BECAUSE MANIPULATIVE PEOPLE use tactics like gaslighting and blame-shifting to evade being held accountable when they are caught out, their partners may have difficulty recognizing the signs of narcissistic cheating.
For answers we turned to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Nicole Arzt. She serves on the advisory board for Family Enthusiast and she’s also the author of the book Sometimes Therapy Is Awkward: A Collection of Life-Changing Insights for the Modern Clinician.
Manya Wakefield: Nicole, please share the biggest red flag of narcissistic cheating.
Nicole Artz: The biggest dead giveaway is withdrawal. This doesn’t inherently mean the person is cheating, but almost all partners look back and recognize that their partner was pulling back at some point in the relationship.
Manya Wakefield: Can you describe what withdrawal looks like when a narcissistic partner is engaging in an extramarital affair?
Nicole Artz: Withdrawal can be physical. For example, spending less quality time with you, avoiding sex, kissing, even holding hands or cuddling. It can be financial. Examples of this are they become less willing to spend money on you, and hesitate to open up a new credit card or bank account.
It can also be emotional. For example, they may seem more distant, act defensively, spend more time going out with friends, etcetera.
Manya Wakefield: Can a highly narcissistic partner’s withdrawal extend to other aspects of the relationship as well?
Nicole Artz: Your partner may also start withdrawing from your children, other family members – especially if they’re relatives on your side – and mutual friends. They may no longer have as much interest in the same shared hobbies or interests.
Manya Wakefield: Can you talk a bit about what drives the withdrawal process?
Nicole Artz: The withdrawal comes from a place of shame and guilt. On a fundamental level, people know cheating is wrong, and they want to separate themselves from the act. Additionally, most unfaithful partners don’t want to hurt their loved ones with their actions. Subconsciously or not, they start pulling away. They don’t want their loved one to find out what’s going on. They think they might be able to maintain the facade.
Nicole’s book ‘Sometimes Therapy Is Awkward: A Collection of Life-Changing Insights for the Modern Clinician,’ is available on Amazon.