How do you differentiate between someone with life-long narcissistic personality disorder and someone who has developed these traits due to an affair? What I call, affair-driven narcissism.

Affair-Driven Narcissism

By Sarah P. 

When an individual is having an affair and/or in the middle of the affair fog, they often do and say the same things that life-long narcissists do and say. During this period of time, the betrayed spouse is left wondering if they married someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

The betrayed spouse will sometimes beat themselves up about the idea that they never saw their partner’s narcissism. They might conclude that their spouse has narcissistic personality disorder and decide divorce is the best option.

Or, they might conclude their partner has narcissistic personality disorder and then read about all the ways they can stay in a relationship with a narcissist. When this occurs, it is often codependence talking and that too can be situational; a reaction to an unbearable situation.

For now, I wanted to talk about how to differentiate between someone with life-long narcissistic personality disorder and someone who has developed these traits due to an affair. I will call the short-term affair related narcissism “situational narcissism.” On the other hand, I will refer to someone with narcissistic personality disorder as someone with “NPD.”

It is important to know the difference between situational narcissism and NPD because it affects your healing process. It is far easier for a couple to heal from an affair when someone has situational narcissism do to the affair.

It is more difficult to for a couple to heal from an affair when a wayward spouse has NPD because the person with NPD will take the stance that he or she is the victim. (Crazy, right? And there is no logic when it comes to crazy.)

First, I will talk about the ins and outs of NPD so that we can understand what it is and what it isn’t. Then, I will talk about situational narcissism and what it is and what it isn’t. Finally, I will talk about how your recovery from an affair is affected and what you can do about it. 

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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The word narcissism has been highly overused in popular culture and often applied incorrectly to situations.  The term narcissism has become interchangeable with selfishness, vanity, and charm. It is also a catchall term used when someone dislikes another person. None of these things are clinical narcissism and NPD is complex disorder.

Here is what the DSM-V says about Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

“The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

  • Antagonism, characterized by: Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
  • Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.


  • Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):  Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.  Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain.
  • Pathological personality traits in the following domain:  Antagonism, characterized by: Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;

The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma.)”

All of those criteria must be met for a person to have a diagnosis of NPD. Also, please note that Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be diagnosed by a licensed therapist. However, since most people with NPD refuse to ever seek therapy, a therapist usually must often rely on the accounts from the client they are seeing of the person with (alleged) NPD.

I would also like to note that there is another, more simple model by the American Psychiatric Association. They characterize people with NPD as having fair or superior impairment in personality functioning, apparent by character-based troubles in at least two of the following four areas:

  • Individuality
  • Self-direction
  • Empathy
  • Closeness

I believe this simplified criteria would qualify a lot more people to receive a diagnosis of NPD.

However, in my opinion, empathy or lack of it is the most important differentiator between people with NPD and people who are merely selfish. Let us look closer at this differentiator and how it relates to narcissism. Since empathy is my personal litmus test for NPD, we need to define it and weigh it against mere sympathy.

affair-driven narcissism


Empathy vs Sympathy

I have noticed that many narcissists can fake sympathy for others and sometimes they can feel genuine sympathy if it relates to something they deeply care about and/or see as an extension of themselves. A narcissist can feel sympathy/compassion for their own sick child or pet IF they identify that child or pet as an extension of themselves. They can feel this way because they do not see a boundary between them and their child/pet so it’s very much just like feeling sorry for themselves.

Here is the difference between sympathy and empathy: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another.

Chief Seattle said not to judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins. That’s empathy. Empathy is often accompanied by bodily feelings when facing the distress of another. For example, if a friend tells another friend he has just been cheated on, someone with empathy is likely to start showing physical signs such as sweating or shaking when hearing their friend recount his pain.

An empathetic person immediately puts themselves in their friend’s shoes automatically and can have similar physical reactions to the grieving friend.  For example, when I hear of a friend’s setback, I physically feel low and share my friend’s sorrow at that moment. On the other hand, when my friend has a success, I am able to share joyous feelings with my friend and feel elated. That is basic empathy—it really is the ability to emotionally exist in someone else’s shoes for a period of time.

On the other hand, narcissists can often show sympathy (sometimes genuine, sometimes false) because many have learned that they need to behave in socially acceptable ways. But, deep down, many people with NPD could care less if whatever is happening is not about them and does not affect them.

Sometimes, narcissists can have a pet cause such as donating money to feed hungry children. They might be able to feel sympathy for starving children in abstract ways. (Nice people donate money to feed children too.) But, a person with NPD donates so that they can post photos of the child they are helping and constantly talk about how good they are. It feeds into their grandiosity and allows themselves to think of themselves as better than others.

Narcissists give very little thought to anyone but themselves (unless it benefits them). They are the focus and the star in their own internal world. Many narcissists perceive themselves as if they are living in a reality show where their every breath and every move is amazing and should be admired by others.

On the other hand, if they feel attention is being taken from them, they receive a narcissistic injury and the outcome is a fit of narcissistic rage.

Let me give a real-life example of what someone with NPD did during her son’s graduation from college. When it was time for her son to receive his diploma, she literally jumped onto the stage (in front of 5,000 people) and ripped her son’s diploma from the professor’s hands. Then she held it up and cheered. Her poor son was so embarrassed that he wanted to climb under the podium. But, he knew there was no sense in confronting his mom because it would lead to an injury and subsequent narcissistic rage. The son had learned from experience that his mom’s narcissistic rage often turned violent, so it just was not worth it to confront her. In the mother’s mind, the diploma was hers because she believed her son got his intelligence from her and that his success was solely because of and due to her. Thus, she reasoned it was her diploma.

So, that is one way narcissism plays out in real life. Narcissists cannot stand going to an event that celebrates anyone other than themselves. They will find ways to hijack graduations, birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, and any other event that is not solely about them.

Another way to spot a narcissist is to see how they react when things go wrong. Someone simply saying ‘no’ to a narcissist can inspire a narcissistic rage.

Another feature of people with NPD is their chronic need to gaslight others. They gaslight others in order to do the mental acrobatics required to keep their skewed world view. Or they gaslight in order to control their victims. Finally, they might gaslight to punish someone for causing a narcissistic injury.

What is gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is a tactic used to keep a gaslighter’s target off-balance, insecure, in the dark, and controlled.

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Gaslighters are known for the following behaviors:

  • They tell blatant lies
  • They deny they ever said or did something, even though you present them with concrete proof. If they cannot explain their way out of a situation, they blame you for their actions and tear your self-esteem to shreds so that you feel as if you caused their behavior.
  • They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition against you
  • Their actions often do not match their words
  • Sometimes they throw in positive comments or actions to confuse you about their character—to keep you off balanced
  • They project their behaviors and motives onto you or others
  • They try to align people against you
  • They tell you and others that you are crazy; they manufacture situations that make you appear crazy to others. 
  • They tell you everyone else is a liar except for them OR they tell others you are a liar and not to be trusted.
  • They do things to make you feel crazy. They might do something such as hiding your keys and when you look for them, they will tell you that you are forgetful and unreliable. Then they tell others you might be losing your mind.
  • Most of all, you can identify a gaslighter by how you feel around them. They make you feel misunderstood and crazy. They project their shortcomings onto you. They watch gleefully as you feel like you are losing your mind.

Those are only some examples of the millions of behaviors that gaslighters can use against you. And if someone is a life-long gaslighter, you can pretty much be assured they have a personality disorder. Gaslighting is a narcissist’s specialty.

I like this song, Praying, by Kesha because it describes in visceral detail how you are made to feel by someone who gaslights and manipulates you for extended periods of time. You feel completely broken. But, she also describes how you feel when you finally get way from an emotionally abusive person:



More Examples of Narcissism

While I do not normally listen to Kesha’s music, it’s hard to miss the many news stories about her three year legal battle with music producer Dr. Luke (who is actually not a doctor in any sense of the word, thank God.) I read that this song was inspired by the (alleged) 10 years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse wrought on her by Dr. Luke and her plight to gain freedom from his cruel grip.

Of course, Dr. Luke is suing her for defamation since she went public with how she was abused by him. Dr. Luke perceives himself as a victim in this situation, which is how narcissists perceive their lives. They feel they are above the rules – that the rules do not apply to them—and they honestly believe they should not be accountable for their actions because they are so superior to others.

When someone attempts to hold them accountable for bad behavior, it throws them into a narcissistic rage and they believe they are being victimized. A narcissist perceives other people as objects who are at their disposal. So, it does not compute when one of their ‘objects’ calls them out on their behavior.

Another example of a real-life narcissist (and a narcissistic family system) is the case of Brock Turner. He brutally raped an unconscious woman, yet even after his trial, he and his parents just don’t get it. They do not understand where the problem is and his parents are actively trying to keep their son out of jail. There is no remorse, no glimmer of insight into the horror of what he did, no regret, and certainly no empathy for his victim.

A caveat: There are kind people in this world who can slip and make huge mistakes. But, kind people have the ability to genuinely ‘see the light’ and desire and strive for change. Also, while kind people can have mood swings while under stress, they are not two completely different personalities/people based on what they can get out of a situation. True narcissists view the world and every situation in terms of what they can get from a situation or a person.

Narcissists know what they are doing and have the control to decide how they will act in any given situation if it is to their advantage. They have also learned the language of ‘common decency,’ but only use it to get out of a huge pile of mess that they created. They have acted this way their whole lives and it is not just a phase.

Another caveat: To some degree, there is a dark side to human nature as well as general immaturity in everyone. Non-narcissists have their flaws and sometimes do hurtful things. But, non-narcissists are able to have insight into their behavior and offer a genuine apology and change, while narcissists will never have insight to even apologize. Narcissists are the eternal victim and they often define themselves through victimhood.

Interestingly, some of the kindest people end up dating or being married to narcissists because kind people give others around them a lot of grace and general tolerance. They might interpret false bravado as confidence and they might interpret the ultra-sensitivity found in narcissists as the narcissist being in touch with himself. They might perceive the nice car the narcissist drives and the nice clothes that he wears as a symbol that he works hard and takes his job seriously. Sometimes they might often be dazzled by the narcissist’s outwardly successful image and admire them for (seemingly) having it together. Sometimes a non-narcissist feels like the luckiest person in the world during the early days of courtship with a narcissist.

Then they get married and the façade starts to fall away. Elinor Greenberg, PhD, says this:

“If you have done some reading about Narcissism, you will have discovered that Narcissists are:

  • Preoccupied with self-esteem issues
  • Self-centered
  • Lack emotional empathy
  • Ultra-sensitive to perceived slights
  • Easily angered
  • Devaluing  
  • Very status conscious

All of this makes it difficult for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to sustain stable, intimate, and loving relationships.” (1)

When the façade falls away and real intimacy is required, a non-narcissist will find herself in a turbulent relationship and wonder where that person they dated went. The spouse in front of them may not resemble the person they dated at all. The non-narcissistic spouse will find herself on a roller coaster of emotions and often blame herself for the easily angered, gaslighting, and devaluing partner they have married.

Another caveat: Even though the majority of narcissists are men, narcissistic women do exist. The first example that comes to mind is the Kardashian sisters and other women with reality shows that are based solely on their perceived beauty rather than an actual skill or talent. The K sisters have built an empire based solely on physical appearance and have a reality show, which when it comes down to it, centers around Kim’s ever-growing rear end. Folks, that is what a female narcissist looks like.

So what is the bottom line that separates narcissists from the general population?

Here are the big four traits that I identify as a quick rule of thumb:

  • Inability to have empathy
  • Inability to have accountability
  • Inability to have insight
  • Grandiosity and doing whatever it takes to be the center of attention even at events like other people’s weddings and funerals.

But, most importantly, all of these traits need to be consistent across many years. Someone cannot be considered to be a narcissist if they are going through a tough phase such as midlife crisis and/or drug addiction and develop these habits, where there were no such habits before.

Covert Narcissism

In recent years, many have developed the idea that there are overt narcissists (the ones I described in the previous section) and covert narcissists. I wanted to talk a little about these folks. Even though they are not officially listed in the DSM, this does not make them any less of a problem for the people who are around them. 

Here is one author’s thought on covert narcissism:

“Recently, someone asked me to describe the greatest danger of “covert introverted” narcissism. To answer this question clearly, we’ll have to bust a few myths.

Calling someone a covert narcissist doesn’t—or at least shouldn’t— imply that they’re any sneakier or more manipulative than the average narcissist. It also doesn’t have anything to do with hiding abusive behaviors (another widespread myth). There’s no evidence of any such pattern in clinical research (reports from mental health professionals) or social psychological research (the study of traits and personalities).

The term, covert narcissism (aka hypersensitive or vulnerable), was coined to capture the pattern in narcissists who aren’t loud, vain, chest-thumping braggarts but—as their partners discover soon enough—are just as arrogant and argumentative as people with the prouder, more outgoing brand of extraverted narcissism (aka overt or grandiose).

The “covert” in covert narcissism refers to the grandiosity inherent to all narcissists. Covert narcissists may be quiet or shy (and often are) but inside—in other words, covertly—they still harbor overblown visions of themselves and their future: dreams, for example, of one day being discovered for their remarkable creativity or intelligence or insight. What’s different about covert narcissists is that because they’re introverted, they don’t advertise their inflated egos…Narcissists can be open or quiet about their grandiosity and often vacillate between feeling happily inflated and abjectly deflated; covert and overt traits coexist in all narcissists to one degree or another.” (2)


Clear as mud?

My definition of covert narcissism is a narcissist who appears to be quiet, sometimes unassuming, or even shy. It is only until someone gets to know what is below the surface that the narcissism appears. Since covert narcissists are generally quiet, it can take a while to get to know them. Also, when people see a shy person, they often (incorrectly) assume that the shy person is meek. Shyness is a covert narcissist’s greatest smoke screen. Sometimes it will take the partner of a covert narcissist years to figure out they are married to a narcissist.

I will provide an example of a married couple where the wife is a covert narcissist. The husband in the couple had a mother who was an extremely overt and grandiose narcissist. So, in a way, he was ‘trained’ to perceive this as normal while at the same time not outwardly wanting to be married to someone like his mom.

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He met his wife-to-be in graduate school. Anytime she came to stay with his family, she was so quiet she hardly said anything. Everyone assumed she was extremely shy and tip-toed around her and did nice things to bring her out of her shell. No matter how nice they were, she remained shy and closed off.

After the wedding (and after she could let her guard down) she felt comfortable enough to drop the shy act. Immediately, she established that it was her way or the highway. If the couple went out to dinner, it was a common occurrence for her to yell at the wait staff. If she could not find hat she wanted in the store, she would throw a loud temper tantrum.

She went from shy and unassuming to hell on wheels. Her meltdowns were epic when she did not get what she wanted. When she had meltdowns, no one could reason with her. Her husband soon learned just to give in rather than face the wrath of her tantrums.

Though the person I am describing shall remain nameless, her behavior very much reminds me of a viral video from several years ago. A wife flips out because her husband will not take her to the lake.


This woman’s temper tantrum reminds me very much of the epic temper tantrums of the wife who met her husband in graduate school (whom I described in the above paragraphs.) Being married to such a person is tough.

Reasoning with a Narcissist

Today I was emailing someone about narcissism and I had a new insight. In the past, I have always tried to get the narcissists in my life to see the truth using objective and factual evidence.

For example, you could videotape a narcissist verbally attacking you, show them the video, and then ask them to stop future verbal attacks. But, if you were to show a narcissist objective data that doesn’t fit into their narcissistic world view, it will cause a narcissistic rage and they will rewrite the entire scenario as one where you are victimizing them. First, they will say you are victimizing them because you videotaped them. Then they will tell you that they yelled at you or assaulted you because they were defending themselves from you. No matter that the data shows something different, they will not be able to comprehend that they are victimizing you.

It’s kind of like trying to reason with someone on a hallucinogenic drug. They see purple elephants where there are none and nothing you say could convince them otherwise. The effects of the drug must wear off before they understand there are no purple elephants in the room.  But, here is the problem with narcissism: it is a life-long delusion-inducing drug that never wears off.  Narcissists have constructed a false reality so different than objective reality that they will never be able to perceive objective reality.

One time, I made the mistake of confronting a narcissist with objective information and when the narcissist had nowhere else to go in terms of manipulating me, her literal answer to me was that “there is no such thing as truth. I manufacture truth and what I manufacture is real.” And so, that was her answer when confronted with indisputable, objective evidence: she makes up Truth itself and Truth must jibe with her distorted and false reality. And I was supposed to push aside objective reality and believe her lie. And if I did not do so, I was injuring her and “victimizing” her.

As they say, “there is no reasoning with crazy” and it is so easy to forget that personality disorders are a very real mental illness. Narcissists can sometimes masquerade as normal people and that is one of the reasons it is confusing to those who meet them. As long as the people they meet have their same worldview and meet their needs for “feed,” they can often appear to be normal.

Affair-Driven Narcissism Versus Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Now it is time to discuss the situational narcissism of an affair versus someone with NPD who has an affair.

Both non-narcissists and people who qualify for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder have affairs. I would guess that people with NPD have a higher incidence of infidelity than the rest of us.

But, here is the thing. A non-narcissist, while they are having an affair, will develop the very same behaviors/thoughts as someone with NPD. Betrayed spouses are left wondering if they have been married to a narcissist all along and simply did not see it. Sometimes this is the case, but other times it is not the case at all.

The biggest problem is that many non-narcissists truly become real narcissists when they are having an affair and they are in the middle of the affair fog. In the end, during the affair fog, all betrayed spouses are dealing with narcissists.

It might be tempting to throw your hands up and wonder why it matters who a narcissist was prior to the affair. It all has to do with hope of recovery. If a wayward spouse did not show any narcissistic traits before the affair, then there is going to be a chance that the wayward spouse will come to a point where he or she has insight and is willing to take accountability. Taking accountability is essential to healing.

On the other hand, a person with actual NPD will never take accountability. No matter how much evidence you give them that they are in the wrong, they will blame you for their affair. You could try to reason with such a person for the next thousand years and it just will not get through to them. If they feel anything, they will feel that you are victimizing them (by calling to their attention that they did) and they will feel you are cruel for continuing to victimize them. In their eyes, you caused and created the affair and so why should they be held accountable for something you did to them? This is the twisted world of a person with NPD.

affair-driven narcissism

Some Narcissists (and Sociopaths) Are Natural Con Artists

I wanted to talk about how narcissist and sociopaths are the ultimate con artists. In fact, many sociopaths also qualify for a diagnosis of NPD and many people with NPD have secondary sociopathic features.

The scary thing about con artists is that they fly under the radar. Sociopaths and narcissists always use charm as a con in order to get people to drop their guard. Because most people confuse charm with kindness, they trust a charming person without thinking twice.

I do not like to put my friend’s personal lives out there often, but my friend, who lives in another state, gave me permission to tell her story in a general way. I believe she is having a run-in with a con artist. (I will try to speak generally since con artists do not like to be called out.)

My friend lives in another state and is married to an oral surgeon. For the past couple of years, my friend has been very guarded about a receptionist at the large dental office where her husband is a partner.

The first time my friend met the office receptionist, my friend was taking one of her daughters to another dentist in the same office. My friend was given the brush off even though the receptionist knew very well that this was the wife of one of the surgeons. After she gave my friend the brush off, the receptionist smiled at my friend like a Cheshire cat who had swallowed a canary. Even though many would claim my friend should not have been bothered, my friend’s alarm bells went off big time.

Later, my friend figured out that this receptionist was the female ‘friend’ her husband had referenced several times. Once she learned that, she let her husband know that she felt uneasy with the receptionist and asked him to keep his distance.  He reassured my friend that the receptionist was “happily married” and had children.

The receptionist liked to bring my friend’s husband food treats at work and when he spoke about the receptionist, my friend felt as if he was talking about a saint. He would tell stories about her alleged hardships and her heart of gold. He would say things like, “Oh poor *Lisa, she is raising the child of her husband’s sister…she’s such a great/unselfish person for doing that! She’s always helping people.”

At one point, my friend was ready to confront her husband about it. But, the day she was going to confront him, her husband told her the receptionist had been fired immediately for verbally and physically assaulting a female dental assistant. My friend’s husband took the side of “the Cheshire Cat” (aka *Lisa) and said the receptionist was wrongly fired and misunderstood. (What’s there to misunderstand about assault?) So, my friend’s husband wrote a letter of recommendation for the receptionist and wanted to help the receptionist find a job.

Since the “Cheshire Cat” was out of the workplace, my friend thought all was well.

Well, a year transpired and The Cheshire Cat turned up again at my friend’s husband’s dental clinic to tell all the employees she had successfully sued the owner of the clinic for wrongful termination. (Who does that?) Then, after the Cheshire Cat left, one of the dental assistants who was still friends with “the cat” said the Cheshire Cat had breast cancer.

My friend’s husband was shocked because he was afraid the Cheshire Cat would die. He started talking about how much he and “the cat” had in common and how great people like the Cheshire Cat do not deserve to get sick.

My friend told her husband that the receptionist sounded like she meant more to him than just a friend. My friend got the usual excuse that “the cat” was a nice lady, a great mom, and didn’t deserve to be sick.

I am a very intuitive person and I can “read” people. In fact, I have never been wrong. My read on the Cheshire Cat was that she was a sociopath. But, this was also the first time I had been wrong, I greatly underestimated to what degree the Cheshire Cat was a sociopath. I figured this was the garden-variety sociopath who lived her life using others and then slipping out quietly when things fall apart. Boy was I wrong.

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I advised my friend to hire a detective to see what she was dealing with. My friend’s jaw was on the floor when she got the criminal history of the Cheshire Cat. It turned out that the Cheshire Cat had a very extensive criminal record. Several 4th degree assault and battery charges, over thirteen DUI’s, several grand auto theft charges, several charges of possession of illegal drugs, and breaking and entering into homes. There were also bankruptcies and about five different name changes. My friend found someone had also set up a GoFundMe page for the Cheshire Cat, to which thousands of dollars were donated.

That just goes to show what a great big smile and bringing food treats will get you: one very fooled husband who befriends such a person and writes off his wife’s discomfort as jealousy.

Honestly, I am at a loss on what to say about this situation. If this Cheshire Cat has any designs on my friend’s husband, it is going to be a scary ride. My friend cannot find concrete signs of an affair. Or even if there was an affair, it does not sound like it is happening now since the Cheshire Cat does not work with him and lives over an hour away.

I am frightened for my friend because her husband is playing with fire. Like every other sociopath, the Cheshire Cat does not believe the rules apply to her and she keeps breaking them. This is not a mild-mannered sociopath who floats through life merely using people (which is not a crime according to the legal system). This is an actively violent and criminal sociopath– this is a bonafide con artist.

A Real-life Lesson

This is a real-life lesson in how superficial charm can fool almost anyone. No one does superficial charm better than a sociopath. The story above demonstrates what a real-life sociopath looks like, and yet if you were to see the Cheshire Cat out and about at the grocery store, she looks like any other person. She doesn’t have an evil mustache that she twists all day long while conning people. She doesn’t look like a criminal (whatever that means.)

So, if your husband or wife has a friend who is so very charming, be on guard. Charm truly is the sociopath’s favorite tool. Remember how charming Ted Bundy was?

As I said in prior blog posts, people who act “nice” or “charming” are not necessarily kind people. People confuse false flattery and gifts with a kind and generous heart. Sure, sometimes people with kind and generous hearts take pleasure in giving to others and they give often. But, someone with a kind and generous heart who gives gifts will never hurt you or abuse you and they won’t want anything in return either.

But, people also need to be evaluated by how they live their lives and if they live their lives with integrity. Do not forget that an abuser and narcissist’s favorite tactics are to “love bomb” their target to get the target to drop their guard.

Here’s how bad people give themselves away: abusers, narcissists, and sociopaths live in a cycle of harming their victims and then love-bombing them with attention and presents. Always look at how someone treats you and others in terms of the bigger picture.

Litmus test: Truly kind people treat everyone equally and see the inherent value in everyone, whether they are talking to a bus boy at a restaurant or the CEO of a corporation. Truly kind people see the humanity in everyone regardless of their status. And besides, in today’s world with volatile job and stock markets, people can gain and lose status quickly. Status is a meaningless way to measure the worth of someone and kind people treat everyone equally.

Contrast that against narcissists and sociopaths. Everything is about image, everything is about their gain and objectifying people, and their lives are lived stepping on everyone and morality is never a consideration. Finally, they have no real insight or empathy, even if they destroy someone’s life. They just happily move onto their next target and the cycle starts all over again.

Why No One Can Have a Mutually Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissist

People with the best intentions, kindness, (and a high tolerance for others) can easily get led into a long-term relationship with a narcissist. The narcissist looks for the kindest person in the room because they know that person will give them the benefit of the doubt. When a kind person finds out the truth about their narcissistic spouse, many want to find ways to work it out. I have seen many articles by some claiming they can teach your average person to have a good relationship with a narcissist.

Well, I guess that depends on how you define the word “good.” If someone is okay with giving up all their own opinions, spending their days finding new ways to stroke a narcissist’s ego, worshipping the narcissist, catering to the narcissist, and finding clever ways to prevent themselves from saying things that will induce a fit of narcissistic rage in their narcissistic spouse, then I suppose they can have a good relationship with a narcissist.

But, here is the thing—even if you can do all of this, there is going to be one big, problem you cannot solve.

There was a song that we used to sing in elementary school, “There’s A Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza.” In the song, Liza gives instructions to Henry on how to fix a leaky bucket. But, when it comes down to it, the final thing Henry needs to fix the hole in the bucket is water. So, he cannot possibly fix the leaky bucket and so the problem becomes circular and unsolvable.

Well, narcissists are a leaky bucket with a hole that cannot be fixed. The narcissistic feed that you provide a narcissist will be like water that forever just flows through the hole in the bucket. You could spend your time and energy providing emotion and flattery (water) to the narcissist, but it will only drain you dry and the narcissist will not be filled anyways. Then, you are left with two dry and empty people.

When and if you decide to leave, you will feel so very used. Sometimes they leave you first because they found someone who can provide larger “volumes of water” that perhaps trickle more slowly through their bucket. When this happens, you will feel emotionally obliterated and cast aside as if you were garbage.

What happens if you are in your 70’s and have just discovered you are married to a narcissist? Is it necessary to leave? Well, real life is complicated and you may be in a situation where you would be financially devastated if you left.

The thing you can do in such a situation is to engage in self-care. Instead of tiring yourself by giving your precious emotional energy to the narcissist, care for yourself instead. Let the narcissist find other sources of feed because it is simply not in your best interested to feed a bottomless pit.

On the other hand, it may be that you feed the bottomless pit because you genuinely love that person. The feeling of being in love is not one based on logic. But, think about this—do you love yourself so little that you are willing to drain yourself dry while tending to someone that can never be filled?

Now, to be fair, all of us have an empty space in ourselves and that can only be filled by love. We are social creatures and require others emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But, if we are normal and when we find that person to love, that person’s love fills our empty bucket full.

We are all empty buckets to some degree, but well-adjusted people do not have holes in their buckets. Normal people can actually be filled by care and attention while a narcissist can never be filled.

In Summary

Narcissism goes beyond mere selfishness. It is a pathological condition that affects the life of the narcissist and everyone around them. I sincerely hope that this rather lengthy post explained the nature of narcissism and the difference between overt narcissism, covert narcissism, and situational narcissism.

If you are married to an overt or covert narcissist, not all is lost as long as you can keep your sense of self and take care of you. In these situations, you must be the number one priority in your life (along with children/grandchildren you might have.)

Most of all, do not feel a failure, do not feel stupid, and do not chastise yourself for marrying a narcissist. Narcissists target the very best of people and they know exactly how to do it. In some way, it is a compliment if a narcissist has targeted you. Still, they can also do a lot of harm, so it is essential to see who they are and walk away when they gaslight or engage in other forms of harmful behavior.

Please let me know if you have any personal stories about your experience with narcissism, affair-driven narcissism or your thoughts on this article. And don’t forget to pass it along to friends and family members who need this message.

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Elinor Greenberg, PhD. How the Three Types of Narcissists Act on a First Date. From

Craig Malkin, PhD. What’s the Single, Greatest Danger of Covert Narcissism? From


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    66 replies to "Narcissism: The Difference Between Affair-Driven Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder"

    • Tired

      This is a good article Sarah. I too wondered why my husband was behaving like a narcissist while in the affair and then while in the fog. I did start wondering if he had NPD. He had always been a very kind and selfless man. Then suddenly he started behaving so irrationally and cruelly and it was like he was someone else. But he WAS someone else, parroting the words of the AP. I could not believe my ears. Now that the affair is well and truly over I am seeing the real him again. And I don’t believe he ever was a narcissist, just a silly and broken man. It is a shame he will now never be on the pedestal I had him on before though, thanks to his behaviour.

      Although he behaved like a narcissist, I don’t think it was merely selfishness either. I think he was in despair at the time and had very poor coping skills. Someone came along and made him feel good and led him around by the nose. But it wasn’t long before he came to his senses. He is so ashamed now because he sinned against his own moral code, so to speak.

      Now the love bombing technique…I know that well. That is what the other woman was doing to him. It became even worse when he was trying to get rid of her. She ramped it up and was very persistent. But then she became nasty when he pulled away and told him he was stupid for remaining in the marriage. I think she is probably more of a sociopath, but then narcissists have many of the same traits. I do not know what label to put on her. Evil seems to be the best fit. Or perhaps she is just amoral. It really doesn’t matter. I’m just glad my husband, despite his depression and problems at the time, didn’t allow himself to be used by her any further. He said to me when we were reconciling that he knew he couldn’t trust her. He did not explain. Just because she would cheat with a married man maybe. Or perhaps subconsciously he picked up on the insincerity. I know I saw it.

      • Meme

        How long did your recovery last? My husband seems to be stuck in this fog, not sure if he’ll ever get out..

    • Rose

      I’m still not sure where H is on the spectrum but oh boy are there traits. I “friended” the OW on FB and she accepted today. Ill unfriend her…I just wanted to see H’s comments on her posts. First its gone on longer than I knew by a few months. Second, most of the time he is the only one who comments…even if it doesn’t apply to him, just so he can do his disgusting flirting with her. Third, and here is where the NPD comes in…EVERY post to her is “I” this and “I” that. In 2016 we took a trip to Europe for 3 weeks trying to reconcile. The following month he told her “I went to Europe last month and here are some pics” which were ALL of him (that I took). He posted pictures to her of some antique furniture that we have…except it was “…that I have.” All his posts on his own site are “I went to this concert or dinner” without mentioning me. I don’t know if this true NPD or just his pathetic way of pretending he’s single, but it is maddening.

      • TheFirstWife

        If it were me at some point I would “respond” to his posts by showing photos of the two of you on the same trip.

        Like “Me and StupidassHusband in Sicily” or something like that.

        But I guess at some point you just get so “done “ by it all you don’t even care.

        This M appears like it’s dying a slow death unfortunately. So sorry for you.

        • Rose

          I am kind of over it today. Really just wanted to confirm what I already knew. I’m working at home today and I sure hope he goes out so I can have some peace. I’m not commenting on any of the OW’s posts for a while so he doesn’t know I know. I’ll just watch and wait. He ALWAYS gets caught. How stupid can people be? If I were going to flirt with someone or have an affair, there would be no trace online.

        • Tired

          Hilarious, TFW. I think I would do that too! When my husband was being silly there was a time he liked a photo of the woman in a bikini on instagram. I was so tempted to write something to embarrass him but then I thought better of it because I had a feeling that we would get back together and I didn’t want everyone knowing about his stupidity. Instead I just told him via text that it was humiliating to me and made him look like a fool. The next thing the like was removed. However I think if it was really over I would have exposed him for all to see. He would have been so humiliated himself!

          What the first wife suggests might work for you though.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Rose,

        I don’t know how old you guys are, but I am interpreting this as a desperate mid-life crisis bid to feel young again.

        I agree with TFW. If my H were on Facebook, which he isn’t, and I don’t use FB either. But, let’s say my H and I were on FB and he was doing this, he knows me enough to know that I would get really sarcastic really fast. And I would re-post all the same photos with me in them. And my caption would be to something to the extent of: my husband must be experiencing selective dementia because he keeps having these episodes where he forgets we are married. (Of course, selective dementia in not a real disease and in no way is intended to make light of people who experience it.) My H and I are young enough that it would basically be an absurd statement and people would see it as such since we are obviously not of an age where either of us would have the disease.

        However, I like TFW’s approach better.

        My first boyfriend cheated on me with 5 other women (in college) and I kept questioning him until he confessed. Anyhow, he had not quite told the OW’s it was over and there was a persistent one. The day he told me, we went up to his dorm room because I was ready to freak out in the common area in the dorm. So, low and behold, one of the OW had stopped by his room and since the roommate was there she demanded to wait for him. (His roommate was a psychology major, very non-confrontational, not his friend, and wanted no part of my boyfriend’s crazy life.) So the roommate sat there studying as the OW waited for my boyfriend to return. And when we arrived, I figured out immediately this was the OW he spent Sundays after church “studying with.”

        My anger turned into sarcasm immediately because that’s how I take out my anger. I get extremely sarcastic. So, I looked at his psychology roommate and I asked, “So have you been studying Freud’s oral fixation?” Then continued, “I understand that you (pointing at the OW) and you (pointing at my boyfriend) have been studying oral fixation in great detail and so maybe you can help your roommate here with a psychology paper.” My so-called boyfriend just about fainted and the OW literally ran out of the dorm room. And the roommate’s jaw was on the floor because I normally did NOT act like that.

        I broke up with the guy soon after and he spent MONTHS trying to get me back. I had moved to another state for the summer to work in my family member’s law firm. And he started writing me obnoxious letters and sending them to my family member’s house where I lived. She wrote him a cease and desist letter.

        The thing that surprised me the most was that my boyfriend literally could not comprehend that accepting oral sex from women he hardly knew (and accepting it several times a week for months) was cheating on me. I had tried to explain this to him as I was breaking up and told him he best not make the same mistake with whomever he dated next. But, the guy fell off an emotional cliff, convinced himself he wanted to marry me (after I dumped him), and cried for months.

        This just made me lose even more respect for him and made me come to the conclusion that despite finishing his MBA, he was one of the stupidest people I had ever met. (He was about 4 years older than me, but we were both in college at the same university.) You know what though, I think he and Bill Clinton were in the same boat in terms of their absolutely stupidity.

        Sorry if the sexual details of this story offended anyone, but I think we are all adults here and have all been around the block a few times. I have never been a promiscuous person and had about three longterm relationships before met my husband. My first boyfriend cheated on me and my first fiance, whom I owned property with, cheated on me. That’s the story I usually talk about since it was the most shattering. But, it was by no means my first experience with betrayal. I think that’s one of the reasons I write for this website. Infidelity is wider spread than anyone will ever realize and I have experienced a couple of times.


        • Rose

          Hi Sarah, I too am incredibly sarcastic. I unfriended my H a week or so ago on the advice of my counselor, and it has helped me a lot, because checking his posts got to be killing me. My counselor said there is nothing I can do to make him change so I need to change my reaction. So I did. But…I did “friend” the OW (and I hesitate to call her that since he is pursuing her but she doesn’t seem to be responding to him). Yes, it’s all a game. He does not know I’ve done this because he won’t see me on any responses to her. I am more or less monitoring his posts to her. If I see another “I went out to this great restaurant last night” or anything else that makes it seem like he is single, I will go ALL OUT sarcasm. She will see many, many pictures of us, including posts like “WE went to that restaurant” and “WE went to that movie.” It will no doubt anger him beyond belief, but she will understand the pretense he has been posting. He has, more than a week after I sent him a nastygram, not apologized. He has not mentioned that we are not “friends” anymore. I am just breathing and biding my time for that. I have gone mostly “grey rock.”

          • Tired

            Rose, be very VERY careful that they are not both playing you. I would not trust that other woman, or your husband for that matter. She could be telling him everything you are doing on her facebook, and he to her. And not responding deliberately, to make you think there is nothing going on. Be very careful Rose. If you post pictures about you and he doing this and that, that could well be their private joke. Keep your life off social media would be my advice. Look anonymously, but don’t be drawn into this. And seriously, if I were you, I would not be going out to dinners and movies with this man. He has no respect for you. And to be honest, I think he has had enough chances. He does not deserve you!!

            • Rose

              Thanks Tired, I will be careful. I had to out with him yesterday because we had a date with friends for a while (our only friends who are a couple). They know nothing about what’s going on. Isn’t that hard in that situation?

            • Tired

              I was referring only to your posts on facebook. Did you mean you had to ‘go out’ with him yesterday or you had ‘it out’ with him’? I think if you are going out with mutual friends in the future you should go alone. And you should tell them exactly what he has been doing. Stop allowing him to get away with this disrespectful behaviour Rose. He is only going to continue doing it if you do.

        • Tired

          Sarah, you have really not gotten over these men, have you? Why? It seems you have a wonderful husband now, but you are still fixated on these creeps who cheated on you. I can’t understand it. A well balanced and confident woman with degrees and so much awesomeness? Why have you not gotten over it? Aren’t they just stupid figments of the past? Why do they haunt you?

          I think sometimes a woman who is too strong is a bit too much for some men. I think that is what you, and what a lot of us are up against. I think a lot of the women posting here are just that.

          • Rose

            I don’t know. I like hearing about our past experiences, because it tells us a lot about ourselves and what we will and won’t put up with.

            • TheFirstWife

              I think it is helpful to hear about the experiences of others because it helps us to see how other people operate and understand different types of people.

              I never knew about narcissistic people but have since learned I have lived amongst a few.

              I think we continue to share b/c we can all learn from each other.

            • Tired

              I think it tells us a lot about what Sarah will not put up with.

              I like hearing the stories as well. But there comes a time when you just wish people would stop being so nice and agreeable. Especially when it allows people to walk all over them and treat them like garbage. At the end of the day if your husband dumps you in the most cruel way imaginable are you really, honestly going to be able to say “I did my best.”? Or will you be saying to yourself you should have done something else because this A-hole was not worth one minute of your time? Because I can guarantee that the guy who ends up leaving is not thinking about how his wife did everything to save the marriage. He’s most likely still blaming her to justify himself!

          • Shifting Impressions

            Have you read Sarah’s story?? The things she has been through are brutal and can change a person forever.

            Not that I am trying to answer for Sarah, but her story moved me beyond belief. I am grateful she was able to share with us.

            • Tired

              SI, of course I have, I have just read it above, and others she has written. My point is that she is way too good for these men and she shouldn’t even think of them at all. They are scum.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Absolutely they are….but sometimes the scars run deep.

          • Sarah P.

            Hello Tired,

            You know I think it’s okay for you to call me out on this. Yes, I have gotten over this college guy and did a long time ago. It took me only about a couple of days to truly get over him. But, his absolute stupidity will be forever seared in my mind. (This is the guy from college who had his five women. I remember him because of his absolute stupidity and don’t feel any grief over him.)

            Now, that was NOT the guy who BROKE me. I have written the full story of the man who actually broke me, but I still have not told the details of the “full story” to this blog. I always left out the part where I was truly suicidal and did try to attempt. And what happened to ensure I failed was an act of Divine Intervention. There are few times when God physically reaches into the world and alters the laws of physics, space, and time. I have never written that part of my story because I know people will love it or hate it. Those with a profound relationship with God (like the one I have developed with God) will understand it’s a miracle and a big one. Others won’t know what to make of it (and perhaps think I exaggerated what occurred to keep me here) and wonder why I would do such a thing as try to take my life over this loser. Some of my closest friends know the story and they also understand fully that it was a miracle. Only within the past 6 months did I tell my mom the story. She had a prayer chain going for me at the time because I had to move home. And she could tell I was suicidal but too scared to talk to me about it so she started a prayer chain and made sure someone was always on duty, so to speak.

            Now to switch topics. Wild horses are not caught easily and they do not break easily. They have such a huge spirit about them. You can take the toughest wild horse, the one that seems unbreakable, but there is always a breaking point in the horse that seems unbreakable. The horse just has to come into contact with an experience that will break it. And what my ex-fiance did to me was cruel. He had a dad with a PhD in psychology. He knew a lot about psychology and he specifically used what he knew of mentally shattering someone on me. He used it intentionally. And he used extreme manipulation and cruelty paired with assault, battery, and rape and that combination broke me. And he and the other woman had planned it together so that she could move into our home.

            The problem was, when he broke it off, I took a separate bedroom and refused to leave my house. I cut him off completely and had dinner on my own and went out late with female friends. I refused to leave my home and kept offering to buy him out for his small contribution. He kept refusing. And I kept standing my ground.

            And so he and the OW (who also had a psychology degree) got together and figured out what it would take me make me move out so she could move in. All other attempts had failed. So, my ex did the most horrendous things to me over the course of one night– unspeakable things– and that was what it took to make me leave.

            He had to break my body and my spirit. And he did.

            I was the wild horse standing my ground, refusing to be pushed around, and two people who had the same goal got together and decided nothing was off limits in terms of what they did to break me.

            These were complete psychopaths– or she was and he was influenced.

            Because I can tell you the person who did that to me was not the person I dated or got engaged to. This was the guy who would build houses for Habitat for Humanity with me on the weekends. Or we would volunteer at the children’s museum together and teach kids science. Another time, we volunteered at a facility that taught both autistic and physically disabled children to ride horses.

            This man had NEVER raised a hand to me or aggressed me in any way.

            We also both worked at the same company in the same department. We were the ‘power couple’ who would host huge dinner parties — the couple everyone loved because we knew how to cook, how to laugh, and throw a fun dinner party. He actually watched my back at work and I watched his.

            When he turned on me, I could write a book about the details of what he did to break me and truthfully most people would not be able to get through the book without being traumatized themselves.

            Even though that relationship ended, my spirit was broken, just like that wild horse. So, yes, the strong woman analogy applies too. Many of us are strong women here. But, I was not so strong I could not be broken.

            I have had to build myself up from the ground up again. I have had to (mentally) relocate myself. The guy basically killed who I was– the essence of me.

            All of these years, I have been trying to recollect the pieces. Blogging about this topic helps me tremendously. I am a living “case study” in the sense that even though I have ‘moved on’ and gotten married and had children, I still have had to rebuild all that was broken. I am still rebuilding to this very day. I am not a nice and tidy case where I had therapy and everything was back to normal.

            I don’t want to compare myself to a holocaust survivor (although I did have about 90% of my European family members killed during the holocaust), but from what I understand of holocaust survivors, many of them moved to the United States or other places. And if they were doctors, like Viktor Frankl, they kept being doctors, they regained their wealth, they had families and prominent careers. Viktor Frankl survived the holocaust and had an idyllic life in the United States. Still, he had to write the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” because he could not forget the experience, even though he lived out the rest of his life as a wealthy man, who was happily married, had children, was respected by colleagues– the whole bit. He had the idyllic life afterwards. He knew that he had to write his book and talk about it because such things could happen again, if people decided to forget.

            Well, what happened to me was like my own personal holocaust. (Again, I do not mean to demean actual holocaust survivors.) But, everything about me was completely destroyed.

            The holocaust that happened during WW2 stopped when WW2 ended.

            But, this type of ‘personal holocaust’ that people can go through during an affair will continue to happen as long as there are relationships. And if it happens to married people, the children suffer right along with the betrayed spouse.

            Infidelity can bring many people to the brink and destroy them, depending on what kind of affair it was, the severity of the affair, and how it was handled. To this day, I do not understand why my ex was capable of destroying me. I guess it goes back to the opposite of love is not hate– it is indifference. Whatever love he had was transformed to hate. Somehow the other woman convinced him she was his soulmate and I was keeping them from living out their lives happily together in my house. I don’t know what she said, but I do know from eye witnesses that she is a bonafide sociopath and as cruel as they come. And she was going to make my fiance hers, and my home hers, no matter what it took.

            So, yes, here I am. I am married and I have kids and I have a house that is 100 times nicer than the one I lost. And I am married to someone of a higher caliber, so to speak.

            But here is the thing and this is a hard thing to even admit– I know that no matter how good it looks and how happy my family seems, something else could be brewing.

            None of us can control others and there is nothing I can do to really affair proof my marriage, if my husband is not doing the same behaviors. And he has had some very persistent women attempt to poach him. And I have had to go through that each time. So, in a way, I can’t really forget.

            I will tell you straight up that I do not know if I will ever feel truly safe or secure again. Most of the time, I am ok. But other days, it hits me hard and I panic (internally).

            It’s never really going to be ‘over’ and so I write this blog. But, above and beyond anything else, this is a calling for me.

            I do not ever want another person to find herself or himself in my position and then not find any real help. At the time, there were no affair blogs. At the time, I could not find a counselor who really knew how to deal with infidelity. No one I knew how to deal with it. So, this blog is a calling. If someone is at the end of their rope, the blog posts will always be here, for as long as the blog exists.

            That was probably a much longer answer than you could have expected. I am truly not sure if I will ever be able to let it go. And that’s okay, because it will continue to fuel blog posts.

            And these blog posts can reach anyone who has a computer at any time of day anywhere in the world.

            I have a very deep connection to Spirit (or God) or the Universe as some call it. And I believe that the worst events can be turned into a spiritual growth and mission that can help others who have happened upon the same difficulties.

            When it happens now, there is a so-called place for people to go and to find real help. Within a spiritual perspective, if I would not have gone through that, I would not be able to help countless others overcome it. And in that sense, even though God does not bring evil, God can make good come from even the most seemingly evil experiences. So, I think that is at the heart of what keeps me going and what makes me remember. From a spiritual perspective, I am going to allow that terrible experience to end up fueling great good that ends up helping others.

            Many blessings,


            • Rose

              OMG Sarah. I did not know your story. I am speechless.
              I hope the police were involved.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Rose,

              Well, here is what is interesting about the laws. I have an attorney in the family who has practiced law for almost 40 years. She was the first person my mom called and I live in a state where it would be hard to prove. It was his word against mine. There were no cameras. No recordings. The coward actually took off in his car after he did that and I never saw him again that night. It took my parents a while to drive to get me. I hired another attorney immediately and he said the same thing. There is no way to prove that you did not aggress him or that he even created the physical bruises. But, here is something very important that most people never consider. I never considered it before it happened to me. I always assumed that if this happened to a woman she would be on the phone with 911 telling her story. But, here is what happens (especially if you have never experienced this kind of thing). Your body and your mind goes into shock. Then you dissociate. Everything feels unreal. Then you start to question yourself: “did I deserve that? People don’t normally act this way so I must have done something…” I was in such a state of shock I could hardly crawl to the phone to call my parents and try to tell my mom what happened. After I talked to her, I crawled to the bathtub. And ran the tub and the shower. The last thing on my mind was preserving evidence. I wanted the water to make the experience go away.

              It’s hard to describe what the mind does when it experiences a horror that it had never considered, especially from someone you trusted who did not have violent inclinations or give any indication they were capable of such a thing.

              The experience was so terrible I wanted to lay down and die. My thoughts were focused on surviving the time it took for my parents to let themselves in and collect me. Then when they got there we wanted to know what I was up against in terms of the law.

              He had taken off in his car. I had gone to the bath and shower in a state of shock.

              If the police had come, he wasn’t even there to be interviewed.

              At the time I was so afraid to call the police because I envisioned a male police officer showing up at the door and he would represent the aggressor. And there was no way I was going to have a strange guy near me.

              None of this is rational.

              Frankly, when women are raped, I don’t know how they even gather themselves together to call the police. I think of that Brock Turner case. I read the victim’s impact statement and even though the evidence was there, the witnesses had found her and called the police, even though it was documented beyond the shadow of a doubt, she was still treated poorly by both the hospital and the legal system. I recommend that everyone read that statement because you will realize women get punished for reporting such things even when there is not an ounce of doubt that it occurred. And that’s in 2017. When this happened to me, all I could do was crawl in the tub after calling my parents. I just wanted to go home and forget.

              It’s very hard to explain the mindset, especially since this was not a stranger to me.

              I had a male attorney have all communication with him after that. The male attorney met with me and my mom and we told him the whole gruesome tale. This attorney was much older and I don’t think he could grasp the idea that a domestic partner or fiance could brutalize his wife/fiance in this way. There was still the idea that all sex is consensual if you are or were in a relationship. Here is the worst part. My ex was very calm and calculated when talking to my attorney. And you know what my attorney said after talking to my ex at length? He said, “You know your ex sounds like a ***really nice guy**** and it’s hard to imagine that he did those things you describe.” No, I did not fire my attorney. He actually did the job I asked of him and there was no problem with him not following through. The fact that he was fooled bothered me. And that is just another story about how really skilled abusers/sociopaths (or people under the influence of a sociopath) can seem like “the nicest guy.” Just like Ted Bundy was “the nicest guy” when other men encountered him.

              One day I should write a book about my experience in detail.


            • Tired

              First of all Sarah, I’m not trying to call you out. You have obviously been through the most awful experience. I am truly sorry if I have offended you in any way. I’m sure the trauma is very real and ongoing. I did not realise the extent of it. My heart breaks for you, because I would have been just as stubborn about moving out of my house if it had come to that. But everyone does have a breaking point. You showed remarkable strength to have held on for so long. I think I would have given up long before.

              I can also feel your fear when you say that ‘something else could be brewing’ speaking about your current husband. I think you have learned the hard way that people can’t be trusted. So have all of us in some sense. To be disrespected and betrayed in the way that you have is just unimaginable. That is very sad, for all of us in a way because what else can we hope for than the person who we love loves us and respects us as well. And even if they don’t, well they don’t have to be cruel. Your ex and the AP sound like they deserve each other.

              I am truly thankful that people like you do exist, and you are doing a great job on this blog. Support is very hard to find when friends get sick of hearing the same complaints over and over. At least we can come here and complain and vent, and people understand what we are going through.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Tired,

              Nope, you did not offend me at all, so do not worry. And I know you were not trying to call me out. Those were my words simply because I was trying to communicate I don’t mind being called out. I should have phrased it better. So, my apologies.

              People who know me in person know that I am NOT easily offended. I like feedback and always welcome questions. If I were easily offended, I should not be blogging.

              The only things that truly offend me are when people go out of their way to be truly mean or vicious just for the heck of it. I have NEVER encountered that on this blog, by the way, and I am very thankful that everyone here is earnest and here to discuss their experience and learn. Thankfully, we don’t have trolls here. (Fingers crossed we don’t attract any). Or if there are trolling comments, I have not read them.

              Unfortunately, what I have learned is that there is practically no man out there who is immune to cheating.

              My husband and I are right in the center of the midlife crisis years. We also have children at home and almost no date nights. There are many spouse poachers at his work and there was a time when I believe our relationship had a close call with his so-called female work friend who he had not told me about. I came in one day to bring him lunch to find a youngish woman sitting right beside him and hanging on his every word. When he introduced me as his wife, she gave me the death look and literally stormed off in a huff, refusing to acknowledge me. (I said to myself, “Game on, girl. You have no clue who you are dealing with.”) I asked him about it and he said she was a work friend. That put me on notice, so I started showing up with my kids all the time and bringing treats. At one point I told him he was going to have to no longer be a friend to this person. It was her or me. About a week later he said she was engaged to someone. (Wow, that was fast.) I figured out she had several targets at the same time and was looking for the easiest. Well, the easiest happened to be someone who was truly single and her own age and the man had never married. (Meanwhile, I found out she had been married 3 different times by doing online research. I found one divorce record that cited infidelity on her part) Yeah, I could already tell that just by meeting her. I found the record in case I needed to use it. She was one of those women who was absolutely used to walking into a room and getting what she wanted. All she had to do was flip her long, blond hair and bat her overly made up eyes. But, she was in her mid-thirties by this time and I could tell she knew one day the game would be over– and it would be soon (her looks would fade)– and she was looking for a sucker who had the most status to snag. She hated kids and that worked in my favor. I would bring in my kids all the time and let them be themselves, which would irritate her to no end. I looked up the sucker she married and saw they moved across the country. She found some farm boy veterinarian from the midwest and I could tell he has no idea what he married. Luckily, she is gone, thousands of miles away, and no longer my problem. I do not know if my husband had an emotional affair or a physical affair or if it was a poaching incident that I stopped. I have found no evidence of an affair but that means nothing. That was about 4-5 years ago and I will never forget.

              I am not stupid or naive. I think the fact that my husband has been the target of poachers and I had that experience with one with my first fiance, I know that I am not “safe.”

              I spoke with someone the other day whom I hope to interview. He believes that affairs are much higher than the 60% figure we have, which is the absolute highest. But, he is a specialist in the field and has the most information of anyone I have ever spoken to. Hopefully he will agree to an interview, but I can tell everyone here that he does NOT have good news for us.

              For as long as there are relationships, there will be affairs, and the barriers in society we once had that served as deterrents are no more.


            • Tired

              Sarah, I know I am not safe either. I think that is why I and the majority of us are on here. Hoping perhaps to hear some story that will give us faith back in our partners. That unfortunately is what the cheater doesn’t get…they have changed the way you think of them for life. As the saying goes, it takes years to build a reputation and a moment to tear it down.

              I can really understand your fear that it will happen again in another relationship. Perhaps that is why we stay…better the devil you know. I know why I stayed…I saw something good in my husband and I still do. I think that all people are fallible, we are all human after all. If I moved on Im sure I would be plagued by the same worries you have now about your current husband.

              What your ex fiance did to you was awful. But I was thinking about what you said about him volunteering for this or that. Do you think he could possibly have been getting an ego boost out of that? Someone who was very popular and did good things, and it gave him something to be part of that? Could he have been doing that for the kudos (albeit second hand). Then perhaps this real estate agent looked like she was going to make it…perhaps he thought he could get a bit of kudos there too. I am very interested…was he ever successful himself or was he looking for a free ride?

              The mate poacher you mentioned is interesting to think about too. She hated kids? Probably because you have them. Probably the mindset was “that’s so boring, you could be doing all this and that if you were free , aka with me.” Interestingly my husband’s attempted mate poacher was just the opposite…trying to make out that she loved kids and could provide one for him. Which I have not. The grass is always greener. These people know how to work it, oh boy.

              Unfortunately the grim reality for all of us is that only love holds us together. People can choose what they want to do and just do it. There are no guarantees. We just have to hope that in the end the person we are with has enough integrity to stand by the commitment they made to us.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Tired,

              I can certainly understand why you and others stay with their husbands. The older I get, the more I realize I am not sure I would have the courage to break it off even if my H had a PA. Otherwise, if any woman married her husband, then there certainly had to be good qualities. If that man cheats and when and if he wakes up, those qualities can be found again.

              As for my ex, I am beginning to think more and more that he was a narcissist and that since we had not had any truly trying experiences, he had no reason to show his true colors until the garbage hit the fan. That’s a good point you bring up about his volunteering. He may have done that as a front to get kudos. He did have a very narcissistic mom and he was adopted and an only child. I know his mom would play games. Like when we were engaged, we went to a Christmas church service with his parents and his mom introduced me to everyone as her son’s friend and coworker. I was in my mid-20’s and I had never had any real experience with narcissists. He told me that sometimes his mom would say stupid things like: “why can’t you marry the daughter of a CEO or someone with status.” What was funny is that both his dad and my dad were both PhD college professors and had prestigious careers. She was all about status so she wasn’t smart enough to realize that by saying I did not have status, neither did she. Yet, she bragged to everyone about how she was a professor’s wife. (She did not even finish high school, I don’t think.) What was sad was that I got really close to my (ex) MIL’s sister. We became genuine friends and got to care very deeply for each other. His dad liked me. His extended family liked me. But no matter how hard I tried, his mom was always passive aggressive and was trying to get in a cut about me. One time she bought me a Miss Manner’s book for my birthday. You have got to be kidding me, right? Of the two of us, I was and I am the one who is gracious to everyone, no matter who they are and I had very strict grandparents who still practiced Victorian-era manners. I was raised as a lady. His mom was a nobody but acted like a somebody. Ironically, he did NOT marry someone with status. I did some digging online and found out the OW (who my ex married) is the daughter of a school janitor. So, his mom made such a fuss about me and my alleged lack of social status and here comes the OW who is the daughter of a janitor. And he was stupid enough to marry the OW. There was a creepy phase where 6 months later he sent me a birthday email expressing some surface regret. And even though I had a no-contact order, he would sometimes try to find me at work (almost a year after the break up) and if I were alone in my cube he would try to touch me. And I would leave. This is a guy who yelled and swore on the Bible there was no one else (when he was breaking up) and threw said Bible. He never had the courage to tell me to my face what he did. The OW had a huge mouth and he brought her into our former social circle. So everyone (about 30 different people) came and told me the same gory details and each time the two were up to something. (They were still living in my home at that point.) In the end, I think my ex was a narcissist and became a sociopath at the OW’s bidding. But, I had never had experience with these people before then. I had never heard of personality disorders. I was caught off guard. So, I think he probably was a genuine narcissist along with his mom. By the way, I got over him years ago. I stopped missing him years ago and feel disgust towards him– not active disgust. It doesn’t rule my thoughts. The thing that rules my thoughts is that I can never get comfortable in a relationship. Ever. And that is SAD. I know well I can be the best person possible and still get treated in a way that in not deserved in the least (in terms of infidelity.)

              As for that poacher at work and her hating kids. I also believe she was a narcissist and saw kids as inconvenient. She had a professional profile online and said something to the extent that the only children she will ever have are dogs. What’s interesting though is that she did not treat her dogs well. My husband would tell me about it and from what he said I could tell she had no empathy for her dogs. They were just things who were there to meet her needs and when they acted like normal dogs she would flip out and beat them. This woman definitely should not have children.

              As for your H’s poacher– a lot of women will try to trap married men by getting pregnant (whereas yours just said it as an idea).

              Some women could say it’s a ‘no strings attached’ affair and that she has an IUD and doesn’t want kids. Off the guy goes. And she knows she doesn’t have an IUD and that she will use pregnancy as a bid to get him to leave his wife. If men cheat, they really need to use condoms. How stupid can someone be? These men have an affair, they DON’T want to get caught, they don’t ever see themselves with this OW for the long haul, and they also don’t use a condom. Really? That’s idiocy.

              I am NOT referring to your husband, by the way.

              I am talking about how men can get fooled into believing the OW is telling the truth and some other women use pregnancy as a ploy. Either they dangle it as an idea (like your poacher did) or they just get pregnant and let the chips fall where they may. You are lucky she did not bring a child into the scenario. What a mess. *sigh*

              I just thought of a scene from the TV show “How I Met Your Mother.” And one of the married characters looks at her husband and says in a baby voice, “Marshall, I want you to put a baby in my tummy.” Yes, they are married, but that phrase just grates me the wrong way. And I think it’s because I have come across women who will start dating a man and before they know him well, they will tell the man they want his baby in their tummy.

              I can somehow just picture lots of OW’s out there saying that in baby voices to their married lovers to try to get the guys to drop their guard.

              Children are not pawns and it is so offensive to me when women use them as a means to trap a man (whether married or single). It is so unfair to the child who is innocent and will be born into a life of chaos because of a selfish and immoral mother. The husband will probably not leave his original family and the poor child will be raised by an immoral mom who only saw the child as a pawn. Since said child did not get the man to leave, I can only imagine how these women treat their children. The children did not fulfill their duty of getting the man to leave his family. Can you imagine?

            • Tired

              Sarah, I think the reason for the exes mother’s behaviour could be that she was intimidated by you. Therefore she had to put you down to feel better about herself. When she met the OW they were probably more on the same level ie: both uneducated. And therefore the OW was elevated to a grand status. And perhaps the poor sod ex had to make his mother happy at all costs. I think you are well rid of him, although you probably didn’t feel that way at the time.

              I think my husband’s OW was just hanging it out there as you say, but I think she would have done it had he been silly enough to sleep with her. But I caught him almost immediately as it started to go physical and thank god for that. But this is probably why she became pregnant so quickly to the next man she met…it was within months of stalking my husband and declaring undying love to him. I think she probably was sorry that her plan with my husband failed, and she probably got pregnant to the next one to hang on to him so she wouldn’t get dumped by him either. Goodness knows, but I do hope that guy was not married as well.

              And I agree that men should wear condoms if they are going to cheat! Would you believe a man you had just met if he said he had a vasectomy?!

              I have no respect for women who do this sort of thing and I agree that they use the child as a pawn. It is not fair to the child, and that it an understatement to say the least.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Tired,
              I think you are right that my ex’s mother was threatened. She was a lot older since they became parents in middle age. It was weird to watch a woman in her 70’s behave like a catty school girl.

              He did me a favor by leaving me for someone else, but he did not have to do it in a way that was so completely evil and in a way that broke my spirit. That was very uncool. The times I had to break up with a guy in the past, I was always nice and mindful of his pain. Plus I never cheated on anyone. It’s just too low of a thing to do. I try to live every day as “do unto others and you would have them do unto you.”

              Many blessings,

    • TheFirstWife

      Interesting article. I completely agree during the A my H became self-absorbed.

      I witnessed the “I deserve to be happy” mentality on too many occasions unfortunately.

      I just don’t understand the logic of it all. How can A (or possiblity of an A) turn a grown man into acting like a 16 year old in love??

      I guess I don’t understand the addiction of it all. Because I am grounded and know right from wrong at all times.

      • Tired

        I don’t know how, TFW, but I feel just the same. My husband was such a level headed strait-laced guy and all of a sudden he was behaving like a teenager! I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think he was in love with the woman though. What I do think is that he had so many problems at the time he was just trying to run away from his life and responsibilities. And there was this reckless, uninhibited woman egging him on.

        I think they just live in this little affair bubble where they only hear positive reinforcement from the AP who of course is on their side. “Oh, of course I agree (some spoiled child’s behaviour) is the right thing to do.” Once I started leaking things out about his behaviour to others (and in particular to his female cousin) that made it a bit more real to him and he quickly started to see his mistake. That and me taking a couple of financial steps that made him sit up and take notice. It wasn’t reality to him until then I don’t think. He saw what he was going to lose.

        • TheFirstWife

          Whether he was in love with her or not is debatable.

          He said he was. He wrote it to her in emails. (I saw the emails).

          He asked for a D 2-3x b/c he no longer wanted to be married to me.

          But now he says he never loved her. I believe it could have been more infatuation than love.

          But during the A he also said he loved me – until he didn’t. Or stopped. or whatever.

          I just know that in reality I was being kicked to the curb for a younger model. That’s a fact.

          That’s why I’m still SMH. I never thought he would allow himself to behave like a teenager in lust and all that crap. Talk about a mid life crisis!!

          And how we always laughed at 50 y/o men with 20 something wives. How they were being used (in some cases) for their $ and status.

          Some people are so blinded by stupidity.

    • Tired

      TFW, I don’t think your husband was in love with this woman at all. I think, like my husband, he was in love with the feeling of youth and excitement. He was wanted! The ego definitely gets a rub when someone is all into us. I think that is really all there is to it. We women read too much into things. Why did they choose to stay with us? Obviously they love us.

      My husband may have said the same thing to the OW for all I know. He acted like an infatuated idiot. But there was one time when I went to his work and I caught them together alone, although other employees had just left and I know for a fact that she had made an excuse to come in because she knew he was there and he was upset because of a fight with his boss. And in front of her he just kept saying he loved me and can I help him with this or that (related to his dilemmas at the time) and she was just sitting there watching us. And I could just feel that there was no real feeling from him for her. It was like he was hoping she would get the message to go away. Cowardly I know, but my husband does not like to hurt people’s feelings and he didn’t know how to get himself out of the mess he was in! I can almost feel sorry for him. But I had a gut feeling that it was truly over. And it was. There were messages from her and calls. And eventually he realised he had to be a man and tell her bluntly. And he did.

      Like you, I have heard a variation of the kick to the curb speech. When I caught him cheating he called me a couple of days later and pretty much blamed me for his cheating. I was just like “ok, Im fine with that.” Lol, he didn’t expect that.

      I don’t think they were thinking straight. They were caught up in MLC, career dilemmas, etc. They just wanted to run away from their problems. Until they found out the escape route was worse than the “Jail.” Very mature. But they are men!

    • Shifting Impressions

      This is a really helpful article. That term “Situational Narcissim” makes so much sense. I too wondered why my wonderful husband started behaving in in such a narcissistic way. The lies, the manipulation and the subtle cruelty….subtle but cruel nevertheless.

      He was behaving against his own moral code and there was no reasoning with him, during that time.

      He is so much more himself again. Thanks Sarah….making sense of things is so crucial to moving forward.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Shifting,

        I am glad the picture became more clear. I know very few people who write about this concept of situational narcissism, but I believe it is very real and linked to the affair fog.

        Many blessings,

    • CBB

      Thanks Sarah, just the post I needed. I still can’t figger out where my H fits in. All I really know is that my MIL fits the full picture!! And the OW to!. The thing I always struggle with is how much is his real behavior and how much was brainwashed by his M and than again revived with the OW…when those two are out of the picture things feel more normal.
      In healing from the EA I realised I needed to keep more distance from my MIL if I wanted to take care of myself. Now she just seems to get more grasp on my H again…. feel like I’m loosing a battle here especially with the OW still in the picture. I’ m quite convinced that the A is over but he can’t seem to stop trying to stay in her good books…. (she’s entangled in all our professional and social circles, even when I tried to get some other friends to hang out with she would find a way to infiltrate ..) I wonder , is it because he has learned his way around narcissists that he’s afraid to put them straight and stand overtly behind me? Or has he really inherited some narcissistic traits…..

      • Pearl

        As i was reading, I thought of my mother-in-law as well – an outright narcissist with the gaslighting technique and all. And the OW (a covert narcissist). The only blame I will take in this affair is that I was an enabler – I knew my husband could never stand up to his mother and sister so I never asked that of him – and when two women at work came along – he fell for the flattery hook, line and sinker (midlife crisis, life-long low self esteem and the death of our youngest child one year prior to the beginning of the affair) and threw me under the bus. My husband did become vain, the kids and I would look at each other and roll our eyes but now after reading this article I guess it was situational narcissism. In fact the OW always told him, “you deserve better”, “you deserve to be happy”. Well OW was cut off cold turkey – the day after D-day and so is mother-in-law !! My husband finally grew a pair and told his mother he wasn’t going to let her insult his wife or children anymore. She hung up on him and hasn’t made contact in well over a year.

        • TheFirstWife

          Good for your H for finally standing up for himself.

          We had to do the same thing with my MIL. Except we just never spoke with her again.

          Except once but she was ill and could barely speak. My H saw her – not I. She hated me for all those years for no reason.

          So my H just walked out of her life. I feel bad though b/c the other son (BIL) allowed his wife to be verbally abused by the MIL. And that sister in law has scars from it.

          Glad to see your H did the right thing.

        • Sarah P.


          First off, I am sorry that you lost a child. That is heart wrenching and it often causes divorces (believe it or not.) So, it’s no surprise he started an affair. I am glad your H woke up and also stood up to his mom. In the end, it sounds like he is a keeper and is willing to do what it takes to maintain a longterm relationship, even if he made a mistake during a profoundly stressful time.

          Many blessings,

      • Sarah P.

        Hi CBB,

        It sounds like the OW is a bit of a stalker (unless there are things your H is not telling you.) And most people who cheat put a big slant or spin of what is going on. Here is what I am going to guess is happening:

        1) Your H was raised in a narc family system. Therefore he is used to providing narc feed to the narc. (Narc=Narcissist)

        2) He got entangled with the OW because operating in such a dysfunctional way is his normal.

        3) Since he was raised by a narcissistic mom, he knows the fury of narcissistic rage. I know Shakespeare says, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And I say, that scorned woman is nothing compared to the rage unleashed by a scorned narcissist.

        Your H has never learned how to stand up to these narcissistic women who lead him around by the nose. First it was his mom and next it was the OW.

        I have a narc MIL who is one of the worst. Kind, little, meek me who always wanted to please others had to learn how to stand my ground against narc MIL and show her the game is OVER. You have no idea what kind of emotional gaslighting and abuse was directed at my husband, me, and even our kids all in an effort to tear us down and control us. One day, I had to learn how to become like Toto the dog and pull the curtain back on the so-called wizard to show that the big wizard was just a powerless, little person trying to use smoke and mirrors to control everyone. That took many years. My husband still doesn’t have the courage to do it and relies on me. Once these people are truly exposed for who they are, it is almost comical because the so-called power they wield over others has to be given to them by others and others are fooled into giving it because they are scared of the subsequent rage. And then they are exposed and they realize you know what they are all about and the game is over. Then, they have no choice but to either behave or be cut off completely from the rest of the family. Here is the thing about narcissists: they see the world in terms of power over others and have no concept of loving relationships. Because love is a give and take between two equals. Narcissists cannot be in equal relationships. They have to be top dog and have power over EVERYONE. That is another main difference between real people and narcs that I forgot to mention. Normal people seek LOVE. Narcs seek POWER. And this is why there will always be a disconnect with them.

        Your H is basically scared of these two larger than life women and does not yet know how to stand his ground.


        • Rose

          I saw this response was to CBB but it might as well have been to me! That’s exactly the nail on the head. My H absolutely cannot stand up to his bitch mother. When she says jump he says how high. He has NEVER defended me to her, even after she has said nasty things constantly. And then he had an EA with his cousin, her niece, who is exactly the same way…thrives on drama, tried to come between us with what she assumed to be the truth, etc. He says he tried to stop the emails from her (which were obscene) and when he would not respond, she got even worse, threatening to call me, etc. And this was just an online relationship! He could not stand up to her either. I’ve called him a pu&&y on several occasions and asked why he could not man up.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Rose,

            It sounds like you are dealing with a narcissistic family system and an enmeshed one.

            I don’t understand this whole cousin affair thing. There are several people who have reported this phenomenon.

            My husband’s first cousin got drunk and hit on my husband in front of her husband, her children, and me.

            One of the reasons we don’t do social media is because social media brings in all kinds of crazy opportunities. Too much drama.

            This is where my strength has returned. I do not put up with even a hint of B***shit in my current life. If someone is trying to poach, I take them on before it goes anywhere. I have learned that I make myself known as a formidable opponent when I get the first whiff of something. Most cockroaches scurry and find an easier target. But, some have been very persistent.

            ***Have you asked your H why on earth he could have an EA with a cousin?***

            Seriously, when my H’s cousin hit on him, I went off afterwards. I told him this person would have no place in our life, not even on the most casual level. No holiday cards, no emails, no NOTHING. And I said, “what kind of crazy person (who is married and has children) hits on her own first cousin in front of her husband and kids? That’s a whole new level of wackiness and we will have NO part of it.”

            I have figured out that what my H wants the most from me is to stand up to his mom and his other crazy family members. And so I have had to become that person who stands up and speaks for him when he cannot speak for himself. Children of narcissists are so messed up and it is up to the sane person in the relationship to show them what normal means.

            So sorry for what you are going through.


            • Rose

              Thanks Sarah. Honestly I just don’t know anymore. He had finished the other EA that lasted 2 years just about 6 months before reconnecting with this cousin. I think I mentioned he was unemployed at the time of this (on a forced medical leave) and bored and angry, while I was working 2 jobs. He says he started talking to her about their grandparents and trying to get info since she was older. How it got from that to obscene porno I have no idea. But the emails from her were about erotic dreams she had of him, how awful his wife must be to not be giving him the wild sex she could…etc. He fell for it. Then she started to get bunny boiler on him. Even though she was a coast away. There is SO much I don’t understand. After his 2-year EA was over, I thought we were making progress. I was starting to trust him again. I started playing cello again. Then DDay on 11/9/15. And I held it in that I knew for an entire month. I asked him 4 times “What’s going on with you and Susie?” Each time it was “nothing, haven’t heard from her.” Except the last time when he said “She came on to me!! It wasn’t my fault!!” And guess what…I hadn’t even accused him of anything. Didn’t hear from her for an entire year until we had a weekend away. I had all her email forwarded to me so he wouldn’t get it (he knew this). Then he got an email from her asking if he would be the executor of her will because they were soul mates!! She had her lawyer cc’d so H sent just him a letter telling her to cease and desist. But now…she calls his mother all the time. I can’t win. Sorry this is so long.

            • TheFirstWife

              Correction. You can win!

              By detaching and moving away from him and his infidelity lifestyle.

              The further you get the better things will be. You have proven that already.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Rose,

              Don’t apologize for the length of comments. The more I know about a situation the better advice I can give.

              It seems to me that your H must have spent your marriage living in a fantasy land. Many children of narcissists do this because they are not allowed to have their own reality– just that of the narcissist.

              And he feels most comfortable with crazy narcissists. When these broken people marry a woman with a semblance of normality, they have no framework for such a relationship. And they can float from one flirtation to another with people who remind them of the primary narcissist.

              In this way, it is truly not personal. But, knowing that does not take away the incredible hurt of living through such a situation.

              If I were you, I would ask your H what part of him thought it was okay to receive erotic fantasies from a cousin. I would ask him why he even thought this could be pursued. It’s a relative. Technically, it is called incest.

              It would not surprise me if his female cousin was sexually abused. Her behavior indicates someone who was.

              Very sad for everyone. 🙁


    • Rose

      One thing I’ve come to realize is my H is an incredible flirt. I’ve discussed this with him before, and he thinks he is just being “friendly.” I’m listening to him right now interviewing caregivers for his mom, and he’s giggling and acting like he’s 16. I mean, who wouldn’t be charmed? UGH.

      • Sarah P.


        I will tell you what. I would NOT be charmed because I can see through people like that. They fool a large part of the population but do not fool me. How can you sit there and listen to that? I would feel humiliated. But, I also understand how you can freeze in the moment and not know what to say.

        For example, something will occasionally take me off guard and I won’t address it. My H and I went away for a night alone in a boutique hotel. Every time the 20-something female waitress came, she would physically put both her hands on his chair and lean over him. It was not even subtle. It was so out there I froze. Now, if I had my wits about me, I would have said, “I am pretty sure that you received training and so you should know that you don’t put your hands on a customers chair when you are supposed to be taking someone’s order.” But I didn’t. I let it go because I did not want to ruin our evening.

        On the other hand, I got very hard core b**** one day at Home Depot. Our microwave had broken and I was using measurements to figure out which one would slide into that space. I found the one I wanted. The 20-something overly made up sales lady squeezed between both of us and started addressing only my husband. I said to my husband, “Please take our son and find some patio chairs.” The ‘little girl’ was flabbergasted. Then she started telling me about her boyfriend in another city and did not waste my time and got me the microwave I wanted. I was trying to figure out what her motive was for being so unprofessional and I think she was trying to try to make my husband notice her, therefore feeling better about herself because she got a man to stop paying attention to his (attractive) wife. I have compared notes with other women my age and we have found millennial’s like to do this. It doesn’t matter what the guy looks like, they get a sense of power by snagging attention away from the wife. I am going to tell you straight up that I cannot tell you how many countless men in their 20’s flirt with me or notice me. I only know this because my 13-year-old watches men to see if they notice me and he gets pissed. And then he tells me about it and complains about it.

        After the Home Depot incident my husband was going to take me on. He said, “did you really have to send me away like that?” And I said, “You don’t want to go there. That employee was being very unprofessional and I was not in a mood to play games.” and he said, “did you really have to do that?” And I was like, “you really don’t want to take me on. Don’t go there.”

        Truthfully, this is the first time I went that far as blatantly sending my husband off and declaring game over. I let that milennial know I saw what she was doing and that she would be dealing with me, not my husband. She was definitely flustered.

        It’s like this. I have never flirted with another woman’s husband. (I am not a flirt in the first place.) And when I was a late teen or 20-something and older guys would leer at me in front of their wives, I would get PISSED. And I would not play the game. I had empathy for the wife and felt sorry for her for being stuck with such a bozo. I always have identified with the wife throughout my life. If a man hits on me in public, I think about his wife and feel disgusted.

        Here is what is even more weird. These days, most men who stare at me or hit on me are in their 20’s or 30’s. I guess I am “too old” to be stared at by men my own age. (The men my age are too busy staring at Millenials.)

        Any other woman out there having that experience?

        How do the rest of you handle flirting waitresses and/or disrespectful husbands?


        • Rose

          Oh I’m not charmed. Trust me. It disgusts me. He once went with me years ago into a bra/lingerie store. There was no one there but us and the checker. She said “Hi, welcome, my name is Susie. Let me know if I can help.” He said in exaggerated tones, “Hiiiii, Susie, I’m REALLY happy to be here today and I’ll let you know.” I pulled him aside and said, “Hey, that was super creepy.” He goes, “What? I’m just being friendly.” No, it was definitely flirting and creepy. He sent out these Facebook messages at Christmas to all of his 30 friends that were fairly personal and said “We should meet for hugs and coffee in person, even though I know that’s not possible.” He actually read this to me and I said “That’s creepy.” He again didn’t get it. I said I would NEVER send a message like that to anyone but my best friends, not acquaintances on Facebook. It’s like he is a social moron and can’t figure out how to interact properly with people.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Rose,
            I think when someone like your H sends such messages to acquaintances, they are trying to set up a false image of themselves that they hope others believe. That way if something were to come out about who he really is, people may not believe it. It’s a common tactic, unfortunately.

            Keep calling him on it when he is creepy.


        • Hopeful

          I am like you and never flirt or feed into that kind of guy. It is just not who I am as a person or morally. I will say when I was younger and got hit on i would ignore it. It was always older men and creepy. As I am older now I have had younger men hit on me. Granted most women think I am at least 10 years younger than I am so maybe that is a factor. Also there have been many occasions when friends of my husband i think have gotten too close. During the affair years my husband did address it but I do not think he was as firm as I wanted him to be. I think he was okay with more permissive behavior and he has also told me he trusted me so much he knew nothing would ever happen. Now he is way more protective of me.

          • Sarah P.


            You and me are so alike. And my husband boasts that he knows I would never cheat. Sometimes I don’t think it is good for someone to get so comfortable because they can take good people for granted.


    • Betty

      Where does a dissociative diagnosis fit in here? I’ve seen him switch, but the narcissist part is the dominant personality in the ending of now going on 39 year marriage. It’s going on two years. I can’t get an end to the abuse as he’s dragging out this divorce in order to continue it. I had to file and push at each turn. The more gas lighting, lies, and truths are exposed for purely legal reasons the longer it’s taking.

      • Sarah P.


        You need to read a book called “The Myth of Sanity.” There are a lot of people out there who have dissociative personality disorder.

        But, you also need to read books about high conflict people and high conflict divorces. Why are you divorcing after 39 years?


    • Betty

      Multiple affairs ( on his part), psychological, sexual, and some physical abuse.
      And I filed and left almost 2 years ago,
      Navigating his narcissistic portion has been exhausting.
      Thank you for the reading recommendations.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Betty,
        You need to read about psychopaths and how they handle divorces.

        I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear what you are going through. I hope you can break all ties with this man sooner rather than later.

        Here is a website I recommend. Their specialty is dealing with high conflict situations, including high conflict divorces. They are psychologists and truly know their stuff:

        We are also here for you.

        Big hugs,

    • Situated NPD

      Reading the situational NPD made me realize I’m still a terrible person, just most likely not the lifer status of a disordered NPD person. I truly feel I was matepoached by a much younger also married at the time female who didn’t care if I was married or not. I became her mentor in a law enforcement procession she wanted to grow in. Her history of cheating with married men (because she could ) according to her and turbulent interpersonal relationships should have been enough to make me run. I fell in love hard. It was sex fast and hard. She wanted to marry me within 6 months and I wasn’t even divorced yet. She hit a couple times unprovoked. I feel completely worthless. I am so wrong. I have seen multiple therapists and countless financial losses to mental health clinicians. I am well educated and mature yet totally in the grips of what I feel is a vulnerable narcissist. I stayed married, told my wife, but feel so worthless, used and debilitated.

    • Anon

      Situated NPD

      I hope you are continuing to get counseling. It should help you to make the changes you seem to want to make.

      This OW and relationship feels like something out of a middle school boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

      It is easy to get in too deep and not be able to find your way out.

      No contact is the first step. And the hardest to maintain as well.

      I too was involved with a guy in my early 20s who was a serial cheater- unbeknownst to me. I was crazy about him and loved him blah blah blah. After I ended it when I found he had been cheating I realized he victimized me b/c I was young and naive and he could play me for a fool.

      Sounds a bit like your A. She seems cold and calculating and you were victimized by her and she enjoys the drama and chaos the A created. How very immature of her but you both fed off of it.

      Your A sounds like an addiction in some ways. Time to stop romanticizing it and see it for what it is.

    • john

      I have been with my wife for 10 years… about 6 years ago I went through what I thought was my “midlife crisis” bought a mustang cobra Got jacked AF and just started sleeping with any female i felt like at the time… (I’m not proud of what i did but its the truth).. BUT i would like to say that for MONTHS before i finally went off the deep end i BEGGED my wife to engage in some form of marriage counseling or therapy because I could sense that something was off in our marriage the lack of affection from her the lack of intimacy the subtle putdowns the constant criticism mind you i was an E-7 in the military at the time working 6 days a week 14 hours a day on average and still when i would come home it was like nothing i did mattered or was good enough she can ALWAYS find something to JAB at me… fast forward to April 11th 2021 my wife tells me she has to work out of state and immediately i knew something was off because i asked her for the dates and she couldn’t give me the specifics (which is bullshit anyone whos had to work out of state for a company knows that you get told in advanced so you can make arrangements for kids family etc.) I wont go into the details on how i discovered her “emotional affair” because she SWEARS she never slept with the guy I think that is Bullshit as well but i digress. Since D day i have acknowledged to her that I did contribute to her affair with my behavior i suffer from PTSD and did not realize how bad it had gotten but since Dday i have seeked help to manage it as well as “putting in work” on myself and our relationship.. Since learning more about NPD i cant ignore the signs of her covert narcissism any longer. I can simply say to her “you know babe when you plan things with your friends without telling me especially on our anniversary it makes me feel like im not a priority in our relationship” Immediately she got upset told me im crazy for feeling that way (invalidating how i feel) then moving into the victim role ” Why do you always have to say things like this and make me cry how can i ever be happy with someone whos so negative all the time”…. (the gaslighting) me having been with this girl for 10 years and FINALLY have awakened to the mind games she uses… i called her out said here you go again playing the victim gaslighting me into thinking how i feel IS WRONG while you twist the story on to me so i will end up apologizing even though we both know YOUR WRONG all because i tried to tell you how the things you do make me feel?!?! thats the point when i snapped… now im yelling to plead my case to make her understand how shes wrong THIS WILL MAKE HER UNDERSTAND RIGHT?!?! wrong… all she did was then give me the silent treatment for almost 8 hours when i finally broke and said IM SORRY OK IM SORRY IM WRONG YOUR RIGHT IM OVER REACTING IM SENSITIVE…. and this is how it will ALWAYS go down when you try to bring your feelings concerns or doubts up to a narcissistic partner :*( and TBH it crushes me to find this out about her because i love this woman with all my heart and the only thing i can do now is just try to realize that we both are broken individuals who are trying to learn how to love and cope with one another :/ i love this website and everyone in this community yall are beautiful people God speed

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