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When Narcissists Claim They’ve Changed

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I never count anyone out. I don’t think that just because someone has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (or not officially diagnosed but they meet all the crtieria), that means they’re incapable of change.

But a friend of mine was involved with a narcissist, and has tried again numerous times to get back together only to be let down, and he’s trying once again. It’s got me fired up, frankly.

So if you’re debating whether to try again with someone you know to be a narcissist (i.e. always primarily concerned with their happiness over yours, willing to sacrifice your needs for theirs, low on awareness of your feelings and on empathy), please read on.1) Ask yourself how many times you’ve already been on this ride.

If the answer is, “too many”, then it’s time to stop.

Remember that old joke?

“Doc, it hurts when I do this.”

“Then stop doing it.”

Oh, and also remember the definition of insanity–doing something over and over and expecting different results. Don’t let this person drive you to insanity.

2) Recognize that the narcissist isn’t a liar; he or she is just self-involved, and probably impulsive.

The reason that narcissists sound convincing when they tell you they’ve changed, that they get it now, is ┬ábecause they’re not lying. They’re telling the truth as they feel it in that moment.

As with all the other moments you’ve had of the narcissist’s epiphanies, this moment, too, shall pass. The self-involvement will reassert itselfe.

3) Be clear on the m.o. of your particular narcissist.

Your narcissist isn’t like all the others. There are unique quirks. Often there’s a pattern being repeated. Try to ┬ástep back and recognize that pattern so you don’t fall prey to it again.

Also, you’re not like all the others, meaning, your narcissist has probably detected patterns in you. They know the kinds of things you like to hear, what you find especially convincing.

Just because narcissists lack empathy doesn’t mean they lack observational skills. Many narcissists are highly intelligent and they’ve figured out the best ways to continue to get what they want. They don’t like to lose, and if you walk away, they will often pursue you vigorously because otherwise, it’s another blow to their already fragile egos.

Try to remember that the pursuit for a narcissist is especially compelling. It validates the ego to win you back. If you did the breaking up, you might find that you are now highly valued and prized in a way that you won’t be if you get back together.

I write this with full compassion. It’s a painful and difficult thing to love a narcissist, and to keep hoping for change. But a narcissist can prey on that hope. Perhaps the narcissist even shares the hope–they’re not monsters, after all, just people who may very well want to be a better version of themselves. They might want to be the person that you want them to be.

That doesn’t mean they can. That’s why I started with number 1, asking yourself how many chances you’ve given. It’s not healthy for you to keep trying over and over to facilitate the change that the narcissist claims, every time, has already happened.

When Narcissists Claim They’ve Changed

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2016). When Narcissists Claim They’ve Changed. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2016
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