Often regret is very false and displaced, and imagines the past to be totally other than it was. – John O’Donohue
(Read time 1-2 mins)
Do narcissists feel regret when they hurt their partners?
Regret is a powerful, toxic and very dangerous weapon in the hands of a narcissist, that he/she draws out once the partner’s love and loyalty has been firmly secured. Regret, in the hands of a narcissist, is a sophisticated form of coercive control and total fakery used to manipulate the partner into compliance.
When the narcissist has hurt his partner, he will feel sorry for himself that he has to endure the demonstration of regret and the apology-making process. He literally feels sorry for himself – for hurting his partner. In the narcissist’s perspective, it is the partner’s fault for reacting in such a way that forces the narcissist to confront that he has done something wrong and hurtful, and in his mind, how dare his partner try to provoke that feeling in him!
And, though the narcissist proceeds through the motions of regret for his hurtful actions, and proffers a (meaningless) apology, inside he seethes.
Narcissists just don’t feel regret – or its corollary – remorse. What they do engage in, however, is “punitive regret”, and it is extremely manipulative.
This type of behavior, the punitive, fake, dramatic regret and remorse, blaming the victim for the abuse, and moreover, making the victim feel guilty about feeling hurt – even as far as the victim regretting she/he reacted to the abuse – is extremely toxic for the victim, and dehumanizing.
Manipulating the partner with fake regret and remorse is one of the most destructive, devaluing, and devastating evils of narcissistic abuse, because it threatens the victim’s identity, her/his sense of self and core being. The victim starts to subconsciously deny his/her humanity.
Over time this twisted emotional manipulation will dis-integrate the victim, and it lays the foundation for a trauma bond so entrenched that it can develop into what is often called Stockholm Syndrome. At this point, leaving the narcissist becomes nearly insurmountable. Not impossible, but formidably difficult.
It is evil. The narcissist uses punitive fake regret and remorse as a weapon against his/her partner to create fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) in the partner.
The adverse impact of this abuse is progressive. It will rip the partner to shreds. It will shatter the partner into shards. After which, the narcissist will look at the partner with contempt, blame the partner for being too sensitive and emotional, blame the partner for being emotionally selfish, and the narcissist will abandon the partner, carrying a tale of his woe to the next victim.
My advice to anyone being subjected to this Machiavellian manipulation is to get out now.
Unfortunately, as difficult as leaving the narcissist is, so too is the recovery.
It is yet another painful truth that the victim has to accept. It’s like a Coda of the same dark, disharmonious, discordant symphony – absent the monstrous conductor on the podium, but still waving his baton in the partner’s mind.
In the relationship aftermath, the partner will have to endure the impact of the trauma, the tormenting, confusing, incomprehensible back-and-forth of the cognitive dissonance – the crazy-making hamster wheel of trying to reconcile the “Mr/Mrs. Soulmate, Ideal Partner, Perfect Companion” with the evil monster that emerged.
Many partners will have to endure the haunting of her/his heart and mind by the ghost of “Mr./Mrs. Wonderful” and the poignant and painful feelings it brings.
As painful as this it, ironically, it is ultimately life-giving suffering; it produces growth, persistence, strength, clarity, offers fellowship with other victims, and it brings opportunities. This temporary pain pales in comparison to the alternative – the dehumanizing, permanent pain of staying with the narcissist. And, punitive fake regret and remorse is one of the primary weapons the narcissist utilizes to make this happen.
*Please note: All of my articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse, as they are too.