Am I With A Sociopathic Liar? 6 Signs You May Be In A Destructive Relationship
Updated March 11, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Relationships are tricky things. Even the most wonderful relationships are beset with trials and difficulties. Adding a potentially dangerous personality disorder and highly problematic characteristics to the mix can make any relationship rocky at best, and downright terrifying at worst. Are you with a sociopathic liar?
What Is A Sociopath?
Sociopaths and psychopaths are usually lumped together, and individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder are often confused as definitively being one of the two, but the words are not synonymous. Although the terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" are both often used to describe people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, there are subsets within this diagnosis that determine whether or not someone falls more under the purview of a sociopath or a psychopath. This defining characteristic is, more often than not, the presence of a conscience or a sense of morality. A psychopath is someone who lacks a conscience, though he may adopt the appearance of one, while a sociopath is someone who has a conscience, but it is too weak to determine behavior consistently.
What is a sociopath, then? A sociopath is someone who lacks empathy and does not think, live or behaves following commonly-accepted social norms and morality. Someone who lies cheats, and steals, for instance, might be indicted as a sociopath, because most people possess some semblance of morality that precludes them from engaging in these types of behavior. The term "sociopath" is also often used to describe someone who is extremely manipulative, cunning, and charming, and is often associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is similarly characterized by being charming, manipulative, and self-focused.
Both APD and NPD have been linked to sociopathic behavior, and it is easy to confuse the two. People with both disorders are prone to lying, cheating, and manipulating to get what they want. But their motives differ; While someone with NPD might want to gain more (more wealth, power, or status) to impress others and be seen a certain way. In other words, they are motivated by fear and insecurity-individuals with APD want to gain more for the simple pleasure of having more, and are motivated by their selfish gains, rather than what anyone might think of them.
Can Sociopaths Successfully Be In Relationships?
The answer to this is far more complicated than a simple "yes" or "no." Because sociopaths are often skilled in the art of charm, manipulation, and lying, they can successfully be in relationships: they often know all of the right things to say, and all of the right buttons to push to mimic the signs and symptoms of love and affection, even if they do not feel those things, themselves. The definition of "success," then, is largely subjective.
As to whether sociopaths can be in loving relationships, this depends largely on the person in question, the degree of their disorder, and whether or not they have sought treatment. Empathy can be taught, practiced, and developed, to a degree, and sociopaths are capable of forming long-term attachments to others, including romantic partners. Sociopaths might feel love and affection for family, friends, and romantic partners, but it may look different than a typical person's feelings and expressions of these same emotions. Without empathy, love is not the same type of care and respect that a typical person feels but is far more akin to adoration and attention.
Some sociopaths use relationships as forms of self-love, however, without any regard whatsoever for their partners. Partnerships can serve a purpose for sociopaths, including fitting in among others, providing the sociopath with access to power, money, or prestige, or even just providing a source of admiration. Relationships are not uncommon among sociopaths, but they are frequently-if not exclusively-unhealthy.
Sociopaths And Lying
Lying is an expected trait of sociopaths. The social and moral construct that typically prevents people from lying is rooted in empathy, and empathy is an essential aspect of being a connected, moral being that sociopaths lack. Lying is not seen as a morally-defunct behavior, from the perspective of a sociopath, but is instead regarded as a necessary means of functioning in the world. To the sociopath, lying is not wrong, but is instead an adaptive behavior-and any adaptation that enables survival is a reasonable one.
This same ability to see life as a series of survival techniques can make sociopaths seem as though they are indestructible. Because social rules do not govern survival mechanisms (not lying, not cheating, not manipulating, etc.) for a sociopath, they are more readily able to adapt, move on, and become accustomed to change than their peers. Lying very often falls into this category.
6 Signs You May be In A Destructive Relationship With A Sociopath
Although some sociopaths can be in a relationship successfully, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. As a rule, sociopaths lack the empathy and connective skills required to form healthy, strong attachments. Consequently, relationships with a sociopath will be marked by a few distinct habits or indicators. These include:
- The Honeymoon Phase. Although most relationships have some honeymoon phase, the beginning of a relationship with a sociopath might almost seem like it is too good to be true. The sociopath is likely to be extremely doting, attentive, and complimentary, to keep your interest piqued.
- Decreased Attention and Mockery. As your relationship progresses, your relationship will likely experience a distinct drop in the amount and type of attention offered, in favor of mockery and behavior designed to discredit your feelings and experiences. This allows the sociopath to keep you around, without actually having to make any sacrifices or changes.
- Love Bombing. The term "love bombing" describes a type of interaction marked by, once again, excessive attention and praise. A sociopath might love to bomb their partner to make them feel as though the relationship isn't so bad, after all, which may persuade them to stay.
- Most sociopathic relationships are marked by gaslighting or being made to feel as though you are crazy. This particular psychological tool makes you feel as though you are crazy for thinking your relationship is flawed and unhealthy, or for thinking that your partner is unkind or inappropriate. Gaslighting is a hallmark tool of both narcissists and individuals with APD.
- Sociopaths have no regard for your feelings, your needs, or your experiences, so they will come and go as they see fit. Sociopaths might disappear in the middle of a phone or text conversation, and reappear the next day as though nothing happened, or they might disappear for days or weeks at a time.
- Sociopaths like to be in control of a situation, including the relationships they are a part of. Sociopaths typically work to exercise some amount of control over their romantic partners. They might try to dictate how you dress, where you go, how you behave, and what you do in your spare time. This is not due to concern for you, but is a manifestation of the concern they have for themselves; for their perception, if they are narcissism-fueled, or for their comfort, if they are APD-fueled.
Sociopaths can be difficult to spot, at first, and inadvertently entering a relationship with a sociopath is not unheard of. Although not every relationship with a sociopath is doomed to fail, you and your partner do have to be very careful in your relationship and make sure that all communication pathways are kept open to ensure that the two of you are engaged in as healthy a partnership as possible.
Removing Yourself From The Equation
If you find that you are in a relationship with a sociopath, removing yourself from the relationship maybe your best course of action. Although your relationship can improve (and even flourish) with treatment, taking a few days or weeks to work out how you feel about your situation and how you should proceed can help give you some perspective.
Sociopathic Lying, Relationships, And Healing
Being in a relationship with a sociopath can take a hefty toll on you. It can erode the trust you have in yourself and others, deplete your self-esteem, and leave you feeling confused, angry, and broken. Although all relationships with sociopaths are not headed for failure, they often do not last, as one or both partners in the relationship eventually reach a breaking point, and terminate the connection.
Whether you are continuing a relationship with a sociopath, have just left one, or experienced one in the distant past, you may be able to benefit from meeting with a qualified mental health professional, such as the therapists available through ReGain.Us, as a therapist can help you sort through the emotional wreckage you might be experiencing in order to facilitate healing and growth.
Navigating the lies, manipulation, and confusion that comes along with being in a romantic relationship with a sociopath can be difficult and painful. Working through what you are feeling, whether that is with your partner or without, is an important part of healing and moving forward. Although you do not have to enlist the help of a therapist or counselor, these professionals can provide a lot of insight into you and your partner, and can help both of you overcome the obstacles facing you-separately and, possibly, together.