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Sexual Attitudes Help Explain Narcissists’ Relationship Problem

ents as ‘I will be a success’ and “I find it easy to manipulate people,’ considered physical pleasure to be much more important in a sexual relationship than emotional intimacy. The highly narcissistic were 50 percent more likely than the more humble to view the primary purpose of sexual intercourse as enhancing their own physical pleasure, rather than increasing emotional intimacy with their partner, he said.

In the second study, which involved only undergraduates who were in a romantic relationship, those with high narcissism scores expressed considerably low commitment to their partner.

Typically, males are more narcissistic than females, who are known to place greater priority than men on personal relationships, Shrira said. “Narcissists tend not to value relationships unless it’s for self-serving purposes,” he said.

In a separate cross-cultural study the researchers conducted on people ages 8 to 80, they found that narcissism peaks at about 15 or 16 and then steadily declines as people get older, Shrira said. He attributed this partly to the “reality principle.”

“When you’re in high school or college, you’re at the peak of your physical condition and the world is your oyster,” he said. “But when you get out in the world you realize you’re not the best at everything and it sort of humbles you.”

Narcissists often make a good first impression because of strong social skills that make them appear charming, and sometimes even empathetic, but this is usually only a ploy to attract attention, Shrira said. “Once you get to know these people, you realize they’re very self-focused and are always bringing the conversation back to themselves,” he said.

Shrira said he believes narcissism is on the rise partly because of the prominence of the self-esteem movement over the past quarter century. When the movement began in the ‘80s, an improved self-concept was credited with helping students perform better
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