Many of us are quick to use the word "narcissist" to describe a date who just talks about himself or is selfish. The word is so often misused that we forget which behaviors are narcissistic, or how to tell a narcissist from a self-centered jerk. Researchers from the University of Alabama suggest narcissists are more likely to induce jealousy in relationships to meet their own goals: control, or sometimes a boost in their self-esteem.

"There is some element of normality to narcissists, in that they pursue goals much like everyone else does," Gregory Tortoriello, study author, and a psychologist at the University of Alabama, told Live Science.

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However, narcissists will do so in a conniving way based on their narcissistic personality and end goals.

There are two subtypes of narcissism, typically identified as "grandiose narcissism" and "vulnerable narcissism." Those in the former subtype are marked by entitlement, extraversion and high self-esteem. Meanwhile, the latter describes someone who comes across as shy, socially anxious and quiet, but then becomes stuck-up, and makes others feel worse to boost their self-esteem.

Previous research has found narcissists tend to sabotage relationships by engaging in love-killing behaviors. These include purposely flirting with other people; talking about wanting to date other people; commenting how attractive someone else is on a date; and addressing their partner's shortcomings compared to others. Narcissists will provoke jealousy within the relationship, but researchers want to find out why.

In the study, published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences, Tortoriello and his colleagues explored whether narcissists strategically provoke romantic jealousy, and how the two subtypes are positively connected to jealousy. A total of 237 undergraduate students were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their personality traits, jealousy-inducing behaviors and the motives for those behaviors. The researchers would then use a rating tool known as the "Five Motives for Inducing Romantic Jealousy" (MIRJS) after looking for narcissistic traits.

The findings revealed mind games were based on the type of narcissism the partner possessed. Grandiose narcissists were more likely to induce jealousy to gain power and control within the relationship. Meanwhile, vulnerable narcissists were motivated for various reasons, including power/control and insecurity. Interestingly, grandiose narcissists were less likely to use jealousy to boost low self-esteem.

"Therefore, narcissists' relationship-threatening behavior might, in part, be strategic," concluded the researchers.

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In other words, narcissists are purposely making their partners jealous to achieve a personal goal. This implies narcissists can control their "impulsive" jealousy, and most importantly, are conscious of this behavior.

If the person you're dating gets a thrill out of making you jealous, they could very well be a narcissist.

Source: Tortoriello GK, Hart W, Richardson K et al. Do narcissists try to make romantic partners jealous on purpose? An examination of motives for deliberate jealousy-induction among subtypes of narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences. 2017.

See Also:

There’s Much More To Narcissistic Personality Disorder Than Just Self Promotion

What Is Sexual Narcissism?