Cheating is a big part of narcissistic abuse. We can rarely speak in absolutes so we won’t say that all narcissists cheat, but it is a very common occurrence among romantic narcissistic relationships.

When caught cheating, there are a number of different manipulation tactics that narcissists use to invalidate the reality of the person who caught them. Through invalidation, they’re able to protect their grandiose public persona from being contradicted by their own unfaithfulness.

This article is a thorough exploration of all of the manipulation tactics that cheating narcissists use to invalidate the reality of those who could potentially expose them for their unfaithfulness.

10 Manipulation Tactics That Narcissists Use When They Are Caught Cheating

In this section of the article you can expect to learn about flying monkeys, projection, hoovering, gaslighting, baiting, narcissistic rage, discarding, future faking, stonewalling, and self-victimization!

A woman thinking about all the different ways narcissists respond to being caught cheating

We will also provide quotes from 10 of our amazing community members who have shared their personal experiences with each of these manipulation tactics after they caught the narcissist in their life cheating. If you’re interested in becoming a community member, there will be more information at the end of this article!

Flying Monkeys

A flying monkey is a person that a narcissist has manipulated into assisting them in the invalidation, devaluation, and degradation of the person that they are abusing. A narcissist will recruit a flying monkey by spreading lies and gossip about the person they are abusing.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

When I caught my narcissistic ex husband cheating, he went and told our friends and family that I had been diagnosed with bipolar and been cheating on him during my manic episodes. I still don’t fully understand how some of our friends and family believed him, but it created an army of flying monkeys that I had to deal with. It made healing feel nearly impossible. – Tammy

Projection

Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone unconsciously takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto someone else. Narcissists use projection to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

The funny thing about my situation is that I didn’t really catch him cheating. I suspected he was cheating but never caught him. The only reason I found out was because he was projecting his guilt on me every chance that he got. I was constantly being accused of cheating, flirting, being a wh*re, and I don’t even remember what else. I just remember constantly having to prove my loyalty to him, then finding out it was him who was cheating the whole time. – Iggy

Hoovering

Hoovering is a manipulative technique that occurs when an abuser will say and/or do exactly what the person that they are abusing needs to hear and/or see to give the relationship that they have with the abuser another chance.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

When I learned that she was f*cking some guy at work, I left without warning. I didn’t tell her I knew until I was in a safe place where she couldn’t get to me. When I finally told her that I knew, she went into a rage for about a week. But as time went on and I didn’t return home, she started hoovering me. Telling me that she can’t imagine a life without me, that she was going to k*ll herself if I didn’t come home. She even tried faking being pregnant. It was a complete nightmare! – Isaac

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that occurs when someone doubts or denies your reality. Over time, gaslighting causes you to doubt your reality and question your sanity. Narcissists use gaslighting to remain in a position of power and control of their surrounding environment.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I caught my ex cheating on me 13 different times. You know that song ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy. Yeah that was my life for 12 years, his gaslighting was next level stuff. I would catch him in the act and he gaslighted me so much that he had me believing I was imagining things, dreaming, misreading the situation. You name it, I believed it. It took me such a long time to take control of my life and stop letting him treat me the way he did, but I am proud of myself for doing so.” – Carol

Baiting

Baiting is when a narcissist says or does something manipulative to tempt you to engage with them in a negative interaction. If you engage in a negative interaction with a narcissist, they will use this opportunity to justify their own behavior by portraying you in a negative light to others.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“When I caught her cheating, I ended up getting arrested. I went through her phone when she went to the bathroom because I knew something was up. What I found destroyed me, I didn’t know what to do, I just froze. When I could finally get the words out, I just screamed ‘you are cheating on me.’ She took a look around the room at everyone, then whispered to me, ‘I know, and I like it.’ I just lost it and went crazy. I started screaming, crying, pushed all the food off the table. I am not proud of my response but she baited me into that situation so I would look like the crazy one and she would look like the innocent one. All they care about is how other people see them, that is it.” Jackson

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is an unpredictable, explosive, and unjustifiable response that narcissists often have when they experience a narcissistic injury. It can manifest in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, and/or neglect. Narcissists use rage to prevent others from expressing their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I made the mistake of exposing my ex to our friends when I found out she was cheating. If I had known what I know now about narcissistic injuries, I would have never ’embarrassed’ her like that, but I didn’t back then and I paid for it dearly. She went into a rage, broke several bones my hand with a mallet, she would’ve smoked me in the face with it but I ran out of the house before she could do anything. I’m not sure if I would be alive today if I had stayed in the house. I have see her rage before but nothing like that, it was scary.” – Eric

Future Faking

Future faking is when a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present. Narcissists use future faking because the promises they make often prevent the people they are abusing from ending the relationship that they have with the narcissist.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I’m sure that he cheated on me multiple times but I only caught him once. When I did, he used future faking to stop me from leaving. We had been together for 5 years and had been talking about kids for 3. When I caught him he said something like ‘I cheated because I am scared to be a father. I see myself having this amazing life with you but I don’t feel like I deserve it so I tried sabotaging everything.’ Absolute bulls*it, he cheated because that is what narcissists do. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know he was a narcissist so I believed all of his lies and future faking for the next 3 years.” – Iris

Discarding

Discarding is when the narcissist ends the relationship that they have with you. When a narcissist discards you, they often have a new source of supply (another person) already lined up. Generally speaking, discarding is a tactic that narcissists use to reassure themselves that they are still in power and control of their surrounding environment.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“I was discarded immediately. Seriously, he took all of my stuff and threw it out of the house. I don’t have much to say beyond that. I just remember confronting him with what I knew, him going into a rage, and then throwing me out of the house. I think it was about two to three weeks later that I found out his new girlfriend moved into the house a few days after I left. She quickly realized the mistake she made and got out of there, but yeah I was discarded as soon as I confronted him about the cheating.” – Emma

Stonewalling

Stonewalling is when a narcissist refuses to participate in the communication and connection of the relationship. The three most common forms of stonewalling are gaslighting, the silent treatment, and intimacy avoidance.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“Well I found out while I was at work and sent her a message about it. I didn’t get a reply. When I got home, she was just sitting there watching TV like nothing had happened. I shut off the TV and tried to confront her about the cheating, all she said was ‘I can’t believe you would accuse me of this’ and then proceeded to ignore me for 3 days. I didn’t t know what was going on so I gaslighted myself into believing that I was wrong and apologized.” Wayne

Self-Victimization

Self-victimization is casting oneself in the role of a victim. It is a manipulation tactic that narcissists, especially covert narcissists, use all the time.

Narcissists tend to victimize themselves and act depressed when they can’t use projection to place their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto others, when they don’t get a sufficient amount of narcissistic supply, and when they are trying to remain in power and control of others by making them feel guilty and/or ashamed.

A Quote From One of Our Community Members!

“After she knew that I knew, she started sobbing and asking me to hold her. She told me that I was working so much and that she forgot what it felt like to be loved. There was just so much crap coming out of her mouth, I couldn’t wrap my head around all of it. This self-victimization sh*t didn’t work on me. I was home every single day at 5, she was the one who was constantly out with ‘friends.’ For those reading this, don’t believe in their victimized agenda, as soon as my ex found out that I was leaving, she snapped back into her narcissistic psychopath role and tried to hurt me anyway she could.” – Thaddeus

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

There you have it, 10 manipulation tactics that narcissists use when they are caught cheating! If you’re interested in learning more about narcissism and cheating, our articles Why Do Narcissists Accuse You of Cheating? and Is Cheating Actually a Part of Narcissism? (Case Study) has a lot more information for you!

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Fincham, Frank D., and Ross W. May. “Infidelity in romantic relationships.” Current opinion in psychology 13 (2017): 70-74.

Brunell, Amy B., et al. “Narcissism and academic dishonesty: The exhibitionism dimension and the lack of guilt.” Personality and Individual Differences 50.3 (2011): 323-328.