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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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