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Adulterous, Unfaithful Narcissists: Why Cheat and have Extramarital Affairs?

Uploaded 7/27/2010, approx. 4 minute read

Hello, I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.


Why are narcissists unfaithful to their spouses? Why do they cheat? Why do they commit adultery and have extramarital affairs in such copious quantities?

Well, the short and the long of it is, it's complicated.

There are seven reasons which reflect different dynamics within the psyche of the narcissist.

The first reason is, of course, the quest for narcissistic supply.

Narcissists are drug addicts, and the name of the drug is narcissistic supply. Attention, regulation, admiration. Narcissists require this input from their human environment in order to regulate their unstable sense of self-worth, in order to restore a modicum of self-esteem, and in order to build self-confidence.

But unfortunately, narcissistic supply is a temporary remedy, not a permanent one. The narcissist needs time and again to elicit narcissistic supply from people around him.

And one of the ways to do that is sexual conquest. Extramarital affairs provide the somatic narcissist with an endless supply of narcissistic supply.

Secondly, narcissists are easily bored. They have a low threshold of boredom. They have a low tolerance for boredom. Sexual dalliances alleviate this nagging and frustrating in we. They inject color and interest into the narcissist's otherwise monotonous life.

Thirdly, narcissists maintain an island and focus of stability in their life, surrounded by an ocean of chaos and instability.

So we can have a narcissist who is stable in the workplace. He has a career path. He has worked in the same firm for decades.

But in his private life he maintains extramarital affairs and he is a pathologic gambler.

So there is always an island of stability surrounded by an ocean of unpredictability, instability, chaos and perturbation.

Extramarital affairs, adultery, cheating on one's spouse, is the narcissist's way of destabilizing his life while maintaining stability in a certain domain or portion.

Narcissists feel superior and important. So they feel entitled to anything and everything. They feel that they are above the law, above social conventions, that they are not required to engage in behaviors that are socially acceptable. They reject emotionally and vehemently and resent all limitations and conditions placed upon them. They act on impulses.

Narcissists are impulsive. They act on their drives, urges and desires and they feel unencumbered by social edicts and conventions. They feel above it all.

Marriage, monogamy, shy and bearing are common activities. They characterize what the narcissist regards as the average person.

There is nothing the narcissist hates more than being average. He holds average, common, typical people in contempt and disdain. He doesn't want to be like them.

The narcissist feels that he is unique, that he is superior, that he is special, that he is not average, that his behavior is not common.

So being married to the same woman and raising a family with her reduces the narcissist to the lowest common denominator.

He therefore regards himself as having been coerced into the relationship and he regards his roles as husband, provider, father, as kind of non-narcissistic pursuits, as narcissistic injuries. He feels wounded by the need to fulfill these roles.

And this narcissistic injury, this wound leads him to rebel and to reassert his superiority and his specialness by maintaining extramarital affairs.

By having liaisons with other women outside the marriage circle, the narcissist says, look at me, I am not common. I am not average. Narcissists are also control freaks.

Having a relationship means give and take. A relationship is a train of compromises.

But narcissists interpret compromises as loss of control. They feel that marriage to a single woman in a monogamous relationship means having been chained and shackled, having lost control of one's life.

And so to reassert control, the narcissist initiate other relationships in which he is the one to dictate the terms of engagement.

In other words, love affairs.

Finally, narcissists are terrified of intimacy. Their behavior is best characterized as what is called approach avoidance repetition conflicts. Partners and spouses of narcissists are well aware and well acquainted with this dynamic, halt and call to and fro, closer and further, attached and detached.

Adultery is an excellent tool in the attempt to retard intimacy, to fend it off, to suppress it. And it is also a less threatening mode of interaction because it's not permanent, it's not subject to rules, it's not subject to expectations.

Love affairs by definition are less intimate in the narcissist's eyes and mind at least than marriage.

And so they feed the narcissist perfectly. They provide him with narcissistic supply without making demands of him.

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