Being in a close relationship with a narcissist is extremely challenging. You’ll probably find yourself on an endless loop, wondering whether your life is always going to be this way. Where did the person I loved at the start of the relationship go? What did I do to make them behave this way? Am I imagining this? Narcissism, as it turns out, raises a lot of questions.

Because of the complexity of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the possibility of change seems – impossible. However, that doesn’t stop you hanging in there, hoping that one day you’ll wake up and find yourself in a safe and loving relationship. That is perhaps the cruelest aspect of being in a relationship with a narcissist.

So, can you change a narcissist? And if you can, how can you encourage that change?

What is a narcissist?

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, narcissism is a condition characterised by an inflated sense of self importance, a deep need for excessive attention and a lack of empathy for others. 

Herein lies the conundrum; how does someone who doesn’t believe that they’re the problem, change the way they behave? Self reflection and accountability aren’t personality traits associated with a narcissist, and changing this is a massive mountain to climb. 

However, narcissism spans a large spectrum. While some narcissists may have no desire to change, that doesn’t mean that all are incapable of doing so. 

Can you change a narcissist?

Because Narcissistic Personality Disorder is such a complex condition, there’s no simple answer. Some psychologists suggest that if a narcissist is motivated and willing to change, it’s not impossible for them to do so. However, as with most aspects of personal development, the desire to change has to come from the narcissist themselves. Requests from family, including a spouse, are usually futile. 

Signs that a narcissist wants to change

So, just how can you tell if a change could be on the horizon? Here are some telltale signs that they might be open to treatment.

  • They start to show affection or concern for certain people. 
  • They question their behaviour. Perhaps after reading about narcissism, or if someone comments on their narcissistic traits.
  • They no longer value people according to whether they consider them to be perfect or worthless. Their scale of extremity may start to get smaller.  

What can you do to help?

If you find yourself dealing with a narcissist making an effort to change, there are some things that you can do to encourage them. 

Boundaries are important. The more times you threaten to leave and fail to do so, the more power you give to the narcissist. Accept your partner for who they currently are. Instead of putting your own interests aside to keep them happy, focus on what it is they need to change. 

Ultimately, if you’re going to help your narcissistic partner, you’re going to have to push for action as opposed to empty promises. Once you’ve accepted a promise from a narcissist, their motivation to change will quickly disappear. 

When to move on

Treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is complex and extensive. It takes significant strength from both the narcissist, and you as their partner. Sometimes, the only answer is to leave the relationship and move on. 

Of course, this can be easier said than done. But here are a few things that may indicate that it’s time to leave:

  • Your partner attempts to ‘gaslight’ you.
  • Everything is your fault and never the fault of your partner.
  • Being emotionally and verbally abusive (including threats and insults).
  • Your partner is attempting to isolate you. 
  • You notice that your mental health is becoming a cause for concern.

We’re here to help

This blog is by no means a complete list of narcissistic behavioural traits, or of the reasons why you might want to consider ending your narcissistic relationship. However, if your partner is displaying narcissistic behaviour, and you’re unsure of what move to make next, then Harrogate Family Law is here to help. We can give you some expert advice and guidance about how best to move forward, so please don’t hesitate to give us a call today.