Just about every story I’ve ever heard about a narcissist in a relationship—mine included—ended with stories of cheating and betrayal. This is often part of the patterns narcissists employ in all of their relationships.
Narcissists operate on their own terms, seeking self-gratification and constant validation. They are susceptible to flattery, as they love to have their ego stroked, and they crave attention. If an attractive narcissist walks into a crowded bar, chances are they’ll be going home with someone at the end of the night. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for if you suspect infidelity.
Still, there have been some creative suggestions about how narcissists might be cajoled into commitment and taught some forms of compassion. While much of my experience goes contrary to this idea, it is an intriguing glimmer of hope for those of us who are fatally drawn to narcissistic personalities.
If you’re interested in the harsh truths and the slim possibilities for a faithful relationship with a narcissist, continue reading.
Little Likelihood for Hope
Most experts agree that narcissistic personality disorder and cheating behavior go hand in hand. The reasons for this are manifold, but they tie into what the narcissist hates and fears the most.
First of all, the narcissist considers his desires above anyone else’s, and they believe themselves to be superior in all the most relevant ways. They are more attractive, possess higher intelligence, and are better at sex than your average person—so they think.
Second, the narcissist is disinclined to think about anyone else’s happiness but their own. This is coupled with a lack of ability to solve intimate problems, so if their relationship hits a rocky stage, the narcissist is more likely to seek solace elsewhere. They just don’t want to cope with any difficulty that gets in the way of their immediate gratification.
Third, most narcissists have little, if any, capacity for guilt. Because they believe themselves always to be right and to be beyond reproach, they will not necessarily consider their behavior immoral or hurtful. They might even blame their partner for their cheating ways. As well, they can typically engage in casual sex without needing to have any emotional attachment. It’s simply a salve for the ego.
Identifying Cheating Behavior
If you suspect that your narcissistic partner is cheating, there are some tell-tale signs that can help to confirm your suspicions.
For example, the narcissist will begin to offer unprompted avowals of their loyalty and talk frequently about how they would never cheat on you. To paraphrase Shakespeare, anyone who protests too loudly about their angelic qualities is probably revealing just the opposite. Speaking in absolutes—always and never—should serve as a warning sign.
Another indication that your narcissistic partner may be cheating is that they fall off the radar at times, so to speak. That is, if your narcissist cannot be reached or doesn’t respond for a day or two, then you can almost certainly count on the fact that they are interacting with someone else. They desperately need their daily dose of attention and validation, so if it’s not from you, it’s got to be from someone else.
Finally, if your narcissistic partner has admitted to past cheating behavior—even if they promise not to repeat that pattern with you—then you should consider that an admission of probable guilt. Without therapeutic help, narcissists rarely change.
Pondering the Possibilities
Still, there is cause for some faint hope. Some researchers have tackled this topic, showing that, in certain circumstances, narcissists can be trained to activate commitment in their minds. Participants were put through a series of tests, which were designed to stimulate ideas of fidelity and commitment.
Surprisingly, the narcissists who participated demonstrated—at least in verbal and written responses—a higher level of commitment than they had at the outset of the study. It appears as if narcissists can be prompted, even subliminally, to showcase similar levels of commitment as the rest of us.
However, there is no real way of knowing, as of yet, whether these effects are lasting or temporary. In addition, the researchers note that their tests are not the equivalent of engaging in therapies designed for long-lasting change. Still, their work demonstrates that there are possibilities to foster faithfulness in narcissistic personalities.
Fostering Empathy and Hampering Ego
If feelings of commitment can be activated in a narcissist, then it stands to reason that some other traits of narcissism, relevant to cheating behavior, might also be turned on.
In the first place, instilling empathy in narcissists might be a crucial first step toward helping them to be more faithful. If you can encourage the narcissist to feel compassion toward their partner, then they might be more inclined to turn down the advances of others in favor of attention from you. If they can relate to your hurt feelings, even if just slightly, this could provide motivation to delay gratification.
In the second place, obstructing the demands of the narcissist’s ego might also be key in providing some grounds for more faithful behavior. If the ego is directed toward thinking about their interdependence with others, then it can become less all-consuming. Basically, if the narcissist is told that their happiness is dependent not only on their egotistical needs but on the attachment to others, then they might think twice before breaking bonds.
Narcissists aren’t sociopaths, and they can form connections with others. If a narcissistic individual feels reliant on a partner, then it’s possible that they can manage their narcissistic tendencies in favor of faithfulness.
It’s a poor bet to place on a faithful narcissist. They even have trouble being loyal to family members. Time and again, narcissists have proven that their desires are too strong, their empathy too weak, and their need for attention is too great for them to resist the temptations of sexual attraction.
Even though there are some potentially positive possibilities for training narcissists to be faithful, the results are not yet conclusive or entirely convincing. It’s probably best to steer clear of a narcissist if you want a faithful commitment.
If you have an unfaithful narcissistic husband and are ready to end the relationship, this blog article offers some tips for initiating a divorce.
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