Lynn found out that her boyfriend was what Campbell, author of When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself, calls a "game-playing" lover. Campbell found that narcissists' need for power and autonomy leads them to shun commitment—and to cheat. Romantic relationships become just another way for them to pump up their own self-image. Narcissists look for mates with very high social status (for example, looks or success) which complements an inflated sense of self.
Lynn's narcissistic boyfriend was a poker player, and she says now that the relationship was just like a sport to him. "He would figure out the landscape, and he was never willing to gamble more than he was willing to lose," Lynn says. "He told me I had qualities he was looking for, but also that he needed to see other women."
After nine months, they broke up, also typical for narcissists, whose relationships don't last long. In Campbell's studies, "relationships with narcissists were more satisfying initially, and then dramatically less satisfying at the end," he says. The extreme example might be Scott Peterson, who was charismatic enough to attract a beautiful wife—and coldhearted enough to murder her when he wanted to move on.
Obviously, most narcissists aren't killers, but they do tend to be very unsatisfying mates. If he's had a string of relationships, if he can't stop talking about how much people admire him, if he gets easily riled when he doesn't get what he wants—he may not be just another commitment-phobic man. He's a narcissist.
Unfortunately, anyone can be seduced by a narcissist. One misconception is that only those with low self-esteem date someone who's so self-centered, but people with normal self-respect can also end up involved with a narcissist. They have decisive, take-charge personalities in a society that shuns wishy-washiness.
And after all, they're experts at making people admire them. Best-case scenario: when narcissists date each other. That way, both can have a self-confident, impressive and shallow mate—and leave the rest of us in peace.