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Do Narcissists Make Their Partners Jealous On Purpose?

 Most anyone who has spent significant time dating a narcissistic person knows first hand that narcissists often provoke jealousy by talking about wanting to date other people, commenting on how attractive someone else is e.g. while out on a date, and discussing the short-comings of their current partner compared to others.

Considering that narcissistic people are typically thought to be insecure deep down, on firstblush it doesn’t make sense that they would do things which would threaten their romantic relationships. Researchers (Tortoriello et al. 2017) set out to find out why.

They note there are two sub-types of narcissism – grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists appear confident and outgoing, seemingly devoid of social anxiety, and read immediately to others as “narcissistic”. Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, come across as shy, socially anxious and quiet. After a while, however, they tend to get haughty and stuck-up, making others feel worse possibly to shore up low self-esteem. All these maneuvers take a toll on relationships. Tortoriello and colleagues report that regardless, both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists regularly do things which undermine their relationships.

These examples are familiar: narcissistic people may act distant and uninterested even when they are in a committed relationship, they may form “platonic” relationships with attractive people and act like it shouldn’t bother their partners, they may talk about why they should dump whomever their seeing to be with someone else, highlighting their current partner’s shortcomings, and they often brazenly flirt, and brush it off. They often do things which make their partners insecure and jealous – and then blame them for over-reacting or having issues.

Seeking to work out what makes narcissists make others jealous, the authors use the “five motives for inducing romantic jealousy”, and test for them by surveying narcissists with a rating tool (the Motives for Inducing Romantic Jealousy Scale – MIRJS) after assaying for narcissistic traits.

In addition to the MIRJS, participants (237 undergraduate students) also completed various other measures from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the Pathological Narcissism Inventory,  the Mach-IV (as in “Machiavellianism”), and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale, in addition to completing the Romantic Jealousy-Induction Scale. This allowed them to measure correlations among various aspects of narcissism with motives to make romantic partners jealous.