Can a narcissist be faithful? Technically, yes.
If you think of being faithful as not cheating, then, sure, a narcissist could probably be in a relationship and never sleep with someone who isn’t their partner.
But just because a narcissist isn’t cheating, it doesn’t mean they feel love and commitment. The reason why they’re being faithful is that they’re either still getting what they want from their partner or that they’ve never had an opportunity.
Being faithful is more than not cheating. Faithfulness means loving someone with your whole heart and choosing them over everyone else in the world. But a narcissist isn’t capable of that.
Read on to learn more about narcissists, love and loyalty.
Can A Narcissist Be Faithful? Here’s Why The Answer Is No
Narcissists are far more likely to be cheaters than the majority of people. They believe that rules that apply to others don’t apply to them. This is why they can have sex with someone who isn’t their partner without a second thought.
Even if a narcissist never sleeps with someone other than their partner, the answer to the question, “Can a narcissist be faithful in a relationship?” is no.
A narc might not be sleeping around, but they’re not faithful out of love and loyalty – it’s only because it’s in their best interest. The only reason a narcissist isn’t cheating is that they’re still getting what they need from their partner or a chance hasn’t presented itself.
To understand why that is, let’s first learn more about narcissists.
Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?
People often use the term “narcissist” to describe someone who has narcissistic traits, such as being self-centered, but narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition that involves more than a single personality trait.
Narcissism is a spectrum. Having a slightly overblown ego is common, and simply being arrogant doesn’t mean that someone has narcissistic disorder. Someone with narcissistic tendencies is capable of healthy relationships, but someone with NPD isn’t.
How can you tell whether your significant other has narcissistic traits or if they have narcissistic personality disorder? Only a doctor can diagnose a mental health condition such as this, but there are some red flags that will make things clearer.
The quickest way to know that you’re with a narcissist is to pay attention to the way they treat others. A narcissist believes that they’re not like other people. All of their relationships are based on what they can get from others, including you.
A narcissist will sacrifice your happiness, interests and well-being for their own and see no problem with it.
They might not even be aware of how warped their thinking is because they see themselves as the only person who matters and everyone else as tools used to achieve what they want.
They feel entitled to whatever they want because they think they’re special, and they need constant validation to remind them of this. For this purpose, they exploit others without regard for their well-being.
A narcissist feels that the world owes them things they want. Admiration, attention, success, acknowledgment – whatever it is that they crave, they expect to be given because they believe they’re entitled to it.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, nearly every day is a struggle to find hope in the face of narcissistic abuse. A narcissist exploits your insecurities and fears, then distorts reality to make you believe their behavior is your fault.
Gaslighting is one of the main weapons of a narcissist – they’ll never admit to a fault or a mistake. Instead, they’ll make you doubt yourself and your perception. They must always preserve the image they hold of themselves, and your sanity isn’t a too steep a price to pay.
Can a narcissist genuinely love someone?
You could say that the only person a narcissist loves is himself or herself, but that’s not quite true.
Narcissists don’t really feel self-love. What a narc feels underneath all the superiority is self-loathing and low self-esteem they’re trying to fight against at the expense of others.
This is why narcissists need constant affirmation from those around them that they’re as great as they’re trying to convince themselves they are. Everyone appreciates attention, but for a narcissist, it’s the only way to feel good about themselves.
Unlike most people, narcissists are incapable of reaching fulfillment from within. Their self-esteem depends entirely on external validation.
You can see how this goes hand-in-hand with cheating.
When their partner can’t give them what they’re looking for, they seek attention elsewhere. They don’t feel bad about it because their conduct is entirely based on making themselves feel good.
If you try to confront them, you’ll be faced with a complete refusal to take responsibility. The narcissist will use manipulation and emotional abuse to make you doubt yourself.
A narcissist can’t feel real love because they have no interest in other people’s needs and feelings or the willingness to understand them. But narcissists can disguise their abuse as love. They can be hurting you and make you feel like you’re the one hurting them.
Narcissistic traits and cheating
One of the defining traits of narcissism is a lack of empathy. This means that a narcissist is incapable of connecting to other people, which makes it impossible for them to love another person.
Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They believe that everyone is beneath them and expect special treatment. For a narcissist, other people only have value if they serve a purpose, so they don’t think twice about taking advantage of others.
They have a sense of entitlement and believe that they’re owed things, most of all admiration, attention and validation. They use manipulation and abuse to get what they want if it’s not given.
All of these traits make cheating as unremarkable to a narcissist as something that hurts no one would be.
They don’t see cheating any worse than, for example, hanging out with a friend when you’re lonely and your partner is busy. If a narcissist isn’t getting attention from their partner, they’ll cheat on them as easily as if they were calling up a friend for drinks.
But even if a narcissist can’t see why they shouldn’t be unfaithful to their partner, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know that what they’re doing is wrong. They’ll hide the infidelity, not because they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings, but so that they don’t have to bear the consequences.
Sexual narcissism consists of four parts: sexual exploitation, grandiose sense of sexual skill, sexual entitlement, and lack of sexual empathy.
In other words, a sexual narcissist feels they’re great in bed and believes they’re entitled to sex. They’re willing to use people and don’t care about their sex partner’s experience. This is consistent with all other aspects of narcissism.
It means that a narcissist is likely to have casual sex and sex without emotional attachment. According to a research on sexual narcissism, it’s also tightly linked with infidelity.
Narcissists are likely to cheat because they don’t place value on others unless in terms of what they can get from them. They use sex to prove to themselves that they’re superior at it, but also to fill their need for attention.
It’s of no consequence to a narcissist how their romantic or sexual partners feel. They easily justify to themselves sex outside of the relationship as something they’re entitled to because they’re better than ordinary people.
If they can’t get what they need from one person, they see no problem in looking for it with multiple partners.
What Does A Narcissist Want In A Relationship?
There’s only one thing a narcissist wants from a partner, and that’s to use them to fulfill their own desperate need for attention and admiration. How can a narcissist be faithful when they can’t genuinely love someone?
Narcissists are never really loyal to their partners in any way that matters. For a narcissist, a relationship is over when they have nothing more to gain from their victim, so they never really commit.
They’re unfaithful because they’re always keeping their options open in case you stop giving them what they need – limitless attention, admiration and feelings of superiority.
Relationships with narcissistic partners can last anywhere from a few months to several years. To understand how a narcissist functions, it helps to become familiar with the concept of narcissistic supply.
Narcissists need constant validation. Receiving special treatment is how they compensate for their insecurities, so they must always have a source that will supply them with the admiration and attention they need.
They’re incapable of real bonds with people, so they target those around them who can fulfill their needs. To keep their source of narcissistic supply, they manipulate and abuse their victims.
Narcissistic relationship cycle
This is how a relationship with a narcissist works: first they hook you, then they destroy you and, in the end, they throw you away.
As long as you serve your purpose, you’re useful. This is how the idea that a narcissist can be faithful can seem plausible: even if they’re abusive, they could still be faithful because what they’re getting from their victim is feeding their supply.
The three stages of the narcissistic relationship cycle are:
Stage 1. Idealization
Do you believe in true love at first sight? Maybe you don’t, but then you meet the one. Your soulmate. Someone so perfect for you that your time together feels like a fairy tale.
When a narcissist needs someone to supply them with the necessary attention and find someone vulnerable enough to use, they put them on a pedestal.
Narcissists idealize their victims because they want to believe that their supply comes from a valuable source, not because they love them.
At this stage, a narcissist might even believe that they feel love, but they don’t. They’re creating a fantasy version of you that can do no wrong so that they can deem you worthy of being their supply.
They’re probably faithful at this point because they’re getting what they need from you.
The narcissist learns what their victim wants and presents themselves as the ideal partner. They give their victim what seems to be intense love and affection – but is in fact love-bombing – to get their trust so that they’ll let their guard down.
Stage 2. Devaluation
Soon enough, a narcissist realizes that you aren’t the person they made up inside their head. They think in absolutes – you can be either flawless or worthless. You can’t keep up with the demands of the narcissist, so you lose their value to them.
Even worse, if you love a narcissist, they’ll think of you as inferior and worthless. They transfer their feelings about themselves onto you. This is how they see themselves deep down, so if you love them, something is wrong with you.
The narcissist devalues their victim and puts them down because they don’t belong on the pedestal any longer. Narcissistic abuse is the punishment for not being what they imagined and not being able to give them what they need.
Threats of violence, gaslighting, violating your boundaries and isolating you from your family members are some of the abusive behaviors a narcissist might use to punish you.
At this point, they might be unfaithful if they have already found another supply. If they haven’t, they might appear remorseful and restart the cycle to get what they need from you.
Stage 3. Discarding
When a narcissist can’t exploit you the way they want any longer, they first punish you, then discard you.
Before they completely discard their victim, however, a narcissist wants to make sure that they’re punished the way they deserve. They invalidate your feelings, play the victim and run smear campaigns to ruin your reputation.
Often, even after they discard their victims, a narcissist still leaves the door open so that they can come back in case there’s still more for them to take from you.
It all comes down to the disheartening fact that a narcissist is incapable of love. Some of them might believe that they can feel love, so when they inevitably become disappointed in their partner, they’ll place the blame on them and look for someone else.
After discarding their old, “faulty” significant other, a narcissist moves on to a new romantic partner, but in reality, all they want is another supply.
How To Tell That A Narcissist Is Unfaithful?
This depends on the kind of cheating a narcissist is engaged in.
Sometimes, all they’re trying to get is more attention from their partner, and sometimes they want attention from whichever source they can get it.
Types of infidelity
Some narcissists are satisfied with emotional infidelity, while others sleep with everyone who’s willing. Some are serial cheaters, and others have affairs.
If a narcissist doesn’t give as much value to sexual conquest as they give to, for example, wealth, business success or popularity, they might stay faithful, but only because they wouldn’t gain anything from infidelity.
1. Physical infidelity
Physical infidelity means that the narcissist is having sex outside of the relationship. This can range from a long-term affair to one-night stands. This is what we usually think of when talking about infidelity, but it’s often connected to other types as well.
2. Emotional infidelity
Emotional infidelity happens when someone becomes emotionally intimate with someone other than their partner. Developing an emotional connection with someone else can be as damaging to a relationship as a sexual affair.
However, because a narcissist isn’t capable of really bonding with others, an emotional affair to them can mean different things than it does to an ordinary person.
3. Cyber infidelity
Cyber infidelity usually means either using social media and dating apps to establish some kind of intimate relationship with another person or excessive consumption of pornography. It can stay on the level of just liking someone’s sexy pictures or escalate into sexting or video chatting.
4. Object infidelity
While it’s not often thought of as cheating, focusing on something to the point of obsession and neglecting your partner is a form of infidelity. This includes, for example, someone who’s so focused on their work that their relationship suffers.
If a narcissist finds the validation they need by being successful at their job, they might ignore their partner in the pursuit of even more admiration they can get from achieving business success.
5. Micro infidelity
Micro infidelity can ruin a relationship in the long run, as harmless as it sounds. It involves seemingly insignificant actions someone does that bother their partner.
For example, if someone constantly flirts even though their partner doesn’t like it, the longer it goes on, their partner is more likely to get hurt, even if there’s no intention of taking it further.
Warning signs of infidelity
Here are the signs that show that a partner might be cheating on you, regardless if they’re a narcissist or not. The main difference is that a narcissist will be much more defensive if you confront them and take their gaslighting to another level.
• Lack of interest in sex
If your partner suddenly loses interest in sex, it’s possible that they’re getting enough sex elsewhere. For any cheater, and especially a narcissist, sex outside of the relationship is far more exciting than sex with their partner.
• Changes in sexual behavior
When your partner suggests something they’ve never even mentioned before, it might be a sign of cheating. They might have tried something with the person they’re cheating with and liked it, so now they want to do it again.
• Claims to be working all the time
Suddenly having to work overtime or on the weekends might be an excuse, especially if your partner can’t give you answers to questions you ask them about it.
• Going out with friends more than usual
If your partner is meeting friends more often than usual, they might actually be meeting their affair partner. It’s especially likely if the things they tell you about hanging out with their friends are vague.
• Doesn’t want to spend time together
If your partner is avoiding you, they might be trying to hide something from you. It’s much easier to not talk at all than to talk and accidentally let something incriminating slip out.
• Unusual behavior
When your partner is acting oddly and you feel that something is off, it might be a sign that something is going on. For example, if they’re more irritable than usual, defensive when you ask them anything or if they blame you for everything that goes wrong.
• Suspicious technology use
Hiding their phone is one of the first signs that your partner might be cheating. If their phone is always on silent, if they leave the room to answer a call, if you sometimes can’t reach them on the phone, they might be sneaking around.
• Paying attention to appearance
If your partner has started paying attention to their appearance more than they used to, it could be because they want to look good for the person they’re cheating with.
• Suspicious spending
Unusual credit card charges or unexplained cash withdrawals might mean that your partner is spending money on their affair partner and funding their cheating.
Sometimes, a narcissist’s victim isn’t even aware that what they’re being put through isn’t okay. A narcissist works hard to normalize abusive behaviors and make their victim believe that they deserve credit when they’re not being hurtful.
For example, finding comfort in the fact that they’re not cheating on you is a result of their abuse. But can a narcissist be faithful to their partner when they can’t really love them?
The answer is, unfortunately, no.
A narcissist only uses people for their own gain. Even when they believe that they love someone, it’s temporary, on their own terms and only depends on what they can get from them. Sooner or later, they become disillusioned and move on.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you won’t be the one to change them. No one can and the only way out of the cycle of abuse is to leave as soon as possible.