If you’ve ever been with a narcissist, you’ll be fully aware of how damaging their absolute lack of accountability in relationships can be.
You’ll find yourself arguing over the simplest of things and even trying to defend yourself against things that you know you’ve never done! The smallest circumstance can take you down a rabbit warren of confusion and anxiety.
The fact is, a narcissist does not have the ability to look at themselves and take accountability like a healthy person does. Healthy people want to improve themselves as much as grow the dynamics of the relationship.
“The problem is not my behaviour. It’s the fact that YOU’RE calling me out!”– The Narc
Narcissists have no interest in personal growth or self-improvement. What the narcissist does want is for you to go along with their false, idiotic illusion with unwavering loyalty.
Therefore, if anyone is going to change to accommodate the other person’s needs, it will be you and never them. And that’s how we end up handing over more and more of ourselves to the narcissist all in a vain attempt to make things ‘better,’ which will never work.
Let’s explore what’s really behind narcissism and why they will never have the desire or resources to take accountability in relationships.
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A person who’s narcissistic is completely self-focused, to the point where everyone outside of themselves is a merely a tool for them to get what they want.
Narcissists are created through trauma, usually somewhere in their childhood. Their circumstances left them with such deep feelings of shame, rejection and unworthiness that they created an inverted version of themselves.
They (unconsciously) recognised that it was not safe nor did it feel good to have to experience such intense negative emotions. So, they made the decision to amputate the aspect of themselves that was responsible for their deep feelings and emotions – their True Self.
By severing the connection with their True Self, they were left with only their ego. However, the ego is not authentic, it can only ever be a self-created illusion or a False Self.
For their ego to survive it needs constant attention, validation and approval to regularly reiterate that, “I am amazing. I am perfect. I am a God.”
The narcissist lives in a false reality where they truly do believe that they are superior. Anything or anyone who dares to challenge their reality, must be exterminated in order to protect their warped world.
You see, underneath their charade, they are still a scared, emotionally stunted child who is terrified of sinking back into the truth of who they are. But since they refuse to acknowledge that broken, inner child, their only option is to keep inflating their ego.
The ego is a harsh inner critic, so as soon as it stops being fed validation from the outside world, reiterating how ‘amazing’ it is, it’ll be right back on the narcissist’s case.
The ego whispers…
- “Unless you sleep with 5 people this week, you are disgusting and undesirable.”
- “If you’re not earning ‘x’ amount of dollars, you are worthless and unsuccessful.”
- “If you are not seen to be doing exciting things, you are pathetic.”
… and on it goes.
You can see why it’s so imperative, in the narcissist’s world, to evade anything that will lead to feelings of shame, guilt and unworthiness.
In other words, the narcissist’s lack of accountability in relationships is a direct result of them needing to continuously prop up the illusion of their perfection, in order to protect their false reality.
If the narcissist was to take responsibility and admit fault in any way throughout the relationship, even for small things, that would directly threaten their very existence.
You are dealing with a conscienceless person who will stop at nothing to protect their False Self.
It’s important to be aware that when the narcissist cut off access to their true, divine self, they also cut off the ability to feel all of the things that make us inherently human. These include empathy, compassion, kindness and authenticity.
Their whole survival strategy is based on illusion and manipulation and they do not have the moral compass to care how that affects anybody else, without exception.
|QUIZ: Are You With a Narcissist? →
The Narcissist’s Lack of Accountability in Relationships
There are many ways narcissists will play out a complete and utter lack of accountability in relationships. But they all boil down to the same thing, shifting the focus off themselves and back onto you, no matter what.
You can bring all of the evidence you like to the table, it won’t make a scrap of difference. If all else fails for the narcissist and they cannot deny their words or actions, they will play the victim to showcase why none of it is their fault.
Here are the many ways that the narcissist’s lack of accountability in relationships is executed.
One of the most famous narcissist tactics for lack of accountability in relationships is projection. You know all of those times where the narcissist has blamed you for the very things that they were doing? That’s projection.
You feel so confused as to how they could possibly accuse you of doing what you both know they’ve just done. Your head is spinning and you expend all of your energy into trying to defend yourself. You try to reason with the narcissist that you’re a good person and that you’d never do those things.
But their anger escalates as your sense of self deteriorates.
Narcissists totally reveal all of their cards when they project. They will accuse you of the very things that they’re either doing or are about to do. To avoid having to feel the shame and guilt from their own actions, they’ll throw them onto you instead.
Examples of projection:
“I know you’re cheating on me. Why were you out so long yesterday?”
– when they’re cheating or planning on cheating.
“Everything always has to be about you doesn’t it!”
– in the rare moment that things aren’t about them.
“What have you been doing all week? The place is a shambles.”
– after they’ve spent all week bludging.
“Why do you have to lie?”
– as they lie through their teeth constantly.
What’s really happening when a narcissist projects is that they are superimposing their reality onto you. In other words, they cannot allow any accusations to tarnish their false image, so it immediately gets repelled from them and thrown back onto you.
The acceptance of responsibility would mean that the narcissist would have to admit fault and acknowledge that they’re not a perfect God.
Taking responsibility would mean exposing the very image that the narcissist relies on to gain relief from their inner pain. They need their false image in order to manipulate people into handing over narcissistic supply, which is their drug.
|READ: Primary & Secondary Supply →
Therefore, when you try to get the narcissist to take accountability for something that they’ve done, the ego immediately deems you as the threat. The ego wants to eliminate the threat, so as to protect itself and to retain the illusion of the false self.
The narcissist’s ego cannot bear any accountability, therefore it superimposes the wrongdoings onto you. Now, the narcissist truly does see you as the one who’s done the horrific things.
As twisted as it is, there is no way to reason with the narcissist or make them see sense (even if you’ve got solid evidence). They live in a warped reality and do not have the resources to see things any other way. Once they’ve decided on their insane version of ‘truth’ and repeat it to enough people who will listen, it has now become a reality in their world.
Blame-shifting & Accusations
With the narcissist’s lack of accountability in relationships, not only will they avoid personal responsibility, but they will actively find things to blame you for instead.
This tactic is used to divert the spotlight off themselves and to completely rig up a negative narrative around somebody else.
You’ll be so busy trying to defend yourself against their accusations, whether true or imaginary, that the original topic of concern will be completely forgotten about.
Accusing you is also a great way for the narcissist to explain why the things they’ve said and done are all your fault, not theirs. It’s a total avoidance of accountability.
Examples of shifting the blame:
“If you weren’t always so cranky, I wouldn’t have to come home late every night.”
👉 Meaning: “You’re the reason I work late or drink with my buddies.”
“I wish you’d remind me when our anniversary is coming up.”
👉 Meaning: “It’s your fault I ‘forgot’ the event.”
“If you put a bit more effort into your appearance, I might pay you a bit more attention.”
👉 Meaning: “It’s your fault I withhold love and affection from you.”
|READ: 8 More Blame-shifting Tactics →
One of the most insidious aspects of being in a relationship with a narcissist is the gaslighting. This is where they intentionally mess with your reality to make you insecure and doubt yourself.
The narcissist’s use of gaslighting directly attributes to their lack of accountability in relationships. They will deny that things ever happened, tell you that you memory is wrong and invalidate any of your concerns and feelings to make you feel ‘pathetic’ or ‘needy.’
The idea is to make you look crazy, unstable and malfunctioning. Basically there’s something wrong with you and you’re the problem, therefore they get to avoid having to take any responsibility.
You can take the gaslighting quiz if you’re not sure if this is what’s been happening to you.
Examples of gaslighting to avoid accountability:
- “I never said that.”
- “I never did that.”
- “Your memory is so bad. That’s not how it went down at all.”
- “You’re so sensitive. Get over it.”
- “You just make this shit up in your head.”
- “This is the first time I’m hearing about it.”
- “I don’t have time for your games.”
|READ: 100+ Gaslighting Phrases →
Withholding & Punishing
Another common way for narcissists to take no accountability in relationships is to withhold from you as a form of punishment.
If you try to hold the narcissist to account for something they’ve done, they will totally stonewall you as punishment for having the audacity to point out such a flaw.
During my relationship with a narcissist, I regularly had to set my alarm each morning (way earlier than I needed to) just to make sure that he actually got out of bed and showed up for work. One morning, after trying to wake him for over half an hour and having made his lunch and coffee to help entice him out, he turned his back to me and said, “I’ve already told the boss I’m not going.”
Well, I’d finally hit tipping point and completely lost it. He never appreciated the effort I put in to help him out each day. In fact he was quite happy for me to get up early and bustle around being his slave, while he lazed around. He intentionally played on my fears of not having enough money to pay the bills in more ways than one. When I called him out on his disrespectful behaviour he ignored me… for a week!
Since he didn’t see anything wrong with his behaviour, he’d decided that I needed to be punished by withholding all affection and communication from me. Interestingly, by the end of the week I simply had nothing left to say to him and told him I was done. Unfortunately, he hooked me back in with guilt and I was back on the rollercoaster before being able to finally break free from his abuse for good.
Narcissists will withhold whatever means the most to you to punish you for ‘bad’ behaviour (anything that goes against their ego). It could be affection, sex, money, acts of service, communication… anything that gives them a way to control you.
Then when the narcissist sees fit, they’ll just act ‘normal’ again, as though nothing ever went down. You will be feeling such relief that everything is okay again, you’ll likely go along with it and not even approach the original issue, knowing that it’s not safe to broach anyway. And just like that, the narcissist has avoided having to take accountability and nothing ever gets resolved.
|READ: Narcissistic Abuse Cycle →
An infuriating tactic, which narcissists use to avoid having to take accountability for their behaviour, is to completely rewrite history.
They will tell you that your memory or experience is wrong and proceed to tell you how it actually happened in a way that completely nullifies you, while still serving their own agenda.
They’ll paint their false storyline to others (friends, family, co-workers etc.) so that you are unable to tell your version of events. In fact, they’ll smear the story in such a way that it makes you look all the more crazy if you do try to counter their falsities.
The more you try to defend yourself against the narcissist’s rewriting of history, the more you play into their hands. With all of your energy going towards them, you are handing over such a significant amount of supply, they feel so incredibly important and powerful.
They set the stage so that there’s nothing you can do to clear your name or tell the story in any other way, therefore they have succeeded in winning, while you are the loser. For the narcissist to be getting external validation from other people that they are ‘right,’ feeds their ego immensely.
|READ: Common Things Narcissists Say →
Playing the Victim
When all else fails and the narcissist cannot avoid the fact that they’ve been found out, they will slip into the victim role. Playing the victim is the ultimate form of avoiding accountability because it’s all about, “But it’s not my fault these things have happened. I’m just the poor casualty of things that are beyond my control.”
This was my narcissist ex’s favourite port of call when he couldn’t weasel his way out in any other way. As a covert narcissist he could switch on the crocodile tears at the drop of a hat if need be. And as an empath… I fell for it 9 times out of 10. I would even end up consoling him and assuring him that everything would be okay, “We’ll get through this together.”
If I knew then what I know now, I would have been able to recognise that he was positioning himself as the victim to get off scot free and even use my empathy against me all in the same breath.
You cannot reason with an overgrown child in an adult’s body who truly thinks you are the abusive one for not handing over your supply to them whenever they demand it.
Will a Narcissist Ever Take Accountability?
A narcissist will never, ever take accountability, full stop.
For a narcissist to accept responsibility for the parts of themselves that do not prop up their ego, would mean for them to take their mask off.
They would have to stop lying, which they don’t even know how to do by this point.
They would have to let their entire False Self crumble away, which goes against their very survival instincts.
They would have to admit to the world that they are not superior, grandiose or special. It would mean admitting to everyone and themselves that they are really just a scared, lonely little child who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves.
The narcissist’s entire facade is a precarious house of cards, built on nothing but lies and illusions. For even one card to be revealed, would mean the whole thing would come crashing down.
Without their False Self, they would not be able to manipulate life force energy from trusting whole beings, who still have their divine connection intact. Without their drug of narcissistic supply, they would be left to spiral down into the black hole of who they truly are underneath their costume – which is a place of utter despair and misery.
The narcissist will protect their ego and avoid accountability to the death, which is why narcissists generally get worse as they get older. Their youthful charms, income and other supply-extracting tactics diminish as their body ages and weakens. In the end, they are left with nothing but themselves.
What “I’m Sorry” Really Means from a Narcissist
As much as a narcissist’s lack of accountability in relationships is evident, they can still be known to apologise from time to time. However, a narcissist’s apology is a far cry from a genuine or authentic, “I’m so sorry.”
Any love, kindness and empathy that you do experience from a narcissist is merely a manipulation tactic for them to get what they want from you.
What a narcissist really means when they say sorry:
- “I’m sorry I got caught.”
- “I’m sorry you’re too sensitive.”
- “I’m sorry your actions made me do it.”
- “I’m sorry I didn’t manipulate harder.”
- “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
You can be forgiven for falling prey to the narcissist’s apology. You weren’t the first and you won’t be the last.
After being married to one for twenty years, I had to leave and extract myself from the situation to actually be able to clear my head and see through the entire pyramid of lies.
They are extremely good at their game and have perfected false empathy down to a tee (tears and all). A narcissist can look you dead in the eye and offer a fake apology without batting an eyelid. They are so good that it’s said they can even fool lie detector tests!
The only true apology is changed behaviour, which is where the narcissist completely comes undone.
|READ: The Narc Fauxpology →
Why You SHOULDN’T Try to Make A Narcissist Accountable
If you express to a narcissist that you want them to say sorry or acknowledge how their behaviour has hurt you, you’re actually just handing them more ammunition.
A narcissist needs to be getting heavy emotional reactions out of you, because that energy and attention gives them the best kind of narcissistic supply.
They love to watch you squirm and pour so much attention into them as you try futilely to get them to validate you and take responsibility. It makes them feel so damn powerful to be able to withhold something from you that you are desperately seeking.
On top of that, the narcissist needs an outer victim who they can dump all of their unwanted garbage onto. Arguing and trying to get them to be the adult human being that you thought they were, only serves to give them the opportunity to gaslight, project, blame-shift and use all of their other manipulation tactics.
The whole purpose of arguing for the narcissist is to get you hooked deeper and deeper into their abuse cycle. The more you try to communicate healthily with them, the more unreasonable the whole thing becomes. They’ll be getting you caught up in confusing word salads, blaming you for things that never even happened, pulling in other people to back up their agenda (even if it’s completely fictional) and raging at you.
The narcissist will use your need for accountability against you every, single, time.
You get to a point where your safety (emotional, mental and maybe even physical) is so severely compromised, you end up having to retreat. The narcissist has completely exhausted you and beaten you down to a place much worse than where you were to begin with.
You simply wanted some recognition and have now ended up with an armful of additional abuse traumas to add to your collection.
Take Your Power Back
The most healthy thing you can do when you’re dealing with a narcissist’s lack of accountability in relationships is to actually let the whole thing go.
I can feel your pain, despair and feelings of complete injustice, but hear me out.
I’m not suggesting you’ll easily be able to shrug it all off and sail away into the sunset. Unfortunately, after being in a relationship with a narcissist, you’ll be left with all of your wounds open and bleeding.
The first step is to recognise that the narcissist is and always will be a narcissist. Educating yourself on the personality disorder helps greatly in understanding why they are the way they are.
However, don’t get too lost down the rabbit hole without turning inwards and healing those gaping wounds that so desperately need your attention.
The truth is, it’s time to take full responsibility for those inner parts of your being that have been screaming out to be seen this whole time.
Narcissists are experts at locating those deep wounds and ripping them open. It’s how they get you to hand over your precious life force energy to them.
But now, it’s time to meet those wounds and move them out of your body so that they no longer control your beliefs and experiences here on Earth.
Once you start to work on yourself and become your own source of love, validation, acceptance and security, the narcissist will have nothing that they can hold over you. You’ll no longer fear the narcissist and your alignment with authenticity will expose their false illusions.
This is how you get all of the accountability that you were ever seeking. You’ll be energetically vibrating in a realm of such self-empowerment, which a narcissist could only ever dream about!
|READ: Self-care After Narcissism →
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