Sociopaths are all around us. When we hear that term, people like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and Bernie Madoff come to mind, but reality is that most of us will encounter someone who is a sociopath during our lives. Some of us will get sucked into a relationship that is very hard to get out of and is very dangerous; others of us will escape unharmed, but potentially have interesting stories to tell about the insane things the sociopath talked us into doing.
At first, your partner may have seemed too good to be true. Sociopaths are fabulous at making people feel special, oozing charm, wit, humor, and (what appears to be) affection. Once they have reeled you in, though, some of the more noticeable features that will surface are manipulation, grandiosity, lack of emotions (including the ability to love), pathological lying, lack of remorse, and the need for stimulation. Sociopathic characteristics start before the age of 15, and does not seem to be influenced by upbringing, so if your partner is indeed a sociopath, chances are there is a history of these behaviors long before you came into the picture.
You are likely not their only partner, either.
Sociopaths (who would qualify for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, if they were to land in a mental health clinician’s office, but likely won’t unless forced to) see relationships as games. To them, romantic partners are people who will buy into their lies, and they are enthralled with the “chase” of trying to get a partner to fall in love with them. Sociopaths know just the right words to say, just the right moves to make, and just how to dupe you so that they walk away the winner, and you have lost everything (sometimes literally). By the time you figure it out, they have their new victim in their next partner.
Signs you might be in a relationship with a sociopath:
- Your partner lies more often than they tell the truth.
- Your partner has no friends, but also has ready excuses for why that is.
- Your partner can’t hang on to a job (and also has ready excuses for why that is.)
- Your partner shows no remorse when they do something wrong, whether it is to you or others.
- Your partner blames others for things that were clearly their own fault.
- Your partner is constantly seeking that “next thrill” through drugs, alcohol, risky behaviors, sexual promiscuity, etc.
- Your partner has a long list of past relationships, and somehow, they all ended because it was the other person’s fault.
If you think you are in a relationship with a sociopath, here are some tips for ending the relationship:
- Recognize there is nothing you can do to change your partner. Even mental health practitioners don’t have the cure for sociopathy.
- Enlist help from family and friends, and cut off all contact with your partner. That means leaving your home, changing your phone number, not emailing/texting/Facebooking, etc., and basically pretending that you have fallen off the face of the earth until they lose interest and move on. Easy? No. Worth it? Yes. (More about this piece of advice here.)
- Get help yourself from a mental health professional. There’s a reason you fell into a relationship like this, and therapy will help you figure it out so it doesn’t happen again.
The Sociopathic Style: Information on sociopaths, psychopaths, and their victims
Profile of the Sociopath also has information about the characteristics of sociopaths.