Warning: They're pretty shallow things.
Do you think you've fallen in love with a narcissist but aren't sure? Does he or she think they're the center of the universe? Are they arrogant, insensitive, self-centered, self-important, manipulative and full of themselves? Do they lack empathy?
If the object of your love has a number of those characteristics, then you probably love a narcissist. Your best plan of action is to disengage yourself from that relationship as quickly as you can. It will end badly; relationships with narcissists always do.
The main reason that relationships with narcissists rarely last is because narcissists in romantic relationships depend on extrinsic traits. Most long-term relationships are built on intrinsic qualities — warmth, loyalty, and trust — but not so for the narcissists; they're all about their image and they want their partner to be someone who makes them look good.
A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that narcissists not only choose so-called trophy partners, but they are happier in their relationships when extrinsic traits are present.
In the study, which was conducted by researchers from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, lead researcher Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D. questioned 206 adults, including 143 people who were in romantic relationships. Using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Seidman first determined each subject for their narcissistic tendencies, as the study's participants hadn't been clinically diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder.
Next, the study's subjects were asked to rate how important certain traits — both intrinsic and extrinsic — were in an ideal relationship or romantic partner. The people who were in relationships also rated their own partners using the same list of traits and rated how satisfied they were in their relationship.
The study discovered that those with higher narcissistic tendencies were not only more likely to choose people with extrinsic trait (aka the trophy partners), but they were actually happier in their relationship if those qualities were present.
So what are the three things a narcissist needs in a partner to be happy in the relationship?
- Their partner needs to extremely attractive. Narcissists use people to make themselves look better.
- Their partner should have a lot of money. Narcissists don't want to work if they don't have to, and many people are impressed by large amounts of money.
- Their partner should have a high status. Narcissists believe that if their partner is successful, others will believe that they're equally if not more successful just by association.
With narcissists, it's all about how things appear, not true connection or bond. If you're thinking of dating a narcissist or are in a relationship with one, remember that partners of narcissists tend to be happy in the beginning of the relationship. But as time goes on, their happiness can quickly diminish.
"And by the time they break up, things are really bad. And narcissists don't take blame," says Seidman.