Dancing with Donald

The world waits with bated breath to see who the grandiose gadfly will select. Seemingly overnight, America has become well-versed (somewhat) in the dynamics of narcissism, and Trump is the ultimate teaching tool for the disorder (lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity, rage…). Calling Trump a narcissist isn’t even interesting anymore, it’s like calling the sun hot.

But as we await his running mate, pundits are wringing their hands over the why, who and how of his putative VP. How does he choose someone who softens his myriad rough edges but still holds on to his constituency of alienated Americans?

The lessons may lie in how most narcissists pick spouses. My work is in the impact of narcissism on close relationships (short answer – it is not good…). Many times narcissists do better than the rest of us in the romantic arena because they are charismatic, successful, charming – they play a good courtship game. And they are smart – they will choose spouses that elevate their status (e.g. a narcissistic man will choose a very beautiful or very successful person as a partner because it elevates his status, not because he is in love with that person).  Narcissists also choose partners they can control – (most domestic abusers are narcissistic). Choosing a partner wisely can often save face for a narcissist (at least in the short term), and allow them to be as controlling as always. If they choose a decent enough partner, it can deflect from the narcissist’s boorishness, and maybe even make people say “if she is willing to marry him, he can’t be THAT bad a guy.” He’s still a bad guy – life is not a fairy tale, and the fairy princess is not going to save the rotten guy with her loving kiss.

So, Trump needs to pull on his narcissistic heart and choose someone who will deflect America from his dark heartedness. Just like the mean guy who has a pretty and graceful wife. Most of us get snowed by these “beauty and the beast” marriages for years – it should be easy for Trump to trick America for 4 years or even just one election cycle by choosing the correct superficial running mate.

I am not a political strategist, so the Republicans and the Trump folks can figure out how to keep playing to their stakeholders. Ultimately – narcissists are all about window dressing – and Trump is masterful at scoring a trophy wife.

Now he just needs a “trophy-Veep.”


Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, a psychologist in private practice and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist (Post Hill Press). The views expressed above are solely those of the author.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2016 at 6:57 am and is filed under Media and Mental Health, Narcissism, politics, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Dancing with Donald”

  1. john shultz

    What about Hillary? Is she a Narcissist?

  2. louise ewing

    I listened to you on a blog with a young man who asked if narcissists are for that way or are made that by early experiences. You favored the latter saying parents who give praise to kids just for their high profile successes or beauty or athletic prowess and otherwise fail to notice them create little narcissists of their children which those kids can never undo. It seems to me parents like that are themselves narcissists so their behavior may reinforce but also may genetically contribute to narcissism in their kids. Empathic parents don’t treat kids the way the parents you describe do. Nature/genes may well be involved.

  3. drramani

    As with most human issues – it’s a mix. There is little
    Evidence of genetics for narcissism per se but there are temperamental styles such as antagonism and disinhibition which may be heritable. And in this way we can see empathic good parents wind up with narcissistic kids – though it is rare. We can also see parents who are cruel and narcissistic wind up with rather kind and empathic (albeit psychologically bruised) kids. From a probability standpoint – if a parent does certain things – they are more likely to wind up with a narcissistic child – but it is not a formula. Keep in mind too – that society also validates narcissistic traits so even well intentioned parents can get undermined in in their attempt to raise a non – narcissistic child

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