Okay, guys, and girls, my name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. I am also a professor of psychology at several universities, and today I would like to answer the question, is it okay if I cheat on my narcissist?
There has been a god-awful confusion after my recent videos regarding, it seems, one question, cheating.
There were two categories of counterclaims.
The first counterclaim was, I have never cheated on my narcissist. And it's not true that all women cheat on their narcissist. I just packed up my things and left. I'm ignoring for a minute those women mostly who said that they had never even considered to cheat on their narcissist because I don't believe them. But I do believe that many intimate partners of narcissists did not cheat on them, chose to not cheat. And instead, when they had reached the end of their rope, they simply packed up their things and left.
But here's the thing. I used cheating in the previous videos as an example of a process, a pernicious toxic process within the shared fantasy.
I said that women within the shared fantasy become so desperate. I'm using women because at this stage at least, most narcissists are men, most diagnosed narcissists are men. But just flip the pronouns. Don't keep sending me comments. Why do you say he? We all know there are women narcissists, there are men narcissists, we get it. Now just flip the pronouns. When I say he in your mind, change it to she, when I say she changed it to he, not too difficult at all.
Let's go back to business.
So I used cheating in previous videos as an example of the toxic process within the shared fantasy.
The narcissist intimate partner can't survive within the shared fantasy. It's a very sick space, very pathologized space.
And so she tries to undermine it. She tries to extricate herself. It's like a hostage. She tries to break the trauma bonding and get away from the kidnapping or hijacking situation that she had found herself in from the prison because shared fantasy is a kind of prison.
And so some women choose to cheat as a way to exit the fantasy. Other women choose to divorce. Other women choose to abscond with the family's money. Other women use children, the children as pawns and tools in the battle, in the war, which develops between her and the narcissist.
I didn't say that cheating is the only way. I gave it as an example. But having given it as an example, it raised several very important issues.
For example, many women wrote to me, but I don't understand. My husband was jealous and other women wrote to me, you're right. He was never jealous and other women wrote to me, but sometimes he was jealous and sometimes he was not. What's going on? What's with romantic jealousy? What's with the cheating? What's with the don't ask, don't tell open marriages and open relationships? And what happens when there's no open marriage, open relationship? And what happens when you, when you're with these, with these intimate partners or women who actually inform, tell, tell their narcissist about what had happened, describe the cheating or make it very ostentatious or cheat in the narcissist's presence. And with him as a witness, what, what, what does all this fit in? It's, it's a big, a big, enormous confusion.
Let me try to help you by introducing some order into this mess, because there is, there is a set of rules, very simple rules actually. And I'll explicate them. I'll explain them in this video.
So you remember that the narcissist creates a shared fantasy where you, as his partner, you provide three functions, basically.
You adulate him, you're a fan and admirer, and he's the guru or he's your psychologist, amateur psychologist, or he's your father figure.
But in any case, it's a psychophant or fan or admirer relationship. It's one function.
The second function is, as a playmate, narcissist wants to play with you because he's a child, his mental age is anywhere between four and nine. So he wants to play in the sandbox. So you're his playmate. He has adventures with you. The sex itself is very playful. He goes out with you to various places. He, together you do crazy things, illicit things, etc. So he plays with you. You're his playmate.
And the third function, you're his mother. He expects you to give him love that is unconditional and not dependent upon performance or even upon his behavior. In other words, even if he misbehaves, he expects you to continue to love him, continue to love him the same intensity, same depth, same commitment as a mother would.
These are your three roles within the shared fantasy that no woman in her right mind, no woman in the right mind would accept these roles and persist and subsist and continue and function within the shared fantasy.
So the overwhelming vast majority of women with the exception of extreme co-dependence or women with really, really serious mental health issues, the overwhelming majority of women at some point give up on the narcissist when they realize that there's nothing beyond these three roles. He would never want anything more serious than that. He wants an admirer. He wants a playmate. He wants a mother. End of story. He's not developing. He's not evolving. There's no personal growth. There's no change. He's immutable. He's unchangeable.
When women realize that within the sick, utterly sick, almost psychotic environment that he creates for both of them, they want out. They want out ASAP with expediency. They are terrified and horrified by, by, by this trap, this quagmire, this swamp that they found themselves in.
And so they went out and they do everything in their power to dismantle, to negate, to challenge, to undermine, to sabotage the shared fantasy. And one of the most powerful tools at their disposal is being unfaithful, is cheating.
To their shock, the narcissist reacts to cheating unlike any red blooded normal man. And the reason is very simple. The narcissist is not a normal red blooded man. He is a normal red blooded child and he reacts to cheating as a child would.
So there are three types of cheating and three types of reaction.
First type of cheating is cheating intended to exit the shared fantasy, but without mortifying the narcissist, without hurting the narcissist, causing enormous damage and pain. Just cheating in order to exit. Hey, I cheated on you. Now can we go our separate ways? It's one type of cheating. And in a minute I will come to the narcissist reaction to this kind of cheating.
The second type of cheating is a cheating intended to mortify. It's a cheating that is done so egregiously, so ostentatiously, so publicly. So in such a humiliating manner that it challenges the narcissist's self-perception, grandiosity, beliefs about himself, schemas we call it. Yes, it's schemas. And he disintegrates. He decompensates, he folds apart. All his defense mechanisms are disabled, he folds apart and he sees himself in the mirror finally as the monster that he is. And it's very difficult on him.
The second type of cheating is done on purpose intentionally in a way to mortify the narcissist. And there's a reaction to that as well.
The second type.
The third type of cheating is cheating that is done not in order to exit and not in order to mortify. Andmortify.
And there's a reaction to that as well.
Let's start with this third type.
Sometimes women say, I love him. I love him. I see the inner child in him through his eyes, through his bumpy eyes. He's amazing. He's intelligent. He's funny. I simply love him. I don't think I can live without him, but he's a child and I'm a woman. He's a child and I'm a woman. And he doesn't provide me with what I need. What I need is love or at the very least comfort, affection, passion, desire. I need intimacy, adult, mature intimacy, including sex as an expression of that intimacy. I need sex. I need all these things.
And he's either not providing them or if he is providing them, they're so distorted by his mental age that they're unrecognizable.
So for example, the sexuality of the narcissist is kinky and sadistic. The narcissist doesn't make love to his intimate partner. The narcissist dismantles her like a toy. He treats her like a toy. He breaks her apart to see what's inside. He despoils her. He degrades her. He humiliates her. He gets off. He gets off. He is aroused by breaking his intimate partner, disintegrating her, dismantling her.
It's not sex. It's not sex by any definition. I mean, no one would recognize this as sex.
Yes, narcissist uses his genitalia to do this.
So what? He also urinates.
Also another use of his genitalia and no one would say that urinating or peeing is sex. So the woman doesn't get sex with a narcissist even when they have sex regularly or what the narcissist calls sex. Of course she doesn't get intimacy. He's a child. She gets pure, pure unconditional love from him sometimes. Not exactly love. It's dependence. He's dependent on her. It's dependent on her the same way a child would be dependent. And it's very intoxicating and inebriating and addictive.
As a child's love is addictive. That's why mothers become addicted to their children. It's an amazing experience because a very huge component of a child's love is self-love. The child truly loves you as you are. So in a way you love yourself through the child.
Any mother would tell you this.
So it's the same with a narcissist. He calls it love and it's not really love. It's a form of extreme dependence. But never mind all that.
The woman experiences it very often as love and as a child's love. So she experiences self-love. This is what I call the whole of mirrors.
And so many women say, I can't leave him. I don't want to leave him. I'm getting a lot from this relationship. And I'm happy. It's exciting. I'm being loved like never before. Not by a man. Not by another. But still it's love. And it's like my child. I beat him. I can't abandon my child. But I'm a woman. I have my needs.
So this kind of woman would cheat. But she would not cheat in order to exit the shirt fantasy. She would cheat in order to preserve the shirt fantasy. She would cheat as a maintenance drawer. She would cheat so that her needs are taken care of. She caters to her psychological, physiological requirements, enabling her, allowing her, empowering her to remain in a very onerous and difficult relationship with a child, with a narcissist in her life. So she would cheat just in order to keep herself going.
It's like being underwater all the time and then emerging just to take a breath of air in order to go back to submerge yourself back underwater. And this kind of woman would usually go for one-night stands and so on in order not to endanger the shirt fantasy, not to risk it. But not always. Not always, depending on the character, on the nature and the upbringing, beliefs, values of the woman. Some of them go for casual sex, minority actually, about 20% by my studies and majority actually have love affairs.
And the irony is the narcissist wants them to have love affairs. Cheating, even with the same men, with no intent to exit the shirt fantasy, does not provoke in the narcissist romantic jealousy.
I repeat, if you cheat with the same men all the time, but you have no intention to exit the shirt fantasy and you make it clear to the narcissist that you are committed to him, you're devoted to him, you will never leave him, you are there forever, always, always return to him. You may spend the night with another man, but in the morning you'll be there and so on.
This does not provoke in the narcissist romantic jealousy or any other emotion, to be honest. And such a narcissist could even openly agree with this woman that she has a right to cheat. So open marriage or open relationship, as long as he can say, well, as long as we are together, as long as you keep coming back to me, no problem. And no problem if you do it with the same men all the time.
Actually, as I said, the narcissist wants you to cheat with the same men, because if you cheat with the same men, it preserves his idealized version of you. He idealizes you. He idealizes you as a mother figure. And he idealizes you also as a woman, but not in the adult sense, a feminine mother figure. So he idealizes you.
And if you go for sluttish, casual, one-night-stand sex, this challenges and destroys the idealization.
As a mother doesn't do this. A homemaker doesn't do this. His admirer doesn't do this. He can't have such admirers, they're sluts. So he doesn't want you to have one-night-stands and casual sex. He much prefers if you have a settled relationship, a love affair with one man, because that means that you're homely, you're predictable, you're motherly, you're maternal, you can be trusted, you're stable.
But if you are promiscuous, who knows what's going to happen. Plus, it means that you are a whore.
And all narcissists are subject to the Madonna whore complex. To participate in the shared fantasy, you must be a Madonna, which is precisely the reason, by the way, that most narcissists end up in sexless relationships, because you're a Madonna. Who sleeps with a Madonna? I mean, it's a saint. It's a religious artifact. You don't sleep with a Madonna, you don't sleep with a saint.
The narcissist's mother is a Madonna and a saint, and you are a Madonna and a saint, because you are his mother's substitute.
But as the narcissist would be shocked to discover that his mother is having one night's dance, he would be devastated to find out that you're having one night's dance, because then you're not a mother and you're not a saint.
So if you want to cheat on him, it's okay. No problem with that. Just don't exit the shared fantasy. Stay with him. Don't abandon him. He's a kid. He's a frightened kid. And please try to cheat, respectively. Try to cheat discreetly. Try to do it with a single man or with the same man.
If you have a stable, long-term intimate lover, if you have sex with someone that you had known for a long time, for example, if you end up having sex with your best friend or with a classmate, that's okay. But only someone who does not threaten the shared fantasy with a narcissist.
So there are two requirements.
Don't be a slut. Don't be a slut. Because it affects your roles within the shared fantasy.
If you're a slut, you can be a mother. If you're a slut, you can be an admirer. If you're a slut, you can't even be a playmate. Because a playmate means that you find some special value with the narcissist. You like to play with the narcissist.
But if you play around with everyone, you know, then you can't even be his special, unique, only exclusive playmate.
So your lover must be the same man, someone you know, someone you've had for a long time, someone with whom you have a relationship, a narcissist wants you to have a relationship with your lover. And definitely someone who would not threaten the shared fantasy with a narcissist.
So a married man is better. He's great. A married man. Or someone who clearly is an avowed eternal bachelor. Or someone who is almost like a brother, a super best friend. So it would be incestuous to go any further. As long as the shared fantasy is preserved, narcissist does not have an emotional reaction to your cheating.
None. Not even romantic jealousy. He may even titivate you. He may even give you advice on how to dress and how to make up before you go on your date with your lover. I mean, it's that extreme.
The shared fantasy demands presence, demands availability. If the narcissist is not busy, you should be there. If the narcissist is busy, then he's not available. If the narcissist is absent, for example, traveling, then of course he's not available. He's not present. If he's not available and not present, you're free to do whatever you wish. Anything you want, with anyone you want for as long as you want.
Because narcissist exactly like borderline, classic borderline, have object inconsistency, out of sight, out of mind. He's traveling, he's busy, he's absent. You do not exist. I want you to understand this. It's not that when he's busy or traveling or absent, he's not thinking of you. There's no you to think about. You are erased, deleted, retroactively. No memory of you. There's nothing there. There's no constancy. There's a representation of you, but it is frozen in time. It's a snapshot. And it's there. It's like in the cupboard. There's no risk of any kind. It's always there.
So when he's not with you, when he's not with you, there's no you. And so you can do anything you want with anyone you want. It doesn't bother him in the least. He will not even bother to ask you, where are you? What had you done? Why did you come? Why are you back so late and so on?
But if he is available, and if he is present, you should be all he's totally available to him, exclusively, no one else. The moment he's available and present, his playmate, your his admirer, and of course, your his mother. What mother abandons her children?
Not done. It will ruin his idealized version of you. If he's available, if he's present, if he makes himself, if he introduces himself into the shared fantasy, and you are with other men at that time, he would perceive it as a rejection of the shared fantasy. And then he would have abandonment anxiety and romantic jealousy.
So any cheating, which challenges or destroys his idealized version of you, would provoke romantic jealousy.
If you go to a bar alone, get drunk and have a one night stand with a stranger, he would be romantically jealous.
Because he had undermined, ruined, compromised, and corrupted your idealized image in his mind, in the narcissist mind. In the narcissist mind, you're pure, you're virginal, you're asexual, you're Madonna, you're a saint.
And to get drunk and fuck a stranger, it's not you. It's not you. What if it's not you? Where are you?
And romantic jealousy, of course, is what we call is a label for loss, the experience of loss, or anticipated loss, by challenging the idealized version of you that he had internalized. You are threatening the narcissist with a loss, maybe not physical loss, but definitely mental loss. He falls in love with a phantasm of his own making, falls in love with a piece of fiction.
Your idealization has very little to do with you, which is why you feel all the time that he's not there. Why you feel all the time that he's crazy making?
Because he's not interacting with you. He's interacting with an idealized snapshot of you, with an avatar, with a script, CGI script.
So don't challenge this. Don't destroy this. Don't undermine this.
And if you do, he's going to be romantically jealous. He's also going to be romantically jealous.
If you cheat in a way that is intended to facilitate your exit from the shared fantasy. For example, if you constantly spend time with other men, clearly having abandoned the shared fantasy.
If you spend all your time with other men, you have abandoned the shared fantasy. No question about it.
So any cheating that is intended to facilitate or indicates, signifies an exit from the shared fantasy, he gets, romantic legends, extremely romantic legends. And he's going to be jealous of your sex with other men. He's going to be jealous of your intimacy with the other men.
Because in his mind, you had created an alternative shared fantasy. You have substituted another man for him. You had betrayed him, your traitor. You had abandoned him. You found another child. You have adopted another child and you dumped him in an orphanage.
And it makes him really, really extremely romantically jealous.
And like a typical man, then he becomes a typical man. He imagines the sex. He reimagines the sex. He's jealous of the intimacy you had with the other man. He questions your commitment. He develops extreme distrust. He doesn't trust you anymore.
Then he becomes a man. Ironically, when you cheat in order to exit the shared fantasy, it's the only time that your narcissist becomes a man. He's no longer a child. He grows up.
You force him to grow up.
So until now we had two types of cheating. Cheating that is intended to preserve the shared fantasy. Cheating that is a maintenance chore. You maintain, you cater, you outsource your needs with other men in order to stay in the fantasy.
That's okay with a narcissist. Perfectly okay. As long as you don't render yourself a slut. As long as you don't behave orishly. As long as you don't go around with strangers in bars and get drunk and get drunk and I know what else. As long as you behave respectably and discreetly. No problem. No romantic jealousy. No emotions actually. Out of sight, out of mind. No object process. You can do anything you want.
So this kind of cheating is perfectly okay. Actually encouraged sometimes. Sometimes a narcissist encourages you. He knows he can't give you what you need and want. He wants you to remain in the shared fantasy. So he says, listen, stay in the shared fantasy. Stay with me. Stick by me and satisfy your needs. Outsource your needs with other men.
Intimacy, love, sex, whatever you want.
First type of cheating. Second type of cheating. If you ruin, destroy, undermine your idealized image as a mother, as an admirer, as a playmate by misbehaving egregiously with other men in circumstances which render you really low life scum.
Then he becomes dramatically jealous. And if this indicates that you want to exit the shared fantasy, if you spend a lot of time with other men, if he gets the feeling that you are about to exit the shared fantasy in whatever way, you exit the shared fantasy by undermining your idealized image. You exit a shared fantasy by spending too much time with other men. You exit the shared fantasy by having established another shared fantasy with another man.
For example, you're planning to have a family with another man. So anything that threatens the shared fantasy, any indication that this is your, cheating is your exit strategy, provokes extreme and typically male romantic jealous.
Then the narcissist man's up. He becomes a man.
And finally, the last type of cheating is a cheating that is intended to mortify. That's an easy one. That's a no brainer. When the narcissist intimate partner cheats in his presence with him as a witness, I don't know, flirts and picks up a man and goes with him into the night, you know, in a way that is intended to hurt him, to damage him, to punish him. And so that he can no longer avoid, no longer fend off reality, no longer isolate himself from deny what's happening is gets mortified. He disintegrates the competency, falls apart and he falls apart because his partner intended him to fall apart.
So any cheating that is intended to mortify leads to immediate breakup.
And then there's also no romantic jealousy. So if you cheat in order to preserve the shared fantasy, to remain within the shared fantasy, if you cheat as a maintenance chore, no romantic jealousy, if you cheat in order to mortify and end the shared fantasy conclusively, irreversibly, irrevocably, and in the process, damage and hurt the narcissist cause him enormous pain, make him disintegrate in effect.
Well, there's also no romantic jealousy. He may reframe you. He may say that you're evil. He may create an idealized version of you, which is negative, using the process of devaluation. He will create an idealized image, which is negative.
By the way, many people make the mistake. They think that idealization is only positive. Idealization simply means divorce from reality. So the image can be totally positive or totally negative because it involves a psychological defense mechanism known as splitting.
So the narcissist splits his intimate partner and when he splits her, he idealizes her. So he idealizes her as all good, all good mother, all bad, evil whore, demonic bitch, you know, after mortification, he idealizes you as all bad.
So there's no romantic jealousy, of course. What is it to be jealous?
He actually welcomes the breakup. The thing is that the narcissist doesn't have sex except the aforementioned sadistic despoiling and degrading and playing with your body, masturbating with your body. Thus, he doesn't have sex with his intimate partner. He doesn't also have real intimacy with his woman, his intimate partner.
Because he doesn't have sex with her, because he doesn't have intimacy with her, he's incapable of sex and intimacy. He's nine years old in the best case. Many of them are four years old. You wouldn't expect a four year old to have sex or an intimacy.
So he doesn't. Because he doesn't have it, he doesn't mind. He doesn't mind and he doesn't care if she has sex and intimacy with other men. It doesn't bother him. It's not part of the shared fantasy, real sex, adult sex. Adult, really mature intimacy is not part of the shared fantasy. Shared fantasy is about playmate, about mother.
So whatever is not included in the shared fantasy, it's okay to outsource. It's okay to go out and to look for alternatives. Nasty doesn't mind that. He doesn't mind that.
You stay in the shared fantasy, whatever you're not getting inside the shared fantasy, you can get outside. After all, you go to restaurants to eat, no?
So the other guy is like a restaurant. The narcissist has a shared fantasy with an idealized version of you. Idealized version of you. He feels excruciating hurt, intense romantic jealousy. If you destroy this idealized version and replace the shared fantasy that you had with you, that you had with a narcissist, with a shared fantasy with another man. So if you destroy the mother figure, if you destroy the admirer, if you destroy, for example, you humiliate him in the process. If you destroy the playmate, you're playing not only with him, but with many others. If you destroy all this and more so if you create an alternative shared fantasy with another man, because in the narcissist mind, if you have anything with another man, it can be only shared fantasy.
He relates to women only via and in shared fantasies. He has an alternative.
So if you create a shared fantasy with another man, it means if you want to exit the shared fantasy you have with the narcissist, if you destroy the idealized version that he's interacting with, then he would be romantically jealous.
Stay in the shared fantasy and do whatever you want with whoever you want, as many times as you want. No problem with that. Exit the shared fantasy, challenge the shared fantasy, challenge your idealized version within the shared fantasy.
Establish another shared fantasy with another man, which substitutes for the shared fantasy with the narcissist. And you will provoke extreme, extreme controlling romantic jealousy. He will impose curfew, he will impose conditionalities, he will track you everywhere, spy on you, stalk you, you name it. You want out? Really out? Finally out? Totally out? You have to modify the narcissist. No other way. You have to modify. Do something. Do something to force him to confront who he is really and how he is perceived by others.
He will undermine, blast to pieces, his grandiosity. Then he will let you go. He will let you go.
And he will let you go because nothing is more precious to the narcissist than his grandiosity, than you.