What Does TRUE Accountability Look Like?

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That’s it! I’ve had enough. He’s gone too far, this time, and I’ve HAD IT! I can’t take another moment of his torture. I’m outta here!

Your overnight bag is packed, and you’ve arranged to stay a few days with your parents, or a friend. You are SERIOUSLY DONE with his shit. He crossed the line SO FAR this time, you’re seeing red and you’re ready to sign the injunction…

“Which way to the courthouse?”, you think.

But then…  just as your fingertips make contact with the doorknob, you hear his voice. That little voice in your head is totally freaking out.

“Cover your ears! Don’t listen to him! Don’t hesitate! Go, GO, GO!”, that voice screams. But, do you listen? sigh Of course, not…. after all, you’re a fair and decent human being, and you could have sworn you heard desperation in his voice…right? How unjust would it be to just leave without giving him a chance to explain himself? To apologize? To get closure…yeah, that’s it…closure!

So you turn around to face him, arms crossed over your chest. Your face all twisted up in a look of absolute, unwavering disapproval. You’ll just let him grovel for a moment, and THEN you’ll go. Surely you deserve that small satisfaction. That’s not wrong, is it?

But then…

You turn around…and there he is. LITERALLY on his knees…and there are big alligator tears, coursing down his cheeks. He looks broken, terrified, like a child….

He looks so weak, and small, and pathetic. Your heart squeezes tight… and already, you know you’ve lost this battle. Somewhere, in the back of your mind, you already know…

You’re not going anywhere.

It no longer matters that he crossed a very, VERY SERIOUS line. For the moment, the fact that just hours earlier, you called the police to ask if you had the legal right to lock your husband out of the house, because he wouldn’t stop bullying your kids, and they were becoming more and more distressed, crying and yelling at him to stop, to no avail…and, the fact that when an officer was sent out to help deescalate the situation, your husband started to play the martyred victim role, stating that he only stayed in the marriage because YOU were “crazy”, and that he was terrified for the children….AND, even the fact that the narcissist accused YOU of punching him in the face, and attempting to thrown him from a moving vehicle….all of that is forgotten. He is openly sobbing now…

Through those gasping sobs, he manages to choke out that he’s an asshole-  a worthless piece of shit- SELFISH, a LOSER…He doesn’t deserve you. You’re right to leave! (you’re tempted to verbally agree with him, but you restrain yourself)

He tells you that he’s scum… he doesn’t want to be the way he is. He doesn’t want to keep hurting you. He LOVES YOU!  “Please!”, he cries, “PLEASE! Don’t go!”

He promises to change. He tells you that he was wrong to hurt you the way he did. It breaks his heart…no, it kills him, to see you cry. He swears, on the lives of his children, that he will do better. He will change!

You can hardly believe the words coming out of his mouth. You’re thinking that you might very well be witnessing a miracle- A narcissist…holding himself accountable! You pretty much HAVE TO accept THAT apology, don’t you? No…you can’t. At that moment, you replay the scene in your mind, his voice dripping with feigned concern, and victimhood: “Sir, If you’re so afraid of her, why are you still in the home?”

“I know…I know…It’s just…she’s crazy….and the kids. I’m afraid to leave them.”

Your stomach turns, and you want to vomit. The betrayal is sickening.

No… enough is enough…and so, you turn, as if to go… you catch a glimpse of him in your peripheral vision, and he’s got his face to the floor…“I can’t lose you! Please, don’t do this!” he cries.

He looks up, right into your eyes, and with the most convincing- and pathetic- expression, he utters a single word….“Please!?”

You hesitate…

He notices…and goes in for the kill…

“Please?”, he says again… more urgent now. He knows he’s got you (narcissists can sense these things). “Don’t go. I’m terrified of losing you. I don’t know how to stop this. I don’t want to be like this anymore! Please… help me. I love you!”

Game. Over.

Your shoulders slump, with the weight of resignation, as you pick up your bog, and head towards your bedroom, realizing that if you just practiced the spiritual art of forgiveness, then why does it feel so much like a sentencing instead?

Five minutes later, the narcissist is acting as though nothing whatsoever happened. The whole thing is forgotten… by him, at least. You feel exploited. Taken in. Bamboozled. Hoodwinked. And you feel correctly, because while you thought that what you were listening to was the apology, and the accepting of personal responsibility, by the narcissist… you actually heard no such thing.

What?! What are you talking about? He said he was sorry, and all those other nice things! Isn’t THAT being accountable? Actually, no. I’m sorry, but your husband absolutely, 100% did NOT hold himself accountable for the terrible things he did. He’s just a very skilled actor.

Luckily, I am going to teach you a very simple way to spot TRUE accountability, so that, in the future, you will not be fooled by the thespian skills of the narcissist. Basically, TRUE accountability involves THREE PARTS:

  1. ADMISSION: The person being truly accountable will admit what they did. They will cite specific words or deeds, and they will admit that the responsibility for their behavior rests SOLELY on their shoulders. They will NOT reference anything that “made them do it”. They will NOT suggest ANYTHING, other than their own choice, was the cause, motivation, or provocation, for their transgressions. For example,
    TRUE Accountability: “I’m sorry that I lied to you. I had no right to lie to you- no matter what. That was wrong.”
    Faking It: “I’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.”
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The second part of accountability is that the person acknowledges that their behavior had a negative effect on you. They communicate to you that they understand HOW their behavior affected you- whether it made you sad, or angry, or left you feeling betrayed. They are also specific in communicating their understanding of the consequences of their actions. For example.
    TRUE Accountability: “I understand that I really hurt you, because you felt incredibly betrayed by my lies. I can imagine that you must have also felt pretty disappointed, when I didn’t come through and do what I said I would.”
    Faking It: “I’m sorry I upset you”, or “I’m sorry I hurt you”, or “I’m sorry you’re hurting”
  3. ATONEMENT: A person TRULY wishing to take responsibility for their misdeeds will want to make it up to you, or repair the situation, in some way, if possible. They will offer you the opportunity to create a new boundary, if necessary, to protect yourself from a similar occurrence, in the future. They will also assure you that, should a similar circumstance present itself in the future, they have a more positive response in mind. For example,
    TRUE Accountability: “Next time, I won’t just assume that you’ll react negatively, and I will be upfront and honest with you. No matter what.”
    Faking It: “I won’t do it again”, or “I’ll do better next time”

And there you have it. If a person is apologizing to you, and you hear any of the Faking It phrases, then they are trying to trick you into believing they are sorry, and chances are, they have no intention of ceasing their hurtful behavior. When in doubt, look for specifics. People who are really sorry, want you to know it, for sure. And they don’t try to come up with a reason, or explanation, or something else out of their control, as the cause of their behavior.

Lastly, listen to your body (your intuition). If your body doesn’t feel relaxed after the apology, then you might want to consider further, whether or not, that person was truly attempting to hold themselves accountable.

Have you received an apology, but weren’t sure if it was sincere, or not? Comment about it below, and I’ll help you apply the 3A Formula, to find out if they were genuinely remorseful.

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I love you
~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).

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