The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Narcissists Apologize 

Narcissists are known to be difficult in relationships. They engage in a pattern of behavior that is self-centered, manipulative, and exploitative. 

If you stay with a narcissist for any length of time, you’re likely to be negatively affected by their behavior. After a while, you may even begin to show signs of trauma from ongoing emotional abuse.

Your gut might tell you to leave the relationship because things will never change. On the other hand, perhaps they show moments of kindness, and you convince yourself things will one day be better.

When the narcissist offers an apology for their behavior, this can keep you stuck in the relationship. The apology gives you just enough hope to stay with the narcissist despite the damage they’ve done. 

Unfortunately, the decision to accept an apology from a narcissist is usually grounded in several mistakes. We’ll dive into them below.

Believing the Narcissist Will Change

After a narcissist offers an apology, you might find yourself believing they will make lasting changes. A narcissist can deliver a seemingly sincere apology, and your heart may tell you that this is when they make good on their promises to do better.

Remember, a genuine apology requires remorse and a commitment to changed behavior. Believing the narcissist will change is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make. A narcissist apologizes as a manipulative tactic so you’ll allow them to remain in your life, not because they want to change their behavior.

So, any behavioral change the narcissist shows is likely to be temporary. They’ll offer an insincere apology and put their best foot forward just long enough for you to get comfortable again. They’ll return to their usual behavior as soon as they feel they’re back in your good graces.

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Convincing Yourself the Apology is Genuine 

Even healthy relationships involve conflict and hurt feelings. No one is perfect, and sometimes we let our partners down. 

Part of healing from hurt feelings in a relationship is receiving validation and a genuine apology from your partner. You might convince yourself that a narcissist is offering a genuine apology, because you want to heal so the relationship can move forward.

Unfortunately, you’re fooling yourself if you think the narcissist’s apology is actually genuine. Narcissists struggle with empathy, so they have a really hard time understanding your feelings. They don’t genuinely feel sorry for hurting you; they simply want you to be quiet about it! 

Ignoring Behavioral Patterns

When a narcissist throws an apology your way, you’re probably delighted. Finally, it seems like they understand your perspective and are concerned about your feelings. 

Suppose you’re caught in the rollercoaster of emotions that often comes with a narcissistic relationship. In that case, you may even delude yourself into believing that the narcissist is a genuine, apologetic person with good intentions.

Don’t make this mistake. If one apology convinces you that the narcissist is loving and good-natured, you’re clearly ignoring their larger behavioral pattern.

If you take a look at the big picture, you’ll probably realize that the narcissist has had more moments of being cold, cruel and callous, as compared to moments of kindness.

The wave of positive emotions you experience when they do apologize can cloud your judgment, causing you to forget about all the pain temporarily the narcissist has caused in your life. 

Offering Endless Second Chances

You’ve probably heard it before fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!  This is especially true when you’re interacting with a narcissistic person. As long as you continue to offer the narcissist another “second chance,” they will continue to take advantage of your kindness. 

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When you make the mistake of accepting every apology the narcissist sends your way, they quickly stop taking you seriously. After one too many second chances, they realize that you will continue to allow whatever behavior they throw at you. 

It’s easy to get caught in this cycle, because the narcissist can be so convincing. Each time they hurt you, and you threaten to walk out the door, they will put on quite a show, promising to change.  This is just another act of manipulation. 

Buying the Victim Role

Finally, it’s a huge mistake to believe the victim role the narcissist plays all too well. Narcissistic people cannot take any accountability for their own bad behavior. Beneath the surface, they are fragile and insecure, unable to face their own flaws.

So, when they wrong you, the narcissist’s ego cannot handle taking responsibility. As a part of their half-hearted apology, they will play the victim, selling you some sob story about why they acted the way they did.

They’ll likely shift the blame onto someone else, to avoid fully taking responsibility. Feeling sorry for them, you almost have no choice but to accept the apology. This leaves you fooled once again.

Avoiding These Classic Mistakes 

Now that you have a firm grasp on the mistakes people commonly make when a narcissist apologizes, you can take action to protect yourself. Consider the strategies below.

Proceed With Caution

Rather than convincing yourself that the narcissist is offering a genuine apology, proceed with caution. Don’t take their promises of change at face value.

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Keep track of whether their behavior actually changes. Does it change for just a few days, or do you see sustained, positive changes? 

While a narcissist is unlikely to change, signs of lasting change suggest that the relationship might be okay. On the other hand, the more likely outcome is that they will return right back to bad behavior. In this case, the best thing you can do is walk away. 

Set Boundaries and Hold them Accountable

Narcissists rely on manipulating people into giving them their way. If they are not successful, they lose all power, and their games cannot continue.

The best thing you can do when a narcissist apologizes is to set boundaries and hold them accountable for their behavior. Make it clear that you cannot accept certain behaviors, especially if they happen repeatedly. 

Should a narcissist violate your boundaries and show the same behavior again, maintain the boundary. Tell them you cannot interact with them anymore, because they have not fulfilled their promise to change.

Accept Reality and Care For Yourself

The chances of a narcissist’s apology being genuine are rather slim. Once you accept this reality, you’ll be less likely to take their behavior personally. You’ll also be less likely to fall for a fake apology.

Recognize that an apology from a narcissist is probably a manipulative tactic, and not a sign of genuine care and remorse. Rather than believing the apology and expecting change, focus on yourself.

If the narcissist’s behavior toward you hurts you, make time for self-care.  Take plenty of time for rest and relaxation, and engage in activities that bring you joy. This provides a distraction from narcissistic abuse.

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