Narcissism, a personality trait that is characterized by extreme self-centeredness, is a multi-dimensional trait. Of these dimensions, grandiosity, entitlement, and vulnerability may be especially relevant to romantic relationship outcomes. Research published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that higher entitlement and higher vulnerability (but not grandiosity) were associated with generally negative relationship outcomes such as increased perception of the availability of alternative partners and less overall relationship satisfaction, respectively.
“Narcissism is conceptualized as a spectrum of traits that share an entitled self-concept but vary in the extent to which they are characterized by more approach- or avoidance-related motivational tendencies,” explained Kennedy M. Balzen and colleagues. “Whereas traits linked to approach-related motivational tendencies involve boldness and grandiose behaviors, traits linked to avoidance-related motivational tendencies involve defensiveness and vulnerable behaviors.”
Together, researchers were interested in three narcissistic traits for the present study: entitlement (i.e., heightened self-importance independent of motivational tendencies), grandiosity (i.e., heightened self-importance with approach-related motivations), and vulnerability (i.e., heightened self-importance with avoidance-related motivations).
These distinct dimensions of narcissism may be differentially relevant to romantic relationships. For example, entitlement (but not grandiosity) has been linked with less marital satisfaction over time in newly married couples. Also, entitlement and vulnerability (but not grandiosity) have been linked to a susceptibility to envy.
To examine these traits and relationship outcomes, the researchers used data from a previous diary study. Participants who were in monogamous different-gendered romantic partnerships for a minimum of 3 months self-reported day-to-day relationship behaviors. Researchers obtained a final sample size of 216 (108 pairs). All participants initially completed measures of narcissism and completed daily diary questionnaires for seven consecutive days. These daily measures included relationship satisfaction, jealousy, and availability of alternative partners.
Results indicate that none of the narcissistic trait dimensions were related to sexual jealousy. However, those with more entitlement had a greater likelihood of non-sexual jealousy. Higher odds of non-sexual jealousy were also observed when either the participants’ or the participants’ partner had high levels of vulnerability.
Results also show that grandiosity was not related to participants’ nor their partners’ relationship satisfaction. On the other hand, higher vulnerability was associated with lower relationship satisfaction. Participants with more entitlement reported more perceived availability of alternative partners.
“Broadly speaking, our findings corroborate previous research showing that entitlement and vulnerability are associated with maladaptive outcomes in established romantic relationships,” concluded the researchers. However, they recommend some caution in interpreting the findings for vulnerability and entitlement as their sample size was not large enough to be confident in the observed effects.
The researchers also mention limiting the diary study to 7 days may have reduced the scope of the data in such a way that changes in sexual jealousy were not observed. “Although our findings are consistent with work showing that greater vulnerability is linked to lower relationship satisfaction, we did not observe similar relations with entitlement that have been found in previous research. It is possible that romantic relationships need to be of longer duration to observe such effects, and that the relatively shorter relationship lengths of participants in the present study explain these failures to replicate.”
The study, “Narcissistic traits and romantic relationship outcomes: A short daily diary investigation“, was authored by Kennedy M. Balzen, Desiree’ A. Knoch, Kennedy A. Millward, Conrad A. Corretti, and Robert A. Ackerman.