Initially, it’s not easy to tell you’re dating a sociopath. Sociopaths can be incredibly likable people and very charming at first. But then over time, the little red flags start to appear and all of a sudden a different side comes out that you never saw in the beginning. It feels almost like Jekyll and Hyde and you never know which side you’re going to get.
Once this starts to happen, it can be incredibly confusing and emotionally draining. It feels so one-sided. Nothing you do is ever good enough.
Before we get into the ins and outs of dating a sociopath, let me tell you my story. I dated a sociopath for about 3 months. Initially I thought I had found this handsome, great guy who I loved spending time with.
But then one day, I found myself in a restaurant, tears pouring down my face, listening to him tell me “you’re lucky I didn’t ghost you like the rest of them” and “I don’t think you’re sorry enough”. I had called him out on his behavior but somehow found myself being forced to apologize for my behavior. It was such a shock. I was sitting opposite a man I didn’t recognize.
You’d think that I would have ended it there because I’d seen the red flags. But then came the clever mind games to rope me back in again.
Often when you’re dating a sociopath you might not realize there’s a label for it but you know in your gut that something is just wrong. Before you know it you’re on an emotional rollercoaster that’s just so difficult to get off.
Signs you’re dating a sociopath
Identifying a sociopath can be tricky because sometimes they can seem like two people. They can be very confusing and they’ll often be so manipulative that they have you questioning yourself and making you feel like you’re the one in the wrong.
So what is a sociopath and how do you spot them?
Psychologists still don’t know what causes sociopathy but they estimate that 50% is genetic and 50% comes from outside environmental factors.
Sociopaths don’t necessarily always have malicious intent, but they lack empathy and they have a huge sense of entitlement. “Sociopaths feel deeply angry and resentful underneath their often-charming exterior, and this rage fuels their sense that they have the right to act out in whichever way they happen to choose at the time. Everything is up for grabs with sociopaths and nothing is off limits.” writes Seth Meyers in Psychology Today.
They don’t really have feelings towards others and so they see humans as objects. They see themselves as smarter than everyone else and deserving of being at the top of the social hierarchy. They love to play games and they need to win, it’s just how they are wired.
If you’re not sure if you’re dating one, here are some common characteristics of a sociopath to look out for:
They move quickly – Sociopaths and narcissists often “love bomb” by sending lots of texts, buying gifts and showering you with affection. Or, they simply move things quite quickly and want to see you several times in one week.
Manipulative phrases – Sociopaths will often say things like, “you owe me” or “You’re lucky…”
They disregard your feelings – I told the sociopath I was dating that I felt like what he said was manipulative. He told me my feelings weren’t valid because they were wrong and therefore toxic.
They lack empathy – Sociopaths lack empathy. They can’t even see a reason for you to be upset. They could hit on someone in front of you and then claim that you’re crazy for feeling upset about it.
All their ex-girfriends are “crazy” – Another red flag to watch out for is if they tell you all their exes were “psychos” or “crazy”. Be warned…the common denominator is them. They may even tell you that you’re “not like the others” but then you end up feeling like you have to constantly live up to this image. Before you know it, you’re hiding your feelings for fear of looking crazy.
They pick and choose when it suits them – My sociopath would hang out with his own carefully selected group of friends but if I tried to get him to meet my own friends he had better things to do. In a way, this makes sense, they want to control their environment.
They don’t make plans – Sociopaths see life like a video game and they’ll do whatever they want, whenever they want. They won’t make plans because it’s all about them and they want to keep their options open in case something better comes up. Their life is in constant motion.
Playing the victim – Sociopaths are always the victim and everyone else is to blame. If you try to call them out on their behavior, they’ll say you’re the one who’s always playing the victim. Complete projection and a total head fuck. Conversely, they might like to emphasize stories where they look like the hero.
Doing/saying hurtful things – Sociopaths love to play games and they do not care if they hurt you. Watch out for hurtful comments or attempts to put you down.
Signs of resentment – As I discussed previously, a classic sociopath trait is an underlying feeling of resentment. Watch for signs of this. Perhaps they give you a look of resentment, or in an argument they say “you never do X for me”. This makes you feel guilty, so you try to accommodate them more.
Paranoia – Sometimes sociopaths can be jealous and paranoid. They will accuse you of things that you haven’t done (and possibly which they have done). When you deny it, they say you’re “defensive” and never take accountability to your actions.
Verbal aggression – If you call them out on their behavior or they feel they’ve been exposed/disrespected in some way, don’t be surprised if they use very harsh language peppered with swear words.
Dealing with a sociopath
You first have to ask yourself: “Do I want to date someone who doesn’t have the ability to love?” If the answer is no, then it’s best to think about leaving your sociopath and looking for someone else to date.
However, if you’ve decided you really want to be with this person, then here’s how to deal with a sociopath:
Don’t defend yourself
Sociopaths will always attack you and your character. They are never to blame…you are.
The thing is, they don’t really have a conscience and they don’t feel remorse. Since they lack empathy, they will do whatever they want at the time with little concern for how they affect the feelings of others.
So, if you point out that your sociopath partner has done something wrong or their behavior upset you, they will twist everything around to make it look like you’re to blame. They gaslight and start to make you question your own sanity. They may even say things like “you owe me an apology” when they’re the one who did something wrong in the first place.
They may get aggressive with their language and accuse you of things that are completely ridiculous. The natural thing at this stage is to want to defend yourself. The accusations feel so absurd that you want to tell them that they’ve misunderstood, that they’ve got you all wrong.
It’s futile. The more you try to defend yourself, the more information you give away. They’ll use this information against you later.
So, never feel the need to explain yourself, ever. Don’t give them what they want. Simply say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and refuse to say anything more. Do not give them a reaction.
Learn to use the word “no”
Sociopaths will sometimes try to get you to do things that you don’t feel comfortable with doing. Be firm with your boundaries. If you say “no” the first time, they may possibly try to persuade you and give you a list of reasons why you should submit to their demands. Just repeat, “I said no”.
It’s not necessary to qualify your answer with a reason. If you provide a reason then the sociopath can argue against it.
Repeatedly saying “no” may make the sociopath start to sweat a little and he/she might try to convince you again and again. Don’t give in. Even a sociopath will eventually realize it’s futile and get bored.
Don’t try to communicate with a sociopath
em·pa·thy/ˈempəTHē – noun
“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Trying to communicate with a sociopath is just wasted energy. They can’t feel empathy, so they can’t ever understand how their actions might make you feel.
In their minds, they can do whatever they like. You are not the boss of them. They can cheat on you, but if you get upset and try to explain how it made you feel? Well it’s just your fault for having feelings.
Don’t try to reason with a sociopath, or make them understand. They can’t.
They will do whatever they want to do at the time, with little concern for others, or for the consequences. They show zero remorse and they won’t say sorry. But they’ll make you say sorry. It’s one rule for them, another rule for everyone else.
Basically, if you can manage it (and if you’re a human with feelings then this will be difficult) you have to act like whatever they did didn’t affect you. You didn’t even notice. This will have them flustered that they can’t seem to get a reaction out of you.
Remember that relationships are about control
In normal human relationships, we seek to understand each other. We seek to share intimacy. We compromise.
Love is an action…it’s about giving and wanting the best for the other person. Love is selfless.
Sociopaths, on the other hand, are selfish and have a high level of narcissism. They view life like a video game. The people in it are just pawns in the game that they can use to their benefit. Sociopaths keep people around if they can get something out of them, whether it’s sex, money, or perhaps status.
They always want to be in control of the situation and they will do anything to keep up the appearance that they are person of high morals, who is “above” everyone else.
If you’re in a relationship with a sociopath you might feel like they always call the shots. They choose when they want to hang out with you and they choose how fast the relationship progresses. Everything is on their terms and not yours.
You are a source of sex, and perhaps someone they like to hang out with. They find you useful in some way and like your company. But don’t mistake this for “love”. They can’t feel “love” as we know it.
So, if you want to keep on the good side of a sociopath, don’t attempt to have any sort of control. Don’t question them about where the relationship is headed. Don’t issue ultimatums or try to push them for answers. Don’t be emotional. They are in control of the relationship, always. You have to be OK with them leading at all times.
Never let them know you know they’re a sociopath
Sociopaths will do anything to hide who they truly are. Inside they are manipulative. They play games and they’re laughing inside when you fall for their games.
But on the outside, they portray the image of being a highly moralistic person. They are calm and collected, they push peoples’ buttons and then make them look like they’re crazy. In turn, that makes them look sensible and “normal”
They will do ANYTHING to cover up the fact that they are a sociopath, so don’t let them know that you know. Even if a psychologist diagnoses them as a sociopath, it’s likely they’ll just fire them and go elsewhere. If they know that you know, it’s likely they will distance themselves from you. They don’t want to risk people knowing.
Exposing a sociopath is a waste of your time.
Don’t make them look bad in front of other people
As I mentioned earlier, sociopaths want to look good in front of other people. So, if you really want to date a sociopath, praise them as much as you can in front of everyone else. Make him/her look amazing. Never joke or tease them in front of their friends, don’t embarrass them. They will make you pay for it.
And try not to be too liked, because you don’t want to position yourself as their competitor.
Last but not least, never react. They will sometimes mean, hurtful things just to get a reaction out of you. A reaction is exactly what they want. So don’t react, under any circumstances. Let it slide off you like water off a duck’s back. You didn’t even hear what they said. Smile pleasantly. They’ll be utterly confused.
I myself developed quite a thick skin over the years. I’m short (only 5ft 1 as an adult) and was always picked on in school for being tiny. As a result I became almost immune to hurtful comments and it drove my ambition. I saw it as their problem, not mine.
After dating a narcissist, I developed an even thicker skin. So when I found myself dating a sociopath, I was quickly able to identify that any harsh comments he made were just an attempt to get a rise out of me. Most of the time I didn’t react, but sometimes it was just impossible not to. If you’re going to date a sociopath, you’re going to have to be as cool as a cucumber.
Loving a sociopath
Loving a sociopath can actually be pretty exciting and exhilarating, but it can also come with extreme lows. One minute you feel on top of the world because they’re giving you attention, the next minute you feel devastated because they took the attention away. Loving a sociopath is not easy.
Leaving a sociopath
If it becomes too exhausting, the best thing to do is leave. Don’t tell them you’re leaving, just cut all contact, block their number and disappear from their life. If you try to talk to them, you’ll just be met with hostility and even aggressive, hurtful language. It’s easy to keep getting sucked in by a sociopath because they enjoy the drama and it’s fun for them to keep playing the game.
Some people can be helped with therapy but sociopaths cannot change. There’s no chance of curing a sociopath. This is just how they are.
Although therapists are trained to spot the disorder, sociopaths can still be very good at manipulating their therapists.
Trying to reason with a sociopath, trying to “cure” or “help” a sociopath won’t work. All you can do is either a) walk away and never look back or b) learn to adapt your own behavior by setting firmer boundaries and managing your own feelings.
Many people will wonder why on earth somebody would want to date such a person. But sociopaths can be extremely attractive and if you’re empathetic, it’s natural to feel like you want to stick around so you can help the person.
If you’re in love with a sociopath, I understand. I’ve loved a sociopath too. But it’s an exhausting game, one that you can never win. Healing after a sociopath is tough and you’ll find yourself thinking “how does one person affect me this much?” but over time and no contact, it does become easier.
After all, who wants to be with a person who can never really love you back?