Everyone has a less than cheery side. It’s what makes us human. There are days when we simply feel “off,” perhaps preferring to be alone with our thoughts. On those occasions, we might be more easily annoyed.
But what happens when our reaction reveals more than mere annoyance? What does it mean when we go off the deep end, putting our relationship(s) in peril?
Taking a closer look at what triggers us (and our partners) can allow insight to guiding whether we stay or exit the union.
There’s this concept of the Dark Triad and it helps us to see how specific personality traits are destructive in our relationships (not to mention to ourselves).
As Savvy Psychologist, Dr. Monica Johnson outlines in her article, Beware the Dark Triad in Your Relationship, the characteristics to look out for:
People who have a high level of psychopathy have low empathy for others, are callous in their actions, and tend to be impulsive and thrill-seeking. A psychopathic portrait would also include many hints of high risk-taking together with a lack of empathy. Someone who engages in a relationship and then gambles their partner’s retirement savings away on a doomed stock market without feeling bad about it is an example of psychopathic behavior.
Narcissus was a beautiful hunter in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection. But now, when we say that someone is narcissistic, we mean something more than just vanity. Someone with high levels of narcissism feels entitled to admiration, prestige, and high status, so much so that if they don’t get these things, they may lash out.
Niccolò Machiavelli was a 15th-century Italian politician famous for advising rulers to use deception and deviousness to maintain power. Nowadays, his name is synonymous with a person who schemes and manipulates people. People with this trait are strategic in their relationships, associating with people they can use to get more social status, wealth, or other things for their own gain.
Alongside the above trio, Dr. Johnson offers five tendencies of persons who rate high on the Dark Triad scale.
- Lying — “often deceptive, those higher on the dark triad continuum lie more often, and think of themselves as good at lying. More specifically, Machiavellianism is associated with telling more white lies, while narcissism is associated with lying about popularity and status. People with high levels of psychopathy are more likely to lie for no reason at all.”
- Infidelity — “it’s well-known that those high on the dark triad scale are more likely to cheat on romantic partners. This isn’t surprising given that they’re prone to impulsivity, care less about hurting others’ feelings, and are self-described good liars.”
- Jealousy & Revenge — “the thing about cheating is that cheaters are on the lookout for it to happen to themselves, too. Those with the dark triad have higher levels of preventive jealousy — that is, feeling jealous before they’ve been given reason to — than the average person. One study found that those with the dark triad are not only more likely to have cheated on a partner but also expect to be cheated on themselves. And if so, they’re more likely than the average person to want to take revenge, like shouting at their partner or spreading a rumor about them. Interestingly, the dark triad women in this study said that even though they would want revenge, they wouldn’t necessarily end the relationship if their partner cheated.”
- Superficiality — “it may not be surprising that, given their lack of true emotional devotion, people high on the dark triad scale don’t tend to choose seriously committed relationships. But people with more dark triad traits tend to make a habit of emotionally shallow relationships, both romantically (think booty calls) and with friends.”
- Longevity — “with all these not-so-glowing findings to recommend them, it’s no surprise that people with high dark triad traits don’t tend to have long-lasting relationships. Even if they wanted to stay in a long-term relationship, people with the dark triad have a hard time making it last. The biggest reason might be that they’re simply hard to get along with. The researchers who first coined the “dark triad” term noticed immediately that agreeableness — warmth, friendliness, tact — is the one thing everyone with these traits lacks.”
If we go with the assumption that our partner is not displaying the toxic behavior patterns outlined earlier, then it’s likely the relationship is worth saving. Or at least making efforts thereto.
Thinking of one’s dark side could mean that our significant other snaps at us when we ask a question. Knowing that under normal circumstances, our partner would not react harshly, we’re already in a position to inquire further.
Communication works wonders.
By being compassionate with our mate (and with ourselves) in gently inquiring about what’s going on and what caused their reaction, we’re opening the door to allow space for an honest conversation.
Sometimes, both persons involved need physical distance. Reacting in the moment, especially doing so less than compassionately, can only lead to resentment. We must remember that once bitter words are uttered, we cannot take them back.
Take a few deep breaths before speaking.
Another way to address the darker side of a lover is our body language. With unspoken cues like a soft smile or a soft gaze (direct eye contact), you’re letting them know that you’re being receptive without being aggressive.
Knowing that we are imperfect beings makes it easier to accept our partner’s flaws. A willingness to dig deeper to understand the darker side of another also allows us an opportunity for introspection.
We all have our moments when we are not at our best. Through compassion and self-love, we begin the journey towards healing ourselves and our unions. The key is to want to work toward making ourselves, as well as our relationships healthier.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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