Narcissism seems to have become a contemporary epidemic. The technology available allows us to access and disseminate personal information and create your own “personal PR buzz” in ways that no other generation has been able to do. While true Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rarer that the appearance of tendencies or traits, the skills that individuals who are inclined towards narcissism develop can be honed and practiced with larger, more far reaching audiences – which only tends to reinforce these traits in people with these tendencies.
Narcissistic individuals are often surprisingly adept at reeling in romantic partners as their drive to be the center of attention motivates them to refine their skills at sexual attraction. Generally, once a sexual narcissist has conquered the challenge of attracting a targeted partner, the need to move on to another conquest is already growing and the desire to please the latest partner begins evaporating. It’s almost like a “catch and release” tournament in which a fish is reeled in, weighed and measured, then tossed back into the water – with no regard for the potential stress or anxiety the creature experiences.
While narcissists tend to assume that they are naturally the most proficient lover a partner’s ever had, their measure of sexual satisfaction likely has little to do with their partners’ satisfaction and more to do with how narcissists rate themselves against other lovers. It’s similar to the difference between a pianist who is able to execute the correct notes on a piece of music versus the skilled artist who is able to bring life to a piece of sheet music even if a few notes are missed. Giving a narcissist the opportunity to carve another notch on the bedpost after sex is significantly different than leaving a mark on someone’s heart after a night together. The goal for the sexual narcissist is proving to himself and his partner that he’s a skilled lover; the goal is not the partner’s pleasure. In the earliest stages of a relationship, it might not be so terrible to be sharing your bed with a partner determined to be an effective lover. Over time, as ardor fades and relationships should be growing more layered and complex, the sexual narcissist is unable to carry a fair share of the responsibility for keeping the relationship on track and the sexual gratification is no longer worth the emotional demands of the union. Emotional intimacy is virtually impossible with individuals who cannot acknowledge their flaws.
It’s often found that most couples engage in sexual intercourse about once a week and this is usually the frequency that people report as the level that keeps them satisfied. Sexual narcissists who are not hitting the target of “average” will be displeased and work to change their own level of frequency --- not because they or their partners aren’t satisfied with their frequency within the relationship, but because most narcissists have trouble accepting information that suggests that they are less than outstanding or a cut above the rest.
Narcissists also require a lot of ego stroking and positive feedback. If you fail to give them the accolades they crave, they may retreat and blame you for any sexual mismatches or problems. “How can a person who tries so hard to please another be at fault,” they might demand. From their perspective, their inability to meet another’s needs reflects their partners’ failings, not their own. Statistics reflect the strong likelihood that sexual narcissists easily seek partners outside of a primary relationship more readily than those low in sexual narcissistic traits.
Widman and McNulty (2010) noted four specific areas in which sexual narcissism will appear: exploiting one’s partner; feeling entitled to whatever they want from a partner; lack of empathy for a partner’s sexual needs, satisfaction, or experiences; and grandiose beliefs about frequency and performance. These four traits lead to the following questions that you might need to ask yourself if you believe that your partner is a sexual narcissist:
When you are sleeping with a narcissist, you may feel that you must constantly offer false praise to your partner to keep egos intact - -which can be an exhausting task. You may also find yourself feeling used by this person and feel that your value is linked to sexual gratification of another, not sexual pleasure that is shared. Research shows that sexual narcissists are more likely to cheat on a partner than others would be, which can be emotionally devastating for a partner. However, equally devastating is realizing that sexual narcissists are more prone to sexual violence than other people and this adds physical danger to the emotional danger that can result when trying to do the impossible: build a healthy intimate relationship with a sexual narcissist. Exit the relationship before you suffer any more harm than you already have.
# # #
Widman, L., & McNulty, J. K. (2010). Sexual narcissism and the perpetration of sexual aggression. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 926-939. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9461-7
Day, L. C., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2017). Is comparison the thief of joy? Sexual Narcissism and Social Comparisons in the Domain of Sexuality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(2), 233–244.