Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist in any way, you probably hoped at one time or another that you could change him or her enough that you could somehow develop a healthier relationship. 

What the experts say on fixing narcissists might shock you

A recent reader comment brought to light the significance of this issue – and who among us can’t relate to the feelings she expresses?  

Here’s the comment. 

“[My girlfriend] has the silent treatment mashed with pathologically lying mashed with being unemotional, mashed with previously uncommitted (even though she told me she never cheated on a mate!) mashed with a bunch of other garbage. Is there really a way to get through this crap and be together in the future or am I just kidding myself? I mean seriously. Hit me with it, I can take it! Does a person like this ever really want to get better? Do they ever take the step of getting help or do words really mean crap when it comes to this stuff? She has told me time and time again she would fix it and get help, but has yet to really do anything.”

Related: 44 Warning Signs You’re Being Emotionally Abused

My first thought after I read the question was this: maybe it’s possible for a narcissist to really change, but I have never seen it happen.

Here’s the thing. The way I see it, whether or not it’s possible for a narcissist to change is debatable – the question is really whether or not she’s willing to change. And the answer is almost inevitably “NOPE!”

That’s because, 9 times out of 10, the narcissist doesn’t see a problem with his or her behavior, blaming any issues on the people around him or her, rather than looking inside for answers. 

Even so, I’m not the be-all-end-all authority on this one – I’m just a researcher, life coach, author and someone who has experienced life with a narcissist

So I decided to do a little research and get a more solid answer for my reader. 

Now, this is where it gets hairy – as you probably imagine, there are various schools of thought on this one. There’s no one answer. Here’s what the experts say. 

Yes, Narcissists CAN Change

“I’m going to go on record as saying yes—I do believe it’s possible for people to change, even if they’ve been diagnosed with something as deeply entrenched and formidable as a personality disorder,” writes Craig Malkin, PhD in a Psychology Today article. 

He says that the key is in changing the way you handle your interactions with the narcissist. 

Related: How to Control a Narcissist

“The key…to interacting with someone you suspect is narcissistic is to break the vicious circle—to gently thwart their frantic efforts to control, distance, defend or blame in the relationship by sending the message that you’re more than willing to connect with them, but not on these terms; to invite them into a version of intimacy where they can be loved and admired, warts and all—if they only allow the experience to happen,” Malkin continues. 

Read this: Take Back Your Life

SOME Narcissists Can Change 

Dr. Lynne Namka, licensed psychologist, says that some narcissists can change – those with milder forms of the so-called disease. And, she says, they need to be worried that they could lose someone or something they love. 

“Some have to undergo a humbling experience or a great emotional loss before they start to admit their defensiveness and inability to take responsibility for their actions,” Namka writes. “As they grow older, some start to notice their insensitivity when dealing with those around them. Some start to feel healthy guilt about their past actions. Guilt, while painful if handled correctly, can be a break-through emotion that sets the person on the path to a happier life.”

She adds that “the milder narcissistic defense may soften across life if the person achieves a stable home and work environment or if he has a big setback where the rug is pulled out from under him, creating a crack in his defenses.”

Then again, she says, some narcissists will just get worse if they are “forced to their knees” after being rejected, failing or otherwise becoming disillusioned and not getting the kind of support they need. 

Severely Narcissistic People Cannot Change

Melanie Tonia Evans, a well-known narcissism expert, says that maybe it’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely. 

Like me, Evans says she’s never seen it actually happen. 

“I have never heard of one credible case of a person operating at this level admitting their inner woundedness and doing the inner work and healing – and I don’t for one millisecond believe that cognitive therapy would even touch the edges,” Evans writes.  

Dr. Namka adds that people with severe narcissistic traits have limited emotional intelligence – and tons of psychological defenses – standing in the way of recovery. 

“They are unable to see the depth of their pathology as to know their shortcomings would send them into great shame which would trigger depression,” she says.

Read this: Your Love is My Drug

So what do you think? Can a narcissist really ever change? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. 




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9 Responses to Can a narcissist ever really change? The experts weigh in

  1. It’s all so very confusing when dealing with toxic or disordered (or narcissistic) people. If they CAN change, then my ex got all his bad behavior out on me. He definitely claimed he changed for his new wife, but I always thought he was just saying that to me to hurt me, as he knew I wanted the change to be for me, not her. If he changed and no longer lies, cheats, or leads other women on, then where is was his acknowledgement of his transgressions with me? If he is a changed man, wouldn’t he feel guilty that he lead me on during countless of his other relationships? Because I didn’t hear anything like that, I only heard that he simply wasn’t in love with me anymore and never would be because he met the love of his life, whom he changed for. I feel like if he really understood why he did some of the things he did he wouldn’t have given me the “I don’t love you that way, keys me friends,” spiel… wouldn’t he admit to his wrong doings and ask forgiveness?
    Wouldn’t change take a long time, at least a few years?
    Can you really court and marry a woman while “working on yourself,”? I would think you’d need alone time to do this.

    I guess I’m just trying to convince myself my ex narc didn’t change… because if he did, he left me in the dust with no closure or apologies. In fact, I turned a 3 month silent treatment (he stopped calling after the talk about him changing, I told him it was bs) into no contact.

    I’m ranting. Thanks for ask the love and support, Angie! You’re an angel!

    • No he didnt ex addict husband said same thg.he conned everyone even our pastor into feelin sorry 4 him one way or another. Im 46..hes 43.he cheated and got 22 yr old pregnant..then cheated on her .hes been with atleast 3 girls in last year. He believes his own lies. His stories seem interestin but plays him the victim. He changes friends and gfs as soon as they figure him out. I used to think i cud change him…until i met and became friends w his 1st ex the light is revealed. I know im a gud person as she is..we jus loved him more than we did ourselves till we both woke up. Beware of these men out there. Talk to their friends and family..c how he really is. Check and c does he hav 10 plus fb accounts..big red still goin to therapy to help myself get strong again. Blessings to u.

  2. I have an ex-friend who is narcissistic and her behavior has gotten worse than it was 10 years ago. I have known a few people that have narcissistic personality disorder and they all have gotten worse and more difficult to love and support. It is impossible no matter how much you speak with them about their behaviour, for change to take place. I just know that I have been hurt to the core by these people and they are not safe to be around (emotionally) and relationships with them are always toxic.

  3. Run!!! And I mean never look back when you do!! My life was almost destroyed and I will feel the effects for many years to come!!! It was hard for me for a long time to let go because of her insane beauty… I have never seen such beauty… It was not worth it and she just moved on like nothing happened… Married and all… You might not see it at first but you will be much better off without them in the future!!! I know she will destroy the next man and on and on… That disorder is insidious and it will trick you at first!!! Thank you for reading!!!

  4. Yup they change. If you have time enough then they can be changed. I have a narc right now. Im a very confident person and i dont like being unacknowledged or treated badly. “My” narc realized that (in the beginning i didnt know he was one). He kept on holding on to me then. And tries his best to become better now. I see it in the way he interacts with his collegues. And the last time he even told me he wants to support his collegue. Were not together or so. But we come in contact often. And i like him but at the moment i still have to treat him like a child (unfortunately). At the moment i try to support him. The thing is i have my own goals to achieve so time will be limited.

  5. I wonder and hope my narcassist brother can change. He is miserable and has many issues in regards to my mom who died four years ago. He is full of anger and insecurity.
    I will not speak to my brother in his current frame of mind.

  6. my son is 44 years old and all these years I never understood why he is the way he is . if something would happen to him it was always the other persons fault. He has went through 3 marriages, He has called them names and treated them badly. he can be the sweetest man, but if something happens its the other person fault.
    I finally couldn’t deal with it. I told him if he cant admit that he was just as much as fault as the others then, its best not talk to me
    I love him to death, but he cant keep this up, so now he wont talk to me. he would rather have nothing to do with me than to admit any wrong doing. I wished I knew how to help him,but he has to help himself

  7. hell no they cant change. they will never grow empathy or compassion it just doesnt happen not that ive ever seen. why would anyone want to be around evil any ways? you cant change someones personality thats why its called a personality disorder.

  8. I agree with Karen, I am leaving one after almost 4 years together for my own sanity. I found myself degrading and becoming one of them. He learned it all from his abusive mother. Just run and let miserable people has their own company.

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