Needing to Win — Ten Mean Fighting Strategies


All intimate partners have conflict from time to time. When people blend their lives together, they are bound to see some situations differently and need to resolve those differences. Disagreements are stressful for everyone and, depending on how partners treat each other during conflicts, they will either bring a couple closer together or increase the emotional distance between them.

Disputes that lead to greater understanding and new perspectives can actually increase excitement and continuing discovery in a committed relationship. Romantic partners who have learned how to argue productively while maintaining respect for each other can create a new emotional universe that neither could have created alone.

In contrast, many partners fight in ways that consistently hurt their relationship. One or both become need-to-win combatants, establishing a superior position at the expense of their partner’s. As disagreements escalate, they use any behaviors and strategies they can muster to win the argument. The result of these adversarial styles is often mutual isolation, unresolved anger, and painful wounds.

Need-to-win fighting styles are often unconscious behaviors learned in childhood that continue in subsequent relationships. Many are not even aware of when or where they learned to fight this way, or why they continue to do so. They can easily see that they are having difficulty resolving their disputes, but they have not connected their need-to-win fighting style with their lack of successful outcomes.

In the four decades, I’ve worked with couples in relationship distress, I have witnessed this destructive fighting style in many forms, but 10 appear most often. When I point these out to couples as I see them emerge in their interactions, they are often surprised to see that the way they fight is the actual reason they fail to resolve their disagreements. When they understand that a different way of handling disputes can turn them from combatants to an effective debate team, they are often enthusiastic to learn how. And as they become a mutually supportive team, they begin to come up with innovative solutions to problems they had never been able to resolve.

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The 10 Most Common Need-to-Win Fighting Styles

1. The Silent Treatment

Often accompanied by crossed arms and a supercilious expression, the silent treatment is one fighting style designed to get the other partner to expose his or her thoughts and feelings without doing so yourself. As the silent partner stays disconnected, the other’s distress tends to escalate, giving the winning edge to the one who stays hidden.

2. Invalidation

When feeling attacked or unnerved, many people fight back by challenging and devaluating any reasons the other partner has for feeling the way he or she does. These focused fighters often bring in other people’s confirmations of their own point of view to beef up their position, or go after the ways their partner has failed in the past. The goal is to create self-doubt in the other person.

3. Escalation

In most relationships, one partner tends to be more dominant, more able to be direct and stronger in the way he or she feels and thinks. These people are often in relationships with partners who tend to be quieter, more methodical, and more reflective before they voice their opinions. When these couples argue, the need-to-win dominant partner is highly likely to use powerful and intense energy to escalate the argument into greater emotional intensity. The other partner’s ability to fight back is quickly overpowered.

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4. Piling on Other Issues

When need-to-win partners feel that they might be losing an argument, they often respond by diverting their opponents with other issues. They may do so by rehashing the past, talking about other problems, or trying to get the other partner to focus on his or her own flaws. The goal of bringing up additional issues is to confuse the one at hand by overloading the situation with past conflicts that are not pertinent at the time. When this strategy works, the other partner cannot stay on point and is unable to resolve the initial issue.

5. Character Assassination

When they feel cornered and losing, many need-to-win fighters resort to this effective but terribly destructive response. Instead of sticking to the situation at hand, they challenge the other partner as to how he or she is basically flawed in some way, using every example they can to drive home their point. They attempt to convince the other partner that their core personality deficits make them unworthy of challenging the issue at hand, or any other issue. The response of the accused is usually feeling as if he or she is on a symbolic witness stand, defending those painful devaluing judgments.

6. Arguing From a Distance

The farther away partners are from each other during a conflict, the easier it is for either of them to hurl accusations and insults without feeling responsible for the effect on the other. The distance also allows the need-to-win partner who claims it to more easily assess the weakness of the other, and to take a more protected stance. It also can alleviate guilt, because the intimacy of closeness is diluted and responsibility for causing pain is easier to ignore.

7. Hitting Below the Belt

During any disagreement, partners who care for each other know what they can use in an argument and what they should never say no matter how heated the conflict becomes. They trust each other to never use the special knowledge they have of each other’s deepest vulnerabilities to win an argument. The most serious and relationship-destructive conflicts occur when one or both partners break that trust by using the information they know about the other to gain an unfair advantage in a confrontation.

8. Martyrdom

An insidious but often effective strategy to win a fight is to begin beating oneself up on the other end of any accusation or challenge, and then blaming the other partner for the exaggerated self-destruction. These kinds of fighters act as if the other’s accusations were much worse than they were intended in order to make the attacking partner feel guilty and then back down.

9. Intimidation

In any committed relationship, threats of abandonment, exile, and escalated aggressiveness are needing-to-win fighting styles that are intended to make the other partner feel insecure and fearful of loss. The goal is to use that response to have him or her focus on what could be lost if the fight continues.

10. Feigned Indifference to Outcome

Whether they feel differently inside or not, partners who pretend they don’t care about whether they win or lose can actually win an argument by acting as if they are giving in without really agreeing. The other partners can feel the ruse and know that they have essentially been robbed of power or influence by the “playing dead” posture of the other.

Moving Forward, Together

None of these fighting styles will ever lead to productive resolution of conflict. Rather than listening, respecting, or being open to each other’s experience, partners will continue to see only their own positions and do whatever they can to wipe out the other’s reasonableness. The arguments that ensue from these battles create deepening grooves of resentment that become harder to overcome over time. Once these styles are identified and stopped, couples can begin to deal with conflict in more productive ways. There are multiple sources available to help intimate partners learn how to fight productively. The following is a simple synthesis of the wealth of knowledge in this area.

7 Simple Rules to Begin Changing Negative Conflict

1. Avoid arguing at all if you are tired, frustrated, or there isn’t enough time to adequately resolve the situation.

2. Sit close to one another, preferably physically touching in some way.

3. Listen completely to the other’s point of view. Support does not mean you have to see things the same way.

4. Argue only one issue at a time. If others get brought up, agree to talk about them separately and only after you resolve the one at hand.

5. Don’t add support to your position by using your partner’s opinions or past arguments to bolster your argument.

6. Stop the conflict if either of you escalates the need to win.

7. If you cannot stop from employing a needing-to-win style when you disagree, seek out the support of a mutually respected professional or trusted witness to observe.

Following these guidelines may initially seem hard, but it gets easier over time. The compounding rewards encourage most couples to continue practicing them. Disagreements that are handled with mutual respect and support both enhance and strengthen the connection between the partners in committed relationships. My clients who have left a negative combat style behind and practiced this new way of conflict resolution not only have fewer conflicts and more successful results, but heal more rapidly when they do disagree.



The Psychosocial Risks of Social Media and the Internet

As we approach just over a decade from the founding of and the rise of social media, we still seem to be plowing ahead in uncharted territory with regard to the psychological dynamics of this human experiment in action. Mainstream psychology and research seem to be barely catching up with the mental fallout from this tidal wave of technology-driven activity, even as it upends and influences our society in unexpected direction, such as the recent election and effects on everything from the media, , shopping, music, etc.

On the positive side, the internet economy and social media have permitted connections and free flow of ideas that were never possible to this vast extent before. Initially it felt like a democratizing force, where anyone who wanted a say could have a say, could put forth blogs, videos, businesses, and more.

But there has been a dark side as well to social media and the internet; at times it has felt anarchic and shadowy, where people can also hide behind the anonymity of an online avatar to enact mischief. There has been a disinhibiting effect to this avatar universe; people who perhaps in real life feel more bound to social convention or are held more accountable go “wild” online.

On the good side, people may become less “shy” online and can connect with others they normally wouldn’t meet; this can be helpful to people with or other conditions that affect their in-person interactions. On the bad side, people may feel free to indulge in malice or mischief without of direct disapproval or consequence; they may be more ready to engage in or deceit or other toxic behaviors. “Trolling” is one well-established behavior now, epitomized by recent episodes of South Park where a mild-mannered lawyer father secretly becomes the world’s most notorious troll when he harasses and slanders others with hate speech and more. Trolls are felt to be attention-seeking malcontents who get a rise out of provoking others with socially unacceptable or hostile comments. Comments sections of most media publications are riddled with trolling behaviors and have become a major dilemma for editors; where to draw the line with free speech.

Even beyond frank trolling, the of internet communication allows for heightened and heated opinions and conflicts, leading to amplification and polarization of viewpoints at times. Some have postulated that the recent presidential election may have been influenced by this social media polarization. Aggravating matters is the clickbait media economy, where provocative stories in all major media outlets induce “clicks” which drive revenue. Even worse are sites that serve up “fake news” where misleading or even frankly erroneous stories are circulated as is. Overall, the information online becomes gasoline to the flames of human and anxiety—tendencies that can and have been manipulated by people recognizing those trends.

Another behavioral factor being manipulated by some is the addictive nature of social media; the instant gratification that the internet provides can be highly alluring. Right away, at a moment’s notice, you can go online and access people’s commentary, videos, postings, all of which gives one an instant source of stimulation and interaction. This interaction can certainly be pleasant and positive, but when it turns into excessive distractions from real-life activities or interactions, the constant stream of stimuli may not be a great thing. And social pleasantries as mentioned before can turn on a dime into heated conflicts and arguments, or overexposure to news or events, all of which can quickly turn into dangerous emotional strain and toxicity. Social media amplifies human nature, which can become dark and stressful when its worse tendencies are encountered. Some recent studies and reports indicate that social media may worsen and for some vulnerable individuals.

Overall, pundits and researchers need to continue to step back and examine the overarching psychological fallout and tendencies of the rapidly growing internet and social media universe, and provide caution as needed to the public. In many ways, this new world can be a force for good, for the best aspects of community building, opportunity, and human connection. But the power of social media and its influence on the human psyche cannot be underestimated or ignored as well; we need to stay vigilant towards its negative effects and how human social tendencies can be manipulated or mislead towards darker ends by its capabilities.

5 Ways our Culture is Grooming Your Daughter for Porn

Whether your daughter is seven years old or seventeen, our culture is grooming her for an appetite for pornography. If you have a daughter or know someone who does, listen up.

Millions of well meaning parents have a sincere desire to protect their daughters from pornography. They check their daughters’ Internet history and even install protective filters, thinking they’re in the clear.

However, if you’ve believed the lie that pornography is something hidden in the deepest corners of the Internet, you’ve been duped.

Long before your daughter is ever exposed to a pornographic site, she has already gone through years of soft porn grooming. As a woman not too far past my teen years, I know this first hand.

We often think of porn as being some form of intense adult content only targeted at men…but it’s not.

With your daughter in mind, listen to how the dictionary describes porn:

“Sexually explicit videos, photographs, writings, or the like, produced to elicit sexual arousal.”

Did you catch that last part? “Produced to elicit sexual arousal.” How many mainstream movies, songs, books, TV shows, and magazines are created to elicit sexual arousal? Try…a large majority of them.

If your daughter is the the habit of watching mainstream TV shows, secular music videos, reading magazines like Glamour or Cosmo, and shopping at the mall regularly, she is being groomed for an appetite for porn. Welcome to the 21st century.

Your daughter’s innocent mind is being slowly desensitized one day at a time. If you want to spare your daughter from a future porn addiction, you have to do way more than guard her from the “biggies.” It’s the little things that will get her today.

Here are 5 subtle ways our culture is grooming your daughter for porn:

1. Mainstream Movies

When your daughter is little, Hollywood tells her that true love is nothing more than butterflies and happily ever afters. But, when she hits her teen years, true love is portrayed as steamy sex scenes and one night stands.

Chick flicks are a huge culprit and they’re targeted at your daughter. Many of these movies are filled with glorified premarital sex scenes, steamy adultery, sexual innuendos, and nudity. “Eliciting sexual arousal” is an obvious goal.

Every time your daughter watches these so-called “innocent” movies, her conscience and sensitivity to purity and morality is weakened. Her view of sex is watered down. She is one step closer to viewing porn as a harmless pleasure.

2. Secular Magazines

I was chatting with a young mom recently who shared with me how destructive Cosmo magazine had been on her as a teen. She said, “I read that garbage and soaked up their worldview about love, sex, and happiness. As a result, I moved into my adult years with an extremely distorted worldview about sex.”

Magazines like Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour, and others are targeted at young single women. These magazines are filled with raunchy (premarital) sex advice, scandalous images, and dirty secrets. Nothing will groom your daughter’s appetite for porn quicker than reading this trashy material. “Eliciting sexual arousal” is an obvious goal.

The more she reads, the more her sexual compass is weakened. She is one step closer to viewing porn as a “harmless pleasure.”

3. Music Videos

Music used to be an experience for the ears. Not anymore. Music videos are now an extremely popular form of entertainment for young people. If you think your daughter is watching harmless videos on MTV or YouTube, think again.

Music videos aren’t about the music anymore…they’re about the sexualized dance moves and seductive clothing. If your daughter is a fan of singers like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, and Rihanna, she is undoubtedly watching their music videos. And these videos are bad news. From total nudity to illicit sex moves, your daughter is being exposed to soft porn.

Every time she fills her mind with these raunchy and illicit videos, she is unknowingly building a craving for more. Diving headfirst into heavy pornography would not feel that extreme to her anymore.

4. Romance Novels

Girls are dreamers. We love imagination. We flock to “love stories.” Romance novels are written with the female gender in mind. They’re written in a way that draws the reader in and provokes her to vicariously experience what’s happening.

Secular romance novels (and some Christian) are written with the purposeful intent to “elicit sexual arousal.” I’ve heard it said many times that romance novels are porn for females. The recent mainstream acceptance of erotic books like Fifty Shades of Grey is as close as it gets to reading porn. If your daughter enjoys reading, there’s a good chance some of her friends have passed a copy of this terrible book her way.

Reading this explicit material will pollute her mind and leave your daughter with a strong desire for darker and heavier content. Romance novels and erotica push your daughter one step closer to falling into a porn addiction.

5. Social Media

If you have a daughter over 12 years old, chances are she’s on social media.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) have a good side and a dark side. Unfortunately, there’s not a large chasm separating the two.

I have personally, and unintentionally, stumbled across nude and highly provocative images on several of these platforms. I was innocently going about my normal business, clicked on an innocent hashtag, and wham. I was shocked.

If you think all social media sites are safe, think again. It’s extremely easy to stumble across sensual, sexualized and even nude images. All it takes for your daughter is a little exposure to create an instant curiosity and appetite for more.

By seeing these unhealthy images on a regular basis, your daughter is unknowingly taught that it’s normal to see naked/half-naked people. And if she’s “accidentally” exposed to heavy porn one day, she will have been well groomed to receive it.

Living in a raunchy, sensual, and over sexualized culture isn’t easy.Especially for those who are trying to raise children.

I hope you can see that it’s not just the “biggies” that you need to be concerned about for your daughter, but all of the many little things that groom her appetite every day. If your daughter has a personal cell phone with Internet access, that’s most likely where most of her unhealthy sexual exposure will come from. And before you write off you daughter as being “smarter than that” or “wise enough to make good choices,” check these out:

  • “In a 2010 national survey, over a quarter of 16 to 17 year olds said they were exposed to nudity online when they did not want to see it. In addition 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a ‘sext’ (a sexually explicit text message).”*
  • “After an analysis of more than one million hits to Google’s mobile search sites, more than 1 in 5 searches are for pornography on mobile devices.”*
  • “More than 7 out of 10 teens hide their online behavior from their parents in some way.”*

So with all of this information in mind, what’s the solution? Hide your daughter in a box? Keep her away from all technology. Make her wear a blindfold? Probably not. The solution starts with your relationship with your daughter.

She needs you to guide her and protect her as you see appropriate for her age and season of life. She needs you to proactively set boundaries for her and lovingly hold her accountable. She needs you educate her on the dangers of porn and help her build a worldview that’s in alignment with God’s plan for sex. She needs your tough love to put your foot down and say, “no, you can’t watch that movie and here’s why.” These are some of the best ways you can help your daughter avoid getting groomed for porn.

I would love to hear from you now. Do you have a daughter or know someone who does? In what ways do you see the culture grooming her for porn? What solutions have you come up with to protect her from this sexual onslaught?

* Source: “Get the Latest Pornography Statistics · by Kristen Clark · July 28, 2015

Linking Attachment Issues & Addiction Issues: An Interview with Dr. Susan Johnson


In 2008, Dr. Susan Johnson, published her groundbreaking book, Hold Me Tight, bringing the concept of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a treatment approach she’d been developing for more than 20 years, to the masses. For me, this was a was an “our world has shifted” moment, as it crystallized and codified a methodology for couples and family therapy that made perfect sense to me and worked beautifully with my clients.

As my practice has always focused on intimacy issues and addictions (which I view as intimacy issues), learning about Sue’s approach to healing within relationships – an approach that does not push partners and addicts into the self-reliance trap, and asks them instead to work together for the betterment of all concerned – was a welcome relief. Recently, as part of my research for a new book of my own, I was able to converse with Sue about EFT, its development, and its role in the treatment of addictions. I have decided to share a portion of that discussion below, in Q&A format, as other clinicians (and laypeople) are likely to find it both interesting and enlightening.

Can you talk in a general way about EFT, including the basics of what it is and how/why you developed this approach?

Emotionally Focused Couple and Family Therapy is a treatment methodology that shows the best outcomes of any intervention for troubled relationships. And these outcomes appear to last! You can look on the EFT website,, for a summary of the many research studies and articles showing the efficacy of this approach.

EFT does not teach communication skills or give advice. It basically sets out clearly how partners trigger each other, lose their emotional balance, and pull each other into an escalating dance of emotional disconnection. EFT therapists understand the dynamics of distress and, because we have learned how to work with emotional signals, we know how to help troubled couples change their emotions – the music of their dance. When the emotional music changes, they can move together in new ways.

EFT is also the only approach to couple and family therapy based on a clear and scientific understanding of adult love – why it matters so much, and what is needed to make it work and last. EFT understands that love is not just about sentiment and sex. It is an ancient, wired-in survival code designed to keep a few people you can really count on close so they are there when you are vulnerable and need support. This longing for connection is wired into our nervous system, and when partners can be attuned and emotionally responsive to each other in what we call “Hold Me Tight conversations,” they can deal with almost any personal differences and stressors. This scientific approach to love allows us to be on target and to help people actively shape their love relationships.

In Hold Me Tight, you write about resistance within the treatment field to the idea of EFT, in particular the belief that only dysfunctional people need or depend on others (leading to terms like enmeshed, codependent, merged, and fused). Has the field come around in recent years, or do you still encounter this resistance?

One of the blocks to the acceptance of EFT was the belief that adults should NOT need each other, that they should be self-sufficient, that it is a weakness to need others, so we should not be helping people learn how to reach for each other and pull each other close. However, the new science lays out just what constructive dependency looks like and how secure emotional connection makes us stronger, more resilient, and more confident, and creates a stronger sense of self within us. When we are valued by and can count on others, we move out into the world with more assurance. We can explore with confidence.

People now understand more about healthy attachment, so there is not that much resistance. Still, there are some folks who persist in believing that we must always stand on our own two feet and we should deal with difficulties by ourselves, despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. What they see as pathological neediness, I see as people desperately trying to get others to respond to them but not knowing how to reach out effectively.

In my experience, most addicts (and maybe most people in general) would rather eat dirt than ask for help, even after they’ve repeatedly tried and failed to stay sober on their own. When you face this type of resistance with your clients, how do you handle it?

Unfortunately, our society has taught people to be ashamed of their need for the support and care of others. When this comes up with clients, we validate that someone taught them this, that someone taught them to deny their wired-in natural need for others. We help them access their fear of this need and their expectations about what will happen if they let others see their soft places. We normalize this need. We let them know that the human nervous system was designed reflecting the fact that we are born and remain oh so vulnerable, and we stay this way for much longer than other species. We are not designed for splendid isolation but for connection with others. To counter this shame and fear, clients need a direct and real experience of allowing themselves to be vulnerable and showing this to another human being who then responds with caring. We try to create this experience with EFT.

Traditionally, partners of people who struggle with addiction (or some other disorder) are told they should “detach with love.” Your EFT approach is very different. Instead of labeling loved ones as enmeshed or codependent and urging them to detach, you encourage them to become more emotionally connected, but to do so productively. Can you describe this, also talking about why it is so much more successful than the traditional approach?

Teaching people to detach and face the dragon of addiction alone is a mistake. The natural place for us to deal with our hurts, fears, and vulnerability – all of which lie at the heart of most addictions – is WITH responsive others. Safe connection with another tranquilizes our nervous system. The fear here is that non-addicted partners might, to keep the relationship with the addict intact, encourage the addiction rather than confront it. And in some relationships this can happen. But the answer to this is NOT to promote what we call avoidant attachment, thereby insisting that addicts face the hurts that turned them to addiction without support.

In a sense, addiction is a desperate replacement for the natural way we have of dealing with difficult feelings – by turning to others. Instead of becoming vulnerable in that way, addicts get high as a way of avoiding that very natural need. When people learn to stand together, however, they help each other keep their emotional balance. As a result, they are much more effective in problem solving and dealing with painful issues.

This sense of secure attachment, where individuals can turn to others as a safe haven and to provide a secure base that allows for resilient coping in the world, is the ultimate goal of EFT. This kind of bond makes people stronger and less vulnerable to becoming caught in the web of addictive substances and activities. Essentially, secure attachment fosters a positive and functional way of dealing with our hunger for comfort, positive emotions and sensations, soothing and relief from pain, and a sense of ourselves as valuable and strong. As such, it could perhaps be thought of as an antidote to addiction.

In my experience, and as you mention above, some partners of addicts truly mean well, but they try to do too much, which helps neither the addict nor the loved one (which is probably why so many partners are labeled as codependent). In your work, how do you help these individuals define, set, and stick to appropriate, useful boundaries that support but don’t enable? And how do you help their addicted partners respect these new boundaries?

You are talking here about how we help partners who, in their anxiety and caring, end up rescuing the addict in ways that prevent the addict from growing beyond the addiction. If we see this, we do what we always do in EFT: We reflect this dance, we help them deal with their anxiety about setting limits, and we let them know that they and the addict can learn constructive dependency habits rather than simply living in the addiction. We guide them from negative patterns of blaming and withdrawing into more secure connection, where the addict and the partner can respond to each other in ways that make the addiction or the partner’s indirect support of the addiction – a protection that has become a prison – irrelevant.

As one addict told his wife in a final session, “I never knew how to be close, how to show anyone what I need, or that what I needed was okay. Now that we can do this, I never want to let it go. I am not going to let a bottle come between me and you, between me and what we have. I don’t need the bottle when I have you. You were right to tell me to choose between my affair with booze and you. I choose you.”

Put another way, people become addicted when there is no safe haven with others on offer. They have to find an alternative way to calm their panic and pain and bring themselves into the light for a moment. Once you have this kind of habit – alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or any other addiction – you will not let go unless there is a better way, a way that answers your need for connection with others. So trying to change addiction without building the addict’s attachment relationships is like trying to drive a car that has no wheels. Difficult. We are social bonding animals, and the best remedies for our struggles acknowledge this and use the power of relationships to help us heal. · by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Has your porn addiction made you absent?

Louise worried her husband was way too busy and buried in work. She had more than noticed that he stayed in his home office most of the evening and late into the night, even after she went to bed. She felt there was almost a vacuum where her husband should have been. So she shared her feelings with Tom. He told her that he was working on an important project. For six months? Really?

Folks, if you have been where I have, down in the pit with pornography, or you know someone who was, then you have a pretty good idea of exactly what Tom was doing and looking at, and it had nothing to do with his job.

Pornography is an insidious snare–a snare that Tom fell into and couldn’t get out. Men, the pull of pornography is like a creeping plague–a powerful drug. Do it once, we think it’s okay. Do it twice, and we’re hooked. We are sucked in and trapped before we know what happened.

Pornography enslaves and then destroys! Christians, I cannot tell you how many men I have worked with who were in the same fix as Tom. And although he went to great lengths to conceal his misdeeds by keeping the door closed, constantly deleting history and cookies from his PC, quickly shrinking the image on his monitor at any inkling of someone approaching, she will find out. Be assured, she will.

If Tom was fortunate and had a truly forgiving wife in Louise, he might not receive the same treatment that a popular television psychologist so often prescribes, that is, “Kick his butt to the curb.” Oh! So many divorces result from just this one obsession.

Ways porn can damage your marriage

Please mentally weigh this–when we husbands are so “absent” while having sex with ourselves or the women in those images, our wives know that something is terribly wrong. They know! They just can’t identify the culprit.

Wives miss all the things that a loving husband can give, i.e., his attention, his affection, his honor, his affirmation, his loving touch, his listening ear, his romancing, his intimacy, his caring. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, how could we possibly make her feel secure in our love? But in that scenario, we are so gripped by our love of porn and of self that we have nothing to give her.

I promise you that the plague of pornography can only lead to crushing ruin. I’ve already mentioned divorce. Many such addicts have lost their jobs, gone to prison, had to step down from the ministry, and more. How do I know? I have talked with these men and counseled them, one-on-one, during the past fourteen years–more than four thousand men, each with his own story of destruction through the cancer of pornography and its seeming irresistible attraction.

How we can begin the freedom journey

Admittedly, we’re not going to get porn removed from the Internet or anywhere else, at least not by next Tuesday. The world does not have Christian values. And our church is not in charge of the media. But individually, we can confront this enemy. If we are even slightly tempted to go there, there is hope for each of us. Here is a way to start:

1. Cut off access to porn on your various electronic devices. That’s what Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering is for, right? That would be a strong beginning. The Filter will help block access to pornography, and the Internet use reports can be sent to a trusted friend or mentor to help keep you on track on your journey toward freedom.

2. Get help! Talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. Search the Internet for ministries that help with sexual addiction. Yes, addiction. If you are looking at porn once a week or more, you are hooked. Please do not believe the lie, “I can stop anytime I want.” Get help!

There are lots of Tom’s out there, and Joe’s and Larry’s, who have their own stories and struggles with porn. It’s time to get going and do something about it! · by Guest Author · December 14, 2016

Warning: May Cause Erectile Dysfunction

One of the questions I get asked all the time is why are there so many guys out there interested in quitting their porn habit. In today’s culture, it’s pretty much expected that men will watch porn. But several years ago, GQ magazine ran a thought-provoking article about a community on called NoFap, which is a online community of mostly men who’re challenging each other to put away porn and masturbation from their lives.

What’s interesting about this subreddit is that this group wasn’t originally formed because these guys had a moral problem with porn, but because they had a biological problem with it. A lot of these guys had developed what doctors call “Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction,” which basically means they can get physically aroused by porn and only porn. They might be with their wife or girlfriend, trying to get an erection or trying to climax, but they can’t do it. As of making this video, the subreddit now has over 170,000 members in it.

Consider the stats. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health¹, about 30% of young guys have E.D. The Journal of Sexual Medicine² says one in four guys who are seeking medical help for E.D. are now under 40 years old. Urologists are saying this is a major shift compared to a generation ago, because not only are these generally healthy men too young to be seeing E.D. problem, but also these patients aren’t responding to E.D. medications.

What’s interesting, though, is that quitting porn and masturbation helps these guys. Why? Because the problem isn’t in the penis, but in the brain.

Now, I did a whole video about how porn impacts the brain, so I won’t repeat everything I said in that video, but we now know from neuroscientific studies that porn does impact the brain in a big way, which can lead to sexual health problems.

One study from Cambridge University³ found that among guys who are porn addicted, “as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials [subjects] experienced diminished libido or erectile function.” Even among guys who aren’t verifiably addicted there are negative impacts. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry4, researchers actually measured how the amount of porn used correlated to changes in brain structures and how different regions of the brain responded to sexual images. Basically, they found that the more years of porn you watch and the more hours per week you watch, the lower your brain activation is. Researchers said the more intense your porn exposure, the more your brain has a down regulation response: a.k.a. the more porn you watch, the less sexual arousal you have.

The good news is that a lot of guys are getting over their E.D. by quitting porn and masturbation. I had the pleasure of talking to the founder of the subreddit group NoFap a while back. His name is Alexander Rhodes, and he told me that he has now spoken to thousands of guys who simply believe they are better off without porn. They don’t want to train their brains to be turned on by only porn. He said, “I like to compare pornography to cigarettes. For the consumer, it is always a harmful thing to consume.”

Learn more about how porn can cause E.D. and how to reverse the process in our free e-book, The Porn Circuit.

Download “The Porn Circuit”

1. Mialon A, Berchtold A, Michaud PA, Gmel G, Suris JC. “Sexual dysfunctions among young men: prevalence and associated factors,” Journal of Adolescent Health, (2012) 25-31, doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.01.008.

2. Capogrosso P. “One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man–worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice,Journal of Sexual Medicine, (2013) 1833-41, doi: 10.1111/jsm.12179.

3. Voon V, Mole TB, Banca P, Porter L, Morris L, Mitchell S. “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals With and Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours,” PLoS ONE, (2014) 9, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419.

4. Kühn S, Gallinat J. “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption The Brain on Porn,” Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, (2014) 827-834, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.93.

4 Non-Biblical Reasons Porn Is Ruining Your Life

Let’s admit it. It seems we constantly hear how porn is ruining your life. We hear how unethical pornography is and how those who consume it are sinning and on their way to hell. We hear it’s bad to look at sex and nude people on the Internet, magazines, or even sexually explicit movies.

Many say this is just the opinion of religious fanatics who “should mind their own business and leave me alone.” To be fair, I should let you know I am one of those religious fanatics, but I believe we need to meet people where they are at in their beliefs. I must admit, if religion or morals were the only case against pornography, then to much of the world we would have a pretty weak case.

So let’s take God, religion, the Bible, and morals out of the picture. How is porn ruining your life? Or is it?

Let’s address four major areas that porn negatively affects us: brain dysfunction, human relationships, human trafficking and personal success.

Brain Dysfunction

Let’s start with an overview of how the brain works and what happens.

Several chemicals are produced by the brain for the purposes of learning, controlling emotions, sensing cravings, handling cravings, etc. Dopamine is the most significant of these chemicals. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that carries neurological information relating to emotions, awareness of cravings and sense of pleasure. Large amounts of dopamine create a sense of euphoria and ecstasy.

In sexual stimulation and activity, norepinephrine, oxytocin, vasopressin, serotonin and natural opiates are introduced. These additional chemicals are responsible for the bonding to another person emotionally and cognitively, laying down long term memories in the brain, neurological adrenaline, and the wave of pleasure at orgasm.

The book Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers is an excellent resource if you want to dig deeper. Also, several articles provided by the Road to Purity explain these concepts more thoroughly.

When we look at porn, a supercharged amount of dopamine floods the brain and an artificial high is created. The brain’s pleasure center spikes, and we experience euphoria and ecstasy. Repeated exposure to porn causes the brain to be repeatedly overloaded and become fatigued, and the dopamine receptors begin to shut down. When this happens, the same experience does not produce the same result, causing a more frequent and more intense experience to bring the same “high” or euphoric experience. And thus, an addiction is born.

Additionally, with porn, the brain is unable to “bond” to the image on the screen like a real person. The unsuccessful attempt to do so leaves the brain with a “short circuit” type of experience resulting in intensifying the need to try again (increased addictive tendencies) and facilitates the unsatisfied feeling a short time after the sexual release.

The inability to bond to the image on the screen leaves the brain confused in areas of intimacy. We as humans are designed to bond to another person emotionally, relationally, and physically. We call this intimacy.

When the brain relates images to a sexual fantasy or sexual act, it begins to replace the originally wired brain structure of desiring human contact and emotional intimacy with that of the image, hence objectification. The brain actually begins to see other people as body parts for the purpose of our pleasure rather than another person to bond with in a healthy self-giving relationship.

The craving for self-pleasure overrides our logic center and addictive behavior patterns, such as deception and extreme selfishness, take over. We seek the next dopamine dump or “fix” at any cost. Two-thirds of HR professionals have found porn on employee’s computers, demonstrating that the craving for pleasure is so strong that large numbers of people risk their jobs just to get the fix.

This process of supercharging the brain begins to cause degeneration of the frontal lobe and produces multiple negative effects. Negative results include reduced concentration, depression, blurring of reality, anxiety, withdrawal from social activities, reduced willpower and erectile dysfunction just to name a few. With the flood of chemicals overloading the brain, the pleasure center of the brain becomes so fatigued that it becomes increasingly difficult to experience pleasure in normal everyday life.

To hammer this idea home, take a look at a study in 1954 by researchers James Olds and Peter Milner. They found that when rats were electronically stimulated in the pleasure center of the brain similar to sexual pleasure, the rats would be so focused on choosing the reward switch that provided this stimulus that they literally starved themselves in effort to be rewarded with pleasure. The rats chose the stimulus over food to the point of death. No, we aren’t rats, but the addiction principle is exactly the same: it blurs the sense of reality and decision making–even in humans.


When looking at porn, how many times have you watched a scene and asked yourself: What’s her real name? I wonder what her hobbies are? Does she have any kids? Does she like camping? What’s her favorite food? You get the idea.

No, of course not! You’re thinking how good she looks and picturing yourself as the guy with her. You’re thinking of how much pleasure she could bring you. And when you are done and turn off your computer, she is forgotten. She was merely an object for your enjoyment, no different than a new car or a top end fishing reel–some “thing” to enjoy.

Without realizing it, this perception bleeds to the women you see in daily life. Co-workers, bank tellers, a random woman walking down the street–all become objects.

Here’s a self-test. Are you more interested in interacting with an attractive woman than one who may be a little overweight or a little below average looking? This reveals that you may not be seeing the “person,” but rather an object or a sum total of body parts.

We need to be clear that we all typically first notice certain aspects of a person’s physical appearance. There is still a chemistry component between people, and it is wrong to deny that. However, when you notice the physical aspects of a women, do you move on to wondering who she is as a person? What is her name? Or do you begin to fantasize about physical relations with her, sealing in your mind the images of memorable parts of her body?

If you honestly realize you tend to be more interested in the latter, be aware of this fact. There may need to be a change in how you see and treat women. Let’s be fair, studies show women are becoming more and more prone to the same objectification of men as well.

This objectification isn’t limited to the opposite sex; it tends to dictate how our relationships and interactions are with all people. We first think of what we can get from the other person, rather than having some kind of friendship or relationship with them.

Common behaviors will reveal themselves in marriage by thinking, “What can my wife do for me?” Not just sexually, but from a service expectation. Do you expect her to do the laundry, clean the house, take care of the kids, etc.? Or is caring for her the first thing on your mind? Do you help around the house because you want to take some of the load off of your bride or do you help because she is nagging you or you expect something in return?

Yes, we are all guilty of self-centered behaviors and tendencies from time to time. However, studies are clear that porn consumption dramatically cultivates a selfish frame of mind rather than one of selflessness.

Remember the symptoms of brain dysfunction: depression, withdrawal, reduced willpower, etc. Do you know of anyone with these symptoms that you’d say is an outgoing, selfless person always willing to please others? The fact is, you can’t give and take at the same time.

Human Trafficking

While on the surface it may seem that human trafficking may not be ruining your life, consider that all women are somebody’s daughters. Do you have daughters or sisters or nieces?

The radical increase in pornography in the last decade has created a demand for porn that the “willing” actresses can’t keep up with. Also with the most popular porn searches being for violent acts and teen girls, the demand for younger and more innocent actresses are in high demand.

The demand has gotten so bad that the term “rape for profit” is now a standard in the industry. Even if you are of the school of thought that it only affects you and no one else, it’s no longer true. The more addicts, the more trafficking.

Personal Success

Personal success is where this will hit many of us. Success is often the foundation of our value system. We simply can’t get away from the impact of the first two points of this article.

First, the side effects of depression, social withdrawal, reduced willpower and reduced ability to concentrate will undoubtedly create road blocks in how successful a person can be. Second, most leaders in business have the ability to make people feel valued and important–something that is difficult to do when your world is self-focused. If you look closely, many successful leaders are either strong leaders because people felt valued and wanted to follow, or they obtained their status by brute force and luck.

Unfortunately, with our culture becoming more and more sexualized, it is difficult to shield ourselves from the overwhelming images. Billboards, television, and even the advertisements in our email bombard us with tempting images. Staying clean and away from temptation is no easy task. Products like Covenant Eyes are critical to keep at least some of the unsolicited images at bay. This is also something that all parents should be educated on to have appropriate discussions with our children. Young brains become addicted much faster than adult ones.

So if you’re not religious, don’t care about ethics, or you’re ok with brain damage, bad relationships, and the trafficking of young girls, then by all means–indulge. · by Dann Aungst · April 12, 2016

3 Ways Your Porn Use Degrades Your Wife

When you value porn more than your wife, it destroys your marriage! She wants you to stop viewing it, yet you continue. She believes you don’t value her enough to quit. Sometimes she asks herself, “What did I do wrong, and why am I not good enough to satisfy him?” This puts her on an unnecessary guilt trip of self-degradation and pain. This isn’t the only way your porn use degrades your wife. Here are a few other ways it impacts your marriage.

Porn degrades your roles in the marriage.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. –Ephesians 5:25-33

God designed roles within your marriage. As a husband, your role is to love your wife so much that you would lay down your very life for her as Christ did for us. Her role as your wife is to help you be the best man you can possibly be by being your companion and friend, your lover, your helper.

When pornography enters the relationship, both of your roles slip away. You fail to love her fully as Christ loved His bride, and she loses respect for you. The marriage suffers, and you both lose.

Will you ever be asked to die for her? Likely not. But you must learn to “die to self.” That means to love her more than you love yourself, which may be harder than physically laying down your life to protect her or save her. Dying to self requires denying the flesh, putting aside selfish desires, and putting energy into someone other than yourself.

Pornography feeds the flesh and strengthens selfishness. It never satisfies, but pulls a man deeper and deeper into sins of the flesh. It is addictive! Although you may hide it for awhile, your sin will eventually be exposed, smashing her trust in you again. The bigger issue, however, is about dishonoring God. He established marriage roles, and porn devalues both the roles and the people in those roles.

Porn degrades the intimacy you share.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. –1 Corinthians 7:2-5

Oh, that little word, self-control! Intimacy in a marriage hinges on self-control. “Avoid fornication–pornea” (1 Thes. 4:3). That takes self-control before marriage. Statistics have well established that couples remaining pure before marriage have more satisfying marital relations after marriage. Self-control may be needed during times of illness, during monthly cycles, during high-risk pregnancies, and will definitely be needed during times of temptation.

Self-control, a fruit of the Spirit, brings one’s self under the control of the Spirit in obedience to the Word. In the flesh, we lack self-control. Only as we walk in obedience to the Lord and grow through the sanctification process do we develop self-control (2 Pet. 1:3-10). Self-control is necessary for a beautiful, intimate relationship between a man and his wife.

Pornography is a fruit of the lack of self-control. Porn demands and controls. Love gives to meet needs and serve others. Masturbation, fornication, and adultery lack self-control. All of these feed the flesh and destroy aspects of intimacy for the future or current marriage. However, a man who understands that his body belongs to his wife, just as hers belongs to him, will value the intimacy they share. He’ll thank God for the beauty of a one-flesh relationship that continues to lovingly mature throughout many years of marriage.

Porn degrades her body.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Before he died in prison, Ted Bundy, a serial rapist and killer, told the story of how his path downward began as a kid with pornography. I remember wondering back then how one led to the other. However, after spending many years counseling women who have been abused by their own husbands, I’ve learned to ask not if the husband is into pornography, but to ask how long and deep his porn addiction is.

I don’t believe I’ve ever counseled a physically abused woman whose husband had no history of porn. That is not to say every man who watches porn beats or rapes his wife. But the principle remains: if you value both your own body and the body of others as the temple of the Holy Spirit, you are less likely to abuse yourself or others in any way. Porn absolutely increases the risk of degrading your wife physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Porn sees women in general as objects for self-gratification. This attitude crosses over toward the wife, disrespecting not only her person, but also her body. If she’s asked to do sexual acts that hurt her or make her feel used, she’s devastated and feels degraded.

Is her body for your abuse, or for God’s glory? Do you view her body as pure and holy? Porn clouds that picture and opens the possibility for disrespect and abuse. When you value your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and seek to glorify God in your body, then you will more likely treat your own body with respect, and also that of others, especially your beloved wife. Your role as her protector is to help your wife feel loved and safe.

Help is on the way!

My husband has counseled many men who struggle with sexual idolatry. Help comes from memorizing very specific passages of Scripture to renew the mind (Rom 12:1-2), leading to a changed lifestyle. He regularly uses a tool called “Building Blocks of Truth To Moral Purity” (pdf). He asks the men to choose and memorize the verses that empower them to grow in victory over the addiction and to develop a mindset of moral purity and self-controlled lifestyle. He spends time on each of the seven controls to help them make very personal and specific applications to their struggles.

Another essential help is finding accountability in godly men who will ask the tough questions and encourage you to change and grow. The battle is in the heart and mind. As your heart is, so you are. Do what you need to do to grow and maintain a pure heart. Persevere. Christ is worth the change, and so is your wife! Your wife will feel valued and respected, your love and intimacy will flourish, and the oneness that God intended will grow deeper to the glory of God. · by Sherry Allchin · November 30, 2016

3 Biblical Strategies for Fighting Lust

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

The above Scripture verse is probably one of the most concise bits of advice reminding us how we should engage in the fighting lust. Commit it to memory. Chew on this verse daily. Let your mind marinate in it, for in it lies three Biblical strategies for fighting lust.

1. Run From

“So flee youthful passions”

“Passions” refer to our cravings, our longings, our desires. More specifically the passage speaks of “youthful passions.” These fleshly lusts are said to “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). On the surface these cravings are anchored in the members of our body (Romans 6:12), but as we look deeper we find they stem from our sinful hearts (Romans 7:7). Ultimately these passions are forms of idolatry (Colossians 3:5), revolving our lives and desires around created things rather than the Creator.

We must run from these things. Every Christian, even though he or she is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, still lives in a mortal body surrounded by worldly amusements. These youthful lusts stubbornly cling to our heals. As we see these passions stirred in us, we must habitually flee from them.

  • This might mean mentally fleeing: bouncing our thoughts away from lustful imaginations.
  • This might mean visually fleeing: bouncing our eyes away from lustful images.
  • This might mean physically fleeing: walking (or running) away from tempting situations.

2. Run To

“. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace”

It is not enough to flee from youthful lusts. We must run toward a new passion. We are to “pursue,” that is, eagerly and swiftly run toward Christlikeness.

Christ promises His people a heart of . . .

  • Righteousness (real integrity, a passion for justice, and a life pleasing to God)
  • Faith (strong and welcome conviction and trust in God)
  • Love (benevolent affection toward God and others)
  • Peace (tranquility in the heart and harmony with God and others)

We are to run hard after these things each day knowing these character qualities are how we were created to live. We pursue these things knowing it is our destiny to live this way. A billion years from now, when sin is a distant memory, we will be living lives of love, peace and righteousness in the kingdom of God. Have this hope we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

3. Run With

“. . . along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

We must not only run from lust and toward God’s vision for our lives, we must also run with our brothers and sisters with the same vision. We must all find companions for this stretch of the road, those who share our faith and convictions, those in the common struggle for holiness.

These friends should be those who “call on the Lord,” an expression for those who are saved (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13). These are other men and women who have also cried out to God for the forgiveness of their sin from a “pure” (genuine) heart.

Running with others involves a certain level of intentionality. It is not enough to simply know others around us are on the same journey because they profess a Christian faith. We must have real running companions, those who actually help us flee youthful passions and pursue a Christlike heart.

James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:24-25 offer a structure of what this kind of accountability looks like. (We build this structure out even more in our free e-book )

Building a good accountability relationship takes time. There are benefits and blessings along the way, but the ripest fruit comes after a real friendship is built.

Thinking of these four building blocks together, they form a structure that gives purpose and shape to our accountability relationships.

The foundation is meeting together. This includes all the basic methods of communication and conversation: meeting for coffee, talking on the phone, writing e-mails, or anything that involves a meeting of minds.

The central pillar in the room is confession of sin: getting honest with God and one another about what we are doing that we shouldn’t do or not doing that we should.

The outer walls that support and protect this relationship are prayer and encouragement. · by Luke Gilkerson · May 13, 2010

The Two Faces of Narcissism in Romantic Relationships



The quality of grandiose narcissism, in which people need to see themselves as superior to everyone else, is not that compatible with good social relationships and especially not good romantic relationships. It’s not pleasant to be with a partner who always needs to show his or her superiority over you. However, there is one slight exception to this general rule, and that pertains to the fact that people high in narcissism can have a certain flair that makes them seem quite attractive — to those who don’t know them well. Charisma, charm (though superficial), and their enjoyment of being the center of attention can lead others to be drawn to them. As time goes on, though, things can turn sour.

New research based on a set of studies carried out by University of Munster’s Stefanie Wurst and colleagues (2017) shows why relationships with narcissists can have a downward trajectory. The basic framework of the study compared grandiose narcissism to a chocolate cake: In the short run, you enjoy all that deliciousness, but later you start to regret having eaten it, due to the extra calories you’ve consumed. The model of grandiose narcissism tested in this study, labeled “Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept,” or “NARC,” proposes that narcissists strive to inflate their self-esteem in a two-dimensional way. The Admiration dimension involves the desire to seek approval from others and receive the positive social outcomes of being liked. The Rivalry dimension refers to the tendency of people high in narcissism to want to out-do others or to “protect oneself from a negative self-view by derogating others” (p. 282).

The German researchers tested the NARC model by conducting an elaborate series of investigations intended to parcel out the effects of the two dimensions of narcissism on relationship quality measures at both the early and later stages of a couple’s history. The crux of their approach rested on the NARQ, a questionnaire measure previously tested by Back et al. (2013) in their study of narcissism’s “bright” (admiration) and “dark” (rivalry) sides. Here are examples of NARQ questions for each dimension:

Admiration dimension:

1. Mostly, I am very adept at dealing with people.

2. Being a very special person gives me a lot of strength.

3. I am great.

Rivalry dimension:

1. Most people are somehow losers.

2. I want my rivals to fail.

3. I can barely stand it if another person is at the center of events.

You might be wondering how anyone could be attracted to a person who endorses the items on the Admiration dimension. However, keep in mind that this is how people respond to a questionnaire; it is not necessarily how the same individuals would behave when they’re trying to win someone over. You might also think that being high in rivalry would condemn you to never being liked by anyone else. However, as shown in the Wurst et al. study, the desire to beat others doesn’t show up right away in new relationships.

One set of the seven studies reported on in this investigation examined how attracted people would be in simulated short-term relationship settings (such as ratings based on videos) to individuals who previously completed the NARQ. Across these simulations, Admiration but not Rivalry predicted such relationship features as attractiveness as a potential mate; desirability as a short-term partner; and likeability. Those high in the Admiration dimension of narcissism also saw themselves as being attractive as mates, a factor which probably enhances their appeal when they meet new people. In short, those who believe in their own greatness but don’t do so at the expense of others can have a great deal of magnetic appeal to those who don’t know them very well.

Having established the positive contribution of narcissistic admiration to short-term romantic success, Wurst and her team then went on to assess the two dimensions of narcissism as predictors of long-term relationship outcomes. As expected, Rivalry negatively predicted relationship success as measured by a variety of indicators, outweighing Admiration. To a certain extent, Admiration could help to negate the impact of Rivalry on long-term relationship outcomes, and Rivalry can also taint a relationship in its opening stages. Nevertheless, the preponderance of data supported NARC’s prediction of the two-fold nature of narcissism’s effect on relationship quality in comparing early to late stages.

Although this study didn’t track couples over time, there’s an implicit trajectory in their data that works as follows: Having gotten into a relationship with a person who sweeps you off your feet with his or her outward charm, it’s unlikely you’ll notice right away that this magnetic individual seems to relish undercutting the good efforts of others. You might also not be aware until you get further down the road that this person constantly tries to thwart your own efforts to succeed, and resents it when you do.

As shown in the German study, the problems that rivalry creates in a long-term relationship include unwillingness to forgive transgressions; a tendency to get into arguments; and a critical attitude toward a partner in general. In the words of the authors, “Once the relationship becomes more settled… more communal character traits seem to increase in importance for romantic success (e.g. low selfishness, a propensity to forgive, sensitivity, supporting and caring qualities), because a lack of them … provokes serious romantic problems in the long run” (p. 298). The authors also conclude that of the two, narcissistic admiration is less poisonous for a relationship than narcissistic rivalry. You can think of yourself as great, and as long as you don’t resent or thwart your partner’s own greatness, your relationship isn’t fated to fall apart.

Because we normally think of narcissism in such negative terms, the Wurst et al. study is surprising in pointing out some of narcissism’s adaptive qualities. If you’re getting involved with a person high in these “bright” narcissistic tendencies, though, it’s wise to be on the lookout for the appearance of the less favorable qualities involved in rivalry. A partner who truly cares about you should root for your successes, and not your failures.

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, “Fulfillment at Any Age,” to discuss today’s blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2017


Back, M. D., Küfner, A. P., Dufner, M., Gerlach, T. M., Rauthmann, J. F., & Denissen, J. A. (2013). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry: Disentangling the bright and dark sides of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6), 1013-1037. doi:10.1037/a0034431

Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T. M., Dufner, M., Rauthmann, J. F., Grosz, M. P., Küfner, A. P., & … Back, M. D. (2017). Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 280-306. doi:10.1037/pspp0000113

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What Is the Most Overlooked Symptom of Narcissism? is a reply by Susan Heitler Ph.D.