Before we dive into the tough topic of narcissist cheating patterns, it’s critical to know first and foremost that it isn’t your fault.
There is nothing you could’ve done to prevent this situation other than not meeting the person in the first place.
Your intense search for answers and solutions led you here, and you’re in a safe space to explore this life-shattering possibility that the love of your life is a narcissist cheating husband.
Do You Have a Narcissist Partner?
When you know what to look for, you can clear the clutter between a confident or ego-driven partner and a person suffering from narcissistic personality disorder or displaying narcissistic traits.
The non-official red flag is the unconscionable arrogance and insensitivity the partner shows you.
That gut-twisting feeling comes from the hallmarks of narcissism:
- Lack of Empathy: Narcissists are emotionally void in every sense of the concept. They see people as chess pieces in their game of life, which they will ALWAYS win.
- Superiority: Whether it shows itself as entitlement, grandiosity, or being above the (moral, ethical, and actual) law.
- Praise: A narcissist needs a constant stream of praise as much as they need oxygen. In fact, they’d likely choose praise over oxygen.
- Reckless: Like a bull in a China shop, they break through any kind of barrier to achieve their own wants and needs.
- Manipulative: Despite the ugly underbelly of their psyche, they present themselves as quite charming and successful.
Why Do Narcissists Cheat?
You would be amazed to see the dozens of research studies that try to answer that very question. Not all narcissists cheat, but all of them would if the affair somehow supported their inflated sense of self.
For an average man, there’s the innate ability to “compartmentalize” feelings and challenges. They can put those feelings in the proverbial box—even when it’s an affair—and still be a doting and loving partner.
When figuring in narcissistic personality disorder and serial cheating, there’s much more than that.
- They need a constant supply. Narcissists need royal treatment, and when a spouse stops providing endless adoring support, they seek out a new source in their kingdom.
- They have no control. Since they’ve never adhered to boundaries, a few vows and a mortgage won’t change that.
- They have no rules. Even if they know that infidelity is wrong, that’s a rule for “average” people. Not for superior people like him.
- They have no feelings. Since narcissists can’t feel real emotions, they don’t have guilt or fear of getting caught. They simply seek sources that give them power. Once they’ve chased and won their trophy (i.e., you), they get bored and want a new trophy.
MINDBLOWING FACT: Many narcissists hate sex. Intercourse assumes a certain expectation of intimacy which they can emulate but not provide. When most of them do have sex, it’s focused on their pleasure, how well you see they are superior, or to keep you (or the other woman) around.
13 Narcissist Cheating Signs and Patterns
Figuring out how to catch a cheating narcissist isn’t the same as catching a regular, soul-bearing cheating man. You’ll need special tools and tactics to find the answer because Lord knows he’s not going to tearfully own up to it.
1. They Have a “Tell”
Much like a game of poker, even a narcissist has their own “tell” when it comes to playing their infidelity cards. They could become more distant, more doting, or more annoyed.
Start with looking for behavior pattern shifts that have nothing to do with work stress, family obligations, or your marriage.
As tempting as it might be, stay silent during this time – especially if you think they’re cheating. Just as police need reasonable suspicion and probable cause, you must gather evidence and wait for more patterns to surface.
2. They Change Intimacy Patterns
This can be tricky since withholding affection, and sex is a control tactic for a narcissist.
Since narcissists need attention to fuel their ego, and they’ve already won you over, they’ll seek the assurance of their superpowers from others.
It could be online role-playing, “love bombing” another person, or a full-on affair.
They’ll use your advances to put you down (another control tactic) and make you defensive, claiming you’ve now “ruined the mood anyway.”
On the flip side, they could also become a different person in bed, trying outrageous things or being more aggressive.
3. They Accuse You of Cheating
Allow some comic relief in this tough talk to consider the phrase “whoever smelt it, dealt it.” This common reference to flatulence is also the stinky side of a narcissist suspected of cheating.
They’ll outright convince you that since you brought up infidelity – YOU must be cheating.
Narcissists are masters of conversations that are like a dog chasing its tail. Instead of talking about your suspicions, you are suddenly defending your own moral code.
Even if you do corner the cheating dog, he will spill all the amazing things he’s done as your husband.
4. They Are Always Online
With chat and phone apps designed to be untraceable, they might spend more time on their mobile devices. Never doubt the brazenness of a narcissist to chat with a lover while you’re in the room.
They won’t always be hiding in the bathroom or sneaking off in the middle of the night.
Sure, you can try to get their phone or ask for their passcode. They’re smarter than that. The apps are likely deleted, hidden, and untraceable.
Narcissists are clever enough to get ahead of your concerns by leaving their (freshly cache-cleared) phone where you can review it, assuming you’ll see that it’s all in your head.
5. They Lie All the Time
Silly things like facts don’t get in the way of a narcissist’s lie.
Lies can run the scope of “Oh, the woman at lunch? That’s the lesbian partner of my boss,” to “I was not at that spot for lunch. I was in the office. Here, let’s call my boss, and he’ll vouch for me and see how crazy you are.”
Narcissists have already determined their actions were justified and appropriate due to that darn superiority complex. You, and your accusations, are beneath them.
In fact, studies have shown that some narcissists even come to believe their own lies, making it that much more exhausting to argue with them.
6. They Start a Big Fight
Arguments are a normal part of marriage. Everyone needs space sometimes, and a narcissist isn’t beyond starting a fight where you kick him out or agree it’s best to spend the weekend apart.
This frees up his time to love bomb the other person in his life.
If you notice these fights are happening habitually on three-day weekends or completely unprovoked, it could be nothing more than a means to his narcissistic end. In narcissists’ terms, this is also known as the “discard.”
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7. They Love Bomb You
There are two times narcissists will shower you with attention, praise, and presents (known as love bombing) – when they first meet you and when they need another supply from you, generally after a discard.
It appears your spouse is filled with grief and regret, but it’s another control tactic to get you back into place.
Furthermore, at this point, you’ve likely overanalyzed everything and taken responsibility for the fight or the time apart.
The love bombing can also happen out of nowhere, which usually means his other supply (the other woman) is no longer in his life.
8. They Become Indifferent
You’ve followed the trail of cheating crumbs by now, and you’re ready to square off.
Instead of crying at your feet, apologizing, or becoming enraged at the accusation, you are met with total indifference.
They might know you’ll never leave them, especially since they’ve likely taken control over your schedule, finances, and future. Why waste time with that?
They could even dare you to leave them, pointing out that you’ll be the one to ruin a “perfectly good relationship.” Narcissists can even use children as weapons at this point, either demanding custody or turning the children against you.
9. They Can’t Explain (Well) Where They’ve Been
When a trip to the grocery store turns into a three-hour trip, and your spouse comes home with a gallon of lukewarm milk, your spidey senses will go up.
They’ll have an elaborate story, likely with them as a hero, to explain it away.
Then unexplainable charges at hotel restaurants appear. Jewelry purchases make you stay silent since you think it’s a surprise for you.
When pressed on any of these items, they’ll give you a song and dance (and lies) about it.
When they really want to go “for the win,” they’ll frustratingly say they just can’t talk about it right now and need space.
10. They Train Their Mistress
Even if you have every bit of proof aside from a sex tape, don’t think confronting the mistress will do the trick.
While most women having affairs with married men will either freak out or confess, a narcissist’s mistress has been manipulated and groomed (known as flying monkeys) to be his strongest advocate.
She’ll back up the gaslighting with denials and accuse you of stalking.
Every false and misleading thing he’s said about you suddenly becomes crystal clear to her as you stand there tear-stained and shoving a photo of your children in her face.
11. They Put You Down a Lot (More)
When a narcissist has a new supply, they suddenly feel invincible again. Now you’re just another piece of pottery in the China shop he’s going to bulldoze.
He might comment more about your appearance or tell you he doesn’t want you to come to a work event because you’ve “let yourself go.”
At this stage, he’s actively convincing himself that his other supply is better while still making you go bonkers with insecurity and trying to make him happy.
Now TWO supplies are coming his way. He’s arrogant enough to think he’s entitled to that.
12. They Only Give You Attention When You’re “Behaving”
Like an emotional hostage, a narcissist rewards and punishes good behavior. If you’re constantly badgering them about cheating, they’ll stay away.
If you keep cooking their favorite dinner and telling them how much you love them, they’ll be there more.
This manipulation is used to keep you from ever questioning anything they do.
Be warned that they are smart enough to know your nonverbal cues and can still give you silent treatment or indifference as punishment if they feel you aren’t doting on them enough.
13. They Give it Back to You Tenfold
When you try to establish boundaries to help curb a cheating spouse, get ready for a tsunami of activity against you.
- You want to share passcodes and look at each other’s phones? He’ll question you about every like and share you make on social media.
- You want more intimacy? He’ll have distant, quick sex with you every night, making you feel worse than before.
- You saw him at lunch with another woman? He’ll follow you to every soccer game and document every conversation with another man.
This is part of a gaslighting tactic to show you how ridiculous you are being with the accusations.
Will a Narcissist Ever Admit to Cheating?
When a narcissist is caught cheating and lying, they might admit to having sex or an online relationship with someone else, but they won’t call it infidelity.
Think of it this way to help understand how narcissists see people as objects: If you taste test a grape at the grocery store before buying the bunch, did you steal a grape?
Your moral code might make you think twice, but you can also justify it. Similarly, narcissists can justify everything they do, including cheating.
Since they feel superior and entitled, they’ll just keep telling lies and gaslighting. It’s worked so well for them in the past they can’t even control it.
Even if you catch them in the act, they’ll end up twisting it around and making it your fault for not loving them enough, pushing them away, or forcing them to find affection elsewhere.
Beware the apologetic narcissist. They are not genuinely sorry; they are expressing a sentiment they know is expected of inferior people when they do something morally wrong.
How to Deal with a Cheating Narcissist
The average person who drinks and drives does so 80 times before getting arrested. In the same way, narcissists cheat many times before they get caught.
You can’t even have a typical infidelity conversation since you’re dealing with someone without a moral compass or emotions. Here’s what you can do:
- Get Therapy: Narcissistic abuse is unlike any other relationship challenge. With only about 5% of the population being diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, you need a marriage counselor specializing in personality disorders or trauma recovery.
- Get Real: Handle your emotions first, but then handle the facts. 60% of all narcissistic marriages end in divorce. If you stay for the kids, alter your behavior to avoid narcissistic baits. Accept the reality that he isn’t going to change in the long run.
- Get Over Closure: You’ll never get closure from a narcissist. You will only get more lies, gaslighting, and love bombing. The fact that you are “so obsessed” with talking to him will only reinforce how desirable he is.
Staying with a cheating narcissist could only make him go more covert with his next potential act of infidelity.
Narcissism is in the Dark Triad of personality, which includes Machiavellianism and psychopathy. That’s right, you’ve been one angle away from a psychopath.
Therapy has not evolved to the point where narcissists can be cured.
Most won’t seek treatment since they don’t hold themselves accountable. Even attempts at therapy lead to the challenging fun of narcissists trying to outwit a trained professional.
Therapy can help you deal with this unique breed of infidelity and recover to live a better life.