Every month, people land on this blog with that search question.
Think of the narcissist as if he went about setting a mouse trap. You are the mouse.
Nice is giving the mouse a plump piece of cheddar cheese, all the while knowing that the goal is to catch/kill the mouse. The mouse can’t help herself. She loves the treat. No matter how many times she sees sharp cheddar on that wooden plate, she forgets that the plate is a trap. Once in awhile, she’s savvy enough to get the cheese off the plate, without getting caught. We all know, though, that the mouse isn’t always that lucky.
The narcissist is setting a trap when he is being nice. He hopes you will forget that he’s setting a trap. The cheese might be diamonds or dinners or promises of good behavior. He might set the trap with organic peanut butter, just to change things up a bit, but he’s still setting a trap.
You, dear mouse, have a very kind, trusting heart. You want to believe the best. You’ve seen that teensy kernel of goodness in the narcissist’s heart. You believe, with all of you, that if you give him one more chance, he’ll show you that goodness all the time. He sets the trap with promises of being that good guy, and you lap it up. You approach the trap and start taking bites out of that chunk of cheese, and …
He reverts to his narcissistic ways.
He gives you the cold shoulder. He comes home late from work. He “forgets” to pick the kids up from school. He decides that he’s too tired from work to be kind because he has better things to do. He yells at you for folding the towels wrong or accuses you of having a fling with someone on Facebook.
Whatever the case, he stops being nice, and you’re back to where you were before he set that damn trap.
He can’t help it.
It’s the way he’s wired.
Just like the scorpion and the frog.
This, from Wikipedia, explains it nicely.
A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.
Though the fable is recent, its outlook that certain natures cannot be reformed was common in ancient times, as in Aesop’s fable of The Farmer and the Viper. Here the scorpion’s reply indicates that what is fundamentally vicious will not change.
The important parts are:
He can’t help it, and…
He’ll most likely do himself in, too. (Do not go down with that sinking scorpion!)
Oh, and notice the part about: “… what is fundamentally vicious will not change.”
Read those bold words again.
You may be saying, “But with a mousetrap, you actually want to get rid of the mouse. Surely the narcissist doesn’t want to get rid of me?” But you see, he can’t help it. He can’t love, he only despises.
He wants to trap you, have you, and then discard you.
He will turn on the nice when he feels you backing away. He will be nice when he feels that the source you provide is threatened. But it won’t last. It can’t. He’s a scorpion.
It’s all a game to the narcissist. He likes the fun of manipulating and controlling you. He does this by being nice.