why narcissists refuse to be accountable

THIS is Why Narcissists Refuse to be Accountable

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One of the comments I see often is, “I can’t believe there are people in the world who lack accountability. I can’t believe they refuse to be responsible for what they did!”

Today I am offering my interpretation of this scenario.

If you were to Google the question, “Why do narcissists refuse to be accountable?” You’re going to get different answers because there are generally two camps of thought. The first camp insists that everything a narcissistic personality does is because they lack self-love and are harboring crippling shame. Theoretically, not being accountable for their actions prevents them from feeling this supposed pain they’re carrying around.

If you’ve seen my recent YouTube videos, you know that I’ve been discussing how mainstream Psychology is mainly built on outdated psychoanalytic Freudian theories. Freud primarily worked with dysfunctional individuals, not generally with those considered normal. As a result, many of his theories only pertain to a specific segment of the population. In essence, Freud often formulated vague and untestable theories, particularly regarding defense mechanisms, and his experimentally testable theories weren’t widely accepted by the empirical community.

Then, you have a second camp of people who believe that narcissists refuse to accept accountability for their actions because they’re entitled and feel superior to others. This is the camp I belong to.


I have had my fair share of narcissistic relationships, but I’ve also worked with narcissistic abuse victims for many years. My experience coaching these individuals, along with my research into the work of FBI profilers, forensic psychology, and the dark triad, is why I believe narcissists, or at least most, are not suffering from extreme shame, low self-esteem, or a lack of self-love.

Seeing Beyond the Illusion

Suppose you are in a relationship with a narcissistic individual. In that case, you have likely formed an emotional attachment to them and feel like you’re in love based on the initial love bombing period. And so it’s hard for you to believe they’re bad news because you want to think that they feel some of the same feelings that you do. You want to believe that underneath it all, they can feel remorse and are sometimes sorry for how they act – and they can be extremely convincing in this regard.

But if you take away your feelings, look at the patterns of your relationship, and look at the fact that they’re still carrying on with those behaviors, then you have your answer.

A person who’s genuinely sorry is going to prove that to you. Someone who feels remorseful and wants to take accountability for their actions will take steps to show you that. They will stop engaging in behaviors that show a lack of accountability. Furthermore, they will be patient with you as you build your trust. They’re not going to tell you things like, oh, that’s in the past. We need to forget about that now, and we need to move forward. They’re not going to turn around and point the finger at you over some fabricated thing that you did that supposedly shows a lack of accountability.

When it comes to relationships and a lack of accountability, such as a relationship with a narcissistic individual, you have someone who’s often lying, cheating, unfaithful, and refuses to grant you exclusivity. You have a person who subjects you to explosive rages out of nowhere.  You have someone who ghosts you and then pops back onto the scene two or three weeks later, asking if you’re free.

Accepting the Reality of the Situation

If someone continues to commit the above offenses repeatedly, they are not capable of being responsible for the requirements of a reciprocal and caring relationship. This can be a romantic relationship or any relationship where you feel like you’re being walked all over. And in addition to them doing that, they’re also trying to blame shift so they can avoid accountability.

If it’s a family situation, you might discover that some of your family members have formed an alliance against you, and one of them has been pretending to be your confidant and letting you spill the tea about things that are happening. Then, running back to the other family members and telling them everything.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into why there are narcissistic people in the world who so utterly lack accountability. Before I get into this, I just want to say that I am not speaking from a place of judgment. More than anything, I’m speaking from a place of experience.

The truth is, narcissists lack accountability because they repeatedly get away with their offenses. When you have someone who continuously lies to you, who frequently doesn’t care about your feelings or how their actions hurt you, who cheats on you…this is where we have to come in and make them accountable because they’re not going to do it on their own.

heal from abuse

If someone is always lying, cheating, being two-faced, and raging out of nowhere, yet we keep them in our lives, this is why they go through life without being accountable. They know that they can do the things they’re doing, and there’s a substantial likelihood that they will get away with them. If you have found yourself going soft on your boundaries or completely forgetting about them because you want to keep a person in your life, what incentive do they have to change?

They may be giving the silent treatment for two or three weeks because they fabricated an argument and stormed out, and you haven’t heard from them for a while. You might think you’re holding them accountable by not answering their text messages or phone calls, but here’s the deal. If you eventually cave in and let them back in, they’re not accountable, and you haven’t upheld your boundary.

The sad truth is that with someone who refuses to be accountable, it’s up to us to hold them responsible, which generally means walking away from the relationship. We have to have standards, and we must have boundaries. We can’t let our emotions run the show. I realize it’s not simple.  I know about trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome. I experienced those things. I was one of the worst cases imaginable, so I’m not speaking from a place of judgment.

Narcissism is a Pathology

What you must do is refuse to accept their lack of accountability. Their energy doesn’t match yours. Their morals don’t match yours. At the very least, you have someone in your life whom you are not compatible with. If a person is incompatible with you because they have narcissistic traits, this is not something you can fix. This doesn’t refer to our ability to be somewhat selfish at times; that’s not a narcissistic trait. That’s simply a human trait.

Narcissism is a pathology. This is why I do not believe that we all have narcissistic traits because narcissism is part of the dark triad right next to psychopaths. We’re talking about individuals who can lie without remorse, be unfaithful without remorse, hurt you without remorse, and continue doing those things repeatedly.

Today’s definition of narcissism does not include being selfish sometimes. Just because you might lose your patience on occasion doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist, and it doesn’t mean you have a narcissistic trait – it’s simply being human.

We don’t all have narcissistic traits because narcissism is a psychological character disorder that is characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance and extreme entitlement. Not everyone has this type of thinking or behavior, so not everyone will display narcissistic traits. Additionally, not everyone is on a spectrum for narcissism because only the actual disorder is on a continuum. This means that there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to narcissism, and that those who are affected by it can be anywhere from mild to severe in their symptoms.

Simply put, narcissism is a character disorder that is often accompanied by pathological traits.  To say we all have narcissistic traits is like saying we all have elements of being pathologically character disordered.

Things Narcissists Do to Pretend They’re Being Accountable

There are things that narcissists will do to pretend that they are trying to be accountable, of which you should be aware.

They might give you the password to their device, tell you they’re breaking up with someone they’ve been seeing behind your back, and even go so far as to get on the phone and call the person in front of you to say it’s over. They may agree to go to therapy with you or agree to start going to church.  By all means, if you feel compelled to give them another chance, go ahead and do it.

But I can guarantee you that it will only be a matter of time until you see that it was all just an act. This is simply their way of buying time.

This is my interpretation of why narcissists lack accountability. It’s also an invitation to stop analyzing them and wasting your life trying to hold onto that relationship. Because the longer you do that, there’s no room for you to heal, no room for you to exit the relationship, and no room in your life for people who will care and be accountable. I imagine you have tried to analyze what’s going on for far too long now. Isn’t it time for you now? Isn’t it your turn?

Get Started On The Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

One of my greatest passions is helping previously victimized people become empowered. If you are ready for this astounding upleveling, the best thing you can do is join the Break Free community. 

My best recommendation is to find an online program to keep you on track and to offer support.  The Break Free Program has been vetted by therapists and neuropsychologists as an effective step toward getting over narcissistic abuse. Aside from keeping you safe from narcissists, it also empowers you to go out into the world with confidence.

Join Break Free and learn to:

  1. ✅ Dramatically overpower your addiction to the narcissist so you can stop being their victim
  2. ✅ Get to a place of acceptance so you can stop doubting yourself over your decision to heal your life
  3. ✅ Set limits and create stronger boundaries against emotional manipulation that has caused you to act out of character
    + so much more!

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Christina says September 15, 2023

What’s the best way to co-parent with a narcissist? He never takes responsibility. Either blaming me, saying I’m being dramatic or that he doesn’t remember anything I’m talking about. Like his lack of memory excuses him?? WTH?? Even when I can show through text as a reminder. Nope, no idea what I’m talking about. He’s used the court system to continue his mental abuse, as well as any parenting. It’s to the point where the idea of dealing with him terrifies me. I know what I’m in fire, yet still need to advocate for my sons. Which always winds up with me a wreck and him feeling superior. At 21 and 17 our sons are now seeing through the lies and having to deal with the rants, grandiose behavior, manipulation and their fathers refusal to own the truth/consequences of his behaviors. It’s so bad they don’t want to see him. So…why do I feel guilty? Why do I feel like I need to encourage them to have a relationship with their Father, who I know is not a good person? He already accuses me of trying to ruin their relationship. I’m at a loss. I’m overwhelmed and confused. Please advise.

Erin K Harper says August 4, 2023

Hi. My sister is dead & I know she was killed. I’ve had her phone since she died, & over the past year I’ve done nothing but research all the things I thought I’d need to go up against a negligent police department. I researched even more for when it would come to the coroners bureau. I read about autopsies, blood pooling, pre-mortem vs. post-mortem, coagulation, estimated time of death.. I read every article & pdf there is online about California police death scene protocols so that I’d know what the officers did right & wrong. I complied a video of all the news stations that covered stories on the Coroners bureau being one of the most backlogged in the state with most of their pathologists quitting, being majorly short staffed, & having an average backlog of 90 dead bodies in waiting per day. how short staff so backlogged with an average of 90 dead bodies in waiting per day &! on average per day & that wants to push the case under the rug. think it would take to first find out what the police did wrong by k need totaken extensive notes of any bit of j to I’ve read up on police death scene protocols, rigor mortis, post Mortem/pre-mortem, blood coagulation.. , by the very violent manipulative man my whole family feared would kill her on day. I’d like to chat with you sometime.

D. says May 16, 2023

❓ so been together 15+ yrs my other half is an RN 5yrs in a psych facility she’s compassionate with patients a social butterfly and of a coworker doesn’t do their job to her standards it’s absurd to her!? She always needed reassured by family keeps score and always views parents advice or suggestive questions like they intend to harm or degrade her when I suggest a different view I’m with them should just listen not advise let her get off her chest (like she’d let it go) ! A while back she felt neglected so I focused on being attentive appreciative and reconnecting !!! Now yrs later after pushing to talk spend quality time not sit side by side on devices disengaged she’d express doing nothing wrong now anytime I speak she’s looks angry and gets defensive or justifies what I try to work through together ( talks in circles, quotes, corrects – irrelevant things cuts me off or is quiet nothing in between) asking to work together or understand each other is to find a resolution to issues even if she “understands my view she insists on the same perspective” as if a change in opinion admits fault or being wrong instead of simply a break down in communication for instance. Twisting things to be a victim. Obviously just my side but would this be considered narcissistic qualities/ scornful/ or something else I’m your opinion? Seeking another opinion bcuz it feels intentional as well as returning to a happy healthy relationship being impossible

D. says May 16, 2023

❓ so been together 15+ yrs my other half is an RN 5yrs in a psych facility always needed reassured by family keeps score and always views parents advice or suggestive questions like they intend to harm or degrade her when I suggest a different view I’m with them should just listen not advise let her get off her chest (like she’d let it go) ! A while back she felt neglected so I focused on being attentive appreciative and reconnecting !!! Now yrs later after pushing to talk spend quality time not sit side by side on devices disengaged she’d express doing nothing wrong now anytime I speak she’s looks angry and gets defensive or justifies what I try to work through together ( talks in circles, quotes, corrects – irrelevant things cuts me off or is quiet

Bj says April 18, 2023

I am constantly told “you have changed”. Yes demon, yes I have. I stand up for myself, I point out your wrongdoings instead of silently moping, and I treat, talk to you the same way you treat and talk to me. Simply put, I grew a backbone! Change for the win. You can gtf if you don’t like the new me.

M says April 17, 2023

Oh, and one more comment…sorry Kim! But there is also the weird coded language that some narcs (or narc-like people) use when they don’t want accountability.

Mine took to saying “it’s messy” which was his code for “I’m cheating on you, but I don’t want to admit it or stop what I’m doing”.
He is the one who complicated things by hiding me (his wife of nearly 15 years) from most people he knew.
He is the one who made things “messy” by being active on social media, while pretending to be single.
I told him that things become “messy” if people choose to deceive others. I’m not perfect, but I take responsibility when I screw up.

I’ve had men try to chat with me online but I don’t engage. Why? Because I respected my husband and my marriage and I loved him.
With some narcs, I feel that denial plays a part in their unwillingness to be held accountable. They might convince themselves that it isn’t that bad or that the other person is overreacting.
They might even see us as the problem. I told him that at no time did I ever agree to an open marriage, or him dealing with other women.
That just isn’t what we agreed to. If you want to play the field, stay single. But don’t bring third parties into our marriage.

One of these third parties was a coworker that for years I foolishly believed was “just a friend”.
Now I think that it became more than that. I’m not sure just how far things went, but there was definitely an emotional affair (which he denied). What makes it more outlandish is that when I discovered certain things, he became defensive and expected me to apologize…for finding out?
And then the silent treatment for a long time.

I told him I would apologize if I was wrong, but I had reason to believe that he was being unfaithful, and he didn’t own up to it.
That was the main problem. I can forgive but I can’t handle lies and a lack of accountability.

Peter Merrick says March 30, 2023

An interesting and informative article. However, I have to disagree that narcissists exclusively “feel superior to others” as opposed to trying to compensate for a sense of shame or inadequacy. There is no reason why it can’t be some and some.

I’m absolutely certain that my ex was highly narcissistic as everything you say describes so accurately the relationship I had with her.

However, I also know with 100% certainly that she was unbelievably insecure, to the post that it seemed to be pathological. She seemed incapable of stopping herself from feeling threatened by or resentful towards anybody who seemed better than her or had a better life, or got the acceptance that she so craved but never felt that she had. Her-destructive behaviour was almost always directed towards me, more or less from the moment she realised that I wanted to better myself and was more interested in what I could become and how I could contribute to others than in being dependent on her or being her supply (other what is normal for a equal-partnered relationship).

Eventually she carried out the ultimate revenge on me once she realised that I was only putting up with her because I cared about my children more than anything else in the world, so she set about systematically undermining me as a parent and destroying the relationship and trust I had built up with them. This left me totally broken and suicidal and heading towards a nervous breakdown. Even after we split up she assumed that I would not last long without her and told me that she had always loved me. Although it didn’t stop her hedging her bets by seeing a dreadful man that she got to know as we headed towards separation, and who she married nine months later.

There were a number of other seriously messed up things going on in her psyche at the same time, like the need for codependency, but her selfishness and entitlement really were all driven by pathological levels of insecurity, which ultimately led her to developing an utterly selfish, devious and eventually malicious personality that felt evil”, both mentally and spiritually.

    Kim Saeed says March 31, 2023

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree, there are some who do harbor deep levels of insecurity. I tried to leave some space for that in the article, though perhaps it didn’t come through.

    I simply wanted to put out the idea that not ALL of them do. The reason we’re seeing such an increase and influx in the prevalence of narcissistic abuse is because there are so many folks who think ALL narcissists are operating from deep insecurity, and thus they often make concessions for them because of this. It doesn’t help that there are far too many mental health professionals who ignore the research pointing to other causes of narcissism and perpetuate the idea that all narcissists are insecure and have crippling shame, etc. This causes people to stay put in these relationships out of guilt.

    Thanks again for your input…


M says March 13, 2023

A narcissist will be OK with you until you notice their lies, their lack of remorse, and their immaturity.
The minute I stopped being (in his eyes) the “good-time girl” and became more responsible, wanting stability and security in our marriage…his attitude changed.

It’s funny because he used to complain that he thought I was shallow and frivolous, but when I matured, then THAT became a problem.
When I stopped being the “cool” wife and wanted to discuss our future in more depth, that was a problem.
When I felt he was crossing the line with other women, he started seeing me as the enemy.
When I wanted him to cut down on the porn because it was killing our intimacy, that was a problem.
Anything that disrupts their “fun” and entitlement…anything that holds them accountable…they don’t like that.

As I told him: “you wanted the benefits of marriage (sex and other perks) but otherwise, you wanted your life to remain the same. You wanted me to look the other way while you chat with other women and possibly do more than that. You want me to ignore my own needs and wants, so you can feel better. My discomfort doesn’t matter as long as you can have what you want”.

M says March 13, 2023

They hate accountability. To them, it looks like “blame”…they don’t want to own their actions or deal with consequences.
They want to issue a fake apology and then they expect you to continue with life as though nothing happened.

I feel that with people that do this, they have never had to deal with consequences…not in a healthy way.
Lying and rug-sweeping come naturally to them. Maybe from the time they were children, this is how they cope and learn to normalize things that are bad.

When I tried to talk to my husband about his lies/cheating/avoidance of consequences, he either shut down with the silent treatment OR he told me that I’m not being “nice”. Excuse my language, but…fuck that. Nice? I’m not being nice? That is a way to make me the villain and avert responsibility.
It’s not “nice” to lie to your spouse repeatedly and cheat and deny, deny, deny. It’s not “nice” to give people the silent treatment.
It’s not “nice” to pursue other women behind my back.

But hey…whatever. According to him, wanting accountability and truth makes me “not nice”.
The minute I became more vocal about my needs and feelings, he started saying that I’m not “nice”. As I told him, I was nice until I uncovered the emails where he told his friends about visiting escorts, and then there were the texts to female coworkers, the nude pictures, etc.
Oh…and how suddenly he no longer wanted us to take simple family photos together anymore. Wanna know why? Because the other woman/women might see that, and he didn’t want to explain himself to anyone.

Another way that he likes to gaslight me is by playing Christian music (although he is a self-declared atheist) with themes of “mercy” and “forgiveness”.
Now I see this as a tactic to make me feel guilty for speaking my mind, being assertive, asking important questions, etc.
That goes with the lack of accountability and his attitude that I should simply shut up and be “nice”.
You see, people who refuse to be held accountable are not to be trusted because they feel consequences don’t apply to them.
They play by their own rules when no one is watching. On the surface, they will play by society’s rules…they hold jobs, pay tickets, etc. But they do bad things in private and expect to not be called out when it comes to light.

I can compare it to parents who ignore a child’s criminal behavior (like bullying or cruelty to animals)…and then that child grows up not wanting to be accountable for anything they do.
Or a politician who cheats on his wife, shows no remorse, and doesn’t want others calling him out.

I think that people with a narcissistic bent have another view of accountability. They often see it as “blame” rather than what it truly is…an expectation of maturity and being responsible for one’s actions, then taking steps to make positive change.
It’s not about blame. It’s about admitting wrongdoing and working to do what’s right. That is what I tried to tell him. He thinks I’m this mean person because I tried to talk about what matters to me, how we can improve our marriage, and I wanted him to admit his involvement with others.
He won’t do any of that.

Anonymous says March 10, 2023

Don’t ever call a narcissist by name or point out how the relationship seems to align with the narcissistic pattern of love bomb, devalue, discard and sometimes hoover. No matter how perfect the fit. It will unleash a new level of hell on earth. I am with a woman who seemingly has had the worst of luck in relationships with 2 former “abusive” husbands. One of whom I knew personally and never struck me as she describes but hey who knows, right? Now after 5 years with her I have been able to come up with a criteria in my 3rd failed attempt at a happily ever after. Beware the damsel in distress, the monster she is claiming to run from was her last night in shining armor. She created him from her own twisted definition of “Love” If the conflict resolution she uses on me of stonewalling, projection, script flip, gaslighting, shame, withholding intimacy and conversation to solve a problem not to multiply or amplify it with assaults on your entire existence on this planet being something of a joke and your accomplishments minimized. Sorry I got caught up in the moment there….. You get the gist. I have tried every angle I could to be at least heard, she walks away or grabs her phone or lays down and zzzzzz. I have paid all the household bills. She lives in my home and I ask nothing of her except to participate in a loving and healthy relationship. no bills except what she wants to spend her money on. If she doesn’t go to work she may stay home for a week to 5 months at a shot and I really didn’t used to say too much until she started to run me into the ground without cause or explanation.Don’t show videos on how to be a better couple or on how her behavior is harmful. she will cherry pick anything you have ever done albeit a response to her behavior and whatever label of discord that accompanies that is yours for life.I paid off her debt and arrears to CS to her first ex and got her out of jail without more than a thank you with no offer of repayment. I could go on and on but I know how pathetic I look already. I have been hopeful to the degree of delusional it seems now and I feel trapped in a downward spiral. I have developed anxiety and tremors from trying to reason with her with no improvement. I am not perfect but I always try. I am not homely or out of shape and I have far more potential than my current level of effort in my trade, I just lack the motivation and confidence to do as I used to do and could still do if I could find reason to try, she was it. sorry it sounds more like self pity but that is the short and skinny of it.

Josen Gregory says February 6, 2023

The worst part is when the narcissist lies and flips the script so well to make themselves the victim, that they actually convinced other people that you’re the horrible person that they say you are. You don’t even get to defend your character. But I have learned that defending my character isn’t even important to me any longer. Believe what you want.

Shari says January 25, 2023

A rollercoaster ride from hell!!!!!

Gretchen says December 19, 2022

Kim, thank you so much for writing this article. I’ve come to realize that when you’ve had covert narcissist caregivers you often recreate those relationships in adulthood in every area of your life (work, etc) without knowing it.
What impacted me from this article was “A person who’s genuinely sorry is going to prove that to you.” That was an eye-opener. I’ve never been in a relationship where someone cared about how they hurt me and wanted to do something about it. It’s hard to believe the mutually reciprocal relationships exist and that it’s something I could have. This article is full of so many gems that I needed to hear. It’s like you knew exactly what I’ve been going through. Thank you again.

    Kim Saeed says June 24, 2023

    I’m very glad to know my article resonated with you, but even more, that you have discovered your worth.

    Sending hugs,


Olivia says December 16, 2022

The trouble is, a lot of world leaders and other powerful people we are supposed to admire and look up to are narcissists. They spread nonsensical views, fake news and outright lies, and when they are caught out lying, they refuse to admit it and be accountable.
I’m not sure how the human race came to this. I hope we can get past this time of narcissists being in control.

    Peter Merrick says June 14, 2023

    Olivia, unfortunately narcissists will always seek to be in power, have control, and be in the ascendancy in whatever situation they are in. They will always lie and deceive and manoeuvre themselves into such positions as far as they can, or be miserable or defensive when they cannot get their own way. They will often fly below the radar of cultural and legal norms, confusing anyone who gets in their way.

    The only ways we can deal with this are by raising awareness generally, and in particular with those that make the rules and laws in our country to exclude their behaviour as far as possible. Making people more savvy with the tools they have, like the ability to record conversations which we didn’t have in the past, would also do much to dissuade narcissists.

    Personally, I wish I had got a smartphone well before I ended it with my other half and I could have recorded all the times she blithely admitted in private that she really didn’t care about anybody but herself and literally had no conscience about anything, and played them to gullible people who believed her lies that she had always loved me and cared about me and the children, for example.

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