Narcissistic rivalry is negatively associated with relationship satisfaction among both men and women, according to new research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. But narcissistic admiration doesn’t appear to have a strong association with relationship satisfaction in general, and might actually have a positive effect for women. The study highlights the importance of considering the specific components of narcissism and their differential effects on relationship dynamics.
Narcissism is a multidimensional construct characterized by self-centeredness, exploiting others for personal gain, and a tendency to insult others to maintain self-esteem. The author of the study was interested in examining the role of narcissistic traits in romantic relationships. While previous studies have explored narcissism and its impact on relationship satisfaction, few have conducted longitudinal studies or specifically investigated the separate effects of different facets of narcissism.
The study draws on the work of Back et al. (2013), who divided narcissism into two components: admiration and rivalry. Narcissistic admiration refers to the need for positive reactions and validation from others, while narcissistic rivalry involves protecting one’s self-image through derogatory behavior toward others.
Previous research suggested that narcissistic rivalry is negatively linked to long-term relationship satisfaction, but the impact of narcissistic admiration on relationships and how changes in these traits affect relationship satisfaction over time have not been fully explored.
To address these gaps, Elyakim Kislev conducted a longitudinal study using data from the ninth and 11th waves of the Pairfam study. The Pairfam study is a German research project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) that collects yearly longitudinal data on intimate relationships and family dynamics. The sample includes individuals from different age cohorts, and the data used in this study involved 8,711 participants who were at least 18 years old and in a relationship.
The measurement of narcissistic traits was based on items from Back et al.’s (2013) work. The narcissistic rivalry trait was assessed using statements related to annoyance when others steal the show and wanting rivals to fail. The narcissistic admiration trait was measured through statements about deserving to be seen as a great personality and being the center of attention.
Participants rated their agreement with these statements on a 5-point scale. Relationship satisfaction was assessed with a single item asking participants to rate their overall satisfaction with their relationship on a scale from very dissatisfied to very satisfied.
The analysis included demographic and socioeconomic variables, such as gender, age, education level, subjective health assessment, personal net income, and the number of children. The study examined the correlations between changes in narcissistic rivalry and admiration traits over time and their associations with relationship satisfaction. They also explored the potential differences between men and women by including interaction terms in the analysis.
The findings of the study revealed that increasing levels of narcissistic rivalry were associated with decreased relationship satisfaction among both men and women. Additionally, among men, increasing levels of narcissistic admiration were also linked to decreased relationship satisfaction.
When Kislev looked at both admiration narcissistic traits and rivalry narcissistic traits together, taking into account their correlation, it found that increasing levels of admiration narcissistic traits did not have an impact on changes in relationship satisfaction among men. However, among women, higher levels of admiration narcissistic traits were associated with increased levels of relationship satisfaction.
In other words, women who showed more admiration narcissistic traits tended to feel happier in their relationships, while this was not the case for men. Kislev said that this might be explained by the empowerment that self-admiration brings to women who are culturally disadvantaged in many situations. It counters ingrained gender roles and helps create more equal relationships. However, further research is needed to confirm this explanation.
The study contributes to our understanding of the relationship between narcissistic traits and relationship satisfaction, but there are a few limitations to consider. Firstly, the effect sizes of most variables in the study were small, indicating that the observed relationships were not very strong. This suggests that further research with larger samples and more comprehensive models is needed to better understand the complex nature of narcissistic traits and their impact on relationship satisfaction.
Another limitation is that the study focused primarily on the effects of narcissistic traits and did not explore other factors that could influence relationship satisfaction, such as partner characteristics or demographic factors like race, ethnicity, social class, gender fluidity, and sexual orientation.
“In conclusion, the findings of this study confirm previous results in suggesting the inverse association between narcissism and relationship satisfaction levels, while also providing new longitudinal evidence supporting the distinct connection between narcissistic rivalry and admiration traits and relationship satisfaction,” Kislev wrote.
“Specifically, increasing narcissistic rivalry levels over time are linked with reduced relationship satisfaction, while the narcissistic admiration trait is limited in its association with relationship satisfaction and even presents a positive relation among women when accounting for collinearity.”
The study, “The Longitudinal Effect of Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Traits on Relationship Satisfaction“, was authored by Elyakim Kislev.