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What Is the Connection Between Narcissism and Cheating?

Sigmund Freud developed the theory of narcissism.
People who are narcissistic are more prone to being combative.
Narcissists will commonly cheat again and again on their spouses.
Narcissistic people might crave the attention they get from new partners.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2014
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Many experts believe narcissism and cheating in a relationship are inextricably interlinked. The symptoms of narcissism are often such that these individuals cheat repeatedly on their spouses or significant others, usually without understanding that they have done something wrong. The typical narcissist believes he is beyond reprisal and entitled to do as he pleases at all times. Many narcissists may hate women so much that they use sexual degradation and infidelity as a means of punishing them for perceived wrongs. The narcissist may also feel obligated to maintain a "normal" appearance of married life, while still viewing his spouse as a hindrance and resenting the fidelity she requires of him.

Many narcissists pursue sexual conquests as a means of ego validation. They can gain a sense of power from the sexual act, and the acquisition of new partners may give them the feelings of worthiness and value that they usually inherently lack. Narcissism and cheating in relationships may be linked especially because many narcissists enjoy having intercourse more if it is difficult to achieve because the target is perceived as difficult. Encounters such as these tend to boost the person's fragile ego even more than encounters that come easily.

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Unlike partners who cheat due to unmet needs in the relationship, narcissists will typically cheat repeatedly, no matter what the perceived quality of the central relationship in their lives. Many may claim to hold their spouse or partner in high esteem, while insisting that their extramarital liaisons mean nothing. In reality, these people tend to have no more regard for their partners or spouses then they do for the women with whom they are unfaithful.

Most experts agree that, when a narcissist enters a relationship, he will typically cheat again and again, believing he has every right to do so and that there is nothing wrong with his behavior. This belief is often so ingrained that, when the spouse or partner eventually gets fed up and leaves, the narcissist will typically attempt to do everything within his power to preserve the marriage. People with narcissism tend to use marriage for the social status and the appearance of normalcy it can bring them, rather than for intimacy or family, since they are typically incapable of real emotional closeness.

Most psychologists agree that narcissism and cheating in relationships often occur together because the average narcissist is unable to sympathize with, or in some cases, even see, the emotions of others. People with narcissism don't usually understand, or care about, the emotional turmoil that their cheating causes in their spouse. Nor are they usually concerned with the wider family and social ramifications of these acts in a relationship, such as the effects that such behavior may have on any children in the family.

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anon950479
Post 13

I went out with a narcissist recently for seven months! He told me many times, "I've never married or lived with anyone my entire life because I am not made for relationships. That's why I'm still single at age 50." I always had a rule not to get involved with anyone who has any relationships because my ex-spouse cheated on me and I don't want to cause pain like I had to other women.

Guess what? It turned out my N was lying all along. I found out he was married twice in the past and is married now! Wonder if he lied and lies to all of women in his life? I'll bet he does!

anon940874
Post 11

@anon940865: Get ahold of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Their toll-free number is 1-800-799-7233. They can help you. They have experience in helping people in your situation. Please call them. Good luck.

anon940865
Post 10

How do you get out when you have a child and no money/job, and no family or friends to help? How do I get out?

anon348398
Post 9

I was married to a narcissist. I did notice changes in his behaviour as time went on, but when you comment on it, they convince you it's not them; it's you. So over the years you hear that so often that you begin to think it's true.

If anyone reading this is still with a narcissist and they cheat, don't, under any circumstances, make it public unless you are living separately, and filing for divorce. I made that mistake and when I say he made me pay, he was so abusive, verbally, mentally, emotionally and yes occasionally physically, that I started to think suicide was the only option open to me.

Luckily I realised that no one is worth me taking my life.

I finished the marriage and to hear him crying (literally) you would have thought he hadn't done a thing wrong. Well she wanted him, she chased him and now she's got him, it'll be her turn soon.

As for me, I may be still living alone after four years, but I am a whole lot stronger and a hell of a lot happier. My life is peaceful and yes, I've just started going on dates. Namaste.

amypollick
Post 8

@anon345175: Unfortunately, therapy does not generally work with a narcissist, unless they just happen to have some kind of personal epiphany. They can't see there's a problem. Therefore, there is no need for counseling. If it's true narcissistic personality disorder, therapy isn't much help. They have to come to the point where they can believe they're wrong about something, and this usually doesn't happen. The DSM-IV doesn't present a hopeful outlook for these people, where therapy is concerned. It really is a mental illness.

anon345175
Post 7

Why is this related to men only? My wife is a narcissist and though I have tried numerous times to validate her value to me, I suspect she has cheated on me several times (four times I know of). Though I've finally stood up to her and recently came into the understanding of the mental disorder, she is in the process of filing for divorce. My usefulness has run its course.

But my real question is how does one get a narcissist in to see a therapist so a proper diagnosis can be attained? She has repeatedly stated she doesn't need counseling.

anon343070
Post 6

@Ysmina: That's like asking why people who travel a lot have a house. Because it's nice to have somewhere to come back to and regroup between adventures. Also, in many cases, it's more of an exciting challenge to the other women knowing that he is married so it raises his status that another woman already wants him and is actually with him.

anon341057
Post 5

I just broke up with a narcissist. It was out of control and it was causing me to lose all respect for him. Actually, I only found about about narcissism a few months back but in all honesty, it was a relief to know that it was a mental disorder because narcissists will go to any extreme to make you believe it's your fault.

My problem is that if they no longer want to be bothered with you and you have served your purpose with them, why do they keep bothering you?

What I found the most difficult was that my narcissist friend had more than one personality and it makes me feel so bad for anyone in a committed relationship with a narcissist who has more than one personality. I will elaborate on this once I know that the site is still active.

bear78
Post 3

I doubt that every narcissist cheats. They might have an inclination but I don't think it's accurate to make such a generalization. There are so many people who are not narcissists and still cheat.

ddljohn
Post 2

@ysmina-- I'm not a psychiatrist and I definitely don't consider myself an expert on narcissistic personality disorder.

But I think what happens is that a narcissist, due to a lack of self-esteem and self-worth, constantly needs people to validate that they are worthy. They do this by getting people to care for them and value their presence even though there is no reciprocation from their side.

You could say that a narcissist is like an empty bottle who needs to be filled and refilled by other people. A narcissist will do anything to "fill up" their sense of self-worth. And that unfortunately often includes cheating on their partner and then returning to them over and over again.

ysmina
Post 1

A friend of mine was married to a narcissist who constantly cheated on her.

The weird part was that each time, he would come back to her and say that it meant nothing and that he needs her. She forgave him because she was in love but soon enough realized that he would never change.

She also found out later that he made many promises to these women and did so many things to show his love. Why did he keep coming back to my friend then? It doesn't make sense.

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