If you had to choose the most important trait for relationship success, there are many possibilities to select from, but none is more essential than trust.  Or to say it in reverse, no relationship can thrive in the absence of trust.  It is directly linked to other necessary traits like honesty, reliability, responsibility, conscientiousness, openness, authenticity, listening, feeling safe, and more.

Because narcissists are committed to the False Self, by definition, they do not live in a trustworthy fashion. 

They may attempt to project the illusion that they can trust and be trusted, but that simply is not possible.  Trust and falsehoods do not match.  

Narcissists have a very shaky, weak interior in the sense that integrity is fluid, insecurity is pervasive, and loyalty is determined only by the other person’s utility in the moment.  Their need for control is so strong and their lack of regard for others’ needs and feelings is so common that they sabotage the potential for trust before it even has a chance to develop.

Over time, narcissists prove to be unsafe in the sense that they will not show regard for you when it is needed most. 

Instead, self-absorption hinders them from creating heart ties, but it ensures that the narcissist will act in self-interest even when it contradicts the valid needs of a group.

Because of the narcissist’s inability to engage trustworthily, there are repercussions for you to consider.  You can feel disillusioned coming to terms with the heartache of being in a relationship with someone so damaged, yet, your understanding of the inner workings of a narcissist’s mindset is crucial as you seek healing.

Consider these common patterns that coincide with a narcissist’s inability to trust:

  • Your humanity is none of their concern.  In the long run, the only person a narcissist cares about is oneself, which explains why they have a history of hurting and disappointing others.
  • Being self-impressed, they do not see themselves as problematic, which means by default you are the troubled one when difficulties arise.
  • When you have disappointing experiences with the narcissist, that person becomes the Victim and you are the one who caused them to treat you poorly.
  • To narcissists, being vulnerable is terrifying, which predisposes them to lightning quick defenses.  With a thick shield in place, they take the offensive as they require you to justify your emotions and reactions.
  • Narcissists operate with toxic idealism, meaning their standards for inner satisfaction are so impossible that you cannot possibly satisfy them.
  • Narcissists do not always say what they mean or mean what they say.  Gaslighting you, they prefer to keep you guessing about the ways you interpret their words and actions.  In other words, they are schemers.
  • They filter relationships through the lens of guilt, shame, and judgment, and since they want to bear none of that, they place it onto you.
  • In the end, as you struggle to coordinate with their self-serving Agenda, you will experience their anger and contempt.  

Narcissists will not cultivate trust with you because it is too foreign of a concept to them.  Bonding with you in mutual respect and regard will be a fleeting effort at best.

In the meantime, ask yourself:  Am I indeed a trustworthy person?  The narcissist says no, but what do I say?  

Let the narcissist be what he/she is, that is not something you can change.  Instead, maintain your integrity in the moments you must interact with that person.  Make wisdom and steadiness your goals, especially in moments of strain.  And understand that your relationship with the narcissist will have little depth.  Keep your expectations low.

It is tragic when an adult becomes incapable of connecting cleanly with others, and you will grieve as you consider the potential losses.  Yet, commit your emotional and relational energies to people who can work constructively with you to perpetuate reliability.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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