Narcissists keep inanimate objects associated with ex-partners as trophies, not nostalgic keepsakes.
After people break up, they tend to keep certain objects as mementos of their relationship and ex-partner. Many do so because the objects carry sentimental meanings and act as reminders of times when they truly felt happy. While narcissists keep inanimate objects associated with their ex-partners too, they do so for completely different reasons. Rather than keep these memories stacked away in a secret drawer, they put them on display and use them as trophies of their past relationships.
These ‘trophy keepsakes’ enhance the narcissist’s confidence and sense of superiority.
Aleksandra Niemyjska et al. published an article called ‘Hunting lovers: Narcissists keep trophies from their past relationships’ which discusses this. The authors explain that there are two different types of narcissists: grandiose and vulnerable. According to another paper written by Polish researchers in 2018, ‘Grandiose narcissism is characterized by high self–esteem, interpersonal dominance and a tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities, whereas vulnerable narcissism presents defensive, avoidant and hypersensitive attitude in interpersonal relations’. Niemyjska notes that despite their differences, grandiose and vulnerable narcissists have one thing in common: the belief that they are special and superior.
For narcississts, these inanimate objects represent success.
Taking the previous point further, the authors of the article explain that both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists keep inanimate objects associated with their previous relationships ‘as symbols of their mating success’. In addition to this, it is not surprising that narcissists tend to choose trophy partners; that is, people that are exceptionally attractive, popular or successful. The reason for this is that narcissistic individuals believe that a direct association with a ‘trophy’ partner will enhance their own success. Therefore, upon dissolving a relationship with such a partner, narcissists keep objects gifted by them and these gifts act as trophies.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, Ph.D. reminds you to keep this in mind if you ever bump into an ex-partner and notice that they’re sporting the gift you bought them. It does not necessarily mean they miss you.