Warning others: a moral obligation or crossing the line?

This is an age old problem that seems to lack an easy answer.  Do we warn others if we recognize that they are involved with individuals with psychopathic features?  Is doing so a moral obligation or is it crossing the line?

Back in the day, it was easier.  Sure, we saw our friends dating people we didn’t like or who made us uncomfortable, but we probably just thought of these individuals as “jerks.”  We surmised that the relationships wouldn’t last and left it at that.  Even if they did endure, expressing negative opinions on such matters tended to be taboo.  As a result, typically, we said nothing.

Now, however, society is beginning to acknowledge and discuss psychopathy more readily.  With this increasing awareness, we are coming to recognize that many of these individuals, who we once dismissed as mere “jerks,” are, in fact, pathological.

What do we do with our awareness?   

Once educated on the matter, we are aware that things are more serious and worthy of warning.  We also recognize how these individuals manipulate and control those around them, often very covertly, and in manners that evade the radar of many.  Here, we know the dangers that can follow once involved with such disorder.

When this predicament presents itself, we know that our friends either don’t see the problems for what they are or don’t understand what it is they are dealing with.  If they did, they probably would have dropped these guys (or gals) on their own.  I don’t believe that anyone sets out to tangle with psychopathy.  Yet, it happens.  So…do we help?

That’s a tough one.  Ultimately, it comes down to personal choices and beliefs.  However, for me, I think we should (mostly)and I have.

How will they react?

The outcomes can be mixed.  Sometimes, we strengthen the bonds of friendship, as there is camaraderie in such experiences.  The torment is unique.  Our friends may be relieved and thankful.  They may appreciate that they are able to make sense of the things that were very, very wrong.  At the same time, some may become angry and defensive.  They may suggest that we have it “all wrong” or are simply “unsupportive.”  If we choose to share our thoughts, we must be prepared for either outcome to occur.

It may be frustrating or disappointing to see and hear our friends defend individuals we know will ultimately bring them unhappiness or place them in harm’s way, but we cannot make their decisions for them.  We can only share what we know, share how we know it, and unobtrusively make ourselves available.  Sometimes, it helps.  Sometimes, it does not.   

Undoubtedly, this is a difficult subject to discuss.  However, I have chosen to think of it this way; I know that if I saw my friends performing other dangerous acts, minimally, I would at least encourage them to move toward safety, even if I felt my suggestion might jeopardized the friendship.  Why should this be any different?

It shouldn’t be, but it can be.  Why?  One reason is that there are fewer absolutes in these situations.  Even if we recognize that our friends are in clear danger, the signs may be less obvious, especially to them.  In the event that they were inches from the ledge of a tall building, there would be no questions.  In that scenario, there’s no grey area.  Clearly, the ledge is unsafe.

However, this may be less cut and dry, especially when the relationships are fairly new, with an absence of more tangible serious concerns.  If we mainly rely on “gut” reactions, feelings, and red flags, our assertions are less concrete, even if incredibly valid.

While we may be able to pinpoint solid indicators of potential trouble, our friends may refuse to acknowledge our thoughts or question our assessments.  If they stumble upon similar gut reactions themselves, they may question their own assessments too.  The tendency is to move forward, giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Individuals with psychopathic features bank on this occurring. 

Unless seriously scorched by individuals with psychopathic personality traits prior, many  don’t necessarily understand that this is real.  Therefore, when we discuss the red flags or warning signs their “great guys/gals” display, they may not like it.  They may do the same things we once did and minimize the problems, make excuses for them, and take things at face value, freely giving trust, rather than insisting it be earned.

Our heads tend to spin as we watch.  “Don’t they see,” we ask?  We recognize what is happening.  Sometimes, they do not.  Sometimes, we watch as they fail to make the important connections.

Why does this happen?  Most people want to feel special.  Anyone who has encountered or become entangled with individuals with psychopathic traits knows that initially they do just that.  So, listening to friends may not top any priority lists, when they are hearing and getting what they want from their new prospects.

This may be especially frustrating when we witness those around us who seem to make repeated dangerous or unhealthy choices.

Either way, deciding whether or not to speak up may not be an easy choice to make.  However, I feel I must share and help those I care about when I see things going wrong.  For me, my decision to warn friends is one that I have become comfortable with.  Thankfully, it does not happen too frequently.  At the same time, I also understand that every person is different and so are the circumstances.

Where do we draw the line? 

Who don’t we tell?  Is sharing information of this nature always appropriate?  This is another personal decision.  However, I tend to feel that we should limit these discussions to our friends or others with whom we are very close.

There are certain scenarios in which no amount of “evidence” will change the minds of others.  Some situations have the potential to become quite volatile.  Sharing our thoughts and feelings may not only be fruitless, they may also be dangerous.  With new resolve to take care of ourselves, we should respect the limitations that are inherently part of certain situations.

This topic is one that I am certain we all share many different views on.  Some of us may feel letting others know what may lie ahead is a moral obligation, others may feel that it is crossing the line.  I don’t necessarily think there is a right or wrong answer that neatly fits in every situation.  Rather, the circumstances may dictate our actions.  Either way, it’s something to consider.


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115 Comments on "Warning others: a moral obligation or crossing the line?"

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Hi Salvation, I desparately wanted to let new victim know, and felt horrible for months for not doing so. I was in therapy and therapist kept advising me not to do it, as the most important thing at the time was getting myself through to the other side of the hellish aftermath I was consumed by. In addition, he kept pounding into my head that “new victim could be disordered, as even P’s are duped by P’s”, etc”. Told me, at the very most, to make compromise with myself, and if I were to be approached by new victim, I could evaluate at that time, whether I would in fact want to proceed with “helping” new victim, or not. It was painfully difficult, but I didn’t trust any of my decisions or judgement at the time, therefore put my trust in my therapist and his advice, to guide me.

One thing I have heard here, a few times is folks making statements that they don’t speak up because P will accuse or even sue for slander. I am curious as to how telling the truth would be considered slanderous. How is it slander if it is the truth. I have no problem telling someone what the Bastard did, if I am asked. How would that be slander? In addition, If the P chooses to slime us with all the hellish things they inflict, why should we not be able to do something as innocent as ‘say the words’? A description of their diabolical actions, isn’t ‘taking’ the action(s) that the P so often gets away with.

And yes, Salvation, Regarding your statement, above… there isn’t a more profound “catch 22”. Shit howdy, look what we are left to contend with. All of this crap to have to sort out… as they go on their merry way to do the same unto a new victim. Unbelievable, really…

Hens, too funny…


With mine obviously there were warning signs throughout the 10 years I was with him. Things that didn’t make sense etc, but I just thought it was because he lived a bit on the edge of society anyway, so it all seemed ‘understandable’ given that situation.

Also the idea of breaking up with him was really scary. How would I survive out of a relationship? Despite having done so previously.

I knew various friends and family had ‘issues’ with him, but I don’t think anyone really knew that he was an spath, just that he was a bit rough & dodgy perhaps, with the gift of the gab. It was one mutual friend whose comment finally got through to me, that he was making me ill, that made me realise that I had to do something. I started to take back personal control over my health etc etc and eventually I was in a strong enough/desperate enough position that i told him I wanted a separation. He was shocked as he hadn’t seen it coming lol.

Later on this friend, a psyche nurse was reading through some of her books and pointed out the definition of a pyschopath to me and said ‘does that remind you of anyone?’ She hadn’t been sure either and now we both were. It was immediately after that, that he went to stay with her for a few days as I’d thrown him out. later that week I had a terrified phone call from her late at night saying he was drunk and had threatened to kill her. That was it, I packed all his stuff up at 3am in the morning and as soon as it was light, went to see a solicitor.

The solicitor was very good. Dont’ know if he had experience of spaths, but we devised a plan, where he had 2 days notice to move out (I had told him to go but he wouldn’t) and if not we would get an injunction. The letter was timed to arrive at a particular time. I was at work & the solicitor told me not to respond, in any way, either byt phone or email etc. It was very scary. The phone started going and I found it hard not to answer. he sent me malicious emails, but I still didn’t answer even though I was very scared. i rang the solicitor & he said to hang in there and still not answer.

After the 2 days I went back to the flat with a friend, and the spath had gone, but it was very scary as we didnt’ know whether he would have. The place was a tip.

Then I got on with the task of rebuilding my life. I’m now more aware of warning signs. A couple of times people have warned me about certain people and now I take notice and back off.

Would i warn people? For a while I was very curious to know if the ex had a new girlfriend and found it quite amusing when I learned he did. God knows what he’d told her about me, probably that i was a bitch from hell, but sometimes i wished I was a fly on the wall to see what she was like. I do know that I was able to get both of them arrested for debt. She must have hated me lol, but then was it really my problems? As someone else suggested – a life lesson for her.

But I do now warn people in general about spaths. Dont’ think people really understand or believe just how prevalent they are , not just those axe weilding manics you hear about in stories, but real life devils that are round you in everyday life. Reminds me a bit of the line from Aliens, were Ripley has just found the little girl, who says my mother told me monsters don’t exist, I know they do 🙂

Who don’t we tell?

if someone gets involved with a sociopath, knowing that they are in a (supposedly) committed relationship, they deserve no warning.

Most of them don’t know.

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