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Sexual Attitudes Help Explain Narcissists’ Relationship Problem

When Robert Browning wrote “grow old along with me, the best is yet to be,” he had no inkling of a future University of Florida study showing// that narcissists are more interested in sexual pleasure than lasting intimacy.

The new study found that narcissists are more likely to philander and dump their partners than people who view closeness and commitment as the most important parts of a relationship, said Ilan Shrira, a UF visiting psychologist.

“Narcissists have a heightened sense of sexuality, but they tend to view sex very differently than other people do,” said Shrira, whose study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. “They see sexuality more in terms of power, influence and as something daring, in contrast to people with low narcissistic qualities who associated sex more with caring and love.”

As a result, narcissists tend to go through a string of short-term relationships that don’t last long and are usually devoid of much intimacy, he said.

“Even when they’re in a relationship, they always seem to be on the lookout for other partners and searching for a better deal,” Shrira said. “Whether that’s because of their heightened sexuality or because they think multiple partners enhance their self-image isn’t entirely clear.”

Although narcissism and sexuality have been linked since the psychoanalytic writings of Freud, researchers have paid little attention to the connection, he said.

Shrira collaborated with Joshua D. Foster, a University of South Alabama social psychologist, and W. Keith Campbell, a University of Georgia social psychologist and author of the 2005 book “When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself.” They did two studies with a total of 485 undergraduate students at the University of Georgia.

In the first study, participants who scored high on a narcissism personality inventory test, as measured by strong agreement to such statem
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