How A Narcissist Avoids Accountability (IANOW)

If you aren’t listening carefully, you might think a narcissist is apologizing when, really, he is just using more tactics than you could count, to make it LOOK LIKE he is apologizing. In fact, this is just him, . Here’s what a narcissist’s fake apology looks like & what happens when he’s called out into the open. Warning: It’s not pretty…

The following is a transcript of an actual, recorded conversation between a narcissist and his wife. The wife was pretty upset about the treatment she had been regularly receiving, from the narcissist. Surprise, surprise, right? The narcissist, in this script, is attempting to manipulate his wife by offering an insincere apology. Pretty rapidly, it becomes obvious that he is NOT really sorry at all.

When the wife calls him out… straight-up points out his blatant insincerity- the narcissist quickly becomes verbally abusive. Employing all sorts of tactics, in order to not accept responsibility for his mistreatment of her.

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]”Confront a narcissist with truth- and watch how quickly he loses his cool.”[/clickandtweet]

“The narcissist’s every move is for one purpose: Avoiding accountability.”

What avoiding accountability sounds like…

[N]= Narcissist
[W]= Wife
(Red italics)= My notes

NARCISSIST [N]: I’m sorry that I did not take your needs into consideration. (Vague) I do, often times, get caught up in what I’m doing and, that will result in that. (Already making excuses for his behavior) I apologize for that. Most of all, I apologize for the way it hurt you. And, I apologize for that. I’m sorry. You’re a woman and, you want to be treated as such. I forget frequently that…exactly that. And I know that’s painful. I’m sorry.

(At first, it might seem that this person is trying to make a sincere apology. And, for those of you with empathy- and the ability to feel compassion- this is when you would tend to confer, onto the narcissist, personality traits that he doesn’t really have.

For example, even though something in your gut might be telling you that this apology isn’t sincere, you will probably think to yourself something along the lines of “Hmm…that was pretty vague and, I’m not exactly sure what he is really apologizing for. But, then again, I know this must be really hard for him to do. He’s obviously feeling insecure, and struggling with finding the right words. His self-esteem is so fragile. I kind of needed him to be a little more specific but, if I criticize his apology, he might feel like his effort isn’t good enough for me. Idon’t want to discourage him, when he’s finally making the effort…”.

Does that sound about right? (If you’re wondering if I’m a mind-reader- No, I’m not. I just thought the very same things. The thing is, this is EXACTLY WHY the narcissist does this. He is COUNTING on you having compassion & empathy for him, and NOT confronting him with the problem of his shitty, insincere apology. And, if you don’t believe that, then keep reading. Further along in the conversation, you’ll see what happens if you call the narcissist out. But, anyway…

In this very first paragraph, you can plainly see how absolutely convoluted the narcissist’s whole spiel is. Notice, especially, how the he says, ‘I apologize for the way IT hurt you’. ‘IT’? Notice he did not apologize for ‘the way I hurt you’. This is one way of avoiding accountability. HE did not hurt you. IT did.

His actions/words hurt you… which, basically, he can rationalize-in his mind- that HE did nothing wrong. It was his words/actions and, those can be justified or excused. He can rationalize that YOU are wrong for your reaction to his words/actions. YOU are just over-sensitive. That’s not HIS fault. That’s just who you are! Of course, he IS sorry that you are hurt because, after all, he loves you! (*barf*)

In this example, the narcissist excuses his words/actions with “forgetfulness” and, the fact that he “gets caught up in what he’s doing”- which basically means he’s too busy focusing on important things, like work, watching T.V. or pooping, to be able to deal with your over-sensitivity. But, I digress..moving on.)

 WIFE [W]: What are you talking about? That? I don’t understand.

[N]: You want to be treated like a wife. Like a woman. Who feels loved. (He just saying random, agreeable phrases)

[W]: Well, yeah…but, this is all very, very vague. Like, ‘I’ve not considered your needs because I get caught up sometimes’ and, ‘I’m not treating you like a woman’. I don’t understand what you’re apologizing for. Those words are all very, very vague. As in, ‘I’m not really admitting to anything’.

[N]: I thought I…What do you want to hear? (This phrase pretty much tells you everything you need to know. The narcissist is, basically, flat-out telling you that he is just trying to say whatever words will get you off his back. This shows that he has no particular feeling about how he has treated his wife. He only cares about shutting her up. 

A person, who is sincerely sorry, will be able to explain further what he did, how he affected you, why he feels bad, what he could have done- or will do- differently, in the future.)

[W]: Well… I’d like specific examples.

[N]: Well, I…I…Can’t really think of any…

[W]: There are tons.

[N]: I can’t give you examples…It’s all such a blur… (So…he’s super-sorry about hurting his wife and mistreating her, but can’t think of a single instance in which he actually hurt, or mistreated, her?? REALLY?! Sounds real sincere, doesn’t it? Luckily, this narcissist’s wife is willing to help jog his memory…LOL)

[W]: Well, how about all the times when you ignored my phone calls, or refused to read,or respond to, my texts? How about all the times I came to you, with something that was really upsetting  me, and you dismissed me, or attacked me, or blamed me? How about for blaming me for every problem in our relationship?

[N]: I don’t!

[W]: How about, when I’m crying and, instead of being kind or comforting, you’re either condescending, or patronizing? Or, you decide that that is a goof time to be “firm” with me, and purposely start escalating me? How about every time I begged you to just be nice to me and you told me that I made it ‘too hard’? How about when I asked you to just love me and, you told me that I made that really hard for you to do because I wanted to be treated with respect? How about for calling me crazy? How about for threatening to leave a bunch of times? How about for threatening to take the kids from me?

[N]: I don’t recall any of that. I mean, I recall situations where those words came up but, not like that… 

[W]: Huh… Do you see how sincere your apology really was, then?

[N]: I mean, you’ve never come to me on your knees, and were just like ‘please love me’…

[W]: Oh really? Really? You don’t ever recall me crying, and just falling to my knees, on the floor, screaming “please! Just stop this, PLEASE! Please just be nice to me. Just love me!” 

[N]: Oh, well…I mean…maybe after, like, 2 HOURS of talking… (OOOHHHhhh! Well, that makes it all so much more reasonable! He wouldn’t take responsibility for behaving cruelly towards her, and kept deviating from the topic of his actions, and blaming her for reacting to his bad behavior-for two hours- and so he had the RIGHT to be cruel to her some more. Totally reasonable, right?)

[W]: Wow, this is some apology…

[N]: I recall THIS more often, than not. You talking down to me. (OH! Poor THING!!! He’s the real victim here. Can’t you see? See, he mistreated his wife and, she wanted a genuine apology. He gave her an insincere, meaningless, load of bullshit. But, because she didn’t appreciate his total lack of sincerity and integrity, HE is being victimized! Obviously, she should have just accepted the lies and gone about her business- just waiting for the next round of abuse to occur. 

[W]: I am not, in any way, talking down to you. I’m explaining how your “apology” was not sincere. 

[N]: The conversation is always about how I’m bad or wrong! (wah *boo hoo*- Seriously, if he didn’t want to have the conversations all about how he is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, then maybe he should just NOT DO BAD OR WRONG THINGS! But, that never occurs to the narcissist. To him, the problem is his wife TALKING about what he did, rather than the fact that he DID IT in the first place. She brought it up- so SHE is causing the problem. This is a very common narcissistic tactic.)

[W]: You know what? Forget it. I can already see this conversation, in your head, getting all twisted up  & around. It’s going to end up just like always…with you pretending your shitty, insincere apology was acceptable, but because I didn’t accept your shitty, insincere apology, then I’m causing the problem, and YOUR the VICTIM! 

[J]: Well, I see me apologizing and, you just continuing to…. (Here’s a really good, but crazy-making tactic. The wife obviously- and very clearly- pointed out that his apology was totally insincere. He just pretends that she never saif that, even though it is the WHOLE POINT of the conversation in the first place!)

[N]: That is because you didn’t apologize for anything. If you were being sincere, you’d have no problem trying to come up with specific examples. Unfortunately, you just can’t seem to think of a single thing you ought to be sorry for. 

[N]: Well, it’s all a big blur… It’s just one huge chunk of my life just wasted on THIS(OUCH, right?! Look how quickly the gloves come off, and the narcissist starts to rage, when he doesn’t get his way. Can’t force her to accept his insincere non-apology.)

[W]: Just waste, huh? Well… Welcome back, Mr. Hyde.  (Poor woman)


Conversations, like this one, can be dragged on and on, for hours, until the victim is over-exhausted, and close to emotional breakdown. The narcissist will just continue to switch the topic, focus on irrelevant details, interrupt with superfluous phrases, and comments…anything to not address the further damage he has done to the relationship. To protect his pride… Anything to continue avoiding accountability. The wife’s well-being is not important. It’s nothing more than collateral damage to the narcissist.

Want to know if someone is genuinely taking responsibility? Check out my post on that very thing!

What are some of the tactics your narcissist has used in avoiding accountability? Was there an apology you thought was sincere, but turned out to be anything but? Can you relate to the inner-monologue I described above, where we assume the narcissist is trying to be sincere? What’s your experience with this? Let’s talk!

Keep calling them out, Sister,
~The Narcissist’s Wife


Hi. I’m Story Lynne, (a.k.a. The Narcissist’s Wife). Nice to meet you. I’m the mother of 4 amazing kids, the (soon-to-be-ex) wife of a narcissist, and the author of this blog. I’m also a teacher, a healer, an intuitive empath, and Angel Card Reader.
I love fairies, angels, the color pink, anything sparkly, and Legos. (the Elves are my absolute favorites). I also love fixing cars, building shit, and shooting my bow (as in, bow and arrow).

13 thoughts on “How A Narcissist Avoids Accountability (IANOW)

  • michelle

    How about talking over the top of me in any given disagreement to throw me off the point of why i was upset. Then abruptly ending the conversation with the statement that he is done with this conversation do not push it any further.

    • The EXACT SAME thing would happen with a psychopath that I encountered AFTER leaving my narc. That’s exactly how he would handle ANY conversation I tried to have with him about his uncontrollable outbursts of rage.

      “You are so ungrateful & selfish. I bend over backwards for you and you just treat me like shit! I’m done with you.”

      It’s enough to drive, even the likes of me, to violence… almost šŸ˜‰

      Hang in there, sister
      ~The Narcissist’s Wife

  • DKS

    My narc is way too proud to EVER say he’s sorry. Now, he will ACT like he’s sorry in the typical abusive pattern of ugly, nice, ugly….but “sorry”…no. So, at least he’s not lying to me, but feeling so self righteous that he can’t even fake an apology is a sign of how over- the- top self absorbed he really is.

    There were many, many years that I made excuses for him. I thought every thought you wrote here, time and time again. I prayed (for him, me, us), I worked on my own issues, I prayed some more….and now all these years later I finally understand that praying for him and fixing my own issues are all good, but not nearly the remedy for what ails him. I think the hardest thing about realizing this is I’ve had to let go of hope for him and for a more normal marriage. This is huge- because I am an optimist at heart and have a deep and abiding faith- which is one of the reasons I’ve things about this hell I find myself in….and, after all, isn’t that just been able stay in this relationship. And after all, isn’t that just what hell is?

    • Lookup

      DKS. I find my faith has been put to the test. Ever since I found about about this disorder. I go back and forth in my mind. Do I stay because that is what God wants us to do. My pastor just finished up a four week sermon on MARRIAGE (funny how the timing was so perfect). But it also was confusing. I have a plan to get myself strong and kids on their own. I might have to break the one rule I’ve always told the kids. To stick it out. Get thru the problems. But never get a divorce. SPIRITUALLY CONFUSED.

  • Linda

    I want to know do these narcissist know they are doing what they are doing? I told mine bye was one (more than once). I even sat down with him and went thru all the characteristics of a narcissist. I showed him all the books I read and all the notes. Then I went down memory lane of the past 25 years with examples of everything. I did this in a very calm professional way. Of course he gave me long stares and then just said that he doesn’t remember it happening that way. And just say I’m overreacting. I told him he needs to see a doctor. But no response. That is why I’m asking. Does anyone know if they know they are doing this or if it’s just like breathing for them.

    • Unfortunately, the worst thing you can do is confront them with the fact that they are narcissists. I only know this because, it’s EXACTLY what I DID! ha ha ha… I did the exact same thing you did…it didn’t go very well, It seems like he just tried harder to hide/rationalize his narcissism even MORE! (grrrrr)

      But the answer to the question of whether, or not, they know what they are doing…is yes, they do.

      Consider that they know not to treat everyone else in their life the way they treat you, don’t they? They know to turn of “ass-hole mode” when other people are around, right?

      If they were truly unconscious of what they were doing, they would just run around treating everyone like trash, willy-nilly.

      Your husband knows he’s lying, right?He knows all the other stuff he does too.

      Things get a little complicated when you understand that, in a way, they are unconscious of their rationalizations, and justifications, for WHY they are acting the way they act. As in, they don’t always seem aware of the fact that they are excusing their own behavior. They seem to really believe that they are justified in acting the way they do.
      (Writing that down as an idea for yet another great post topic to expand on-LOL)

      One thing to know though: You are- obviously- not overreacting. Though you should know that counseling is almost never helpful. Narcissists usually just manipulate the therapist, and end up using the therapist as a way to further justify, or excuse their behavior. Too many therapist/psychiatrists/etc. are not qualified to identify, or handle, narcissists. Sometimes, the experience will even be used to further abuse you…as in, “Well, my therapist says that you don’t appreciate the things I do for you!”. (No fun- I tried the therapy thing…so frustrating!)

  • Linda

    Faking It: ā€œIā€™m sorry I lied. I was just trying to avoid a fight because I know you would have been mad if I told you the truth.ā€

    This is the one my husband uses all the time.

    I never believe anything he tells me. He lies 99% of the time and it’s just daily conversation stuff that he lies about. Of course he lies on bigger stuff too. But itS gotten so bad I don’t listen or believe anything that comes out of his mouth NEVER!!! I have total disengaged myself emotional. This is the only way I can live with him in the house. Otherwise I truly will be crazy.

    • OMG! That is one of my husband’s favorite lines too! I only lied because I didn’t want to cause problems. I knew you’d be mad if I told you the truth.”

      This is so funny (you know, how I mean “funny” -LOL) because I just commented on laurelwolfelives blog how it seems that narcissists all share one collective brain because they all say and do and think and believe the exact same things!

      • Lookup

        It is funny. Jk. But it does feel good to know someone else is going thru the same exact thing. And that I’m not going crazy. This is real and I’m not imagining it. NO LONGER making excuses for him.

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