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Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Imagine this: You text your friend to ask if they want to join you for a night out. They’re down, but first they need to ask their new significant other.

It’s always best to be respectful of others, especially in a new relationship, and your friend is likely just trying to be considerate of their partner’s plans. However, perhaps tonight your friend indicates that they cannot join you because their significant other was outraged at the request, and says that the partner requires prior notice before they will even consider permitting your friend to spend time with others. In that case, your friend may just be dating a sociopath.

It sounds dramatic, and perhaps even unbelievable, but the harsh reality is that sociopaths aren’t as easy to spot in real life as they are in Lifetime movies. According to Healthline, a sociopath is defined as someone with traits of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), who often exhibits a lack of conscience or disregard for other people’s feelings. In a relationship, this might manifest as indifferent, manipulative, or even aggressive behavior toward a partner.

Here are some key characteristics that might indicate sociopathic tendencies, and how you can help make your friend aware.

1. Arrogance, Not Confidence

Extreme arrogance could be a sign of sociopathy. You might notice that your friend’s S.O. is never wrong (in their mind) and often lets everybody know how much smarter or better they are.

2. Exceedingly Charming

A sociopath can be surprisingly likeable and even charismatic. However, their wit, compliments, and flirtation may seem a bit empty, as they’re typically only doing it to get something out of someone.

3. A Lack of Empathy

Pay close attention to how this partner reacts to your friend’s feelings. If the sociopath-in-question is cold or seems to lack empathy, that could be a red flag.

4. Impulsive Behavior

Does your friend’s BF or GF live a reckless life? Granted, we’re all capable of going to the extreme now and then, but if your friend’s partner doesn’t seem concerned with their own wellbeing or the welfare of others in dangerous situations, it could be a very real sign of sociopathy.

5. The Rules Don’t Seem to Apply to Them

Sociopaths don’t really concern themselves much with right and wrong. They may lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, break laws — as long as it gets them what they want. Your friend’s partner might have even been arrested as a result of their sociopathic tendencies.

6. Aggressive Behavior

Abusive tendencies can be a major red flag, too, and should be a definite dating deal breaker. If you hear stories about or notice your friend’s S.O. lobbing insults, publicly humiliating, or physically harming others, that’s a possible sign of ASPD.

7. Narcissistic, Too?

It can be hard to distinguish between sociopathy and narcissism sometimes, but often a sociopath will show traits of both. A narcissist is usually super into themselves. They’ll see themselves as superior and special (not unlike the arrogance of a sociopath), and they’ll eat up any attention you give them.

Yup, My Friend is Dating a Sociopath. What Do I Do?!

Proceed with Caution

Blurting out “I think you’re dating a sociopath” over cocktails isn’t likely to go over well with your friend. Instead, try pointing out a recent situation in which their partner was displaying some serious sociopathy, and ask how your friend felt about it.

Be Ready with Answers

It might take a while for your friend to come around, but when they do, they might come to you with questions. Tell them what you’ve noticed, and make it clear that you’re concerned for them. You can also recommend that your friend dig a little deeper into their partner’s background to look for signs of troubling behavior in their past.

Offer Support

Your friend might be a bit defensive, which is understandable. They’re not only coming to terms with their partner’s behavior, but with their own judgment as well. Make sure that they know that you’ll be there for them through it all.