Have you ever been on a date with a psychopath? It would be hard to answer this question accurately because psychopaths are experts in disguise, and it can take a long time – months or even years – to see the full extent of the individual’s pathology. Psychopaths can be male or female, though research shows that more men are psychopaths than women.
Check out a few of the primary traits of the psychopath so that you can be educated about what they look like and how they act, and you can detect them as early as possible in the dating process. Keep in mind that there is no loving romantic relationship to be had with a psychopath. While most people believe that the psychopath lacks the capacity to form an attachment with anyone, this isn’t exactly true. Actually, some psychopaths do have an attachment to at least one person, and that person is often a mother or a grandparent who was loving and kind. Yet when it comes to romantic relationships, there is little to no hope of having a decent relationship with a psychopath. If someone displays only two or three psychopathic traits (e.g., some of the ones described below), there is room for mental health treatment and potentially a romantic relationship in the future.
Yes, many people are charming, but the psychopath is charming in a way that doesn’t quite add up. He is a story teller and tells tales that always place him in a good light, and the stories don’t feel totally believable. The most important point about the charm of the psychopath is that he often seems too smooth to be entirely real.
Grandiose sense of self worth
There is a significant overlap between narcissism and psychopathy. Every psychopath is narcissistic, but not every narcissist is psychopathic. While narcissists are oriented around establishing themselves as superior in every situation, the psychopath is focused on having power over others and exploiting others to get their needs met. In general, the psychopath is far more dangerous than the narcissist because the psychopath doesn’t form true attachments and he feels no remorse, even for the most heinous, injurious behaviors.
The frequency and depth of lies with the psychopath is mind-blowing. The psychopath can manufacture a lie out of thin air, so quickly that you almost automatically believe him. The psychopath manufactures lies with extreme details, and you feel like he must be telling the truth because he goes to such lengths to defend his lies. If you challenge the psychopath on a lie, watch out: He will not be happy, and he will find a way – direct or subtle – to punish you.
Lack of remorse or guilt
Not feeling guilty or remorseful for doing something hurtful is part and parcel of the psychopathic package. The psychopath does what he wants, regardless of the effect on others. It’s important to note that not all psychopaths are the same, meaning that there is a spectrum of psychopathic traits. Many people have some psychopathic traits – say, one or two of the characteristics listed here. These individuals have personalities that are disordered to the point that they relate to people and have expectations that are out of sync with the rest of the world. They are frustrating and confusing to interact with, and it is extremely challenging to have a romantic relationship with them. At the most severe end of the psychopathic spectrum, the psychopath has no conscience at all. These individuals will engage in the most vicious behaviors imaginable and they won’t think twice about it.
Lacking empathy is another issue you will see clearly and early on with the psychopath, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. For example, if you tell a psychopath a story that upset you or seriously hurt your feelings, the psychopath won’t have much of an emotional reaction. He may try to say or do something that sounds empathetic, but it feels shallow and false. Psychopaths often study the emotional reactions of characters on TV or men and women in everyday life, trying to master how to convey emotions because psychopaths don’t feel a range and depth of emotions naturally.
An overall cautious approach
The odds aren’t great that you will encounter a severe psychopath in your dating life, but they definitely live and socialize in some of the same areas as you. Knowing the signs of a psychopath can help you detect these red flags quickly so that you never get to the point where you develop a real emotional attachment to a psychopath. In the best case, the attachment will not be reciprocated; in the worst case, you could end up broke, depressed, physically hurt or even dead.
About the Author: Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve