But I Can Change


“But I can change.”

A phrase so often said by some of our kind. You will, more likely than not, have heard this sentence at some point during your entanglement with us. Usually it is uttered as part of a Preventative Hoover when the narcissist sees that there is a considerable risk that you are going to depart the Formal Relationship and in so doing threaten the provision of fuel from the chief source. It also makes an appearance as part of the Initial Grand Hoover to draw you back in, should you have managed to take those first steps towards escape. You will hear it in Benign Follow-Up Hoovers although following the effluxion of time you are more likely to hear the cousin, namely, “But I have changed.” Occasionally it appears within the devaluation phase, following an unpleasant episode as part of the further manipulation to keep you bound to the narcissist and providing fuel. Accordingly, its use will occur at different parts of the narcissistic dynamic.

To some, the sentence contains the magical words that the empath is waiting to hear. The empath’s inherent desire to fix, to heal and to repair longs for that acknowledgement by the narcissist that they can alter their behaviour, make new and fresh choices, learn from the mistakes and choose a better path. The declaration of a willingness to change is welcomed by certain empaths and they selflessly accept this statement, believing that all people have some good within, that it is a case of recognising this and applying a different approach.

To others, the words are welcomed but with caution. Perhaps the devaluing behaviour has been so deep and savage that the recipient is wary, fearful of their hopes being raised too soon. Their inherent desire to see change, for the good of both people in the relationship wants to agree, to grab this offer with both hands and see to its implementation, but dare they hope that it can be done? Indeed they can, for in that moment, as the cool, hard logic of caution makes its presence felt, it becomes overrun by the soaring emotional thinking that cries out – “He has realised. He knows he has done wrong. He wants to make amends. He wants to change.” The emotional thinking brings forth those twin sisters of pressure – Hope and Guilt. The empath, chained to the concept of hope, sincerely wishes that  the person that they love will change and become a better person. Guilt also weighs in, whispering, “What if it is genuine, what if he can change and you do not give him a chance, what a bad person you will be for doing that?” The emotional thinking will win out.

Rarely will this protestation of being able to change go unheeded. Rarely will the opportunity not be given to the narcissist who states that this can be done. It is only the informed, those who can apply their cool, hard logic and resist the rising tide of emotional thinking who can repel the allure of those enticing words. For everyone else, they are drawn into allowing the narcissist a further opportunity to keep they, the victim, in place.

Yet, who is it of our brethren who issues this plea? What is meant by it and can it really happen?

You will rarely hear it from the Lesser Narcissist. He sees no reason to change. He or she does as they want. If he smashed up the house or physically attacked you, well it was your fault that it happened and once the ignited fury has abated, the best you will get is that the reset button is pressed and nothing is said about the previous behaviour. The statement of change might be issued if the Lesser faces a fuel crisis and in absolute desperation it is blurted out in order to prevent the cessation of his primary supply but come the morning after, the intention will have evaporated and any suggestion of change will be rejected. The crisis has been averted, the wound healed and fury abated and the entitled Lesser is not going to make those changes, not when of course it was your fault ll along.

If reminded of his intention, he will brush it to one side, telling you he will look into it, that he is busy with something else at the moment but you can talk later, that he has to go to work, that he has someone to see and you will be left dangling. He will not return to the discussion about making a change or seeking help and fearing a further explosive episode you do not press further and there the matter is left.

You will rarely hear it from the Greater Narcissist. He sees no reason to change either. Oh, we know what we do but that is borne out of necessity and it is what must be done. Our needs, superior to yours, require this behaviour and if you cannot accept it, well we can easily find someone else who will, because, after all, we are the prize, the champion and the ultimate, so it is your loss. The Greater will not issue this plea as a Preventative Hoover or such like to stop you leaving. True, he will not want his primary source to escape. This is a matter of fuel provision but often more of pride and superiority. After all, the extensive fuel matrices of the Greater school ( see The Fuel Matrix – Part Three ) means that even if the primary source had the audacity to escape he has plenty of other sources to turn to in the meanwhile. He will however not want to suffer the wounding of this primary source escaping and will want to stop it, but he will use charm and threat to achieve this, not the plea that he will change. It is beneath him.

The only time you might hear these words uttered by the Greater Narcissist is purely because he sees the opportunity for more Machiavellian behaviours through manipulating his victim by engendering false hope. He will see the opportunity to increase his trade craft through agreeing to engage in therapy. He will see it not as a chance to change, but rather an opportunity to learn more about himself (and why not, since he is such a fascinating creature), understand more about his ways and indeed take on the challenge of therapists and the like. If he agrees to changing his behaviour and enlisting external advice and assistance he will also lay down terms and conditions for this occurring in order to further his own agenda. You will however never hear the Greater Narcissist use the phrase “But I can change” as part of some desperate plea.

Accordingly, this leaves us with the school which uses this manipulation often, far more often than the other schools and that is of course the Mid Range Narcissist.  The Mid Ranger uses this manipulation for the following reasons:-

  1. He sees him or herself as a good person. Their perspective means they genuinely regard themselves as decent people and therefore since they are decent, they will, well, do the decent thing and look at making a change;
  2. They regard themselves as giving and they are prepared to make that sacrifice if it means saving the relationship;
  3. They consider themselves to be something of a tortured soul, they have “their demons”, there is something eating away at them and they wish to address it;
  4. They need to be saved and you are the person who can save them. They lack the pig-headed arrogance of the Lesser or the sneering superiority of the Greater.

What is behind those driving factors?

  1. The narcissistic perspective. They consider themselves the one who does good and it is other people who cause the problems, but because they are SO good they will prove that by addressing the issues which have been raised. This is not because they actually believe there is something wrong with them in terms of culpability but rather it is actually an opportunity for them to show the world that they are good and it is other people who are the problem.
  2. This is the victim perspective coming to the fore. The world is a horrible place and no matter how much they try to help others, the world keeps trying to bring them down but that doesn’t matter because guess what? They will rise above it and they will be the one who takes one for the team, who makes the sacrifice and does so for the greater good.
  3. This is the victim perspective once again. They do not see that they are disordered. They do not recognise that they manipulate. They are incapable of doing so because they have no insight or awareness. They do however regard this whole concept of being a ‘tortured soul’ as a magnificent device for drawing fuel. Sympathy, concern and compassion all come flowing. This is not an acknowledgement that there is anything wrong with the Mid Ranger but rather he blames ‘the demon’ (whatever that might be) because blame-shifting is a key defence mechanism and blaming you, the neighbours, the weather or an intangible concept will all work for him.
  4. This is the victim perspective once more but also all part of the sympathy grab for attention. The Mid Ranger wishes to draw pity and compassion but then also be revered, for he is the fallen hero who has been saved and is then able to rise once more, in the magical thinking that plays out in his mind.

The Middle Mid Ranger and Upper Mid Ranger have sufficient cognitive function to realise that their behaviour causes a problem. This is where many victims (understandably) are fooled into thinking that the narcissist is actually showing insight (indeed this often causes them to either think that the narcissist is not a narcissist, or that he is but he can actually change) . The MMR or UMR may acknowledge that his actions cause hurt and problems, however, he or she will never accept ownership of the hurt and problems. For instance, they might say,

“I know that when I disappear for a few days you are worried sick, BUT I need space because you are always pestering me.”

“I understand that you are hurt when I say certain things BUT I am under pressure at work at the moment and you aren’t helping when you question me about why I am home late.”

They can see the consequence but they will not own the consequence. They are configured not to do so.

As is always the case, the uninformed victim accepts the third party explanation as the cause of the errant behaviour or self-flagellates and the victim blames him or herself. So the cause of the problem is regarded as pressure at work or the pestering of the victim.

The Mid Ranger will state he can change and moreover he will also act on the declaration which again sows the seeds of false hope and ensures the victim remains in situ and providing fuel. This is just a further part of the manipulation.

The Mid-Ranger may become more attentive, does not dole out silent treatments, removes the manipulations and stops sulking for a few weeks. This is a Respite Period and he has implemented this because when you said you would not leave, you became painted white again because you did what he wanted. You succumbed to his control and your gracious behaviour provided fuel. The golden period returns and this is what powers his altered ways. It is not because there is any recognition that he must change because it hurts you. The alteration is because you have done what he wanted, thus his split thinking makes you ‘white’ once more and this is what keeps the devaluation at bay, but only for a while.

Naturally, the unwitting victim, having seen changes effected (but not knowing the real reason behind them) is conned into thinking that these changes can happen again and therefore when the plea “But I can change” is made at a later time, the victim is swamped by hope because it happened before (thus it can surely happen again) and thus the cycle continues.

If you return to the Formal Relationship through an Initial Grand Hoover or a Benign Follow-Up Hoover you are painted white once more and the golden period returns, creating the illusion of changed behaviours. Until it tarnishes in due course.

The insidious manipulative manner of the Mid Ranger means that these changes come in many forms. He will alter his actions at home. He will cease the affair shelving the IPSS as your Respite Period Golden Period draws him back to you. He will help out, he will show that inkling of charm once again. He will of course herald his new-found redemption to third parties because this will garner fuel and maintain the facade and of course accords with his complete conviction that he is a good person. This will also provide him with ammunition to hurl at you at the appropriate time, in that he made the changes and if things have faltered it has to be your fault then.

The Mid Ranger will readily attend therapy sessions. This allows him to do several things:-

  1. Show you he is willing and a good person;
  2. He can maintain the facade, “Dawn wanted me to go to therapy and because I love her so much it was the least I could do.” (now tell me how wonderful a husband I am).
  3. He will use the therapy sessions to advance his own agenda. Often the victim will not know what is discussed owing to confidentiality. Therefore the Mid-Ranger, convinced of his own goodness and lack of culpability, will manipulate the therapist  (and will do so convincingly most of the time). Thereafter, the Mid Ranger will tell the victim that actually the therapist said that the victim is the abuser and that the narcissist is the victim. This might be true, an exaggeration of the observations of the unwitting therapist or a lie. Either way, this will leave the victim undermined such is the conviction of the narcissist. Ally that with the fact the victim has seen some changes, their own eroded self-worth and reduced critical thinking and it comes as no surprise that the victim is confused or even believes what the narcissist is saying.
  4. The narcissist can hold it over the victim. “I did as you asked and got some help. They told me there is no issue.” (Now you owe me and I am going to ensure I extract that debt from you repeatedly).

The desire to change is motivated by entirely different reasons than you realise and this desire is not genuine. The change is short-lived, never permanent and any and all behaviours associated with it, no matter how genuine they appear, no matter how earnest the pleading, no matter how many tears are spilled (and the Mid Ranger will turn on the waterworks) it is all part of the manipulation.

They cannot and will not change.

Grasp that understanding so that when you hear “But I can change”, cool,hard logic prevails and you resist the allure of hope. People are inherently optimistic. Empathic people even more so, but the dark side of this hope is vulnerability and our kind and in particular the Mid-Ranger count on that and exploit it.


47 thoughts on “But I Can Change”

  1. Mine never said I can change or anything similar.I would roll over and die if he ever acknowledged there was a single time in his life he did anything less than perfect its just not possible he’s perfection according to him that’s why his favorite phrase is to tell other people to do things the wise way he told me this more times than I can count apparently the reason he was losing his grocery store was he failed to pay the rent for ages but according to hi. Its his brothers fault who has nothing to do with his store delusional much

  2. The more I read about the victim mrn, the more I think my last one fit this category. His IQ is supposedly higher thou. Plus he definitely had a violent side when drinking (which, as I understand it, fits more in that lessor category) . Is this possible?

    1. The IQ may not be accurate. If it is this does not preclude being from the Victim Cadre. Violence manifests in all schools BUT is far more prevalent and rudimentary in the Lesser category (punching, kicking, choking etc), Mid Range will use violence less often and it is more likely to be slapping, pushing, holding, spitting. The Greater also uses violence less often and do so in a more concealed manner.

      1. ~Thank you~
        I do believe the drinking had a major impact on all of it. It took a few months of living together to even discover -just -how -much alcohol. I guess some demons are harder to keep at bay

  3. Spot on again. As much clarity as this article gives it also hurts like hell in reaffirming that he is so mid range! Ugh ugh ugh.

    It frustrates the ever living shit out of me because he really does think he is a good person saying he does not want to just write me off because “It is because of my empathy that I cannot just dismiss you completely…” I always get the “I have done so much for you” line. “I should have seen YOUR warning signs of crazy” and so on. Always my fault.

    I often comment here that some of the stuff he says has ME believing I am the narcissist.

    “If you cool your jets and leave me alone, I will call you tomorrow, how does that sound?”

    “If you contact me before Jan. 15th I will block you” I called his bluff and contacted. Did he block me? Nope! He waited for me to leave him a voice mail and then he texted me immediately “I did not block you”. LOL. Yeah I kind of figured that out on my own, dingbat.

    I am starting to wonder if this is why he always continues to offer “friendship” to me. Because it reinforces his “polite good guy” behavior? “It is my promise to be a proper friend to you someday and to act naughty by having sex with you”

    When you mention this “tortured soul/demon” thing. Yep….I saw that all the time. He played his promiscuous/sexuality vice ALL the time. That was his demon. Engaging in sex all the time and it is why he could not be faithful. Oh but it was not JUST that. That combined with MY obsession for him and “OUR” raunchy behavior equaled the reason why he cannot talk to me.

    (insert eye roll here)

    1. Of course he thinks hes a good person. You confirm with your repeated contact with him that he is a GREAT person. Otherwise why would you so badly seek his company/contact? (his perspective).

      1. Narc Angel,
        He often goes on and on about his supposed “empathy” and how HE is the one who attracts those with “the problem”.

        “I am so sorry for what you are going through, you have my empathy Gabrielle”.

        “I should block you forever but it is because of my empathy for you that I cannot do that”

        “I am always attracted to the ones that are broken, I told you I am superman right?”

        He has no idea what that word even means. He is legitimately convinced that he is a good person and he blames his weakness for sexuality. Oh and that is also the reason he will never have a beer or a glass of wine. He is concerned about the “addictive” part of his personality turning him into an alcoholic.

        Did I also tell you about the time he said he wanted to go back to school to become a therapist?

        Yeah I can go on and on. LOL. That should be enough Narc tales for the moment.

      2. Gab

        I know that he doesnt know what empathy means. But you do-so you know he is not feeling empathy and he is lying. Therefore you cannot put stock in anything he says and shouldnt be trying to make sense of it. They lie for sport. You are twisting yourself in knots trying to understand him while he laughs about your confusion and his deceit. How can the guy that will be good to you get to you if this piano playing toad is always in the way?

      3. Narc Angel,
        Yes I know. I was just sharing what popped into my mind after reading your response. Unfortunately analyzing everything he says and does is like a reflex to me.

    2. Exactly NA, that’s what we accomplish when we contact them again and again. Why would he believe something is wrong with him when you still want him so badly Gabrielle? And I’ve been there too. Argument after bloody argument when I finally had to apologise even though he abused me and forced me into doing it; why wouldn’t he be the good guy in this bad world then? I was in the end the one to apologise. That was his twisted truth. It makes me sick thinking of it; I still feel humiliated by my behaviour.

    3. Hi gabbs….i get angry when i read aboit your narc bc he totally knows the psychology behind what hes doing hence himmaking reference to wanting to be a therapist. On the flipside one could say hes a midranger and fully believes this about himself.
      Next time he brings up not wanting alcohol due to its addictive nature ask him about his addiction to women and sex. Thatll shut him up!

      1. I sort of did one time (via text)…
        His reply was “Well you know that something can be bad for you and you can still want it? I am very weak what more can I say? I will indulge sexually with you from time to time but… IT IS WRONG OF ME!”

        (eye roll)

      2. Gabs,

        How r u? I am glad to see u back.

        Try to internalize this – narcs say what they need to AT THE GIVEN MOMENT, if it suits their purposes. So, he will say something one day, and the total opposite the next day, simply becoz it suits their purposes AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT. This is why they have no identity. I am trying to internalize this myself.

      3. Hi Jenna,
        I have been back and forth intermittently. And yes, internalizing that has been one of the more difficult things for me to understand. I analyze everything he says and does. He often points it out too. “You read too much into what I say vs. what I do…and I won’t lie. I know I can be contradictory at times…” (again…gee ya think??!!)

        Sigh, Piano recital at church.

  4. Your articles are very helpful in understanding what happened in this relationship. Mine said “I can change” about a hundred times. “Give me two weeks.” “Give me 30 days.” “I will treat you like a queen.” But the way he tried to implement “change” changed itself over the course of years, as if he was not understanding what worked and what didn’t (and yes I understand now that it was never going to be permanent). I think he did think of himself as a good person. Thank you for the insight.

  5. HG, is there any possibility a Greater uses words like: “I knew you (women) are all traitors!” with a intimate primary source (I escaped without him expecting this after only 2 months in, still, he had the “replacement”) or is this something specific to a MR?

  6. Fuck. I just got word about my narc experience by proxy.

    Fucking asshole lying sociopath shithead. I am NOT going to cry. I refuse to cry.

    This is the only place where I feel like my hurt is understood. I am feeling it and will soon let it pass. It won’t consume me.

    He is in the past. The hurt is in the past. I am better than he. I will always be.

    This is my self talk.

    I consider myself healed but even the slightest word can set you back a moment. They are not worth that moment.


    1. Bibi, I’d suggest: DO cry! Get your emotions out. it will heal you, it gives relief. He will not notice.

      “NO CONTACT” Yes!! That is always the best choice with narcs.
      Take care xx

      1. Thanks guys. I am fine. It has passed. I oversaw an exchange by mistake informing me that he is now writing for a gay magazine.

        I don’t know the mag, don’t care. But he gets to play the victim, act like the ‘good person’ writing about gay rights and at the same time use it as a lure to get cock.

        He is a hack. Any writing talent he once had has long fled.

        When I speak about him here, I do so in the distant, abstract sense, as though he is dead.

        But hearing about him only reminds me, ‘Shit. That bastard is still out there.’

        This is why I never look him up.

    2. Bibi, cry if it helps you move on. I am so sorry you are going through this. I feel the same about the hurt. Do not let it consume you. They are not worth the hurt.
      Take care.

  7. “They do however regard this whole concept of being a ‘tortured soul’ as a magnificent device for drawing fuel… rather he blames the ‘demon’…”

    In the other thread, u said narcs are not ‘miserable.’ Mrn’s just use it as a pity play. So how is it then that they feel like ‘tortured souls’ having a ‘demon’? Ty.

      1. I always thought it was true, at least if they are in a state of depression and low fuel. Liars.

      2. Jenna, I’m sensing in your comments that you may have had a recent discouraging revelation or something with regard to your Narc.

      3. Hello clarece,

        I missed this comment for some reason.

        Yes, u r correct. I have realized that the ‘friendship’ he wanted for the past 1.5 yrs was a big manipulation. He has finally, 17 months later, changed his tone. He kept it up for 17 months. Great job, mid-ranger!

        What i thought was him expressing cognitive empathy turns out to be him expressing a desire to say the right thing in order to keep me bound for fuel. I mean, i knew it was for fuel. I do not mind giving positive fuel or sympathy. What i did not know is that the display of cognitive empathy was a manipulation. I thought it was genuine, that he is trying.

        Hg, is the display of cognitive empathy instinctual, a manipulation, or simply what is required at the given moment? If it is instinctual, then it is not his fault? I am struggling with this a little, and trying hard to internalize it. Ty.

      4. Hi clarece,

        I replied to u but it’s in moderation for some time. So i thought i’d reply again without asking hg a bunch of questions.

        U r correct clarece. The friendship that HE wanted for the past 1.5 yrs post hoover seems to be non genuine. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him as a friend too, but at that time i didn’t jump at the proposition. I said i wud have to think abt it for a few days. I finally decided that yes, i wud like to have him as a friend too, as i still wanted him in my life. In addition, I felt sympathy for him becoz 1)i thought his narcissism is internally beating him up as he wud constantly claim and 2)he is trying hard to display cognitive empathy which i found commendable for someone who lacks empathy. All lies. It was all lies, said in the moment to maintain control. He kept it up for 1.5 yrs👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

        Ty for ur inquiry clarece. I appreciate u noticing and caring abt me💗

      5. I definitely notice when you go quiet. And when that happens I know you are probably suffering from one of your attacks that can only be caused by one person…. So yes, I was concerned. You are so tender hearted and like our delicate flower here.
        What a turd! Him and JN should get together and have a bro-mance.

      6. “What a turd! Him and JN should get together and have a bro-mance.”

        Don’t forget Mr. Piano Recital at Church (aka: Angel with a dirty face)….forget bromance…make it a trifecta or mid-range Narc-ery.

        But if anyone asks what is going on, just remember…we are bible study partners!

      7. Hi gabs,

        We can gladly have him in the trio. I am worried abt u tho. The last line struck me ‘just remember we are bible study partners’.

        His words mean alot to u and that is why u repeat them. The only thing that is helping me to move on is having hg analyze the words in context of the conversation. Knowledge is power.

        For some, the knowledge that he is a narc is all they need to move on, like for blank. For others, they need more knowledge, like having their questions answered. And for some, they require further knowledge, like having questions answered AND an explanation for what was said when it was said, to clear the confusion. I am talking abt midrangers who largely use words to manipulate rather than other forms of abuse. I fall into the 3rd category. Only hg can answer these questions truthfully. Ur narc cannot. Hg has literally saved my life frm suicidal ideation. I strongly encourage u to have an audio consult. I will be booking another one soon too.

      8. Jenna,
        The “bible study partners” sentence was analyzing what he said but it was also meant to be sarcastic in regard to my “angels with dirty faces” reference in response to these narcs having a bromance.
        Angel with a dirty face = I.e. hiding behind the church facade.

      9. Ty clarece. Reading those words of support frm u means alot to me. I esp love the last sentence. I feel that i have been re-smeared but i am trying to stay strong. Here, only here, my lovely fellow readers understand.

  8. My ex was like this. He believed he was a good guy and that he could change. Of course all the violence and fighting was due to my behaviours. He could never accept responsibility for anything and his “changes” were only temporary. After years of this, there was definitely a pattern. He was so good at maintaining his good guy image to all of our friends. A Jekyll and Hyde personality. But there is absolutely one thing for certain, they never change. It is the most frustrating thing because they don’t see that they have a problem and they believe their own lies.

  9. HG, I would love to read a series from you with regards to how YOU handle these narc manipulations.

    Condescension? How do you handle it? What do you say? Or do they just know not to condescend?

    Rejection? How do you deal?

    You make a mistake that is obvious (in black and white, boss tells you that you did this and that) how do you handle it inside? Do you feel less? Do you lose confidence? How do you cope?

    I mean really. These people are out there, so I know you have come across them. How have you handled the passive aggression of the Mid Ranger? Do you give yourself self-talks? Do you overpower them?


    This might be a rhetorical post, but just an idea for some future posts.

    You’ve taught me a lot about how to handle things emotionally. I have taken the best from you and I know there is a lot more to share.

    Just a thought.


  10. Mine thought he was a good guy in a bad and scary world. He didn’t need to change; he couldn’t even play the part of wanting to change because he was oblivious to the pain he caused in other people’s lives. What would he change into if he already was the best, the smartest, the wittiest, the most successful and the most misunderstood person in the universe? There could be no better person than he was? It must be my fault according to his logic. I needed to change.

  11. Hum …makes me think now

    maybe this one is a Mid- Ranger after all.


    I thought that only the Greaters repetedly sing their own praises of how magnificient and great they are …and whoah unto anyone pointing out
    their misdeeds..

  12. Hi . Jenna I too remained friends with my ex narc mid ranger. Its been 8 months. I am lonely and haven’t met anyone else I have romantic feelings for. Actually one man I am dating has everything I want, adores me, and is sweet. But so far I feel no attraction. I wonder “Will I only be attracted to a narc.”? I’ve stayed friends with my ex like I said. He broke up with a young girl he was dating right after me(she ended it with him) a few months ago so I was expecting the next hoover and here it came. He loves me. Why did I end it this last time when for the most part of the 6 months were great. He did have bad behavior during our trip to Spain but it wasn’t as bad as I said and conflicts happen in all relationships. For the most part it was good. Why was I so quick to the break up gun. he always makes sense what he says on some level but I have to talk to myself and realize he will only change for a little while. For me the loneliness is very hard and I sometimes wonder if dealing with his occasional narc behavior is not better than this loneliness I feel. I know you guys will say loneliness is better but for me depression comes with that and its very very hard to deal with. But I’m not going to let that make me do something stupid. And I don’t really like him in many ways.

    1. Susan,
      I understand the depression. It’s horrible. I can hardly crawl out of bed. I finally asked my doctor to put me on an antidepressant short term. At least until the sun comes back out. 🌱

    2. Susan

      It doesnt appear to be loneliness youre feeling (as evidenced by the fact that it appears you have successfully dated a sweet and adoring person), but points more to the addiction to the chaos that a narc brings.


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