What to Do in a Psychopathic Relationship

Updated December 5, 2018
couple arguing

What defines psychopathic relationships? Does your relationship, with all of its idiosyncrasies and quirks, really work? Or, is it mentally unhealthy? Not quite sure? We'll clue you in. Should you continue to work on your relationship, or is it time to cut your losses and hightail it out of there? Keep reading!

Psychopathic Relationships

First, let's take a look at the definition of "psychopathic". According to YourDictionary, the definition is as follows: "The definition of a psychopath is a person who is unstable, insane, abnormally violent or unable to maintain normal social behavior." Psychopaths tend to be aggressive, selfish, and uncaring. Violence is a predominant characteristic of a psychopath, but the presence of violence doesn't solely indicate a person is a psychopath. Most mental health professionals instead refer to these people as having "antisocial personality disorder" as opposed to labeling them as psychopaths.

Psychopathic Tendencies

A true psychopath will exhibit certain tendencies or personality traits. These may be uninhibited traits that the person simply has no control over. On the other hand, in a new relationship, the psychopathic personality may be able to control his or her initial behavior flaws. In other words, he remains on his best behavior until he has wooed his beloved into a sense of false security and trust. Once he has her devotion firmly in hand, he may then let his true colors show. Why wouldn't his significant other run in the other direction after she sees his psychopathic personality in the flesh? For many women and men, they love this person, and so they feel that they can "fix" him or her. In fact, some people simply don't want to give up on another relationship because they are afraid of looking like a failure… again.

Signs of Being a Psychopath

Common traits that are associated with psychopathic behavior include the following:

  • Exuberant and charming personality
  • Selfish and narcissistic
  • Short attention span
  • Adept at lying; lies habitually
  • Lacks or shows little conscience
  • Emotionally distant
  • Can be cruel at times; doesn't show much, if any, sympathy
  • Practices deviant sexual behavior
  • Doesn't exhibit any concrete goals for the future
  • Acts impulsively and at times irresponsibly
  • Doesn't take responsibility for own behavior
  • Repeated evidence of failed relationships; unable to maintain a long-term relationship
  • May be extremely possessive
  • May have been in trouble as a child, preteen, and teen
  • May have a criminal record

What to Do

Psychopaths are typically accomplished manipulators. You may not realize this, and in fact, mistake manipulation for charm… until you do something that displeases him or her. A psychopathic relationship generally involves deceit, control, and manipulation. The deceit may come into play for both parties but typically begins with the psychopath. However, once the injured party realizes the consequences of any real or imagined insult by the psychopathic personality, he or she may begin to lie to simply survive. Is this the pattern of your relationship? If so, you may want to think twice about staying. In most psychopathic relationships, mental and emotional abuse of the other person and even other family members and friends is quite common. However, physical abuse may also play a role.

Navigating the Relationship

angry woman

There are different degrees of psychopathy, so while one person falling within the spectrum may display mild attributes of manipulation and disregard for others, another person within this spectrum may, in fact, be too dangerous to be in a relationship with. Research suggests that relationships with psychopaths are most likely to fail unless you're willing to put up with the less-than-desirable tendencies of disregarding your feelings, aggression, and impulsivity. You're unlikely to be able to "change" your partner to make them less psychopathic, so if these behaviors are unacceptable to you it's time to leave.

Can Psychopaths Love?

It's important to note that psychopaths want to be loved, even if they're unwilling (or unable) to love others. Again, a psychopath's ability to love depends greatly upon the degree of psychopathy the individual has. What they feel as "love" may instead be more of a strong bond than genuine love. Psychopathy is marked by the inability to feel loving emotions.

How to End a Psychopathic Relationship

Even if your relationship doesn't involve physical abuse, once you've decided to get out, what do you do?

  • Don't isolate yourself-Talk to friends and family about the situation, all the while recognizing that your significant other may be trying to isolate you to prevent this.
  • If you sense that there might be any physical danger to you or your children, leave immediately!-I cannot stress how important this is! Don't bother packing items, saving money, etc. Just get out! You need to contact Safe Place to find an organization near you that can help.
  • Seek professional help-Talk to a counselor. He or she can help you learn coping skills as you try to disengage yourself from this situation.
  • Trust your instincts-If you are feeling controlled, overwhelmed, scared, or any other feeling that signals something is wrong with this relationship, get out of it!
  • Don't get into a power struggle with this person-You won't win, and you'll lose more than just an argument.
  • Don't blame yourself-Remember, psychopaths are master manipulators.

Recovering From a Psychopathic Relationship

As with any other bad relationship, it's important to keep some things in mind as you take time to heal:

  • Psychopaths are abnormal; don't allow their behavior to become baggage that you take into your next relationship.
  • Take time to reflect on what initially attracted you to your ex; might you have some relationship patterns you should analyze and work on?
  • Your ex may aggressively pursue getting you back - not out of love, but because your ex wants what he wants and doesn't understand boundaries.
  • Do whatever you need to do to drop your ex from your life even if that means legal action.

Walk Away

Although you may see glimmers of hope once in a while in your relationship if your partner is a true psychopath it's likely these glimmers are merely products of manipulation. Don't allow your desire for a relationship to put blinders on you to where you accept psychopathic behavior.

What to Do in a Psychopathic Relationship