In the beginning, the man you are dating appeared confident, exciting and charming. You believed he was a pillar of strength and would love and protect you in a relationship. As time wore on, however, you started to see cracks in his facade and wondered if what you believed to be self-confidence was actually an overblown ego. If you are dating a man with a big ego, be prepared for difficulties in the relationship.
Big -- Not Strong Ego
A man with a big ego is not the same as a man with a strong ego, argues clinical psychologist Leon Seltzer, in the "Psychology Today" article, "Our Egos: Do They Need Strengthening -- or Shrinking?" A man with a strong ego is self-confident, secure, emotionally stable and able to cope with stress and frustration. In contrast, a man with a big ego lacks stability, is more easily upset, reactive and rigid. Seltzer compares this man to a balloon full of hot air -- ready to burst at the slightest pin prick. A big ego is based upon a superficial sense of self that requires external support to be maintained. If your man feels his ego is threatened, he will invalidate whomever is invalidating him, which may include you. Though these processes might be largely unconscious and his insecurities are a hidden part of himself, it doesn't make it any less stressful to be in a relationship with someone who is emotionally fragile and easily angered.
Life Is a Competition
A man with a big ego sees the world as a competition that he must win, says Seltzer. His need to be better than others, which will lead him to put people down just to build himself up. He may also have trouble admitting when he is wrong, needing to always be right and feel superior to others. He might exaggerate his own successes and play down help received from others -- or even take credit for work that they have done. In a relationship, the need to feel superior may lead to bitter arguments and hurled insults. A man with a big ego always needs to have the last word, and will devalue the other person just to maintain a feeling of superiority. Recognize his nature and walk away from arguments you can't win and insults you don't deserve.
Playing the Victim
Some men with a big ego may enjoy playing the role of the victim, says psychotherapist Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D., in the "Psych Central" article, "Narcissists Who Cry: The Other Side of the Ego." This man desires power over others by making them feel responsible for his plight. Your man might exaggerate an injury or misfortune to receive attention from you -- and create a ruckus if you don't play along or acknowledge his plight. He might claim that you don't care enough for him or haven't done enough to help him. De Victoria recommends recognizing his pain but doing no more. As much as possible, stay away from a man who tries to manipulate using these types of "pity ploys."
Men with big egos are more likely to use a game-playing strategy when it comes to relationships, according to the study, "Does Self-Love Lead to Love for Others? A Story of Narcissistic Game Playing," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. These men value alternatives and are less concerned with relationship intimacy and commitment. A man with a big ego may seek a "trophy" partner, while covertly pursuing multiple other sexual relationships. The primary relationship acts as a source of self-esteem and sex, while the alternatives provide an easy transition if the current situation ends. In this way, a man with a big ego may be trying to compensate for underlying insecurity and boost his self-esteem.
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.
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