Cheaters, Narcissists and Sex Addicts, OH MY!

Let’s face it –Tiger is not just a husband who is in a challenged marriage, but he is a serial cheater.

Dr. Michelle Golland: In my practice where I see couples dealing with infidelity, they fall into two categories.

1) An infidelity as a symptom of a marriage in distress.
2) Serial cheating, where the issues involve a marriage in distress and the serial cheater’s deeper emotional problems including sexual addiction and an underlying depression or anxiety disorder or a narcissistic personality disorder is also a contributing factor.

Therapeutically dealing with a single infidelity is challenging enough, but if you are dealing with a serial cheater, the issues shift. An individual who repeatedly sleeps with multiple people while married will most likely be dealing with far deeper and more complex emotional issues.

These men and woman can have narcistic personality disorder. Narcissists are self-absorbed and tend to be highly charming. They have a constant need for admiration and attention. They are master manipulators and feel an emotional high with each new physical conquest. They often have multiple affairs going on at the same time, although none of them know about the other because again they are very good at manipulation. A serial cheater who is a narcissist is not just dealing with a lack of self-esteem, we are talking about the individual’s personality and it is a pervasive part of their lifestyle. Interestingly, they never want to divorce and will usually fight tooth and nail to stay married, although it is highly predicted that they will continue their cheating ways. Personality disorders are extremely difficult to treat.

Sex addiction can also be at the root of the problem for the serial cheater. Sex addicts use sexual contact and sexual conquests the same way that other addicts use drugs, alcohol, gambling, or shopping. They are trying to numb emotional pain or fill a never-ending pit of emotional emptiness. They often display risky behavior and use sex to feel attractive and powerful. Often for the sexual addict, these behaviors are trying to push down feelings of depression and sadness. A true sign of addiction is when the behaviors simply don’t make sense and seem out of control.

In the case of Tiger Woods, it is unclear which of these issues are at play in his psyche but clearly his double life of multiple ongoing sexual relationships with numerous women points to a much deeper issue than simply a challenged marriage. As a professional athlete, Tiger would experience intense rushes of emotions and may try to recreate that intense feeling. These emotions, coupled with the loss of his father, manager, and mentor, may have made him ripe to go down the road to an addiction of some kind to fend off his painfully deep sadness.

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