Narcissist Cheating Patterns: From Idealization to Discarding

Narcissism is a complex personality trait characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for excessive admiration. So, it is not a surprise that there are a lot of narcissist cheating patterns. Individuals high in narcissistic traits tend to behave in self-centered ways and have a superb view of themselves that is not grounded in reality. 

This impairs their ability to maintain healthy, long-lasting relationships. When narcissists do embark on romantic relationships, their sense of entitlement and willingness to exploit others often manifest in patterns of manipulation, deception, and infidelity.

This phenomenon of chronic unfaithfulness in relationships has been termed “narcissistic cheating.”

Do All Narcissists Cheat?

So, do narcissists cheat? Not all narcissists cheat, as personality traits and behaviors can vary among individuals. While some narcissists may engage in infidelity, it’s essential to recognize that cheating is not exclusive to any specific personality type. Factors such as personal values, relationship dynamics, and individual choices play a significant role in determining whether someone, narcissist or not, engages in cheating.

narcissist and cheating

The question of whether all narcissists cheat lacks a definitive answer, as individual behavior can vary among people with narcissistic traits. While some individuals with narcissistic personality traits may be more prone to engage in deceptive behaviors, including infidelity, it is not accurate to make a blanket statement about all narcissists. 

Cheating is a complex behavior influenced by various factors, including personal values, relationship dynamics, and individual choices. It’s essential to recognize that not every person with narcissistic tendencies will exhibit the same behaviors, and the potential for cheating should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Understanding the nuances of individual personalities and relationships is crucial when discussing behaviors like infidelity.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Cheating: Unraveling the Dynamics of Cheating

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) profoundly shapes how afflicted individuals approach relationships and fidelity. The hallmark selfish need for validation compels seeking attention outside committed partnerships to feed the ego and inner sense of emptiness. NPD fosters grandiose entitlement — cheating is merely taking what they “deserve.” 

narcissist cheating patterns

Their lack of empathy leads to seeing partners as objects, not people with feelings to be respected. They may compulsively deceive and gaslight those close to them. Affairs allow controlling partner reactions. Narcissists use dishonesty to uphold a facade of superiority, masking deep insecurity and inadequacy. Ultimately, their disordered inner world hinders the forming of authentic human bonds. 

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So, narcissist and affairs — this is a perfect and logical couple. Thus, chronic infidelity and manipulation fundamentally stem from distorted narcissistic perspectives not genuinely caring for others’ well-being.

Why Do Narcissists Cheat?

The root causes of a narcissist’s infidelity are traced back to their disordered personality. Their excessive need for validation compels them to seek endless admiration and approval from new sources to bolster their ego. They feel entitled to pursue their pleasure and excitement regardless of a partner’s feelings. Their lack of empathy and ability to dehumanize others enables serial cheating and deception. Partners are seen as objects for exploitation, not equal individuals.

Additionally, the thrill of hiding their affairs and controlling their partner’s reactions becomes an addictive narcissistic supply. Causing emotional upheaval also serves to keep the focus always on them.

Furthermore, narcissists have a limited capacity for guilt, remorse, or behavior change due to their ingrained pathology. That’s why narcissist cheating and lies are so widespread. 

All of these traits drive compulsive cheating, lying, and manipulation. For narcissists, infidelity is a vehicle that satisfies their psychological needs for superiority, control, and the illusion of power over others.

do all narcissists cheat

When a Narcissist Cheats?

When a narcissist cheats in a relationship, it often stems from their core psychological traits. Their excessive need for validation drives them to seek attention outside the relationship to feed their ego and insecure sense of self. Their lack of empathy allows them to minimize the pain and damage inflicted on their partner. 

Narcissists may feel entitled to pursue their desires regardless of the costs to loved ones. Partners are viewed as mere extensions of themselves rather than autonomous individuals with emotions. Infidelity provides a narcissistic supply through the thrill of forbidden exploits and controlling their partner’s reactions. They are adept at hiding indiscretions through deception and gaslighting. 

Do narcissists cheat in marriage? Yes, it can happen very often. A narcissist’s capacity for remorse is limited, and they are largely unable to change these relationship patterns over time due to ingrained personality constructs. Thus, cheating frequently recurs because a narcissist’s inner world is defined by self-interest and exploitation rather than genuine care for their partner’s well-being.

Signs a Narcissist Is Cheating On You

Narcissists engage in chronic relationship dishonesty due to their disordered personalities. Be alert for signs like increased time away, more secretiveness, reduced intimacy, blaming you as “paranoid,” mixed messages, defensiveness when questioned, or sudden increased anger or meanness to provoke reactions. 

narcissist cheating

They may pick prominent fights before cheating events to justify their actions. Notice if they flaunt new clothing, grooming, or a changed appearance. Emotional detachment minimized communication, and vague excuses for their whereabouts also signal potential infidelity. 

Sudden increased time at work or with new friends provides cover for affairs. A gut feeling that something is off warrants discreet investigation. But narcissists adeptly lie and gaslight when confronted, so evidence is required for definitive proof of betrayals. Trust your instincts if a preponderance of clues points to possible cheating. Below, you can see our summing up of the most popular signs a narcissist is cheating. 

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Increased Time Away from Home or Unavailable

They spend more time away, at work, or traveling for extended periods with no genuine justification. This creates an opportunity to live a “double life” with affairs.

More Secretiveness Around Devices and Accounts

They become highly protective of phones and computers. Unexplained password changes prevent access to potential evidence of communication with outside lovers.

Reduced Intimacy and Affection

The emotional and physical intimacy you previously had evaporates as they pull away and give affection elsewhere. Approaches to sex may also dissipate.

signs a narcissist is cheating

Blaming You as Paranoid and Jealous

They call you clingy or claim you’re imagining things when suspicions arise, deflecting through gaslighting. They label you overly attached, dismissing your concerns as baseless and resorting to gaslighting to deflect and manipulate the situation.

Mixed Messages and Hot/Cold Behavior

The narcissist may suddenly flip between saying “I love you” and growing cold and mean, keeping you anxious and more accessible to manipulate.

Defensiveness to Questions

Harmless inquiries are met with an overreactive, angry response that feels disproportionate. They interpret your valid worries as attacks.

Picking Fights Before Cheating

They intentionally provoke arguments with you before planned affairs, framing the cheating as retaliation for the unrelated fight.

Changes in Appearance

Dramatic new hairstyles, clothing, makeup, or looks suggest they put more effort into impressing someone new. The womanizer narcissist manipulates and exploits others, especially women, for their gratification and self-esteem.

signs a narcissist is cheating on you

Emotional Detachment

Their feelings and affection for you shut down. Communication becomes mechanical and devoid of intimacy. Their emotional connection and affection towards you become distant, causing a shutdown. Communication turns mechanical and lacks the warmth of intimacy.

Vague Excuses and Time Gaps

Plans are suddenly “up in the air” with the time unaccounted for. Stories have inconsistencies if you question. Plans become unexpectedly uncertain, with unaccounted-for time, and inconsistencies arise when asked about the details of the stories.

Instincts Sensing Something Is Off

Your intuition picks up on subtle cues consciously missed. You have a persistent gut feeling their faithfulness is compromised. Your intuition becomes attuned to subtle cues that were deliberately overlooked. A constant gut feeling lingers, suggesting a compromise in their faithfulness.

Female Narcissist Cheating Patterns

Among female narcissists, cheating patterns often center around securing external validation and exciting new attention. Female narcissists tend to have multiple simultaneous affairs to satisfy their need for admiration. They thrive on the excitement of clandestine relationships and seducing new sources of supply through their charm and beauty. 

Status, resources, and prestige motivate their selection of affair partners. Deception and gaslighting are used to keep their committed partner emotionally invested while they pursue fresh conquests. They feel entitled to male attention and use sex as a tool to boost their ego.

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female narcissist cheating patterns

Male Narcissist Cheating Patterns

In male narcissists, cheating manifests from a sense of power and entitlement. Multiple affairs are pursued as a way to validate their masculinity and reinforce feelings of superiority. Male narcissists often cheat with subordinates or vulnerable women they can easily dominate. Their lack of empathy leads them to objectify and degrade their sexual conquests. 

They use risky behaviors like unprotected sex or meeting in indiscreet locations to prove their invincibility. Male narcissists frequently employ deception but may also brazenly flaunt new affairs to their partner as proof of high status. Their grandiose ego enables them to rationalize cheating as an entitlement.

How to Tell if a Narcissist Is Cheating?

Recognizing the signs of cheating in a narcissist requires understanding their manipulative nature. Narcissists who cheat exhibit new hyperfocus on their appearance, increased time away from home or work, increased phone/online activity often tied to deception, heightened gaslighting and blame-shifting, greater irritability and anger when questioned, sudden increased generosity or gift-giving, and projecting accusations of cheating onto their partner. 

They may pick fights to justify being away. Check credit card statements or phone records for suspicious activity. Hire a private investigator if needed, as narcissists feel little remorse about lying. While concrete proof is best, trust your instincts – narcissists follow predictable cheating patterns due to their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, and need for validation.

do all narcissists cheat


Narcissism is a largely destructive personality trait that impedes the formation of authentic human bonds. The unrelenting desire for external validation compels narcissists to exploit interpersonal relationships through infidelity, deception, and other means to regulate their fragile self-esteem. Within organizations, narcissistic leaders can severely compromise ethical values, employee well-being, and performance metrics in relentlessly pursuing selfish aims.


How Do Narcissists Act When They Cheat?

Narcissists may exhibit secretive behavior, emotional detachment, and a lack of empathy when cheating. They might gaslight and manipulate their partners, deflecting blame or downplaying suspicions.

How Do You Get a Narcissist to Admit They Cheated?

Getting a narcissist to admit to cheating can be challenging due to their denial and manipulative tactics. Open communication, presenting evidence, and seeking therapy may be avenues, but it’s important to be prepared for potential resistance.

Do Narcissists Cheat Again?

While not all narcissists are serial cheaters, some may repeat the behavior. Narcissistic traits, such as a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy, can contribute to repeated cheating patterns.

What Serial Cheaters Personality Disorder?

There isn’t a specific personality disorder named “serial cheaters.” However, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) may exhibit serial cheating tendencies due to their difficulty forming genuine connections and empathy deficits.

Catherine Mayers

Catherine is a psychologist and certified relationship coach with over 10 years experience helping couples heal after infidelity. Her approach provides a judgement-free space to process emotions, get to root issues, and take active steps to reconnect or mindfully part ways. Catherine offers research-based strategies to manage difficult emotions, rebuild broken trust, and improve communication. She provides empathetic guidance to empower couples during this challenging time, both through direct counseling and her insightful articles on repairing relationships after cheating.

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