An apology to a narcissist is not the same as it is for the non-personality-disordered person. An apology to the average person means:
- I’m sorry.
- Let’s make up.
An apology to a narcissist means:
- Look how good I am.
- Now you owe me forgiveness.
- We won’t talk about this again.
- Our relationship is still on my terms, but I appear to care about your feelings.
Do not be fooled by a narcissist’s apology. Realize that the relationship is no different than it was before the apology – you just now have more confusion on your plate (think, “cognitive dissonance”). You believe that maybe he means he’s sorry or that he won’t do whatever it was he did again. But, rest assured, the narcissist uses an apology as part of the “cycle of abuse.”
When you receive an apology from a narcissist you believe at least four things:
- He is truly sorry.
- He won’t do it again.
- He “sees” what he did as wrong.
- Things will be better in your relationship.
Pay attention here. These four things will not happen. This is the truth:
- He is not truly sorry; he is managing your relationship and managing his appearance to others.
- He will do the exact same thing again, and again. He just believes he’s getting himself off the hook for doing something wrong that got noticed.
- He doesn’t care how his behavior has impacted you, and he never will. He just knows that by apologizing he appears to care and he now has a “trump card” or “get out of jail free card”to use if you try to hold him accountable for his behavior.
- Things will remain the same in the relationship.
You see, the apology is all part of the narcissistic “game.” Things are hot and cold or good and bad within a relationship with a personality disordered person. An apology is part of the illusion of “good” in the relationship. You get hooked in with the emotions of hopefulness and relief when your narcissist apologizes to you. This hope is something that you need because prior to the apology you were hurt and shut out.
After the apology, you feel relieved and can relax again. This causes you to trust and bond with your loved one. This is all part of the creation of a trauma bond.
Understand that trauma bonds form in toxic relationships and are harder to break than healthy bonds. Trauma bonds occur by inconsistent reinforcement.
Narcissistic relationships are based on traumatic bonds rather than on normal connections. This is because people with personality disorders are incapable of mutuality, cooperation, or empathy – all ingredients necessary for a healthy human relationship.
In a narcissistic relationship the non-narcissist is merely an object. Narcissists participate in the relationship as a sort of token-exchange system. In essence, a narcissist believes that if you do what he wants then he will, in exchange, bless you with his presence. If you don’t follow these rules then he will discard you; plain and simple.
The problem with a relationship with a personality disordered person is that the other party operates on one set of rules, while the narcissist operates on another.
To a “typical” human being an apology means truly, “I regret what I did and I feel badly that I hurt you.” This person imputes these same characteristics on to the narcissist. It is hard for a non-narcissist to grasp the concept that he is dealing with a person who does not reciprocate empathy or the ability to care about others.
It is helpful to use your cognitive skills when dealing with a narcissist’s apology. You are well-served to remind yourself that his apology is meant to serve only one person – himself. I know you hate to think so cynically about another person – after all, you are usually a conscientious person. It probably goes against your grain to even think this way about someone you love.
That is why it is important to exercise your cognitive “muscle” in this situation. You must do this in order to maintain your own sensibilities and peace of mind. This is far better than allowing yourself to fall prey to yet another narcissistic trap.