The Two Faces of Narcissism in Romantic Relationships

The quality of grandiose narcissism, in which people need to see themselves as superior to everyone else, is not that compatible with good social relationships and especially not good romanticrelationships. It’s not pleasant to be with a partner who always needs to show his or her superiority over you. However, there is one slight exception to this general rule, and that pertains to the fact that people high in narcissism can have a certain flair that makes them seem quite attractive — to those who don’t know them well. Charisma, charm (though superficial), and their enjoyment of being the center of attention can lead others to be drawn to them. As time goes on, though, things can turn sour.

New research based on a set of studies carried out by University of Munster’s Stefanie Wurst and colleagues (2017) shows why relationships with narcissists can have a downward trajectory. The basic framework of the study compared grandiose narcissism to a chocolate cake: In the short run, you enjoy all that deliciousness, but later you start to regret having eaten it, due to the extra calories you’ve consumed. The model of grandiose narcissism tested in this study, labeled “Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept,” or “NARC,” proposes that narcissists strive to inflate their self-esteem in a two-dimensional way. The Admiration dimension involves the desire to seek approval from others and receive the positive social outcomes of being liked. The Rivalry dimension refers to the tendency of people high in narcissism to want to out-do others or to “protect oneself from a negative self-view by derogating others”.

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