Q&A Tuesday

Dear Kim – Should I Tell the Narcissist They Are a Narcissist?

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Dear Kim,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half.  At first, he was really nice and caring, but now he is verbally abusive, jealous, and controlling.  From what I’ve read on different sites, including yours, he has most of the traits of a Narcissist.  Would it help if I talk to him about his behaviors and try to get him to a counselor?



Dear Crystal,

Thank you for reading my blog and for reaching out.  This is a common question on my site.  I wish I had an answer that would provide you with relief, but typically the answer to whether you should get this guy into counseling would be “No”.

I fully understand why people such as yourself would want to confront their partner in an effort to improve the relationship, but the reality is we are projecting our willingness to compromise and our intellectual maturity onto the Narcissist when we believe that suggesting therapy to them would help.

A Narcissist may not agree to counseling because to do so would imply that they need help. There are three general scenarios that would play out.  The first reaction would be rage, where he would belittle you in an effort to make sure you don’t make that suggestion again.  By the time his tirade ended, you would need to make your own appointment with a therapist just to recover from what he said to you.

The second scenario would include his pretending it’s a good idea, going with you to the counselor’s office, and then proceeding to make you look like the one who is mentally unstable.   How this happens is…the Narcissist goes in with his full mask on and succeeds in fooling the therapist with his fabricated maturity and calm.  This may produce in you a state of high anxiety, frustration, and defensiveness because the Narcissist will accuse you of everything under the sun while sitting in smug self-righteousness and you’re sitting there knowing he’s acting, but you can’t make the therapist see it.

The third scenario includes the Narcissist going in, trying to get the therapist on his side, and then losing all interest when the therapist tries to hold him accountable for his actions.

As you can see, none of the three endings are productive in the least, and each would leave you feeling more frustrated, which would be highly gratifying to the Narcissist.  It would also give him more ammunition because he would take something the therapist said, twist it and season it with far-fetched accusations… in an attempt to have you believe the therapist thought you were a loon.

I’ve worked with many clients who’ve wasted years of their lives (and thousands of dollars), going to couple’s therapy with their narcissistic partner, and I’ve yet to hear of a successful outcome.

Your failed relationship has nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own shortcomings and insecurities. If you’re really adamant about giving it a try, approach the topic in a non-threatening, non-condescending way.  If he rages off the bat…you likely have yourself a Narcissist.

Do you have a burning question about your partner’s dubious behaviors?  Submit them to [email protected] and your question will be entered into our database and possibly included in a future publication. 

© Kim Saeed  2016

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Are Narcissists Aware of Their Disorder? - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says May 9, 2019

[…] don’t make the mistake of believing that sharing your findings that they could be a narcissist will help.  It won’t.  This will only instill righteous indignation in them because they are unique […]

Bryan says January 23, 2018

Thanks Kim. I have read your posts for months now. This is my 1st post. You are a life saver.

My only thought is while you are 99% doomed from the start when trying to get counseling with a Narc, there is one good outcome. When you get into the “would of, could of, should of” phase of your recovery, you won’t look back and wonder if maybe, just maybe your Narc might have been in the 1% that might actually have hope!

Thanks again to Kim as well as all of the others that post their stories. While it is sad to see that you are suffering, there is great comfort in knowing we are not alone and are the crazy ones!

    Kim Saeed says January 27, 2018

    Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting 🙂

    Well, I suppose many of us have to learn the hard way that counseling with a narcissist doesn’t achieve much (I sure did). Though, I have yet to see that 1% you refer to. There are many bloggers, even experts, who say it’s possible for narcissists to change, but I haven’t seen it happen, nor have my many colleagues in the psychological community…and I’ve put in many hours of research and have worked with hundreds upon hundreds of coaching clients at this point.

    It’s kind of like the legends of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. People say they exist, but no one’s ever really seen them 🙂

    At any rate, I wish you all the very best in your recovery!

    Kim XoXo

Are Narcissists Aware of Their Disorder? - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says April 10, 2017

[…] don’t make the mistake of believing that sharing your findings that they could be a narcissist will help.  It […]

Narcwife says May 2, 2015

Reblogged this on tamdef.

Sharon says April 1, 2015

Agree 100%. I did call my ex out on being a Narcissist / Sociopath and he has made my life a living hell ever since. We have a child together but regardless of this, I have been 100% No Contact since August 2014. He only sees our daughter 4 days a month so there is no need for excessive communication. Last month, in February, we ‘tried’ mediation – it was a nightmare! He spent 30 minutes calling me every name under the sun and accusing me of everything that he had done whilst I spent this time trying to defend myself (Stupid I know). After 6 months of healing and NC, he set me right back again. He has stalked me, both physical and cyber stalking, run smear campaigns that made my head spin, threatened my family members, and now uses our daughter to try and gain control back – it never ends. I will never fall for that trap again. If you can, leave quietly and anonymously and run, far away and DONT EVER look back!

Aeve Pomeroy says March 31, 2015

Thanks for this Kim you’ve explained it well. I went to one session and it was enough to tell me how futile it would be. He jumped in and complained about me and I wasn’t given a chance to say my part. I was sick for hours after with no one to debrief with. I can see that either I would have likely been withholding things to keep the peace with him, plus I was told by him there were things I couldn’t talk about such as past aggression that might get him into trouble. We broke up soon after and that was a year ago which I’m celebrating now.

Deb says January 31, 2015

Dear Kim! Your words resound with my life! They affect me profoundly as my husband of nearly 40 years was a malignant narcissist ! He died 6 months ago : still f ….. Ing me till the day he died! Leaving debts : making my adult children executors of HIS will! I was a non entity! His sbuses of me was extreme ! He wanted me to die : yet he died of brain cancer and I am struggling to accept my lie of a life ! I loved unconditionally and he hated me : I disgusted him : I was the worst mother : just ask my son( who was good lies about me at 8 that I worked only to get away from himan daw technology to divorce my family( whom I adored) ! He kicked me out if my homes ; took home way from me ! I lived I a hotel for 6 months : he re- enacted my childhood sexual abuse: he killed 2 dogs and gave away my dog I rescued without my knowledge! He told everybody that I was a either a prostiutr or a whore and I was a nutter and abusive. None
Of which was true! Indeed it was a projection of everything he was ! What I was wondering is if you do counselling as I’m not doing well! Indeed it’s getting worse as I have complicated grief and loss and complicated ptsd ! Regards !

    Deb says January 31, 2015

    Errors! His abuses of me: who was told lies and bought them : hook : line and sinker: only to get away from him and I wanted to divorce my family whom I adored! Took 3 homes away from me due to force and screaming and this I dissociated : which he told me several months before he died , that he did this for at least 25 years, to get his way. Prostitute

Leina says January 10, 2015

Dr Kim…after five years of being in a roller coaster with my narcissist i started to love out of my tummy by your third paragraph. Nobody have ever describe my situation so much correctly…i am stunt. Nobody understand it..first time anybody explain it the correct way to me. The couple therapy…the rage after telling him he is is Narcissist and it was hilarious watching him seducing the therapist…and yes it freaked me out and i played into his arms by crying and screaming at her for not seeing it…and she just stayed calm….after all the flying monkeys and projection and all the the other tricks he realize that i figured him out and he is giving me and his child silent treatment…my little girl is now freaking out cause daddy is ignoring her. Losing friends and jobs is nothing new…he succesfully broke me down in not believing in anything like a normal life and world anymore. My question is …where do you go ..where do you run and start over again???

    Kim Saeed says January 10, 2015

    Leina, thank you for reading my blog and for reaching out.

    I don’t know what your situation is, but if you’ve been subjected to long-term mistreatment with no signs of change, I typically recommend finding a way to leave.

    Even if you’re not in a position to leave today, start making plans. There really is no way to begin healing while still with an emotional abuser. You could try, but those efforts would be counter-acted by the narcissist’s mistreatment of you. I’ve honestly never heard of one case where a person stayed and was able to heal, and there’s a reason for that.

    In fact, staying would not only lead to further detriment to your own well-being, but that of your little girl, as well. I do truly hope you can find a way to leave. Do you have any family members who might let you stay with them until you get on your feet?

    Anonymous says January 27, 2015

    I have lived with a narcissist for fifty years. Thirty of those years I didn’t have a name for his behavior. After four therapists over the years I finally educated myself on his mental disease. Believe it or not, his family and my children think he is wonderful. But he is a textbook case. It’s like they wrote the book about him. I have to stay with him as I have medical issues and I can’t live alone. He is so pathetic and I have absolutely no feelings for him. He is incapable of loving me because he can’t control me. I feel very alone.

Smokey Combs says January 3, 2015

My Narcissist is my son. He charms everyone he meets with his fine manners and sense of humor, but before long he forces his opinion on them, tries to turn one person against the other, puts everyone down and embarrasses everybody, not realizing how bad it makes him look. I was his primary target. I knew he was toxic, but had no name for it. I was already in therapy for my own PTSD and other problems which made me ripe for his attacks. With professional back-up I was able to ascertain my only problem was my reaction to my son. Then I realized he had been treating everyone badly, even his ill father until his father died, and his sister and brother. He blamed each of us for the real or imagined faults of one another. He moved away after disowning me. He is somewhere out of state now, and while it is not my job to fix him, I am still his mother and wish more for him than the isolation he finds for himself when he has no one to belittle or attack. He is 42 years old, never married, never in a close relationship. Is there any way out for him?

    Kim Saeed says January 4, 2015

    Hi Smokey Combs,

    Thank you for reading my blog and for reaching out.

    I have learned along the way that as much as we may wish and want, we can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. We just have to stand aside and let them have their own experiences and journey. If they ever want to change for themselves, then it must come from within them. I truly wish I had a better answer (.づ◡﹏◡)づ.

mike says January 1, 2015

I fully agree with you Kim and the other comments above. I couldn’t get my ex to a joint counselor for years…so I went alone (it was “my problem” after all.) I learned some communication tips, but even those didn’t work. I lived confused and felt at fault for everything for another 6 years. Finally, in the last months of our marriage, she agreed to see a counselor together. We took tests and answered questionnaires. I took several notes and I broke down during a few sessions watching my marriage turn to rubble and fall into a sea of lies. She sat, arms crossed, barely listening…looking at me like I needed to “get fixed.” The advice the therapist gave me…”it’s unattractive for a woman to see a man’s emotions like this.” Hogwash!…I rarely show a tear for no reason, but I watched my everything turn into nothing and I never understood what happened. Skip the therapy and RUN!

Christina says March 12, 2014

I went to counselling with my ex-Narcissist (before I knew). He used this experience to manipulate me more. He started to intentionally make me upset (getting caught lying, cheating, breaking promises) and then use therapist techniques to talk to me, get inside my head and destroy me. Ultimately, going to therapy with a Narcissist is a waste of time and can make things ten times worse.

    Kim Saeed says March 16, 2014

    I agree, Christina. Since they know nothing of honesty, fairness, or sincerity, it’s literally like setting a booby trap for yourself. Besides, by the time someone gets a Narcissist in front of a therapist, the relationship is already toxic times ten. My suggestion to anyone would be to forego the “counseling” and just develop an exit plan…

      mike says January 1, 2015

      I fully agree with you Kim and the other comments above. I couldn’t get my ex to a joint counselor for years…so I went alone (it was “my problem” after all.) I learned some communication tips, but even those didn’t work. I lived confused and felt at fault for everything for another 6 years. Finally, in the last months of our marriage, she agreed to see a counselor together. We took tests and answered questionnaires. I took several notes and I broke down during a few sessions watching my marriage turn to rubble and fall into a sea of lies. She sat, arms crossed, barely listening…looking at me like I needed to “get fixed.” The advice the therapist gave me…”it’s unattractive for a woman to see a man’s emotions like this.” Hogwash!…I rarely show a tear for no reason, but I watched my everything turn into nothing and I never understood what happened. Skip the therapy and RUN!

Susan Lattwein says February 15, 2014

Hi Kim, I agree with your response and am interested to see other comments concur. It is a futile exercise, I think, and only fraught with more angst and mind games for the victim.

Lee says February 10, 2014

Agreed. Narcissists live in a web of deception–including self-deception. They cannot see that they have a problem. The suggestion that they do will sound ridiculous and completely unbelievable to them.

They also project all of their own motives and methods onto others. Not having any care for others’ lives or feelings themselves, they don’t believe anyone else does, either. So they will think you are self-centered, manipulative, and just doing this “counselor thing” to try to embarrass them and get one up on them. In their mind the relationship is a power struggle–and they aim to be, and to stay, on top.

Though not impossible, it is very rare for any narcissist to pierce the fog of illusion (including self-illusion) that they surround themselves with enough to recognize their own complete self-centeredness. If they could pierce that illusion, and see and admit that they are a wreck of a human being in need of serious rehabilitation, then they might be able to begin the difficult and painful process of self-change.

But for those under their thrall, this is so unlikely to happen that it is better to simply assume that it’s never going to happen, and to take the appropriate action. Usually that action is to get away from them.

In fact, if you truly care about the narcissist, the best thing to do is to leave them. The only slim, tiny ray of hope that they will ever pierce their own self-illusions is that their life will become an obvious, visible wreck. From the wreckage of their life they may finally see some glimmer of truth about themselves. That’s still very unlikely to happen. From the wreckage of their life, they are much more likely to blame everyone else.

However, as long as you are with them, it will never happen, because with you to control, life is “good” for them.

Get away. It’s the best thing for them, and more importantly, for yourself and those you love.

    Bette says March 19, 2015

    I agree with this based on my experiences! I’d like to add that I also distanced myself from ‘godly’, well-meaning women whom I had sought counsel through prior to researching on my own, because they encouraged me to stay in the marriage, submit myself to my husband and be obedient to god (small ‘g’ on purpose), and trust god to change his heart….also, to not be secretive or sin by lying even if it meant protecting myself or my children. I tried that way and after awhile considered god to be a narcissist to expect me to wait it out with the devil’s accomplice. But I came to realize I believe in a different God than they do…not one of submission to abuse but One of love. Not one who delights in me being a martyr for – what – a false marriage agreement? Please don’t stay in an abusive relationship because religious people are advising you to. It would be a sin and a shame to stay, in my opinion.

      Dovesetfree says June 2, 2017

      Amen. I have struggled with the same problem on church. People mean well but really don’t understand and need educating. I hope one day I will be able to support other Christian ladies with sound advice to get out and stay out.

    Anonymous says October 7, 2015

    Great advice. I did just that-got away after 31 year marriage. That was 3 years ago. I have never looked back and learn something new each day. Still amazes me I have a BSN and could never recognize what this man was doing to me, his children and everyone around him. No contact is the best method. Just sorry for our children. They are wonderful kids and both well educated, not narcs, but will have life time problems they’re both dealing with by having a narc as their father, possibly paternal grandfather and great grandfather who was institutionalized for ‘mental problems’ 50 years ago-etiology unclear as to nature of illness. All of the articles posted on narcissist personality disorder has helped my healing process and to understand I am not alone. Thanks to everyone.

Wendy Powell says February 10, 2014

I completely agree with everything that Kim says above. The only other bit is that most of the narcissists I have known are genius at meeting their own needs. You may be unhappy, but is he? If he is not unhappy, he has no motivation to change. He does not care if you are happy or not.

Bonnie says February 8, 2014

I agree 100 per Cent. . It is an exercise in futility trying to confront a true Narcissist. They live in an alternative universe.

Sofia Leo says February 7, 2014

I’m with you, Kim – there is no cure but time and distance away from the N. My ex claimed he was in therapy after I left. Even told me his therapist diagnosed him with PTSD and depression. Of course, there was no proof that he was actually going to therapy and I didn’t fall for that ploy. Narc free for over a year now and I couldn’t be happier.

    Kim Saeed says February 21, 2014

    Thank you for sharing that! My Ex once claimed he was in therapy for his anger management issues. I later discovered he was pretending to be “depressed” in an effort to quit his job and claim disability. Nothing is EVER as it seems with these people.

    I’m so happy you’ve been Narc free for over a year! Kudos to you 🙂

    Siobhan B says October 30, 2014

    I’ve recently joined and upon reading this, truly wish that I’d read so many spot on descriptions months ago. I’m 2 mos Narc free and am seeing so much in hindsight. My ex was convinced to go with me to one therapy session, thereby the hour long session was describing all of my faults and what I “should be”. My counselor was immediately drawn in and seemingly in awe of my ex’s brilliant mind ! The return trip to said counselor, surprisingly, did not include my ex and I was still coming to terms with all that I was not living up to. My ex told me that I should still go because I wasn’t “fixed yet”. To that, my counselor’s only response was that was a little lop-sided.

    2 months later I found the courage, along with 4 big guy friends, to show up without notice and move out.

    My ex? I’ve heard he’s telling friends that I had trust issues and he tried to help with our MANY counseling sessions together. What a martyr! Poor guy!

    No, there is just no getting through and hoping they get it one day. Maybe he’ll get “fixed”, but I doubt it! LOL

      Sofia Leo says October 30, 2014

      Why should HE get “fixed?” He’s perfect, after all… :-/

      Going to therapy of any kind with these monsters is always a recipe for disaster. They gain more ways to push you down and therapists seem to love them. It will always be turned back on you and the only thing that changes is that now the Ns have bigger, more impressive words and phrases they will toss around to you and anyone else who will listen describing all the ways THEY are being repressed.

      You’re lucky to be shot of him. Don’t look back 🙂

bethbyrnes says February 7, 2014

I completely agree with you, Kim. Narcissism is akin to sociopathy. Confronting the narcissist is likely to be met with derision and then later, potentially violence. Removing oneself from involvement and then healing is the prudent course.

    Kim Saeed says February 7, 2014

    Thank you, Beth. That is certainly the best course of action, as anyone who’s been through it would agree with.

    Great to hear from you, as usual 🙂

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