How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Dr. Mark Your Own Question

Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5109
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
50444359
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Dr. Mark is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Can a narcissist be truly sorry while he acknowledges his condition

Resolved Question:

Can a narcissist be truly sorry while he acknowledges his condition and actions? He curses me when he is angry and sometimes acts simply out of order, with exaggerated reactions. He always seems to demand acceptance and looks like a lot is going on in his head. He is easily disappointing and bored and takes his revenge on me with a cold reaction and no communication. He simply locks himself inside for lack of trust that I would understand and accept him. He is both insecure and really confident in himself, really successful. Now he is desperate of loosing me and refuses to give me the space I need to recover from a real trauma experience which I had last week. there is more to our story, as he is married and on his way to a divorce this week. We dated since 2 years and now it's 6 months since he said he wants a divorce. Before that I had a break from all and dated another guy which made him mad and he never got over it. He lured me in again with the promise he anyhow intended to divorc
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 11 months ago.

Hi! I'll be glad to help you with this issue.


First, let me say it sounds like you've put up with a lot for a while now. And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. I've worked in therapy quite a bit with people in relationship with narcissists or who've recently left a narcissist. It's often very devastating to their sense of self. This is because a narcissist takes over your sense of self: everything is about him, his needs, his hurts. And so when he needs it, he can be very charismatic, charming, and alluring. Then when he doesn't need that, he can be a bully, mean, and belittling. And thus the other person loses her sense of self; she's always "dancing" around his needs and moods.

When I get this question, whether in therapy or here, it is always coming from a lot of pain and hurt inside. And I'm so sorry you're going through this. It is very difficult, disorienting even, I know. And so your question is whether he can be truly sorry while he acknowledges his condition and actions. But the question behind that question is:

Can a narcissist truly care about another person; can he feel your hurt, can he feel any true caring for you?

This question reflects so much pain and it's so hard. Because I think you know that the answer is this: that the meaning, the clinical definition, of narcissism is based around the narcissist NOT being able to feel another person's point of view directly, only based on his own needs.

And this is why a narcissist will not accept help. Why not?

Because narcissists never believe the problem is in them. The problem is always in YOU. So if they ever seek help, it is only to get what they want. Then they stop coming to therapy once they've convinced the people who have forced them to get help that they have tried. And all the while, they keep doing what they believe they should be doing.

I'm concerned more about you. What do I mean?

You've put up with a lot and you are considering putting up with more. Clearly you love him but he's using you up. You recognize that right now he needs you so he's desperate. I need you to understand that he is not going to change because of your giving nature. Your goodness is not going to one day make him see the beauty of also being a good person. Narcissists don't change like that. It takes years and years of therapy. And so all he sees is someone to use. You're a good person and if you stay, I can understand: you've invested a lot into this relationship and you may decide at this stage in your life that you're willing to live in a stormy relationship.

Let me remind you of what you know within yourself is true because you've experienced it:

It is very difficult for people to imagine how pervasive NPD is. They tend to keep doing things with the narcissist as if he's normal. Then they get burned and they are very hurt. He will alternate charm and invective. You will be hurt. You are a normal person and have a view of personality that we call "whole". Your view does not allow for what has happened to his personality: it has become "fractured". What do I mean?


Let's use a parable of a house. You understand personality as being an open plan. There is the main big room where everything in the personality is and there are some smaller rooms off the main room, but they all have open doorways so that there is a unity there. If a person reacts from one of those smaller areas in his personality, it is coherent with the rest of the house, it fits into the decorating scheme of the main room, etc. It's all unified.

He isn't like that. He has different closed rooms. When he says something to you, it responds to some need and "truth" of a certain room. When he wants something else, it responds to a different room that contains that "truth". They don't have to agree for him to feel he is being okay and truthful. Because they are responding to different needs in him. Like different closed rooms.

You would not be able to feel whole that way. You would feel rather creepy. Well he doesn't feel whole. But he doesn't know how to feel whole. And he doesn't know what feeling whole is like. And this by the way is part of what makes him charming to women: they (and you) get their "I can fix him" module all tingling because they and you can sense that broken aspect. But....you would be messing with locked rooms that are protected by fire breathing dragons...

If you choose to leave, I am going to recommend a wonderful book that you need to read even though it is geared toward pure narcissism:

It is called: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life by XXXXX XXXXXez-Lewi.



You have a right to make your own life. Being on your own may be hard but if you resist the temptation to isolate yourself and put yourself out there socially, you can be fine.

But if you decide to stay, what can you do? Well, I am going to give you two step program that has had success in my practice for loved ones of people with personality disorders. You are already considering leaving and even before I begin with what you can do, I have to tell you that most people I see who are married to or in a relationship with narcissists, if indeed he has this personality disorder, do wind up divorcing. They are charming at first but then they are so controlling and belittling that it is intolerable. So, if you choose to leave him behind, know that I will support your decision. But you may want to try more ideas now, so here are the best ones that can help for at least a little while.



Step 1. You must accept that you cannot change him. This is the heart of the matter: what you see is what you are going to get for a long time (see step 2) if not for the rest of him life. Your job and your goal is to learn how to accept him the way he is and not be affected negatively by him. Yes, this is a tough, big job. But that is what he needs. You cannot be his therapist; you have to accept that this is how he deals with the world and that your job is to be there for him and with him without you getting too hurt by him personality difficulties.



Step 2. You can encourage him to seek professional help. You know better than anyone that even encouraging him will probably not go over well with him, and he won't go, so you have to go back to step one!

So, that is your situation. Acceptance is the key. Making sure not to get too wrapped up in his negativity and his rigidness is vital. This is the way you will be able to continue in your relationship with him if you decide to stay.

I'm going to prescribe a couple of excellent books you can get on how to live with a narcissist. Because you are not going to change him. What I wrote to you above is even more what you must stick with. But these books WILL help you as they have been tried and I've seen them have good effect if you follow the suggestions of the authors. They are both easily available online:



1. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship by Eleanor Payson. This is a great book that will help you with the lack of self-esteem that living with a narcissist or being close with a narcissist will do to you.

2. The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner. This book is newer but is extremely clear and insightful and has helped people since it came out 3 years ago.

I don't encourage people to stay with narcissists, but it is your decision to make. I wish you the very best and support whatever you choose to do in this difficult situation!



My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 11 months ago.

Thank you so much for the answer. I guess the real problem is that I always understood where he is coming from with all this and now his excuse for the crappy situation is that we were never in a real relationship because he was married. He even said the did not allow himself to love me because he was feeling guilty towards his wife. So he is not totally lacking empathy, this I can tell. However, despite feeling other people's pain, he somehow finds a justification for acting selfishly. The truth is I am somehow becoming a heartless person myself, I got to accept cheating on a partner as something excusable. And as broken as I am, I see him still like one of the closest persons in my life, I scared child seeking just for approval. I know you've heard it before, but he seems genuinely conscious that he needs to change.


I have to mention that in the past, when his ego lead him also to destroy his education, he completely changed his personality. He then started applying severe control upon himself. Eventually, it became a way of life for him, to anticipate and control the turn of events. And now it spread. I told him all this and more as I am full aware of the psychological mechanisms inside him. But somehow he says yes and makes another type of mistake. Like now still driving his wife's car while this week they intend to go for a divorce (and he told me she is aware he is dating another person?!).


I know I will not get a full examination of the complex situation and that I finally have to decide. But I am just relying on your professional experience for more insight.


I love him but should I give him another chance after the divorce? Can that really be a cause of so much stress that he became confused and depressed himself?

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 11 months ago.
I can't answer for you if he is narcissistic or confused and depressed. I can tell you that confused and depressed is not how you have described him. His behavior has been consistent since you've met him in those areas that are so crucial: self referencing, self serving, manipulative, self aggrandizing, not caring about others' feelings unless there's a self need.


And your sense of losing self was very consistent with your understanding of him as being narcissistic. If so, then the desire to blame yourself, meaning to justify his behavior--that maybe you're the one who's misjudging things and not being caring enough of him, that would also be a trait of someone in the narcissist's orbit.


Again, I can't decide this for you. I can only tell you that I've worked with enough people who've gotten caught in a narcissist's orbit and have needed therapy to come back to a position of thriving.


And that's my concern for you: choosing him is not being presented here as a way for you to thrive, to grow, to feel great and valued and equal. That is a concern for me.


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5109
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 11 months ago.
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this. I appreciate your positive rating and thank you so much for the bonus as well. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


All the best,
Dr. Mark

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
< Last | Next >
  • I can go as far as to say it could have resulted in saving my sons life and our entire family now knows what bipolar is and how to assist and understand my most wonderful son, brother and friend to all who loves him dearly. Thank you very much Corrie Moll Pretoria, South Africa
  • I thank-you so much! It really helped to have this information and confirmation. We will watch her carefully and get her in for the examination and US right away if things do not improve. God bless you as well! Claudia Albuquerque, NM
  • Outstanding response time less than 6 minutes. Answered the question professionally and with a great deal of compassion. Kevin Beaverton, OR
  • Suggested diagnosis was what I hoped and will take this info to my doctor's appointment next week.
    I feel better already! Thank you.
    Elanor Tracy, CA
  • Thank you to the Physician who answered my question today. The answer was far more informative than what I got from the Physicians I saw in person for my problem. Julie Lockesburg, AR
  • You have been more help than you know. I seriously don't know what my sisters situation would be today if you had not gone above and beyond just answering my questions. John and Stefanie Tucson, AZ
  • I have been dealing with an extremely serious health crisis for over three years, and one your physicians asked me more questions, gave me more answers and encouragement than a dozen different doctors who have been treating me!! Janet V Phoenix, AZ
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Dr. Keane

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1262
    Clinical Psychology PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor with experience in marriage/family, teens and child psychology.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DR/Dr.Keane/2013-8-20_204325_drkeane.64x64.jpg Dr. Keane's Avatar

    Dr. Keane

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1262
    Clinical Psychology PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor with experience in marriage/family, teens and child psychology.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RE/resolutions66/2011-1-17_05728_IMG8202smilingeditedforJustAnswer.64x64.jpg Elliott, LPCC, NCC's Avatar

    Elliott, LPCC, NCC

    Psychotherapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    5024
    35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/formybunch/2010-12-06_191055_img_0975.jpg Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC's Avatar

    Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    3733
    Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/DR/DrAkiraOlsen/2012-2-20_746_AkiraADpicmain.64x64.jpg Dr. Olsen's Avatar

    Dr. Olsen

    Psychologist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2336
    PsyD Psychologist
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/norriem/2009-5-27_134249_nm.jpg Norman M.'s Avatar

    Norman M.

    Psychotherapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2193
    UK trained in hypnotherapy, counselling and psychotherapy and have been in private practice. ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), UKCP Registered and ECP.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PsychologyProf/2010-07-15_171248_logos060400409.jpg Dr. Michael's Avatar

    Dr. Michael

    Psychologist

    Satisfied Customers:

    2177
    Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/KURTEMMERLING/2010-07-23_215531_just_ask_picture1.jpg Steven Olsen's Avatar

    Steven Olsen

    Therapist

    Satisfied Customers:

    1727
    More than twenty years of expertise in counseling, psychological diagnosis and education