How to tell if your partner might be a sociopath

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When you start a relationship, you often don’t know what you are getting – it’s hard to tell when the time is right to invest yourself fully. You don’t know if he will leave the toilet seat up or rush you when you getting ready to go out, for example. While those are minor issues, some character traits should sound alarm bells.

We spoke to five women who have experienced sociopathic behaviour in relationships:

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1. They’re extremely controlling

“He was obsessed with making me a church girl. He would manipulate me and often he would give me the silent treatment if I didn’t do what he wanted. He always felt a need to silence my opinions; if I became too loud in my thoughts or stood up for myself he would call me disrespectful.

“I actually found ways to keep up and somehow thought it was normal. Until the final days when I started developing some kind of anger, I would be mad over small things. One day I was waiting for him to pick me up and he was just five minutes late and I have never felt so gatvol, I remember bursting with rage and tears and said: ‘I am tired, I am tired.’ That’s when I left, three years later, but even then I hoped he would fight for me.”

2. They blow hot and cold

“I was dating this guy, well, we weren’t really dating - I was in a ‘situationship’. It was a typical night out at one of his friend’s houses. Everything was going great; for the first time in a long we were extremely happy.

“There was a time in the evening where all the guys went downstairs and left the girls. Being as curious as I am, I went outside to check where they were. One of the guys had come back upstairs and we started chatting and, at that moment, he walked upstairs and looked absolutely fine.

“However, after everyone else had gone inside, he threw me out of the apartment and told me to leave. We had a huge fight outside and nobody even knew. He asked me why I was disobeying him and was pushing me around - all because I spoke to his friend. The next day, he acted like nothing happened the previous night.”

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3. They have volatile mood swings

“It was a work night and I had got home around 5.30. My then boyfriend had messaged me to tell me that he was having a few drinks with friends and asked if I could fetch him at 6 o’clock. So, I got in my car again to go fetch him. He sent me his location and I headed out.

“I soon realised that I was heading into a very unsafe area. I called him and he told me that I was going the right way. When I eventually got to him, I realised he had been at a shebeen and that his friends were nowhere in sight.

“He got in the car and proceeded to yell at me for being late. When he got home, he punched a hole through the window of our flat in rage, got back in his car and disappeared for four hours. There was blood and glass all over the floor.

“He didn’t remember, or chose to forget, everything that had happened by the next morning.”

4. They seem too good to be true

 “It all started picture-perfectly - he liked me, I liked him and the sexual chemistry was insane. To be honest, this was the best sex I have ever had. I thought it was all too good to be true and it was - I started seeing a difference in the way he would act around me. If I spoke to colleagues at work (for example) he would get upset with me – after the rage came sex and it turned into a vicious cycle.

“Things were good for a while until he gave me the silent treatment for one month - it was like he wanted me to beg for more. I fell into that trap and he reappeared. I realised what he was doing and I called him out on it. Of course, he denied it. Eventually, I found a way to get out - what we were doing was unhealthy and I soon realised.”

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5. They make messes you are left to clean up

 “I met this guy at varsity. He had a crush on me - he became friends with my friends to get close to me and I had no idea. Looking back on it, I think I can say that was the first red flag which I completely ignored.

 “Prior to us dating, I knew he was flirtatious and charming. I had mentioned to him that I didn’t feel comfortable with other girls in my space, which he agreed with.

“One month into dating, he sent me a screenshot of this chat with some girl. She was sending him nudes and he thought it was funny and played it off like it was nothing. I forgave him. I always thought he was cheating but he made me believe he wasn’t.

“Our relationship consisted mainly of arguments. In most of those arguments, I was manipulated by him and ended up finding myself apologising for things he did all the time. I thought I loved him so much, so anything he asked of me I would do. There was a stage where I realised that I had actually given him about R50 000 from all the times he asked me to bail him out when he was short on cash. I took out loans for him. I was blinded by love and it messed up my life.”

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