I’ve always been certain that all of my exes had one major thing in common: they were sociopaths. I also made sure to accuse them of such while wielding their sh*t out of my dorm room during each dramatic breakup. But what most played off as a temporary bout of rage, M.E. Thomas made it seem like I could have been onto something.
The clinically diagnosed sociopath and author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight talked to us about relationship red flags and whether or not you’re actually dating a sociopath. Find out if you are below.
When did you first realize something was different about you?
When I was little, I thought maybe I was just smarter. A co-worker was the first to call me a sociopath. We shared an office and would often discuss philosophy or politics (she was a theology major and we were both law students). After a few weeks she said very nicely “you might want to consider the possibility that you’re a sociopath.” I looked it up online and thought, hm, this is very accurate. But I didn’t give it any more thought until years later when I destroyed my life for the third time in the preceding eight years. I realized my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable, so I looked into the sociopath thing again. That’s when I started the blog, sociopathworld.com, and sought a professional diagnosis.
How do you respond to people who automatically correlate the term with “psychopath”?
Even psychologists use different terms — sociopath, psychopath, and anti-social personality disorder being the most popular, with varying degrees of interchangeability, overlap, or distinctions between those terms. I don’t mind psychopath so long as people don’t think I’m psychotic. We’re actually not crazy at all, in the traditional delusional sense. In fact, we tend to be hyper-rational, almost Spock-like, because we’re not as emotionally motivated. Rage can be a problem, particularly for the lower-functioning, but, from what I’ve read about road rage, everyone is susceptible to primitive emotions — sociopaths are just triggered by things that wouldn’t bother normal people and vice versa.
What was your family’s reaction?
My family is hugely supportive of anything I get up to. I think partly there is an understanding that if sociopathy is a spectrum, there are more than a few family members from each generation who show “tendencies”. (My brother-in-law insists that my sister is more of a sociopath than I am.) My mother is really into researching our family history, and she’ll often flag for me exceptionally risk-taking ancestors that show up in our family tree.
Do you disclose your diagnosis to people you are dating? If so, how do they react?
I’ve had really mixed reactions in the dating world. If I tell them, they’re usually pretty ok with it. I guess it’s like telling someone you have a kid — maybe not ideal, but not necessarily a deal breaker. But if people find out another way, I’ve had people react very negatively. One person said that I ruined her life. Not sure how that happened, but I try to avoid the potential for drama by outing myself relatively early on.
How has being a sociopath affected your dating life?
Everyone wants to be seduced. Sociopaths are preternaturally confident and charming. People who live in fear are particularly captivated by the carefree way sociopaths navigate their lives. Sociopaths often seem larger than life, yet they act as if their whole world revolves around you. If their “predatory stare” doesn’t frighten you (and even if it does just a little), their hyper-focus can be intoxicating. Sexually, they’re confident, unashamed, and are always seeking stimulation. And their disregard for pretty much everyone and everything else can play in your favor. They can be intensely loyal. While some may say that they’d do anything for you, the sociopath is likely the only one to mean it.
What are some signs that you are dating a sociopath?
Are you infatuated with a mysterious stranger? Captivated, but you couldn’t really say why? Sociopaths are a blank slate. They’re chameleons. Without a sense of self, they easily morph into what they sense you’re looking for. So if you find yourself projecting your fantasy crush on a person without any evidence to back it up, you might be dating a sociopath. Just remember, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Can someone be in a satisfying relationship with a sociopath?
Sociopaths don’t empathize well and have shallow emotions, so you can’t expect a reciprocal level of emotional attachment. But some find that liberating — people who can feel oppressed by their own emotions like border personality disorder or people who experience high degrees of empathy. If you stop expecting them to produce specific emotional responses their rationality can be soothingly predictable and reliable. There must be something about dating them worth having because for as many people who contact me regarding a sociopath ex who ruined their life, there are just as many asking me how to win their sociopath ex back.