“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.”