What Is 'Narcissistic Supply' in Affair Recovery? "Make Me Feel Ok Even Though I Cheated"

For decades betrayed partners have shared vehemently how they feel they are the ones having to console or care for their unfaithful partners after the disclosure of an affair. It's a thorn in the side of a generation of betrayed partners who feel like they are the true victims in this equation, yet they are paralyzed by an unfaithful partner who continues to make the situation more about them than the betrayed. Furthermore, any time the betrayed feels like they are not OK and show emotion, the unfaithful (in this particular situation) become distressed as well and oftentimes show their distress with defensiveness, anger, rage and deflection. Today Samuel pinpoints why unproductive and sometimes harmful reactions like this happen in the unfaithful and keys to help both parties resolve this toxic dilemma after the disclosure of affairs.

Add New Comment:


You wrote above “the

You wrote above “the unfaithful (in this particular situation) become distressed as well and oftentimes show their distress with defensiveness, anger, rage and deflection.”
I had the thought this morning on a forum post that it’s the same thinking/actions at work in this scenario that went into the acting out behaviors. The unfaithful is unable to “hold space” for their betrayed partners in the same way they were unable to “hold space” for themselves when they were wounded and lost. They could not cope with the intensity of their own emotions in the same way they cannot cope with the intensity of emotions in the one they wounded. Instead of finding healthy ways to deal with pain, they medicated it, shoved it away, covered it up with acting out behaviors. Is it any wonder they now can’t respond in a healthy way to their partner’s pain?
This certainly poses a dilemma for all involved. In the early days after disclosure, I remember thinking to myself about my unfaithful husband, “How can I expect him to show up for me when I’m suffering, he has no clue how to deal with pain, his own and mine. His way of dealing with his own pain landed us in this mess.”
This is one of the things he’s had to learn. He’s had to first acknowledge the crappy things life handed him as a young boy; it’s been too painful for him to even look at for years and years. Then he’s had to look inward and see the self-inflicted pain of his choices; he became the opposite of the man he wanted to be in this life. When you have no clue how to deal with your own pain, how in the world can you adequately respond to the pain of those who you love?
I have to say, three years of us being open and honest about all of this and getting the needed outside help has been so beneficial. I’ve had to keep my expectations low in regard to comfort from him as he isn’t always capable. Thankfully I know how to receive the comfort I require in healthy ways - from my faith, from friends and family, from reading and podcasts, and from those wiser than I. My husband has learned to be there for me most of the time, but there are still moments when he lapses into old patterns of defensiveness and shame. It’s been good for me to understand that healing is a process and there will be hiccups along the way.
Thank you for your continued investment in the healing of others.

You're right...

I feel the same way in my relationship. As a betrayed spouse, I acknowledge the poor coping skills my husband has that led us here. I feel blessed when he's able to comfort me, but for now I accept that I will have to find comfort from trusted friends and my therapist much of the time. I can comfort him too, but always within my boundaries so I don't feel depleted. Stay strong. I wish you continued healing.

Helpful to identify this dynamic

This is such a helpful video that relates to my relationship. Instead of blaming or raging at me, my husband w addiction goes into shame and depression when I am “not ok” such as when I tell him I am feeling anxious or sad. Not only do I not get the support from him which would be so helpful but he decimoensates. Makes me want to share less. Even after a lot of work and groups for him.. As a partner, it is one of the most challenging things for me as a long hauler.

A Double Whammy

Not only do you as the betrayed have no choice but to deal with your own pain; but they also put their pain-they alone caused you onto you. It’s a lonely road.
Then to here from your wife (as I have still after 25 years), “ I’ve been alone a lot longer than you have.” Blind self-loathing ! Let’s see she chose to flirt, scehemed, cheated, lied about doing it, and ACTUALLY left you alone physically, emotionally, mentally willingly walking away abandoning you, and then they protests (at times raging at me) it’s the “poor me”. Completely focusing on all her own sabotaging choices.

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer

Free Surviving Infidelity Bootcamp

Our experts designed this step-by-step guide to help you survive infidelity. Be intentional with your healing with this free 7-day bootcamp.
I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas