5 Ways To Help A Narcissist Who Is Ready To Change

First, find out if they're being honest about wanting to change — then follow these steps.

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It's easy to fall for a narcissist early in a relationship, but over time, many partners of narcissists and others who love them become frustrated and want to help them change. But can a narcissist be changed at all?

Many would say no. I disagree, however, and do believe a narcissist can change — if they want to!

Before you can commit to helping a narcissist change, you should know a few things about the person you are dealing with.


A narcissist can be characterized by their self-importance, arrogance, and sense of entitlement. They expect special treatment and praise while being unable to handle criticism. They often exaggerate their own contributions and achievements in their own mind and lacking empathy, they may take advantage of their partner and friends. 

It's important to note that beneath their facade, narcissists often harbor fragile self-esteem. Their narcissistic traits may have originated from feelings of shame, leading them to adopt a belief that they are always right and superior.

This adaptation allowed them to maintain a sense of self-worth, albeit distorted. They protected their self-perception in various ways, such as deflecting blame onto others, denying personal responsibility, and dismissing any semblance of insight or self-awareness.


If this person truly does want to change (sometimes called a "self-aware narcissist"), there are a few insights I can share as a therapist about how you can support a narcissist who wants to change.

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Five ways to support a narcissist who wants to change for the better

1. Know what you are working on.

Clearly define the specific behavior that needs to change and stay focused until you are both satisfied you can move on. This clarity and focused direction will take you to celebration day sooner than later.

Years ago, my husband and I used colored Bristol board and pencils to brighten our coaching discussions. So, working on personal responsibility and accountability, we wrote first the heading and then a list of times he said, “I did it” or “I’ll fix it”. As cheesy as it sounds, this list was posted on a kitchen wall and became a family participation project. Privately, we discussed the times he made excuses and rehearsed better do-overs.


2. More than buy-in that your partner needs to make changes to their daily choices.

They are only human and bound to get tired of the tedious process of self-improvement. They just want to get on with it and I don’t blame them.

What if you wrote a mantra under the heading of your kitchen Bristol board poster that says, “I am responsible and it’s no one else’s fault". Of course, that only applies when they are responsible and it's no one else's fault.

3. Know when you have succeeded.

After a few weeks of discussing a single topic and you both agree it’s time to move on, do so, accepting that you may have to revisit. I can (almost) promise that each successive revisit results in a happier household. Change begins with the honest intent to change.

RELATED: How To Tell If He's A Malignant Narcissist — The Most Dangerous Kind Of All


4. Celebrate wins along the way.

Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate every step of progress and positive change. Recognizing achievements, no matter how small, reinforces motivation and fosters a supportive and encouraging environment.

By following these guidelines and communicating your reasonable boundaries, you can effectively coach your partner towards mutual respect, interdependence, team effort, and sharing power. Remember, it's a collaborative effort where you are both equals who can work towards a safe and happier life.

5.  Know the change you are coaching to.

There may be aspects of your partner's self-absorption that are more problematic than the following six and you will give those the higher priority. But don’t ignore these markers of a changed behavior in a person with narcissistic personality.

RELATED: 11 Valuable Lessons I Learned About How Dating A Narcissist Changes You


Six positive indicators of change in the narcissist

1. Personal responsibility and accountability.

The key to a strong relationship is personal responsibility and when your partner follows “Yes I did it” with, “I’ll fix it,” you are on the road to accountability success. This attitude stands in strong contrast to that of shifting blame and making excuses, a stance that is frustrating and sends your communication into a dead end.

Personal responsibility coupled with vulnerability and humility, inspires your trust and commitment, and assures you that you are with the right person.

2. Positive responses to feedback

While your partner may not always agree with your feedback, their ability to listen and respond to your completed sentence is a pointer that you are on the path of progress. If they take it a step further by incorporating that feedback into changed behavior, it further indicates they are past paying lip service to growth and improvement.

3. Managing Emotions

Narcissistic individuals often control their partners by reacting with excessive anger and hurt, preventing continued communication and problem-solving. Building a workable relationship requires them to monitor body language, facial expressions, angry outbursts, sarcasm, or a deluge of tears, to name a few.


Discuss the particular emotions that have quelled your conversation in times past and gently contract with your person to refrain from shutting you down in this manner. Coaching reasonable emotional expressions is a must for the partner who uses dramatics to stop you and justify themself. 

RELATED: 6 Harsh Signs You're In Love With A Legitimate Psychopath

4. Putting others first.

True prioritization of others involves more than just words. It entails their making real sacrifices of time and resources to put your and your family's interests and needs first. It may take time for your partner to consistently demonstrate this selflessness. But then you’ll know there is a genuine change that you can trust.

5. Insight and awareness.

A significant challenge with personality disorders is the lack of awareness regarding their impact on you and other relationships. It's crucial that your partner can name their behavior and admit the negative effect instead of attributing everything to external factors. Personal responsibility will support your campaign of strengthening insight.


Consider being inclusive and in your relationship, book make journal entries titled, "How I left the tough parenting to you", or "How I let you down to the kids".

6. Making apologies

A sincere and heartfelt apology for past behavior can make a significant difference in how you both move forward in your relationship. Apologies show remorse, accountability, and a desire to make amends. By focusing on these areas of growth, you can encourage positive change and cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

Genuine apologies were rare and only used as an escape strategy.


Considering the origins and complexities of narcissism, it's crucial to assess your situation, have strong boundaries, and determine your next steps if change fails. Your own emotional and physical health must be your priority in any relationship.

RELATED: The Interesting Thing That Happens When An Empath Abandons A Narcissist

Reta Faye Walker is a therapist who specializes in healing relationships. She offers one-on-one sessions, couples retreats, and courses to help couples get back on track.