Could you be dating a psychopath? In the beginning, it can be nearly impossible to tell. However, as time passes, there will be many red flags and signs of psychopathy. The psychopathic partner introduces elements to an intimate relationship that should never be demonstrated toward anyone – not even those we do not like.
The behaviors tend to be heavily laced in immorality, power, control, and narcissism.
Individuals with psychopathy rob their partners of the experience of compassion. These relationships are abnormal and usually leave the non-psychopathic individual in tremendous pain. Some will be traumatized and require professional mental health services in the aftermath. Sadly, some endings will be fatal for the partners or families of psychopaths.
[Take a look at the video below where I review 5 major warning signs.]
Sixteen Red Flags
• “You are beneath me.”
They intentionally set the stage for their partners to feel inferior, less than, and worthless. They convey (overtly or covertly) that they think little of their mate (“You’re stupid,” “too emotional,” “clingy,” “worthless,” “insecure,” “always holding on to the past,” “paranoid,” “crazy.”)
• Several relationships
There is a tendency toward short-term intimate relationships. Individuals with psychopathy are very easily bored. They get ‘over’ you quickly – even if they told you they couldn’t live without you yesterday. It is not uncommon for someone with psychopathy to tire of one partner and immediately seek out another relationship. There is often overlap between their mates. Many will juggle several partners simultaneously, often returning to mates they have thrown away in the past. Exes are typically “good friends” (commonly code for an ex-partner who does not hold them accountable for the abuse) or “crazy” (code for an ex-partner they traumatized who wants closure, revenge, or to hold them responsible for the psychological harm they inflicted).
• “It’s your fault – everything.”
They have an immature response to interpersonal problems and interactions (e.g., blame-shifting, deception, rage). They are incapable of genuinely believing they are at fault for the relationship problems.
• Secrets – “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
They tell lies and keep secrets. They are very deceptive and manipulative, tending to withhold information that should never be concealed, reflecting poor morality and a disinterest in connection within the partnership (e.g., secret children, a current marriage or mate, an identity that is not true). They lie, often by omission. However, there may also be pure confabulations that are placed as bait to test their new partner’s empathy and compassion levels (e.g., “I had cancer, but fought hard … I’m a survivor.”)
Their superficial interactions are often stellar and far exceed their capacity for deep relationships. (e.g., They will treat a stranger better than their spouse if it makes them look powerful, a source of envy, or like the ‘good guy’).
• Extremely Hypersensitive (toward self) | Extremely Insensitive (toward others)
It is often surprising to others to witness the extreme hypersensitivity psychopaths demonstrate when they feel slighted, criticized, or challenged. Although they usually come across as powerful, arrogant, confident, and callous, they are easily triggered into anger or emotion dysregulation when they feel vulnerable, exposed, or inferior in any manner. Many with psychopathic traits will attack anyone they feel committed an infraction against them (intentional or nonintentional).
• Playing the victim. “Poor me”
Many psychopaths use this form of manipulation when their target or partner is empathic and caring. This approach is also used when aggression or intimidation will not get them out of a bind. When we feel sorry for someone or have compassion for them, we can easily excuse their transgressions. We may see the “good in” them and adopt the stance of “hurt people, hurt people” so we might forgive their harmful actions. Individuals with psychopathy use this mode of manipulation for precisely this reason. It lets them off the hook for behavior they intentionally engaged in for selfish reasons.
• Treads boundaries | Diminishes the actual authority, power, or autonomy of others.
Your wants and desires will take a backseat within the relationship (particularly after the honeymoon stage). Boundaries will not be respected. However, there will be no tolerance for the reverse. They feel entitled to treat others as they want and respond strongly (negatively) when someone requests that they discontinue their disrespectful behavior. This treading of boundaries is often seen across most of their relationships (even professional ones).
• Poor Morals.
They demonstrate a longstanding pattern of poor morals that includes (but is not limited to) lying, cheating, stealing, copyright infringement, harassment, disrespect, and punishing or destroying anyone that stands in the way of their goals. To step on, use, and harm others is acceptable to them. For many, it is a pleasurable experience. It is about what pleases them or gets them ahead. Emotional states such as honesty, gratitude, remorse, compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, and empathy will be minimal or absent. They may pretend to demonstrate those states for personal gain and exploitation purposes.
• They believe they are superior to others. “You’re so pathetic!”
They enjoy degrading, humiliating, dominating, damaging, and belittling others. This could easily result in an aggressive reaction (rage) and punishment. However, most will not tolerate those hurtful behaviors pointed out to them.
Grooming is intentional manipulation. Most psychopaths in intimate relationships will have a grooming stage. This differs from the typical excitement and flood of attention that non-disordered partners give to a new relationship. At some point, they expect you to pay up for whatever gifts provided (e.g., attention, time, money, presents, trips). That payment could be submission, compliance, acceptance of abuse, or control (“I helped you when you were down, and this is how you treat me!”). Nothing is for free in their relationships.
New partners may find themselves in competition with old partners. “My ex-girlfriend was crazy … but her body was amazing!”
• “You lose | I win.”
For individuals with psychopathy, there has to be a winner and a loser. They will never accept being the loser, regardless of how minute the situation. Many people with psychopathy always keep a mental score. This black-and-white, primitive, dichotomous thinking style extends to many areas of their lives.
• [Yawn] “OK … I’m bored!”
After the honeymoon stage, they are often disinterested and abusive. Some will introduce their partner to a roller-coaster style relationship (break up, then reunite, repeat). For many involved with a psychopath, the disrespect immediately shifts into abuse and creates a traumatic environment for their victim. Given that trauma and abuse can impact the brain, many of their partners have depression, anxiety, substance use, alcoholism, and PTSD. Sadly, some individuals have resorted to suicide after these relationships.
• Requires lessons in basic social skills regarding kindness, trust, fairness, & respect.
You find yourself telling them the basics of human kindness, fairness, and how to treat you. (e.g., “Don’t speak to me that way.” | “You don’t have to lie.” | “Why do you have to be so harsh with me?” | “How could you hide that you’ve seen escorts? What about my health and safety – I trusted you!” | “I can’t believe you tried to sleep with my best friend – you don’t do that to someone you love!”) If a person can feel empathy and compassion, we do not need to do this type of ‘teaching’ for anyone over seven years old.
• Source of stress, anxiety, and pain
Some non-psychopathic partners will have persistent anxiety, deep feelings of loneliness, sadness, insecurity, and self-blame. Their presence, treatment, and observed behavior can change you. Stress levels can become high. Some partners will even transform physically. One may not look as attractive as when they first met their psychopathic partner (e.g., the face shows the wear of constant stress, tension in the eyes, a drastic change in weight, and health problems).
• Your thinking abilities (cognition) and confidence weaken.
You might feel less efficient overall, such that concentration, organization, motivation, and memory feel compromised. It can become more challenging to focus and function as well as before. Many who have been in these relationships report that they begin to have difficulty recognizing themselves (“What happened to the old me?”). Often, partners within a psychopathic relationship must walk on eggshells in anticipation of problems to try to prevent them.
(#17 – a bonus)
• Nothing you do is right. Even the good stuff
They make accusations regarding your sensitivity, lack of understanding, intrusiveness, or unworthiness as a supportive partner. Your typical concern and acceptable ‘checking in’ common between couples (associated with respect and love) are reframed as attempts at control. (“You want to control me!” | “Why are you always asking questions … you don’t trust me?”) There may be unsolicited critiques of your appearance (e.g., a hair is out of place), leading you to feel the standards are so extreme that you could never meet them.
Video: 5 Signs You May be Dating a Psychopath
If you want to go more into the educational component of healing after narcissistic abuse – join me in Neuroinstincts Academy where you can enroll in the course: How to Use Neuroscience to Accelerate Recovery.
Best ♡ Rhonda Freeman, PhD | Neuropsychologist
© 2015 All Rights Reserved
(Do not copy or translate onto your site. Read “How to avoid copyright infringement”)