Let’s face it: Some people are far more decent than others.
Researchers have studied this tendency and labeled it Honesty-Humility (1), a personality factor or "super-trait" that has been observed across many cultures. Individuals high on this trait are sincere, modest, fair-minded, and non-greedy. They do not exploit others, even when there would be no retaliation for doing so. Individuals at the low end of this trait, on the other hand, are dishonest, haughty, and arrogant. They lack empathy and exploit others. In a word, they are narcissistic.
And sometimes honest, humble people end up in romantic relationships with narcissists.
After enduring a good bit of exploitation, lying, and cheating in such relationships, the honest person often wonders, “How did I allow myself to end up with this person?” or, “What is wrong with me that I tolerated such obvious manipulation and exploitation?”
Yes, it is an outrage, but there is no reason to doubt yourself or your judgment.
Narcissists tend to be sexy because they spend so much time on their image. They know how to dress, walk, and talk in ways to literally charm the pants off others. Following is a three-part explanation of why the honest person may be especially vulnerable to the charms of a narcissist:
If you are an honest person with a narcissistic partner, I hope you can forgive yourself for tolerating the lying, cheating, and exploitation. It is because of your wonderful qualities of sincerity, fairness, and modesty that such a haughty, dishonest person could wiggle into your life. Please don’t think of yourself as a target or “sucker.” Next time, you will be more sensitive to signs of callousness and exploitation, and no doubt think twice before letting a narcissist into your life.
1. Lee, K. & Ashton, M. C. (2006). Further assessment of the HEXACO Personality Inventory: Two new facet scales and an observer report form. Psychological Assessment , 18, 182-191.
2. Lee, K., Ashton, M. C., Pozzebon, J. A.,Visser, B. A., Bourdage, J. S.; et al. (2009). Similarity and assumed similarity in personality reports of well-acquainted persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 460-472.
This post stems from Anita Kelly’s Science of Honesty project, which was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.