Empathic People Never Do These 4 Things In Relationships (But Psychopaths Do)

Could you tell if you were in a relationship with a psychopath? A researcher specializing in narcissism and psychopathy shares the four tell-tale signs you may be dealing with a psychopathic partner rather than an empathic one.

Sweeping you off your feet into one-sided partnerships by pretending there will be reciprocity, only to undervalue you and degrade you.

In most healthy relationships, there is a natural sense of reciprocity. Empathic people love doing things for one another – whether it be demonstrating their love and respect through acts of service, words of affirmation, or quality time. While there is no strict scoreboard in a healthy relationship of who did what for whom, this is more of an organic quid pro quo where people genuinely enjoy giving to each other and appreciating one another even while valuing each other beyond what the other can do for them. In a relationship with a psychopathic individual, a victim is often love-bombed with many grand, future-faking promises to get them invested in a future that may never come to fruition in order to meet a specific agenda. For example, psychopaths tend to lead parasitic lifestyles, so they may leech off the resources of others. Perhaps they need a place to stay, or to ride someone’s coattails for a while, or access to your emotional or domestic labor. Maybe they need the illusion of normalcy, and marriage with you fulfills that need. Whatever their particular motives may be, people with these dark personality traits are quick to charm you and swoop you off your feet, all while knowing they never intend to give you that fulfilling, nurturing relationship they promised. As soon as you’ve let them move into your home, said I do, or raised their kids, they will abruptly drop the charismatic façade and become cold, callous, cruel, and withholding. They will devalue you and make it seem as if you should expect nothing from them, even if they went out of their way to promise you the world.

Engaging in mind games and provoking chaos even when the relationship seems to be going well.

When two empathic people find themselves in a happy, healthy relationship, they could not be more overjoyed. They try to make sure this joy is not unnecessarily disturbed by outside factors. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are prone to boredom and are sensation-seeking individuals. They purposely create chaos where there is normally peace. That is why in a relationship with a psychopath, you’ll often find yourself suddenly mired in crazymaking arguments, gaslighting, and stonewalling at unpredictable moments, just when you thought the relationship was going well. They will bring in the presence of other people into the dynamic of the relationship to make you feel anxious and off-kilter. They will deliberately disrupt the stability of the relationship just for fun and experience duping delight whenever they manage to fool you back into the cycle of mistreatment and abuse. They will distort your perception of reality, make you question and doubt yourself, and subject you to the silent treatment randomly to keep you fixated on them.

Pitting you against others and making you exert yourself to “win” them over in manufactured competitions.

Empathic people will never make you feel like you have to compete or compare to have their affection and attention. They will consistently show you love and appreciation, making you feel irreplaceable and valued in relationships. In contrast, psychopaths as well as narcissists are adept at pitting people against one another and engaging in jealousy induction. They will provoke jealousy for the purpose of power and control, to test the relationship, or even as a form of retaliation for any perceived slight or jealousy you may have stirred in them through no fault of your own. As a result, you may find yourself overexerting yourself, overexplaining your worth and value, attempting to prove yourself – all to a person who had to spend long periods of time and energy manipulating you into investing in them in the first place.  In the beginning, they were the ones desperately seeking your approval and access to you: so, ask yourself, why are you now suddenly being manipulated into making them the center of your existence? By pitting you against other love prospects or other people in general, they’re hoping you’ll play the comparison game and stay focused and centered on them, so you do the work for them of staying invested in the relationship even while they opt out.

Putting you on the pedestal, only to throw you off of it abruptly in a conditional love that asks you to accept mistreatment while doing vast amounts of labor for them. The more you do for them, the crueler they get.

Relationships with psychopaths can be exciting and often contain sizzling chemistry because of the fast-paced nature with which the psychopathic person ensnares you with empty romantic gestures and words not backed by actions. Empathic people don’t overly idolize others at the onset: they grow to have an authentic, healthy appreciation for those they are in relationships with. Organic friendships and romantic relationships thrive with empathic people because they are built at a sustainable pace: two people get to know each other and experience a love that is solid because it is real – they are compatible in their goals, values, interests, and worldviews. That is why these relationships tend to be consistently loving.  In a relationship with a psychopath, the relationship is all smoke and mirrors – a magician’s sleight of hand. They will shower you with praise and attention one second, while cruelly devaluing you the next. Their love for you is entirely conditional on how much abuse from them you’re willing to accept and how much you can do for them. In their world, up is down and down is up. The more you respect and stand up for yourself, the more you will be pushed off the pedestal and bullied to submit to their way or the highway. Yet the more you do for them, the more they will disrespect you. There is no winning in a relationship with a psychopath. You must break the trauma bond and choose yourself.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.