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5 Reasons Why Narcissists Can’t Tell You the Truth

“You will plead with me to tell the truth. You will promise that there will be no upshot, no comeback, and no consequence, you just, for once want to hear us speak the truth. You know the truth, but you want me to tell you, so you can hear it for once.” – H.G. Tudor, Lies

There may have come a time when you asked them to account for their behavior. You may have gotten conflicting answers or none at all.

There’s a certain sort of sickness to it, a poison in their non-answers that seeps into you a drop at a time until you’re sick with their self-loathing and they’re drunk with their control of you. This non-reality is the very essence of narcissism.

This was the worst part of getting away. Just tell me why.

Alignment. I was looking for the alignment in all of the things he had revolving around him that would tell me the universe made sense.

The fact that it didn’t was making me sick inside. In one of our last conversations, he sat two feet away and I tried to talk to him about these realities he’d forged, how they didn’t merge together and I was losing myself.

Could you please just tell me the truth? How could you have…? And why did you…?

A lot of blank staring. There is no monologue. There is no piecing together of story, of thought to thought, of feeling to feeling, of moment to moment, of action to action. Of how he gets from here to there. Jerky starts and stops. A sentence here. A short one there. Mouth opening and closing.

He’d promised me answers and he would use that promise until the end of time if I had let him. I thought I could not untangle myself until he made it make sense.

But it could not and did not make sense until he was gone.

He could never have given me the answers I sought and here is what I know.

Why Narcissists Cannot Give You the Answers You Seek


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1. Narcissists Don’t Always Understand Why They Do What They Do.

If we take a moment to consider our own actions, we do not always act with intent or conscious awareness. This also holds true for narcissists.

The problem is that they are so focused on themselves and what they are getting out of a situation and how it makes them feel, that they end up frequently taking actions that harm us. They may understand that what they did was bad because it hurt us or that there were consequences, but they cannot explain why.

They are able to suppress their ability to understand the consequences at the time that they act and they lack the insight into themselves to see why or even that there could be something wrong with them.



2. Narcissists Truly Believe Some of Their Own Lies.

Narcissists engage in something called “splitting,” where they cannot see people, including themselves, as multi-dimensional. They view themselves as either “all good” or “all bad.”

When they see themselves as bad, they feel worthless, empty, invisible, and broken. When they see themselves as good, they feel perfect, special and on top of the world. They craft elaborate fantasy worlds to keep the feeling of being “bad” at bay and will reject anything that tries to pierce those worlds.

In addition, they do not want to admit they have done something wrong because they will have to view themselves as bad– the truth itself may be perceived as a criticism.


3. Narcissists Have to Pass as Normal to Get Their Needs Met.

As mentioned above, narcissists know when some of the things that they do are perceived as wrong by others even if they don’t understand the full emotional magnitude of what they do. If they didn’t know, they wouldn’t try to conceal their actions. Their lies are what allow them to hide in plain sight and hence get exactly what they need.

The deception is crucial; if they come clean they lose out on potential sources of supply and hurt their reputations.



4. They Actually Do Tell Us the Truth Indirectly But We Have to Look For It.

They may not answer your questions out loud or their answers may not be satisfactory if they do answer them, but if you pay attention, there are several ways that they tell us exactly who they are, what they are up to and how they really feel when they don’t even realize they are doing it.

They can’t help themselves.

I talked about this in detail in another article here: 8 Ways To Tell When Narcissists Are Actually Telling You the Truth



5. They Sometimes Tell Us The Truth Directly Too But We Can’t Accept or Understand It.

As I described above, I never got a real answer to the questions I asked. Often I’d get the response, “I don’t know.” But a couple of times I got a different response to the question “Why?” instead, often when he was angry:

“Because I wanted to.”

Yes, of course, you did, I’d think. It didn’t seem to tell me anything. It wasn’t until months after I’d been in the period of no-contact with him and done so much reading on how narcissists and sociopaths think that I realized that it actually told me everything.


I just hadn’t wanted to hear it. Not in the way he meant it.

Actually, it wasn’t just that I hadn’t wanted to hear it. I hadn’t really been able to understand it in the way that he meant it, not at the time.

How was it possible that he could have wanted to do those things? What thought processes had he used? How had he come to the decision? What feelings had he had around it at the time? How did he get to that point?

I could not fathom a view of the world back then that allowed for the possibility that there was no intermediary step between loving me and betraying me. There was just “Because I wanted to.” 

He didn’t have the insight necessary to explain it, but he had told me the truth.  He’d done it because he wanted to.

Narcissists lack empathy so they do not go “from here to there.”

They lack the ability to truly understand how the things that they do will make you feel. They are driven by the need to avoid feeling worthless and will live their lives doing what they want to do to make that happen.

They will never be able to explain any of this to you.

To explain would be to (1) lose access to what they need; (2) have the ability to reflect; (3) feel shame; (4) admit they are wrong.

These things are not within the capability of the person who has caused you the pain you are now feeling, especially when taken together.

Don’t look to the narcissist for answers.

He or she has none to give.

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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.


  1. They do not lack insight or the ability to know they are causing you pain. They like to cause you pain and do so on purpose. They like the power and control they get over you when they purposely hurt you. Lacking insight is like a pity ploy, just another way of not being responsible for their own actions. Of course they know, don’t ever think they don’t do it on purpose!

  2. Using One of the Narcissist's Biggest Lies Against Them | In the Shadows of the Fairy Tale

    […] Many of their statements are like sheets of plastic wrap stretched too thin and easily punctured.  They rely on the fact that we will take their statements at face value because we don’t want to know the truth. […]

  3. You have such a way of depicting the pieces. It really helps me a lot so once again, thank you.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      You’re so welcome, Vesta. Thank you for your kind words. ❤

      1. Of course. I emailed – sorry for the delay.

      2. Of course! Emailed. Sorry for the delay.

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