When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse

6 minute read

Hope is a wonderful thing. It inspires strength and courage to persevere in adverse circumstances. It is the anchor that helps us endure and overcome the seemingly unbearable. But is it possible that hope has a dark side? If clinging to hope the narcissist will change, the answer is yes. When it comes to narcissistic abuse, hope can be a killer.

In this piece we check out why this is the case, and how letting go of the hope that the good in the narcissist will win the day, is the key to reclaiming your life, freedom & joy.

A heart full of hope

Often those in relationships with narcissists are either codependent and/or deeply compassionate, intuitive, sensitive, and generous individuals – a.k.a. empaths.

The magnetism between codependents/empaths and pathological narcissists makes sense when you break it down. At its most basic level the attraction works like this: one is a giver, and one is a taker.

Seemingly the perfect match.

However, if you’re reading this for insight into whether hope the narcissist will change is realistic, chances are that you are awakening to the disastrous reality of the match.

It is also highly likely that you are at the very least an empath, possibly also codependent.

Why this background on codependency and empaths? Because of how relevant traits and qualities work with hope within a narcissistic abusive relationship.

Hope springs eternal in the compassionate heart

Let’s check out first how hope interacts with the empath’s heart.

For you, caring for others is hard wired into your DNA. Your emotional sensitivity enables instinctive understanding and concern for the suffering of others. It is as though a gravitational pull exists for those who are pain.

Your compassionate heart urges you to nurture whoever. Whenever.

Complementing your caring nature, you steer through life guided by certain values that are inextricably linked to the generosity of your spirit.

You believe in:

  • the goodness of others (and continue fighting for this, irrespective of how much ugliness a person may show you),
  • helping others to also come to see their innate goodness,
  • committing to others through thick and thin, and
  • loving unconditionally.

These traits, qualities and values combined are the core ingredients of the eternally hopeful heart.

If these ring true for you, your faith that the goodness in others will prevail is nigh unshakeable.

The world could do with more hearts such as yours, and in most instances, the gifts within you have the power to move mountains.

hope in the compassionate heart can move mountains

The fixing heart of the codependent

Whilst not all empaths are codependent, most codependents are also empaths. For this reason, your compassionate heart may be complicated by also having a touch of the ‘fixing heart’.

Codependents display a pattern of enabling and controlling behaviours, arising from self-esteem being dependent on the behaviours and needs of others. The behaviours develop through dysfunctional relationships where the other party has compulsive and/or addictive behaviours or is otherwise ill (including Narcissistic Personality Disorder – NPD).

The fixing heart of the codependent possesses the desire, perhaps indeed the need, to ‘fix others’ for validation and self-worth.

This drive is a coping strategy developed in reaction to the partner’s compulsion, where a pathological need exists to satisfy their craving (e.g.: with NPD this would be supply in the form of attention).

Satisfying the ‘need’ overcomes not only the dependent, but also you as a party to the relationship. This happens because when their hunger is unsatisfied, you pay the price through their abuse.

Consequently, over time, you learn to suppress your needs in favour of those of the dependent to avoid or minimise the abuse. This alienation from your true self causes the psychological wounds of codependency.

If you are codependent, in addition to the compassionate heart’s ideology, you also believe that:

  • you are responsible for the behaviours and actions of others, and
  • therefore, if you could just be good enough, through the sheer power of your efforts they will:
    1. not need to satisfy their dependency urges, and
    2. not be abusive towards you


A bit problematic isn’t it? It’s quite a burden to carry, as well as being logically flawed.

For the ‘compassionate heart’, hope is borne that the goodness in others will win the day, for their own sake.

For the fixing heart, sure, hope also exists for the sake of the other. But it is also for your own sake. By holding onto the hopes above, it is also about proving to yourself the goodness within you.

To the mind of the codependent, making the good of the narcissist prevail equates to being good enough.

The error in logic results from tying your worth to the dysfunctional actions and behaviours of another. Which, gorgeous one, in reality, you are not responsible for and cannot control.

There is no winner in this scenario. The fixing heart cannot triumph in this circumstance.

When the hopeful meet the broken

Things go awry when the eternally hopeful & fixing heart collides with the black one of the narcissist.

Big time.

All your buttons are pushed and raison d’etre is activated full force. You see their need, and brokenness, and you yearn to help them. To fix them.

And the narcissist sees this in you. They know it and they play to it. This is why they have targeted you.

Their survival depends on protecting themselves from confronting the truth of what lies beyond their false-self (the belief system hinging on their superiority, entitlement, power, control etc.). Hence their compulsive need to secure reinforcement that the false-self is real. Attention that fulfils this purpose, is the narcissist’s supply.

You are targeted because what motivates you (to care for, give to, and help others) is what fuels their existence when focused exclusively on them. This is their addiction.

What they see when you rock up isn’t your innate value, rather what your qualities represent to them and their addiction.

What they see because of your hope, is endless supply.

And so, when the hopeful meet the broken, hope is the stuff that feeds the wounds of both the codependent and the narcissist, creating that formidable bond of the narcissistic abusive relationship.

When hope becomes a killer

Undeniably, hope is a beautiful and mighty force capable of making the impossible, possible.

I’m a massive advocate for its awesome power…except when holding out for change causes damage, and the possibility of transformation happening is non-existent.

The harm happens from continuing to suffer abuse while the mechanics of hope inside you keep you from leaving the relationship.

Because of your compassionate heart, the idea of turning away from those you care for, let alone those who are broken in some way, is an abomination to the values that underpin your existence.

Causing others pain, causes you pain.

For the fixing heart, in a way, you are addicted to evidencing that your hope in the good of the narcissist and the relationship, is worth investing in because your self-worth is tied to making it so.

Throw in the love you feel for the narcissist, and it’s a tricky situation indeed.

Add in the addiction you have to the relationship and the narcissist and hope the narcissist will change, and hope becomes a killer (for more on mutual addiction, trauma bonding and codependency check out Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist? and Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents).

hope the narcissist will change is a killerIn short, you endlessly cling to the idea of the person you first fell for to return, eradicating the abusive person you’ve come to know.

The initial show of ‘goodness’, and intermittent reappearance of this tactic, serves to reinforce that your hope is not without grounding.

Meanwhile the abuse you sustain continues, and exacerbates, amplifying the reasons why getting back to the ‘good’ version of the narcissist is so critical.

You may even have experienced being discarded. Maybe once, twice, possibly several times, only to begin all over again… all because of hope.


This right here is the cycle of narcissistic abuse with idealisation, devaluation, and discard.

It doesn’t deviate. The pattern repeats itself ad infinitum in the life of the narcissist. The significance of this is that they will never change. The abuse will never cease (for more on this read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change).

The shift you are pinning your hopes on will never come to fruition.

And this is how hope becomes a killer.

Letting go of the hope the narcissist will change

The time to awaken has come.

The abusive narcissist has a way of twisting pretty much anything into something it is inherently not. Including hope, and all the gifts within you that make you a gorgeous one. The care, compassion, generosity, and kindness. In the hands of the narcissist, these become your jailers.

But just as hope tethers you to the narcissist, and the narcissist to you, it is also they key to setting yourself free.

When hope their goodness will prevail is let go, there is nothing left preventing you from accepting reality and setting yourself free.

Equally, when you set hope aside, your purpose for the narcissist is defunct and without your offering of constant supply, you are redundant to them.

The only thing that will win the day while you hold onto the hope the narcissist will change, is their destruction of you.

the magic is in youDeep down you know this.

Use this knowledge.

Stop pouring your hope futilely into the narcissist. Start investing it instead where change can happen: in you.

Take every ounce of your priceless care, compassion, generosity, and kindness for your own sweet self. Use it to heal. And to find your way to the truth that you are indeed good enough. All on your own.

Your existence and all the gorgeousness that goes into a hopeful heart, is sufficient proof of your boundless worth.

For tools on setting yourself free, read:

Please share your experiences below in overcoming the issues in this piece. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.

With gratitude,

Maggie x



  • Beattie, M. (1992). Codependent no more. Minnesota, US: Hazelden.
  • Beattie, M. (2009). The new codependency: Help and guidance for today’s generation. New York, US: Simon & Schuster.
  • McBryde, K. (2008). Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York, US: Atria.
  • Pollack, D. L. (1992). A study of developmental precursors to codependency and cross-generational correlations of psychological functioning in mothers and adult daughters (Doctoral dissertation). California School of Professional Psychology – San Diego. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order no. 9224773)


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