Gaslighting is no joke, and whenever a narcissist or his family offer something “nice” I have to repeat mantras and go back through the lists I’ve kept of reality. Yes, I have to remind myself about the data of events that happened so I don’t get lost in my own hopes and fantasies that an abuser will change.
But this is an important skill to have. To move from being open and relating normally to people, to knowing when to never trust, is good learning and a sign of healing. Healing from trauma has been a constant crow-call of, “boundaries! boundaries! boundaries!”
I look at the biggest sign that a narcissist has changed, and although I never say never, I have not seen it happen, not from my aging father and not from my middle aged ex and certainly not from his aging parents who still baby him. That sign is a sincere apology followed by restitution. In my case, it would have to be financial and emotional restitution. Narcissists love money and love to use it for leverage to dominate and control. If they gave up that leverage it would be like seeing a unicorn. When I’ve seen that unicorn then I can let down my guard a teensy bit. Not until years afterward and seeing a complete personality overhaul sustained could I REALLY trust them.
The thinking part of me asks: “Has he received treatment? Has he made any amends? Has he sincerely apologized and been willing to listen?” The thinking part of me knows narcissists are incapable of personal growth and positive change.
I set a boundary today that I would not receive financial help from an enmeshment situation. It wasn’t really financial help, it was a dig…throwing a crumb…a dick move for control by people who have no business being in my business. It carried strings and conditions I was not willing to deal with and would have negatively affected my children.
So, you see, unicorns are fantasies and they have to stay there for protection. In moments when a narcissist is being nice, it is just a cycle. I remind myself they’ve never passed through that gateway into normalcy: remorse for their abuse. They’ll go back to being crazy soon enough.