Why The Narcissist Won’t Change

caddisHank placed his cell phone on the bar and sat on a stool.

“You must be done with your shift?”  Joe sat on the stool next to Hank.

“Yeah.  I’m meeting a friend at the river for a little evening fishing, but I’ve got a few minutes.  How are things?”

“Things are …”  Joe turned his stool to face Hank.  “I gotta ask you something.”

Hank was placing flies in a small tackle box.  “Go ahead.”

“What’s that one?”

“It’s a caddis.  I don’t know why I have so many of these.  Never have caught a thing with a caddis fly.”  Hank placed the fly in its reserved section.  “What did you wanna ask me?”

“Can – or maybe I should say – will a narcissist ever change?”

“Hm….   We’re both gonna need a beer for that one.”

Joe laughed.  “I was afraid of that.  I’ll have the dark on tap, since you’re pouring.”



Hank walked around the end of the bar and grabbed two glasses.  “First, you’ve got to think about what motivates people to change.  Conditions have to be pretty bad to make someone consider changing. Think death, divorce or getting fired.  And even then, there are plenty of folks who don’t see divorce as a reason to change.  It’s too convenient to think it’s the ex’s fault.”

Joe reached for his beer.  “That’s true.  I know plenty who divorce, remarry, and end up repeating the mistakes of the first marriage.”


Hank walked back around the bar to his stool.  “Change is hard.  Change requires taking a good long look at yourself, and honestly evaluating what is working and what isn’t.  It’s miserable.  I avoid self-evaluation as much as possible, unless I’m backed into a corner, which usually happens in a relationship.”

“Yeah.” Joe picked up another fly, started to ask what it was, and instead said, “It’d be easy to go through life unaware of how we impact others, if we don’t expect to be in any relationships.”

Hank laughed.  “Sometimes I think that might be the smartest and safest route.”  He closed the lid on one side of the box, and turned the box over to access the other side.  “The thing with narcissists, though, is that they don’t believe there is anything wrong with the way they relate to others.  They are convinced that if any problems exist, it is the fault of their partner.  With that kind of logic, they never see a need to change.”

Joe shook his head.  “Pretty convenient for the narcissist.”

“Not so much for the narcissist’s partner.” Hank opened the lid of the box, and started sorting Dave’s Hoppers.

Joe picked up a hopper.  “Is there any point in trying to convince a narcissist that it takes two to make it work?  I mean, I’ve tried, but she effectively dismisses me when I bring up stuff that isn’t working.  It’s her way or I can find the door.”

“Sounds like you have as much luck with that as I do with a caddis.”

Joe slid the hopper over to Hank.  “Yeah.  You’re right.”

“Narcissists aren’t motivated to change because how they treat others works for them.  They don’t care if they are getting good attention or bad attention, as long as they are getting attention.  There’s no incentive to change as long as they get that attention.  Most everybody else doesn’t much care for friction in a relationship.  If things get rocky, the conversation has to be had.  If both want to make it work, then change is necessary.”

Hank closed the lid on the box.  “It’s like fly fishing.  If you keep catching with the same fly, why change?  Some guys move to a new spot on the river, rather than change their tackle.  A narcissist will move to a new source rather than change anything about how he or she relates.”

Joe stood up from his stool.  I’ve always been a spincaster.  I never tried fly fishing.  It sounds like I’d do better taking up fly fishing than getting her to change.

Hank stood and laughed, “There’s plenty of room in the truck.  I’ll loan you a rod, and give you these caddis.”

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  1. This article truly hit home for me. I am just coming out of a narcissistic abusive relationship of 5 years, he cheated he lied he made me the enemy he made me feel guilty he blames me for everything including his affairs and I would continue to believe everything was my fault I’m horrible for pushing him away I lost my self worth I let him continue to emotionally abuse and control me. Our relationship has just finally ended last week when I found him in our bed with another girl. I am mourning the loss of him and our relationship I am mourning the man I wanted him to be, the man he convinced me he was in the beginning. This article is the most painful part of it all… that I still hold on to him I still have this deep love for him and most of all I have for the longest time just wanted to feel like he cared I want him to change the narcissistic person he is that I never knew or understood until I got out and am now left with all this pain. How do we find solace in knowing they will never change and knowing people are completely okay treating others like this. :(

  2. Erika,

    Thanks for writing and here’s a hug.

    You ask a tough question. I still wake in the night and get angry with the injustice of narcissists being so oblivious to the destruction they cause. I suspicion that the healing comes when we can completely distance ourselves – not just physically, but mentally – from them. That means also distancing ourselves from the hopes we placed on those relationships.

    If I knew how to quit thinking about them and what they’ve done, I’d share that with you. I know that letting them inside my head allows them to continue to control me. So I try to think of other things and stop those thoughts in their tracks. Each day holds the promise that I will be done with it all. That’s what keeps me going.

    In my experience, they NEVER change, so I don’t hold any hope that change will ever happen.

    Be well.

  3. Erika, after you have had some distance and the mourning starts to wear off, forgive yourself first. Believe that this wasn’t your fault. Believe that you will move on and be happy. Invest in self-care and work on it every day. Then give yourself time to do it all. Big hugs to you. This time is so hard. xx

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