Infidelity And Narcissism: Is There A Connection? Can It Be Overcome?

By: Katie Lersch: Some of the wives that I hear from who are dealing with cheating husbands will also tell you that their husband is a narcissist. They’ll tell you that he cares about his own needs more than anything else and that he feels entitled to get what he wants at the expense of others. Despite this, some of them want to save their marriage and they wonder if a narcissist has it in him to be faithful.

A wife might say: “honestly, five years ago, I would not have told you that my husband was a narcissist. Until recently, I did not know what a narcissist was. After I found out about my husband’s affair, I started to do some psychological research and I came upon information about narcissistic personalities. I am now convinced that this fits my husband to a T. Honestly, throughout our relationship, it has mostly been about him. That is not to say that I didn’t feel loved or he couldn’t be sweet. I did and he could. But my husband fully expects his needs to be met before anyone else’s – including our children. If I spend too much time with our kids and he feels slighted, he will let me know, even though our kids are small and he is a grown man. He constantly brags about himself and his accomplishments around others. Success and how people perceive him are very important to him. He also seems to feel that the rules do not seem to apply to him. I was talking about this with one of my friends and she agreed that my husband has narcissistic tendencies, but said that this dooms my marriage because people with this personality never change. Is she right? Do narcissists cheat more often and can they learn to stop?”

I have seen studies which have indicated that partners with a narcissistic personality are more likely to be unfaithful. This is especially true if they feel a sexual sense of entitlement. However, it’s incredibly important to note that true narcissism is a personality disorder and a clinical diagnosis. There’s a huge difference between this type of disorder and just common selfishness. I’m not a therapist, but I would urge you not to try and diagnose your husband yourself unless you’re a professional mental health counselor. Because it is true that it can be much harder to save your marriage (and affair – proof it later) when you’re dealing with a true narcissist. Why? Because they lack two important things that are needed to both recover from an affair and to remain faithful:

1. The person committing the affair needs to be accountable and to take responsibility for their actions and;

2. The person committing the affair needs to understand and have empathy for their spouse’s pain.

Both of these things are very unlikely for a true narcissist.  They think that normal societal rules don’t apply to them and they have trouble with empathy, (especially if they feel that their behavior is justified.) That said, many, many wives will tell you that their husband is trying to downplay the affair and doesn’t truly appreciate her pain. However, this can be very different from the behavior of husbands who have a true personality disorder. Many husbands try to downplay the affair because they know that their wives are angry at them. And their lack of sympathy can be in part posturing because again, they’re hoping to limit the fall out of what they have done. I guess the point that I’m trying to make it that some wives think that their husband has a personality disorder after his affair when he’s just a typical guy in a very bad way (which lead to the affair in the first place.) Because of this, he’s in a state of denial and he’s posturing. This is very different from a narcissist with a true personality disorder.

Because of the difficulties stated above, the ideal is to take your spouse to counseling and have that person diagnose him (or hopefully rule out a diagnosis.) However, sometimes people in this category think that the rules don’t apply to them and they are therefore resistant to counseling. If you are truly dealing with a diagnosable type of this personality, then it could be difficult to save your marriage or to prevent a repeat of this behavior without counseling. I have read about instances where it was successfully done, but the person in counseling had to want it so much that he overcame his initial reservations and sense of being “above it.”

In short, the narcissist has to believe that he has this disorder and has to also want to change. He has to humble himself enough to get help and to admit that he has made a grave mistake.  Then, he has to take responsibility for that mistake and feel empathy for it. All of these things do not come naturally for a person with this type of personality. They need help in order for these things to happen.  So yes, dealing with an affair with a narcissist can be difficult, but not impossible. With that said, many husbands exhibit this type of cold and distant behavior after an affair because they are trying to justify or downplay their behavior. They don’t have a personality disorder. They just find themselves in an unfortunate situation of their own making and they are trying to get out of it.

I definitely found my husband’s behavior to be selfish, immature, and deplorable during and (at times) after his affair.  But I do not believe my husband has any type of personality disorder. He can be empathetic, kind, loving, selfless, diplomatic, and quite fair in every day life.  He was just trying to justify his behavior at the time.  We did recover, but not until he figured out that he needed to take full responsibility with no back tracking.  There’s more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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