Psychopaths will often seem like the most charming, interesting person you’ve ever met – until they let the mask slip.
Dr Perpetua Neo, a psychologist specialising in so-called ‘dark triad’ personalities, says that it can be easy to fall for a psychopath’s charm, ‘The psychopaths who you see in prison are the clumsy ones.
‘At the other end of the spectrum are the ones who don’t get caught – the sophisticated psychopaths. They’re more than capable of masquerading as normal. They’re often very successful in business.’
Not only that, Neo says, but they can hold down relationships, and even marriages – biding their time until they ‘drop the mask’.
Psychopaths can be highly intelligent – but lack empathy for others.
‘A bit strange’
Neo says, ‘Generally when you meet a psychopath, what they say is a bit strange – but you’re left with a feeling that this person is really fascinating.
‘Often, they’ll love bomb you. They’ll say they missed you after one date. They’ll say that they want to spend every moment with you. They’ll tell you that they’re your soulmate.’
You might not even realise that a partner is a psychopath for months – or even years.
Noe says that psychopaths will manipulate the situation so that it’s difficult for a person to escape when the abuse – sexual, mental or physical – begins.
Neo says that a psychopath will often wait until someone is in a position where they’re fully under their control – after getting married, or having a child, or moving to another country.
Neo says, ‘They’ll often wait for a point where they’ve got you under their control before they drop their well-behaved mask.
‘One of my clients, her psychopath ex, suddenly began shaking her body physically when he got angry with her.
‘Feel sorry for them’
Psychopaths will also try and manipulate their victims into feeling that they ‘have’ to save them from themselves – while also telling them that they are psychologically damaged.
Neo says, ‘Psychopaths will bombard you with stories about themselves, why you need to be nice to them. They’ll make you feel sorry for them, and say, ‘This is why I drink.’ Everything is an excuse.
‘You become the rescuer – but even from early on, they’ll have been digging up stories to tell you how damaged you are yourself.’
Escape the games
Neo says that the key thing is to escape from the psychopath’s games – and not play by their rules.
Neo says, ‘It’s easy to feel that you can ‘love this away’ – many of us are brought up to believe that love can change everything.
‘But psychopaths are incapable of love, they’re not wired for empathy. This is an unchangeable condition. You have to walk away.’
People often stay with psychopathic partners because they compare themselves to others – and think that their situation is not so bad.
‘You have to stop thinking, ‘At least he doesn’t do this – at least he doesn’t punch me,”’ says Neo. ‘That’s the first step. Stop comparing him to others. Stop explaining things away.’
‘Call him out as an abuser.’
Psychopaths will seek to isolate their victims as the relationship progresses – and that’s your cue to leave, says Neo.
Neo says, ‘Do not allow him to isolate you. Once the psychopath starts to isolate you, he drops his mask completely – physically and socially. That is the time you need to walk away.’