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Be careful who you love . . .

How did we get into these painful relationships? What signs did we miss that would have tipped us off about our partner’s serious emotional problems? We all know now, looking backwards, when the particular behaviors began to surface, but could we have seen the tip of the iceberg behavior sooner?

J. Kent Griffiths, DSW, in his work Character Disorder, says, "We all have several of these traits on a bad day, but if you see a preponderance of these attributes in yourself or the person you're worried about, it may indicate what is called a personality disorder. We should work on overcoming these attributes and avoid people who possess many of them."


  • Low stress tolerance with explosive behavior.

  • Moody – switches from nice guy/gal to anger without much provocation.

  • Survive on threats and intimidation to keep others chained to them.

  • They do not take responsibility for their behavior.

  • They have to be right. They have to win. They have to look good.

  • Very slow to forgive others. They hang on to resentment.

  • Unable to sustain a totally faithful relationship with love partner.

  • Tendency to project their own shortcomings onto the world about them – frequent blaming. Never at fault.

  • Ready rationalization – rarely at a loss for words – twists conversation to divorce themselves from responsibility.

  • Glimpses of integrity and emotion are seen – but short-lived. They give you hope that they are changing, but return soon to deviant behavior.

  • In a trust relationship, inevitably betray and violate their commitments and get blocked emotionally when they get too close to those they say they love.

  • They have no concept of open sharing of ideas, feelings, emotions. Conversation goes per their direction. They have the last word always.

  • Can show tenderness of feeling, then return to customary behaviors. Two (or more) vastly different sides to their personality are seen.

  • They never seem to get enough of what they want. They leave others feeling drained and confused.

  • Highly contradictory. He loves me, he hates me. They threaten their partner with poverty, then indulge their partner or the relationship.

  • You end up feeling responsible for the problem. They get to your feelings. No matter what -- they win, you lose.

  • Attitude of “I’ll meet your needs if you meet mine. If you don’t, I’ll find someone else who will or I will not meet yours.”

  • They are so skilled at making a mountain out of a molehill, and you become so tired of the conflict. It drains all of your energy, love and hope.

  • Emotional immaturity. Behavior is not age appropriate.

  • Self-centeredness. They come first and foremost. Are insincere about real interest in other people.

  • Little if any remorse for mistakes

  • Poor judgment

  • Unreliability, undependability, irresponsibility

  • Inability to profit from experience – does not learn a lesson from making mistakes

  • Inability to postpone immediate gratification – what they want, they want now. Impulsive and demanding

  • Conflict with, or defiance of, authority

  • Lack of appreciation for the consequences of their actions

  • Little if any conscience

  • Behavior develops little sense of direction – often uninfluenced by concepts of right and wrong

  • Gives lip service to professed values and beliefs

  • Often involved with illegal or unethical acts

  • Shallow interpersonal skills – inability to experience and verbalize deep feelings and emotions. Often insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Cannot identify with how others feel.

  • Ability to put up a good front to impress and exploit others

  • Can con to get what they want to meet their needs, often at the expense of others.

  • The behavior is highly repetitious and many people are used.

  • They see others as pawns on a chess board. Maneuver people around for their own purposes. When done with others, they checkmate or reject them.

  • When they are trapped, they just keep talking or change the subject, or get angry.

  • Incapable of maintaining genuine loyalties to any person, group, or code

  • Chronic lying

  • Does/did poorly in school with attendance, grades, attitudes, and relationships with teachers. Was in conflict with parents over school performance.

  • Chip on shoulder attitude – cocky and arrogant

  • Rebellious to parents’ authority. Violates standards of the home frequently.

  • They cancel commitments without sound reason or warning.

  • They use friends for money, transportation, favors, time, attention, etc.

  • A taker – not a giver. They give for show and expect something in return.

  • They live life by avoiding responsibility vs. getting the job done.

  • Poor self-motivation – often described as lazy and listless. Lack ambition. Not helpful with routine chores.

  • Fun is the cornerstone of their lives.

  • Sexually curious or active. Place great importance on their sexual abilities. Sexual partners often feel used and demanded of.

  • Lack well-defined values.

  • They come across initially as caring and understanding and read others "like a book" because they make it their business to know how to maneuver people.

  • Angry mood most of the time.

  • They use sex to control, cover their insecurity or make up after a fight.

  • Poor planner with time and activity

  • Excessively concerned with personal appearance; e.g., hair, weight,  the car they drive, clothes, having money to flash, career dreaming

  • Seem to enjoy disturbing others. Like to agitate and disrupt for no apparent reason.

  • Feel entitled to the good life without working for it.

  • Others get upset when in their presence. There’s a feeling of guardedness, caution, and suspicion that they create in others.

  • Poor work history – quitting, being fired, interpersonal conflicts

  • They repeatedly fail to honor financial obligations. Do not pay the bills in a responsible and timely way.

  • Flirtatious, overly friendly. They make inappropriate sexual comments. 

  • They seldom express appreciation. Again, they are thinking of their needs not the needs of others.

  • Grandiose. Convinced that they know more than other people and are correct and right in almost all they say and do..

  • Clueless as to how they come across to others and to how they are viewed. They get defensive when confronted with their behavior. Never their fault. May be apologetic and seem sincere, but soon repeat the offensive behavior without appearing to have learned from it.

  • Motive for behavior is usually self-serving, and they do not recognize it.

  • Can get very emotional, even tearful, but behavior is more about show or frustration rather than contrition or sorrow.

  • They break their partner's spirit to keep them dependent.

  • Sabotage anything that makes their partner happy. Want partner to be happy only through them and to have few or no outside interests, friends or relationships with family.

  • They are always working somebody over – either subtly or aggressively - for a favor, deal, break, freebie, discount, etc.

  • Double standard. They're free to do their thing, but expect others to be what they want them to be, do what they want them to do.  They don't let others be themselves.

  • Convincing. Successful at getting other people to believe in their perception of a problem. Are adamant that people side with them vs. allowing people to feel or believe differently.

  • They hide who they really are from everyone. No one knows the real person inside.

  • They scorn everyone and everything that they disagree with. They do not allow for differences to be respected and they scorn the responsible world.

  • Difficult to pin them down to a certain level of integrity that you can live with. They resist all efforts to define their values, behaviors, standards.

  • Kind to you usually only if they are  getting from you what they want.

  • They announce, not discuss. They tell, not ask.

  • They do not discuss openly beforehand. You get to deal with after the fact information.

  • They control money of others but spend freely on themselves and others.

  • They win at the expense of your feelings. They think only of the end result without considering your feelings or needs in the process.

  • Unilateral condition of, "I’m OK and justified, so I don’t need to hear your position or ideas."

  • The hurt they describe is because they got caught, or they're mad that you’re mad, and not because they believe they made a mistake.

  • Secret life. You’re often wondering what they do or who they are that you don’t know about.

  • They always feel misunderstood.

  • Most of the time you feel miserable living with this person. When it’s good, you relish the peace, but that is usually short lived.

  • Are usually through listening once they've made their arguments.

  • You talk about their feelings, not yours.

  • Unchallenged by others because people seem to be put off by them, afraid of them, or they are elusive.

  • Are not interested in problem-solving openly.

  • Seem very interested in discerning personalities, so that they can strategize how to manipulate them.

  • They determine how, when, where we talk, and about what they want to talk about.

  • Pervasively insecure. Covers it by over-talking, over-controlling, or over-indulging, but seldom if ever owns and works through his insecurity.

  • Labels all mental health providers as quacks if he cannot out-smart them or if they figure him out. Does not last long in therapy.

  • Try this one: ask him what behaviors or attributes he needs to overcome or change. Expect denial or a lot of rambling words that mean nothing.

  • Expect narcissistic rage if called on his behavior.

  • Remember that he can only love one person at a time – and that person is himself.

  • Poor listener. Easily distracted and avoidant. Changes the subject. Cannot reflect back with sincerity on what the other person has said.

  • When he’s with people, the presentation is Here I am rather than there you are.

  • The underlying attitudes are like the guy who says to his girlfriend (after he’s been talking excessively about himself), “Oh, enough about me. What do you think about me?”

  • The ultimate goal is to have power over others.

  • They are the bad boys of our societies. Women are charmed by their slick words and looks, compliments and wild edge lifestyle. Women often divorce them and then remarry another character disordered person.


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