My husband’s psychopathy was never diagnosed as far as I know, but some years after we married and her second suicide attempt that I knew of, he told me his mother had been diagnosed as a psychopathic manic depressive.
Maybe you could give your readers ‘a heads up and how to’ on finding out as much as possible about the in-laws’ medical conditions before marriage, better yet sound them out before becoming emotionally entangled?
This is a great suggestion, so thank you to this Lovefraud reader.
Here’s my basic advice: Understand that psychopathy can run in families. So if you see or hear about bad or disturbing behavior by relatives of your romantic partner, pay attention.
Psychopathy is highly genetic. What that means is that a person can be born with a predisposition, a genetic risk, to develop a psychopathic personality disorder.
There is, however, an interaction between nature and nurture. Whether a child with genetic risk actually develops the disorder may depend on the type of parenting that he or she receives, or other factors in the child’s environment.
Research has shown that harsh and inconsistent parenting is associated with a child developing callous and unemotional traits, which can be precursors to psychopathy.
Usually, if a child is genetically at risk, it’s because one or both of the parents has psychopathic traits. Psychopaths are notoriously bad parents. So the child gets not only bad genes, but bad parenting as well.
It’s a recipe for producing another psychopath. And it can happen over and over again because psychopathy can run in families.
The psychopathic seduction
In the initial love-bombing phase of the relationship, psychopaths can shower you with attention and affection. This person seems to be your perfect mate, the one you’ve been waiting for all your life.
But if the person is actually disordered, the caring behavior is all a charade.
Some psychopaths are capable of keeping the charade going for a long time, even years, as long as you are useful to them. Although you may sense that something is not right, you may not be able to pinpoint that the person is engaging in manipulation and deceit. You may doubt yourself, because your partner seems to want you so much.
The psychopath is engaging in impression management. But what about his or her family members?
Warning signs among the relatives
If you hear about any of the following regarding your partner’s blood relatives, pay attention:
• Criminal behavior
• Abusive behavior
• Domestic violence
• Any kind of violence
• Diagnosis of antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder, or psychopathy
• Multiple short-term romantic partners
• Scams or other financial crimes
• Drug or alcohol addictions
• Child molestation
• Prison sentences
Of course, it is very possible for a person with a normal ability to love and a conscience to be born into a family that has psychopaths. In fact, many Lovefraud readers, who are themselves empathetic, have realized that one or both of their parents are psychopaths.
But as the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
If your partner’s relatives exhibit the traits or behaviors listed above, it may mean that your partner is also capable of the behavior, once the psychopathic mask slips.
If your partner has kids, you should also pay close attention to how he or she treats them, and the behavior of the children.
If you see flashes of harsh, inconsistent or other types of bad parenting, they may be indications of your partner’s true nature, and not just that the kids were acting up that day.
And if the children are deceitful, manipulative or aggressive, well, those traits came from somewhere, either your partner’s family or the ex’s family.
Meeting the family
Some families of psychopathic individuals will tell you about their disturbing behavior but some won’t.
The family may be actually clueless about the true nature of his or her personality, especially if they live far away.
Or, even worse, the family may know about antisocial or abusive behavior, and withhold that information. Sometimes the motivation may be innocent — they’re hoping you are the person who will get their relative straightened out.
Other times, however, they know all about the person’s deficiencies, but they want you to take the person off their hands. In my research for my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud, one woman told me that on her wedding day, the mother of the groom came up to her and said, “He’s your problem now.”
And if your partner is estranged from his or her family, or doesn’t allow you to meet the family, it could be another warning sign that he or she has something to hide.
Trust your instincts
So what do you do? How do you protect yourself from getting romantically involved with a psychopath?
Here’s the best advice: Always trust your instincts. You have an internal warning system, and if you get a bad feeling about someone, pay attention.
So if you have a nagging suspicion, but haven’t yet figured out why, it might help to take a look at your partner’s relatives. Psychopathy can run in families, and bad behavior somewhere on his or her family tree may help clarify your misgivings.
Lovefraud originally published this article on January 19, 2015.