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:
- Disarming The Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving With the Self-Absorbed, by Wendy T. Behary
- The Sociopath Next Door, by Dr. Martha Stout
- Narcissism Book of Quotes, by Sam Vaknin
- How to Spot a Dangerous Man before You Get Involved, by Sandra Brown
- Narcissistic Lovers: How to Cope, Recover and Move On, By Cynthia Cayn and Kevin Dibble, M.S.
- In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding Manipulative People, by George K. Simon Jr.
- Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
- Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert D Hare PhD.
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.