Marriages can survive affairs. However, when the cheater has narcissistic personality disorder it is doubtful that a marriage can be saved.

narcissistic personality disorderby Sarah P.

There are many cases where marriages can survive affairs; and indeed even thrive after the affair ends and healing has begun.

However, there is an instance where it is probable that a marriage cannot be saved. This occurs when the person engaging in the sexual affair also has a cluster B disorder, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Let me begin by briefly defining the difference between extreme selfishness and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The Clinical Guidelines for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In the DSM-V, a person must exhibit the following traits in order to qualify for a formal diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. This is a summary in my own words:

1. Identity is based solely or excessively upon drawing self-esteem from the approval of others. They can be extremely moody since their self-esteem is drawn from the appraisal of others.

2. Goals (self-direction) are based on setting impossibly high standards for oneself as well as gaining external approval from others.

3. Inability to empathize with the needs of others. While the reactions of others are on their radar, it is within the context of how the reaction of the other person impacts them personally.

4. Inability to maintain intimate relationships since relationships are superficial and are required to provide a mirror that reflects back a positive image of them.

5. Antagonistic attitude characterized by grandiosity, the belief that they are far better than others, and the belief that they are always entitled.

6. Constant attention seeking behavior with the intent of gaining visible admiration from others. (This admiration has been referred to as narcissistic feed in many online blogs).

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Then, there is one last global requirement in order for a person to meet the criteria for this diagnosis. This person’s behavior must be pervasive across time and contexts; and culture and/or chemical dependency issues cannot better explain away this person’s behavior.

It is an exhaustive list of requirements, but it provides a complete picture of what you would use to differentiate between garden-variety selfishness and pathological narcissism.

While almost everyone (unless that person is the Dalai Lama) can occasionally fit the description of the traits above, if they are not core traits that are pervasive throughout time and context, that person is not a narcissist.

This is an important difference since it affects the outcome of whether or not a marriage is likely to be salvageable after an affair.

While many people take on intense narcissist traits when they are in the middle of a full-blown sexual affair, if that person was not a narcissist beforehand, then their marriage is likely salvageable.

But, when you are married to someone with NPD, the marriage is not salvageable.


Here’s a short video by Dr. Les Carter, a therapist who lives in Dallas, Tx. and author of “Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life”


The Rationale


Well first of all, one study at the university of Florida found that “They see sexuality more in terms of power, influence and as something daring, in contrast to people with low narcissistic qualities who associated sex more with caring and love” (8/4/2006).

Then one must also consider that in order for a marriage to recover from an affair, there are two ingredients that are core to the process that narcissists inherently lack.

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These ingredients for healing are the ability for the offending spouse to have accountability for his or her actions, and the ability to empathize with the spouse’s feelings of betrayal.

Since narcissists have the inability to consider themselves in the wrong (all because they feel superior to others), they will displace blame on people or situations outside of themselves. Now, even in normal relationships this happens, but in normal relationships the offending partner ultimately has the ability to self-reflect and take accountability.

Then there is the issue of failure to empathize. Someone with NPD will never be able to empathize with their partner and understand the hurt that was caused. Even if the partner with NPD breaks off the affair for good, his or her inability to empathize will never go away. So, there can be no real healing from an affair within this environment.

Narcissism: The Difference Between Affair-Driven Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

But what if the person with NPD seeks individual therapy and changes?

Well, that would be fantastic! Unfortunately, many of my own mentors have a very grim outlook, after attempting for many years, to succeed in making progress with a narcissistic client. There is usually a profound lack of insight that accompanies NPD and that severely undermines the therapeutic process.

In addition to lack of empathy and accountability, many narcissists display abusive behavior. Recently Forbes magazine wrote, “Very often, narcissistic men are also abusers—and unlike other kinds of abusive partners, they feel no regret or remorse. In fact, they believe themselves to be the one who’s been wronged” (Landers 12/11/12).

So, with no accountability, with no remorse, and with no empathy, having a healthy relationship with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is impossible.

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A Brief Case Study

Recently, I came across a blog where women were sharing their stories of what it is like to be married to a narcissist who refuses to give up affairs. One woman shared an actual email that she wrote to her husband providing him with an ultimatum.

She eloquently and clearly set boundaries, she discussed her needs in great detail, and she discussed how his actions made her feel. Finally, she ended her email with this sentiment: commit to the marriage, or we will have to call it quits. She asked for him to respond.

All in all, it was an excellent email and if she were married to a normal man, I believe that her words would have gotten through to him. Unfortunately, this lovely and patient woman was not married to a normal man. She was married to a narcissist who had many sexual affairs.

His response to her email was equally “eloquent” and I am directly quoting, word for word, his reply to his wife. He simply said:

“Fuck u u commit or quit”.

Now, in addition to narcissists lacking empathy, they obviously also lack the intelligence to spell out words, write in complete sentences, and use descriptives that do not include the “f” word.

In Summary

As you can see, there isn’t much that is salvageable in a marriage where one person is a pathological narcissist. Thus, if you are married to a someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I would recommend simply that “u quit”.

Readers, what do you think?

Are relationships with narcissists salvageable?

Sound off!


*Originally posted on 2/7/14 and updated on 10/19/21

    43 replies to "Narcissistic Personality Disorder + Sexual Affair + Low Accountability = Unsalvageable Marriage"

    • EyesOpened

      Sarah P – your posts are extremely thought provoking. I have spent every spare minute I have, since seeing this, reading up on narcissistic behaviours – and now I’m trying to work out whether I have npd or traits or whether my husband has or both of us! This is going to drive me crazy but THANK YOU for introducing this subject. I have a feeling that I am on the path to learning something pivotal right now and I am very scared but very grateful to you and as always EA.ORG

      • Sarah P.

        Hello EyesOpened,
        Thanks again for your feedback! I really appreciate it and always hope that anything that I write can add perspective. Currently working on a longer post that brings in the effects of narcissism and extended family.

        Thanks again!

      • Jane

        Hi, I’ve been studying this subject for 2 solid years and I can tell you that nearly all victims of Narcissistic abuse wonder if it is them because of the constant projections, gaslighting and all of the other abusive mind games. The fact that you can say “am I the narcissist?” means that you probably aren’t. When I started going to counseling after fleeing my home (he made me move at night so his Precious Neighbors wouldn’t see), when she asked me why I was there, I said “One of us is crazy and I’m not sure if it’s him or me!” And I wanted to know why I couldn’t keep friends. Now I know it’s because he isolated me from every single friend that I had since the beginning of our relationship, except one, who has remained my best friend for 25 years.

    • Tryinghard

      After DDay and I found myself in the Psyche ER I was adamant to find a therapist. The first one I went to said my H had this disorder even though she had never met him. I was flabbergasted at the thought while listening to her. Although at the time I was in total shock about everything. Immediately I started googling everything I could find on this subject. Through very amateur reading I found my husband had some traits but did not believe he had the disorder since not all the described traits applied to him. I did learn however that his mother undoubtedly has the full blown disorder. I think my husband has some traits most particularly a stunted ability to be empathic. It’s definitely a defense mechanism I think. I think the therapist wrongly diagnosed him, if that is what she was indeed doing but this sent my on the road to reading and understanding more about the psychological impact it has had on my husband being raised by a mother who has NPD. Had I really believed he had NPD I know I would have left him as there is NO reforming folks that have it.

      I’m so glad you are posting here as it gives us a truly educated psychological aspect to our problems at hand. Thank you so much for your wonderful thought provoking input.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello TryingHard,

        Your comments about narcissism set me to writing about the intersection of in-laws and NPD, specifically what happens when a woman marries the son of a narcissistic mother.

        For the past couple of years, this phenomenon has come to the forefront. I have spoken to many who have found themselves in this situation. I will be presenting a case study of a couple that has been dealing with this situation and present the far-reaching negative implications as well as what to do about them. It’s interesting when husbands have narcissistic mothers because more often than not, the narcissistic mother attempts to put herself in to the role of (emotional) mistress.

        Thanks again for your comments!

        • ASG

          My MIL is narcissistic. Full blown. My husband is borderline. He has most of the traits. He also has an inability to be honest and faithful. Working on getting him moved out ASAP.

    • Tryinghard

      Hello eyes

      You know how much I like hearing from you and I have wanted to address your comments for some time now ever since you posted your thought on the thread about affairs with co workers. It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts together.

      You told the story of how your marriage was floundering and the problems within your marriage you thought contributed to your affair with a married man. I don’t think you had the affair to advance yourself financially or for your career. It sounds like you were just realllllyy lonely. That makes me sad for you. I’m sorry you turned to a much more self destructive way to soothe yourself. I’m sure at first it seemed like an answer however in the end it’s left you worse off. I am truly sorry.

      I need to tell your words could have been my words except I didn’t have an affair. Even before his affair life was all about my husband and his needs. I was very sad and down about losing my business and what I felt like was a betrayal from my former business partner. Meanwhile my husbands business was flourishing. The recession hadn’t hit him yet and he was flying high professionally. I stayed home and put NO demands on him because I felt so guilty about losing our personal investment in my failed business. Also there was very little physical contact between us and when there was it was all about him. No romance, no tenderness, nothing just the physical which made me feel even more isolated and ashamed. So if anyone in this relationship was ripe for an affair it was me!

      The day after DDay the OW boyfriend/ex son in law called my husband and told him everything about how their relationship was sexual and had been going on for the last two years of my H and her affair. She divorced his dad and less than 3 months later she started up with the son! Nice right? He also found out first hand about her drinking and gambling problems. I went into investigation mode and found out she had gone bankrupt twice and owed every body and their brother money. He “loaned” her a lot of money to repair her house for which she was supposed to refinance her house and pay him back. Well guess what she never did the loan papers because she knew she could never get a loan. He did not know any of this at the time. I gave him that information. Really, really stupid on his part.

      So once all this crap comes to light for him she is no longer quite the wonderful person he thought she was or how she portrayed herself to be. Matter of fact con artist is the words he uses for her. Now I’m not looking so bad. He wants back and I want him back. Now I am the most wonderful, sexy, perfectly beautiful wife. He can’t do enough to please me in or outside of bed. Now don’t get me wrong I’m loving all this adoration but where the hell has all this adoration been???? Does he only want me because of this bad personal experience he had with this con artist?? Why did it take so much destruction for him to see that he already had the best? Why couldn’t we communicate before he decided to have a long term affair? Is he only with me because he realized the OW was a real piece of shit dressed in sheeps clothing? So I too question my husbands motives in the same way you question your husbands. It’s just that mine are coming from a different angle as the BS and not the CS

      Maybe in both our cases the affair is just a huge wake up call for every one to look at what they have and start taking care of it.

      • Sarah P.

        It’s certainly true that affairs can serve as huge wake up calls and can actually allowed a couple to have a more authentic relationship. Sorry your H was involved with a sociopath. Luckily he realizes it now. It is just unfortunate that it took a sociopath to make him realize that he already had the best right at home!

    • EyesOpened

      TH – I will reply properly tomorrow. All I can say is what I see of you is so admirable and inspiring. You are darn witty too. I’m still laughing at your comment on a previous thread saying ‘ he sure puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional’ lol!!!

      I feel like a fraud on this site because there is something unfair about ME getting comfort from here – but I share, and dare I say it, ’empathise’ with the feelings and thoughts of so many on here, that … Well actually it would be insensitive for me to share that comment.

      But suffice to say even though I’m a former OW – I really do believe with one flap of a butterfly’s wing it could have been a very different story – and at the moment I’m desperately trying to cling on with my fingernails – not knowing if I’m prolonging our agony or working towards a happy ending . Only time will tell.

      I understand your questions TH – and I think you will never have your concrete answers because you will never know how Mr TH will behave. – only how you will. But I tell you something – I do believe we make our own luck ( or bad judgements), and I also believe men’s infidelity perspective is very different from women’s (as you have previously mentioned).

      That man is so very lucky to have you and so very unlucky to have encountered her.

      Sorry this isn’t finished – I should have waited – but wanted to thank you for your amazing words.

      • Exercise grace

        Eyes, just a quick comment. WTH??? Why would you feel like a fraud for getting comfort here? Why is that unfair? Life isn’t fair, and all of us have been wronged. You have been open to sharing your story and trying to support other women here. We all agree that infidelity is wrong, and I see something truly beautiful in sharing our stories and leaning on each other. Blessings to you!

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Eyes,

        It is always great to get your perspective!! I believe it is great to hear both sides, especially since we are all here to empathize with and support each other. Plus, it helps with putting this topic in perspective.

        Thanks again for sharing your perspective!

    • Tryinghard

      Hello eyes
      Haha. Well if I didn’t have my sense of humor I’d have bought a high powered rifle a long time ago, climb in a tree, and taken pot shots at some people. I have to find humor, it’s just the dark side of me.

      As far as I’m concerned you are NO fraud. You are right the shoe could have been on the other foot very easily and so I see this as all of us suffering the same human condition, right or wrong. We are all here to listen, learn and help where we can.

      I couldn’t help but notice the irony in our betrayal. You are questioning the same things I am questioning with regards to our husbands motives for reconciliation

      I look forward to hearing from you again.

    • CBB

      Hello EO, I would think the mere fact of your presence on this site shows you’re at least trying to look for answers,not running away or ignoring your part of the problem. l don’t think NPD’ s are humble enough to do so.
      Thanks Sarah for your input! I’ve been struggling with pinpointing the main problem in my recovery. I’m afraid I’ve been dealing with a MIL with NPD. It’s a very touchy subject within our marriage. I tried to live with it for my H’ sake not realizing why it was so hard to find a compromise. What made me flip is realizing the OW is also one. But her IQ is way higher and meanwhile she gained a a very power position on the work floor My H knows she’s dangerous, ever since I put my foot down she’s been playing power games…. I know she’s not interested in my H as such just the power over him. But sometimes I feel he’s more understanding with her than me. Is it because it’s known territory or might he just be narcistic to ? I’t sometimes feels as if he’s addicted to her in a way…. I now feel stuck between fighting for my marriage while keeping 2 women with NPD at arms length. And while I keep my mouth shut they both make sure being well imbedded in our social circle and playing the perfect women! Grrr…TH if you ever need some knew targets to aim your riffle at… I used to focus on them playing angry birds! It’s healing ..

      • Sarah P.

        Hello CBB,

        My next post will involve a very detailed case study and analysis of what happens when a normal woman happens to marry a man who has a narcissistic mother.

        One of the many issues is that if a man has not individuated from a narcissistic mother, he will unconsciously be drawn into relationships with those women who are similar to his mother. Yet, consciously he might chose and even marry a normal woman. Consciously he craves normalcy– he knows he needs it in order to survive.
        But, if he has not fully examined his own mother’s narcissism and made a psychological break from it (which includes setting strong boundaries), he will unconsciously be drawn toward that which he has experienced. Now, he may not have an affair with such a woman, but he may befriend a narcissistic woman or become an emotional confidante without even realizing why.

        I will explain all of this in my next post. It will be quite lengthy since this is a very involved topic.

        Thanks again, CBB!

        • tryinghard

          I am looking forward to this post about Narcissists mothers. My husband has NOT dealt with this fact and I am sure sees no relationship between his relationship with his mother and his affair. He has admitted that the OW was a complete narcissist (not his words, just through what he told me about their conversations it was all about her). And it’s my therapist that is guessing she’s a sociopath. I’m learning!!!!

          If nothing else comes out of this nightmare at least I am learning a lot about human nature 🙂

          • Sarah P.

            Hello TryingHard,

            Maybe through this experience, your H might also start to have some epiphanies about his relationship with his own mother and get to the bottom of how he likely got sucked in to the experience with the OW. Hopefully he will be more informed the next time he encounters someone like the OW and avoid the pitfall.

            Sounds like the OW could also be a sociopath. I have heard other therapists say “Not every narcissist is a sociopath; but every sociopath is a narcissist.” Maybe the narcissistic side of the OW was more out in the open than the sociopathic core.

            Truly hope that your husband chooses to learn some lessons from this experience. I have to admit that I become a little fearful anytime I hear from a betrayed spouse that the OW might be a sociopath. Keep the OW as far away from your life as possible. When your husband is willing to listen, you might want to educate him about the fact that there could have been more harm done by the affair than just the unfaithful-to-the-marriage part. One never knows how far sociopaths are willing to go.

            • Strengthrequired

              When I think of my h ow, land the things she had done, the first thing that comes to my mind with her, and has ever since she came into our life, was fatal attraction.
              My h though found it hard to think she wasn’t any good. Just like many other cs…

        • Scared

          I can’t wait till you post about the Narrsitistic MIL. We added on a suit for my Husbands mother. lost her 2nd husband After she moved in reality of who she really was came to light. Constantly telling me I was cooking something wrong, stopped husband to complain about me everyday when he’d get home from wk. ( I found this out when I gave husband my last ultimatium) ! She was going to both our grown daughters talking bad about me even to our 11 year old. I asked Him to speak with her several times. Gave Him stipulations. She’s to stop or.move out. I lost a good friend in March passed in sleep, and my daughter got married in April
          She never stopped. Even told H how bad a job I did on wedding.. my mom died July 17th. I thought it would make her be more caring towards me. Nope got worse. I was so sick to my stomach by August, I just stopped taking care of my family, myself, would spend hours in our 5th wheel because being in house I’d feel so sick. Thought all my pain I starting experiencing was because my mom died. Husband said he spoke to her, of course I know now it was like, mom stop talking to kids about my wife. It should have been, STOP or get out. We’ll by the end of September, once again she decided to go off on me in front of daughter, over nothing! My daughter 18 looked at me and said, just ignore her mom. Neither of us felt we said anything bad..
          Didn’t know she went straight out to shop to tell husband off about me.
          As I was leaving for an app that I had. I over heard the Husband say, mom I have to deal with her too, I don’t know why she acts like that.
          My Husband just said he has to deal with me! I let them know i heard their conversation told them both were to go, packed, left. Was gone for 7 days. I told him she was to be moved out. Now it’s been over 2 months, but the resentment is so bad I’m seeking council. If anyone speaks her name ect I feel so sick.
          She’s still talking bad to my kids about me, my son called to say happy birthday to his grandma an she started talking me down, son told me only in conversation cause he didn’t understand why we just can’t let it go. Sad sad part, she lives at bottom of property with her other son now.. .Husband finally said he needed a break from her because she told our 29 yr old ” HE my husband threw her out without notice. He had remodled the brothers extra bedroom bath so shed be comfortable.
          So supposedly Husband told her this, but the other day after Ive asked him to not speak to me about her ect. Felt it nessasary to tell me he went in on a gift for her, and next day the gift arrived on my front porch. I feel he does not realize how painful this is for me. We have been married 26years and I fear I have fallen out of love with him. He constantly brings her up, saying oh you don’t want to know where I’m stoppinh, or doing ect. I feel as if he’s having an affair, that’s how much pain I’m in, can’t eat, sleep. I can’t wait for your article I need advice..

    • tweet

      Whether our cheating spouses have NPD, OCD, anxiety disorder, etc., where does that leave us? The pain is the same, and, the ultimate question is – how can we get through this?
      To EO – I’m sure that being on this site is difficult for you. I always appreciate your insights, and understand that you are negotiating the maze of emotions that we all are, even if it’s from a different perspective. If you were my husband’s OW, the path to reconciliation would be so much easier. But, you must understand that most of us have never received anything of value from our spouses’ APs, and that’s where the negativity comes in. In my case, I sent a nasty e-mail to her via Linkedin, and immediately apologized for what I had written. Her answer was that I was opening “old wounds”, and that SHE felt “horrible” about what had happened. Really? And what about me? She is incapable of understanding the damage that she has done, and my husband has never dealt with her as he should have. She is a coward, and will never take ownership for the destruction that she has caused. Yet, I have to live in this very small town with her. There is no shame and no remorse…

      Sorry, just venting again!

      Sorry, just venting yet again!

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Tweet,

        It sounds like the OW is a narcissist. I don’t blame you for sending her a message. Unfortunately, no matter what a normal person says or does, it will never break through to an N. To someone with NPD, the world is always about them, and even when they victimize others, they literally believe themselves to be the victim. It’s too bad you guys cannot move out of your town. It must be incredibly tough to live in a small town and not have a sense of closure around this.


    • CBB

      I do think it matters. It’s true the pain is the same but the solutions might be different. Although we all lean towards some kind of disorder it’s not because we have some traits that we classify for the DSM-V diagnosis (wich means it’s over the boundaries of normal destribution). For me it is important. With my MIL it took me 10y to realise she is Not a reasonable person, she does NOT mean well. I do NOT have to doubt my gut feeling, I do NOT have to feel guilty .She will NEVER feel sorry/guilty/responable… She does NOT have the empathy needed to create a reasonable agreement on what is fair for everyone. I’ve waisted years trying (for the whole family’s sake) to have a reasonable compremise but is was never enough, it was never about us, it was all about her. And even my empathy was only used to her convenious. It sad to see, and in a way I feel sorry for her. But I know now it’s a waste of my energy. I just hope my gut feeling that there is more to recuperate from my relationship with my H is not an illusion…And for the other women (also small town, impotant person!) she actually started a subtle war and I haven’t een opened my mouth ever for the last 2y, no shame no remorse but not coward, she just started war and knew I woudn’t lower myself to her depts, so for the outside world she wins and gloats…

      • Sarah P.

        Hello CBB,

        I have either spoken to wives with narcissist mother-in-laws or read different blogs about these MILs. There are A LOT of women in your situation. Believe it or not, NPD is more common than any of us would ever think and so there are many other normal women going through the same thing.

        (To clarify, when I say ‘normal’ I refer to people who have empathy, who can understand their own role in contributing to issues, and who can genuinely feel remorse when it is warranted).

        You are describing a MIL with textbook narcissism (and possibly an overlap with borderline personality disorder). I don’t know enough to say for sure, but just on the information you provide, it would be a reasonable guess.

        The next post that I send to Doug and Linda for posting will likely resonate with you. The issue with narcissists is that their behavior is so similar to one another that just about every wife I meet who has a narcissist MIL has experienced the very same things. The names, dates, and locations might change, but the behavior of the various narcissist’s is remarkably the same.

    • CBB

      I ment ‘important’ person but LOL when I saw my typing error

    • EyesOpened

      TH you made me laugh. EG now you’ve made me cry. CBB and Tweet you’ve overwhelmed me. Thank you.

      We had a humdinger of a counselling session today – lots of it drawing from this particular post.

      To get back and read these comments just made me realise what an amazing. ‘Place’ this is.

      TH – rereading your post – I am oversimplifying hugely but – looking at my relationship with my H. There is one massive thing I want from him and that is the freedom to say ‘no’ with no reprisal or guilt or anything . He says I keep changing the goalpost but I don’t . As I was eluding to earlier – I think men are simple folk . I think if they’re not getting their cake with cherries on top at home – they’ll fill the void elsewhere. With women it is a deeper, harder to identify, emotional void which is more difficult to get at. So ultimately in my simple brain I think Mr TH has got his starter, main and cake at home now at his own gourmet Michelin Star restaurant. Before, Whilst desert wasn’t on the menu he popped out to the local greasy spoon and gorged on junk for a while. I think it made him sick and he knows that he won’t go there again !!!

      Just my opinion.

      As for the business . Wow! Am so impressed you had a go. OK -so it didn’t work out but you had a go and you can help others not to tread the same path. I want to be able to say ‘I had my own business’ one day. Even if it fails – I’ll have at least got that far!

      Hugs to all – I’m going to sleep with a smile on my face tonight – and after my day today I did not expect that at all. Thank you.

      • tryinghard

        OK how about this. Use a lot of body language. When you say NO look him square in the eye, feet planted shoulder width apart and just one simple word, NO. No explanation, no excuses. Give some time for the NO to set in. They just can’t stand hearing the word and if they are partcularly selfish brats they will try to worm they way into you saying yes. Stay resolute sister (said with my feminist fist pumped in the air! I hear you laughing!)

        I love your analogy with food and you may be on to something because that is sure how he is acting. I’m a freaking filet mignon who can iron too.

        OMG my store. It was fabulous and I worked my ass off putting it together, We had antiques, new furnishing, party flowers (yep weddings etc) 6500 SQ FT (what is that in metric?). Beautiful antique chandeliers from Europe and beautiful accessories. Anyway It was the prettiest store I had ever seen. Every morning when I walked in it just made me happy–until my partner pulled herself and her check book and then it morphed into an albatross. She used our business to help her build and furnish her vacation home, which by the way could be something in House Beautiful. She never sabotaged me, but she sure didn’t help it either. When she was done, she was done. We’ve remained friends and I’ve forgiven her, but she sure threw me under the bus for her own needs. It was an awful time the summer of 2008 and of course little did I know that the person to whom I was feeling tremendous guilt was betraying me like no one else ever had or will again.

        As I was closing my store and counting stems of flowers and all the rest of the crap to sell she was off spending the summer in her new home out west. Left me all by myself to handle it all!! She was way smarter than me and I don’t know but maybe if I had been in her shoes I would have done the same. Probably not though I would have felt too guilty leaving her with that mess. I’ve learned a lot about people and human nature the hard way the last few years and most of it is very ugly. Somehow I have a feeling I’m not done. My business was a dream for me that turned into a nightmare. But you are right, at least I tried. If you ever need any advice about opening a business I can tell you exactly what NOT TO DO!

        Hey I had therapy today too and had good news from my shrink. She thinks I’m healing nicely. That made for a good day!!

    • UnrealLife

      Glad that you brought up DSM-V. A lot of the behaviors that you listed for Narcissists, also apply to people with Asperger’s (now just referred to as part of autism). The motivations are different, but the prognosis of little change being possible with therapy, applies to both. I started looking to this site for help, soon after my husband announced his affair and desire to leave. I couldn’t understand why so many of the very practical observations and techniques listed here just didn’t work for us. Once the AS diagnosis came out (6 months into the process), it all became crystal-clear, but still devastating. Knowledge, however, truly is power, and having a more realistic idea of why we didn’t work has aided my healing greatly. Given a possible rate of 1 in 55, i urge women who aren’t getting any answers at all, to look AS up for themselves. This site, however, has still helped a lot.

      • Sarah P.

        I am so sorry about what you are experiencing and really hope that knowing it literally IS him and not you can help you heal.

        Thank you so much for bringing up Asperger’s syndrome. You are absolutely right that this disorder can have some similarities to narcissism.

        People with Asperger’s have an extremely difficult time processing and relating social cues. They are very self-centered and have a limited range of interests. So, Aspergers can and does get misdiagnosed as narcissism.

        But, from what I know about Asperger’s, his relationship with the OW is NOT going to last. He can move on from relationship to relationship, but he stays the same. His behaviors that occurred in your marriage will eventually occur with the OW. Only, since he and the OW do not have the same history that you and he have, she may not be inclined to stay. Once she finds out that the grass isn’t greener (in fact, it’s a quite difficult lawn to tend!) she will likely leave. And also, if he was motivated to have an affair because he perceived something wasn’t right within your marriage, he will soon find out that the same issues will come up with the OW.

        In case you are interested, I found a detailed description by Dr. Sam Varkin about the factors that differentiate narcissism and Asperger’s. Dr. Varkin says:

        “The gulf between Asperger’s and pathological narcissism is vast.

        The narcissist switches between social agility and social impairment voluntarily. His social dysfunctioning is the outcome of conscious haughtiness and the reluctance to invest scarce mental energy in cultivating relationships with inferior and unworthy others. When confronted with potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, however, the narcissist easily regains his social skills, his charm, and his gregariousness.

        Many narcissists reach the highest rungs of their community, church, firm, or voluntary organization. Most of the time, they function flawlessly – though the inevitable blowups and the grating extortion of Narcissistic Supply usually put an end to the narcissist’s career and social liaisons.

        The Asperger’s patient often wants to be accepted socially, to have friends, to marry, to be sexually active, and to sire offspring. He just doesn’t have a clue how to go about it. His affect is limited. His initiative – for instance, to share his experiences with nearest and dearest or to engage in foreplay – is thwarted. His ability to divulge his emotions stilted. He is incapable or reciprocating and is largely unaware of the wishes, needs, and feelings of his interlocutors or counterparties.

        Inevitably, Asperger’s patients are perceived by others to be cold, eccentric, insensitive, indifferent, repulsive, exploitative or emotionally-absent. To avoid the pain of rejection, they confine themselves to solitary activities – but, unlike the schizoid, not by choice. They limit their world to a single topic, hobby, or person and dive in with the greatest, all-consuming intensity, excluding all other matters and everyone else. It is a form of hurt-control and pain regulation.”

        (Just a note– the reliability of Dr. Varkin’s work has been debated among both psychologist’s and psychiatrists. I have not read any of his books and have not formed an opinion on whether or not his scholarship is sound. But, from the little bits I have read, he appears to be perceptive. The most interesting thing about his work is that he is a self-diagnosed malignant narcissist and thus shares the inner-world of this condition first hand).

        Thanks again for bringing up this point and I really hope that you can find some solace with the other awesome-brave-amazing women on this site.


    • Strengthrequired

      Sounds like my h ow is a narcissist, no wonder she kept hanging in and believing she had done nothing wrong, wondering why I was not happy about what she was doing. Also telling my h that it was his fault she never left her husband. Everything was always about her, oh and to some extent her children, forget about anybody else, even my h and his children, as long as she was looked after who cares.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello StrengthRequired,

        Your husband’s mother certainly sounds like a classic narcissist. I have encountered narcissistic mothers who would literally throw their adult children under the bus if it was a choice between the N and the adult child. Their reality appears to be the inverse to that of normal people. I have a feeling that you might see a lot of commonalities between your husband’s mother and the N mother described in the case study that I send to Doug soon. The forthcoming post might end up being close to 5,000 words since it is a disorder that has so many different implications both to family and to society. Want to make sure that I do the topic a little bit of justice.

    • Tryinghard

      Hey Rachel. I don’t know if you are following this thread but I felt I needed to reach out to you and say hello! I was driving home today and Katy Perry’s song Roar was on the radio. So I hiked up the volume, sang along, and for some reason you came to my mind:). I think this should be your anthem. Hope all is going good for you. Happy V day, you are loved. Wanted to let you know your cyber friend was thinking of you.

    • Princess

      I got to this discussion late.
      i wasn’t married to mine (thank God), but I spent the entire 5 years I was with him praying for that. I found out he was cheating. When I confronted him he focused more on how I found out than the act itself. Basically saying I invaded his privacy. Never apologised but demanded I apologise for invading his privacy. Guess what? I did!!! Three months went by. There was “peace” because I never questioned him about the cheating or anything. Basically he did what he wanted. But I found out it was still going on. Finally I took a stand and I ended it. I told him I deserved someone that could be true to me and truly commited to me. I deserved that and it was obvious that he did not want to or couldnt give it to me. So I was endidng it. His words to me were he first accused me of cheating on him with an imaginary married man, then followed by he will get him a new girl friend that will be truly “commited” to him. He showed no remorse for hurting me. ZERO. I thank God for the experience because if not for him I probably would have been in another relationship like this. I did research as to how someone can claim they love you and show no remorse for cheating. During my research I discovered that both my parents are narcisissit. My father more severe than my mother. No hope for my dad. He is in his 70s and still has problems with relationships. He blames everyone and fails to look at him self as the most toxic person ever! My mom finally left him after 44 yrs of marriage and he blames the “devil” for destroying his marriage. Anyway. I always thought my parents relationship was normal and I found myself wanting that in a man. My ex reminded me so much of my dad. My dad had several affairs and never once cared about how my mother felt about it. Its been almoset a year since I ended it with my ex. He tried a few times to contact me and bring things back to the status quo without accountability and apology. So I blocked him from contacting me. I am better, but I know I am not fully healed. Reading articles like this is what reminds me of why I left and why I need to stay away and mostly that there really wasn’t anything I could have done to “change: him or make things better except remain with him and lose my sanity in the process.

      • Doug

        Thanks for sharing your story, Princess. I hope that one day you find complete healing. It sounds to me that you’re moving in the right direction. You showed a lot of strength and courage to end the relationship like you did. Best of luck!

    • Tyvek MyMn

      However flawed, the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder has real value. You need to know what you are dealing with. And if you are the Narcissist, you will ultimately benefit from understanding why you go from failed relationship to failed relationship and why you never have enough, despite your looks, money or success.

    • LJ

      Ex was a chronic liar and narcissist. He would use every excuse the in the book to justify his “flings” or “affairs.” Examples:

      – bored within the relationship
      – tired of life, responsibilities, raising kids, money issues, business ideas, stress issues, aging parent issues (these would all be used as excuses as to why he needed “relief” or “escape from reality”
      – he would pass the blame onto me, his ex wives, or other women (younger women coerced him, older women catered to him, naïve women were dumb enough to allow him to woo them into extra relationships) he knew darn well he was never going to leave or get another divorce so it benefited him using everyone as narcissistic supply
      – stress from running a business, stress from clients, stress from life in general
      EVERY EXCUSE to not stay committed the right way! He couldn’t even honor business obligations and I had the tenacity to think he would honor a loving/sexual relationship with one person? Who in the heck was I kidding? He was a NUMERO UNO guy, all about him, LOOK AT HIM, LOOK at his SUCCESS, KISS his rear, he was NUMBER ONE! No thanks, narcissists in relationships aren’t really relationships it’s more like a selfish emotionally and financially draining vampire taking everything. I’d rather be alone or meet someone half way decent then tolerate that crap again. He also targeted the naïve, single, married, desperate, lonely, low self-esteem, or people having relationship dating/marriage issues. They put the E in EVIL. Glad to be done with all that garbage now. Life is too short to not be with someone that loves you for you and not wanting something constantly.

    • Alicia

      I’m so happy I found this blog. I’ve been with my husband 13 years ( married almost 8 ). I just found out by accident 2 weeks ago through text ( which he always has doubled locked) that he’s been having an affair for 4 years with a girl who was 20 at the time ( he is 43). Not only am I sickened by the age difference being that I have a 20 yr old son and 23 yr old daughter from my first marriage, I’m also devastated by this finding. He begged and begged for me not to leave him, that he’s to blame, that he will end it, that he will spend the rest of his life proving it to me so,I accepted the apology. Then today he texted me asking how I was feeling and I did what he told me to do, to be honest when I’m feeling down about all of this, which I have been, everyday, each day gets a little better. But tonight he comes home screaming at me that he’s not going to spend the rest of his life paying for something that wasn’t just his fault! He’s blaming me for the affair! That I wasn’t giving him what he needed or trying to make him happy! Such a drastic change in his behavior! He’s now telling me that I better make the decision to start looking at myself and change or else he won’t be with me??? What the heck! I’m so confused, I feel completely alone I this and foolish for even allowing myself to be manipulated by staying! He said that he doesn’t feel bad for how I’m feeling because I deserve it. We have a 6 year old daughter and I’m on social security for a work injury. I have no family here. I feel like he did not end this with the girl and he’s playing games.
      Any advice? Oh and he’s a recovering addict 1 year clean.

    • Christina

      Alicia, I really feel for you, he is trying to control your situation and is obviously very minipulative. You are the strong one in your relationship he is very week. It is not easy, I know and have been in a similar situation myself. He will never change and from what you are describing has narsassistic traits. You deserve so much better, try and get some counselling if you can and blogs like this really help.

    • Sa'Diyya

      I am married to a narcissist who had an affair with a 16 year old girl (he was paying her mother to sleep with her) and when I found out, he turned around and accused me of having an affair with my niece’s ex-husband (something that never happened). They are cruel, evil and totally without conscience.

    • Veena

      Hi Sarah.. ur articles and the comments on number of them have been so helpful. They resonate and I stop feeling alone, feeling misunderstood..
      I would like to know if u have any experience with cases of bipolar mood disorder people having affairs.. and how that turns out. Is there hope there or is it another dead end like NPD..
      My cheating husband (married 24 years) was diagnosed with BIpolar mood disorder 15 years ago and has substance abuse problems.. current substance being alcohol! His affair started as an emotional one almost 2 years ago and when I finally ‘let’ him go, it turned into a physical affair. The OW (20 years younger) bailed on him due to his drunkenness within 7 days but still keeps tabs on him (he is currently in rehab for the first time).
      By her fb posts, she still holds a torch for him and he still thinks the world of her!! Any advice would be welcome.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Veena,
        I have first hand experience with people who have bipolar disorder, substance abuse issues, and who have affairs. My personal experience is that it does not turn out well for the betrayed spouse. I am so sorry you are going through this, it probably feels impossibly hard. 😢

        You are worth more than playing the role of babysitter to a husband who likely will never change. This type (bipolar and substance abuse) cannot carry on healthy long-term relationships unless they spend enormous amounts of time in a treatment facility, take full initiative and full responsibility, and decide of their own volition to change.

        But… there are always exceptions to the rule since every human being is so complex. So listen to your intuition and see what it tells you. You are the one who knows your husband the most. 🙏

        I am grateful you find comfort here at EAJ. I extend many blessings to you, Veena.


    • Mexican BW

      This is a great article, I am Mexican, and hope we had more informativo as this.
      I finally opened my eyes after being betrayed, had to be at counseling, and took almost 2 years (also covid didn’t help)
      I am getting divorce, and finally feel free.
      I do not Date, I am working in me.

      I read a lot in english, you can find so much more information, as “communal narcissist”, there is no info in spanish on this. Loved this post

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