What happens when a psychopath falls in love?
When we think of the term "psychopath", what image comes to mind? Probably, the one of a man, between twenty and thirty years, devoid of remorse and cold like an ice floe ; and with irrepressible impulses towards the most barbaric and sadistic acts that we can imagine.
Now, to what extent do we project a stereotype promoted by the media? Is it really a pathology with greater incidence in the male gender? Recent research sheds new information on subjects with this disorder, including how is it really to fall in love with one of them .Related article: "Psychopathy: what happens in the mind of the psychopath"
Love and psychopathy: an impossible binomial?
Psychopathy takes many forms, one of which includes a subclinical variety of people with high scores on personality tests that measure their predisposition toward psychopathic tendencies (though not as behavior). per se). If it is interpreted as a continuum in which the scores to be obtained are modifiable, it can be perceived how the degree in which the subject has psychopathic tendencies is linked to other aspects of their psychology and interpersonal relationships.
Psychopaths and love relationships: scientific literature
There is a reason to think that subclinical psychopaths may have difficulties in their intimate relationships . According to a study carried out at Laval University (Quebec) in 2015, common criminals adopt an insecure style of attachment (avoidance), which causes them difficulties in creating deep relationships with others.
Those that fit into the classification of "psychopathic personality disorder" (regardless of whether or not they engage in criminal behavior) often manifest behaviors associated with an avoidant attachment style , being thus clumsy to establish any kind of intimate relationship. Two of the key indicators of this disorder, emotional detachment and lack of empathy, are also associated with maladaptive attachment styles.
Yes, psychopaths can also have romantic relationships
Even so, subjects with typical psychopathic manifestations can engage in romantic relationships , without necessarily implying that they later marry or not, or that they will establish a more serious commitment bond. It is true that these relationships may not be the result of a real psychological intimacy in the strict sense, but of the convenience of a couple with a common world view that would justify both trying to get the most out of the rest of the people.
The lack of empathy and the inability to express emotions of a certain psychological depth could lead to the disintegration of their bond due to the adoption of destructive patterns of interaction between both that would increase. In extreme cases, there could even be abuse and violence, but it would not be common.
Even those couples who a priori seem doomed to failure are apt to thrive if the most psychologically balanced individual is able to exert his influence on the other. Over time, this would allow them to form a bond that would favor the development of a greater degree of trust , even to be able to observe situations from the perspective of the other.
Attachment and psychopathy
To discover how the style of attachment and psychopathy can evolve over time, the team of researchers at the University of Laval used a sample of couples who had been married for a year. This made it possible to examine the mutual effects and influences during the time of study. In total there were 140 couples, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, who had together an average of seven years.
Participants completed a series of questionnaires separately, scoring themselves on scales that were designed to measure their tendencies towards low empathy and manipulation (features of what is known as "primary psychopathy"); as well as their inclination to carry out antisocial behaviors (attributes of "secondary psychopathy"). Added to this, the attachment style of each one was measured, together with their degree of anxiety about abandonment and avoidance, understood as the inability to want to get closer to others.
The purpose of the subjects to "self-sublease" in two different categories allowed the team of researchers to assess the influence of each member of the couple on their partner's scores. All the couples were heterosexual, so the design of the study favored the contemplation of the influence between both sexes.
The authors were able to compare the intensity of the relationship of the "actor" (the one who exerted the influence ") on the other (the one who received it). They also had to consider the temporary changes of each man and woman separately from the effect that the spouse caused them and that, in turn, each had on the other.
The psychopathic personality, closely linked to the fear of intimacy in the couple
What could be deduced from all this? The "actor-actor" effects showed that, in the case of men (but not women) with higher scores in primary psychopathy in the first test (insensitivity), it was possible to predict higher levels of attachment avoidance at the time of carrying out the second test . Men, moreover, expressed stronger relationships over time between primary psychopathy and anxiety derived from attachment, which means that the more psychopathic a man is, the more he will be suspicious of intimacy.
For both men and women, the inherent attributes of psychopathy (those that lead to antisocial acts) predicted higher levels of avoidance of attachment and anxiety with the increase of time. Impulsive and irresponsible behaviors were intrinsically linked to fear of rejection and a tendency to leave one's partner.
According to the results of the effects of the "actor-couple" pattern of men towards women, it was concluded that, for them, having a male partner with more outstanding levels of psychopathy in both dimensions (impulsivity and insensibility) already from the beginning of the relationship, leads them to end by separating from him. Conversely, men paired with women with high scores only in the impulsivity dimension, became more anxious in their attachment style. On the other hand, those women with antisocial propensities infused their spouses with the fear of being disowned , in addition to making them more dependent and emotionally unstable.
General trends, not causalities
Do we have to think that this correlation necessarily implies a cause-effect relationship? The structure of the study allowed us to conclusively examine those paths of psychopathy that predict attachment and, inversely, which are the paths of attachment that predict this disorder. In summary, the qualities of the psychopathic personality must be understood from a binomial perspective and more as predictors of insecure attachment styles, and not the other way around.
So, from everything said so far, with what ideas do we have to stay?
For those women who go out with men who tend to the insensibility and the emotional hardness of the end of the psychopathic spectrum: be alert, because the worst is yet to come. The inability of your partner to empathize with you will only cause you to end up finding refuge in yourself.
Regardless of whether you are the man or woman in the relationship and if your spouse is highly impulsive, the couple will tend to suffer important ups and downs . If you are the ones who show behaviors typical of psychopathy, your (already small) ability to relate intimately with the person with whom you have committed will be diminished as time goes by.