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Narcissistic Game Playing – Part 1 August 27, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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97 comments

When I read that “narcissists employ a Ludic love style,” my eyes almost crossed. But I kept reading.  Ludus  is characterized by game playing, an aversion to partner dependence, attention to extradyadic others and deception.” Whoa, does that sound familiar? Other than the extradyadic part? (And that’s just a fancy word for infidelity.)

I found this in Does Self-Love Lead to Love for Others? A Story of Narcissistic Game Playing published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). One of the goals of the research was to determine whether a person really needs to learn to love themselves before they can love others. Or, as the Greeks believed, is self-love actually an impediment to loving others? The authors sort that one out pretty quickly differentiating between self-love and self-esteem.

What I found most interesting was how those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or high on the narcissistic continuum per the authors) approach a relationship as a game. This explains why narcissists are unable to maintain long-term emotionally intimate relationships. Click on the title link above to read the paper in its entirety. 

When it comes to relationships, narcissists have two birds to kill. First, because they think very highly of themselves, they use relationships to self enhance not caring whether this involves exploiting others. Think of it as feeding the beast. Although the narcissist desires perfection in a partner, in reality their partners (mere humans) are doomed to come up short. This game is not a cooperative game, but one in which the winner takes all.

But here’s the rub. Relationships are good in that they can provide positive attention and sex, BUT they are bad in that they demand emotional intimacy and prevent the narcissist from receiving attention and sex from other partners. If only they could have it both ways… (The feelings of the other person do not factor into the N’s thinking.)

So the narcissist turns on the charm, using all the extraversion and confidence he can muster to reel in a new partner. But “they would be careful to keep this relationship from becoming too intimate or emotionally close lest they lose control. Finally, narcissists would covertly seek out other potential romantic partners.” So it should come as surprise that the narcissist lacks a sense of real commitment to a relationship and is always on the lookout for an alternative, frequently flirting with others.

In this way, the narcissist maintains power in the relationship and a certain amount of freedom. If things go sour in the relationship, he’s already got his eye on his next target.

“Narcissists’ self-regulatory blueprint involves bringing people in and extracting esteem from them. If that entails being, in turn, charming, exciting, deceptive, controlling, or nasty, so be it.”

Those who’d been in a relationship with a narcissist reported that it took “longer to gain insight into the narcissist’s personality, and this impression changed over the course of the relationship. Although it is not evidence of game playing per se, this suggests that narcissists used deceptive self-presentation in the relationship.”

“A game-playing approach to relationships, as evidenced by maintaining alternative partners or keeping one’s partner uncertain about one’s commitment, gives the same game-playing partner power. This interpersonal strategy has been termed the principle of least interest. The individual less interested in the relationship has the most power. If narcissists seek power and freedom in their dating relationships, the adoption of a game-playing love style should give them this power and freedom.”

Finally, by adopting the Ludic, or game-playing approach to love, the narcissist is able to get what he wants without having to give up what he doesn’t. For the N, that’s a win-win situation. If you think otherwise, you’re just a sore loser!

Image Credit: “Mind Games” clipart from Discoveryeducation.com

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