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Narcissistic Cheating Unveiled: Understanding Why Cheaters are narcissistic

This article delves into the intricate world of narcissistic behavior and its connection to infidelity. Exploring the patterns of narcissist cheating, it reveals how individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often engage in deceitful and betraying behaviors.

Table on Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. Understanding Narcissism

  3. Narcissism and Cheating

  4. Reasons for Cheating

  5. Cheating Patterns

  6. Validation and Empathy

  7. Impact on Relationships

  8. Coping and Recovery

  9. Conclusion

  10. References

Introduction: Overview of Narcissistic Behavior and Infidelity

Narcissistic behavior, characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, excessive need for attention, troubled relationships, and lack of empathy, can wreak havoc on romantic relationships when coupled with infidelity. This article explores the intricate connection between narcissism and cheating, providing insights into why narcissists engage in deceitful behaviors.

Narcissists seek constant validation and admiration, often leading them to multiple partners. Cheating satisfies their craving for attention and allows them to assert control over their partners. Their lack of empathy and limited capacity for emotional connection make it easier for them to justify their actions, disregarding the emotional pain they cause.

Thriving on excitement and novelty, narcissists may pursue new partners to feed their ego and escape the monotony of long-term relationships. They see cheating as a way to assert power and maintain a sense of independence.

Understanding that narcissistic behavior is a deeply ingrained trait is crucial. While cheating may not be a conscious choice, individuals in relationships with narcissists must set boundaries and seek support to protect themselves from emotional harm.

Understanding Narcissism

Definition and Core Traits

Narcissism is a personality trait that involves a grandiose view of oneself, a craving for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Key traits include:

  • A sense of entitlement
  • Exploitative behavior in relationships
  • Arrogance and haughty behaviors
  • A need for constant validation
  • Lack of empathy
  • Difficulty accepting criticism
  • Fantasies of power, success, and attractiveness
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
  • Difficulty acknowledging their own mistakes
  • A tendency to manipulate others for their own gain
  • An excessive need for attention and admiration
  • Thin-skinned and easily offended by criticism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a more severe form of narcissism where these traits are pervasive and significantly impact an individual's life and relationships. Individuals with NPD often:

  • Believe they are special and unique
  • Expect others to comply with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to achieve their own ends
  • Lack empathy and have difficulty recognizing the needs and feelings of others

Narcissism and Cheating

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Cheating

Narcissists are prone to cheating because their need for admiration and validation often leads them to seek attention outside their primary relationship. Their lack of empathy makes it easier for them to rationalize their deceitful actions without feeling guilt or remorse. Additionally, narcissists can have an inflated sense of entitlement, believing they deserve to have multiple partners or that the rules of fidelity don't apply to them. They may also see cheating as a way to assert control or power in the relationship, further fueling their behavior.

Furthermore, narcissists often have a deep-seated fear of abandonment and rejection, leading them to constantly seek out new sources of validation and attention to fill the void. Cheating provides them with a temporary ego boost and reaffirms their sense of desirability.

Overall, the combination of a need for admiration, lack of empathy, sense of entitlement, and fear of abandonment makes narcissists more likely to cheat in their relationships. It is essential for those in relationships with narcissists to set boundaries, seek therapy, and consider ending the relationship if the cheating behavior continues.

Why Narcissists Cheat

Narcissists cheat for various reasons, including:

  • Seeking validation and admiration from multiple sources
  • Boredom and a constant need for excitement
  • A sense of entitlement to have whatever they want
  • Lack of concern for the feelings and well-being of their partner
  • Inability to form meaningful emotional connections
  • Insecurity and fear of intimacy
  • Thrill of getting away with deceptive behavior
  • Manipulation and control over their partner
  • Feelings of inadequacy and the need to prove their desirability to others
  • Lack of empathy and remorse for their actions
  • Ego boost from having multiple partners
  • Desire for power and dominance in the relationship

Patterns of Narcissist Cheating

Common Behaviors and Tactics

Narcissists often display certain behaviors and tactics when cheating, such as:

  • Gaslighting their partner to make them doubt their reality
  • Blaming their partner for their unfaithfulness
  • Creating a web of lies to cover their tracks
  • Engaging in triangulation by introducing a third party to create jealousy and competition
  • Manipulating their partner's emotions and feelings to keep them attached and unaware of their infidelity
  • Using charm and manipulation to convince their partner that they are the victim and not at fault
  • Oversharing personal details or stories with the third party to create a false sense of intimacy
  • Keeping their social media accounts private or deleting messages and communication with the third party
  • Showing a lack of empathy or remorse for their actions and denying responsibility for the hurt and pain they have caused

Case Studies and Examples

Case studies often reveal a pattern of manipulation and deceit. For instance, a narcissistic individual might charm their partner initially, only to later show their true colors through controlling and unfaithful behaviors. These case studies highlight the common thread of narcissistic traits leading to infidelity.

One such case study involves a couple who met in college and quickly fell in love. The narcissistic partner, charismatic and charming, swept their partner off their feet with grand gestures and praise. The partner was enamored by their charm and believed they had found their soulmate.

However, as time went on, the narcissistic partner began to exhibit controlling behaviors, such as isolating their partner from friends and family, monitoring their every move, and constantly putting them down. The partner initially dismissed these behaviors, attributing them to stress or insecurity.

Eventually, the true extent of the narcissistic partner's deceit was revealed when they were caught cheating with multiple partners. The partner was devastated and realized that the narcissistic individual had been manipulating and deceiving them all along. The narcissistic individual's lack of empathy and disregard for their partner's feelings led to infidelity and the ultimate betrayal of trust.

This case study illustrates how narcissistic traits can lead to infidelity in relationships. The initial charm and charisma of a narcissistic individual can mask their true intentions, but over time, their controlling and deceitful behaviors come to light. It is important for individuals to be aware of these red flags and seek help if they suspect they are in a relationship with a narcissistic partner.

The Role of Validation and Empathy

How the Need for Validation Drives Cheating

Narcissists have an insatiable need for validation, which drives them to seek attention and admiration from multiple sources. This need can push them towards infidelity as they constantly look for new ways to feel valued and admired. Their lack of empathy and disregard for their partner's feelings can also make it easier for them to justify cheating. They may see their actions as justified because they believe they deserve to have their needs met at all costs.

Additionally, narcissists often have a sense of entitlement and believe they should be able to do whatever they want without consequences. This attitude can lead them to justify their infidelity by convincing themselves they deserve to have multiple partners or that they are simply fulfilling their own needs.

Overall, narcissists' constant need for validation, lack of empathy, and sense of entitlement can all contribute to their tendency to cheat on their partners. It is important for individuals in relationships with narcissists to recognize these traits and set boundaries to protect themselves from being hurt by their partner's infidelity. Therapy can also be helpful in addressing these patterns and finding healthier ways to navigate relationships with narcissists.

Lack of Empathy and Its Impact

The lack of empathy in narcissists means they are often unaware or indifferent to the pain their cheating causes their partner. This emotional disconnect allows them to continue their deceitful behaviors without significant internal conflict. Narcissists may also manipulate their partners into staying in the relationship despite their infidelity, using gaslighting or other manipulative tactics to convince their partner that they are overreacting or being paranoid. This can create a cycle of abuse and betrayal that further damages the emotional well-being of the betrayed partner.

Furthermore, narcissists may rationalize their infidelity by blaming their partner or finding external excuses for their behavior. They may shift responsibility onto their partner for not meeting their needs or suggest that their cheating is a form of self-care or self-preservation.

Ultimately, the lack of empathy in narcissists allows them to prioritize their own desires and needs above those of their partner, leading to a pattern of betrayal and emotional neglect that can be devastating for the individual who is being cheated on. It is important for individuals in relationships with narcissists to prioritize their own well-being and seek support in navigating the complexities of a relationship with someone who lacks empathy and compassion.

Impact on Relationships

Dynamics of Relationships with Narcissists

Interactions with narcissists are commonly chaotic and characterized by manipulation, dominance, and an absence of sincere emotional attachment. Individuals in relationships with narcissists may experience consistent invalidation and disempowerment, resulting in a pattern of emotional mistreatment.

Emotional and Psychological Effects on Partners

Partners of narcissists often experience a range of emotional and psychological effects, including:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Trust issues and emotional trauma
  • A sense of isolation and confusion
  • Constant self-doubt and questioning of reality
  • Feeling controlled and manipulated
  • Difficulty setting boundaries and asserting oneself
  • Emotional exhaustion and burnout
  • Loss of identity and autonomy
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Struggling with feelings of guilt and shame

Coping and Recovery

Strategies for Dealing with Narcissist Cheating

Coping with a narcissist's cheating requires strength and support. Strategies include:

  • Setting clear boundaries and sticking to them
  • Seeking therapy to understand and heal from the abuse
  • Building a strong support network of friends and family
  • Considering ending the relationship if it becomes too harmful
  • Educating oneself about narcissism and abusive behavior
  • Engaging in self-care practices such as exercise, meditation, and journaling
  • Keeping a journal of the narcissist's behavior to reflect on and validate one's feelings
  • Seeking legal advice or protection if needed
  • Remembering that the narcissist's actions are not a reflection of one's worth or value
  • Taking steps to rebuild one's self-esteem and confidence

Resources and Support for Affected Partners

There are various options available for individuals navigating a narcissist's infidelity, such as:

  • Support communities for the spouses of narcissists
  • Professional therapy and counseling options
  • Educational materials on narcissistic behaviors and the healing process


Summary of Key Points

This article has explored the link between narcissism and cheating, highlighting how narcissistic traits drive infidelity and the impact this behavior has on relationships. Understanding the core traits of narcissism, the reasons behind their cheating, and the patterns they follow can help those affected to recognize and address these issues.

Final Thoughts on Narcissistic Cheating and Infidelity

Narcissistic cheating is a damaging and complex behavior that can cause long-lasting harm to those impacted by it. Recognizing the signs and understanding the underlying reasons can empower individuals to take control of their own lives and seek healthier and more fulfilling relationships.


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  • Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and Surprising Good—About Feeling Special. HarperWave.