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A community member recently asked the question of whether narcissistic men, also referred to as a “NARC”, are capable of changing their colors, and the responses from our resident first wives family provided a unified voice on the matter (see below).  Clearly it’s a topic that has affected many of us, but for those of you that may not be familiar with the term narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it refers to a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, pride, vanity or selfishness.

Narcissism has been identified as a mental illness, the signs of which include an obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges, problems sustaining satisfying relationships, difficulty with empathy, hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults, detesting those that do not admire them, bragging, the inability to view the world from the perspective of other people, and many others.  For those of you who feel you may be married to a narcissist, or are divorcing one, we have highlighted and organized the responses from our community, which included a number of suggested books on the matter, all of which we’ve listed below.

Suggested books from the community on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

Responses from the Community:

  • Narcissists cannot see beyond themselves; it is literally all about them and it is a behavior that is instilled or adopted early on. If anything, I think it gets worse as time passes. What you have to remember is that narcissists lack the one thing that is needed for them to change: empathy. They cannot understand why other people feel hurt or unloved or devalued because they don't know how to feel those things themselves, they learned how to switch those emotions off in childhood.

  • No, No, I repeat No. They cannot change. We, of the feminine gender, the gender that hopes, feels, cares, nurtures, we would like to believe they can, but they cannot. The sooner we accept that reality, the sooner we can move on with our lives.

  • Mine only seems to be changing for the worst. Becoming more and more selfish, and only wanting what works best for him, without consideration to how the children feel about it. Do they learn to care about someone other than themselves? I don't think so.

  • I can only say for my father that he has yet to change anything. It's a shocking thing to watch from the perspective of a child.

  • Most narcissists lack empathy and compassion for others, they learn to fake emotion so they can manipulate their targets. Of course it all boils down to they have something they want and they are willing to go to any length or hurt anyone to obtain it, which means people in their lives are disposable, they are valuable only as long as they provide some type of fulfillment for the person, once that item can be replaced with either someone else or something else than they no longer need that person and they will be discarded, usually under a guise of some sort that still makes them look like a good person. And I learned that I will become a target for other narcissistic men because I have already been trained by one, unless I learn to see things differently. I've watch a man's life for a long time before I would even consider a date. After all how many of us were fooled by men that appeared to be "a good man"? Background checks ladies, I swear by them.

  • No they do not, no matter how much you love them, go to therapy with them, they are who they are. It is a serious disorder. Therapy does not work, it just supplies the person with more insight in how to get what they want (notice I didn't choose the word need).

  • They NEVER change. Change is hard and requires a strong will to get to where you want to be and a VERY clear understanding of where they're at. They can't see where they are. They will say ANYTHING to get what they want.  Change requires an HONEST desire to do so and a hell of a lot of willpower. They are exactly where they want to be, until it all backfires on them, then it's the world's fault of course.

  • Being with a narcissist is like waking up every morning and drinking Drano instead of coffee.

  • No, they do not change. I was married to my narcissistic husband for 24 years. He has a frightening ability to explain everything that he does in a way that makes it seem perfectly rational; an ability that sucked me in for so long. No more. I have to accept that he is a manipulative liar and stop being surprised that so many people, both friends and family, believe him. I have to protect my children and myself. If you are feeling crazy, it's because he is controlling your worldview. You aren't crazy. You won't change him. Take care of yourself and your children.

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental disorder. It's not a joke. When I started therapy with a new therapist this time last year (I was still in my marriage) I explained my husband to her. She listened and listened and then finally said to me, "Your husband has NPD. People with NPD do not change. Their brains have been wired through childhood injury or being raised by a Narcissist to behave like this. They have no insight, see none of their faults, lie and only see what they wish to see. You are an object. It's just what they created in order to survive when they were young.

  • No, they cannot CHANGE. They cannot step back and see what they do to everyone around them and secondly they believe they can do no wrong. It is always some one else who is doing something wrong. RUN! and take your children with you. There is nothing you can do-- It is a serious personality disorder.

  • Narcissists are like vampires. They suck the soul right out of you. They will not change because they have no empathy. Please look at the fact that you may be co-dependent also. Check out melaniatoniaevans.

  • NO ...the do not change. For change to occur, you must realize you have a problem first and foremost. Second you must want to change. They do neither. Many therapists will not work with them precisely for this reason...they do not think they have any problem to fix! If they do end up in therapy, it is typically because someone has demanded they go...they see it as an opportunity to highlight the other person's flaws and get them fixed and it becomes a game in manipulating the therapist. After all, they are blameless and it is "my way or the highway" thinking. You cannot "make him see" anything!

  • Narcissism is a personality disorder, personality disorders are extremely difficult to change, they don't see a problem with the way they treat people. What you can do is find ways to cope with him and have as minimal contact as possible. Building yourself up physically, mentally and spiritually is the best way to ignore his rants. And finding humor somehow in his behavior. It will lighten your load of stress and frustration with him. It is not your job to make him see what an ass he is, you will never be able to cure him or help him see the light. Especially you, it's usually a major traumatic event that could help snap them out of it and sometimes that doesn't work they just take on the victim mentality. Give up on changing him now it's wasted effort, put that energy into doing something good for yourself.

  • As someone who has both a narcissistic mother and a narcissistic ex, neither of whom has ever been wrong a day in their lives, I can say they really don't. All you can do is try to ignore him and limit contact as much as possible (I know in some cases that just is not possible). He won't wake up one day and say "wow, what a jerk I am". Because a narcissist has no idea that their behavior is a problem. My 15 year old also has limited contact with her dad. She just cannot tolerate being around him more than 2 hours a month. Fortunately, he has not pushed the issue. Why would he, it just frees up his time to do what he wants. Hang in there, the kids will grow up, you will someday be able to lessen contact.

  • No they will change or even take any ownership of their actions. They have no empathy and never consider the impact of their behavior on someone else, including the kids...The only thing worse than being married to a narcissist sociopath is divorcing one, which I am in the process now...and they can legally get away with things, bully you through the lawyers, etc. And I agree with the other posts...that they do cheat, cheat you out of a life with a true partner, because we, as wives, mothers always do have hope and works so hard to keep our relationships/family together especially for the kids.

  • Asking if he's ever going to stop being a narcissist is like hoping he'll grow a 2nd head on his shoulders. It could happen in a movie . . . it's never going to happen in real life. I don't think it's humanly possible for these people to stop being narcissists. Therapy is pointless because he'll lie to the therapist and then the therapist will unwititngly reinforce the falsehoods he tells himself and his obsession with himself. Because therapy is all about him being the center of attention. The day he started moving out, it was like the sun broke through storm clouds that had been over my head for decades. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. Everyone at work started telling me that day and every day after how happy I seem and they didn't even know that I was getting divorced.

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  • Comment Link Tara Emnett Tuesday, 01 April 2014 01:43 posted by Tara Emnett

    Will he change for me?

  • Comment Link Wantofftheride Monday, 03 March 2014 22:00 posted by Wantofftheride

    I'm in the process of divorcing my husband. I believe him to be a narcissist although he has never been diagnosed. You know, I'm the one with the problem not him! We have been together a total of 31/2 years and married almost 21/2 years. I don't remember a time looking back that there was never another woman on the side. He has had me locked up in a psychiatric hospital and even put me in jail once so he could go meet a woman he met on The Internet and needed me out of the way. I was put in jail for hitting him and I was wrong for that but I had found out about another woman. Not the one he was driving 21/2 hours to have sex with. In our short time together I know of 15 women and I have estimated there to be between 30 and 45. Anyway I filed for divirce a couple of weeks ago and now he is "hoovering". I'm his 3rd wife and he has gradually gotten worse with each one of us. This is also my 3rd marriage and I don't want a divorce but I'm married to a stranger. He is the characteristics of a narcissist and that's him to a T!!! He is a supervisor for a well know company and yet had NO money and no place to live. Right now he is living with another supervisor that he works with. He's been sofa surfing for a while now. I was about to let him come back home and then found out about a prostitute. He was going to counseling but stopped. Now he wants to start marriage counseling etc etc etc. He refuses to let me see the phone bill and has hidden his phone our entire relationship. I don't trust him because of what he has done to me yet he says it's because if my past relationships. I know I need to stay strong but sometimes I have a hard time. I'm a good person with a big heart and I think that might be my biggest downfall. I'm starting counseling for myself as soon as I get a list of counselors that take my insurance. Does anyone have any advise? I'm tired if the crazy cycle and I want off the ride. I'm 48 yes old and I am also scared no one else will want me. I think that's why I keep going back. Help

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 January 2014 15:09 posted by

    I can't compare to most of you who were married for years but I just exited to the left one of the most traumatic roller coaster rides of my life--- exactly a year ago...I went on my first day with a man who lit the room up, one of the most beautiful men I'd ever seen ...after our first date I was in love with what I knew as his personality as well (there was something magnetic) after that we were unseperable, we spent every moment together and we lived in our own bubble. We'd go out, get drunk dance the night away and only saw eachother....that is until about 6 months later he told me that I was too unstable and he wanted to go back to his ex-wife. I was in love and he'd simply walked away in the middle of our relationship--- until a couple days later, one call, two calls and by the end of the day over 200. He wanted me back and completed formulated a story about him not wanting to go back anymore....eventually after flowers and even making him sleep on my floor one night....I took him back in. Drum roll please, he left on vacation telling me he was going with family and come to find out it was with no other than, his ex wife. Again, he got back and told me it was mistake and being so caught up in his obsessing, getting on his knees in the middle of the street, saying he might hurt himself... after a few weeks I took him back again....I knew it wasn't healthy but I was convinced I couldn't live without him. There were a few times I'd gone out on my balcony and thought maybe he would actually feel bad for SOMETHING....since his repeated lies and cheating indicated he had no remorse. I used to dream about our future and pray to GOD he would let me keep him but every day felt like a struggle to keep him loving me and his interest. I was exhausted. In the end after multiple new lies and cheating, we had a blow up fight at a bar...he had another woman on his lap and looked at me like I was a complete stranger....I walked away and never looked back. I suppose sometimes it's the straw the breaks the camels back. And mine surely did break. I was doing the token narc/codependant dance and after reflecting realized that his complaints about "not taking his lead", "not comitting enough to him", his insecurity even though I would've given my arm to be with him, his little value to sex and infidelity--in fact he used it to control me. In the end (now) he calls, wrote me letters about how he's changed and it was God but never once apologized for the utter life shattering year he put me through, for convincing me he wanted a future when I was really just his shiny toy....the one to blame? The "devil" he claimed. SMH It's sad that he will never understand; one day I told him (in the past) that when I look in his eyes there's this cold emptiness, he said he got chills because his mom used to tell him that. I am still recovering, every day, every moment I fight the thoughts that it was my fault, if I was prettier or gave up my modeling ect. They say the devil is beautiful and he said the devil is a lie....well then he's the closest thing to the devil.

  • Comment Link Sher Saturday, 19 October 2013 02:53 posted by Sher

    I have been married to a narcissist lawyer for 22 years and am in the divorce process. I am grateful that your children recognize him for what he is because it makes it so so much harder when children do not. My youngest is a daughter (16) who has been under the influence of her Disneyland dad for years. My narcissistic husband (whom I believe actually does not NPD) is manipulating my daughter to the limits in the divorce process. My 22 year old son is basically trying to stay out of the divorce (he lives at home) but has had to speak out to my 16 year old daughter when she calls me names (which she never did before the divorce process) and he had told her that her dad is indeed manipulating her. I know God has a plan. He has led me by taking baby steps through this process. And I have faith that He will get me and all 3 children through this divorce. Oh, and now my husband wants me back...but I know God does not want that after all that has been revealed to me about his behavior. There is hope but not with my narcissist husband. I do pray for him though.

  • Comment Link Lumari Wednesday, 02 October 2013 21:42 posted by Lumari

    I was married to a narcissist and going through a divorce. The family suffered basic needs and quality time with the children and myself. He put us through homelessness , secured his needs and destroyed our sense of self. He blames everyone for what he put us through and me in particular. He harasses me through emails and is relentless in claiming his love for me and the family . I am sick to my stomach at his ease to commit fraud with taxes unknown to me till recently. I can't wait for the divorce to be concluded and this horrible nightmare to end . I have been tormented at all levels by him and he will never change nor do expect him to. If you live with a narcissist get away from him or her because things will just get worse and you will be frozen in a state of total tormentaion ! Run as fast as you can before you drives you insane.

  • Comment Link Stella S Monday, 30 September 2013 14:36 posted by Stella S

    I just ended a relationship with a man who I suspect is exactly what you are talking about. Im so stunned right now at how quickly this thing dissolved. We were to move into a home TODAY but as the time came nearer, his behaviors became even more odd? Although we have been living together in my current home, he always said that we needed to get a place "that is ours." I can't believe looking back how he has disarmed me and my spirit and it was so subtle that I am sitting her sad about my "future" plans being a damn lie. Now what? After reading all that I have, sounds like I should run, grieve the "future" for what it will not be and count my blessings? I never knew why his 6 grown adult children want nothing to really do with him, his sister, his mother and two brothers don't like him either. I spent all this time trying to get him to "mend" whatever it was that caused this, wondering now if it was HIM all along? Gosh, Im so hurt today

  • Comment Link Lacretia Monday, 09 September 2013 16:42 posted by Lacretia

    Reading this has helped me so much. Thank all of you who has commented on this blog! Ive been married 3 years, have an 8 month old son and just realized I'm married to a narc! It has been so awful! He left me when I was pregnant. I'm self employed! I almost lost my business dealing with this lunatic! He has so many issues and I fell for every manipulative scheme. I don't feel stupid anymore since I did my research and realized what I am dealing with!

  • Comment Link paul Friday, 06 September 2013 14:35 posted by paul

    I am a NARC..I'm destroying my family..or have..I want help to change..can I...someone help me..or what do I do

  • Comment Link Veronica Friday, 23 August 2013 20:43 posted by Veronica

    Just ended a 5 year relationship, with the man I thought was my "soul mate." This happened 3 months ago, and thru mutual friends, I found out that he moved his ex-wife back 4 weeks after we broke up into the house we purchased. OUCH!!! They both cheated on eachother, he cheated on me, and from what I am reading, he will continue to do it. I never realized that I was in such a toxic relationship. I knew he had childhood issues, but never, in my wildest dreams, thought I was being abused. I have 2 teenagers from a previous marriage, and they saw right thru him. He used my kids as a reason for the break up. I have issues feeling so hurt, demoralized, etc, etc, etc. You name it, he did it and I took it. Thank you for your blog, and all your readers. It gives me hope for our future.

  • Comment Link Dr. LCC Tuesday, 20 August 2013 16:46 posted by Dr. LCC

    I was married to one....They do not least not for the better! Oh and bless you if you are more successful then he is or make more money! They are the most jealous insecure creatures imaginable! They will use you for what they want and need, all while painting themselves as a "victim" of circumstance. I have just recently stopped "beating myself up" for allowing this "nothing" to exist in my world. Albeit I am thankful for a new beginning, it only magnified how truly horrible a person he was once I entered into a normal relationship with a wonderful NON narcissistic man. My advice is if you are in a relationship with a narcissist...RUN AS FAST AS POSSIBLE TO THE NEAREST EXIT!! It is not fair to you or your children(if you have them..I don't THANKFULLY)...... You deserve better and he will never be able to give it to you....remember it is MENTAL defect that no one has found a cure for!!

    Dr. C.

  • Comment Link Brenda Schafer Wednesday, 10 July 2013 03:53 posted by Brenda Schafer

    Was married to a narc for 23 years! We've
    Been divorced 10 years. Split 13 years, he talks
    Like he still ownse! There is not one
    Thing you can do to change them! My
    Dad, was a shycopathic narcissist, ruined
    By the age of 3, I married what I knew!
    My marriage was a big mess, I tried to fight
    Back with humor and sarcasism! Nothing
    Worked, sorry girls'! Run as fast as you
    Can, and as far as you can move away!

  • Comment Link Jdup Monday, 10 June 2013 16:20 posted by Jdup

    To Estelle, I'm trying to understand my own Narcissist husband. I know what it means to have a shoulder surgery had one myself and felt helpless. I wish I could offer you some advice but I think from what I am reading that you need to take care of yourself and don't forget who you are. What everyone else see's is their own perception. Hope this helps, I'm praying for you. J

  • Comment Link Renee Monday, 03 June 2013 01:44 posted by Renee

    I am currently trying to divorce this NARC I accidentally married. The courts was totally on his side. This NARC has a Chicago police officer as a sister whom I also supect to be a narcissist as well. She instructed her brother how he can get a temporary order of protection against me, it was unbelievable. He said I beat him with a shot gun (by the way, I don't even know how to load or shoot one) followed up with a baseball bat. He even gave a location of all of this supposed to have happen to him was inside of the local police department. And he stated that there was no cameras, police officer on site and he needed no medical assistants. All of this took place while I eas on the other side of town getting medical treatment for our daughter by the way no I do not have a twin and no arrest was made. However, he has been in Prison have a violent domestic history towards the children and I. He is 6 feet tall 235 lbs. And I am 5'4" tall and 130 lbs. I have never been in any trouble with the law, but yet he had this female judge eating out of his hands with lie after lie. This judge would not even or considered the lie. I had to quit court because I eas told by this Cook County judge what I bettet do or else and she told him to produce his financial records so he can pay child support and he refused and this judge was ok with his response. It has been two years and not a dime has been paid for support. I watched him tell lies like a free water flow. Even his own attorney asked to withdraw from his case and the judge said no. I could not ask for another judge so I was stuck. I had to firer my lawyer, quit going to court because I had enough. I went into hiding with my girls. I found out he quit going to court so the case was tossed out. He emailed me a few months ago stating how we are best friends and he so sorry and lets work it out. I was sick to my stomach after readong his message. I never responded. I hope that he has found a way to leave us alone and I can divorce him under the radar. The best thing I did for myself and my children was to load my van up with what ever That could fit and walked away from everything including him. We don't have much in materialism but we are full of wealth regarding a peace of mind.

  • Comment Link guest Friday, 26 April 2013 07:19 posted by guest

    Dear SB, Please listen to yourself " he runs to one of his many exes" - "he sleeps with them". Why are you taking him back? Stop now for your sake and your unborn child. Life with a narcissist is so hard and their characteristics exacerbate as life goes on. You're lucky that he leaves. Lock the door and don't let him back in.

  • Comment Link SB Thursday, 25 April 2013 12:56 posted by SB

    I am currently pregnant with the son of what I believe is a narcissist. His therapist diagnosed him as depressed with anxiety disorder, but I believe he is a true narcissist and so does my counselor. He's a liar, manipulator, and will say anything to emotionally pull me back into him. He has caused me so much stress this whole pregnancy with no regard to how it affects me or the baby. He wants everything his way. Everytime we break up he runs to one of his many exes and bad mouths me to them, they feel sorry for him, boost his ego, he sleeps with them and then comes running back to me claiming it was a "mistake" and they can't give him what I can. I feel so stupid for attaching my life to his man, I know he'll spend every waking moment trying to either get what he wants from me and if he cant, trying to make my life miserable.

  • Comment Link Lea Monday, 22 April 2013 04:20 posted by Lea

    I'm in the middle of a child custody case with a Narc (he's never actually been diagnosed but is text book NARC!) My baby is 7mths old and he's asking for full custody. We were never married and so far I have been able to maintain some distance from him for my baby's sake but he does come visit with her, problem is she cries to the point she vomits and I'm scared to death that the court system is going to fail my little girl. If he gets visitation, he won't do what's best for her instead he will keep her force her to stay till the end of visitation (as you know its all about controll for them) and she will be sick as can be by the time he returns her. I have gut wrenching thoughts of things that could happen to her while she's with him... I have had moments where I think if we go to counselling we may can work things out and have discussed in the past of trying to work things out. BAD mistake here, he jumps pounces with both feet and leaves me with my jaw dropped going WTH? Seriously! .. I get to thinking this way I believe on the means if I'm there I can protect my daughter. But at the same time I would be doing her wrong because neither of us would have a safe haven to retreat to. I agree he's never going to change.. Any advice or suggestions on how to get through this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  • Comment Link Guest Tuesday, 09 April 2013 19:01 posted by Guest

    LG - i am in exactly the same place as you are right now (narcissistic MIL and all). Please let me know how it goes as i am just in the beginning of the throes of this painful divorce.

  • Comment Link Guest Saturday, 23 March 2013 15:38 posted by Guest

    Wow what an eye opener, this is exactly what my soon to be Ex-husband & mother in law are. May God help them!!!! I am not, nor was I losing my mind in my 23 year relationship dealing with these people. I finally found the strength 4 months ago to end the Horror movie & am desperately trying to protect my children from these MONSTERS!!! They are 8 & 5 years old. Not easy at all since they are now using the legal system to bully me, attempt to paint themselves as the Victims instead of the MONSTERS they actually are to the Court system!!! I just HOPE & PRAY it gets easier for me to Heal & stop wasting my energy on How he could actually do what he is doing, now that I know it is really a MENTAL DISORDER!!!

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 15 March 2013 22:35 posted by Guest

    NO! Narcissists cannot see beyond themselves - it is literally all about them and it is a behavior that is instilled or adopted early on. If anything, I think it gets worse as time passes. What you have to remember is that narcissists lack the one thing that is needed for them to change: empathy. They cannot understand why other people feel hurt or unloved or devalued because they don't know how to feel those things themselves, they learned how to switch those emotions off in childhood. I can only imagine it would be like us trying to change our sense of humor or what we enjoy reading or eating. For many of us, it took years to figure out what was going on in our marriages, but the moment you do you learn to spot it immediately. But try explaining why you're hurt to a narc and they will tell you they never did or said the thing you are accusing them of. Once again, you're the crazy one who is "attacking" the good guy who does no wrong... I see now how my ex never stopped needing his parents' approval, the same parents who created this monster in the first place.

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 15 March 2013 22:33 posted by Guest

    I am in the process of divorcing a narcissist - I tried everything to avoid getting to this point. He promised so many things. He hasn't changed. I don't think he ever will. I can't say that is true of all narcissists but I think it is true of almost all. I am sorry for you. We are divorcing him because living with him was destroying me, and making me physically ill. I am glad that I know I did everything I could to save the marriage because I never doubt I had to do it. The process of divorce is very long and very hard. If you are going to do it, prepare. You need money for lawyers, you need to detach as much as possible (mine lies all the time, and distorts my sense of reality), and family & friends who will love and support you. Attacks come in many forms and at any time. I only know I can get through the next year because I have got through the last. Very good luck.

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 15 March 2013 22:25 posted by Guest

    Don't waste your time or energy trying to figure out a way to get him to see sense. The effort is futile, and will only drive you crazier!! These guys stick around as long as it feeds their ego and family life fits their fantasy scenario of how life "should be". Even as they crap all over your relationship and the family you have created together, they are gathering allies at work and among friends who will rally 'round to reinforce their distorted vision of you and the kids as bad guys. So life happens, you get older, and as the kids grow they assert themselves in positive or negative ways that must be dealt with. While you are dealing with all this by yourself, he is out the door. Gone. BOO-HOO says he, and plenty of people listen, welcome him with open arms, and offer sympathy, just as you may have done in the beginning (hates his mom, neglected, misused by his family, abandoned by his father, etc.). You are already alone in your marriage. You can continue to adapt and adjust and hope to make it better, further diminishing yourself. Your kids will not thank you for it. And in the end he will find a reason to dump you anyway. Let him cope with his own craziness, supported by his new groupies. As my wise therapist once said, take the energy you are putting into the relationship and put it into yourself. It is the first step on a long journey. I am 10 years out of the relationship and still coping with the fall-out. Move on, forgive yourself for wasting so much of your life, not to mention the damage done to your children that can be mitigated but never erased.

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 15 March 2013 22:23 posted by Guest

    I was married to a Narcissist for 12 years. I am now free. He was having an affair with someone 23 years younger than myself. We are divorced, he is remarried to her one year after the divorce and now having a baby. He still tries to call me to tell me I can't be replaced etc. etc. He is now treating her the way he treated me. So I am very thankful to be rid of him! I feel as if I am a butterfly set free! I was in prison, I was reprieved and now this young woman has taken over my life sentence!