If you’ve ever jokingly claimed, “I’m a total psychopath magnet!” to your friends, the situation might not be such a laughing matter. You might think you’re just having a streak of bad luck in the love department — but in reality you could be attracting partners who are actual psychopaths.
Picture this: You start dating a new guy who seems perfect. Charming, charismatic, gorgeous — he was everything you thought you wanted in a long term partner. Then suddenly he gets weirdly distant, controlling, or starts using you. The pathological lies won’t stop (you learn he uses drugs, has other partners, massive debt, or worse), the perfect man you started dating is long gone, and a total stranger is in his place.
It’s easy to blame getting involved with bad guy after bad guy on your town’s horrible dating scene, but if you find that dating people with personality disorders starts to become a pattern, it could be because you are subconsciously attracting them.
It can happen to anyone, so don’t blame yourself. Psychopaths are not usually serial killers. They are people who wreak havoc in their personal relationships because they have little to no empathy or regard for others, have no guilt, do not fear repercussions like others do — and they are very skilled at manipulating.
But there are certain traits that a woman can have that make her more attractive as a target for a psychopath. And they may not be traits you would have thought of, for they are generally traits that women aspire to — positive traits that unfortunately, in the hands of a psychopath or other antisocial individual, are turned against her.
1. High empath
Those with antisocial disorders (psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists) are low empaths — in other words, they don’t care about anyone except themselves. It leaves no imprint on their conscience to use and abuse. Conversely, their victims are often high empaths or emotionally sensitive people. Women like this truly care and hurt when others are in trouble or pain. They may cry easily at heart-tugging commercials. They are often in helping industries such as nursing or social work.
Psychopaths love these types of women because their inherent caring makes them not give up easily, especially after the psychopath begins exhibiting disturbing behavior. While someone who is not so sensitive may run from a man who starts to show signs of addiction, aggression or lying, a highly empathetic woman will instead think that she can save or help the psychopath. Thus she doesn’t leave the relationship early and becomes even more bonded and involved with the psychopath, and even more convinced her help is needed, despite escalating troubling behavior on his part.
“I’ve asked men like this how they pick their targets and they say they’ll tell a sad story about early childhood abuse to see someone’s reaction,” says Sandra L. Brown, MA, author of Women Who Love Psychopaths. “They’re looking for someone very compassionate who is willing to problem solve, who will be all ‘oh that’s terrible, oh my god, you should get some help,’ because that woman has to get hooked into their storyline and be willing to rescue their ass over and over again. The woman who says ‘good luck with that’ — he’s not going to be chasing her into a corner.”
Women who are codependent tend to be reliable, emotionally mature and take charge. She is the woman who perhaps grew up taking care of alcoholic parents, and who now bears the majority of the burden of raising her kids, or she rescues animals, or she volunteers to help refugees or orphans. They are often people pleasers. These are not inherently bad qualities, in fact, they are great ones. But in the wrong hands, they can keep a woman tied to a toxic relationship.
Codependents often need to be needed. They will find themselves more attracted to men who are more like little boys, spontaneous and irresponsible, so they can step in and straighten everything out. Women like this don’t feel quite alive without someone to care for. They are often susceptible to one of a psychopath’s favorite weapons — gaslighting. If the psychopath is arrested for drunk driving, he might say, “If you hadn’t started that argument with me, I wouldn’t have been drinking.” If the psychopath is physically abusive, he might say, “If you hadn’t flirted with that guy, I wouldn’t have gotten so angry.”
Since the codependent feels responsible for other people’s happiness, she may not spot the manipulation in these proclamations, and instead become more convinced that if only she did a, b or c, his destructive behavior will stop.
Up next: Extroverts
Originally published October 2015. Updated January 2017.