Why Do Women Fall For Narcissistic Men?

Why Do Women Fall For Narcissistic Men?

Ever fall hopelessly for a man who was more in love with himself than he was with you? Get in line.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

“We tend to be attracted to people who possess the four qualities (flashy and neat dress, charming facial expression, self-assured body movements, and humorous verbal expression) that narcissists tend to (initially) possess…After the first meeting, narcissists were rated as more agreeable, conscientious, open, competence, entertaining, and well adjusted by the other members of the group.”

That’s all well and good, and it explains why charmers make strong first impressions. But further studies show why they’re such bad relationship partners:

Ever fall hopelessly for a man who was more in love with himself than he was with you? Get in line.

“Narcissists don’t play well with others, and this becomes clearer in the long-term. Narcissists don’t tend to do well in long-term relationships, and suffer from all sorts of intra- and interpersonal problems. Paulhus (1998) found that after the seventh roughly 2.5 hour student work group session, narcissists were rated by the other members of the group as less agreeable, less well adjusted, less warm, and more hostile and arrogant.”

So, the article asks, “What are we supposed to do, intentionally go for those who show the traits that are exactly the opposite of what is generally considered attractive?” The author suggests that the answer is an unequivocal YES:

“My message to all those who are sick of being duped by narcissists, assholes, chauvinistics, etc. is to change the script entirely. Girls, next time you go to a club, approach every single guy you see who looks shy and awkward and is standing in the corner of the dance floor sipping his drink too fast. Give the guy a chance who approaches you and isn’t smooth at all but seems like he is genuinely interested in you. Give those a chance who don’t at first display all four super attractive qualities and see if after talking to them for a little while and you’ve given them a chance to open up a bit, if they start to naturally turn on the qualities you are seeking in a potential mate/friend. If they truly aren’t attractive after getting to know them, then you might want to look elsewhere, but give them a chance.”

Personally, I think that’s a little bit extreme. Not every single well-dressed, confident, funny guy is a toxic narcissist (cough, cough), and you shouldn’t avoid all engaging men like the plague. But nor should you be seduced by them. The qualities that matter most in a 40-year-marriage are not necessarily displayed in an online dating profile, in a 15-minute party conversation, or on a brief coffee date. And you’d be well-served to give men who are not so “smooth” a good fair shake before you determine they’re not worthy of you.

One other amusing conclusion from the author:

“I think blogging is a terrific arena for narcissists, if not the best arena imaginable. Narcissistic bloggers can get a constant stream of admiration from complete strangers in the form of comments after each blog post. The blogger doesn’t have to value the commentator or form a relationship with the commentator. In fact, the commentator is helping to feed the narcisstic blogger’s addiction for instant admiration. And comments that are too critical can easily be deleted.”

Um, no comment.

Read the article here. Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    John

    My best friend is a narcissist. He and I can talk for an hour on the phone and 55 of the minutes will be about him and when its my turn to talk for 5 minutes, he is always doing something else. He tells everyone his stories and problems and whenever someone else speaks, he brings the focus on to him. I love the guy but he can be difficult in that regard. He is like that with the girls he dates too.
     
    But here is the rub-he is extremely good looking and women throw themselves at him. He blows off  9s to date 10s.  So are these ladies attracted because he is a narcissist? No. They are attracted to him because of his looks and then along the way they figure out he is a narcissist. Some of them dump him for that reason when they figure it out. Others stay until he ditches them. But the attraction they felt towards him was due solely to his looks. And they put up with his selfish ways just because they think he is hot.  Women arent attracted to narcissism per se, but they will gravitate to looks, personality disorders be damned in the short term.

  2. 2
    Karl R

    Original post:
    “the article asks, ‘What are we supposed to do, intentionally go for those who show the traits that are exactly the opposite of what is generally considered attractive?’ The author suggests that the answer is an unequivocal YES”
     
    Just to be clear, this is quoting psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, not the original study (Back, Schmulke and Egloff) published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
     
    I agree that Kaufman’s advice seems to be overkill. It’s useful to understand that narcissists have these superficial qualities, but people are quite capable of having those qualities without being narcissistic.
     
    On the other hand, if a person is having difficulty getting their foot in the door with potential dates, those four traits are what they should develop. If they work for narcissists, they should work for decent people too.

  3. 3
    Jenna

    I agree with Evan that this advice is somewhat extreme. I’m not hanging around a guy who is a chore to talk to with his nervousness and social awkwardness. But if you only sit around waiting for men to make the first move, you may get a lot of those superficial charmers. Best to write to men online first and strike up casual conversations with men around you , set a playful and fun tone, and see if you can create the best possible opportunity for connection. But since I was dorky and awkward growing up and then put a lot of work into being more socially confident, I would hope I could find a guy who had also done some self improvement and wasn’t a wallflower. 

  4. 5
    PK

    I agree that we should make an effort to separate charm/attraction from actually being a good fit for someone. However I think it’s interesting that the reaction is always to tell women to pick nerdy or socially awkward men. The operative assumption is that those men would be excellent partners. that’s not necessarily true, A socially inept person might be equally bad to be in a relationship with. 
    Obviously not giving a guy who doesn’t immediately wow you is definitely a good idea. I just think it’s interesting that we always tell women to pick the complete extreme of men instead.

  5. 6
    DatingCircus

    Interesting study… I often wonder if this is something I am running into or not.
    I think the problem is that it is so easy to confuse certain generalities with definitions of personality disorders.  “Is he just having a bad day or is he depressed?” :He seems confused…is it stress or ADD?” I wonder if it was easier to detect bad qualities before we became so acquainted with personality disorders.  And I also wonder if self-diagnosing our lovers gives us the upper hand or the reverse?

  6. 7
    marymary

    PK
    that,s not the msg I took away. maybe women are so blinded by charm and attraction we won,t seriously consider anyone else. Anyone else immediately gets written off as “less than”. No one is saying that zero attraction is a better bet.  there are alternatives.
    i go further than you. I think charm and attraction mean more than “not necessarily a good fit”‘.  it means  “not a good fit” (for me anyway). As soon as I get “that feeling” I step away from the light. It.s not served me well in the past.
    I do find my boyfriend attractive but it grew over time, and is still growing. Not sure what took me so long given he,s tall, athletic with a nice face, and a great voice. our getting to know each other was  lowkey, normal, respectful. He didn,t sweep me off my feet but he didn,t let me down either.  Love should grow, I don,t expect to be in love after ten minutes or even ten weeks.
    I get that it can be fun to go toe to toe with a charmer for an hour or two on a night out. But that,s it, that hour is the best he,s got.  

    1. 7.1
      J

      I think the issue is that love is a very confusing emotion. People can be blinded by shallow things and when those things are stripped bare there goes the love. Or people also are driven to play out some drama from childhood and that warps their perception of love. People can fall for someone in an affair and then realize its their spouse they really love after all. I think my definition of love is a story about a young mother who was burned and disfigured in a plane crash and thought her husband might leave her after losing her beauty. But nope he still adores her makes love to her and life has continued on like before. To me thats love as it transcends everything . Instead of wanting to leave her hes jusr grateful shes still alive. Some people are probably not capable of this  true love.

  7. 8
    Sparkling Emerald

    marymary #7  You said
       “I do find my boyfriend attractive but it grew over time, and is still growing. Not sure what took me so long given he,s tall, athletic with a nice face, and a great voice. our getting to know each other was  lowkey, normal, respectful. He didn,t sweep me off my feet but he didn’t let me down either.  Love should grow, I don,t expect to be in love after ten minutes or even ten weeks.”
    —————-
      Is this typical for you, or is this the first time someone “grew” on you ?  I used to give guys a second chance hoping they would grow on me, but that only happened once (the guy pursued me relentlessly, but it didn’t work out anyway)  After a while, I stopped taking second looks at guys I wasn’t initially attracted to.  I felt like I was leading a guy on and wasting his time otherwise.  I think it’s cruel to give someone false hope. I have been attracted to narcissists and to nice guys too.  However, when I find myself attracted to a narcissist, I RUN in the other direction, since they are not the ONLY types I’m attracted to.
      Maybe in this incarnation as a single, I should take a second look at guys who I’m not instantly attracted to, and see if it can grow.  Maybe since I’m older, I could “grow” to love someone.

  8. 9
    Robyn

    Narcissists are the way they are because (for whatever reason) they can be so. Their M.O. works…. so they keep the same M.O. – for decades, if not an entire life-time.
    So long as a fabulously handsome guy (or fabulously beautiful girl) continue to be “successful” regardless of how selfish / “narcissistic” they are, they will not change their attitude or behavior.
    “If it works, why change it?”
    Not all fabulously handsome guys or fabulously beautiful girls are narcissists, but I have to say that I’ve never met a butt-ugly narcissist.
    There’s a reason why the saying “handsome is as handsome does” still exists ;)
    So…. stunning good looks and flashy initial impressions can be lovely and delicious, but you gotta dig below the surface to know what the real truth (person) is. And they have to take the same time to get to know the real you in return.
    Similarly, some people may not “shine” at first, but will show their true value with time, as you make the effort to get to know them (and they in return make the effort to get to know you).

  9. 10
    starthrower68

    Some may have narcissistic tendencies but for some it’s a full on personality disorder.  I was married to one (tendencies) and dated one (personality disorder).  They generally lack the ability to empathize with others, objectify them and see them as existing for the sole purpose of feeding the need for admiration.  The ones will a disorder have constructed a carefully crafted reality that is inline with the self-aggrandisement.  Even psychologists and psy docs will tell you they can’t generally be treated as they lack ability to see their own faults.
    Why are women attracted?  Well for one thing, the N I dated was larger than life, was exciting, and always had others hovering around him. I was also spiritually dead inside and had no ability to see it for what it was without therapy.  N’s also seem to have a knack for finding those who are people pleasers, constantly seeking approval, low self worth, etc. 
    BTW, Evan, good use of APA citation style.  Karl, you forgot your year and page number.  I’m just messin’ with ya!  I had to write a ton of papers for my degrees and I have APA burned. In my brain.

  10. 11
    Lia

    I knew a guy when I was in my twenties that I believe was a narcissist.  We did community theatre together.  He was flat out gorgeous, tall, great voice, bla bla bla.  There were a lot of women both in the theatre group and at the hospital where we both worked that threw themselves at him.  I wasn’t very impressed though.  I thought he had a week chin, a huge self importance button and the depth of the fog an my mirror after a long shower.
     
    That being said he did make a concerted effort to charm me one evening when a group of us went out of town to see a play that we wanted to put on in our town.  He was very charming, I’ll give him that and he was determined.  The man kissed me silly – seriously those lips were made by Stradivarius.  Some how in the midst of all that kissing I suddenly got that, for him, this was a game.  It wasn’t just about trying to get me into bed, (which didn’t happen) it was about getting me to fall for him.  That was the real goal for him.   
     
    I didn’t fall for him but I did know several women who did and none of them fared well.

    1. 11.1
      J

      There are some men whos thrill is to get a woman to fall in love with them and leave women pining away and destroyed. Thats their definition of winning or having machismo. I allways thought there must be a part of them that really hates women why else enjoy such a cruel game. They say alot of psychopaths have strong sexual chemistry so maybe thats part of why they get off on this as they lack empathy and detest weakness like falling in love. Some women fall very hard and this is enough to devastate their lives.

  11. 12
    marymary

    Sparkling
    My boyfriend and I talked about this recently.  He said, “I liked you as a person before I fancied you”.  A part of me was miffed that he wasn’t instantly devastated by my outstanding beauty, but the better part was reassured that it’s not just physical attraction for him.  And it would be hypocritical for me to be offended, I liked him as a person before I fancied him too.
    We met at church and were in the same bible study group so we had the opportunity to get to know each other in a no-pressure environment.  it’s different with online dating I guess, you go into it as strangers and there must be a higher turnover.  I’m sure Evan has good avice re online dating, I’m afraid I don’t.
    I don’t think we should continue to see someone for whom we have absolutely zero attraction.  But if there is at least the normal sparkle there that occurs when male and female interact (I get that sparkle from my brothers, toddlers and men in their 80s, it’s not just about sex), then I would give it time PROVIDED you share the same values.  I think we can trust to nature for attraction to grow.  our first kiss was really awkward (I hadn’t kissed anyone in over five years), but we have got past that.
    starthrower mentions being spiritually dead.  That’s what changed for me.  I learned to let myself be spiritually alive instead of repressing it.  If you can value that about you, you will meet someone sooner right rather than later.   it won’t be about who pays for what date, or chemistry, or any rules. “Deep speaks to deep”.  narcissists have nothing to offer to those looking for a genuine connection. What they don’t have they cannot give.  (I limit that to actual  narcissists, not guys who just happen to be fun and confident).

  12. 13
    Lucy

    Hm the trouble with narcissists is that you know they should be utterly unattractive but sometimes the charm offensive is hard to resist. Since I’m into my twenties, I’m hoping that I fall off being hooked by that kind of man. Luckily it’s working so far. I’m far more likely to think  “So you’re good looking. So what?” a la Shania Twain. 
    Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think narcissists have to always be the incessant social charmers. I don’t want to be an armchair psychologist but I have met men who aren’t like that but are still narcissistic in terms of how they perceive women, in what I’ve seen defined as ‘cerebral narcissism’. 
    I agree with what others said about how people confuse psychological conditions with personality traits. Narcissists have accused me of being arrogant for expressing an opinion which runs counter to theirs or for not validating them as they want me to. It’s something that I find amusing and it shows how people how people can manipulate to make it look like they’re not the one with the issue.

  13. 14
    Sparkling Emerald

    Hi Marymary #12
       Thanks for your thoughtful response.  I don’t believe we choose who we are attracted to, but we CAN choose who we become involved with. Now, when I meet a narcissist, I RUN for the hills, even tho’ I am WILDLY attracted to them.  (maybe BECAUSE I am wildly attracted to them) In fact, I DON’T ever want to have that over the moon feeling again, but I wouldn’t mind meeting someone who can take me half-way to the moon, AND who shares my values, AND who shares some common interests AND with whom I am compatible. But even if I met someone who shared my values, interests & we seemed compatible, if I didn’t feel an ounce of attraction for them, then I couldn’t become involved.  (It would give me the willies, and be very unfair to him)  But even if  there was just a tiny spark of attraction, and all the other stuff was there, I would explore the possibility of a relationship. 
        I’m happy you found someone.  I am not a religious person, and I won’t ever pretend to be, but I do envy religious people, because there is such a great venue to meet people face to face, and it’s very likely they will share your values and be relationship oriented.  My “church” is theatrical/acting pursuits, and most of the men in these venues are either gay or narcissists.  I have nothing against the former, but not exactly relationship material , and the latter . . . . well that’s why this article is here.
       Any way, on a different subject, I think EVERYONE falls for narcissists, I have seen some men be emotionally battered through their involvement with pretty, “mean girl” types, and even in non romantic contexts, people seem to fall for narcissists.  Smooth talking con-artists,  slick talking sales people,  etc.  Just look at the people we elect to run our country !

  14. 15
    John

    Lia @11
    The man kissed me silly – seriously those lips were made by Stradivarius.
    Are you a fan of the show MASH? Hawkeye used that line on a girl when she said she liked the way he kissed. Your comment totally reminded me of that and it cracked me up. Pretty intuitive on your part in that the heat of the moment of kissing, you could tell something was off. Man I tell ya, that women’s intuition thing scares the hell out of me.

  15. 16
    Lia

    @ John # 12
     
    Thanks John.  I couldn’t remember where that line came from, I just know that described his kissing perfectly.  My intuition seems to be dead on but unfortunately I have ignored it often.  I paid attention to it that time though.

  16. 17
    AS

     
    @Sparkling Emerald #14 – very well put. I agree with your sentiments, and in particularly “I don’t believe we choose who we are attracted to, but we CAN choose who we become involved with!” I believe that even when you do decide to get involved with a narcissist man, deep down inside you know that it is going to be a challenging relationship and you just choose to ignore these alarm bells.

  17. 18
    Lia

    AS # 17
     
    I agree!!
     
    I remember years ago I had an immediate, intense, over-the-top attraction for a guy –  he was a liar and a cheater.  The thing is that I can still remember the moment that I knew that he was a liar and that I shouldn’t get involved with him.  I can remember exactly where we were, what we were talking about, what we were wearing and I can remember knowing he wasn’t a good guy, but I told myself I was wrong, I told myself that I couldn’t know that for sure.  I had no one to blame but myself when it turned out that my intuition had been right.

  18. 19
    Anna

     
     
    There are also very good looking men and women who are not “narcissistic”; who have character based on their own life’s challenges, perhaps family or emotional problems, and their intellectual depth.  I have known several very good looking men who were men also with personaity and character 

  19. 20
    Liz

    But it is shinny and pretty, I want it. Look, all these other silly girls want it to, but I intend to get it and reform it. Oh, its bad for me, won’t work out right? But listen, I am wonderful person, he just hasn’t met someone worthy to love correctly. I am her. He He He. 
     
    Agree with above. You can’t control whom you are attracted to, but you can control whom you give your heart. 

  20. 21
    Angie

    The narcissists I’ve encountered come off as CRAZY early,especially those whose narcissistic traits revolve around relationships (as opposed to their career or general self-interest).  I’m talking meet a guy – give him your number – if you don’t reply straightaway, you’ll get more messages telling you what an idiot you are and what a great guy you missed out on OR guys who freak out if they corner you in a CVS telling you to give them a call or guys who make fun of your boyfriend…
     
    Yup, met some narcissists. Nope, don’t find them attractive. They are the easiest to spot because they are delusionally unaware how insane they appear.

  21. 22
    Dating Dan

    As long as a handsome guy (or beautiful girl) continue to be successful regardless of how selfish or narcissistic they are, they will not change their behavior.

  22. 23
    Greg

    This recalls meeting and my subsequent marriage to my narcissistic wife.  She was the inverterate charmer with those four qualities, and just as vivacious, witty, and passionate with self-care, as someone would want.  Despite my psychology background I was drawn in like a Hoover.  But the key aspect of her personality was to be dictatorial, and she did that “better” than anything else, and ultimately was impossible to live with.  But no question the allure gets us almost every time, and we like that excitement. They get those love molecules going.  Quiet and unassuming people simply don’t appear as desirable.  Good advice from Eric in terms of giving the “non-smooth” a chance.  I sure will.

  23. 24
    Henriette

    Bwahahah!  And here I thought you were interested in helping people find love, only to discover that you’re only in this business so we’ll fawn all over you and tell you how great you are, Evan.   ; )
     
    No, but seriously…. I have usually given the quiet geeks a shot but more often than not discover that ~ while they’re grateful for the attentions of a woman they consider “out of their league ~” they themselves are besotted by the narcissistic females.   I’ve found it just as dangerous to assume the handsome guys are heart-breakers as it is to assume the more average ones have hearts of gold and good judgement in love.  
     
     

    1. 24.1
      J

      So true. Guys average and below in looks and success can be horrid too as in some oeople are just creeps and can be conceited even though they don’t have any justification for it. You cant assume that a sorta homely or fat guy is allways noble. He may have ugly traits or think hes entitled to a ten or dump a nice woman who gave him a chance and fell for him to chase after a more attractive or thinner woman. People arent allways as they appear or as we speculate them to be.

  24. 25
    Some other guy

    You women fall for us because our humility is outmatched only by our awesomeness ;-)

  25. 26
    Danica

    In this concern, there are various reasons why this particular event happens. On the other hand, women can consider the ways on how to make a man fall for you regardless of their attitude.

  26. 27
    Amelia2.0

    I find narcissists – male or female – to be entertaining for about five minutes on average.  Then all that hyper-inflated false self starts suffocating the room and and I can’t stand it.  If the narcissist is male, the thought of actually dating one repulses me if only for how foolish I would be if I knew he was a narcissist yet continued to spend any time on him.  I might as well make a habit of slamming my foot in a door.  My personality cannot tolerate such a person as being a part of my life– again, whether they are male or female. 

    Lia, I once worked with a guy like that.  I admit, he could have been modeling for Abercrombie instead of what he was currently doing.  He had grade-A narcissism to go with and he was always making time to try and flirt with the ladies, including me.  His artificiality and the game-playing was obvious long before he tried me as a mark.  He eventually left me alone after I ignored his bids for my personal time and verbally coating barbs with honey whenever I could.  His short-lived confusion over a woman having no desire to lavish him with attention was about the only thing I found entertaining about him.  Although he was physically attractive and fun to mess with sometimes, the thought of dating him – even kissing him – made me feel sick. 
    I have erred on the side of dating those types the author suggests and I regret that a number of them turned out to be human puppy dogs that followed me wherever and bowed to my decisions unquestioningly.  This is not to say that I don’t value loyalty, but doormat behavior also doesn’t work if one is looking for equal partnership material and to share power.  I think it is interesting though that, even at this end of the spectrum of self-importance, you can run into problems with people being genuine. 

  27. 28
    sarah

    I don’t agree with this. I think there is an assumption that people are making between narcissism and being mean. And I also think the term “narcissism” is getting thrown around too much. Its an actual personality disorder which doesn’t actually clinically occur that often. But we’re basically talking about “men” who are into themselves and care a lot about their appearance and know they’re attractive… that sounds a lot like confidence. I mean, some people are MORE attractive than others, its just a fact. And personally, I don’t think its a big deal to recognize it and not be humble about it. It may get annoying for others, but I don’t think it makes that person a bad person in general. However, when you get your way a lot and you have women chasing after you it could go to your head, but I don’t think that always happens. I know a man who finds himself attractive, and its true. He gets checked out by women all the time and I often catch himself staring in the mirror… he’s also great with kids and takes time to work with senior citizens. He gives his mother a card on her birthday and lets his girlfriend know he loves her… So I guess my point is that I don’t agree with this whole narcissist equals a bad guy thing.

  28. 29
    sarah

    One more thing about general narcissism in the clinical sense. It does not mean that the person is attractive. That isn’t a requirement. They don’t even have to think they’re attractive physically. The just have to believe they’re superior. I have this girl I work with in her late twenties. Not attractive in the least… she is definitely a narcissist though. She’s obsessed with her work product and has to have praise when she does anything at all correctly. They weren’t accurate earlier, there are much more than four factors to being narcisst. The Mayo Clinic says some symptoms are:

    Believing that you’re better than others
    Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
    Exaggerating your achievements or talents
    Expecting constant praise and admiration
    Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
    Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
    Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
    Taking advantage of others
    Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
    Being jealous of others
    Believing that others are jealous of you
    Trouble keeping healthy relationships
    Setting unrealistic goals
    Being easily hurt and rejected
    Having a fragile self-esteem
    Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

    The girl I work with matches most of these. She also appears unbalanced half the time and obsessive with work. She freaks out if anyone implies that she’s wrong about something and begins to research it no matter what she’s doing. Sometimes hours later she will bring the topic back up and them show how she was actually correct. She appears insane basically. So when I hear narcissism to describe guys who are players it seems kinda silly.. those are just guys who are smooth and charming. No where in the actual symptoms of narcissism does it say “Capable of making men and women fall into bed with you with your charm”

  29. 30
    Karl R

    sarah, (#28 & 29)
    Did you read the article or the underlying studies? I read the study. The researcher tested this theory with subjects who actually met the clinical definition of narcissism. Specifically, there are four different forms of clinical narcissism, and they independently tested multiple people with each type.
     
    Normal people were attracted to subjects with a certain type of clinical narcissism. The researchers set out to determine why this occurred. They determined that it was due to traits that the narcissists not directly related to the diagnosis of narcissism “(flashy and neat dress, charming facial expression, self-assured body movements, and humorous verbal expression)”.
     
    If you’re saying that most of the people responding to this blog post misunderstand what clinical narcissism is, that’s probably correct. But the study seems to be generally sound. (Psychology isn’t my field of expertise, so I can only give my general impression of the quality of the study.)

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