In a very tongue-in-cheek statement in a Quora post, someone said, “Yes, you can trust a narcissist! You can trust a narcissist to manipulate you, lie to you continuously, fake a relationship with you including a marriage, abuse you mentally and or physically, treat your children the same abusive way they treat you,” and their list goes on. I think even the most hurt victim of narcissism can churckle through this comment while relating wholeheartedly to its message. Seriously, though, can you ever trust a narcissist?
You can trust a narcissist in one vein: when he says he is going to destroy you in the final discard phase, he will do everything in his power to do that. Whether that means taking you to court, taking everything that means anything to you and throwing it away or otherwise destroying it, or destroying your reputation in the most devious, narcissistic ways, he will do it. And he will take pleasure in it! On the flip side, you cannot ever trust a narcissist to do the right thing, the honorable thing, or to grow your relationship with them in a healthy way.
In addition to my own 32+ year experience with my narcissistic ex-husband, I have read many books and studied narcissism extensively online for over 5 years now. Let me share with you what I learned regarding trusting a narcissist.
Table of Contents
The Narcissist Can Appear Trustworthy But Will Rarely Follow Through
Almost everything a narcissist bases their reputation on is their first impression. They know that their first impression is their chance to show the world they are number one. But often they will bolster that with some backup grandiose behavior to “prove” how good they are. That can include promises to do something, stories of things they have supposedly done, or even favors for people to show what a good person they are.
The more they can add to their “approval bank,” the sooner they can relax and stop having to put on the act. This first stage is known as idealization or love-bombing in more profane terms. And once the narcissist feels they have adequately made their reputation known as wonderful, they can now move on. And the bad behavior begins.
The narcissist now no longer follows through on promises. He doesn’t care about making sure his statements are true. And there is no reason to keep up appearances, especially behind closed doors.
Building a Reputation: The Goal of the Narcissist Between Stages 1 & 2 of Narcissism
The moral of this “story” is that you cannot trust anything a narcissist says and does in public settings. Those things are generally said and done to confince people of what a good person he is. He knows that most people will take those things as truth on the surface. They won’t go back to make sure those things are done in reality. And in the times that people do see that those things weren’t done as they were supposed to be, there are all kinds of excuses. This is where denial, blameshifting, and gaslighting take over. Anything for the narcissist to get out of taking the blame for their own lack.
For a time, they may have to backtrack a bit to “prove” their trustworthiness again. And as soon as they feel like they have saved face, the narcissism will start to emerge again. This cycle of trust, misbehavior, distrust, good behavior will continue for as long as the narcissist can keep on recovering and continue to get narcissistic supply from those around them.
Once that narcissistic supply is no longer available or too hard to keep getting, the narcissist will move on to greener pastures. This is a good thing for you, especially if they decide to totally leave you alone and move on. You will be free to heal! Generally speaking, though, you will not be able to make such a clean break from a narcissist.
First, the narcissist will feel the need to destroy you for making their life less than perfect. It will be all your fault. And if you share children, you will have to coparent with the narcissist.
I was fortunate that the court saw most of the issues with our family. While I do have to coparent with my ex, it is minimal. Only our youngest child has to spend time with his dad. There are no overnights at all with his dad. And no Sundays because of the religious abuse, which the court saw clearly. My son has to go to lunch or dinner with his dad once or twice a week at most. And hopefully in a couple of years, he can choose whether or not he has to go with his dad and deal with the narcissism anymore.
You Can’t Trust a Narcissist Because They Don’t Stop Lying
There is a joke that I am sure everyone has heard that you can tell a narcissist is lying by the fact that his mouth is moving. Unfortunately, this is largely true.
For years, I excused the lies as miscommunication, misunderstanding, “just joking,” or a fluke. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would lie when there was no reason to.
I missed the warning signs in my marriage. His mother and all three of his sisters had referenced him lying chronically as a child. I figured it was something he grew out of. Finally, after oveer 20 years, I couldn’t excuse it anymore. But when I called him on it, he would become irate for me even thinking he could be lying. For several more years, I just let him shut me down. Until finally, in counseling, we couldn’t sweep it under the rug anymore.
His anger at being called on his lies spiraled out of control. He stormed out of the counseling office. He told pastors that I misunderstood his lie because it was just a joke (about repairing a toilet???). When he could no longer deny the lies, each time I would show him proof that he was lying, he would tell me he was so sorry and he would need to look into why he “misremembered things so much.” As far as I know, he is still looking into it 5 years later.
Just like Aladdin’s little white lie to Jasmine that he would never be in the marketplace because his “servants have servants,” my ex’s lies had lies. They heaped on top of each other to the point there was no way he could remember them all. And yet, he still would never give in and just tell the truth.
One more notorious narcissist trick is to tell lies that have an element of truth. Then, when you call them on it, they can deny that they lied. They will just point out the nugget of truth that was in the lie. And when you call them on the dishonest parts, they will keep on reverting you back to the little piece of honesty. Until you finally give up because you can’t figure out what they are missing. They aren’t missing a thing. They are successfully shutting you down.
You Can’t Trust a Narcissist, Even When They Promise to Change
Most narcissists, if they get to the point of counseling, will claim that they will do whatever it takes to save the marriage or relationship. And they will do some things here and there. They will talk a big talk. But their actions, which may show some promise at first, will never last for very long before they fall back into their old ways.
We started couples’ counseling in January, 2016. It was actually his idea because he was convinced that he could charm the counselors into getting me to “obey” him unconditionally. His words said that we would both do what it takes. And I believed him in my naïveté.
If you have read my other articles, you know that at this point, I felt like I was buried. I thought he had such a good public reputation. And I figured he would successfully convince the counselor that I just needed to obey him more and treat him better.
But once we got to counseling, they asked both of us questions. And they held both of our feet to the fire in accountability to each other. At first, he did a great job of making it sound like he was going to work through the process. Until his actions didn’t match his words.
Because we weren’t making the progress that we should have been, the counselors (a second one was brought in to hopefully resonate better with my ex) started leaning in on him a bit more to put action to his words. And it was at this point that he was no longer willing to cooperate. If he couldn’t run the show, he wasn’t playing.
He called the counselors unbiblical and said that he could no longer continue “in good conscience and as a Christian.” When our church vetted the counselors and deemed them to be very good in their balance of psychology and Biblical knowledge, he then called the whole church denomination unbiblical. There was no arguing. He was right. And everyone else was wrong.
To top it all off, because we were all the unbiblical ones, he didn’t need to change a thing. He was the one that was fine. And off he went to start his new life where nobody would call him out. Because he was now back to stage one in the narcissistic cycle. All with his new life, new wife, new job, new church, new neighborhood. He left it all. And with that thought, we can go straight to my final point.
You Can’t Trust a Narcissist Because They Just Don’t Care
My narcissist just went and got a new life when he couldn’t heal enough to save the one he had. He is not an unusual story. This is true with the majority of narcissists. And the reason for this honestly makes me very sad.
A narcissist will leave his life behind and start a new one because he can’t face the shame that he thinks would come to light if he worked through his narcissism. While it is true that their past would come to light, it wouldn’t be the way they think it would be. People will likely not throw them to the side when they start processing the source of the narcissism. In fact, people would likely have great sympathy for the shame that was placed on them as small children and forced them to wear a mask and hide themselves for their whole life.
Unfortunately, just when the narcissist begins to come out in honesty, they tend to realize they are going down that road and very quickly shut things down. And they determine in themselves that they will not allow it. They will move on before they ever allow themselves to be vulnerable. And they will make sure you know that they don’t care.
I don’t know of any research that says they actually don’t care. It is hard to tell where the mask ends and the reality begins. The only thing we can go by to know how much the narcissist cares is their words as backed up by their behavior. Most of their words do not match their behavior, so then, we must evaluate our relationship to the narcissist based on their behavior.
When the narcissist chooses to leave his life of 35+ years and start a whole new one, it is generally believed that he did that because he didn’t care enough to save the life he had. Even if he cared a little bit, it wasn’t enough to change his behavior or admit to the narcissism and be willing to heal. Even though there were over a hundred people willing to help him get there over the space of a few years.
At the end of the day, because the narcissist has no empathy, he will never see you as something that important unless you are feeding into his narcissism. All they can see is what they want and how they are going to get it. If you are not part of that, then you will no longer be a part of their life.
As terrible as that sounds, it is a blessing in disguise, especially if you get the help you need to become emotionally healthy. You will be free of the bonds that kept you in servitude to the narcissist. And you will have the freedom to enjoy healthy relationships going forward. Living a good life is a good exchange for getting rid of being chained to a narcissist for life.
Do you think you could be married to a narcissist? Reading The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick could be life-changing for you. She will help you figure out what kind of marriage you are in. And then she will help you figure out what to do to find healing. It is all based on giving you the best information and allowing you to do what you know is best for your life. It is truly amazing.
Do you have other relationships that could be tainted by narcissism? The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick will be just as life-changing as the marriage version above. They will help you to get a healthy perspective on both your marriage and all other relationships in your life. Both of them will be invaluable to you! Check them out–you will be so glad you did!
What was your experience like? How are/were you related to the narcissist(s) in your life? How have you handled it? Are you safe and emotionally healthy now? I would love to hear about your experience. Feel free to comment below or if you need to keep your comments private, contact me here.
Blessings and hugs to you!
If you found this article valuable, I think you will also find the following articles valuable:
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