apologizing to a narcissist

Apologizing to a Narcissist

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In a normal relationship, if one has made a mistake, they feel remorse and typically follow up with an apology.  This usually leads to the other party forgiving the offender or at least acknowledging their heart-felt attempt to make amends.

Not so with a Narcissist.

When you apologize to a Narcissist, they feel like they’ve won the lottery.  You are always wrong, anyway, so for you to admit a mistake is akin to boarding a train for a one-way guilt trip.  Instead of the situation being dealt with in a mature way, there are a few possible scenarios that will ensue following an apology to a Narcissist:

 1.  Self-Righteousness:  This is the equivalent of being pointed at and ridiculed on the playground with the goal being to make you feel like the biggest idiot in town.

See how wrong you were?  Isn’t it just a load off now that you can see how right they were?  Thank goodness you’ve finally admitted to your senselessness.  Now that you know your place, the both of you can get on with life as usual.  What took you so long, anyway?  Hey, now that you’ve finally admitted to being a moron, how about celebrating…by taking them out to lunch on your dime.  After all, you’re lucky that they’ve decided to throw you a crumb of mercy and acknowledgement.

Eat out on that for a while.

Narc Check:  This contemptuous ridiculing plays on any feelings of shame you may possess deep down.  Not the “good” kind of shame that helps us strengthen our empathy and compassion, but destructive, toxic shame.  Narcissists use this second type of shaming against their victims as a means to condition them into hopeless compliance.

2.  Complete Rebuff:  You’ve been carrying around a bit of guilt about something you said or did during one of your low points (which was brought on by the Narcissist).  You relapse into thinking they have at least a fraction of human emotion and will welcome your apology.  You decide to say you’re sorry…perhaps with a cutesy text or a heartfelt email to convey your regret to them.

Their response is that your actions were the worst they’ve ever endured.  They wondered when you would finally confess to this unforgivable sin.  The devastation was so awful, they just didn’t have the power to bring it up.  They’ve tried to block it from their consciousness and now know why you’ve never had a successful relationship in your life.  Forgiveness will be difficult but, by the grace of God, they are trying.

Narc Check:  While this is one of the standard responses you can expect after apologizing to a Narcissist, it’s quite possible that whatever you’re apologizing for never even registered with them.  However, now that you’ve highlighted a perceived injury, they will use it as a way to make you feel like the worst person they’ve ever met.  Furthermore, it will become artillery for psychological torture and justification for a future injury they will inflict upon you.

3.  The Rap Sheet: You say you’re sorry about something and they not only chastise you for it, but tack on several other alleged “crimes” you’ve committed.  At the end of the conversation, you will wonder how you ever had any friends or partners in your life at all.  See how flexible they are…how they’ve overlooked your faults because they care about you?  In fact, you may as well forget about ever having another relationship because there’s no way anyone else will ever tolerate your criminal behaviors like they do.

Remember how you bought your grandmother a gift, knowing that he needed that money?  What about when you took the day off because your child was sick…didn’t you know he was waiting for your paycheck to pay his personal taxes? How dare you even think of giving two dollars to the Salvation Army bell-ringer?  When are you ever going to get with the program and stop being so selfish?  How do you live with yourself? (Read more about Narcissists and money here).

Narc Check:  This is when the Narcissist will peel a piece of truth from something innocent that you did, and season it with twisted, far-fetched accusations.  These allegations wouldn’t make sense to the average outsider, but you’ve gotten so used to these tirades that you actually start to doubt yourself for throwing that birthday party for your niece.  Maybe you should just deposit your check directly into his bank account next time.  Never mind that you will hate yourself for it.  At least there’s the chance the Narcissist might throw you another crumb.

If you still feel the need to apologize, don’t leave anything to chance.  Try to do it in front of someone and move on, showing no emotion. However, be prepared for the above scenarios.  It may even behoove you to not apologize at all because apologizing to a Narcissist never resolves anything except making them feel they have the upper hand.  Although it may appear successful at first, there will be certain fallout when you least expect it.  Journal about it, pray about it, but don’t give them the satisfaction.

**Narcissism knows no gender bias.  I use the term “he” for the sake of brevity

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david says March 28, 2022

I appreciate this writing. My ex wife left 5 years ago. I was not the perfect husband and i did some messed up stuff. As the time went by i started to suspect that she was a covert narcissist (many of the qualitys anyways) the latest this day is about never applogizing for the wrong doinings…. however i know i did and tried to change my behavior at the same time. i know she has done messed up stuff… and i no longer require a apology(s) i mean she left for another man, and i didnt get an appolgy just attacks on why she did what she did justifying her actions with what i did. anyways the point is i guess that thank you for the article because eventho i want to apologize it will be of little effect since it will never really be accepted and those offences i did will be used again futher down the line

Karen says February 11, 2022

Kim you are wonderful. Thank you after reading and educating myself for once I thought of me. Yes ME. I did not apologize because I did my own punishment and had a grandchild taken from me. Did I need the narc to tell and demand the same back said apology no. Guess what the narc went into a rage and I mean rage bad language called ffff selfish and stated no wonder my so dislikes me all holding my grandson!. I kept calm said goodbye and left. Thank you kim. I read the signs and saw the rage. The text I regret sending but was at the end of it all the ghosting to the way she was with our son a piece of nothing she left of him. I was ill on lytho pills and anxiety psychosis all made worse from a bad situation of stress. I felt that she caused it all and she did not deserve a sorry although my mental health did.

Karen says February 11, 2022

Kim you are wonderful. Thank you after reading an educating myself for once I thought of me. Yes ME. I did not apologize because I did my own punishment and had a grandchild taken from me. Did I need the narc to tell and demand the same b

Lisa says March 25, 2021

To Heather, your poem, “Enslaved” wow, you really get it. Its a beautiful poem about this terrible feeling/ situation. Thankyou, Lisa

Lisa says March 25, 2021

Ok so now that I have already apologized, which is just like you say, made him feel like he has won the lottery, now what do I do? Im so tired of the silent treatment, but I am trapped. I pray everyday and try to stay close to God, that helps give me a little strength to be a Mom to my 2 teenagers.

Steve Cantrell says December 23, 2019

I am in this situation right now. I started vaping and didn’t tell my spouse. She found out and I lied about how much I vaped. She found more evidence. So not only did I vape but I lied about how much. I have apologized but nothing works. She tells me she doesn’t know who I am. That I’ve ruined her trust and she doesn’t know if she can ever trust me again. It’s been several months and we still discuss it almost every day. She says she doesn’t know if we can work through it but also says she doesn’t want to leave. I am miserable and just want us to be able to move on.

The Shocking Truth: Staying With a Narcissist May Give You Fleas - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says July 9, 2017

[…] for me, acting in that way usually led to regret, shame and a need to apologize to my abuser.  Of course, he seized upon these incidents as justification for his own abusive behavior and/or […]

Niecy says February 21, 2017

Thanks for this. All of those things happened. I’ll give an example from the 3rd one given:
I gave one of the girls that visited my house a toy. My mother raged, and she made me go to my room without a fan (and I would usually have the fan on in my room).
When I told my relatives and dad about this, their response: she need to save money so you shouldn’t have given the girl your toys. Your mom paid for that!

john says November 5, 2015

now I’m terrified I just sent a letter to my NPD ex co worker, living in a small town makes him impossible to avoid, pray for me please

    Kim Saeed says November 5, 2015

    Praying for you, John!!

      john Hawkes says November 5, 2015

      thanks mate , he has been trying to trip mu over and over for almost 8 years now, I have to tiptoe on eggshells, if I get one syllable wrong LOOK OUT. I’m trapped in his web and I cant see a way out, he would be loving it

The Shocking Truth: Staying With a Narcissist May Give You Fleas | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says October 27, 2015

[…] for me, acting in that way usually led to regret, shame and a need to apologize to my abuser.  Of course, he seized upon these incidents as justification for his own abusive behavior and/or […]

Anne says August 19, 2015

I didn’t see here the response that now that you are finally apologizing, the NPD doesn’t believe your apology. They don’t believe you sound sincere enough: you haven’t worded it right. Your tone or body language are all wrong. You end up on your knees with tears streaming down your face, asking what they want from you as an apology. What will they accept?

    Kim Saeed says August 25, 2015

    Anne, this could be either 1 or 2, depending on the context.

    I’m not sure there’s any apology they would “accept”. Even if they give the appearance of having accepted it, they are plotting ways to make you pay into infinity.

nathaliehickson says August 12, 2015

Reblogged this on Nathaliehickson's Blog and commented:
Learning & be aware

HB says April 19, 2015

Dear Kim, you have already put one of my poems on your site, thank you very much. I don’t want to overdo it, but maybe this one will reflect the feelings of others too in the same situation. I cannot claim to have suffered as much as many of your readers and I am deeply grateful about that. Also although I am still in pain I do believe some good can come out of relationships with narcissists (particularly when they’re over!) They are certainly a learning experience. My friendship with one certainly made me reflect about myself a lot (along with losing any confidence I had in myself..) I still feel like I am unworthy and unlovable, but I believe with a strong network of friends we can fight back! I still ask myself what I did wrong. Love Heather x


You broke me once, then tortured me twice,
Crawling back, you stabbed me thrice.
A thousand times I begged and pleaded,
When you and your love were all I needed.
Twisting the knife as deep as you could,
Not wanting to leave though knowing I should.
Didn’t I apologise for the wrongs I did?
Wasn’t it enough as in despair I slid?
Swallowing me whole, consuming my existence,
Overwhelmed and meek, incapable of resistance.
My faults are too numerous, I am a naughty girl,
Bad through and through, angry comments you hurl.
What could I do to put it right?
‘Nothing’ you said; get out of my sight!
No longer trusting me, despising my name,
Turning away, leaving me to drown in shame.
Time has gone by and you won’t return,
Possession of my mind, images still burn.
I am soulless, shattered, a vacuous being,
Chained in obsession, shackles not freeing
Suffocating slowly in toxic air,
No will to fight, there’s no point is there?
Why you hated me so much, I don’t understand,
When all I wanted was to hold your heart in my hand.
Not a tear in your eye, less than a nothing,
Killing my heart and not even noticing.
Alas my friend peace be with you,
I can give no more, I am through.

Anonymous says October 22, 2014

Beautiful post. I’ve unfortunately had run-ins with multiple narcissists over the past year, owing to low self-esteem and a desire to be a people-pleaser on my part; my husband and I had just moved across the country, and as a stay-at-home mom, I was pretty desperate for friendship. Once I finally realized what I was dealing with – and that I wasn’t at fault for their behaviour and/or feelings – it became much easier for me to understand and manage.

I recently read John Cloud’s book on Boundaries, which has helped me make sense of myself. I highly, highly recommend the book – it is particularly useful for dealing with narcissists and other boundary-less people. Here’s a fun run-down of what I’ve dealt with this year, all the while struggling with depression/anxiety issues myself.

Narcissist 1: An in-law who throws tantrums every time she wasn’t getting her way. The tantrums would be followed by phone calls from her and from her family members berating us for not acting in accordance with her wishes. Each episode would end after we repeatedly apologized for hurting her.

We put up boundaries and pulled way back. She took offence and cut off contact, also requiring the rest of the family to shun us. Earlier today I sent her a very general note stating that we’re sorry if we’ve hurt or offended her. After months of having to apologize to her on a daily basis, however, this is the limit to what we’ll do. If she doesn’t accept it, she doesn’t. We respect that.

Narcissist 2: A ridiculously high-strung former co-worker who had come back into my life a few months earlier. We chatted on the phone a few times, and I repeatedly helped her with work/life issues. Assisted her with an editing project, and she misinterpreted what I was saying as being harsh. She attacked me in email, saying that I was insensitive and not a real friend…that there were so many times she had wanted to tell me the truth but hadn’t. (Huh?) It realized where there was a miscommunication and apologized wholeheartedly and genuinely…but she blocked my husband and I from Facebook and then sent me a note saying that if I wanted to be her friend, I would need to shape up. Something about me not being there for her when she moved to a town 120 miles from me a few years earlier (and when she repeatedly flaked out of every commitment she made).

Ummm, yeah. I’ve written her off entirely.

These were the two narcissists I’ve faced recently. To add to it, a difficult friend married to a narcissist cut me off after I questioned a parenting decision for my own child’s best interest – akin to my asking if they kept guns in the house – and I experienced a high-class manipulator who I’ve had to cut off.

My best suggestion is to know your enemy, and keep your boundaries up. Normally-functioning people can respect your boundaries. It’s those who have problems of their own who will never be able to accept you as a distinct person from them…and those are the people who will forever try to ruin you for it. Run fast, or let yourself be demolished.

Living Uniquely Normal says September 1, 2014

Kim, I just found your blog and I can’t tell you the joy I feel to know that I’m not crazy! My son married a woman who appears to have NPD. I could not understand how the relationship our family used to enjoy had been severed by the new in-law by such drastic measures until I stumbled on information about NPD just 3 days ago. Because we are such a tight knit family this has been very painful for everyone. But my son is clueless in how he has been manipulated. He has lost all but a few friends and is not allowed to have more than a minimal relationship with his father over the last 16 months. The most painful part since they became engaged, then married, is that they just had a baby girl last week. No one in our family is allowed to show pictures or go to see her without an invitation, we have seen her for about 15 minuets the day after she was born. The DIL was behaving so inappropriately that we left. I was crying in the hallway and refused to go back in so she would see me cry. I found out the hard way that crying seems to fuel her fire of cruelty. I’m looking forward to learning more in your blog about how to cope with her and to love our son and his daughter through this.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

Anonymous says August 28, 2014

I am trying to get away from my narcissist boyfriend. Im so drained and worn out. He always tells me to apologize for getting upset when he yells at me. He tells me that I am crazy because I don’t like that after 4 years he just shows up at my house when he feels like it and then can disappear for 2 days. Please help me. I’m sick of crying!
Jazzy K

    Kim Saeed says September 6, 2014

    Anonymous, you may want to consider not letting him into your home anymore. You need to make it a safe haven from his abuse. Also, going No Contact will help break the spell that you are under. Make this the day that you say, “No More!”

Lovedancer says July 27, 2014

This is so true…I sometimes apologized when my conscience couldn’t take holding in my genuine remorse for acting out, in response to narc-induced anxiety and frustration, in some or another way (behavior I’d never done before being involved with the narc). Invariably, as I predicted and feared, I’d end up at -1 because it just gave him more ammunition to use against me. I always predicted this outcome, too, but I nonetheless couldn’t resist the attempt at heartfelt communication/connection.

    Kim Saeed says July 28, 2014


    Been there, done that…got the t-shirt.

    It literally took me a few years to finally get over my innate need to apologize to the Ex-Narc, which was hard because my personality is “Mediator”. Had to go against my nature to survive.

    K says September 15, 2015

    Although this whole post (and the many comments) resound so achingly with me… this comment by Lovedancer rings true particularly. I’m still with the Narc husband in my life… but not for much longer as I’m carefully crafting my exit plan and have wonderful family who will support me. 🙂 K

      Anonymous says September 16, 2015

      I’m so glad you have that plan and such good support! All the best❤️

      jewel says July 11, 2018

      I, too carefully crafted my exit plan to get away from the Narc husband. I had everything in place and a protection order/divorce papers ready at the same time so he couldn’t try to persuade me to change my mind. He tried every method possible to get me to stop the decree. I had good support in place, counselor, lawyer and family. I blocked the Narc’s phone calls/texts in order to stay strong. I fell apart on the bathroom floor feeling “bad”. I felt horrible, but my kids and I could NOT take the abuse any longer. We did the right thing in our case. It was survival and I’m glad to say that my two teens are doing well…not having to live with the “Big Baby Narc” any longer. He’s still who he is, has violated the parenting orders many times…and I did not rock the boat on that because I wanted him to simply sign the divorce papers. If I had filed in contempt of court for his violations, he would not have co-operated and he would have become worse in the process. I had to “keep him happy” from a distance. I had to give him over half of the assets in order to just get him to sign papers. He signed! Now the Narc is back on my tail trying to re-open the case and take more from me. He’s still a snake, still not trust worthy. Never will change. He’s an alcoholic Big Baby who will never be happy. I don’t speak to him EVER because the little times I’ve given him just the facts through texting…he turns them into different issues. He hates me but tells everyone he still loves me. He was a horrible spouse to live with, yet the community sees him as a “perfect angel”. My advice, is know who your Narc is, prepare for the worst and make sure you know all of your exit strategies and never let the Narc know what you’re up to. They do not forgive or change. Everyone thought my perfect angel had changed, given up drinking etc after the divorce papers were served. But I knew I was dealing with a person who would not forgive me for having pets. Why would he forgive me for serving him papers! (don’t do a separation, it only drags things out). A true Narc will never forgive or forget, so the threat of a divorce is only something they will use against you. I was married to this person for 29 years. I knew that he would not change for long and then once the scare wore off, he would use every thing against me. I would not even be able to grocery shop without him threatening me. He had been like that before the divorce papers. He was/is much worse now. Even the legal system is having a challenge with him. Get everything in writing. Give in where you can, but stand strong on what you need. Get a good lawyer that knows how to deal with Narcs.
      Prayers for the best…be free!!

lisa thomson-The Great Escape... says July 19, 2014

Great post, Kim. I recognize the #1 scenario. You can apologize and they never will. They make you crazy then they wonder why you don’t want to ever talk to them. In the end they’re always the victim, so “I’m sorry” is definitely not in their vocabulary.

    Karen says February 11, 2022

    They can apologize but will expect you to do the same. If you do not they can go into a rage.

Persia Karema says July 17, 2014

Reblogged this on Blog Of A Mad Black Woman and commented:
“When you apologize to a Narcissist, they feel like they have struck gold” ~ Kim Saeed

beautifullybrokendisiaster says July 17, 2014

Reblogged this on beautifullybrokendisaster and commented:
This is brilliant, and sadly I believe describing more of my life than I care to admit

    Kim Saeed says July 17, 2014

    Thank you for the re-blog <3

Anonymous says July 16, 2014

I dealt with all 3 scenarios recently when my ex forced me to apologize to his mother & sister for all of the wrongs I committed against them in the 2 months following the birth of our child. I thought I was trying to keep the peace in the family so we could move on, but everything escalated from there. What followed has been months of abuse from all 3 of them, apparently I am everything that was ever wrong with the family (I’ve only been around for 2 years) and my life has been turned completely upside down. My ex and I have been tangled up in court & financially crippled for months…our son isn’t even a year old yet. I feel like my life has been ruined.

    Kim Saeed says July 22, 2014

    Wow, Anon. Your story sounds very similar to mine. Funny, isn’t it, how we are responsible for the misery they were in before we even came onto the scene?

    I know it seems your life is in ruins, but this will pass. Try to check out the healing tools I have here on the site and get yourself into a different place mentally.

silkred says July 16, 2014

I made this mistake too – when talking with a friend about the affect a joke I made had had on the narcissist a friend thought that even if I did not think I was wrong sometimes an apology was a good way to clear the air…

I made this apology – the narcissist replied with acceptance but only if I complied with a list of things I had to do. I remember thinking what a self richious idiot but at the same time in the spirit of moving forward I did those things…

Later the wording – the self depreciating comments I made in that apology were used by the narcissist in public to suggest that I deserved the abuse I was then upset about…

specifically one of the sidekicks of the narcissist had written to people I was going on holiday with to take part in a course they were running telling them I was not fit to take part – when I found this out the narcissist used my apology as ‘evidence’ that I deserved this attempt at screwing up my summer as in the past I had had to apologise to others about my behaviour…

This narcissist is a covert malignant manipulator – the sidekicks latterly were the ones who would express the abuse – but he was always at the center of it…

I have made a no contact break from them all… can stand the thought to share space with any of them – and enter counselling very soon to try to deal with the anger an upset to have had someone affect the arrangement of my life in such a way…

I look to his actions however as an expression of his own fear – he was utterly unable to have someone among the group who had opinions counter to his and who did not adulate him as the others all do now… it is his own fear that is at the root of all this…

Gabrielle says July 16, 2014

You understand the mind of a narcissist so well! God! for years I actually fed into the whole dynamic..they size us up for easy prey!

Sofia Leo says July 15, 2014

Oh, this is all so true! Experienced each and every one (and many more) with the ex. So happy that’s over!

    Kim Saeed says July 15, 2014

    Me too, Sofia!

Stephen Bach says July 15, 2014

Hi Kim,

If I may, I’d like to add another slant to the topic of apologizing to a narcissist:

Apologizing to a narcissist can also provide justification for their behavior, and allows them to blame you for their transgressions. i.e. “If you weren’t off wasting time at that baby shower for your sister, I wouldn’t have been sleeping with the next door neighbor.” Once you have apologized, you have opened the projection door wide open and all the narcissist’s horrible behaviors can and will be projected onto you and made your fault.

I do disagree with the statement that you should never apologize to a narcissist. I feel that withholding an apology to a narcissist for fear of their reaction is censoring what is truly healthy behavior in order to accommodate the narcissist’s feelings and reactions. It’s walking on eggshells. Apologize when necessary, and if that apology isn’t accepted respectfully, walk away.

Stephen Bach

    Kim Saeed says July 15, 2014

    Excellent input, Stephen. Thank you for that.

    Regarding the apology, I completely understand where you are coming from. Although, I can say from personal experience that in almost nine years, not one apology I offered was ever accepted civilly. In fact, they only resulted in scathing verbal assaults, which is also often the case for many of the people I interact with. Over time, it can lead to critically low self-esteem and lessened ability to perceive things in a healthy way.

      Stephen Bach says July 16, 2014

      I totally hear where you are coming from, Kim, and I’m sorry that you had to endure nine years of scathing verbal assaults. I have been there, and it is a horrible way to live.

      Isn’t it unfortunate that living with a narcissist essentially forces one into codependent patterns in order to have a chance at survival? It’s not possible to interact in a healthy way with someone who has no interest in interacting in a healthy manner, so one is forced to adopt an unhealthy pattern in order to sustain the relationship or leave the relationship.

Carrie Reimer says July 15, 2014

Kim, I had to laugh at this post because I have been there! OMG! the memories! so glad to be away from that. It’s been over 3 years now and the memories fade thank the good Lord! and now I can look back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. I actually did give him my whole paycheck and it still wasn’t enough, then he had to “lend” me money because I was always broke.
I remember one time asking him why he would never apologize and he said because he would never hear the end of it if he did. I didn’t realize at the time that he was a narcissist and they project onto others what they themselves do. The thing with Narcissists is; if they apologize it is supposed to be a “get out of jail free” card, they are to be forgiven immediately and the offending behaviour never mentioned again. Leaving them free to do it again and again and because the previous times have been erased from history and can not be brought up again.
Most people when they apologize do so with every intention of never doing it again. But when you apologize to a narcissist for anything it is never forgotten and in fact it is embellished upon and proof that you are of such poor character that if you could do “that” you are capable of these other things whether you did them or not.

Auren says July 15, 2014

My ex-N was a covert narcissist. When after the break-up I apologized for how selfish I had been, how much I must have hurt her for f.ex. wanting to wait a certain time before moving in together, until we both knew each other better, and some other equally self-serving crimes that went against her will and needs, she texted she was crying. I answered don’t cry, I realize it now and it’s not your fault. She answered, I’m crying of joy! Sometimes, and so many times, they reveal their true selves, that it comes a time where they leave you no choice but to open your eyes 🙂
Thank you Kim, I have been following your website for quite a long time and your insight, humor and other resources have been invaluable to me. My gratitude and love to you.

    Kim Saeed says July 16, 2014

    Thank you, Auren, for sharing that and for letting me know my site has been helpful to you. Gratitude and love to you, too <3

theinfiniterally says July 15, 2014

You nailed this perfectly! The parts about the cheap narc gave me a laugh. My narc HATES me being generous with other people!

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