The Two Faces of Narcissism in Romantic Relationships

One set of the seven studies reported on in this investigation examined how attracted people would be in simulated short-term relationship settings (such as ratings based on videos) to individuals who previously completed the NARQ. Across these simulations, Admiration but not Rivalry predicted such relationship features as attractiveness as a potential mate; desirability as a short-term partner; and likeability. Those high in the Admiration dimension of narcissism also saw themselves as being attractive as mates, a factor which probably enhances their appeal when they meet new people. In short, those who believe in their own greatness but don’t do so at the expense of others can have a great deal of magnetic appeal to those who don’t know them very well.

Having established the positive contribution of narcissistic admiration to short-term romantic success, Wurst and her team then went on to assess the two dimensions of narcissism as predictors of long-term relationship outcomes. As expected, Rivalry negatively predicted relationship success as measured by a variety of indicators, outweighing Admiration. To a certain extent, Admiration could help to negate the impact of Rivalry on long-term relationship outcomes, and Rivalry can also taint a relationship in its opening stages. Nevertheless, the preponderance of data supported NARC’s prediction of the two-fold nature of narcissism’s effect on relationship quality in comparing early to late stages.

Although this study didn’t track couples over time, there’s an implicit trajectory in their data that works as follows: Having gotten into a relationship with a person who sweeps you off your feet with his or her outward charm, it’s unlikely you’ll notice right away that this magnetic individual seems to relish undercutting the good efforts of others. You might also not be aware until you get further down the road that this person constantly tries to thwart your own efforts to succeed, and resents it when you do.

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