Can a narcissist change for love

Can a Narcissist Change for Love?

In This Article

If you are dating a narcissist, you already know how difficult it can be to connect on a personal level. You may feel like you’re doing all the giving and your partner is doing all the taking.

There is nothing healthy about a narcissistic relationship. They are toxic and can leave you with low self-esteem and poor mental health.

Even if you know you are in a bad relationship, your heart can’t let go. You find yourself asking, can a narcissist change for love? Can a narcissist change with therapy?

Is there any way to learn how to help a narcissist change?

Keep reading as we delve deeper into the psychology behind narcissistic behavior and learn if and how a narcissist can turn their toxic behavior around.

What is a narcissist?

A narcissist is someone who only loves themselves. They put their own interests first and often gaslight their partners.

Anyone can have a narcissistic personality disorder, though males are more likely to be affected than females.

Selfish, narcissistic issues can affect every avenue of someone’s life, including their job, school, finances, and romantic relationships.

Are all narcissists the same?

Are all narcissists the same? 

Not necessarily. Narcissism can occur in anyone to varying degrees. 

Many people have characteristics of narcissism that will not qualify for clinical diagnosis.

As a rule of thumb, when narcissistic behavior begins to affect someone’s life negatively, it may be a sign of true narcissistic personality disorder – a diagnosable mental illness.

To figure out whether your spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder or simply suffer from the occasional bout of “me first,” study the symptoms of severe narcissists:

  • Enlarged sense of importance
  • Acts like they are in love with themselves
  • A constant need for praise or attention
  • Entitlement
  • Cocky
  • Exploits/gaslights partner without guilt
  • Bullies and belittles others

There are all signs of narcissistic personality disorder. Because all people are different, your spouse may exhibit more or less of these signs.

Examining the in-depth list (found below) of signs of narcissistic personality disorder will help you decipher whether your spouse genuinely has the mental disorder.

Also Try:  Is My Partner A Narcissist Quiz?

10 Signs of narcissism

Can a narcissist change is a question that can be addressed later. First, you need to find out if you are dating one!

So, are you confused about whether or not you are dating a narcissist?

Here are ten signs of narcissism to watch out for.

1. The beginning of your relationship was a fairy-tale

A narcissist knows how to turn on the charm when they need to. When you first met, you likely thought your partner was attentive and wonderful. 

They complimented you, insisted on your compatibility, and made you feel special. This is often referred to as “love bombing.”

This feels great at the beginning of your relationship, but the moment you have your first argument, your partner’s narcissistic personality begins to shine. Suddenly, nothing you do will ever be good enough for your spouse.

2. Narcissist nitpicks

At the beginning of your relationship, you probably took your spouse nitpicks as playful, maybe even flirtatious teasing.

But as the relationship goes on, gentle teasing may turn into cruel comments. There are no boundaries for what a narcissist will say to hurt you.

3. They’re always talking about themselves

A healthy conversation involves a back and forth between partners.

Your partner should talk TO you, not AT you.

Opposite of this, a narcissist doesn’t care about the details of your day. They are only interested in talking about themselves.

Narcissists will take any opportunity to brag about themselves.

4. Gaslighting has become commonplace

To gaslight means to manipulate someone psychologically, to the point that many victims begin to question their own sanity.

Narcissists will gaslight their partner to get their way.

Signs of gaslighting are:

  • You are anxious around your partner
  • You are always apologizing
  • You no longer feel like yourself
  • You are always making excuses for your partner
  • You always believe that when something goes wrong, it is your fault

Narcissists will gaslight a partner to get their way or to assert their dominance in the relationship.

5. They don’t have a lot of friends

Because a narcissist lacks feelings for others, you may notice that your spouse or partner does not have many friends – or may not have many long-term friends.

6. You break up, and they revert to being wonderful

Breaking up with a narcissist will shatter their ego. After all – they’re perfect! How could you possibly want out of a relationship with someone so wonderful?

A narcissist will go into a downward spiral when you break up with them and may revert to that charming, attentive, love-bomber you met so long ago.

7. They love compliments

We all love to be complimented every once in a while, especially by our partners, but narcissists feed off of compliments.

While a narcissist may come off as arrogant, the reality is that narcissists usually have low self-esteem and love attention and compliments.

8. They never apologize

A narcissist will not consider your feelings and therefore will never believe that they are responsible for any argument or issue you are having.

They will not acknowledge, compromise, and will not apologize for their wrongdoings. Watch out for these signs before you ruminate over the thought, can a narcissist change.

9. Narcissists lack empathy

Because narcissists’ sole focus is themselves, they lack the ability to connect to and feel for other people.

If your partner lacks empathy and doesn’t seem to care about your feelings, odds are they are a selfish narcissist.

10. They won’t commit

Commonly, narcissists do not like defining their relationships. This is often because they enjoy having many parents – more people to lavish attention on them.

If your partner does commit to a relationship, you may still find them displaying disrespectful behavior such as flirting with other people or carrying on secret relationships.

Is it possible for a narcissist to change their ways?

Having read the typical signs of being in a narcissistic relationship, we can now come back to our lingering question- do narcissists ever change? Can a narcissist change for love? 

Yes and yes  – but it’s going to take a whole lot of work.

One of the barriers to changing a narcissist is that a narcissist, by nature, thinks that they are amazing. They may not see the need for change.

Psychologist Erica Hepper believes that narcissists can experience empathy and be moved to change their ways under ideal conditions.

Empathy may not be their first response, but showing your partner what life is like in your shoes may be exactly what they need to change their ways.

If your partner truly loves you, they may be moved to take action against their toxic behavior.

Even so, change and lasting change are two different things.

What makes a narcissist change? For lasting change to occur, a narcissist must feel or do the following:

If your spouse is afraid that you may break up with them if they do not change their selfish ways, this could be the motivation they need to turn things around.

Research shows that narcissistic personality disorder has been positively impacted by psychotherapy. Only by getting to the bottom of what is driving their narcissistic behavior can they begin to address and correct problem areas.

 A narcissist will not respond well to a judgemental, bossy therapist. Like any other form of therapy, the patient must find someone they connect with and respect to make progress.

Related Reading: Struggles and Dramas of Borderline Narcissistic Couples

How to know if a narcissist partner is ready to change

Studies suggest that the older someone gets, the less glaring their narcissistic behavior becomes.

But can a narcissist change for love, and how can you tell if a narcissist partner is ready for that change?

The answer is hard to know, especially if you have been encouraging your spouse to get help for some time. It may be difficult to know whether they are interested in genuine change or whether they are just saying so to placate you.

What makes a narcissist change? 

It depends entirely on their willingness to change. If they are motivated enough and truly love you, they are more likely to make genuine efforts to change their destructive behavioral patterns.

Does your partner wonder why they behave the way they do? Have they expressed interest in knowing why they are seemingly so different from friends and loved ones? 

If so, it may be a sign that they are interested in changing their ways.

It may help if they get a diagnosis – but not of narcissistic personality disorder. It is common for narcissists to suffer from other disorders such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.  

If they are diagnosed with another issue, it may encourage them to seek therapy, which will ultimately end up touching on their personality disorder.

It’s difficult to know if your partner is honest about their desire to change but try and encourage healthy communication about the matter. You know your partner better than anyone, so use your gut instinct.

Risk of changing a narcissist partner

Are there risks associated with starting the journey to change a narcissistic partner? 

Of course. There are always risks when trying to change someone’s personality.

Can a narcissist change? 

Yes, and here are some things you may experience when your partner begins their path to change.


    Being let down 

It can be devastating if your partner makes progress but continues to have slip-ups. It is especially heartbreaking if your partner makes no change at all and gives up on therapy. This can leave you feeling hopeless and trapped in your relationship.

Your partner is taking well to narcissist therapy and is implementing great changes. That’s good news, right? 

Of course, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult sometimes. Your partner’s personality may change quite a bit, and although these are good changes, you may not recognize the person you fell in love with.

If your partner continues on their journey of growth and self-discovery, they may want to focus on themselves and decide to end your relationship. 

On the other hand, if your partner does not change, you may need to end the relationship.

What narcissist therapy looks like?

Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, is the most popular treatment for overcoming narcissism.

Can a narcissist change with therapy? 

Yes, if they are committed to the therapy. During narcissist therapy, your partner will learn how to relate to others and build empathy.

Your spouse will also learn more about themselves. They will get to the root of their untrusting, egotistical behavior.

If your partner commits to talk therapy, you should begin to see their changes ripple throughout your relationship. 

They may be more engaging and communicative about your thoughts and feelings. They may start to understand you on a deeper level and overall be a happier person to be around.

There are currently no medications to help in overcoming narcissism. There are antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs that may be used to treat other issues commonly associated with narcissistic personality disorder.

As for the partner, learning how to help a narcissist heal will involve your patience, love, and support.

Related Reading: How Do Narcissistic Parents Affect Children 

How to support a narcissist partner during treatment?

We have been mulling over the question, can a narcissist change. But, change doesn’t happen in a day. It is going to take time for your partner to commit to narcissist therapy.

Genuine change takes time, and waiting for your spouse to be the man or woman of your dreams can be a frustrating and agonizing process – especially if they are still displaying unhealthy behaviors toward you.

For this reason, patience is going to be your best friend when it comes to learning how to help a narcissist heal.

Learning how to confront a narcissist is another important part of the healing process. You must learn how to hold a narcissist accountable for their bad behavior. 

It is essential to set boundaries and guidelines in your relationship to ensure your partner is not mistreating you.


Narcissistic behavior does not always mean your spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder.

A narcissist is defined as someone who thinks mainly of themselves and uses toxic behavior such as gaslighting to get their way.

Being with a narcissistic partner may feel similar to being in an abusive relationship. All narcissists are not created equal. Their symptoms vary.

Signs of narcissism include a constant need for attention, apparent egotism, lack of interest or empathy for others, and an inability to apologize.

What makes a narcissist change? 

Only a true desire to change will encourage your partner to commit to therapy and the process.

Narcissist therapy can be beneficial for those who want to banish narcissistic personality disorder.

Changing narcissistic behavior can’t be forced. People change only when they want to. Their heart must be committed to the process. Otherwise, their changes may only be temporary.

Do narcissists ever change? Can a narcissist change for love? 

They can, but that doesn’t always mean they will. If your partner is making positive changes to learn how to stop being a narcissist, you will be able to see your relationship improve. 

If your partner is not making changes even after going to therapy, it may be time to end your relationship.

Also Watch:

Can a Narcissist Change? Here's What Experts Say

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Narcissists believe that they are living their best life—so would they ever agree to change their destructive behaviors? Here's what experts say.

Can a narcissist change?

The most prominent quality of someone with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic tendencies is that they are very single-minded, often believing that they are never in the wrong.

They are stubborn and steadfast in their views of the world, themselves, and the people around them. So how do you get someone who is controlling and thinks they are always right to change their tendencies or even want to change them in the first place? Is it even possible?

“Not all narcissists can change,” says Elinor Greenberg, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety. “They have to be very motivated and willing to self-reflect. But if they are, it is possible.” Here are the conditions they must meet and the keys to helping a narcissist you love change their behaviors and become more empathetic and caring.

The extent of their narcissism

There are different degrees of narcissism a person may possess or project, and where they land on that spectrum plays a role in the likelihood that they can change.

Note that while several people have narcissistic traits at times, very few people truly meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. For example, to meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, the traits need to have begun by early adulthood and be present in a variety of contexts (not just in one relationship or in romantic relationships in general).

“People can adopt narcissistic tendencies and behaviors when feeling physically or emotionally threatened, or if they’re in the throes of addiction or another mental health issue. In these cases, once the threat is removed or addressed, empathy and self-awareness can return,” says Mike Gallagher, licensed professional clinical counselor and clinical director at the Shoreline Recovery Center in Encinitas, California.

“With narcissistic personality disorder, though, we are dealing with a personality and not a situation or circumstance. Changing a personality, which is a construct of characteristics and qualities that develop through experience, is extremely difficult.”

Greenberg notes that some forms of therapy, such as types that focus on childhood relationships (object relations therapy), are successful with people with a narcissistic personality disorder. Some strategies can help them change their behaviors. But for those with a diagnosed personality disorder, the road to change will be longer.

(Here are some narcissist quotes that can help you deal with the narcissist in your life.)

The change has to be their idea

“One of the most frequent requests I get is a spouse who wants to get their narcissistic mate into therapy under another pretense. That doesn’t really work,” shares Greenberg. To start to evaluate their tendencies and how they act towards those around them, the narcissist needs to be the one who decides they want to make a change.

But that doesn’t mean friends and family can’t offer a little help to get them to that point. “The best strategy is not to change the person’s narcissism directly, but instead, to change the person’s desire to change,” says W. Keith Campbell, PhD, psychology professor at the University of Georgia and author of The New Science of Narcissism. “In other words, convince the narcissist to want to change, and then you can help if needed, but they must do the changing alone.”

For example, this strategy may work if the narcissist naturally has a mind for psychology. “Some narcissists will get really involved in their own therapy,” notes Greenberg, adding that if they are made an ally in their own journey to self-awareness, then they may feel a degree of power and control in the process that spurs their desire to change.

(Here’s how reframing your thoughts can change your life.)

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The motivation

The motivation itself is the most crucial step toward change—if the narcissist doesn’t have a reason to want to change, then change is unlikely to occur.

One common reason for change that Greenberg sees is that the narcissist feels like a failure or feels they are about to be exposed as one. “I’ve seen people who experience such a severe failure that they are in a self-hating depression as a result,” she says. “They know they are narcissists, but they have also reached their lowest and don’t know how to get themselves out.”

While reaching bottom can certainly be bleak, both for the person experiencing it and those around them, it may be the motivation they need to reckon with the narcissist in the mirror.

But hitting rock bottom is not the only way to motivate change. “Many people with narcissistic personality disorder will make changes to their behavior if there are perceived benefits,” says Gallagher. “Enacting change in these cases often revolves around creating habitual structures that reward the narcissist for changing.” And those structures and conditions must always center around the narcissist’s behavior and that alone.

“When I’m in therapy with a narcissist, the only things they are allowed to talk about are what they want for themselves, what they want to change,” Greenberg explains. “They can’t tell tangential stories, blame other people for things, or complain about their partner. It has to be about them.”

While this may be painful at first, it forces the narcissist to reconcile with their behaviors while also giving them a challenge that they need to meet, which will help them work toward change.

(Here are the signs of narcissistic abuse.)

Understanding what needs changing

In 2018, Campbell co-authored a study published in Personality Disorders that provided a game-changing clue into what might motivate narcissists to change. “I had thought for years (and the field had thought so as well) that narcissists, especially grandiose narcissists, didn’t want to change because they loved who they were,” he explains.

“In some ways, this is still what we observe. Grandiose narcissists have high self-esteem, are happy, and feel closer to their ideal selves than the rest of us. When it comes to their more antagonistic and callous personality traits, however, such as their manipulative nature or lack of empathy, narcissists typically see these qualities as negative and want to change them.”

This is a critical finding, especially for the people pulling for a narcissist they know to make a change, as it posits that they already know that they possess traits that are worth changing. The key, then, lies not in convincing them that they need to change but in being patient, making it clear when they are antagonistic or callous, and helping them reach a point at which they will choose to pursue change on their own.

“In this case,” adds Campbell, “we want to encourage narcissistic individuals to map out the life that they want to have and then consider how their narcissistic personality interferes with that.

The bottom line

“Changing another’s personality is a challenge,” says Campbell. “The challenge is that narcissism is a trade-off, so it isn’t as simple as getting rid of traits. People are complex.” But new research and therapists’ continuing experience reveal that if the narcissist has the motivation and the will to change, then change is possible.

Popular Videos

Can a narcissist change for love?

I will start talking about Dolokhov's prototypes one of these days. I barely make it. So for now, Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, continues to answer your questions. :) I thank Elena Gapich for the translation.

Question. Can a narcissist change for love? A man who has all the classic signs of a narcissist after being separated for several months has practically changed his behavior to the norm, well, almost. In any case, heaven and earth compared to what it was. If this is just a sleeping maneuver, then it has been going on for six months. So long perhaps? What about the meaning? I won't let myself eat again. Can a narcissist be re-educated if he wants to?

Answer: Narcissists are efficient machines aimed at obtaining a narcissistic resource. If they are required to change their behavior in order to ensure the availability and functioning of the resource, they will do it. This change in behavior is not manipulative or intentional. It happens automatically, at the level of a reflex.

This is not healing and does not last long. The narcissist will return to his previous behavior once he is satisfied that he is safe and has successfully "hooked" the newly acquired source of the resource.

The narcissist returns to his old sources of narcissistic resource when he has absolutely no new one. In this case, he is desperately trying to extract some benefit from his former and worked relationship. But he will never do this without the firm conviction that he can successfully extract at least a grain of the narcissistic resource (even when you respond with aggression to his actions, this confirms the fact of his existence and is a resource).

The resumption of a relationship with a spent resource source (known as "hanging" or "sucking") requires a second phase of idealization. Previously, the narcissist has devastated and neglected his former relationship, devalued the source of the narcissistic resource, convincing himself that it is of low quality, flawed, insufficient, defective, hostile, in other words, "this is not such a big loss."

Now he must abandon this assessment and again idealize his source of the resource, but without admitting that he was wrong. In order to maintain his grandiosity and grandeur, the narcissist invents a story in which he combines the phases of devaluation and re-idealization.


Devaluation phase: I left her because she insults me.

Re-idealization phase: Yes, she may have insulted me, but it was not done out of malice.

Devaluation phase: I am smart and cannot live with a stupid person.

Re-idealization phase: Yes, she may be naive and trusting, but that makes her original and real.

The cerebral narcissist, who is inherently asexual, may become somatic for a while and have sex with the same resource source in order to give the impression that he is active, whole and "healed", thereby suggesting that he will never again refuse to satisfying basic human needs for intimacy and love. But gradually the relationship with the narcissist fades away. It's not a sharp break. This is a hidden promotion.

They coax, they beg, they promise, they convince, and in the end they manage to repeat the impossible - to confuse you once again, although you already know that you succumb to their superficial charm.

So you're back in "relationship" and hoping for the best. But this is a walk on thin ice. You become the epitome of submission, the ideal source of narcissistic resource, the ideal partner, spouse, or colleague. You crossed your fingers so as not to jinx your happiness.

But how does the narcissist react to your return? It depends on what position you resumed the relationship from - from a position of strength or weakness. The Narcissist views all interactions with other people in terms of a struggle or competition in which he can win. He does not consider you as a partner. You are an opponent for him, who must be conquered and defeated.

Thus, if he is interested in you, then your return is his triumph, proof of his superiority over you and confirmation of his irresistibility.

If the narcissist perceives you as autonomous, independent and able to withdraw and abandon him, he plays the role of a sensual, loving, compassionate and empathic partner. He respects strength and delights in it. And as long as you maintain your "cold and determined" demeanor and keep him in limbo, he is more likely to behave correctly.

If you have renewed contact because you succumbed to his threats or are clearly financially or emotionally dependent, the narcissist will attack your weaknesses with force and use them to the maximum. After a short honeymoon, he will immediately resume control and revert to his previous abuser behavior.

In both cases, the theatrical behavior of the narcissist ends and the true nature of his feelings is revealed. The facade crumbles into small pieces, and under it the same soulless treacherous predator appears, which in fact it is. His jubilant admiration for himself, when he bends you to his desires and rules, his all-consuming sense of rightness, his sexual promiscuity, aggression, pathological envy and anger - everything returns with a vengeance.

The prognosis is much worse when you resume relationships after a long period of separation, when you have already begun to live your own interests, needs, desires and plans, have made independent purchases, and have begun to communicate with friends.

The narcissist cannot accept your autonomy. To him, you are simply a tool for satisfying desires or an extension of his false self. He is outraged by your requests for money, is insanely jealous of your friends, refuses to listen to your desires or compromise, is jealous and devalues ​​your achievements.
In the end, it seems to him that the very fact that you survived without his constant presence deprives him of a much-needed narcissistic resource. He hastily goes through cycles of idealization and devaluation. Insults you, humiliates you in public, threatens you, destabilizes you with unpredictable behavior, and uses others to intimidate and subdue you ("abuse by proxy").

So you are again faced with an inevitable choice. Walk away again, undoing all the emotional and financial investment you've already made in trying to resurrect the relationship - or continue to live with daily abuse?
All this is well known to you. You've been through this many times before. But that experience doesn't make the situation any less nightmarish...

Tags: vaknin, idealization, narcissistic resource, narcissistic personality disorder, devaluation, parallel victims, ping, sugar show

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