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What if you see some signs of a sociopath, but not all of them?

Close up of a man holding a dozen roses.

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part inquiry that Lovefraud recently received from a reader whom we’ll call “Carlotta.”

I recently met and “dated” a man who turned out to be a sociopath. When I first met him I used your list of 10 signs to help me determine what I needed to do to protect myself if he should turn out to be a sociopath or worse.

I wasn’t too worried about him, because initially I noticed he had only 3 of the 10 traits. The notation with your list says if they have most or all of the traits they may be a sociopath. He turned out to be a sociopath so now I wonder if the specific traits they have are more telling than the number of traits they have.

In the case of the man I was dating, it was immediately apparent the following applied to him:

#2. Sudden Soul Mates
#4. Love Bombing
#8 Moves Fast to Hookup

However, it wasn’t apparent to me until dating him 6 days out of 7 that the following also applied:

#6. Lies and Gaps in the Story.

I feel lucky that I had your list to refer to because I was able to keep my emotional distance while getting to “know” him (if such a thing is possible with sociopaths). I checked his court records online and they were quite telling once I realized he was telling lies and leaving gaps. After I asked a few pointed questions he discontinued contact with me. I feel that a blessing since I didn’t need to initiate the disconnect myself.

I’m a little concerned that in describing your list, you state that if the person has most or all of the traits. Initially I saw only 3 traits and after a week only one more. I don’t know how long it would have taken for any other traits to show up or if there are more traits that fit him. I don’t want any other women to think that they’re safe because the person they’re dating only has 3 or 4 of the traits that show up within a week.

Is it possible you could add clarification to your list about which traits show up first or how long it may take to see some of the traits? Could you possibly list which traits are more telling or are they all equally telling?

Donna Andersen responds

Carlotta, thank you so much for your questions. First of all, for the benefit of all Lovefraud readers, here is the complete list of the Red Flags of Love Fraud:

  1. Charisma and charm. They’re smooth talkers, always have an answer, never miss a beat. They seem to be very exciting.
  1. Sudden soul mates. They figure out what you want, make themselves into that person, then tell you that your relationship was “meant to be.”
  1. Sexual magnetism.
 If you feel intense attraction, if your physical relationship is unbelievable, it may be their excess testosterone.
  1. Love bombing. You’re showered with attention and adoration. They want to be with you all the time. They call, text and e-mail constantly.
  1. Blames others for everything. Nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse. Someone else causes their problems.
  1. Lies and gaps in the story. You ask questions, and the answers are vague. They tell stupid lies. They tell outrageous lies. They lie when they’d make out better telling the truth.
  1. Intense eye contact.
 Call it the predatory stare. If you get a chill down your spine when they look at you, pay attention.
  1. Moves fast to hook up. 
It’s a whirlwind romance. They quickly proclaim their true love. They want to move in together or get married quickly.
  1. Pity play. They appeal to your sympathy. They want you to feel sorry for their abusive childhood, psychotic ex, incurable disease or financial setbacks.
  1. Jekyll and Hyde personality. 
One minute they love you; the next minute they hate you. Their personality changes like flipping a switch.

Seeing the signs may take time

You alluded to one of the important points about spotting a sociopath: You may not see all the signs right away.

Sociopaths are sometimes able to maintain the charade of an attentive lover for quite a long time — especially while they are reeling in a target. So let’s take a look at the list to determine what you are likely to see first.

As research for my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud – 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, I conducted an Internet survey that was completed by more than 1,300 people. According to the results, the Number One Red Flag, seen by 91.5% of respondents, was:

1. Charisma and charm

This is something you are likely to see immediately. That’s often why the person catches your attentionin the first place and seems so appealing — he or she is so charismatic and charming.

However, just because a person is charismatic and charming, it doesn’t mean he or she is a sociopath. Plenty of people who have these traits are also able to love authentically.

You also spotted three other Red Flags that likely to appear quickly:

2. Sudden soul mates
4. Love bombing
8. Moves fast to hook up

The problem with the traits that we’ve discussed so far is that there is nothing inherently wrong with them. In fact, who wouldn’t want to find a romantic partner who was charismatic, shared values and interests, was crazy about you, and wants to be with you all the time?

These traits could describe love at first sight. And love at first sight is a real, albeit rare, phenomenon — I personally know of several couples who met, immediately fell in love, married, and stayed happily married for a very long time.

That’s why the following traits are so important:

5. Blames others for everything
9. Pity play

Even while someone is showering you with attention and trying to spend as much time with you as possible, he or she may exhibit these negative traits. They may have an excuse for all of their problems — usually that someone else screwed up or did them wrong. And, they may tell you sob stories, trying to get you to feel sorry for them.

These traits, therefore, may be the first clues that the person may be disordered.

Two of the traits on the list are on physical in nature:

4. Sexual magnetism
7. Intense eye contact

Fully 78% of my survey respondents said that sexual magnetism was a characteristic of their involvement with a sociopath. Many, many people have told me that the sex they had with the sociopath was the best they ever experienced.

Intense eye contact was not as prevalent — it was noted by 59% of respondents. But this is an important sign, because it is the only physical characteristic that you may be able to observe.

This is the critical warning sign:

6. Lies and gaps in the story

All sociopaths lie. They tell big lies, little lies, stupid lies. They sometimes lie when they are better off telling the truth.

But the whole point about lying is that you don’t know it is happening. Research shows that people can spot a lie only about 54% of the time — not much better than flipping a coin.

Many people have told me that it took them years to figure out that the sociopath was lying. Why? Because sociopaths lie so convincingly. Then they lie to cover up their previous lies. And many of them can keep all the lies straight.

So although lying is the cardinal sign of a sociopath, this behavior can be difficult to spot.

Finally, here’s the last trait:

10. Jekyll and Hyde personality

Some sociopaths can fly into a sudden rage over something that you feel is a minor misunderstanding, or over nothing at all. And then, after the sociopath viciously lashes out at you, he or she acts like nothing happened.

It is unlikely that you’ll see this trait right away. When sociopaths are reeling you in, they’re on their best behavior. If you see this trait at all, it will probably be directed towards someone else, not you.

But one day, if you stay involved with this person, it will be directed toward you. So I view this trait as final confirmation. If you’ve seen the other Red Flags, but you’re still not sure about the individual, having the person turn on you should help you make up your mind.

Real or faked

So why do I say that you need to see all of the Red Flags to suspect that someone is a sociopath? Because I don’t want you to be suspicious of every charming, sexy, potential partner who shares your interests and seems to be crazy about you. There are authentic people out there, and maybe you have, in fact, found a keeper.

The problem, of course, is that sociopaths have learned how to imitate a smitten lover. So your challenge is to discern whether the head-over-heels affection you’re seeing is real or fake.

That’s where the other signs come it. If you are also seeing the negative traits, be careful.

Partial problems

Another point to keep in mind is that sociopathy is both a syndrome and a continuum.

A syndrome is a collection of traits of behaviors that tend to be seen together. Any particular sociopath may have some of the traits of the disorder, but not all of them.

Sociopathy is also a continuum. This means that a particular sociopath may have any of the traits to greater or lesser degrees.

The bottom line is that sociopaths are not all the same, they may have different combinations of traits, and some are more disordered than others. Some people may only be partially affected — not disordered enough that a clinician would diagnose a personality disorder.

However, if a person has some of the negative traits of the disorder, but is not a full-blown, diagnosable sociopath, you still do not want this individual as a romantic partner.

Three steps to staying safe

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  1. Know that sociopaths exist. If you’re reading Lovefraud, you have this one covered.
  1. Know the Red Flags of Love Fraud. I hope that this article has helped you.
  1. Trust your instincts. This is the best thing you can do to protect yourself. If you ever get a gut feeling, intuition or instinct that there is something wrong with an individual, pay attention.

Your instincts are designed to keep you out of danger. Listen to them.

More information is available in my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath.

Tomorrow — Part 2 of Carlotta’s inquiry: “Are sociopaths opportunists?”

 

 



9 Comments on "What if you see some signs of a sociopath, but not all of them?"

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  1. MissFortune says:

    I think the key here is to assume that you need some time and effort to find out about anyone. Every dating expert advises that people put their best foot forward when meeting someone new. Since the disordered are especially deliberate about hiding their bad sides, its not usually going to be obvious from the start. But as many people have told in their personal stories, there were always a few red flags in the beginning that they ignored. I realize that socios move fast to get to know us and we do find out more about them at a quicker pace, but I think it’s a bit unrealistic to assume that you could make any kind of judgment on their level of sociopathy/narcissim based on a few days. You may have clues, and you did get some. I don’t see why you are disappointed that your first few days only turned up 3 of the traits on the list. And you found an important one by day 6? Thank the heavens and feel blessed! Feel proud that you were aware, diligent and lucky enough to have found out so early.

    I think that the title of this article – if someone only has a few traits- would be more applicable if you’d known someone for awhile, and it was different traits than the romantic ones, and it was truly hard to tell. And sometimes, we never know for sure.

    My attitude and acceptance has been this: It does not matter if they are far along the spectrum or labeled as such. In any case, they are disordered some way and their behaviors match with an unhealthy relationship that I don’t wish to engage in.

    Hopefully, this mantra can help others achieve some level of acceptance or closure for the lack of certain answers.



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    • AnnettePK says:

      The traits of lovebombing and getting too involved too fast are unacceptable in any relationship. Controlling the pace of any new relationship or friendship is helpful to protect against all kinds of problems including sociopaths. They will try to manipulate circumstances to get the victim hooked as soon as possible. Most normal guys looking for a long term commitment will not want to rush into a relationship for the same reason I don’t.



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      • Carlotta says:

        AnnettePK,

        Thank you for your insightful comment.

        Having gone through what I did, I agree with you. Looking back on my recent experience, I realize I attempted to control the pace but the Spath kept pushing and ignored my wishes. I didn’t want to go out with him 6 days out of 7. I wanted at least one day between the times we saw each other. But he insisted he couldn’t wait to see me.

        I failed to enforce some of my wishes but I upheld others. Live and learn! And I did learn a lot, about myself, in that week.

        In the future, I’ll make sure “I” control the pace of any relationships and quickly end any in which the other person refuses to honor my wishes concerning the pace.

        Thank you again,
        Carlotta



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    • Carlotta says:

      MissFortune,

      Thank you for your helpful comments and support. Your attitude is a good one to have.

      The problem with individuals such as myself is that we have no, or very little, experience with healthy relationships and are used to being in unhealthy ones. I was born into unhealthy relationships and grew up with them. This makes me, and people like me, especially vulnerable because unhealthy relationships feel normal to us. I have to work very hard to recognize an unhealthy relationship and to do what I must to protect myself. But I’m getting better at it!

      I do feel proud that I was aware and diligent. And I do feel lucky that I found out so early since traits can remain hidden for a long time. I’m determined not to engage in any more unhealthy relationships and Love Fraud and it’s members have been a huge help.

      Thank you again,
      Carlotta



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      • Escapefor1 says:

        I have found it also helpful to really study normal relationships and how they function. As clearly I did not know.

        I am now in a good relationship with a non-spath man. But I do still find that some things I think are abnormal are in fact normal in healthy relationships, and I do not always handle things in a more normal productive way. I have even googled some of these to find out! He has very nicely and patiently taught me to act more normally in relationship over time, and I also have watched those in good relationships and tried to emulate their approaches. This has helped learn “normal”.



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  2. Carlotta says:

    Donna,

    Thank you for the two-part article in which you addressed my concerns and questions. It took me a while to get over the lovebombing and the fact that it was faked. It was painful, but I feel much better now. You and those who commented on the article helped me realize that I did a good job of protecting myself. I know I’ll do even better the next time I encounter a Spath. I hope the articles helped others as well.
    HUGS,
    Carlotta



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  3. Escapefor1 says:

    I do think Carlotta raises a good point, though. Psychopathy runs on a spectrum, as exemplified on Hare’s PCL-R test. Out of a maximum of 40, one is diagnosed as a psychopath with a score of 30, in some situations 25. I have looked at a number of studies and generally it seems that scores indicate the following levels of psychopathy:

    30-40 (Severe) Psychopath. What we mean by psychopath. Severe and likely violent psychopaths, no empathy
    20-29 Moderate psychopath. Seriously personality disturbed, will affect lifestyle and success, low empathy and emotional range
    6-19 Mild psychopath. Some psychopathy, may be successful anyway, may not be readily apparent, will show some characteristics, partial empathy, may seem more “normal”
    0-5 Healthy. Scores in this range are considered normal and non-psychopathic.

    I did this after dating someone who told me (after a few dates) that he tested at 14 on the PCL-R. He thought this means people should be afraid of him, but he is considered “mild” on the psychopath scale. I would say he had 4 out of 10 of the Lovefraud Red Flags. My experience with him was that I could see some of his mild traits, but he also had many which counterindicate psychopath. He was impulsive, risk-taking, a little antisocial, very sexual, fun, charming, and a sales man. Successful in careers narcissistic people would be attracted to. He did not attach in the relationship, nor did he want to. But he was also conscientious, caring, genuinely in awe of religion/religious, and reliable. He took care of little old ladies who needed it. He treated people fairly. He seemed to really care about people and miss close friends after moving away. So, it was an interesting mix. I ultimately decided not to risk seeing someone even on the psychopath scale, and because of some of his risk-taking habits. But he was really fun and appealing, and basically a good guy.

    So, I think if you see some signs or red flags, you have to decide how important they are. I would not want to become interdependent, especially financially, on someone too far on the psychopathic scale, however, or with the worst of Lovefraud’s red flags. For me, any risk was too much, after my prior horrible experience with my ex.

    My best guess about my ex was that he would test at about 25 on the PCL-R. However, I was not able to require testing. In certain cases, that is enough to classify him as a psychopath. I would say he had 8 out of 10 of the Lovefraud Red Flags. Research studies indicate that moderate scores carry with them very similar behavior to full-on psychopaths, just not as bad or as cold. So, basically I suffered living with a psychopath in behavior. His (barely) avoiding crime actually made it worse in some ways because it was harder to detect, and harder to prove.

    For me, 14 on the PCL-R with 4/10 red flags was unclear, mixed; while 25 on the PCL-R with 8/10 red flags was clearly very bad.



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    • Carlotta says:

      Escapefor1;
      Thank you so much for your comments. They’re very helpful to me.

      If I didn’t know better I’d think you and I dated the same man. The man I dated for a week was almost exactly as you described your guy. However, mine had not avoided crime and had gotten caught committing tax fraud.

      On one of our dates, we were approached in a parking lot, after closing time, by a young woman who said she had been shopping and was supposed to have been picked up by a friend for a ride home. She said her friend blew her off to go bar hopping and she had no way to get home to her 11 year old daughter who was home alone. The man I was dating agreed, with tears in his eyes for her sad plight, that we would drive her home (a 30 mile round trip) with no compensation. I couldn’t imagine a sociopath doing that. My ex-spath never would have considered doing it.

      In the week we dated, the man had many contradictory behaviors and stories. I recognized some red flags and realized he might be on the Psychopath spectrum somewhere. The most glaring clues were the lies and omissions which I found out about near the end of our dating week. He had omitted the number of times he had been married, offered without me asking that he had no legal or addiction problems, blamed others for his problems, etc.

      Having been previously married to a Psychopath that I would rate a 30-35 on the psychopathic scale, I feel I should have been more aware. But I forgive myself because my ex had almost no positive traits, only psychopathic ones. And my ex couldn’t have been, less charming, boring or fun if he tried. He was not at all like the man I dated for a week. I had never encountered such a mix of positive, fun, exciting and psychopathic traits. It was confusing and threw me for a loop.

      Near the end of the week we dated, I had the feeling that the man’s “fun/exciting/positive” traits would not be worth the consequences of the psychopathic ones. The most psychopathic trait he had was not attaching to me at all. The minute I made an innocent comment about addictions, he disconnected completely. I later learned he had several recent DUI’s he had not disclosed and he claimed he doesn’t drink. Yet the day before his disconnect, he said we must share everything about ourselves so we can develop a long-term relationship and allow it to grow, possibly into marriage!

      I now realize I was, like you were, fascinated by the mix of fun/exciting/positive and psychopathic traits. I shudder to think that if he hadn’t disconnected with me, I may have been convinced to continue the relationship. Now that I know how vulnerable I am and that such fascinating mixes exist, I’ll be more aware and careful. Like you, any risk is too much for me.

      Thank you again!
      Carlotta



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  4. skid says:

    Another one that I noticed is lack of caring.

    If you get sick, or are hospitalized, do not expect any sympathy, or visits from a sociopath. They have far more important things to do.



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