In my practice, I have had the pleasure of representing many, many good and caring people. Many of these good people end up being entrapped into a relationship with a narcissist. This is part of the paradox: why do so many good and caring people end up in marriages with such selfish, and often abusive, partners? Psychology author Peg Streep writes compelling articles for journals like Psychology Today. She has some rare insights into the narcissist and how such good and smar tpeople get fooled and trapped into these toxic marriages.
6 Reasons It’s Easy to Be Fooled by a Narcissist
by Peg Streep
5. He’ s/she’s sexually accomplished
Yes, on a technical level at least because the narcissist prides himself at being better than anyone at everything and he’s willing to try pretty much anything that gives him pleasure. Of course, the emotional connection that is part of really great sex eludes him since he’s fundamentally shut off; alas, it may take you a while to appreciate the difference.
6. He/she knows how to game your investment in the relationship (and your empathy too)
Above all, the narcissist is a game player and he doesn’t shy away from brinksmanship either and until you see that clearly, you’re pretty much toast. When an honest and caring person is up against someone who’s more than willing to lie, happy to manipulate and, at the end of the day, doesn’t care about you, you don’t stand a chance. Keep in mind that the narcissist likes being in a relationship and actually needs to be in one because he uses it to self-regulate—to enhance himself or maintain his self-esteem.
And as W. Keith Campbell and his colleagues note in their study of game-playing, the narcissist isn’t necessarily heavy-handed but capable of using a soft touch. He wants you in the relationship because he likes the control and keeping you off-balance but, at the same time, he wants his autonomy too. It’s not that he doesn’t have any positive feelings for you—he well may—but they are relatively shallow since he’s not interested in intimacy and, in the scheme of things, his own needs absolutely come first.
So, if you’ve had a run-in with a narcissist, it’s important to recognize that seeing him or her clearly isn’t as easy as it sounds. If only every narcissist were the caricature the culture paints—the one who proclaims “Me, Me, Me” in a loud voice, the person so full of him or herself that there’s no air in the room, and whose living room is full of self-portraits and trophies—no one would need to read about the subject. Nope, the problem is that a narcissist can hide in plain sight and, somehow, he or she is still hard to spot.
2016 Peg Streep Peg Streep writes non-fiction books; her interests include psychology and issues pertaining to women. She blogs for Psychology Today and Psych Central.
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Dufner, Michael, John F, Rauthmann, Anna Z, Czarna, and Jaap J.A. Denissen, “Are Narcissists Sexy? Zeroing in on the Effect of Narcissism on Short-term Male Appeal,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2013), 39 (7), 870-882.
Malkin, Craig. Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and the Surprising Good—About Feeling Special. New York: Harper Wave, 2015.
Fenney, Brooke C. “The Dependency Paradox in Close Relationships: Accepting Dependence Promotes Independence,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2007), vol. 92, no. 2, 268-285.
Campbell, W. Keith, Craig A. Fogler, and Eli J. Finkel. “Does Self-Love Lead to Love for Others? A Story of Narcissistic Game Playing,“ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2002), vol. 83, no. 2, 340-354.