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Narcissistic Personality Disorder & Infidelity

Since the early years when I began investigating cheating spouses and infidelity cases, I started noticing that we kept stumbling upon certain personality traits in many of the cheaters we were dealing with.  These traits were very familiar to me, because I had first experienced them in my own ex-spouse.  I didn’t know what they were at the time I was going through my own ordeal, but as I began to see the same recurring actions and behaviors in the cases we were handling, I was recognizing clear patterns and similarities.

I should start out by saying that I am not a psychologist and I have no formal training in any related field besides the undergraduate college classes I took, none of which do I recall ever making any mention of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  My knowledge has been culled from the trenches of my private investigation business coupled with my dimestore Internet research on the topic.  The purpose of this article is not to give advice so much as to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with and let you know that you aren’t the crazy one.

Now, as is normal with any relationship, at times, you’re going to feel there is something wrong with your spouse, but you just can’t quite put your finger on what the problem is.  What you do know is that you are having a difficult time understanding the unusual and illogical behavior of your partner. There are, however, distinctive red flags that you should be on the lookout for that could indicate that you are dealing with a narcissistic spouse.  The purpose of this article is to be informative to those who might be dealing with a narcissistic, cheating and/or mentally abusive spouse.


A mental disorder characterized by extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a need for attention and admiration from others.


What is narcissism?

Let’s start with Webster’s definition:

Narcissism:  A mental disorder characterized by extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a need for attention and admiration from others. First identified by Havelock Ellis in 1898, the disorder is named for the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In addition to an inflated self-image and addiction to fantasy, narcissism is characterized by an unusual coolness and composure, which is shaken only when the narcissistic confidence is threatened, and by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them. According to Sigmund Freud, narcissism is a normal stage in children’s development, but it is considered a disorder when it occurs after puberty.  Narcissism is a term that refers to a certain kind of a personality disorder and a narcissist is a person suffering from this disorder.

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Below is a laundry list of characteristics common among narcissists.  No one is going to match all of these criteria, but the narcissist will have at least some of them.  Obviously, the more traits your spouse displays, the more serious the case:

  • An inability to empathize with others
  • Expects special treatment
  • Feels they are entitled to special privileges
  • Inability to admit that they are wrong
  • Has a very difficult time accepting constructive criticism
  • Often experiences sudden, explosive bursts of rage in situations that would not trigger rage in a normal person (These aggressive outbursts are referred to as narcissistic rage).
  • Does not react to sadness of others. If another person starts crying due to the cruel behavior of the narcissist, this may even exacerbate the rage of a narcissist.
  • Perceives oneself a superior individual
  • Has a strong need to be admired by others. Admiration serves as a form of a narcissistic supply. If the narcissist doesn’t get enough narcissistic supply, they will experience feelings of emptiness.
  • A narcissist will often experience unwarranted feelings of envy and jealousy toward others
  • A narcissist may receive gratification from mocking other people (often behind their back)
  • Early on in a relationship, the narcissist will often idealize their partner and often speak of their supreme, absolute love to their partner. However, as the relationship proceeds the narcissist will usually withdraw their attention and become cold-hearted and insensitive, even cruel.
  • They are often untruthful, simply justifying and rationalizing the lies with their entitlement and superiority.
  • Cheating is a common and natural consequence of other traits of a narcissist.
  • In the narcissist’s mind, it is impossible for a them to do anything wrong and so a narcissist does not perceive cheating to be a big “wrong”
  • Narcissists have an inability to emphasize with the cheated partner and they have a strong need for admiration (narcissistic supply).
  • Double standards: A narcissist will twist the rules to fit their current needs. For example, if the spouse of a narcissist is cheating on the narcissist, the spouse will be considered to be the dishonest and bad person, whereas if the narcissist is cheating it will not be wrong.  This is because in the narcissist’s mind, the narcissist simply “fell in love” and followed his or her heart.

I have identified many more men as narcissists over the years.  They are usually very successful in business and almost consider themselves, “Masters of the Universe.”  We have, however, come across women who seem to have very similar, but at the same time different neurosis.  I’ve never been able to put any kind of label on it as accurate as “narcissism” is for men, but a good general term for it would probably be, the word, “sociopath.”

When some women are actually able to shut off any kinds of feelings of empathy for the person they are cheating on.  They magically forget any feelings they ever had for their lover, usually saying (and believing!) things like, “We never loved each other.” and “I never really had any feelings for him.”

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Narcissism in a Relationship


The Phases

Idealization Phase

During the idealization phase, the narcissist is usually very loving and is often on their best behavior. They can be very charming.  If a narcissist is cheating on his or her present partner with a new lover, it is often more due to the actions of a narcissist than the lover that the secret relationship started in the first place. While pursuing the new lover, the narcissist is usually telling them that their current relationship is not working out.  They will say that they are about to get a divorce/separate and that they have never felt as “in love” with anyone else as they are now feeling towards the new lover. The narcissist is usually very skilled at getting a new person to believe that they are the one and only.

Well, who doesn’t enjoy being schmoozed like that? During this phase, the narcissist will make their new lover the center of the universe, in both their own and the lover’s minds.  Obviously, this is why it can be so difficult to resist them. As one can expect, this “honeymoon” period doesn’t last for long. A narcissist will soon grow tired of the new relationship and will begin to look for another provider of a narcissistic supply. Next, the narcissist moves into the devaluation phase.

Devaluation Phase

During the devaluation phase, the narcissist will usually become emotionally absent and distant, almost overnight. The narcissist no longer tells you how much he or she loves you, but instead becomes increasingly critical towards you. Suddenly, the narcissist will start finding flaws in every part of your behavior and the way you look.

During this phase, the narcissist will start the cycle over again by searching for another supplier of  narcissistic supply and will probably end up having an affair.  However, in most cases, they will still keeping their current lover “available”, just in case the new relationship doesn’t work out as expected or hoped for.

Discarding Phase

During the discarding phase, a narcissist will become totally detached and indifferent to their (soon-to-be former) spouse. The narcissist will be ready to move on after either finding another source of a narcissistic supply or simply having drained the current source (the current spouse) dry. The current spouse will no longer serve as a source of a narcissistic supply and therefore the current spouse will  no longer be of any use to the narcissist. When a narcissist reaches this phase, there is no real point in trying to reason with them. When you beg them to try to keep the relationship intact, you are only feeding their ego and providing them with a ephemeral source of a narcissistic supply as they feel you are now devastated after losing them.

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