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Jun 09 2014

Internet Dating and Sociopaths.

Published by at 12:18 pm under Advice



(So, I’m taking a break from talking about really, really good relationships and I’m going to talk about really bad ones that usually don’t last.)

I saw a great TED talk. If you’re considering websites and online dating, as many are, this talk is very helpful.

However, the main reason I mention this talk is that she tells a very dark, funny-but-dark story of a first date, arranged on line, and the guy turns out to be a sociopath. Only a small surprise.  The internet dating scene is filled with such folks and my experience as a coach in these realms has included hearing many such stories.

I got close to this sociopath stuff with the most popular blog I ever wrote.  “Is your boyfriend a Werewolf?”  But the guys in that article were basically good guys with a dark side. When it comes to sociopaths, I’m not so sure. But maybe it’s the belief that he’s not so bad, really that tempts people.  There is a cartoon in the New Yorker that I love that shows a woman introducing her boyfriend to her parents and the boyfriend is obviously a vampire. He has those long teeth and his hair comes to a point and the woman is saying, “I know, but I think I can change him.”  Good joke.

My first exposure to this was almost 20 years ago, a woman I was working with put herself on line, didn’t fill out her profile yet, just her name and the next day she got a note: “Hi there. I was almost going to give up on this web site when I saw your profile and I just had this feeling about you. I think you are the One I’ve been looking for. Can we meet?”

Many, many times I speak to someone who has been captured by a charming predator who talks her for a thrill ride and disappears.  Their stories remind me of something I once heard when I was just starting out as a psychologist and working with freshly recovered addicts.  One man explained cocaine to me (and I’ve blogged about cocaine before because the early stages of a to-be-sexualized relationship are a lot like cocaine in the brain.)  He said, “Cocaine is like rushing at something doing a hundred miles and hour and then hitting a brick way.  Some folks like the rush. But others seem to like the wall.”  Often when a woman comes out of a dull or depressing marriage, she is very open to something, anything, that seems to have promise.

Which takes me back to our topic, sociopaths and internet dating.

Let me give you a list of character features of sociopath. (Which is a fancy name for con man.)

  1. Fast talking and superficially charming.
  2. Manipulative and Cunning
  3. Grandiose sense of self
  4. Pathological Lying
  5. Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
  6. Shallow Emotions
  7. Incapacity for Love
  8. Need for Stimulation and excitement.
  9. Lack of Empathy
  10. Poor Behavioral Control
  11. Delinquency in childhood
  12. Unreliable
  13. Promiscuous sexuality and infidelity
  14. Lack of realistic life plans. Tends to move around a lot
  15. Entrepreneurial Versatility
  16. Secretive
  17. Conventional appearance

In other words, a player, but it really does help to have these things spelled out in all their glorious, gory detail.

According to Robert Hare, in his book, “Without Conscience,” a romantic relationship is just another chance to manipulate someone.  That’s why they are rarely in it for the long term, usually have several partners at once.  The film “Sliding Doors, “shows a man who is attentive and concerned with his live in while at the same time planning to spend the weekend with someone else. His displays of caring are false. These guys can charm and gain your affection quickly and then disappear. It’s amazing how they can do.

But internet and post-break-up dating are situations very ripe for this kind of stuff. Maybe if the list of traits were re-ordered we could see why. Let’s put at number one, “promiscuous sexuality,” and then “need for stimulation and excitement” and then leave the list as it was.  Maybe put “versatility” up higher as well.

Then you have a recipe for a certain percentage of the people you will meet in internet dating.

What do you do?  It does help to have a sense of humor.  It does help to believe that such things are possible and, in certain neighborhoods, even common.  It helps to cut yourself some slack.  You can be fooled. These folks are good at what they do. Cut your losses and run when you figure it all out.  Listen to your inklings, they aren’t always right but they are sometimes.  And mainly, take your time.





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