‘The sociopath will: Belittle you…then humiliate you…then slander you…then provoke you. Why? To cause confusion, sadness, sorrow, embarrassment and pain.’ – Alison Zehe, writer, and survivor
When a person steps out into the dating world, perhaps their most distant possible thought is “I’m going to find a sociopath to settle down with.” While this absurd idea may generate a chuckle or two from our readers, many good people right at this very moment are being abused by a sociopathic partner.
Before we go any further, perhaps it’d be beneficial first to describe what a sociopath is. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a sociopath falls under the category of an “Antisocial Personality Disorder,” a condition characterized by many the following attributes:
– Superficial charm and good intellect
– Untruthfulness and insincerity
– Lack of remorse and shame
– Failure to conform to social norms
– Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
– Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
– General poverty in major affective reactions
– Failure to follow a life plan
– Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
A self-described sociopath succinctly describes her condition:
“Remorse is alien to me. I have a penchant for deceit. I am generally free of entangling and irrational emotions. I am strategic and cunning, intelligent and confident, but I also struggle to react appropriately to other people’s confusion and emotion-driven social cues.”
Not exactly the type of person one would like to envision themselves in a relationship with. Yet, sociopaths do find courtship, get married, have children, hold down jobs, and so on. The woman that described her condition is an accomplished attorney, a devoted churchgoer – and a diagnosed sociopath. She “functions” as a “good person,” but warns of the “lot of stupid, uninhibited, or dangerous sociopaths out there.”
Here are 5 important things to remember when in a relationship with a sociopath:
1. They are prone to emotional and irrational outbursts
Cognitive intelligence is a common trait among the sociopathic; however, emotional intelligence is not. The DSM explains such in the diagnostic criteria of sociopathy: “…a history of crime, legal problems, or impulsive and aggressive behavior.” If you’ve been in a relationship with a sociopath for any significant period of time, it’s likely you’ve witnessed such impulsiveness on more than one occasion.
While sociopaths are not prone to physical violence as psychopaths are, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Therefore, it is paramount for you to remain aware, and to have an exit strategy, if necessary.
2. They can’t be trusted with money or any other resources
Sociopaths handle money in the way that they handle everything else – with recklessness. It’s important to understand that sociopaths see recklessness and danger as a potential “high,” similar to how a cocaine addict sees a dealer loitering around the corner.
What makes sociopaths particularly dangerous is that their desires invariably change. They may seek a short-term thrill (see: gambling), a luxury object, a new place to live, etc. Thus, as nearly all “desires” in life have a monetary cost, handing cash or a credit card to a sociopath isn’t going to end well.
3. The manipulative behavior will never stop
Sociopaths see people as a toddler sees a rattle; as something to be toyed with. People are simply a “means to an end,” no matter how convincing their display of “love,” “affection,” or “empathy.”
It’s not uncommon for a sociopath to use false promises or some other type of manipulative tactic to get their way. “If you do _____, I’ll do _____,” and, of course, they never follow through on their commitment. If this doesn’t work, they’ll try and “psych you out,” – usually by making you feel terrible – to get what they want.
4. The words “boundaries” and “compromise” mean nothing to them
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Establishing boundaries and understanding compromise requires mutual respect and empathy; two characteristics that a sociopath does not possess. If you attempt to create some type of boundary or compromise, one or more of the following will happen:
– they’ll pretend to listen or completely ignore you
– they’ll throw a tantrum and vanish
– they’ll agree to said terms with no intention of following through
Again: a sociopath does not care about your desires, only their own.
5. They do not love you how you love them
This is not to say that sociopaths are incapable of love, some are; but it is generally limited to close family (brothers, sisters, parents) if anyone. The emotional abnormalities of a sociopath translate to “shallow” and “fleeting” feelings towards others (compared to the typical human) – if they experience them at all.
Debate persists on whether or not sociopaths are capable of loving relationships. The preponderance of psychological research seems to answer with an emphatic “no.”