The first thing that comes to mind is Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
The second thing that comes to mind is the expression, “A day late and a dollar short.” Or a pound short, a euro short, a franc short, a drachma short, a doubloon short — you get the idea.
But wait! narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other abusers don’t apologize, right? Yes and no.
Admitting wrong doing definitely isn’t the norm, but sometimes they mouth the words, “I’m sorry.” However, that doesn’t mean the narcissist is genuinely remorseful. Truly being sorry means the person who has harmed you:
1) Recognizes what they’ve done that is hurtful. For example, lying to you, cheating on you, ridiculing you, etc.
2) Understands why it’s hurtful.
3) Feels bad about hurting you (this isn’t the same as feeling bad about being held accountable and experiencing consequences for being a shit).
4) Makes a conscious good faith effort not to hurt you in that way again.
Little kids apologize and often don’t really understand what they’re apologizing for or feel especially sorry about what they’re apologizing for. They know they’re in trouble with mommy or daddy and are supposed to say, “I’m sorry.” Once the child says sorry, mommy and daddy won’t be upset and they can be excused from time-out or get their toy back. Sorry is a magic word like please and thank you.
In my experience, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, psychopaths and other abusive personalities typically apologize for similar reasons. They apologize to avoid unwanted consequences like being divorced, fired or publicly exposed, or to manipulate you into letting your guard down to get close enough to do you harm again.
If you’re still in a relationship with a narcissist or borderline and are struggling with self-doubt regarding whether they’re really sorry, ask them. Ask Nancy the Narcissist or Bobby the Borderline, “What are you sorry for?” Indicating an awareness that you’re upset doesn’t convey true understanding. Go deeper. Ask them to be more specific. “What did you do that hurt me?” Your narcissist might be able to answer that, but don’t get excited. If they know what they did to hurt you and did it anyway that’s not good.
The next question is, “Why was it wrong for you to do that?” If the narcissist or borderline hasn’t already said some version of “I’m sorry I hurt you, but here’s why it’s really your fault or random scapegoat’s fault . . . ” this is usually when it occurs. By the way, saying some version of “I’m sorry I hurt you, but here’s why it’s really your fault or random scapegoat’s fault . . . ” nullifies the entire apology. Game over.
I recently received the following Facebook message from “Sarah” about this topic. Sarah’s ex apologized to her after a considerable period of No contact. What should she do?
I just wanted to let you know I think your articles are awesome and spot on. Six years ago I had my share of bpd crazy and your site was a lifesaver. So thank you for that.
I have a quick question for you, last week I came home to find that my bpd x had dropped off old photos of me from years ago along with a card where she actually apologized to me. This is after 6 years of strict no contact! I guess what I’m asking is, is it wrong of me think she has an ulterior motive? I know she is still with the POS ex friend she cheated on me with, so I’m not sure why after all this time she has made contact again. I’d really appreciate some feedback. Thanks. Sorry to bother you.
I’d be suspicious, too, but then I have joie de skepticism. If you really wonder if she’s changed or truly remorseful, can’t you give her the benefit of the doubt and forgive her *without* letting her back in your life, even to acknowledge it?
When you’re that much of a relentless asshole, a natural consequence is no one giving a shit/not trusting you even if you ever are actually sorry. It’s okay for you to protect yourself. That’s smart, not unkind given your history with her. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In other words, don’t be Charlie Brown and believe Lucy won’t yank the football away again.
In my experience, narcissists and borderlines are repentant only when they’re scamming, or have fallen so low they’re feeling sorry for themselves, and not sorry they hurt you.
Thanks for the confirmation. I kinda figured that. I have no intention of bringing crazy back into my life!! Thanks again for your words of wisdom and your great site.
For what it’s worth, I’ve never regretted keeping those types of persons out of my life as much as I’ve regretted letting them back in.
Most of us are taught from an early age that we’re supposed to turn the other cheek and forgive. Forgiving a narcissist or borderline doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your life and allow them to hurt and abuse you again. Forgiveness is for you, not the narcissist. Forgive them if you want so that you’re not carrying around anger and resentment about what she or he did to you. You can forgive the rattlesnake who bit you while hiking. After all, it’s what rattlesnakes do if you get too close to them. That doesn’t mean you have to invite the rattlesnake into your home for tea and crumpets.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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