Alright, I have to get on a bit of a soapbox here because I recently had a conversation with someone very important to me that I never really thought I would have to have. I kind of assumed that the topic we were talking about was a basic, fundamental concept of relationship knowledge, and that everyone had access to the same information that I had.
I wouldn’t realize until I looked back on the conversation that this person has a complex and dangerous situation going on in life; that the things this person is experiencing are more than what a simple conversation can help repair, more than a conversation could even really hope to bring to their attention.
I believe that my friend is in a codependent relationship with a sociopathic narcissist. The cost of this relationship has been very high; friends, self esteem, hope, stability, a positive outlook and mental/emotional well being have all been casualties. None of this was lost over night, it has been happening over the course of a few years and it wasn’t until recently that the depth of the damage became apparent.
I am writing this because I fear that not enough people are aware of the danger inherent in a relationship with a sociopath. Please understand, I do not use the word “sociopath” lightly or without understanding. I am aware that a sociopath (technically- a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder) is a very specific and loaded diagnosis where the subject demonstrates lack of remorse, disregard of social norms, deception, impulsivity, disregard for safety of self or others, and consistent irresponsibility among other qualifications. Having said that, it is important to note that sociopaths demonstrate an inability to realize the emotional consequences of their actions and lack any real emotion with a limited capacity for love.
To put the rest of what I am about to write in context, it is important to consider two major points: first is “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” and the role that fundamental needs play in our interpersonal relationships. I am not talking about wants or desires, but the actual NEEDS of the people in a relationship. There are inalienable and unspoken expectations granted when people enter into a healthy relationship, these are seen in Maslow’s hierarchy as the levels including interpersonal relationships, safety and physiological. Without the more base needs being met, one cannot function for an extended period of time in a healthy relationship. The second point is the concept of “happiness” and “emotional health”; it is important to know that only we are responsible for our own happiness, no one can add to or take away from our happiness without us giving them permission and there is a difference between happiness and emotional health. Being emotionally healthy allows a person to recognize that they are unhappy, find out what is making them unhappy and affords them the opportunity to attempt to do something about it.
If you are in a romantic relationship that gives you the pause to think: “He doesn’t require much from me emotionally, which is good because I don’t have a lot to give right now” and this is a constant or common state of your relationship, you are probably in an unhealthy relationship! Get the fuck out and find someone that makes you happy.
Your partner(s) should FEED you energy, they should give to you and you give to them in return. Happiness begets happiness. If your partner (going with the singular to save time) does not willingly GIVE you happiness as you have willingly given to them, you will have nothing to RETURN once you have given all that you have.
Is this going to be the situation every day? No, of course not; people have bad periods in their life they NEED from you more than they can GIVE you, relationships ebb and flow and passions subside. That is what a real relationship is, being there for the other person when they need you because you are partners and there is an emotional connection. Otherwise, we never would have banded together as animals and started civilizations, humanity would not have evolved if not for our need of emotional connection. We depend on each other for support, the moment we silently allow someone to say “I can’t really go to him because he never really needs me” we have failed as a species.
If your partner is the type of person that makes you say: “I am with Robert because he doesn’t ask a lot from me emotionally, and I can count on him to leave me alone emotionally”, you might be with an emotional vampire. I do not mean to suggest that all relationships require constant “I love you”s and sweet kisses on the cheek, but there is a need for emotions to be exchanged in degrees that allow for both parties to be emotionally satisfied. If your partner does not satisfy your minimal emotional requirements ask yourself this: does this person not overtly ASK a lot from you emotionally, but by their very nature create situations that force you to compromise your emotional health and spend your emotional energy on maintaining a relationship that takes away your ability to process and cope with emotions in a healthy way? We are emotional creatures, our ability to process complex emotions is a defining characteristic of humanity. Rob us of emotional complexity and we lose our ability to function in the real world, cope with our problems, interact with our peers and think (dream even) of a future.
As a society we have a term for people with a decreased or absent capacity for emotion (I am not making this shit up folks, see above), we call them SOCIOPATHS! Most of them are not the cute and lovable Benedict Cumberbatch or Johnny Lee Miller type of high functioning sociopaths with latent homosexual affections toward their not-so-Silent Bob sidekicks.
Most sociopaths are the “I love you and want a future with you, just ignore the child I created last year when I cheated on you”, “Please take me back for ignoring your calls all weekend I swear I wasn’t fucking anyone that you know” type, or they will simply kill you and bury you under the floorboards of their mother’s house. Okay, to be fair not even most of them are like either of those examples, but they are dangerous in their inability to recognize any sort of cue that would indicate emotional need in the people they encounter in their daily life. They are instead more concerned with satisfying their own impulses than they are the needs of those that are foolish enough to love them.
A romantic relationship should INCREASE your happiness (note that I did not say “create”), your partner should bring light and love into your life. Their presence should not be simply a lesser drain on your existence than solitude; if that is where you find yourself, it is a good idea to question what the REAL drain on your emotional health is. Emotional reciprocity is a REQUIREMENT of a healthy relationship, regardless of the emotional levels being reciprocated.
Find someone that turns your happiness and love into their happiness and love AND gives it back to you; do not let your partner keep it and rob you of something that you are entitled to, because if you are entitled to anything it is the happiness and love that you have created. Take time to reflect on shared goals, values and compatibility as often as you need to in order to determine your emotional health and satisfaction in your romantic relationship.
Thankfully my friend is now in therapy and coming to realize the depth of their own personal pain. I hope that they soon start making the decisions that need to be made in order for their life to contain all the positive things it once did that have been lost and that healing can begin. I hope that someone reads this and thinks “Shit, my partner kind of sounds like they have some of these qualities, maybe I should consider this” and that results in someone escaping a life robbing and dangerous situation. I have seen one of the most beautiful souls I have ever seen thrown into such despair and self-loathing that I have to actively not think about that person for fear of trying to do for them what they must do for themselves.