What Kind of Person Stays with a Psychopath or Narcissist?

So far I’ve tried to explain that just about any person can be initially fooled by a psychopath’s mask of sanity and become involved with such a disordered individual. However, while any of us can become ensnared by a psychopath during the initial, luring phase when he does his best to appear better than normal individuals, fewer people actually STAY with a psychopath or narcissist once his mask of sanity slips and they come to see his real, malicious, disordered and abusive self.

Today I’m pasting below an article by Sam Vaknin, an expert on narcissism and psychopathy, from his website and book “Malignant Self-Love”.  This article sketches the psychological profile of the kind of person who stays with a psychopath or narcissist long after the luring and honeymoon phases are gone and Dr. Jekyll has morphed into the real Mr. Hyde. If you recognize yourself in the victim profile, perhaps this New Year’s resolution could be to find the inner strength–and seek the external support–to ditch the psychopath or narcissist in your life. Don’t allow an evil individual to abuse and control you for the rest of your life. You deserve better than that.  At any rate, I hope that this information will help.

On the face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who typically “binds” with a sociopathic narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes. The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love are pretty normal. The sociopathic narcissist puts on his best face – the other party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only much later, as the relationship develops, the sociopath shows his true colors and the relationship is put to the test.

Living with a sociopathic narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a sociopathic narcissist indicates, therefore, the parameters of the personality of the survivor. She (or, more rarely, he) is molded by the relationship into The Typical Sociopathic narcissistic Mate/Partner/Spouse.

First and foremost, the sociopathic narcissist’s partner must have a deficient grasp of her self and of reality. Otherwise, she (or he) is bound to abandon the sociopathic narcissist’s ship after the honeymoon phase is over. The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself – while aggrandising and adoring the sociopathic narcissist. The partner is, thus, placing himself in the position of the eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat. Sometimes, it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial and victimised. At other times, she is not even aware of this predicament. The sociopathic narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from his partner, being superior to her in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, financially).

The status of professional victim sits well with the partner’s tendency to punish herself, namely: with her masochistic streak. The tormented life with the sociopathic narcissist is, as far as the partner is aware, a just punitive measure.

In this respect, the partner is the mirror image of the sociopathic narcissist. By maintaining a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon the source of masochistic supply (which the sociopathic narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides) – the partner enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviours, which are at the very core of narcissism.

The sociopathic narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False Self, depends on it. His sadistic Superego switches its attentions from the sociopathic narcissist (in whom it often provokes suicidal ideation) to the partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.

It is through self-denial that the partner survives. She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, and much else besides. She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the sociopathic narcissist’s God-like supreme figure. The sociopathic narcissist is rendered in her eyes even more superior through and because of this self-denial. Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a “great man” is more palatable. The “greater” the man (=the sociopathic narcissist), the easier it is for the partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of the sociopathic narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge with the sociopathic narcissist to the point of oblivion and of dim memories of one’s self.

The two collaborate in this macabre dance. The sociopathic narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her. Submission breeds superiority and masochism breeds sadism. The relationships are characterised by rampant emergentism: roles are allocated almost from the start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent reaction.

The predominant state of the partner’s mind is utter confusion. Even the most basic relationships – with husband, children, or parents – remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadow cast by the intensive interaction with the sociopathic narcissist. A suspension of judgement is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and the result of living with a sociopathic narcissist. The partner no longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden.

The sociopathic narcissist recreates for the partner the sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in the first place: capriciousness, fickleness, arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world becomes uncertain and frightening and the partner has only one thing to cling to: the sociopathic narcissist.

And cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with sociopathic narcissists, it is that they are overtly and overly dependent.

The partner doesn’t know what to do – and this is only too natural in the mayhem that is the relationship with the sociopathic narcissist. But the typical partner also does not know what she wants and, to a large extent, who she is and what she wants to become.

These unanswered questions hamper the partner’s ability to gauge reality, evaluate and appraise it for what it is. Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is the voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationship ends.

The break-up of a relationship with a sociopathic narcissist is, therefore, very emotionally charged. It is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and of subjugation. It is the rebellion of the functioning and healthy parts of the partner’s personality against the tyranny of the sociopathic narcissist.

The partner is liable to have totally misread and misinterpreted the whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship). This lack of proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labelled “pathological”.

Why is it that the partner seeks to prolong her pain? What is the source and purpose of this masochistic streak? Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner (and the sociopathic narcissist) engage in a tortuous and drawn out post mortem. But the question who really did what to whom (and even why) is irrelevant. What is relevant is to stop mourning oneself (this is what the parties are really mourning), start smiling again and love in a less subservient, hopeless, and pain-inflicting manner.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


  1. Vaknin is a con man and a diagnosed psychopath


    Please stay away from him and his nonsense – your blog is wonderful otherwise!

  2. Barbara, yes, I know Vaknin is a self-professed narcissist.
    I like your website as well. I’m so glad that there are so many
    informational sources for those who want support in getting out
    of pathological relationships.

  3. Nice article. I agree with what you’re saying. My experience is that the sociopath drained me fiancially and making it very difficult to leave. If your dealing with one of these characters hold on to your wallet!

  4. Jane, I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience. Psychopaths are frauds in all senses of the term: financially as well as emotionally.

  5. I disagree with Sam…I don’t think all the partners are masochistic. Being a narc or worse himself, perhaps he can’t appreciate that some women are self-sacrificing, giving, committed, out of feelings of love, rather than feelings of masochism. And so relationship committed, and so forgiving, and so understanding, and so prone to believe the “best”, that it takes them awhile to catch on that their partner is a total jerk. It may have been beyond their comprehension and prior experience that someone would actually be cruel on purpose. So they keep explaining away the behavior and are “understanding” and “work on” the relationship.

    For other women, who were not raised in a loving environment, certain types of cruelty may have become “normalized” for them. And so it takes them even longer to see the truth. Seeing the truth may mean recognizing for the first time that their mom was actually not a nice mom at all.

    I suppose there are true masochists connected with narcs, but I think a psychopath/narcissist would realize the partner liked being tortured, etc. and that would ruin it for the psychopath/narc. They are all about forcing you to do what THEY want, not what you want to do.

    In fact, at the end of my relationship, when the psychopath wanted a form of sex that I did NOT want, I acted enthusiastic about it, and he said “Nevermind, you wouldn’t like it.” I had finally figured out how to escape , and I never saw him again after that!, choosing to escape from the whole relationship. It was not easy for me, I still wanted to believe in the false mask, but my body got sick if I even thought of contacting him, and thus I knew my subconscious knew I was in even more danger than I was consciously aware of. Thank goodness!

  6. This article is spot on

  7. Just want to agree with your comments. The draw can be the greater emotional range that the partners are wanting to explore in relating intimately. It takes a long time to realise that one of you is faking it & only wants power and control.
    My Psych ex played the victim just to confuse the picture, he made out I did not have a college degree to his family & told lies about my history – all untrue. It is reallly difficult to inisist on banal reality when living with someone who goes to such fantastic extremes. Cleverness and insight are turned against you & you are given ever more impossible problems to solve to prove how useless you are.
    Masochist? No I was spirited, I ached for his tortured soul. The he told me no one else would have me & everyone pretended to like me -he was the only one who understood.. It is not our break with reality, we know we have already given so much; it is theirs. We stay because something in our emotional map can’t accpet that a person can be bad for us, and we have to give up trying.
    Great website!

  8. Karen, from what you describe, he launched a smear campaign on you, so his
    family wouldn’t bond as much with you (to create more maneuvering space for him…).
    It sounds like he also tried to inculcate in you an “us versus them”
    mentality, so you wouldn’t break the bond. But I’m glad you did!

  9. Watch out for Sam Vaknin. He has a fake degree and lies about much of his “experience”. A good authority on psychopathy would be Robert Hare.

  10. Valjean, Is your penname from Les Miserables by Hugo? Vaknin has written a few books about malignant narcissism, and I quote part of his most famous one, Malignant Self-Love, only to nuance a certain point about the psychological profile of the victim, based on other sources I’ve read. I do reference Robert Hare’s Without Conscience, as well as the book he co-authored with Paul Babiak, Snakes in Suits, a lot here. Without Conscience has become the textbook on psychopathy: and deservedly so. Claudia

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