Last Updated on February 18, 2023
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Psychopaths have inspired great works of fiction and have been the focus of plenty of psychological studies. But there is still plenty of confusion regarding psychopaths and what it’s like to be in a relationship with them.
Many people often ask if a psychopath can love other people and experience sadness or even happiness. But when learning about being in a relationship with a psychopath, it’s important to learn as much as possible.
What Is A Psychopath?
The word “psychopath” is a misnomer used to refer to someone who seems cold, callous, and depraved. It’s been used to describe someone who has a mental health condition called antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
The term is often used in legal and clinical settings, but the word “psychopath” is not an official mental health diagnosis. Psychopaths share many characteristics with those with ASPD, but it’s very rare for someone with ASPD to be considered a psychopath.
Common Traits Of a Psychopath
A psychopath’s behavior can vary depending on the severity of their psychopathy. From murderers and sex offenders to possibly politicians, anyone can be a psychopath. Remember that it will all depend on a person’s traits, so it’s important to distinguish between someone with psychopathic traits and an actual psychopath.
Someone can show psychopathic traits without being an actual psychopath. Typically, people with psychopathic traits and who have antisocial behavior will be considered a psychopath.
While the common traits of a psychopath can vary, some of the common traits can include the following:
- Antisocial behavior
- Callous, unemotional traits
- Lack of empathy
- Lack of guilt
- Superficial charm
Psychopath vs. Narcissist
Many believe that psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is on the same personality continuum. Both personality disorders tend to be less agreeable and lacking in humility, but it’s only a psychopath that will have low conscientiousness.
People with NPD are severely insecure and want those around them to feel insecure. They will work to bring their friends, colleagues, and family members down to feel better about themselves.
They also tend to lack empathy for others, have an inflated sense of self-importance, and need the admiration of others. When a narcissist does something wrong, they will feel a sense of guilt or shame. This sense of shame, however, will be centered around being judged by others.
In contrast to someone with NPD, a psychopath feels no remorse at all when they’ve done something wrong. They won’t have any concern for those they’ve hurt.
At first, a psychopath can seem extremely charming, but this facade manipulates those around them into doing what they want. Later, however, psychopaths tend to be calculating, exploitative, and cunning.
Psychopath vs. Sociopath
Normally, “sociopath” and “psychopath” are often used interchangeably, but they describe people with completely different behaviors and personality traits.
A psychopath won’t feel empathy for others and doesn’t have a conscience. Typically, they will pretend to have empathy and care for others, but this is normally to hide their true callous personality and even criminal behavior.
In contrast to psychopaths, sociopaths might feel some remorse for their actions and even a small amount of empathy for others. But sociopaths will struggle to maintain a normal routine because they can be overly emotional and impulsive.
Unlike a psychopath, a sociopath will see that their actions are wrong and could harm others. However, they will try to rationalize their often toxic and impulsive behavior.
Can a Psychopath Truly Love Someone?
This is a question that many people ask, but it isn’t a simple one to answer because their ability to love will depend on how severe their psychopathy is. This is usually measured on the Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), which gives a score out of 40.
Any individual who scores over 30 will be considered a classic psychopath. This is in contrast to a typical criminal that usually scores roughly 22 on the PCL-R. A non-psychopath will typically score around two.
A psychopath is less likely to feel love and create a bond with other people. Sometimes, psychopaths might want to be loved, but often, they are incapable of truly loving someone else.
What It’s Like Dating a Psychopath?
A psychopath might decide to have a romantic relationship or get married because it will help them achieve a specific goal. For example, they could marry someone for money or share their debt with their spouse.
Their poor impulse control can often get their significant others in trouble. Some examples include a psychopath being rude to their partner’s boss and getting them in trouble at work. Psychopaths also share the same traits as narcissists and sociopaths, which have been connected to infidelity.
Because of their callous and toxic behavior, their partner or spouse will eventually see their true colors. Typically, this is why psychopaths will have plenty of failed romantic relationships.
They Become Your Whole World
At the beginning of a relationship, a psychopath will pretend to be fascinated with the person they’re dating. They could text or call you all the time and post everywhere on social media for friends and family to see.
Eventually, all you will want to think about and talk about is them. Sometimes, this can be normal with a new relationship, but it can be unhealthy when you regularly cancel plans and sit by the phone waiting for their call or text. It is also unhealthy when you seem to be the only one who makes those sacrifices.
They Go Back and Forth Between Mean and Sweet
When dating a psychopathic partner, their moods can often swing back and forth like a pendulum between being sweet and mean. They can quickly go from being caring and sweet to being mean by ignoring and criticizing you. For example, one day, they could be talking about building a life with you, and the next, they could be picking a fight, and criticizing you, affecting your self-esteem.
Psychopaths Are Experts At Lying
Psychopaths are expert liars. A psychopath can lie about anything and everything, even things that don’t need excuses.
A psychopath won’t ever take responsibility for their wrongdoings. They won’t express or feel remorse when they’re caught in a lie. Sometimes, they might even like that their partner caught them.
An Unusually High Number Of Crazy People In Their Lives
When someone has a high number of crazy ex-partners in their lives, it’s always a red flag. This is especially true with a psychopath. They often say that their ex-friend or partner is crazy or jealous or give them a horrible label.
In a relationship, psychopaths will have a high demand for respect and adoration from their partners. But they will never return the same amount of respect and adoration. Often, they will manipulate, lie, cheat or criticize while their partner is expected to be perfect.
You Have To Tiptoe Around Them
In a psychopathic relationship, you will notice that you have to start tiptoeing around their feelings and mood swings. This will involve you dismissing or brushing off some of their abusive behavior by telling yourself, “they don’t mean it.”
You might even tell yourself that you need to work at being a better partner to win back their love and affection.
Unending Need For Attention
Being in a psychopathic relationship is extremely exhausting because they will have a high demand for plenty of adoration from their partners. A psychopathic partner will convince you that you’re the only one that can make them happy or fill the void in their life. But with a psychopath, you can’t fill the void.
Love Turns To Panic And Anxiety
In a psychopathic relationship, love can quickly turn to anxiety. The anxiety can lead to you having trouble sleeping and waking up feeling uneasy and anxious at odd hours. You might even start crying more and start feeling overwhelmed, drained, and exhausted.
Get Bored Easily
Psychopaths cannot stand being alone. They need to be surrounded and stimulated by other people. But they also quickly become bored with something that doesn’t give them immediate satisfaction.
At first, you might think that your psychopathic partner will seem exciting, and you will feel like you might feel inferior to them. But this feeling won’t last long.
How Do Psychopaths Treat Their Partners?
When it comes to psychopaths, dating, and how they treat their romantic partners, it can vary from person to person. There is a common pattern to how psychopaths handle their relationships.
A relationship with a psychopath can start by feeling like a dream relationship, but normally, this won’t last long. Soon, a psychopath will show their true colors, which can lead to gaslighting, constant lying, and emotional and sometimes physical abuse.
They Love-Bomb You
At the very beginning of a relationship, a psychopath will shower their partner with love, attention, and admiration. A psychopath will make a person believe that they have plenty in common and are perfect together.
They won’t have their own identity and only mirror your own. There’s usually a short time when they will listen to you share your hopes and dreams. Then they will make you believe that they share your hopes and dreams.
When a psychopath does this, they create a false “connection” with someone that will create immediate trust and make it easier for someone to believe that the psychopath is their soulmate.
Convince You That They’re Your Soulmate
The idea of a soulmate is perfect for a psychopath who is looking to date. A “soulmate” doesn’t involve love but a higher power working to create that relationship. It also implies that there is a psychic bond that will last your entire life, whether the relationship lasts or not.
A psychopath will convince a person that they’re perfect for them to the point where the psychopath becomes their best friend and their lover. This is normal in a healthy relationship, but with a psychopath, they don’t share your hopes and dreams.
They Play Innocent
Sadly, the happy honeymoon period of any relationship doesn’t last forever, especially with a psychopath. In a healthy relationship, people should be able to communicate about poor behavior healthily after a fight or disagreement.
However, when dating a psychopath, when you try to point out their poor behavior, they will feign innocence. They will even make excuses for their behavior because of an abusive parent or an abusive ex-partner.
A psychopath will claim that they don’t want drama and just want peace and quiet. However, their lives will have more drama in their lives than anyone else.
Slowly Violate Your Boundaries
When dating a psychopath, you might notice that when you try to express yourself with them, they will brush aside your emotions. It can be something as simple as smirking when you try to express your feelings.
They will also belittle your feelings, intelligence, and abilities. There might be circumstances when you feel resentful and upset, but you’ll push these feelings to keep the peace in a relationship.
What They Used To Love About You, They Suddenly Hate
In the beginning, the psychopath will idealize your qualities and the things that made you, you. They will appeal to your vanity and only tell you what you want to hear.
At some point, a psychopath will stop pretending to love what makes you unique. They will start devaluing these qualities and even use them against you.
They’ll Sneakingly Change How You Behave
Eventually, a psychopath will start trying to change your behavior through subtle persuasion.
A good example could be them saying, “my ex-wife used to do this, but you never do that,” or “I used to fight with my ex-wife all the time, but we never fight. I appreciate that.”
By insulting their ex-partner or spouse and flattering you, they’re not complimenting you. They’re indirectly telling you how they want you to behave while feigning innocence.
They Will Provoke You, Then Blame You
A psychopathic partner will often provoke you to get a reaction and gain sympathy from other people they’re targeting. For example, they could spend days ignoring you, and then when you confront them about this behavior, they’ll claim that you’re needy and clingy.
In other situations, they might flirt with someone else (an ex, a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger) on social media and then claim that you’re being jealous or crazy.
They will do all this to show other people that you’ve become hysterical.
They Gaslight You
On top of provoking and devaluing their partners, psychopaths will gaslight their partners. When they’re confronted, they will deny and ignore any evidence. They will even criticize and be dismissive by calling you “crazy” and “sensitive.”
A psychopathic partner will ignore evidence and convince you that the problem is how you react to the abuse and toxic behavior, not the abuse itself.
You See Who They Really Are
As the old saying goes, believe them when someone shows you who they really are. In a psychopathic relationship, these moments might be rare, but when it does, they can be very revealing. Instead of seeing an innocent and charming person, you’ll see someone who is manipulative, cold, and deceitful.
Bring Someone Else Into The Relationship
A psychopathic partner often brings a third person into the relationship. Often this third person will be an ex-partner or a potential new romantic partner. But, in reality, this third person will be someone who gives the psychopath the attention they need.
Stop Paying Attention To You
After the beginning of the relationship, a psychopath will suddenly start to seem bored with you, and that spending time with you will seem like a chore.
Give You The Silent Treatment
A psychopath partner will convince you that any disagreements or negative conversations could lead to a breakup, especially when it comes to talking about their abusive behavior. This manipulative behavior will get you to apologize or forgive quickly, even when they’re in the wrong.
Not all psychopaths look like or act like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs or Annie Wilkes from Misery. They can be your mysterious neighbor, local business owner, or politician.
At first, a psychopath can seem charming and worldly, and you’re the only person for them. But as time goes on, your psychopathic partner will start to seem disinterested, bored, and even controlling, along with other toxic behaviors.
Psychopaths are masters at hiding their callous and manipulative personalities. So it’s no wonder that many people find themselves in psychopathic relationships. After reading this article, you should know what to look out for when it comes to psychopathic relationships.