You’ve recently started dating someone new, and you’re caught up in the excitement of getting to know each other. But something’s not quite right. You can’t quite pinpoint what it is, you just know you feel a little smothered by this new person in your life, or perhaps they seem too good to be true. The following are five behavior traits to watch out for in the early stages (4 months or less) of a relationship. If you notice one or more of these, you may be dating a highly manipulative person, such as a psychopath or personality disordered individual (most commonly borderlines or narcissists). And, if your new lover displays all of these behaviors, especially after only a couple of dates, RUN!
- Self-Victimization – Nothing is ever the disordered individual’s fault, at least not as far as they are concerned. They’ve likely had a string of bad relationships, and it’s always their ex’s fault. When held accountable for their lies, emotional manipulations, and other abuse, they turn it around and play the victim. They accuse the person confronting them of being abusive, often while displaying the exact offenses they are accusing you of. For example, they will make overt threats and then tell you that you are threatening them.
- Lacks a Sense of Identity – They may have a handful of likes and interests that remain the same through every friendship and romance. They’ve chosen these favorite movies, hobbies, songs, etc. to define their character and project it to those they interact with. For instance, a favorite book makes them seem more intellectual or a certain hobby makes them appear to be more talented. (Frequently, they only dabble in these things, and they can talk about them on a superficial level at best). However, if you notice that they seem to be into everything you are interested in and agree with every opinion you have, that’s a red flag. The personality disordered adapt their preferences, opinions, and beliefs based on who they are trying to impress at any given moment.
- Pushing for a Commitment – In reading stories from people who’ve gotten trapped in abusive relationships with these creatures, time and time again these phrases keep coming up, “whirlwind romance”, “we were married six months after we met”, “she moved in with me three months after our first date”, etc. That’s not healthy. Relationships develop naturally over a period of time; you cannot know someone for who they truly are after only a few days or weeks. It takes time to establish emotional intimacy, and it benefits you to find out whether or not a potential partner is someone you think you will still enjoy spending time with after the initial thrill has worn off.
- Clinging – They will try to take up every spare minute of your free time, and when that’s not possible, they will call, text, and message you to the point where you wonder how they could possibly be getting anything else done. They want to know what you are doing and who you are with at all times, and this doesn’t stop once the relationship is fully established. That’s because they very likely have a strong fear of abandonment, but even the ones who don’t will want to isolate you and control you. In the beginning of a relationship, they do this to keep you immersed in them; they don’t want you to be able to come up for air and have a chance to be introspective and realize that you’d be happier without them hounding you all the time.
- Insecurity/Jealousy – If you are spending time with anyone else but them, they perceive it as a stab in the back. Why would you want to spend time with anyone else, when they are so superior and wonderful? They also don’t want anyone pointing out their abhorrent behaviors, offering emotional support to you, or possibly suggesting that maybe your relationship is unhealthy. Worse, many of them are so delusional, they can’t handle it when they see you talking to someone who is attractive – a server, ticket attendant, valet, it doesn’t matter – and they will accuse you of flirting every time you interact with another man or woman in a perfunctory manner. You’ll probably find that they are even jealous of you. Your achievements and talents don’t support their delusion that they are better than you (and everyone else); they are incapable of feeling genuine happiness at your accomplishments. (The more pathological they are, the more likely they are to fake it though, at least in the very beginning).
If something feels off about the person you are dating, don’t ignore your instincts; take time to explore why your hackles are up and if there is any merit to it. The sooner you remove yourself from a potentially abusive situation, the easier it will be. Don’t wait until you share a lease or mortgage, furniture, bank accounts, or kids.