Who’s to blame? How narcissists and ex-partners of narcissists make sense of romantic breakup

Herrmann, Julia Regina; Torchetti, Loredana; Morf, Carolyn (11 September 2013). Who’s to blame? How narcissists and ex-partners of narcissists make sense of romantic breakup (Unpublished). In: 13th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society: Crossing borders. Basel, Switzerland. 11.-12.09. 2013.

Objective: past research has shown relationship problems associated with narcissists’ excessive self-centeredness and lacking concern for others. Using
romantic relationships as opportunities to self-enhance rather than caring about intimacy, narcissists are sensitive to shortcomings in their partners and quick to withdraw investment once relationships turn out to be less than perfect. Our research aimed to reveal whether narcissists are aware of their destructive relationship behavior or tend to put the blame for a failed relationship on their ex-partners. Conversely, do ex-partners of narcissists take the blame and feel responsible for the breakup or walk away convinced their narcissistic ex-partners’ behavior was just too unbearable? Method: 120 participants (19-59 yrs) who reported a recent romantic breakup completed a battery of questionnaires online, including measures of narcissism and self-esteem, as well as newly created scales assessing attributions for breakup. In addition to self-reports, participants retrospectively rated their ex-partners on adapted versions of the same measures. Results: narcissists made attributions to lacking relationship investment mostly in themselves and to a lesser extent in their partners. However, this pattern was reversed when self-esteem was controlled, with attributions to partner shortcomings outnumbering aspects of own destructive behavior. Narcissism perceived in the ex-partner was related to reports of lacking investment in oneself as well as the ex-partner, but controlling for self-esteem reduced the number of attributions to own shortcomings. Conclusion: our analyses revealed that narcissists do show some awareness of their contribution to a failed relationship, although controlling for self-esteem increased their blame of the ex-partner. In contrast, associations between perceived partner-narcissism and aspects of own lacking relationship investment became fewer when self-esteem was controlled for.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Personality Psychology, Differential Psychology and Diagnostics

UniBE Contributor:

Herrmann, Julia Regina, Torchetti, Loredana, Morf, Carolyn


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Karin Dubler

Date Deposited:

26 Jun 2014 09:15

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:30



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