At the beginning of the relationship, everything was terrific.
Your partner showered you with praise, made grand gestures, and things progressed quickly.
You may have even cohabitated in record time.
But things took a downturn, and now you’re attached to a lying, inconsiderate, and self-absorbed schmuck.
The situation has you wondering: Is it possible for narcissists to be faithful?
So today, we’re breaking down narcissists and infidelity.
Specifically, we’re exploring why they do it and whether they can be monogamous.
Recognizing a Narcissist
These days, you can find a narcissistic accusation around every click. And in truth, nearly everyone exhibits some narcissistic tendencies at points.
Therapist William Berry cites a statistic that humans are “at least as selfish as they are cooperative.”
So what do people mean when they say “narcissism,” clinically speaking?
The first point to understand is that narcissism and full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) aren’t the same exact thing. The former is a personality style — like neuroticism, amiability, shyness, and antagonism.
The latter is a mental health condition, defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as an extreme form of narcissism that affects between one and five percent of the population.
People with narcissistic personality styles and NPD exhibit on a spectrum, and Psychologists have identified as many as 15 different types, including somatic and cerebral. But let’s look at the four most common kinds.
- Overt / Grandiose Narcissists: These are the self-important, braggadocious folks. They typically come across as charming in the early days, but they’re actually manipulative. Moreover, overt narcissists have little to no empathy for other individuals, but they’re big on “forgiving themselves.”
- Covert / Vulnerable Narcissists: This type of narcissist is hyper-sensitive and easily offended. For example, you may say, “You always find the best sales!” Upon hearing that, they’ll insist you’re calling them poor. Vulnerable narcissists are a confusing mix of arrogant and insecure. They expect people — even strangers — to recognize their “brilliance” and want to “help” them even when they’ve done nothing to deserve it. Covert narcissists are almost always passive-aggressive.
- Malignant Narcissists: The most dangerous type of narcissist, people who fall into the malignant category can be sadistic, anti-social, and some are even sociopathic. They’re highly manipulative and have zero concern for their fellow man. To put it in perspective, many serial killers are malignant narcissists.
- Antagonistic Narcissists: Antagonistic narcissism is similar to grandiose narcissism, but they’re hyper-focused on competition and winning at all costs. Antagonistic types are calculating, arrogant, argumentative, and have a low threshold for forgiveness and trust.
Can a Narcissist Fall in Love Permanently?
Can narcissists find “the one?” Or is narcissistic infidelity the only kind?
There are as many answers to the question as there are narcissistic types. Moreover, one’s type will impact their capacity for love.
For example, the chance of a malignant narcissist falling in love is about as likely as permanent world peace.
But vulnerable narcissists have a decent record when it comes to relationships if they can find a suitable mate that tolerates their behavior patterns.
Other factors that contribute to one’s capacity for narcissistic fidelity include:
- Status concerns
- Personal history
- Personal needs (i.e., Do they require constant care?)
Though some people with narcissistic personalities eventually land in monogamous relationships, it’s vital to understand that it likely won’t be smooth sailing.
There will be drama. There will be unfair accusations.
And don’t ever expect them to put you before them. Sure, some narcissists may appear caring and responsible on the surface — especially covert and vulnerable ones — but their actions are usually self-serving.
For instance, many narcissists are “clean freaks” with a knack for domestic chores. But their motivation isn’t rooted in a desire to serve others; instead, they’re overly concerned with “keeping up appearances.”
Can a Narcissist Be Faithful? 15 Answers You Need to Know
Is it possible for a narcissist to be monogamous? Again, it depends. So let’s unpack a few scenarios when it is and isn’t.
Narcissists Are More Likely To Be Faithful When…
When is someone with narcissistic tendencies more likely to stick with one romantic partner? Let’s look at seven contributing factors.
1. Doing So Fits Their Image
Narcissists are notoriously image-conscious, and part of that is appearing to have the “perfect life.” They’re the people who picture-brag on social media and claim their biggest flaw is being “too nice.” In some instances, the desire is so strong they’re subdued into monogamy because the fear of getting caught outweighs the temptation to cheat.
2. They’re Low on the Spectrum
As mentioned, narcissists display traits on a spectrum. Or, to put it more bluntly, some of them are worse than others.
If the pathologically self-centered person in your life hovers around “three” instead of “ten” on the narcissism scale, they’re less likely to be unfaithful.
That doesn’t mean they won’t, but the chances are lower than if they were someone with a deeply-seated case of narcissistic personality disorder.
3. You Set Firm (But Compassionate) Boundaries
Some narcissists run from boundaries — or just ignore them. In rare cases, however, some learn to respect them.
But again, the person in question must be on the low end of the overconfidence scale and genuinely willing to work on their behavior.
Clearly defined parameters can help shape relationship expectations if all those elements are in place.
4. They Get (Subtle) Negative Feedback From “Flying Monkeys”
Flying monkeys is a psych term that describes enablers of people with narcissistic traits and NPD.
In some cases, they’ll make up excuses for the self-centered person; other times, they’ll actually behave in ways that bolster the narcissist’s poor behavior.
Occasionally, however, a flying monkey may say something that signals to the narcissist that their conduct is not ideal, which may cause them to make better choices.
However, the narcissist must believe they’re in control in these situations.
5. They Take Meds
Some people’s narcissistic traits are a symptom of other mental health conditions. The person may be bipolar or have a form of schizophrenia or delusional disorder that’s effectively treated with psychiatric drugs.
In these instances, fidelity is possible if the person sticks with their treatment and stays on their meds.
But understand there’s no medicinal treatment for pure narcissism, so this only works if the underlying issue is treatable.
6. They Work With a Therapist
Again, it’s rare, but some so-called “self-aware narcissists” enlist therapists who help them build a stable of tools that puts them on the right path.
However, they must be willing to put in the work and take criticism on the chin without getting defensive and upset.
In these situations, though, remember that narcissism works like a drug. It’s a coping vice, and falling off the proverbial wagon is possible and likely. So prepare yourself for the inevitable.
7. They Are Women
Technically, studies show that men and women across all personality types are equally likely to cheat. However, things are a tad more skewed with narcissists.
Females who fall into the category are usually more concerned with fitting into a mold that adheres to a traditional and socially acceptable model and, therefore, less likely to cheat for fear of being discovered and ridiculed.
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Narcissists Are Less Likely To Be Faithful When…
Now let’s flip the coin. What factors are more likely to make a narcissist unfaithful to their partner?
1. They’re High on the Spectrum
Narcissists high on the spectrum are more likely to cheat because they have little to no connection with other people’s needs and emotions and, therefore, don’t extend respect.
People who fall into this category are incapable of acknowledging their poor behavior, and when they do something wrong, they immediately make excuses or blame someone else.
2. They Have an Enabling Partner
Narcissists who pair with enablers have no reason to change their behavior. As such, they’ll likely sleep around whenever tempted. They may even accuse the enabler of causing the circumstances that “forced them” to step out.
If you’re reading this, there’s a possibility you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. Ask yourself if you enable their poor behavior.
If so, think about why. Are you staying because you’re afraid to be alone? In these instances, cutting ties and moving on is always better.
3. They’re Stressed or Scared
Being stressed or scared can cause people to lean into destructive behaviors. So if the narcissist in your life is going through a rough patch, they’ll be more inclined to be cheaters.
Frustratingly, they won’t acknowledge the root causes of their stress and simply act out instead.
4. They’re Using Vices
Mixing drugs, alcohol, and narcissism is an explosive combination, and clinically self-prioritized individuals who use them will always cheat when presented with the option.
They won’t even think twice about it. Like insatiable goblins, they’ll consume whatever is in front of them and never give it a second thought.
5. They’re Low on Narcissistic Supply
Narcissistic supply is the adulation narcissists need to feel good. When they don’t have enough, they’ll do anything and everything in their power to find some — including trapping new people to victimize.
Part of the cycle is “love bombing.” As such, they’re skilled at charming people into sleeping with them. Narcissists high on the scale often have several “side paramours” to ensure they’re never without.
6. You Do Something They Don’t Like
People with NPD and narcissistic personality styles have zero compassion and cannot extend grace to others. So when their partners make mistakes, they blow up and seek out a punitive path, which is frequently cheating.
The situation can grow downright maddening when the narcissist falsely accuses you of misbehavior. Since they’re big on projection, it’s also a tell-tale sign they’re engaging in the activity they’re grafting onto you.
7. They’re Feeling Good
Individuals with entrenched narcissistic traits are just as likely to cheat when they’re feeling good as when they’re low.
If they’re at a point in the cycle where they see themselves as the king or queen of the moment, they’ll act recklessly.
Why? Because they believe it’s their right. That, or they don’t even think about it. After all, only their wants and needs matter.
8. They’re Men
Again, it may sound like a gender cliche, but narcissistic men are likelier to cheat than women who present on the spectrum for several reasons.
For starters, due to traditional gender roles, men may feel they have more of a pass to step out on their partner. Plus, biological and social cues make males more prone to engage in risky behavior.
Can a Narcissist Change for the Right Woman?
Somewhere buried in the Earth’s strata lies the bones of a cavewoman who wasted too much of her short life trying to change a tool-making, bison-hunting jerk!
Do yourself a favor, and don’t become her. Instead, constantly remind yourself why narcissists cannot change.
Here are a few things to keep at the forefront of your mind.
- Narcissists aren’t self-aware and are incapable of seeing their own faults.
- They’re self-centered to a pathological degree and will always act to satisfy their own needs and wants.
- Their needs and wishes are rarely rational, which leads to reckless behavior.
- Narcissists love the thrill of the chase and can’t be happy with just one partner.
- They believe they deserve to have multiple partners.
Being the partner of a narcissist is rough. And truth be told, the likelihood of them remaining faithful is slim. Moreover, infidelity could be emotionally and physically dangerous because they’re also less likely to use protection.
So if you’re with a narcissist, consider why. And if the reasons are superficial, give serious thought to getting out.
These types of relationships rarely, if ever, end well. Protect yourself, and don’t waste precious weeks, months, or years trying to change them — because they probably won’t.