Signs You Are Dating a Sociopath

Gabrielle Applebury
couple on a beach

People with sociopathic tendencies tend to be very challenging to maintain a relationship with. Although they can start off a relationship by being charming, this can quickly fade away and more severe behaviors can appear.

Understanding Sociopathic Behavior

Sociopathic behavior is formally known as antisocial personality disorder and is diagnosable in adults who are 18 and older. Many of those with antisocial personality disorder were diagnosed with conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder as teenagers. Those who exhibit the majority of antisocial personality disorder symptoms may have experienced a challenging upbringing that may have included severe trauma, abandonment, unhealthy attachments to caregivers, and abuse or neglect. This makes it very challenging for people with this diagnosis to connect on a genuine level, feel and experience love, and wholeheartedly care about people other than themselves.

Lacking Empathy and Remorse

A person with sociopathic tendencies will have a challenging time feeling empathy towards people and animals, although they may be able to feign it quite well. With someone you're dating you may notice:

  • Getting into fights often and unable to resolve them
  • Your partner has a difficult time understanding how their behavior impacts you emotionally
  • Your partner doesn't feel bad about harming you or others emotionally or physically
  • You may find some of their behavior harsh or offputting
  • They lack accountability
  • They have a hard time connecting to their emotions or genuinely identifying how they feel
  • Your partner may have a difficult time reading your emotional cues

Manipulative Behavior

You may notice that your partner manipulates you to try to sway your decision or feelings. You may not even realize it's happening until you're alone and get a chance to reflect upon it. Types of manipulating may include:

  • Persuasively putting words in your mouth
  • Telling you how you feel or should feel
  • Gas-lighting (otherwise known as crazy-making)
  • Threatening you
  • Degrading your self worth
  • Any type of abuse as a means to control you (financial, emotional, physical, sexual)

Law Breaking and Aggressive Behavior

One aspect of diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder is law breaking and a lack of respect for societal rules.

Man in suit mug shot

You may find out that your partner has:

  • A past criminal record which may include larceny, theft, and fraud
  • Defaced property
  • Caused physical harm to people or animals
  • Been previously cited or arrested for interpersonal partner violence
  • Shown aggression or the threat of aggression towards you

Lying for Personal Gain

People diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder may lie to further their career, meet influential people, or to feel superior and gain control over a person or situation. You may notice your partner:

  • Engaging in calculated networking
  • Misleading you or others about their career
  • Bragging about how much money and power they have
  • Saying they're in a position of leverage or blackmailing others to get ahead

Making an Informed Decision

Keep in mind that sociopathic behaviors will be on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. Your partner may have a few symptoms, but not enough to qualify for a formal diagnosis. When it comes to dating, make sure you are making the healthiest choice for you and seek out help if you ever feel unsafe around your partner.

Signs You Are Dating a Sociopath