Can Narcissists Change?

One thing I’ve  been asked repeatedly is can a narcissist ever change?  I believe they can, if only briefly, contrary to popular belief, & I’ll tell you why.

Narcissists are the ultimate in selfish.  Everything comes back to them & getting their precious narcissistic supply.   If it will benefit a narcissist, if it will make her look good or gain her that supply, she definitely can change.

If you don’t believe me, then watch a narcissist in action.  When she is around someone she doesn’t care to impress, such as her spouse or child, they will be treated like dirt.  But, let someone “special” enter the room & she changes her entire demeanor.  I  remember  a couple of times in my late teens, my mother & I were home alone & she was screaming at me, telling me what a terrible person I was.  Then, the phone rang.  Once she answered it, she was a nice, normal person.  The person on the other end never would’ve suspected that the moment before she answered, she was a raging lunatic.  My mother in-law was much the same way.  If we were alone, she would insult everything about me, my furbabies & my family, even tell me how disappointed she was my husband married me instead of someone else.   When someone came back into the room though, sweet as pie.  In fact, after telling me that she was disappointed he married me, the next time I saw her, she introduced me to her sister as “my beautiful daughter in-law.”

My mother also changed several times in the last couple of years.  There have been times we got along just fine.  She didn’t play the usual head games or verbally tear me apart.  I don’t know why they started or ended, but they were nice while they lasted.  The first time it happened, it lasted for several months.  I thought maybe things were finally going to be normal between us.  Suddenly, she went right back to her narcissistic ways.

I don’t know if a narcissist can ever change permanently, but I do know this much.  For a narcissist to change, even for a moment, the change has to benefit the narcissist in some way.  That is the only thing that will make a narcissist change.  If you hope that she will change because she doesn’t want to hurt you any longer, then you will be disappointed.

I also learned something else.  When my mother changes for the better, I have come to accept that those times don’t usually last long.  I pray they will, but prepare myself for them ending quickly.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as the saying goes.  I’ve found it to be a good idea to determine to enjoy them for however long they last.  If it’s an hour or a month, I don’t want to waste the time dreading the change back.  I try to stay in the moment & enjoy the good times as much as possible.  And, by knowing it’ll probably end soon, when it does end, I’m not devastated.  I strongly advise you to think this same way, Dear Reader, if you have to deal with a similar situation with your narcissistic mother.  It’s much healthier for you to do than getting your hopes up that this time, it’s really going to be different, then having them destroyed.


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Narcissism

11 responses to “Can Narcissists Change?

  1. Cindy Cindy

    Good advice.Don’t expect it to last.
    My dad was bad about being nice when my gma or other relatives or friends were around.But around my friends,he would diss me.
    I was always glad when relatives came to stay with us for a few days.It guaranteed he,as well as my mom,would be nice.My mom would even go so far as to ask if I slept well when i got up,and made me breakfast..LOL.I saw through that.She never did at any other time.
    And my dad was nice to me for about 3 years after my mom passed.Then all of a sudden,he went back to his old ways.I have some theories on that.I don’t think it was because he felt sorry for me.Anyway,it’s like you said,it doesn’t last


    • Very sad it takes the presence of someone else to make your parents behave. So dysfunctional of them!

      I’m curious about your theories why your father was nice for a while after your mother died.. mind sharing??


  2. barbora klaudia

    How right are you! I have the same experience with my husband. There are times when he is the most loving person one moment and the other second he becomes a monster. I have learned it the hard way to do the same as you have stated in your post. Enjoy the good times – but always be prepared for the worst. Today I do not care anymore about his tantrums, fits or silent treatments. This gives me more quality time for myself and I continue living my day-to-day life the best way I can!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you, Barbora! When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you have to learn survival tactics that are healthy & that work for you.

      So many people are in a relationship with a narcissist & either unable or unwilling to leave it. I know- I get their emails regularly. Your post can give them hope, I believe. Hope that it’s possible to handle the relationship in as functional manner as possible when dealing with someone so unhealthy. Thank you for your comment! ❤


      • barbora klaudia

        I am trying to handle each situation the best way. But I have definetely started to think more about me and my well being. It took me very long to wake up, recognize and fully accept my situation. Bus as they say : it is never too late! Hope I shall keep strong in the future and have a good life! Thanks for sharing you experience, it helps.


  3. lynettedavis

    Cynthia, I don’t think narcissists can change. Yes, they change their outward actions. Trust me, if they have made any type of change in their actions, it is only to get something that they want. Their hearts never change–only their actions and that’s only temporary. So, can they change? No.


    • I would have to disagree with you.. while it’s true most narcissists don’t change, or if they do, they only get worse, I have seen it happen, as rare as it is, that they change for the better. I didn’t mention my father in-law in this post, & I probably should have. He was a vicious narcissist when my husband & his siblings were growing up. For a few years in the recent past, he had changed. He & my husband got along quite well. He was actually nice! We don’t know why he changed, but at least my husband enjoyed that time. Unfortunately though, once his father developed dementia a couple of years ago, he defaulted back to his narcissistic ways like many narcissists who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s. Sadly that is something that is beyond their control. If he wouldn’t have developed dementia, I wonder if his change would have been permanent. I guess we’ll never know, but it sure was nice while it lasted.


      • lynettedavis

        My last sentence should have read, “Will they change? No.” I say this for those who are in awful relationships with narcissist. Anything else, in my opinion, is simply false hope.


      • Deb Aura

        I agree they only change when it’s for their own needs, and it is rare, and can default back in a split second.,.saying that, My dad has made enough changes that he is back in our lives. We were no contact for about 6 months, he suffered some serious health issues (he is in his 80’s) and he need us. We limit our contact to an hour a visit twice a week, always on neutral territory and that works for us,.,I help him with groceries, Dr visits and making meals.,.,he is very appreciative.,.,The biggest change that has to happen is within ourselves. I choose what I will react or respond to now. He has no control over me any longer, which forced a change in him.,.,It’s not perfect, but it is a lot healthier of a relationship now.,.,I even got my first heartfelt appology from him a couple of years ago.,.,It can happen, have faith.,.,I wish you all the strength you need, this is not an easy journey♥

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Codependency and Narcissism in Relationships: A Toxic Combination - QueenBeeingQueenBeeing

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