8 Signs You May Be in an Affair with a Narcissist

Has the thought crossed your mind that you may be in an affair with a narcissist? Narcissistic traits are no joke, and dealing with narcissism in any relationship—let alone a long-term affair—can have a lasting effect on your mind, body, and health. 

By becoming aware of the signs you can begin to learn how to navigate your partner’s coping patterns in a way that sets you free instead of allowing them to trap you.

If you think your affair partner has narcissistic traits and it’s doing you more harm than good, the ideal solution is to leave the affair and find someone who can build a balanced, healthy relationship with you.

But after being in a 7-year affair (before breaking free and becoming an Affair Recovery Coach for women just like me), I understand how difficult it can be to leave an affair—especially if you are deeply in love with your affair partner. If this sounds familiar and you need to talk to someone about your affair—someone who has been there and will not judge you—let’s chat.

A word on narcissism and narcissistic traits before we jump in:

Before we jump in: I want to emphasise that this list isn’t an invitation to judge others (especially your affair partner) on their behaviour. Narcissism, just like many other behavioural traits, is simply a pattern of behaviours that a person develops (whether they are aware of it or not) and those patterns create certain circumstances around them. 

Recognizing behavioural traits—such as narcissism—that belong to some people is a fantastic opportunity to ask ourselves how being on the other end of those behaviours affects us. 

Narcissistic traits, in my opinion, are neither right or wrong, they are just a result of a person’s upbringing and life experience. Judging them doesn’t do anything to help—them or us—but recognizing them can do a lot to help us figure out how we want to deal with them. 

Once we recognize a pattern, we get to choose how we show up and react to it.

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How to Know if You’re in Affair with a Narcissist (or Someone with Narcissistic Traits)

In the beginning, your relationship couldn’t have started off more perfectly. Your affair partner made a great impression! But slowly, over time, you’ve started to notice some concerning signs—signs that he isn’t the person you thought he was. 

If you’re starting to wonder if your affair partner is a narcissist, you’re in the right place. It’s time to break down the signs to look for (and then you’ll discover your options of what you can do next, if needed).

Here are the possible indications we’re going to cover:

  1. Your affair partner pulled out all the stops to reel you in. 
  2. He tells you “poor me” stories and plays the victim.
  3. He always needs to be right.
  4. He talks down to you.
  5. He isolates you from friends and family.
  6. You feel worse about yourself after you see him.
  7. He has few friends & he talks shit about those friends behind their backs or often burns through his friends.
  8. You’re on a constant roller coaster of emotions.

1. Your affair partner pulled out all the stops to reel you in. 

Your affair partner was charming AF in the beginning! Does this sound familiar? When you first met your affair partner, he went above and beyond and pulled out ALL the stops to reel you in. It probably almost felt like a fairytale, right? 

According to Suzanne Degges-White, a professor of Counselling at Northern Illinois University, overwhelming someone with adoration and flattery that makes them feel extremely attractive is called Love Bombing and it’s a classic narcissistic trait. They use tools like flattery and non-stop attention to make you believe they are pretty much the perfect partner. 

And they are so skilled at this manipulation that it lowers all your inhibitions and makes you doubt that little, niggly voice in your head and heart that tries to tell you that something just ain’t right.

In the beginning, maybe your affair partner did or said things that nobody else had ever said or done before.

Maybe he gave you gifts or compliments or helped you out with something you needed help with.

Maybe his words and actions lifted you up so high that you felt like it was nothing you’d ever experienced (and perhaps thought you would never experience again). 

Maybe he made you feel extraordinarily beautiful or he made you feel like your opinion mattered and he valued your insight. Perhaps he even told you that nobody else had ever made him feel the way that you did. 

Whatever it was that he did or said, if you look back now and think about it, you will probably easily see what was happening, even if you couldn’t see it at the time or denied that intuitive feeling in your gut that something was “off”. Narcissists tend to rush through courtship rituals because they know that the front they’re presenting will eventually fall apart, and they want to reel you in before you start to doubt their sincerity.

A common manipulation by a person who has narcissistic tendencies in relationships, is to remind you constantly of how good you are together (even, as Dr. Degges-White says, “…when you suspect that you really aren’t”). She warns that this is often the first sign of a potential abuser and someone who will try to exercise control over you. 

2. He tells you “poor me” stories.

People with strong narcissistic tendencies often pull the victim card and often present other versions of a story that simply aren’t true (or, maybe they are true, but they leave out the full truth to make themselves sound poor and pitiful), so you’ll feel sorry for them AND take their side. 

Remember, they are manipulative, so they will do and say things that convince you that they are the person being wronged or hurt or mistreated and they’ll do it in such a convincing way that your heart will probably go out to them. The stories will leave you feeling like you want to help him, you want to rescue him, or you want to be there for him through his pain. This kind of powerplay move creates a false sense of trust between you and leads you to believe that you share healthy vulnerability.

In an affair, a narcissistic partner may tell you poor me stories (true or not) like:

“I feel so alone since having kids. I love my kids so much, but ever since having our kids, my wife has been less present for me. She has so much time and love and attention and presence to give the kids, but no longer gives any of that for me. And, it may seem silly, but I feel like I’ve lost all the love and attention and I’m so lonely.”

“We don’t have a sexual relationship anymore, so we have no connection anymore.”

“I love the way that you don’t argue or put your foot down with me—I get that from my wife all the time.”

Whatever the poor me story that your affair partner is telling you, it’s probably a very subtle way of appealing to your heart and making you feel, again, like you need to be there for him because he’s lonely and has been hurt by someone.

The other side of these poor me stories is that they are often subtle ways of “training” you to be a certain way. If he says, “I love it when you don’t challenge me or put your foot down,” it could be his way of subtly expressing that he doesn’t ever want you to challenge him. 

So, if you go back and think about some of your affair partner’s poor, poor, pitiful me stories, what kind of truths jump out at you? Do those stories still make sense to you or have things happened since he told you the story that prove he was not being completely honest or that he was outright lying? It’s important to acknowledge these “aha” moments and admit them to yourself. 

3. Your Affair Partner is ALWAYS Right…or thinks he is, anyway. 

Does your affair partner always act like he is right? Is it impossible for him to apologise?

Does he lose his shit if you try to argue with him when he thinks he’s right about something and you call him on it?

This is Classic Narcissism 101: The need to always be right. People with narcissistic tendencies just cannot handle being wrong. They can’t admit they’re wrong (because it lessens their perception of control) and, even if the truth is blatantly obvious, they will still deny it.

Your affair partner is exhibiting this trait if you have tried to challenge them on something that are obviously wrong about and they have:

  • become angry
  • refused to listen to you
  • hasn’t tried to understand you or where you’re coming from
  • refuses to take responsibility for their part in the argument or issue
  • refuses to even consider compromising

If you find that you are silencing a part of yourself and can’t always speak your truth or opinions, it’s a major red flag in your relationship. You may not even realise it, you may just believe that it’s easier to stay silent and not argue to avoid the backlash of an argument. But subdued arguments or debates or casual disagreements are normal in healthy relationships—two people will never agree with each other all the time—so if you’re suppressing yourself to avoid conflict, it’s a sign of something deeper going on in your affair relationship.

And silencing yourself around your affair partner can be REALLY difficult and challenging. It can drain your energy quickly, too, because you’ll constantly feel like you’re walking around on eggshells, always trying not to provoke your affair partner by speaking up about how you disagree with him.

Maybe you’re doing this on a subconscious level, too,  because, as the “other woman” or the mistress, you may feel like he will leave you and go back to his wife or move on to another woman if you upset him by disagreeing with him. 

Again, this is the kind of thing you really need to pay attention to because it may be creating all sorts of subconscious fears within you that you are no longer good enough for him (especially if he has told you many times how annoyed he gets at his wife if she challenges him about being right). 

It ALSO has the subconscious effect of making you believe that your opinion (and your truth) is not worthy and his is. 

4. Your Affair Partner Talks Down to You Regularly

Do you feel not good enough in your affair partner’s eyes, like there’s always an issue with something you do? Do you feel like your affair partner always puts you down, makes you feel like you’re not doing a good enough job, or makes you believe that he’s never satisfied with what you’re doing?

If so, this narcissistic trait can really wear you down and chip away at your self-esteem and confidence regularly.

If you constantly feel a “pressure to perform” and like you’re never actually hitting the mark, this is definitely something you should examine in your affair relationship. It’s unhealthy. It’s STRESSFUL. It doesn’t create safe soil for you to grow and flourish as your own unique, creative self because you are always in fear, second guessing how he will perceive your actions, decisions, beliefs, or perspectives.

Tune into this. Do you feel the need to always try to be perfect in his eyes but—at the same time—never meet his expectations?

Is he ALWAYS finding things to criticise, condemn, or complain about when it comes to you?

4. Your Narcissistic Affair Partner Works Really Hard to Isolate You

The tendency to isolate their partner from everyone is a particularly telling trait of people with narcissistic tendencies.

And, the hardest part is that you may not even notice it’s happening, at all, until someone points it out to you. 

Is this happening to you right now? Here are the red flags it could be:

  • You’re keeping your distance from friends and family a lot lately—perhaps, without even realising it. Either way, you’ve noticed it seems easier to be available for your married affair partner if you aren’t around your usual people. That way, you don’t have to come up with excuses for leaving abruptly.
  • Your affair partner has demanded that you tell no one about your affair and, because it’s easier to keep it from people if you aren’t around them, you have distanced yourself naturally.
  • He keeps you away from all of his regular friends and family because he doesn’t want anyone to find out that he’s cheating on his wife.
  • He gets panicky or acts out if you DO spend time with your friends and family. Maybe he even says nasty things about them, like he doesn’t trust them, in an effort to make you stay away and think the worst of them.
  • Your affair partner may make it seem that he’s trying to “protect you” from some of your friends and family by claiming they are unhealthy relationships or telling you he doesn’t want you to get hurt by hanging out with them. He may even be making up lies about them, trying to convince you that they are not good people and that he cares SO MUCH about you that he is just trying to keep you from getting hurt by them.

These are all clear signs of narcissistic abuse in relationships. 

5. Being Around Your Affair Partner Drains Your Energy

Do you find that—after spending time with your affair partner—you leave feeling exhausted, emotionally spent, disempowered, or just “less” because of his constant control and putdowns? Does it leave you feeling like you’re unable to be fully yourself with the freedom to express your truth comfortably? If so, having the energy sucked out of you is another sign that you’re in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic traits. 

Healthy relationships are supposed to build you up, boost your energy, and leave you feeling empowered, loved, and like you’re enough just as you are. Unhealthy relationships drain you, make you feel helpless,and make you constantly second guess yourself and doubt your self-worth. 

Narcissists THRIVE on unhealthy relationship patterns that cause their partners to feel all those negative side effects and more.

How does your affair partner make you feel? Does he try to understand your needs and acknowledge your emotions and feelings? Do you feel heard and valued by him? Do you leave him feeling on a high, with a full cup, or do you feel like their needs are being met and yours are not, ever?

6. Your affair partner doesn’t have many (or any) long-term friends. 

What’s the friendship situation with your affair partner? Does he have any friends? If he does, what are they like (if you’ve met them or heard him talk about them)? Does he say great things about them or does he put them down, talk shit about them, belittle them when they aren’t around, or bounce from friend to friend often? 

Does he go through friends like he goes through underwear?

An obvious sign of narcissistic traits in a person is a tendency to burn through friends. He’ll ditch them the moment the friend disagrees with or challenges him or as soon as he perceives that the friend doesn’t believe his bullshit any longer. 

Sometimes he will even ditch friends because they are well-liked, and he no longer occupies the centre of attention. 

So start analysing his friendships. Is your affair partner genuinely fond of his friends, saying nice things about them and seeming to genuinely value his friendships or does he talk smack about them and give them the boot regularly?

The way your affair partner treats his friends is usually a direct reflection of how he’ll treat you. 

8. You’re on a constant roller coaster of emotions.

Are you constantly riding a roller coaster of emotions in your affair relationship? The fact that you are in an affair will bring on a roller coaster of emotions no matter what, but being in an affair with a partner with narcissistic tendencies will be much more volatile.

Not only are you living a secret life, lying to (or hiding your truth from) your closest friends and family, constantly walking around on eggshells and worrying that you’ll let something slip or someone will find out, but (if you’re with a narcissist), you’re also dealing with being on edge 24/7 because of his behavioural patterns. 

Any way you look at it, that is not easy.

Where the narcissistic traits come in and exacerbate the emotional roller coaster comes from the crazy highs and lows his behaviours create. One moment he may be treating you like gold—making you feel loved and cherished and special—and the next he may be putting you down and telling you what you need to fix or improve on—leaving you feeling like you’re not good enough. 

The ups and downs are crazy, constant, and so very hard to deal with. They drain you, leave you feeling like a shell of the person you used to be, and have the overall effect of causing you to simultaneously love him while also wanting to get out of the affair because it’s so dang hard. 

If you think this might be you, ask yourself: 

  • How does this relationship make you feel? 
  • How does it make your body feel? 
  • Does this affair affect your physical health, or your mental health? 
  • Do you feel healthy after spending time with him, or do you feel completely depleted? 

What do you do if your affair partner has narcissistic traits?

Now that you know the signs, it’s important that you deep dive into your affair partner’s behaviours and admit to yourself when he dings the bell for narcissistic tendencies. You can’t deal with the issue if you don’t admit to yourself that the pattern exists!

Questions to ask yourself about your relationship with a narcissistic affair partner.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when dealing with an affair partner with narcissistic behaviours: 

  • Did he woo you with everything he had at the beginning? Has that now stopped and been replaced with behaviours a lot less loving? 
  • Did he (or does he still) tell you “poor me” stories that make you feel sorry/pity/sadness for him?
  • Does he lose his shit when you challenge him and does he always need to be right?
  • Does he talk down to you and belittle you with his comments?
  • Have you lost touch with the people you love and value the most or have you distanced yourself from them to make things in your relationship easier?
  • Do you feel worse about yourself after spending time with him?
  • Does he burn through friends or avoid making any altogether?
  • Are you constantly bombarded with a tornado of emotions because of your relationship with him?

Firstly, if you answered yes to ANY of these questions, it’s OKAY if you missed these signs and red flags. Don’t beat yourself up about it—people who exhibit narcissistic patterns are excellent actors. But if you answered these questions with resounding yesses, it’s VERY important to then ask yourself if you’re willing to stay in a relationship with someone who regularly exhibits these behaviours and leaves you feeling depleted and exhausted all the time. 

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Why is Having an Affair with Someone Who Has Narcissist Traits So Unhealthy?

The very nature of narcissistic tendencies creates a whole new level of unhealthy and damaging issues in an affair relationship. Those of us who have been in an affair (or are still in an affair)—especially if we are the mistress or “the other woman”—know how incredibly painful it can be just to BE in an affair with a man who goes home to his wife and always leaves us behind. 

Add narcissistic traits—such as gaslighting into the mix—and suddenly the level of highs and lows becomes even more pronounced. The emotional roller coaster you are on as part of your daily life of having an affair, goes into overdrive and, suddenly, you find yourself holding on as though the coaster is about to tip over the rail on every corner. 

Carrying on an affair with a narcissistic partner can turn you into a shell of the person you once were. And once you get to that point, you may need to tap into the resources available to help you get back on your feet and feel whole again.

Is it Time to Move on From Your Affair Partner?

Being in an affair with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic traits is a constant juggling act of lies and highs and lows. It can turn you inside out and sideways. To top it off, as excellent manipulators, they can make you feel like you’re trapped—stuck with no way out and no way to get help. 

But it’s not true. You ARE good enough and there IS help out there for you. I am living proof that getting your life back is totally possible!

As an Affair Recovery Coach, I not only want to listen to your story without judgement, but I’m also here to help you take steps to end your affair and find your way back to yourself. 

Let’s start by getting on a discovery call and taking the first step together. 

Here’s more information about experiencing an affair and all its highs and lows:

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