How to Tell If You’re Dating a Sociopath

by Shayla Pierce

A few years ago I dated a man who said that he loved me.

But hundreds of unanswered phone calls and dates that only I showed up for made that hard to believe. Still I knew that if I was patient and loved him hard enough that he would eventually change.

It took a phone call from the wife that he conveniently forgot to mention to make me realize that that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Many experiences (and a master’s degree) later, I’ve come to understand that my former lover, and those like him, are sociopaths: a unique breed of individual that is incapable of empathy or any other proper connection to other human beings.

Now when you think of the term “sociopath,” it might conjure up images of the lone stranger who gets off by dismembering people in his backyard. While this may be true, the term isn’t reserved for only felons and serial killers.

This is because the sociopath’s desire doesn’t have to be murder. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s sex. Sometimes it’s control. And while many people have these same aspirations, what makes a sociopath a sociopath is that they are more than willing to hurt someone to get what they want. So if your feelings or your well-being have to be sacrificed in order for them to achieve that need, that’s exactly what will have to happen.

They’re the man who sleeps with his partner just for her paycheck; the boyfriend that has sex with his girl’s sister, or even the husband that has managed to keep a secret, second family on the side. Most heartbreaking are the partners who think they can love or pray these individuals into being better people. But unfortunately, that’s simply not possible. Because unlike most people who suffer from some sort of mental disorder, sociopaths are perfectly happy being just the way they are. It’s the people that they come across who are miserable. So the only way to ensure that you’re not hurt by a sociopath is simple: stay away.

And what are the criteria for a diagnosable sociopath?

1. Unlawful Behavior
Sociopaths are arrogant creatures who often think they can operate above the law. Because of this, they may repeatedly perform criminal acts. However, because they are usually crafty and highly intelligent, they rarely get caught.

2. Deceitfulness
Lying! But not the random or compulsive variety. Sociopaths lie for a purpose, which usually includes some type of financial, sexual, or political gain. Lies may be grandiose in nature and are told as a vehicle of control.

3. Impulsivity
Sociopaths act on instinct and without thoroughly planning ahead. They may enter relationships quickly and passionately, but lose interest just as fast.

4. Aggressiveness
Sociopaths are usually easily irritated and may be prone to repeated physical fights.

5. Reckless Disregard
Sociopaths are likely to partake in risky, thrill seeking behaviors as they constantly need to be stimulated. In the context of relationships, this includes highly promiscuous sexual behavior usually without protection.

6. Irresponsibility
You know that person that can’t seem to hold down a job? Not because they’re lazy, but because they just don’t want to work? They may just be a sociopath that thinks they’re too good for a regular nine to five.

7. Lack of Remorse
Sociopaths don’t feel bad about anything. This includes not returning your calls or sleeping with your best friend. And to add insult to injury, sociopaths will come up with reasons to rationalize their messed up behavior. Her friend wanted me and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Right?

Bottom line is a sociopath has one concern: himself. And while they know their behavior is devastating to those around them, they’re charming enough to make sure that there are always people in their lives to take advantage of.

You just have to make sure you’re not one of them.

  • http://www.pretty-with-purpose.com J.Denise

    Wow, I’ve been saying this for months that guys like this have to have some sort of mental imbalance. Glad I’m not alone in this thinking.

  • wildhoney

    It’s so frustrating that an article like this came years too late for me. But it’s better to know as soon as possible, these @$$holes are EVERYWHERE.

  • Introverted Leo

    Thanks goodness I haven’t run into any men like this.

  • Ladybug94

    They will also lie for no apparent reason as well and try to drag you into committing unlawful acts to help them out. Also, they want everyone to think they are wonderful and have a “look at me and what I’ve done” attitude and if there is blame to be passed for something they want someone else to be the fall guy so they can continue to look good in everyones eyes while you look like the fool. Stay far away from these people. Did I say stay far away?!

  • Ladybug94

    I know right?! I wish I would have come across this article 5 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of frustration and aggravation but I eventually came to my senses and got the heck away from that lunatic.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    “Unlawful Behavior, deceitfulness, Impulsivity, aggressiveness, reckless disregard, irresponsibility, lack of remorse.”

    Damn, that could describe the police, politicians, corporations, flight attendants and Lil’ Wayne.

  • Simone L

    I was reading this and I realized my husband isn’t a sociopath, he’s just an asshole. Oh well. Carry on.

  • lulu

    hundreds of phone calls??? maybe cause i ve been there b4 and learned the hard way- if some one is ignoring you, not calling, seeing you- let that go and move on with your life- life lesson some of us women cant get- but i got it- you cant make some one love you- no made how hard you love them, do for them- if they dont feel that way in return – NOTHING you do will change that fact

  • http://www.cakefashionista.com Cake Fashionista UK

    This is my dad.

  • http://www.cakefashionista.com Cake Fashionista UK

    This is my dad.

    Sorry @lulu my post went to the wrong place.

  • LemonnLime

    It funny you say that. My friend told me about a study that estimated that 13% of the US population were sociopaths. What they found was that those people with sociopathic behavior tended to be polarized in economic class, so they we either mostly lower income (drug dealers, gang members, dudes who have 30 kids with 11 different women and don’t feel shame about it) or mostly upper class (bankers, corporate CEOs, politicians). I’m sure a huge portion of are lives are influenced and run by sociopaths.

  • John Brown

    It all makes sense now. I truly think I was involved with a sociopath from my past. It is sad to say, but he does match the criteria for a diagnosable sociopath. Thank God I was delivered. We don’t want to, but it is for the best to proceed at a turtle’s pace when getting to know new people.

  • http://www.pretty-with-purpose.com J.Denise

    LOL, for real!

  • MsQuita

    I KNEW IT!!!!!!!!! My ex fits 97% of this. I called him the devil.

  • No Way!

    I was dating one of them. It was bad too. I wasn’t the one doing the hundreds of phone calls thu. It was him that called constently. I believe that was a control thing. He was always checking on me for some reason. I never gave that fool a reason to but still he did. I didn’t have to be the caller cause his phone calls never failed. They are extremely controlling. This dude told me that my house was his, my money was ours, and my car was his because of all the money he put into it (fixed my mirror, really?). He tried to get me to move in with him after just 3 months of dating. Thank god I had some since about me and said no because I don’t believe in being someone’s live in girlfriend. We were flying back from Vegas which was a trip in itself and he got mad because I booked him the wrong seat. Had the nerve to shove me too. If I wasn’t affraid of getting arrested on a plane I would have got in his ass and asked for a different seat away from him. That same night at my parents house he was acting really strange. He got dressed up more than usual, he didn’t show me any affection in front of my parents and when I tried to hug him he pushed me away. He then put on this show in front of my folks by getting down on one knee and asking for me to marry him. I said yes because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. Four months later I called it off after he snapped and cursed me out because I didn’t message his cousin on fb like he told me to. I did my research on him and found out I was one of several women he was sleeping with. He was doing unlawful mess that could have him in jail. He has a record and is known for stocking ex’s that he was in relationships with. He is not good at lieing especially the ones where he’d tell me he talked with a family member and I’d call them to find out it wasn’t true. If you feel something in your gust about a person no matter how much you like them, trust it and distance yourself from them fast.

  • http://www.itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    I know this article was meant to be serious but I literally cannot stop LMAO at it and the subsequent comments. I mean sociopath sounds a bit extreme, how about he’s just an asshole and this behavior isn’t only limited to men but I digress. I don’t know where you gals met these guys but if it was a club, bar or an all day drinking event chances are you should probably walk briskly in the other direction.

  • Yb

    This is scary. I don’t think I want to ever date again. Exactly what percentage of American men are sociopaths?

  • http://www.itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    While I realize this is supposed to be a serious article, I cannot help but laugh. These are the type of men that appear to be assholes on the outside but if someone were to really evauate him on a deeper level he’d likely be a certified sociopath. If you run into a man at a club, bar or an all day drinking event and he has an Ed Hardy shirt on and/ or multiple tattoos, he’s likely a sociopath and you should walk briskly in the opposite direction. Don’t run- he’ll know you’re onto him and will try to go American Psycho on your ass.

  • http://datelessjana.blogspot.com Dateless Jana

    I think you mean Psychopath and not Sociopath? There are some differences. Psychopaths are very manipulative with charming personalities and liked by most people. Sociopaths run the spectrum but are usually the serial killers and can exhibit anti- social behavior. After separating from my parasitic ex-husband, I did a very through study on this. He is for sure a psychopath. No joke.

  • OSHH

    Alot of people are crazy and I know that is something that is said quite often but it is true, alot of people are sick, mentally ill, perverted, depraved etc

    @ Sasha crazy isn’t confined to a club or the streets either, crazy is corporate, collegiate, global, and international too.

    Women need to really hone in on their discernment skills and apply that wisdom early and often. I for one and am not very approachable for just any and erry body to walk up on and try to holla. I am very particular about who I would even consider dating these days.

  • Isis

    Read the Sociopath Next Door. Pretty insightful

  • Rastaman

    Eerily similar characteristics of a woman I dated briefly last decade….I would never commit to her as she wanted because I sensed that there was something not altogether there. I think too many people overlook their intuition and disregard it as a factor in making intelligent decisions about their lives. Too often we allow ourselves to be victimized because confuse losing our sense of self preservation as losing oneself in romance/love.

    If you are in a relationship where you are losing all sense of yourself, you are probably in danger.

  • Isis

    No the author is right. It’s sociopath

  • AuntieBlue

    Ha, yeah right!!! The Criteria fits just about everyone in the world and especially here in America, hell, including me too! Everyone in the World has one of these traits.

  • JWC

    Nice heads up. There should be a book about the sociopaths in DC. That city is run amok with ‘em.

  • LN

    #Dead at the picture that accompanies this article, lol!

    And a great article!!

  • hehe

    I find sociopathy interesting. The thought of someone without empathy or remorse is fascinating. What else is interesting is that there’s no treatment for sociopathy because sociopaths are so cunning. A lot of powerful men are believed to be sociopath. John Edwards is believed to be one.

  • iQgraphics

    honey, i dated and fell in full love with a sociopath. i became his caretaker. it was a sad sad situation that I have yet to fully recover from.

  • iQgraphics

    you don’t run into men like these. they run into you. like a mack truck.

  • iQgraphics

    you only need one trait to diffuse all of those listed above. That’s Humanity.
    Sociopaths lack Humanity, therefore, even if you possess one of the traits above, if you also possess humanity, you are not a sociopath.

    The world isn’t full of them.

  • OSHH

    @ IQ great way to differentiate. I was thinking it is not one trait but all of those things in a cumalative manner.

    In response to your first comment, do you ever fully recover from your experience with someone of this nature, IDK, its been some years for me and IDK, you are not the same as you once were and can’t be…but that’s not a bad thing though depending on what you have learned and applied to living this life.

  • http://themodernmedicineman d-rhyme

    Almost true. What is source for this? Unless author is expert she needs to provide sources. Not only men but women are even more dangerous. Gays and lesbians too. #3 is not all true. Lack of feeling makes for highyly detailed planning or cunning. Manipulators are very adept at subterfuge. Impulsivity is acute only but scheming long-term is like a lion on the hunt. Highly planned.

  • iQgraphics

    OSHH
    I appreciate you sharing. I still go thru random bouts of depression when triggered by certain things. I don’t think so either. Reason being, as a humanitarian, you are always trying to apply some reason or ration to the actions that take place. It’s just unfathomable to believe some people are born or have arrived at a spiritual deficit. I couldn’t imagine being as morally bankrupt as this person. Soulless. Vapid. As hurt as I was by this person, my heart still bleeds for them. I tried to help but it cost me the trusting part of my spirit.

    I refer to these people as ‘natural born killers’

  • http://www.sassyfrazzy.wordpress.com SassyFrassy

    Now, THAT made me LOL… in my office. Thanks a lot. :)

  • SurveySays

    So sociopaths have their own clothing line and preferred hangouts now?
    The whole point of the article is that they come in all shapes, sizes, and shirts!
    Your response is a blame-the-victim response; “She asked for it, because she went home with the guy who had the Ed Hardy shirt on at the club.”
    Really?
    That’s a tad too simplistic, don’t you think?
    Ted Bundy was both a psychopath and a sociopath; there were no tell-tell signs until it was too late.
    Be careful and be safe, everyone — ladies & gents alike!

  • http://blackonpurpose.blogspot.com/ gryph

    why does it have to be a black guy? aren’t white guys as or more likely to be sociopaths?

  • iQgraphics

    I don’t think race has anything to do with it. This is a site that caters to people of color, 99.9% of the images are of people of color, regardless of the fact that the topic may go beyond color lines.

  • http://blackonpurpose.blogspot.com/ gryph

    lol. yeah…post-racial, of course.

  • apple

    I sociopath relatives that cheat lie steal ruin the whole family for a good laugh or money.

  • Angie

    What causes these men to become empty shells of men (and women too)? I mean, does something happen in their childhood that just ruins them for life? Are they born as true devil spawn, is it a mental illness like schizophrania, clinical depression? And can these men be reformed (provided of course they come to realize they actually have an illness)?

  • November Rain

    I live next door to a sociopath (who I, REGRETFULLY, became involved with) WORST mistake of my life. These people are losers. They have a no real goals in life, other than who they are going to get over on next. It’s all just a game for them. They don’t care who they hurt. All they care about is themselves and how they feel and how they’re going to keep their endless supply of victims going. Even if they appear to love someone or appear to be in a loving relationship, it’s all a front. They’ve just found someone who doesn’t require much of them to keep the “relationship” going. A willing victim, that’s their ultimate goal. Someone whom they can abuse yet still keep around. Once they find someone who they think is better, i.e. has more money or resources for them to leach off of, they will be gone.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/clnmike Tonton Michel

    Jesus! Described my Ex to a T she was truly nightmare.But I think were all out of luck, these behaviors are being accepted and reinforced in the overall culture now.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/clnmike Tonton Michel

    Good God! Speak the devil’s name and she shall appear damn if she didn’t just call my phone after typing this.

  • http://themodernmedicineman d-rhyme

    #1, Harriett Tubman was unlawful. Boston tea party too.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/clnmike Tonton Michel

    Those laws were unjust.

  • maureen

    you will recover. I too dated a sociopath that took advantage of me in every possible way and always had the best excuses for his bad behavior. I kicked him to the curb and have been better ever since. He cant stand that I have moved on and that he no longer controls me. You just have to do exactly what the article said – stay away. Dont let that experience ruin your life. Just see it as a learning experience and now you know what you dont want in a person.

  • Kacey

    That list seems to describe most men.

  • LemonNLime

    Seriously? How many times do you jay walk or speed? That is all unlawful behavior but it doesn’t make you a psychopath, it’s take a mixture of the traits mentioned above. Let’s use some critical thinking skills next time.

  • Bosslady

    The guy you dated wasn’t a socipath, just a mere player, who played you

  • OSHH

    @ IQ yeah it’s amazing the level of love and compassion we can have for people in spite of themselves, but at such a cost.
    I have forgiven him for my own sake and all I can do is pray for him when he crosses my mind as I pray for myself and keep it moving.

  • SurveySays

    Let’s say that that was indeed the case.
    What story would you prefer to tell yourself in order to heal and move on with confidence in yourself and in the possibility of finding true love (or whatever it is you’re seeking in a relationship with a good man)?
    The “he’s a sociopath” story or the “he played me for a fool” story?
    I say whatever narrative works to help one heal is the narrative that one should stick to.
    “Why doesn’t he love me when I make me so damned easy to love?”
    “Because his triflin’ ass is a sociopath.”
    Works for me!
    [Watch me get up off my wheelchair and walk again! Hallelujah! It's a miracle!]

    And a player can be a sociopath too; they’re like everybody else — wearers of many hats.

  • simplyme

    Those things aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • iQgraphics

    don’t be d0uchy

  • For sure

    I have no doubt that he is. He fits the description perfectly.

  • For sure

    I agree. Some of the behaviors that are discussed in this article are not indicative of sociopathy and nor are the exclusive to sociopaths.

    There are plenty of men “who sleep with a partner just for her paycheck; the boyfriend that has sex with his girl’s sister, or even the husband that has managed to keep a secret, second family on the side” and are sane, they’re just dicks.

  • Mae

    OMG. This is TOTALLY my ex-boyfriend!!

  • Shayla Pierce

    Hi Bosslady,

    I totally understand why you would think that, but there were MANY other aspects of this man that were totally unrelated to our relationship that met the criteria for a sociopath. But it was impossible to encompass them with a 600 word count My goal here was not to pathologize “player” behavior, nor to enable women or men who’ve been victims by giving them a crutch, but to inform on what the criteria are for sociopathology so that people can see the warning signs.

    Thanks for reading

  • Shayla Pierce

    Hi d-rhyme,

    I’m not at all an expert but I do hold a Masters in Social Work and have been providing cognitive behavioral therapy to women and adolescent girls in the realms of mood disorders and relationships for over three years.

    The list is in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition.

    Very interesting point about #3 though. I’d have to agree with you

  • TheSociopathNextDoor

    Do you really think we’re not reading these articles and adjusting our behavior accordingly?! You cannot escape because we are genuinely smarter than you. That’s why we get everything we want. You call it a disease. I call it evolution. Sheep.

  • http://www.serriasays.com Serria Says

    LOL!!!!

  • http://www.serriasays.com Serria Says

    Honestly, if you date a certain way, you shake guys like this off because they thrive on control. They push monogamy early, say I love you too soon and are really obvious if you date light because they will be the one working your nerve and stressing you. Date light, if someone isn’t fun! Don’t hang out with them and don’t create ties until you know them organically (not from asking a bunch of questions).
    I’m just saying…I had one too and I was 21 thank God, I was young. Your friends see them for who they are, trust your friends and family. And if you by chance go on a date with one, you have my permission to bail out! Ha ha crawl out the bathroom window, who cares?
    @serriasays

  • Silas

    Um…ladies? I hate to blow the zesty man-hatin’ vibe you’ve got going here, but a true sociopath is actually a rather rare thing. So there’s no way the 50-60% or so of commenters here who claim “This was my ex-boyfriend” or can be correct. They’re simply confusing manipulative a$$es with sociopaths. If sociopaths were this common, society would disintegrate.

  • RUKiddingMe

    I believe the sad reality, how ever labeled, is that society is degrading. I am not a psychologist so I am not able to diagnose, but in all four of my serious relationships, I promise you they were mentally unstable. No I didn’t meet them at the bar or on the street corner or even the internet. I was introduced to them via “friends”… The guys come across to everyone else as wonderfully charming. When you get in to a relationship with them deeper than going out for a smoke break you find out they are seriously not well.

  • PlayingDr.

    A few months ago I met a sociopath threw friends. We began seeing each other for a few months. EVERYTHING about this description matches him perfectly. This man can turn his charm on and off like a light switch. As soon as he got what he wanted from me, that switch would be off .. and when he saw me hurt, he’d have a completely COLD reaction. Wouldn’t reassure me, wouldn’t comfort me. Just bluntly stated he “didn’t care” .. but as soon as he wanted something from me again, he would put the charm back on .. First I thought he was bi-polar, but sociopath fits a much better description of him.

  • Heather

    Let’s see…mine engaged in the same behavior, said he set out to hurt me, had fantasies of becoming a serial killer, had no friends and played psychological games with me. You think sociopaths are rare. Unfortunately, if you read books like The Sociopath Next Door you’ll find out that they’re not as rare as you think. I was floored when I discovered the truth.

  • Jenna

    Actually it is estimated that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. That is quite a lot. Many sociopaths are in high powered positions. I strongly believe that society is pretty much run by sociopaths with the occasional exception.

  • AntiSociopathic

    Apparently, I am a sociopath magnet. I learned the father of my children (never married me) was a sociopath about year 7. Two more years of the manipulation and lies, charm… all of the above and I finally left him. Well, the kids were taught to hate me, and my life was still his according to him. During the 9 years post relationship, my happiness was not to be had. I gradually became paramoid, afraid of emotional consequences that he delivered abundantly through the kids. Relief did not come until he passed away! It was sudden and left me with 2 kids who are really confused. So… point in case, why Im reading this page and commenting is becase I have attracted another one… and wow, it didnt take long for my gut to tell me… woaw gurl… slow your roll. Its been 4 months, spending alot of time together… week 2 he asked if he could tell me he loves me. No friends, great job, angers when I want to talk about that love he wanted to express in week 2 and manipulates me by repeatedly talking about the past and the ex wives… long term relationships are good right? LOL. Holy Cow… excuse me while I go get my running shoes.

  • http://twitter.com/singleandhappy1 Chocolate Aquarius (@singleandhappy1)

    So…let’s call ‘em sociopaths to make getting played feel better? O_o

  • Maya

    Yeah because that is exactly what they are-sociopaths. They are also beyond help and continue to do it. I have a friend who has kids with one- he has 23 other children. Three sets of twins. no conscience at all, can’t care for anyone and women still go out with him! people assume other people are normal- not sociopaths

  • JehovahGem

    I’m in a relationship with one now! A friend who has been a therapist for 30 years who has meet him diagnosed him and I should have listened. He can turn charm on and off and not care if he has said something to hurt my feelings. His m.o. is total and complete control! He has cheated on me more times than I can count and women are enamoured of him because he’s rich and drives a Benz. He has no male friends and avoids interactions with men. He has a very nice daughter who he admitted to not loving but because he knows she loves him, he rewards her materially as he does with me. He doesn’t love me but he seems to have a need for me to adore him! We have broken up three or four times within three years but he always finds a way to get me back without changing his behavior. Any advice?

  • Emily

    Leave him! Since he is a sociopath, he is incapable of loving. I know it’s going to be really hard, but you really need to. He will hurt you over and over again, and not care or even feel a little guilty. I will keep you and his daughter in my prayers. You will be much happier, and know you made the right decision when it’s over. Best of luck. Xoxo

  • steven

    You just sound like your still hurt from him. And creature is a harsh word :)

  • Renee Dolo

    Me and my sociopath just broke up after three years! Over dinner Sundsy he told me that while he appreciated the fact that I stood by him through five medical procedures, have a nice personality, intelligent, and pretty that he wasn’t going to marry me because I’m not terribly domestic! He forgets that I’ve offered to cook for him and each time he turned me down (since his ex-wife of twenty years still cooks for him). I’ve also washed dishes and performed some other minor chores for him. He says that I’m too mushy for him but yet he claims to be an emotional person himself (although I have yet to see it). He says that he wants to marry a woman for whom he has a fantasy love and then in the next breath he says that people don’t always marry for love (he said that after I asked if he had that kind of love for me). I realized that he was never going to stop lying or cheating so I dumped him. Women love this man and think he’s the best thing since sliced bread!

  • Jessica

    I feel your pain, and I know from my own personal experience, you can NEVER change these men, because they don’t even think they have a problem, you do, , you are not perfect enough for them, I worked out 2 hours a day, 7 days a week, cooked for him and gave him full body professional massage for 5 years, he had the nerve to tell me, he got “tired of it… and he wants to be able to date super models.. what an idiot!! These men will never grasp the TRUE meaning of love, ot be human, people change and grow.. If you find yourself always apologizing for just being yourself, then RUN, like hell away from this toxic, life sucking vampire,, and know that he will treat the next “victim” woman the same exact way…I do take pleasure in knowing this B– will never be happy and I have since moved on to a real loving man that adores me.. I hope you can do the same, and do get counseling, it does help….always be yourself and look for a man who will want you the way you are now, and not put you down..all my best to you,

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