People whose self-esteem is so strong that it verges on narcissism usually turn out to be lousy mates, says new research.
Such people are often selfish, manipulative, unfaithful and power-hungry. While they may at first seem charming and keen on a relationship, they're really seeking dominance rather than pleasure."These people can come on as confident and attractive, but you don't see the negative parts of their personalities until later," says lead author Keith Campbell, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia.
"It doesn't seem possible that they can betray a relationship as flagrantly as they can. But they do," he says.
The study finding goes against decades of self-help messages that say you have to first love yourself to really be able to love another person.
The study, which appears in the August issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found the defining feature of people with a narcissistic bent is something called "game-playing love." The narcissist has an aversion to partner dependence, is deceptive and often cheats. This approach means the narcissist maintains power and autonomy in the relationship.
Gender isn't a major factor. Men are only slightly more likely than women to behave this way.
For the study, students at the University of Georgia, the University of North Carolina and Case Western Reserve University completed a booklet that measured their self-esteem, narcissism and love styles.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has an article explaining the correct importance of self-esteem.