The five things to look out for if you think your partner is a psychopath.

There were too many questions we had for David Gillespie when he came into the office for an interview with Mia Freedman about the science of psychopaths.

David has recently written a book, Taming Toxic People: The Science of Identifying and Dealing With Psychopaths At Work and At Home, and it left us intrigued. But most all, curious to know how to pick a psychopath out of the crowd.

Or even, how to know if the person you love is a psychopath.

Mia: Tell me how psychopaths behave in romantic relationships.

David: Psychopaths don’t change their behaviour just because they’re at home. They’re all about control, about micromanagement and reporting. They don’t trust their partner at all. They are people who need to be controlled at all times. In their mind, their partner is a possession who needs to be controlled at all times.

David Gillespie explains what happens when a psychopath has a child. (Post continues after audio.)

As soon as their partner stops being useful as a possession, a source of money or power, the psychopath doesn’t need them anymore. Either, they will just walk away or they will abuse them because there’s no reason not to.

Mia: If I’m in a relationship with a psychopath or I suspect I am, what might I notice is happening?

David: Well, it’ll be really clear in the relationship. They’ll probably be very charming at first, and it absolutely will be the most-accelerated relationship you’ve ever had.

They will seem absolutely perfect. Upfront, they will tell you exactly what you want to hear and they will be the best lover you’ve ever had.


They’re more likely to be the ones that will approach the women who intimidate other men. Psychopaths believe they are entitled to the best of everything, so it’s a challenge for them.

They will be charming. Fast. And, not intimidated by anyone.

Why not choose the best looking or most appealing possession in the room? Surprisingly, that person won't always be the captain of the football team or the hottest person, but it will be the person who moves them socially upward.

Mia: People often say psychopaths are especially good-looking. Is that true? 

David: When studies are done on this, with objective testing and people don't know the photo they are looking at, there doesn't appear to be any particular bias towards psychopaths. It's, once again, them telling you what you want to hear and what you want to know.

Mia: So, it's all happening very fast. I'm in love. He says he's in love, he wants to introduce me to his family, he's talking about our future. What happens next?

David: Once you're committed, they have locked you into a relationship so you can't leave. They made have made you pregnant, you're married, shared banking accounts or shared possessions.

They will probably move into your home and use your possessions and resources. That will most likely happen because of some unfortunate event, which has drained them away. Their partner will help them get back on their feet, so they'll be moving in with you, using your car.

Once that's happened, then they have no particular need to maintain the facade unless you look like you're going to walk. That's probably the final sign - they will drop the facade once they feel you are under their control.


Mia: How do you get away? 

David: Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good answers for this, particularly if you have children with them or shared money. They will use the fact that you are emotionally attached to the children to manipulate you and bind you to a relationship.

You should work to slowly disentangling yourself and separating yourself. Ultimately, with the plan of getting out there and never coming back.

You can listen to the full interview with David Gillespie - honestly, it has our whole office talking - right here. (Post continues after audio.)

Mia: What would a psychopath do if they caught you squirrelling money away? 

David: Leaving them is a risk. Don't get caught applying for other jobs, don't get caught squirrelling money away or having an exit plan. They are extraordinarily vengeful.

If they have access to lots of resources and money, they might enact legal revenge or nasty rumours. Sometimes, it might just be hitting you.

Mia: Are psychopaths more likely to be violent, than not?

David: Yes. There're two things at play here. The first is, they do experience volatile, intense emotion that empaths will control with higher order thinking. Psychopaths don't control. So, if something is making them angry they will react instinctively with anger. Sometimes they do that for

Sometimes, they do that for a show, as a means of manipulating you. Sometimes they really mean it.

Either way, they're not going to stop just because you're hurt.

If you or someone you care about is living with family violence please call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit for further information.

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