Watch out for the dark triad in the dating world

Hands up who has heard of the dark triad? It may well be the first time you’ve come across the term but it’s well worth getting clued up on what it refers to in case you ever come across a dark triad in the dating world.  

The dark triad is used to describe people who possess distinct yet overlapping personality traits. These are Machiavellianism (being cunning and manipulative), psychopathy, and narcissism.

While it may initially seem like it would be easy to spot somebody with this combination of personality traits, be warned, it is trickier than you think. Their behaviour can be highly attractive to the opposite sex, often coming across as confident and charming. They may come into your life with a bang, sweeping you off your feet with their flattery and larger-than-life charisma and gestures. Image is of the upmost importance to them, and they will be impeccably turned out. People with the dark triad personality type can be very successful, working in high-powered leadership positions or within the political world. Your response to their behaviour at the beginning of the relationship can be addictive – you fall in love with how they make you feel.

So why is all this problematic? To fully understand the dark triad and how it plays out in the dating landscape, we’ve taken a closer look at each of the personality traits and what they mean.

Machiavellianism: In a nutshell it’s somebody with a manipulative personality,who is calculated, strategic and willing to deceive people to get what they want.

Psychopathy: This trait (when sub-clinical) refers to being reckless and prone to taking big risks while lacking in empathy and being emotionally cold.

Narcissism: Narcissists are usually characterised as self-important and entitled. They have a strong need for admiration and high status, demanding special treatment while talking about themselves all the time. Image is everything to a narcissist, theirs and yours.

The situation is also complicated by the fact dark triad personalities vary and there is a scale to how much the respective traits exhibit. However, the cracks will eventually begin to show as the dark triad struggles to keep up the persona you’ve fallen for, eventually revealing their true self. Dark triad personalities don’t feel emotions the same way other people do so they play a role to win your affection, knowing their flattery, gifts and complements have a good chance of winning you over. Be warned though, people with a high scale of dark triad traits will be manipulative, play games and toy with your heart in order to control the relationship. In short, it’s a mix which can do serious damage to your relationship and your emotional wellbeing.

It’s common for them to start purposely pulling away after flooding you with attention and affection, which can result in you lowering your boundaries in a bid to win their affection back. Gaslighting is a common problem, where you’re left questioning yourself as they mislead you by creating a false narrative of what’s really happening. The situation becomes particularly problematic if you have low self-esteem or you are going through an emotionally vulnerable period as you are far more likely to be susceptible to the advances of somebody with these negative qualities.

When it comes to handling the dark triad, it pays to trust your gut feeling. If you have a niggling feeling you just don’t trust somebody, listen to your instinct. it can be hard to listen to your internal worries if you are in a vulnerable spot, as it’s so easy to be swept away by their advances and enjoy their attention. However, if their actions don’t align with what they are saying, it can pay to have the courage to walk away. You are better off being on your own than to be with somebody who is manipulative and emotionally abusive.

Unfortunately, it’s not a solution to try and change their behaviour, because it is highly unlikely it will change. Dark triads can be entitled, arrogant, with a strong self-belief – and this leopard won’t change its spots. If you are in a relationship with a dark triad and it’s eroding your self-esteem and happiness, it pays to involve friends and family to give you the strength to get out and stay out. A support system and plan of action can help you stick to your guns and to avoid the manipulative behaviour of a partner who may try hard to make you stay. It is possible to have a fulfilling relationship with a dark triad, you just need to have the tools in place to manage them and protect your emotions.

It’s key to believe there is somebody out there who will love you for who you are and will be the real deal. This person won’t overwhelm you at the start of the relationship with grand gestures, instead they’ll take the time to really get to know the real you. You need to be with somebody who respects your boundaries and whose boundaries you respect – this will keep you strong and in a respectful relationship.

Dannielle Haig is an International Business Coach and Principal Business Psychologist at DH Consulting.

If you are looking for a relationship with somebody who’ll truly appreciate you for who you are, give the team at Ignite Dating a call. We are experts at introducing you to people who will really share your aspirations, family values and outlook on life. We work closely with you to find your perfect partner, and together make steps towards the ultimate goal of a committed relationship.