Relationships

9 Common Phrases Sociopaths Might Use On The People They Love

"You owe me.”

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Sociopaths are known for their lack of empathy. When they form relationships with others, they usually have a self-serving motivation for it. Spotting sociopathic tendencies right away isn't easy. In fact, sociopathy is often viewed as a spectrum, so the dynamic will be slightly different for every individual. However, according to experts, there are some behaviors and phrases sociopaths may commonly use on the people in their lives, even people they “love” — which begs the question, can sociopaths fall in love?

Despite what you may initially think, sociopaths can experience love. “While sociopath is not a diagnosis (psychologists tend to diagnose antisocial personality disorder, which shares some commonalities), it is possible that sociopaths can love in a relationship — in their own way,” Dr. Judy Ho, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist, explains to Bustle. Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a mental health condition characterized by irrational behavior and a difficulty maintaining relationships with others. Experts believe it affects between 1% and 4% of people in the U.S.

When sociopaths or people with ASDP do get close to someone, they show their love in unconventional ways. “This usually involves loving someone who helps them to feel better about themselves (someone of a high status, for example, or someone who adores them and will do anything for them),” Dr. Ho says. “It may also involve loving someone for the sake of transaction or a goal. They will get into a relationship with someone and say they love the person, but really it’s to get at their bank accounts or some other thing that helps the sociopath reach one of their goals.”

The answer to “can sociopaths love?” is a nuanced one, because the love they experience looks and feels different than what most others understand as love. As Dr. Darrel Turner, president of Turner Psychology, tells Bustle, "For the sociopath, the experience of love is much more shallow and less meaningful." They view relationships in "self-serving terms," so they're more likely to see their partner as a "trophy" rather than someone they love and are committed to.

More often than not, their partner will describe a relationship with them as "cold" or "distant." When a sociopath is in a relationship, they may use certain phrases that will help them to control or manipulate their partner. "Sociopaths are innately manipulative; they cannot help themselves," Dr. Turner says. "In some cases this is deliberate on their part, but very often it is an unconscious act — almost a reflex. They can’t help but be destructive to their partners, and in many instances they enjoy the challenge of ‘breaking’ the other person. The stronger and more independent that person is, the better." Basically, it can be a game for them.

Often sociopaths can seem totally nice, charming, and otherwise like anybody else at first, so it can make it difficult to spot the red flags. But according to experts, here are some common phrases sociopaths are likely to use on the people they love.

1

"Nobody gets me like you do."

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"It’s important to realize that they do 'feel' certain things, but they are limited," Laney Zukerman, relationship coach and author, tells Bustle. A sociopathic person can feel basic emotions such as pain, anger, sexual attraction, pleasure, and interest. However, these feelings are often "glib and fleeting," she says. So when a sociopath uses a phrase like, "nobody gets me like you do," they may actually mean it. But don't read too much into that — there's usually no hidden meaning behind it, and they may consider it a low-key way of expressing their emotions.

2

"I've never felt this way about anyone before."

Coming from anyone else, this line may seem like a sweet declaration of love. But coming from a sociopath, this is a phrase that may be used to further their agenda. "There is no real depth to their words," Zukerman says. That being said, sociopaths can be highly intelligent. They know what people like to hear, so they'll usually say things in the moment to get people on their side. According to Zuckerman, "lying is like breathing" to many sociopaths. It makes them look good and gets them what they want in the moment.

3

"No one loves you like I do."

A sociopathic person will do anything to get someone on their side, including appealing to what they know to be common aspects of love or relationships. “Sociopaths can be very charming in a relationship and even very caring towards their partner, but if you anger them or put them down (or they perceive that is what you’re doing), they can turn on a dime and use manipulation to make you feel guilty or to make you do something for their benefit,” Dr. Ho explains.

By building up their partner with phrases of love and appreciation, they can manipulate them into staying around, even as they also tear them down. “They may also show shallow affect, meaning they will display loving actions and affection, but they don’t actually feel those emotions on the inside,” Dr. Ho says. “A sociopath may tear their partner down and make them feel bad about themselves and tell them things like, ‘no one loves you like I do,’ to discourage them from leaving.”

4

"You're lucky to have me.”

When a sociopath isn't buttering someone up with compliments, they might turn on them by saying things that make the other feel less than. "No one is ever going to love you the way I do" or "I could do better" are just a couple of common phrases a sociopath will say, licensed clinical psychologist and author, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., tells Bustle. "Once they have satisfied their need, their tendency is to discard people, or simply show them no more warmth," she says.

5

"You owe me.”

Sociopaths usually form relationships with people in order to get what they want — be it power, sex, money, status, and so on. "They have little capacity for intimacy, mutuality, and reciprocity in a close relationship," Dr. Durvasula says. So it's very common for them to keep score in their relationships.

6

"I already did this for you. What more do you want?”

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Since sociopaths only put forth effort if there's something in it for them, they're quick to react in a negative way if their partner asks for something in return. "If not physical abuse, their relationships are frequently characterized by verbal and emotional abuse, frequent yelling, [and] saying insulting or degrading things," Dr. Turner says. It's not uncommon for them to become a completely different person when they get angry. They turn on their partners fairly quickly, especially if they already took what they want from them or the relationship. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.

7

"I don’t have time for this.”

Sociopaths are all about doing things that make themselves look good. Because of that, Zukerman says they'll use phrases that deflect responsibility away from them. Ultimately, they don’t care if you are hurt by something they did. “Generally, sociopaths do not care about the feelings of others and they are less concerned about who they might hurt or step on on their way to reaching their goal,” Dr. Ho says. “They don’t express empathy, and if they do, it’s usually a put-on emotion that they don’t feel but are doing so in order to fit in with society and get what they want out of another person.”

8

“You’re the best.”

"A sociopath's motive is power, control, and dominance no matter what the cost," Zukerman says. Showering their target with compliments, such as, "you're the best" or "you're the most beautiful person I've ever seen” is just one of their go-to manipulation tricks. "They'll often use charm to lure their targets, and it works," she says. While this may be a sincere compliment coming from someone else, note if something doesn't feel right or if the person is laying it on thick.

9

“I want to spend every second with you.”

Another common behavior of a sociopath in a relationship is trying to separate their partner from other people, but they will do so in a way that sounds like it’s coming from a place of love. “They may isolate their partner from friends and family so that they won’t be susceptible to being questioned by anyone,” Dr. Ho says. “They may be very controlling and act like the partner is a reflection of them and therefore control all of their partner’s actions, how they dress, [and] who they spend time with.”

Keep in mind that these phrases and behaviors were provided by experts who have studied and observed sociopathic tendencies through their work. If someone you know uses these phrases, it doesn't necessarily mean they're a sociopath. Context matters. It really depends on their motivation behind saying it, among other things. Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to have this information so you can be aware of the warning signs. If you are worried that someone close to you is exhibiting manipulative behaviors, it may help to talk to a licensed mental health professional who can help you understand how to set the boundaries you need.

Experts:

Dr. Judy Ho, Ph.D., clinical and forensic neuropsychologist

Dr. Darrel Turner, president of Turner Psychology

Laney Zukerman, relationship coach and author

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D, licensed clinical psychologist and author

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