Is he a psychopath — or just a manipulator?

by Dating Goddess on June 11, 2010

At some point in dating you have, no doubt, encountered jerks, players, and self-absorbed individuals. Perhaps you labeled some narcissists. But have you ever encountered someone you’d deem a psychopath?

In researching a relative’s extreme personality disorder, I decided to read Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work to determine how to best respond to the anti-social behavior with which I was having to deal. While the book focuses on psychopaths in the workplace, I thought I’d glean some ideas for identifying and dealing with these folks anywhere.

First, what’s the difference between a narcissist, sociopath and psychopath? I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I can only paraphrase the authors’ description.

  • “Narcissistic personality disorder involves … displaying a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, sense of entitlement and lack of empathy.”
  • “Sociopathy refers to patterns of attitudes and behaviors that are considered antisocial and criminal by society at large, but are seen as normal … by the subculture … in which they developed…. Many criminals might be described as sociopaths.”
  • Psychopaths and narcissists have some overlapping characteristics, like lack of empathy, and grandiosity, but psychopaths couple these with deceitfulness, lack of remorse, without conscience or loyalty, refusal to accept responsibility and antisocial behavior. While these may sum up the things you loath about your ex, it’s not likely he was really a psychopath! More probably, he was probably just a jerk.

Not all psychopaths are criminals — or at least only a fraction of those with this disorder have either committed crimes or have been caught. The authors say approximately 1% of the population could be diagnosed with psychosis. They point out that only a small percentage of them have been put behind bars, so they are loose in society. Because psychopaths are often intelligent and present themselves well, you’d never know to look at them that you are about to be manipulated for your money, job, belongings or sex.

And not all manipulators are psychopaths. There are plenty of people who will lie, cheat, and steal, but that doesn’t mean they have this personality disorder.

So if so few people qualify as bona fide psychopaths, why am I telling you all this? Because I found the book a fascinating read and if you deal with anyone — at work or personally — who is a smooth manipulator, it may be useful to you.

Secondly, to encourage you to disengage from anyone who has extremely abnormal behavior that you feel is harmful to you. I had to extricate myself from a bullying manipulator, even amid pleading from friends and family to not do so. I am making that same decision about the aforementioned relative. You don’t have to put up with harmful behavior — whether it be emotional, verbal or physical — no matter who it’s coming from.

Have you encountered a manipulator in dating? If so, what was the final straw and how did you end it?

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To explore other examples on whether he’s a keeper or not, get your own copy of Real Deal or Faux Beau: Should You Keep Seeing Him? today!

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