Sometimes the best relationships are the ones you avoid at all costs!
If you are out there in the dating pool these days, there is tremendous opportunity—and make no mistake, there's also an element of danger. When the Chinese combine these two words in symbol form, they create the word "crisis." It is not my intent to scare you off of dating, but it is my intent to give you the tools you must have in order to identify and protect yourself from a potential sociopath before it becomes a crisis.
What Is A Sociopath?
The words sociopath and psychopath are often used interchangeably to describe a person with an antisocial personality disorder. Here are some of the characteristics to look for, so beware if you start to detect these kinds of red flags. They will often be charming or outgoing. Their stories won't add up because they will lie easily and often for personal profit or pleasure without any real remorse.
They tend to be unreliable, poorly motivated and fairly unfocused in any kind of effective life plan. Their states can change rapidly, almost inexplicably because they are actually incapable of authentic emotions. Despite the fact that they don't experience emotions, they are very clever at detecting and manipulating those of others for their own gain.
They are good at finding the weakness in others and are ready to use those weaknesses against them through deceit, manipulation, or intimidation—while enjoying it the entire time. They often have grandiose ideas, think themselves better than others and portray others as against them.
They can rationalize any behavior as a means to an end, so this can be a good "hypothetical test." Lastly—and this is the best part for you, since relationships mean so little—they will often drop them quickly and move on to a new "victim" when it no longer serves their selfish needs. However, that comes with one very important caveat: the faster you identify it and put a stop to it, the better your chances of a safe getaway.
Here's Why This Came Up
I got a question recently from a woman who was really enjoying the attention and excitement of a new man in her life—but she had a nagging suspicion about him. Here's what she said:
"I'm dating someone now who is showering me with attention, something that I value and appreciate a lot at this stage in my life. However, it seems to come with a need to control/have a say in my life (these are all still impressions since it's very new). The strange thing is that I feel I should be worried (like how will things be later on down the line) but at the same time I want to allow myself to experience this kind of relationship as so far I feel pretty good about it and I feel that I can learn a lot from it, never been in a situation like this before."
She went on to ask for advice about how to handle the situation and it was great that she had a forum and a coach that she could come to for an objective opinion. My response was that she had done a great job relaxing into her femininity and using her skills of influence to ask for what she wanted, so she was reaping the benefits. Then I also acknowledged her for listening to her intuition and not shoving it down, which is something many women do—and it's a huge mistake.
However, in the very same paragraph, I said these words: "People with sociopathic tendencies can be very good when they're in pursuit but there is almost always "leakage" or inadvertent clues, so pay attention. The next level for you is getting clear on those boundaries and setting them in advance when you are calm and un-triggered. How do you want to be spoken to? What is acceptable? What is a deal-breaker? What about physical aggression? The time to decide what's okay is long before it "just happens to occur." You'll make a much better decision for you when you respond from strength rather than react from shock.
You Can Almost See This Coming, Can't You?
Within just 7 hours of giving my advice, the woman came back and said he ended their relationship because she wouldn't do things he tried to force her to do against her will. Although she was shocked, she was also a little relieved. My sneaking suspicion turned out to be far more right than I knew.
When she connected with me to fill in the details, it was a textbook case of sociopathic behavior that fit the profile perfectly. While she was obviously shaken and saddened by the sudden turn and his erratic behavior, she also started to blame and second-guess herself. The truth is, she was remarkably lucky because it could have been far worse.
She did a few things very well that revealed him very quickly before he could wreak too much havoc. The thing to remember is that people like this marry other people every day and totally wreck their lives by destroying their confidence, their spirit, their health, their finances, their families—everything! She asked me how she could prevent something like this from ever happening again and also wanted to know how she could keep this event from making her shut down her heart completely.
That is exactly why I'm writing this article, so it won't happen to you. That guy— and many more like him—they're still out there and will move on to the next unsuspecting victim, so I want to share my advice here. As I told her, there is very little she could have done differently. Sociopaths are only recognizable when they exhibit the behaviors; with my help, she spotted it almost as quickly as a trained expert. They don't have a brand on their forehead to warn you away and they can be extremely charming. The only way to spot them is to be aware, knowledgable and vigilant. With that in mind, I want to give you these 5 helpful tips to keep you safe, and still open:
- Know the warning signs and what to look for. Re-read my description in paragraph 2 and just be aware of what to look for, but don't be paranoid either. It's no good to over-correct and sabotage yourself.
- Know your value and decide how you deserve to be treated in advance. As I said earlier, you don't want to be trying to figure out what's okay with you after you've been slapped or publicly humiliated for instance. You may be in shock or attempt to rationalize bad behavior. Know your deal-breakers and stick to them! (I gave you a few questions to ask yourself earlier...please answer them now while you are clear and un-triggered).
- Listen to your gut and trust your intuition. Women’s intuition is your "sixth sense" and your evolutionary advantage to keep you safe. Do not over-ride it, ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist. Oftentimes, emotional intelligence is more accurate than intellectual intelligence, so err on the side of caution.
- This is a time for resolve and commitment. If you cave in or don't hold firm once you sense or know what's going on, I'm going to level with you, that lack of self-worth or value may very well have been what made you a target in the first place. If you fail to get the lesson, you will get the test again, and make no mistake, this can be a dangerous situation.
- Be clear that while it wasn't your fault, it did happen for a reason. We get the exact lessons we need in life, so we can heal old wounds, learn to respect ourselves, honor our truth and find the empowering meaning. In fact, I am really delighted that after taking some time to process it, the woman I helped publicly shared her experience in an open forum, so others could benefit said, "I don't feel bad about it, if anything I feel like I've just been vaccinated against abusive relationships...the dose was too small to do any permanent damage."
Now that is an empowering lesson for all of us. Good luck out there!
More dating tips on YourTango: