I have never met anyone better at dodging apologizing than a narcissist. They are experts at it. Their sense of superiority causes them to never feel that they are in the wrong. Other “inferior” individuals are always to blame. So for them to apologize requires that they lower themselves to an equal or lesser plane than others.This is something that they simply cannot do! They will tap dance, side step, spin in a circle, and stand on their heads. But they will NOT apologize, at least not in any real and genuine way.
If you are dealing with a narcissist, you will never feel like they actually care about how they make you feel. They never seem to notice or acknowledge how they hurt you. They don’t care when you try to tell them. You will never receive a genuine and sincere apology from them. Instead, they will use all sorts of tactics to distract you and confuse you. Here are some examples:
The Circle Apology
With a circle apology, a narcissist starts by actually apologizing. The words, “I’m sorry” come out of their mouth. However, they don’t stop there. By the time they are done talking, you find that you are on the defense. You are under attack and feel like everything was and is your fault. The next thing you know you are apologizing to them. You don’t even know how you got here.
The initial apology may seem extremely genuine. You feel relieved that they see their wrongdoing and are taking responsibility for it. So you relax. Then bam! They flip the entire thing around. You are now defended every thought you have ever had, every word you ever uttered, everything you have ever done, and so on. Somehow this misunderstanding, all misunderstandings, are always your fault. Not just partially your fault, but completely your fault.
How in the world did we get here? You may even find yourself apologizing to them for something that they did.
The Victim Apology
A narcissist will apologize if they feel they can gain some leverage from it. As I have already said, the words “I’m sorry” can be very effective at bringing the other person’s guard down. Once said, now the narcissist can proclaim, “I said I was sorry” and play the victim role.
When the behaviors continue over and over again for years, the apologies are meaningless. Yet the narcissist will wear them like a badge of honor. They might say something like, “I said I was sorry. It isn’t my fault that you won’t forgive me.” Or “Everyone makes mistakes. Am I not allowed to?” The lack of remorse and lack of genuine apology leave you never feeling cared for or heard. Their fake “I’m sorry” is their Get Out of Jail Free card.
The Partial Apology
The narcissist may apologize for one piece of what happened but not another, maybe more significant part. “I will take credit for saying this. I’m sorry for that. But not this other. I didn’t do that.” Giving an apology for one piece makes them seem more credible. Why would I apologize for this and yet lie about that? It allows them to dodge the other piece.
“I said I was sorry for the things I did. But I didn’t do this other part. If I’m willing to apologize for these other things, then why would I refuse to apologize for this one? It has to show that I didn’t do that one.” Keeping something back keeps them in charge and feeling superior.
The Abusive Apology
“I’m sorry, but…” They need to tell you more of the situation. They always need to help you to better understand. If they are not yet feeling in control of the situation, then clearly you don’t understand the whole scenario yet. If you are not yet apologizing to them, putting them on a more superior plane than you, then they cannot let it go. This can go on for hours at a time or even for days.
They will continue to add more fuel to the fire. Moving past it and moving on with your life is impossible. If they do not feel satisfied with how the current conversation went, I assure you that they will be back. Be ready for rounds 2, 3, and 4. More realistically be ready for rounds 18, 19, and 20!
Similar to the circle apology, these abusive apologies always put things back on you. Unlike the more subtle circle apology, these are a direct attack and immediately put you on the defense. There is nothing subtle about them.
I’m sorry, but you overreact to everything anyway.
I’m sorry that you think I said that. You can’t remember anything right.
I’m sorry that you heard me wrong. Can’t you ever listen?
I’m sorry, but everyone else thinks it was funny. You just have no sense of humor.
I’m sorry. Are you happy now?
I’m sorry, but you started it.
Alright FINE, I’m SORRY.
I already apologized. What more do you want? (Often after they never apologized in the first place)
I’m sorry that you don’t think what I do is good enough for you.
I’m sorry, but I was just trying to help. Excuse me for trying.
The Absolute Refusal to Apologize
All of these types of apologies are in reality a refusal to sincerely apologize. The absolute refusal to take any responsibility for their behavior is incredibly infuriating. Being compassionate and genuinely wanting things to resolve, you come to your partner and apologize for your side of the problem. In a healthy relationship, apologies go both ways. Both sides are involved and both should take some of the blame. However, the narcissist is just not willing to own any piece of the problem. They are happy to accept your admission, yet refuse to take any responsibility for their own behavior.
You can apologize for getting angry about the way they talked to you. In return, you get an attitude of “you should be.” They will even add more reasons to your apology of why you should feel sorry. Yet they will not take ANY blame for their part in the problem. They have absolutely NO recognition of how their own behavior triggered all of this in the first place.
“You were angry first.”
“I didn’t get upset until after you did.”
“It’s not my fault you behaved that way.”
“I don’t know what I could have done differently.”
Fake apologies leave you feeling empty and not valued. Narcissists are experts at it. The confusion they leave in your mind makes you feel crazy. You find yourself wondering, “They did apologize, so why do I still feel this way?” You question your own intentions and sanity. These people are smooth! They are believable and convincing to everyone. They are dangerous.
Never getting a genuine apology in an intimate relationship is painful and debilitating! It makes genuine connection impossible!