25 Signs You Are Dating a Psychopath (And How to Heal From Psychopathic Abuse)
Recovering from a relationship with a psychopath is a dark journey.
It will open your eyes to your own deepest insecurities and feelings of rage and loneliness
But ultimately, it will heal you.
You will understand who you truly are. You will become stronger.
And in the end, you will be glad it happened.
This article contains signs you are dating a psychopath and how you can heal and move on from their abuse.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What Is A Psychopath?
So what is a psychopath?
Psychopaths are manipulative people—completely devoid of empathy.
They would intentionally cause harm to others without any sense of remorse or responsibility.
In a relationship, they follow a predictable cycle: Idealize, Devalue, Discard.
Spotting Psychopaths: 25 Signs You Are Dating A Psychopath
When it comes to relationships, the following signs might indicate that you are dating a psychopath:
#1. They Shower You With Idealization, Love-Bombing, And Flattery
At the beginning of the relationship, things move extremely fast.
They tell you how much they have in common with you and how perfect you are for them.
Having no identity of their own, they mirror your hopes, dreams, and insecurities.
You will recall a short “observation” period, during which they simply listen to you describe your hopes and dreams, and then enthusiastically declare how similar you both are.
They use this manufactured “connection” that builds immediate trust, quickly leading you to believe that you’ve found your perfect soul mate.
#2. They Become Your Entire Life
When idealizing, they appear to be fascinated with you on every level, texting you on a minute-by-minute basis and posting all over your Facebook profile for your friends to see.
They become all you think and talk about.
You cancel plans and eagerly wait by the phone for their next communication. However, sacrifices seem to come from your end alone.
#3. They Convince You That You Are Soul Mates
Psychopaths love the idea of soul mates. It involves not just love, but higher powers at work. It creates a psychic bond that lasts long after the relationship has ended.
They convince you that they’re the perfect person to complete your life – that they can be your lover and best friend.
While nothing is wrong with that, psychopaths don’t actually share your dreams and fantasies.
#4. They Have An Unusual Number Of “Crazy” People From Their Past
They will label their ex-partner or friend as jealous, bipolar, an alcoholic, or some other nasty label.
#5. They Fake Innocence
When pointing out a bad behavior, they claim to behave this way because of an abusive ex or an abusive parent.
They claim that they hate drama and that all they’ve ever wanted is some peace and quiet – and yet they seem to have more drama in their lives than anyone you’ve ever known.
#6. They Indirectly Tell You How They Expect You To Behave
After idealizing you, they begin conditioning your behavior, through indirect persuasion.
They might insult their exes as a way to flatter you, by saying “my ex always used to do this, but you never do that,” or, “My ex and I always fought. We never fight,” or, “My ex always needed to talk on the phone. You’re not needy or demanding.”
These are not compliments – they are telling you to behave a certain way, while maintaining an illusion of innocence.
#7. They Are Easily Bored
They are constantly stimulated and surrounded by other people.
They can’t tolerate being alone for an extended period of time and become quickly uninterested by anything that doesn’t directly impact them in a thrilling way.
You might believe that they’re simply exciting and worldly, and feel inferior or inadequate for preferring familiarity and consistency.
#8. They Have A Crippling Thirst For Attention
Their demand for adoration can drain the energy from you and consume your entire life.
They make you believe that you are the only one who could make them happy, but you soon discover that anyone can fit that role.
But the truth is the void of a psychopath’s soul cannot be filled.
#9. They Are The Ultimate Hypocrite
They have high expectations for adoration and respect.
However, they never do as they say. They will cheat, lie, criticize, and manipulate. Meanwhile, you are expected to remain perfect.
#10. They Are Pathological Liars
They have an excuse for everything, even things that don’t require excusing.
They never take responsibility. It’s always other’s fault – never theirs.
Even when caught in a lie, they express no remorse. It might even seem like they wanted you to catch them.
#11. They Cannot Put Themselves In Your Shoes, Or Anyone Else’s
When asking them to imagine what it might feel like if you were treating them this way, you are usually met with silence or annoyance.
#12. They Slowly And Steadily Break Your Boundaries
They might smirk when you try to express yourself and criticize you with a joking sort of attitude. They subtly belittle your abilities and intelligence.
You might feel upset and even resentful but you choose to push away those feelings in order to maintain the peace.
#13. They Withhold Attention
After showering you with nonstop attention and admiration at the beginning of the relationship, they suddenly stop and seem completely bored by you. You might even begin to feel like a chore to them.
#14. They Give You The Silent Treatment When Attempting To Improve Communication
Psychopaths make it clear that any negative conversation will jeopardize the relationship, especially when the conversation is about their behavior.
So you apologize and forgive quickly, sometimes without even mentioning the issue.
#15. They Compare You To Everyone Else In Their Life
When idealizing, they make you feel special by telling you how much better you are than their ex-lovers friends, family members.
When devaluing, they use these comparisons to make you feel inferior and jealous.
#16. The Qualities They Once Claimed To Admire About You Suddenly Become Glaring Faults
When idealizing, they appeal to your deepest vanities by observing and telling you exactly what they think you want to hear.
But when devaluing, they begin to use these things against you.
#17. You Walk On Eggshells Around This Person
You may find yourself writing off most of their questionable behavior as intentional because you’re desperately trying to win back their attention and praise.
#18. You See Another Side Of Them
There are fleeting moments when the mask cracks and the charming, cute, innocent persona is replaced by someone who is cold, inconsiderate, and manipulative.
You begin to question whether the person you fell in love with actually exists.
#19. They Oscillate Between Being Mean And Sweet
They seem to oscillate between showering you with attention and ignoring you, sometimes criticizing you.
They could be talking about marriage one day and breaking up the next.
They constantly surround themselves with former lovers, potential mates, and anyone who provides them with added attention and praise.
This creates the perception that the psychopath is in high demand at all times.
#21. They Will Provoke Jealousy And Rivalries While Maintaining Their Cover Of Innocence
They begin to divert their attention from you and focus on other people, which makes you constantly doubting your place in their heart.
#22. They Blame You For Feeling Emotions That They Are Intentionally Provoking
They would blatantly flirt with an ex, often on social media, and then call you jealous.
They would intentionally ignore you for days and then call you needy.
They provoke these reactions to garner sympathy from other targets by proving how “hysterical” you’ve become.
#23. They Are Gaslighting And Crazy-Making
They deny any manipulative behavior and ignore evidence when confronted or become dismissive and critical, calling you “sensitive” and “crazy.”
They make you to believe that the problem isn’t the abuse itself, but rather your reactions to their abuse.
#24. They Use Covert Abuse
With psychopaths, the abuse is not physical or blatant verbal insults, but actually subtle devaluation.
You won’t even realize that you’re in an abusive relationship until long after it’s over.
#25. Your Natural Love And Compassion Transforms Into Panic And Anxiety
You start sleeping less and waking up every morning feeling anxious and unhinged. You cry more than you ever have in your life.
You feel exhausted, drained, and empty. You go insane searching for some sort of reason behind it all.
What Is Normal?
Better yet, what is not normal?
Going from fascinated to bored in the blink of an eye, is not normal.
Being called jealous and crazy by someone who actively cheated on you, is not normal.
Desperately waiting by your phone for texts they once showered you with every other minute, is not normal.
A great way to learn what’s normal in the relationship is considering your Constant.
Your Constant is someone who loves you, consistently inspires and never disappoints. It could be your mother, a close friend, a relative, a child – anyone.
If you think you don’t have a Constant in your life, imagine a higher power in your mind – one that brings peace to your heart and will always keep you safe. One that Embodies all of the qualities you admire most: empathy, compassion, kindness – this is your Constant.
To know what’s normal and what’s not normal, imagine your Constant in mind (tangible or imagined), and ask yourself: Does my Constant make me feel Anxious? Jealous?
Of course not.
Your Constant is a reminder that you are not going crazy. It helps you filter out toxic people who make you feel bad and restore your self-respect.
The Path To Recovery
Why Does It Take So Long?
Breakups with psychopaths take an unusually long time to recover from compared to breakups with healthy human beings – It might take up to twenty-four months.
But no matter how long it takes, you’ll eventually heal and you will restore your empathetic spirit.
So why is it taking so long?
1. You Were in Love
It was a manufactured love, but love is the strongest human emotional bond in the world and regardless of your abuser’s intentions, your love was still very real.
It is always painful to lose someone you loved, especially when you had your personality mirrored and your dreams manipulated – he seemed like your soul mate.
Psychopaths manufacture desperation and desire. They had you put more time, energy, and thought into this relationship than ever before.
When idealizing, they showered you with attention, letters, and compliments. Everything you were and did was perfect to them.
2. Chemical Reaction
Your happiness started to depend on their opinion of you. Happiness being a chemical reaction in your brain—dopamine and receptors firing off to make you feel good, they became your drug.
You fell into a state of desperate love. Your mind convinces you that if you feel so powerfully, then they must be the only person who will ever make you feel that way.
This is actually unhealthy, and not a sign that the person you feel so strongly about is actually worthy of your love.
And when you lost that person, your world completely fell apart and you were left feeling empty and devastated.
3. Inferiority and Comparison
The psychopath’s triangulation and infidelity, happily waved into your face, leave you constantly comparing yourself to others, which only adds to your pain.
4. You Have Encountered Pure Evil
Whatever you understood about people did not apply to this person.
You projected a normal human conscience onto them, trying to be compassionate, easygoing, and forgiving, only to have them used against you.
When discovering psychopathy, everything clicks and falls into place. You become horrified that you let this darkness into your life.
You might even become paranoid and hypervigilant when meeting new people.
The Stages of Grief
During the first stages of grief you might not even realize that you encountered a psychopath. You don’t understand yet how the abuse destroyed your confidence and identity.
You feel numb, empty, shocked, and depressed which might lead to suicidal thoughts or substance abuse.
You don’t yet realize that you’ve been abused so instead of healing yourself, you continue what they started.
You believe you deserve this—that you are jealous, crazy, needy, clingy and worthless. That everything was your fault.
You find yourself acting impulsively. You might start uncharacteristically seeking attention or cyberstalking the psychopath and their new partner.
This stage begins when the psychopath starts waving their happy life in your face, especially through social media.
At this point, you want to prove that you are fine like the psychopath—because maybe then they’ll want you back.
In order to prove how fine you’re doing, you might change jobs, change friends, spend money, go out drinking, partying, and dating recklessly.
You may try to replicate the exact dynamic you had with the psychopath with another partner, only to get frustrated that they don’t love-bomb you with attention.
After the influence of the psychopath is gone, you might want to figure out what in the world just happened, educate yourself or see a skilled therapist and start feeling disbelief.
Everything starts to fall into place. As you begin to read through the list of red flags of psychopathy, you might experience extreme self-doubt. Whether you’re simply your ex a psychopath because you can’t handle the truth of how you ruined the relationship.
But this is actually the psychopath’s truth.
4. Understanding the Psychopath
Once you learn about the psychopathy, you might experience shock and disgust, as you have “aha”moments.
You might find it hard to empathize with the psychopath or understand how they’re able to get away with so much – because normal people automatically project their consciences onto everyone else.
As you being to understand how the psychopath’s mind works, you’ll stop excusing everything they did as insensitive or unintentional and start seeing it from a very different perspective.
You realize that you were never loved. That you were just another target in a never-ending cycle.
5. Delayed Emotions
Once you understand the psychopath, you might experience a lot of unpleasant emotions.
You might feel rage, depression, extreme jealousy and even hatred.
You’ll begin to feel all the things you weren’t allowed to feel during the relationship and were repressing in order to maintain peace with them.
Self-doubt is replaced by anger, now that you know the truth.
You see how you were used, groomed and abused.
Allow yourself to feel rage, but don’t act on it. No good can come from it.
You’ll have good days when you think you’re ready to move on, only to wake up the next morning crying and screaming into a pillow.
6. Complex PTSD
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a war veteran or a sexual abuse victim to suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Your relationship with the psychopath fits every one of the criteria for this disorder, such as numbness, feeling of disconnect, flashbacks, triggering memories, etc.
You should feel comfortable seeking out professional help. There is no shame in mental illness.
7. The Loss of Innocence
As you understand what happened and how it happened, you begin to view the world in a different way.
You lose your innocence.
Innocence has nothing to do with ignorance or naïveté. It’s a well-intentioned belief that all human beings have some good in them.
However, coming out of the relationship with the psychopath, you will never see the world through innocent eyes.
You begin to view the world and the people around you in a more realistic light, allowing their actions to speak for themselves instead of automatically projecting your own goodness onto them.
The Healing Process: 9 Steps To Heal From Psychopathic Abuse
#1. Take Care of Yourself
Through the entire healing process, you must remember to treat your body well.
Practice meditation – Meditation helps restore peace and increase your awareness. Simply take a few deep breaths and focus your attention on your breathing.
Take fish oil supplement – Fish oil will keep your skin and hair strong, but it also has great antidepressant qualities.
Exercise – You might not have motivation for working out, but even a walk or half an hour at the gym can be enough to help you fight depression.
Wake up at a reasonable hour each morning – You might feel too depressed to face the day, but doing so won’t help you get any better.
#2. Stop Drinking
Drinking might seem like the easiest way to numb your pain, but you’re damaging your mental and physical health.
Drinking and mindless partying are merely a distraction that only serves to delay your healing process and even make it more difficult by a hangover and embarrassing memories from the night before.
In order to heal, you need to get in touch with your sober, unaltered self – it is your most valuable tool in the recovery process.
#3. Don’t Indulge In “If Only” Moments
When in the denial phase, you might think it impossible that they could already be in love with someone else because of how amazing things were when you were in love.
That could the case if you were in a normal relationship. But not with the psychopath.
Instead of spending a lot of time wondering what you could have done differently to save your perfect relationship, recognize that things are over.
Not confronting then about their ex, or bringing them a nice gift, or not asking them to stop criticizing you, wouldn’t have changed a thing and they don’t justify silence, cheating, abuse, or even dumping you.
Moreover, love should be stable and consistent, not conditional, based on changing situations. Love shouldn’t make you walk on eggshells, on the brink of a breakup any time something didn’t go exactly according to plan.
Keep in mind that such thoughts are completely normal, but recognize that they are not the reason why you lost your perfect relationship, so don’t indulge in them.
#4. Don’t Make Big Decisions
Avoid making big, life-changing decisions, especially when you’re in the denial phase.
Remind yourself that happiness and peace should come from within. That there is nothing wrong with your job, your home, your profile picture, or even your single status.
For now, take some time off and reconnect with your inner self.
#5. Follow The No Contact Rule
The No Contact rule is the only way to stay safe from the psychopath’s manipulation and abuse – no exceptions.
It might feel miserable at first, as you’re quitting a drug. But with time, you start feeling better.
You start developing self-respect, boundaries, and true friendships. This new-found freedom will allow you to heal and thrive.
No contact involves everything from phone calls to cyberstalking.
No matter how seemingly insignificant the contact might be, remind yourself that it will only hinder your healing process.
If you find it hard to refrain from contacting them, try distracting yourself with a new hobby, meditation, writing, work – anything that will get your mind off the psychopath.
You can also block them on social media and your cell phone.
#6. Get Your Closure Without Contact
Finding closure is important to move on with your life, but you don’t have to obtain it from the psychopaths.
Closure comes from within. The following ways can help you obtain closure:
1. Let Go Of The Illusion
The only way to stop contact with the psychopath is to let go of the distorted image you had of the person you loved and stop believing in that illusion – that person never existed.
The person you loved was only an illusion, an act he performed in order to mirror and manipulate you.
As crushingly hard as it is and as much as it hurts, the only way to find freedom is to stop believing in that illusion.
2. Research Psychopathy
You will find yourself left with so many questions after a relationship with a psychopath.
Instead of blaming yourself, seek answers through research. Read about psychopathy. This will help you find answers and progress in your own healing.
3. Allow Yourself To Feel And Think
We tend to avoid pain and discomfort, but it’s in facing the pain and moving through it that we find healing.
Allow yourself to feel all emotions as they come over you. Repressing your emotions and thoughts can be more harmful than helpful.
Instead of running from the pain, try seeing who you are at a deeper level. Reconnect with yourself and build your trust and confidence.
4. Accept What You Can And Cannot Control
You might feel like exposing the psychopath for the monster they are or warn their next victim. But you need to accept that you cannot make him feel remorse for what they did to you or convince his new target of the truth.
What you can do right now is focus on your own healing and your own life. Making that decision will bring peace and acceptance.
#7. Understand Psychopathy
One of the greatest myths surrounding psychopaths is the idea that they are actually victims themselves. Whether it is an abusive past, an absent father, or something in between – the idea is that they cannot help their behavior, which is not true.
Psychopaths are aware of the impact their behavior has on others.
Self-proclaimed sociopaths have frequent discussions on forums about how to cope with the overwhelming boredom that consumes their daily life. Most of their answers include sex, alcohol, drugs, and—of course—manipulating others.
Psychopaths know the difference between right and wrong but simply choose to steamroll straight through it.
Psychopaths might lead you to believe that they’re insecure. But they’re not insecure. They love themselves and are confident about the way they look and the way they can charm everyone around them.
On the most challenging emotions you feel after the break up is the feeling of powerlessness.
You realize that you were groomed, used, and discarded—and that there was absolutely nothing you could have done change your situation in any way.
One way to regain power is to look back at the painful memories and imagine yourself exposing them and doing the same to them.
This is called a do-over. It will help you ease the feeling of powerlessness through your imagination.
Instead of begging and pleading, imagine yourself being the one who ignored them.
Instead of being dumped, imagine yourself being the one to walk out the door.
#9. Establishing Healthy Boundaries
One way to regain your self-respect is building healthy boundaries.
You should never feel the need to explain why you can’t make plans one evening or defend yourself against a friend.
You should never be walking on eggshells, trying to avoid an unpleasant interaction.
People-pleasing habit, often, has deeper origin beyond simply being a gentle person. It usually stems from low self-esteem and a need for others’ approval – this can be toxic and expose you to abuse.
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Psychopath Free, © 2015 by Jackson MacKenzie. All rights reserved.