Infidelity is a common issue in narcissistic relationships. If you have experienced that particular betrayal you can find some small comfort in the fact that you aren’t the only one by any means. It doesn’t help that for some reason in our society it’s expected that husbands will cheat and wives will get over it. If you happen to go to therapy it’s likely that the therapist will encourage you to contemplate your relationship and identify the things that you did to contribute to the infidelity. More and more you can read articles that explain how it is instinctual – how men can’t help being pulled into sexual liaisons outside of marriage because of the prehistoric need to procreate.
The church can often find it possible to forgive any sin except divorce. Somehow that one, even if you are being abused, makes you untouchable, shunned, and isolated. Heaven forbid that divorce germs would jump from you onto one of the happily married couples in your church body.
Infidelity creates a situation where you are isolated on your own little island with no idea how to get off.
It Only Happened Once
Cheating almost never only happens once. A cheater is a cheater is a cheater. Looking back on my experiences with my ex-husband I can see how I was played over and over. His first infidelity was the night before our wedding and there was at least one more during the first year of our marriage. If I knew then what I know now I would not have let it go beyond that first one.
A relationship can’t exist without trust. It’s a basic need – you have to trust that your spouse loves you, wants the best or you, and is being honest with you. You have to trust that he will value your relationship enough to be honest, to work things out, and to invest in the two of you. It doesn’t take very long to figure out that isn’t going to happen when you are married to a narcissist.
Once trust is broken by infidelity it is never the same no matter how much you’d like it to be. Forgiveness will help but there will always be that part of you that wonders if he is doing it again. If he’s late, if he has meetings with female clients, or if he seems a little too friendly with the waitress at the restaurant you’ll have a moment of nausea, wondering if it’s going to happen again.
You Always Wonder Why
There is something about infidelity that makes you feel like damaged goods. Why did it happen? What’s wrong with you? Is she prettier? Sexier? Better in bed?
Nope. It really doesn’t even have anything to do with her. It’s the way his brain works – he can’t say no to himself, and anyway, why would he want to? You are going to wonder why. It’s natural but you have to keep reminding yourself that it had nothing to do with you.
The narcissist will tell other women things about you to explain why, although he is cheating on you, he would never cheat on them.
- She doesn’t understand me.
- She is a crazy person.
- I’m only there because of the kids.
- We haven’t slept together in years.
I’m sure you can add several more excuses to those. The truth is that all of it is as false as he is. You are none of those things. He has to have a story and it may change from woman to woman. Just remember that he has cast you in a role that is as fictitious as Mary Poppins.
Maybe more so.
Yes, it’s normal to blame yourself - but don’t. It has nothing to do with you.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: gagilas
But He’s Making His New Relationship Work
It’s really hard to look at him in his new relationship and see it working. It’s hard to see him doing the things for her that he didn’t do for you. You need to recognize that there is a huge possibility that things are going to go south. After all, in the beginning of your relationship things were pretty good, right?
It’s likely that things look a lot better on the outside than they really are.
The other possibility is that he learned something and really has changed (not likely) and is handling himself better. That still does not reflect on you in the least.
Let it go. He’s not your problem anymore.
Getting Your Groove Back
You aren’t alone. That’s the main thing you need to take away from all of this. So many women have gone through it, dealt with it, and even blamed themselves. Don’t fall into that lie.
Start living again. Buy a new dress or some new shoes, get your hair done, or learn to fly a plane – do something to help you to remember who you are. Do something to help you find respect for yourself and give you the confidence that infidelity stripped away. It’s a lot easier when you accept that it had nothing to do with you and therefore you can’t cause it to happen in another relationship.
That was one of my biggest issues. After all, if it was “partly” my fault, if I contributed to the infidelity in one relationship what was to say that it wouldn’t happen again in the next? It wasn’t until I really believed that his infidelity was about his character and not me that I found my confidence again. I still struggle sometimes but I am better at reminding myself of the truth.
I am not damaged goods and neither are you.
But He Told Her…
My ex has created and publicly posted the most amazingly imaginative work of fiction that I have ever read. That’s saying a lot when you consider what an avid reader I’ve been. It’s one of the hallmarks of a narcissist that they can create fantasy that sounds logical and real.
Yes, he’s probably told his new partner stuff about you that rivals anything Stephen King could write. Yes, she probably believes it – poor thing. Little does she know that she is just as likely to become a character in one of his tall tales at some point.
Being lied about hurts but you can learn to let it slide off. It just takes a little practice.
Once you’ve learned to take yourself out of the equation it’s much easier to see the truth. Not only is it not about you – it never has been. What’s more? It’s not about the woman he is cheating with, either. She just thinks it is.
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Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Thomas Leuthard