Have You Heard Of The Dark Triad?

Marriage Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Despite what some people think of themselves, nobody’s perfect. Although this is such an obvious truth, some people act as if they’re pretty darn close to the mark. If you’ve been in a relationship with a person who acts with an air of superiority, you may have realized it can be a telltale sign of narcissism. Narcissists often act as if they’re not only superior but entitled. Of course, that behavior is often simply hiding a fear of inadequacy.

We’ve written a bit about dealing with a narcissist in a romantic relationship, and the best advice may simply be to try to avoid getting involved with one in the first place.

There are other kinds of people it might also be wise to avoid getting involved with. If you’ve dated or had a long-term relationship with someone who is truly manipulative, to the point of deceiving you at times, you know how disheartening that relationship can be. There is, in fact,  a term to describe that behavior — Machiavellianism — coined after the famous Italian philosopher who wrote The Prince and has since become synonymous with political scheming.

These two personality types may have a strong challenger to the title of worst partner to get involved with — and that’s the psychopath. Psychopathy is a term that describes a serious lack or even total absence of empathy. Psychopaths generally come across as stone-cold emotionless.

While anyone with any one of these three traits can be nearly intolerable in a relationship, there’s another personality type that takes the hat trick: it’s a type that began to be researched about 20 years ago. Described as the Dark Triad, it refers to someone who has all three of the traits above  — narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

“People with dark triad traits rate high in their willingness to exploit anyone to get ahead and experience little remorse when they cause harm to others,” writes Stephanie Booth on Health.com. “They can also be deceitful and aggressive.” Although it’s not an official diagnosis (yet), evidence is growing that it’s a combination more common than anyone might imagine.

 There may be a reason that only fairly recent research has pinpointed this personality: people with the dark triad can be masters at hiding their true feelings, using charm and flattery to disguise their motives.

Fortunately, research is also revealing signs that are common to someone with the dark triad. Booth goes on to list four behaviors to watch for.

An Inability To Sustain Long-Term Relationships. No matter how well someone charms and flatters other people, eventually actions speak louder than words. Over time a person with the dark triad will be seen for what they really are — cold manipulators who are deeply selfish. Romantic partners, friends and business associates simply won’t put up with that behavior over the long haul. The result? Broken relationships.

A History of Being a ‘Victim’ in Relationships and in Life. If a person has the dark triad, challenging their behavior can make them feel threatened and cornered. Their reaction is often to try and turn the tables and portray themselves as the victim.

Inconsistencies in Their Stories. People with dark triad traits have no shame in lying. But that tangled web is hard to keep straight over time. If the details of a person’s past life keep changing, consider it a red flag.

A Chronic Need to Be Fulfilled. With a basic feeling of inadequacy, people with the dark triad are constantly looking to others for fulfillment. “These people often feel like the victim, express disappointment, are never satisfied, and continually search for fulfillment,” writes Booth. Those are close to hopeless traits. Which leads to an almost inescapable conclusion: If you’re involved with a person who more and more seems to have the dark triad, seriously consider ending the relationship.