign.

3. They try not to repeat the same behavior

When you tell the narcissist that a certain behavior of theirs bothers or hurts you, they will take steps to stop doing it. For example, if they call you names, they will make an attempt to say nicer things to you. [Read: Covert narcissist – what it is, 34 signs, and how to see the games they play]

4. They take personal responsibility

This is probably the most important sign that a narcissist wants to change. No one can change unless they take personal responsibility for their words and actions. If they blame you or other people, then they are not ready to change.

5. They pay attention

Narcissists are usually just concerned about their own desires and needs, so they don’t pay attention to what others want. So, if they suddenly are noticing that you are struggling with their behavior or anything else, they could be ready to change.

6. They try to be givers

The basic definition of a narcissist is that they are selfish – and takers. They take and take and take some more from other people. So, if they are trying to give more to other people, that is definitely outside of their normal range of behavior. [Read: Selfless love – 18 traits that sets it apart from selfish love]

7. They apologize genuinely

As they say, “words are cheap.” Anyone can say they are sorry with words, but when someone is truly sorry for their words or actions, they change their behavior. So, they need to genuinely apologize and follow through with that apology.

8. They try to be consistent

Many narcissists are very unpredictable. You never know what they are going to say or do next. But if they want to change, they will try to be consistent with their changes. They don’t go back to their old habits if they are serious about changing.

9. They avoid flaking

Narcissists will say anything they want to, even if they don’t believe it. Usually, if they say they will do something, then they will flake on you and not do it. So, if they stopped doing that, they might be serious about changing. [Read: Narcissistic supply – how to control a narcissist and cut their power]

10. They try to be truthful

Lying is usually a way of life for a narcissist. It might even be easy to catch them in the lies and they usually deny them. But if they are trying to stop the lying and even taking responsibility when they do, they might want to change that behavior.

How to help a narcissist who wants to change

If you think that a narcissist that you know genuinely wants to change, then that’s great! But there will be a lot of work that needs to happen for it to become a reality.

One thing you can do is to stop enabling them. Enabling is when you help the narcissist be a narcissist. You don’t draw boundaries and tell them “no.” So, you have to stand your ground and not allow them to be selfish anymore.

You should also provide positive feedback to them. Acknowledge their progress, and thank them for putting in the effort to become a better person. Most people respond a lot better to positivity than negativity.

[Read: How to break a narcissist’s heart: Why it’s almost impossible to accomplish]

Asking ‘can a narcissist change’ is a difficult question and not one with the most hopeful answer. It’s not impossible, but in order for a narcissist to change, they must accept that something is wrong with them. That’s not something most narcissists are willing to do.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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