Anyone who has spent significant time dating a narcissistic person knows firsthand that such partners often provoke jealousy by talking about wanting to date other people, commenting on how attractive someone else is (e.g., while out on a date), and discussing the shortcomings of their current partner compared to others.
Science simply calls them chronically self-absorbed narcissists. We’re glad that science sets its scrutinous sights on things that are detrimental to our well-being: heart disease, diabetes, muffin tops, jerks. Medical research has now confirmed that jealousy plays a large role in the romantic playbook of the textbook narcissist. Still, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa recently examined just how much flirting, cheating and even simply talking about other attractive people factored into narcissistic coupling.
Researchers note there are two sub-types of narcissism — grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists appear confident and outgoing, seemingly devoid of social anxiety, and read immediately to others as “narcissistic.” Vulnerable narcissists, however, come across as shy, socially anxious, and quiet. After a while they tend to get haughty, making others feel worse possibly to shore up low self-esteem. All these maneuvers take a toll on relationships. Researchers report that both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists regularly do things which undermine their relationships.
Using a Motives for Inducing Romantic Jealousy Scale (MIRJS), researchers tested the self-serving impulses of 237 subjects who wielded jealousy to achieve five specific outcomes:
1. exert power and control over their object of affection
2. exact revenge on their partner
3. test and strengthen their relationship
4. seek security
5. compensate for their bouts of low self-esteem
This TED Ed animation about notoriously self-serving people will set you straight if you need more narcissistic knowledge:
If you recognize a few narcissistic traits in yourself or your partner, don’t panic just yet.
Keep in mind that narcissism often comes from a place of deep insecurity and is a learned behavior. Dr. Susan Heitler says “many of the most lovable and admirable guys in this world tend toward narcissistic habits.” She also says that behavior can be unlearned or tweaked, if you love a fixer upper. Remaining calm and opening communication is a sound way to sidestep insecurity and any tendency to assert control.