Narcissists are extremely self-absorbed and always in desperate need of external validation. These characteristics of narcissism make them more likely to cheat on their partners. Their need for adoration is such that they easily succumb to flattery, but what happens if you catch them in the act? Will they admit that they cheated?
Narcissists won’t usually admit to cheating on their partner. They won’t take responsibility for their actions because it makes them feel as though they are out of control and vulnerable. If you have evidence that they cheated, they will usually blame their actions on someone else.
If you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, you need to know the realities of how narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) affects your partner’s fidelity. It’s important to understand this mental condition so you can make the best choices for your relationship.
What Makes a Narcissist More Likely to Cheat?
As a child, a budding narcissist is usually made to feel as though they are incapable of doing almost anything. Because of this early trauma, they usually fail to fully develop a sense of self. They also begin to see themselves as useless and inept, and because they have no capacity to self-soothe, they bury what they see as their hateful true self.
In the place of a real ego, the narcissist constructs an elaborate false self-image that they project to the world. They infuse it with all kinds of grandiose ideas about how great they are and how important they are, but this false self can’t support those ideas.
The false self is unable to prop up a narcissist’s self-esteem, and for that reason, they must turn to other people and external validation to feel good about themselves. If they don’t get that, they will have to face what they believe to be their own worthless true self. To a narcissist, that’s unthinkable.
This is why they manipulate the people in their lives. They desperately need their adoration and admiration almost all the time. You may be providing your narcissistic partner with this supply of external validation — known as narcissistic supply — but they constantly fear losing you and other people as a source.
Because of that, they will often ‘groom’ other people to step in if you step out. They will flirt and even begin affairs so that they have someone to turn to in the event you leave them. Moreover, because they lack empathy, they don’t understand or really care how their actions might affect you.
How Do I Know If My Narcissistic Partner is Cheating?
It’s probably just as difficult to tell if a narcissist is cheating as it would be with any other romantic partner. Like any other partner, if they’re cheating, they will be lying to you on a continuous basis.
That’s par for the course for the narcissist because they usually lie even when they’re not cheating. It’s when the lying is combined with other shady behaviors, like constantly canceling plans on you or having phone conversations late into the night in a hushed voice, that you might have a problem.
Another telltale sign is that they will usually become extremely jealous. This is something called projection where they are projecting onto you their own bad behaviors. They are cheating so they are accusing you of infidelity, often in an aggressive manner.
Additionally, if you accuse a narcissist of cheating — and they are — they will explode in a fit of narcissistic rage. This overblown response is nothing more than a distraction technique to get you to stop trying to catch them, to stop even asking the question, and to focus on something else entirely.
There may also be, however, other less negative kinds of signs. Many narcissists will bring home so-called ‘guilt gifts’ to assuage their conscience because of their infidelity. They’re also less likely to be interested in sex with you, or on the other hand, they may become more demanding about sex. These are all signs that your narcissistic partner might be having an affair.
Will a Narcissist Stop Cheating?
The likelihood that once a narcissist begins cheating, they will stop is pretty low. Part of the problem is that what a narcissist is looking for in a relationship is self-esteem and status rather than intimacy or caring. They think of the concept of love as something they receive from others rather than something they give to others.
What’s more, because of how narcissism develops, narcissists tend to have preoccupied, fearful, and dismissive attachment styles and these attachment styles moderate the link between narcissism and infidelity. An attachment style basically means how you form and view your attachments to other people and your place in the world.
The narcissist views the world as a fearful, dismissive place where their needs may not always be met, and that’s also how they think about their relationships. This causes them to fear commitment, avoid emotional intimacy, be more sexually aggressive, and it also causes higher levels of infidelity.
There is plenty of research, such as this study conducted by experts from the Department of Psychology at two universities in the Netherlands and Turkey, that supports these observations about narcissism, attachment styles, and infidelity. These researchers found that narcissism was associated with a lower level of relationship satisfaction because of the narcissists’ fearful, preoccupied, and dismissive attachment styles.
They also found that the lower level of relationship satisfaction was then related to infidelity. That’s why narcissists are likely to keep cheating even after you’ve caught them once.
What Will Happen If I Confront a Narcissist About Their Infidelity?
If you confront a narcissist about their infidelity, you might be met with a number of responses. At first, they are likely to become enraged and forcefully deny they’ve been unfaithful. This is narcissistic rage, and it can be very intimidating. The idea is to distract you from pursuing any further inquiry into the subject.
If you have evidence that proves their infidelity, the narcissist will then try to blame either the person who tempted them into the affair or you for what they did. They may say they were manipulated by the person with whom they cheated or they may accuse you of cheating and claim this is payback.
It won’t matter to the narcissist if there’s no evidence that you ever cheated on them, all they need is their belief that you did to justify their own actions. Aside from the pain of their infidelity, the frustration of their denial and excuses will only compound your emotional distress.
There are many reasons why a relationship with a narcissist can be frustrating and painful, but infidelity is a particularly hurtful occurrence. Because of how narcissism develops, people who suffer from NPD are quite likely to be unfaithful to their partners. Since they don’t like feeling vulnerable or losing control, they will usually deny they’ve been cheating.
Even with proof positive, they’ll underplay the significance of their infidelity and try to place the blame on you or the person with whom they had the affair. It’s important to know the truth so that you can determine what works best for your situation.
When anyone cheats on you, it can create trauma that causes you to develop emotional triggers in response to certain behaviors. Narcissists will not only cheat on you, but they will also use those emotional triggers to further manipulate and control you. You can stop them, though, by using my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers to heal those old wounds and stop further narcissistic abuse.
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