Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry.

Stefanie N. Wurst*, Tanja M. Gerlach, Michael Dufner, John F. Rauthmann, Michael P. Grosz, Albrecht C.P. Küfner, Jaap J.A. Denissen, Mitja D. Back

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Narcissism is known to be related to romantic success in short-term contexts (dating, early stage relationships)but also to problems in long-term committed relationships. We propose that these diverging romantic outcomes of narcissism can be explained by differential associations with agentic versus antagonistic dimensions of grandiose narcissism: Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry. Both dimensions serve the central narcissistic goal of gaining and maintaining a grandiose self-view, but do so by different processes:Admiration is characterized by the tendency to promote the positivity of one's self-view by seeking socialadmiration (assertive self-enhancement). Rivalry is characterized by the tendency to protect oneself from a negative self-view by derogating others (antagonistic self-protection). Across 7 studies (total N=3,560) using diverse measures and methodological approaches (self-, peer, and partner reports, as well as interpersonal perception measures in video-based studies, face-to-face laboratory encounters, and online surveys), we show that the short-term romantic appeal associated with narcissism is primarily attributable to the dimension of Admiration, whereas the long-term romantic problems associated with narcissism are primarily attributable to the dimension of Rivalry. These results highlight the utility of a 2-dimensional reconceptualization of grandiose narcissism for explaining its heterogeneous romantic outcomes. The findings further underscore the idea that different facets of personality traits might impact different aspects of romantic relationship quality, depending on the stage of the relationship. Such a more nuanced view increases the predictive validity of personality traits in social relationship research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-306
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by German Research Foundation (DFG) Grants BA 3731/2-1 to Mitja D. Back, and BA 3731/6-1 to Mitja D. Back, Steffen Nestler, and Boris Egloff. Michael P. Grosz is a doctoral student at the LEAD Graduate School and Research Network [GSC1028], funded by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. Some of the results from this article were previously presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin (February 2014), at the European Conference on Personality in Lausanne (July 2014) and at the Congress of the German Psychological Society in Bochum (September 2014). We are grateful to Dmitrij Agroskin, Leonie Althaus, Anna Auth, Angelina Bohlender, Simon Breil, Josephine Clausen, Kyra Elias, Jasmina Eskic, Mahnas Farahati, Lea Sophie Fetk?ter, Francesca Froreich, Stella Grau, Marc Gr?nberg, Lisa H?ke, Astrid Janich, David Kolar, Carolin Landers, Simon Lintz, Jana Mattern, Isabel Metzler, Christian Pill, Theresa Pohl, Selina Reinhard, Michael Weigand, Lisa Wierichs, and Christina W?bkenberg for their help with data collection. We also thank Katharina Geukes, Roos Hutteman, Steffen Nestler, Marius Leckelt, and Karl-Heinz Renner for fruitful discussions on this research and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Grandiose narcissism
  • Interpersonal attraction
  • Personality-relationship dynamics
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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