The Extra-Marital Narcissist
Frequently Asked Question # 61
If you can’t or won’t leave him, promulgate clear rules and sanctions and penalties when these are violated. Be fair, but merciless.
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My husband has a liaison with another woman. He has been diagnosed as suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What should I do?
Narcissists are people who fail to maintain a stable sense of self-worth. Very often somatic narcissists (narcissistic who use their bodies and their sexuality to secure Narcissistic Supply) tend to get involved in extra-marital affairs. The new "conquests" sustain their grandiose fantasies and their distorted and unrealistic self-image.
It is, therefore, nigh impossible to alter this particular behaviour of a somatic narcissist. Sexual interactions serve as a constant, reliable, easy to obtain Source of Narcissistic Supply. It is the only source of such supply if the narcissist is not cerebral (=does not rely on his intellect, intelligence, or professional achievements for Narcissistic Supply).
You should set up rigid, strict and VERY WELL DEFINED rules of engagement. Ideally, all contacts between your spouse and his lover should be immediately and irrevocably severed. But this is usually too much to ask for. So, you should make crystal clear when is she allowed to call, whether she is allowed to write to him at all and in which circumstances, what are the subjects she is allowed to broach in her correspondence and phone calls, when is he allowed to see her and what other modes of interaction are permissible.
CLEAR AND PAINFUL SANCTIONS must be defined in case the above rules are violated. Both rules and sanctions MUST BE APPLIED RIGOROUSLY AND MERCILESSLY and MUST BE SET IN WRITING IN UNEQUIVOCAL TERMS.
The problem is that the narcissist never really separates from his Sources of Narcissistic Supply until and unless they cease to be ones. Narcissists never really say good-bye. His lover is likely to still have an emotional hold on him. Your husband must first have his day of reckoning.
This article appears in my book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Help him by telling him what will be the price that he stands to pay if he does not obey the rules and sanctions you have agreed on. Tell him that you cannot live like this any longer. That if he does not get rid of this presence – of the echoes of his past, really – he will be squandering his present, he will be forfieting you. Don't be afraid to lose him. If he prefers this woman to you – it is important for you to know it. If he prefers you to her – your nightmare is over.
If you insist on staying with him – you must also be prepared to serve as a Source of Narcissistic Supply, an alternative to the supply provided by his former lover. You must brace yourself: serving as a Narcissistic Supply Source is an onerous task, a full time job and a very ungrateful one at that. The narcissist's thirst for adulation, admiration, worship, approval, and attention can never by quenched. It is a Sisyphean, mind-numbing effort, which heralds only additional demands and disgruntled, critical, humiliating tirades by the narcissist.
That you are afraid to confront reality is normal. You are afraid to set clear alternatives. You are afraid that he will leave you. You are afraid that he will prefer her to you. AND YOU MAY WELL BE RIGHT. But if this is the case and you go on living with him and tormenting yourself – it is unhealthy.
If you have find it difficult to confront the fact that it is all over between you, that your relationship is an empty shell, that your husband is with another woman – do not hesitate to seek help from professionals and non-professionals alike. But do not let this situation fester into psychological gangrene. Amputate now while you can.
Some people - men and women -
enjoy sex only when they cheat on their spouses. They were molded in their
formative years to associate pleasure and intimacy with risk, deception, and
adrenaline. They are aroused by their own immorality (or amorality) and whorish
promiscuity, by the chase, the mind games, the power plays, and the conquests.
The less socially acceptable the act, the more illicit, the higher the degree of betrayal and self-debasement, decadence and deviance, perversion and shock value - the greater the resulting carnal titillation.
This type of compulsive behavior is a variety of role play. Such people need a narrative, a story, a confabulation, a script in order to get sexually aroused and enjoy the encounter. The role they assume is that of a promiscuous and treacherous prostitute. But the very fact that they take on this personality in a cinematic rendition makes them feel removed and distant from their own misconduct, absolved: "It was not me who did it, I was not myself, I felt dissociated, on auto-pilot, like an observer". When asked why they behaved the way they did, they typically shrug it off: "I don't know".
Ironically, these cheaters are inordinately attached and bonded to their emotionally thwarted, masochistic, codependent, financially generous, and enabling spouses. To fully enjoy sex, they need to remain married, they need someone to cheat on and torment, someone to lie to, betray repeatedly, and blame for their misbehavior. They fiercely defend their spouses and their families to anyone who would listen and make clear to their lovers and fuck buddies how temporary the arrangements with them are.
men and women are devastated when their intimate partner, significant other, or
spouse cheats. Men react
badly as they keep replaying the lurid visuals of the sex act. Women are
heartbroken by the intimacy that is involved even in casual sex.
But both men and women mourn the trust lost as a result, the friendship abandoned, the betrayal, the callous indifference to the partner's hurt, the inevitable deception and the egregious lies.
Somehow, somewhere along the line, the other man or woman, the long-term lover or even the one night stand became the locus and focus of affection, attention, and loyalty, a co-conspirator against the ostensibly loved one and the provider of both intimacy and sex: hitherto exclusive domains of the couple.
Sexual and emotional exclusivity constitute a statement regarding the uniqueness and importance of the relationship and one's mate. To share oneself with another is to inform your partner in no uncertain terms that she or he had lost their privileged position in one's life and are interchangeable and replaceable.
Add to this the sense of failure and inadequacy and the impotent fury at having so badly misjudged one's partner, having so thoroughly deceived oneself and been led astray, granting her or him unfettered access to the most vulnerable parts of one's life and the power to reduce one's heart to smithereens.
There is never a real and full recovery from such perfidy. Some codependent couples survive, hobbled by the terrible memories. But the majority of unions disintegrate under the relentless pressure of the revelations about the true nature of one's partner and his or her specious misconduct. When it comes to relationships, cheating is the equivalent of first degree murder: there is no statute of limitations and no way to undo the ubiquitous ruination.
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