Almost every expert or victim who writes about psychopaths mentions their Jekyll and Hyde personalities. The Jekyll side usually diminishes over time. The Hyde side reveals itself when you discover what he’s been doing behind your back. Those discoveries are usually just the tip of the iceberg, since psychopaths are excellent at hiding their bad deeds and, when caught, lying about them. The Hyde side also rears its ugly head in disagreements, which sometimes take a violent turn, or in what the psychopath tells others about you and those you care about. Psychopaths are master manipulators and run excellent smear campaigns.
Equally commonly, the Hyde side shows up in the implicit or explicit threats: if you don’t do x, y and z to bend to the psychopath’s will, he will replace you with other women or abandon you.
While in the beginning of romantic relationships psychopaths tend to be mostly polished, charming Dr. Jekylls, after about six months to a year they disclose more and more their inner Hyde. In fact, the vast difference between the honeymoon phase and the harsh reality is one the most unsettling aspects of being romantically involved with a psychopath. It’s also what tends to scar victims most, because eventually they realize that the entire relationship, from start to finish, was a fraud. It’s like coming crashing down from great (but artificial) heights to unbelievable (and very real) lows. That really hurts!
This is why vast inconsistencies in your partner’s behavior should be taken seriously, early on. They’re an obvious red flag in any romantic relationship. Somebody who treats you nicely but speaks badly of other women or, worse yet, mistreats other women will eventually mistreat and disrespect you as well. That’s not just because past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, as they say. It’s also because bad behavior towards previous partners reflects bad character.
Generally speaking, psychopaths tend to be great at putting up a front, or a mask, of normal behavior: often of better than normal behavior, in fact! We’ve seen that they’re charming, sociable, friendly, funny, loads of fun: particularly in superficial contact. But because deep inside they have malicious natures and bad intentions, they usually can’t maintain that kind of charismatic front in long-term relationships, consistently, over time. This is why their true nature tends to show up most in their intimate relationships with their wives, families or long-term lovers.
To be clear: a psychopath is not, in fact, a Jekyll and Hyde personality. He does not have a good side and a bad side. For a psychopath, Dr. Jekyll is only a mask of sanity; Mr. Hyde is who he really is, inside. This is why over time you begin to see inconsistencies in behavior, or oscillations between the real Hyde nature and the Dr. Jekyll front. As Sandra Brown and Liane Leedom explain:
“What really occurs is that the women fall in love with a life-size cardboard cut out which is a ‘look-a-like’ of a real man. These are the cardboard cutouts of life-size people you see in Blockbuster Video. The psychopath and the stage of luring are as shallow and phony as the cut out. With a complete straight face, he can say one thing and do another, do something and say the opposite, or say and do the opposite of what he did last week. These dichotomies produce serious distress in the women because of the chronic instability in the relationship. As they try to align themselves with his belief system, he shifts. As they try to align with his behavior or promises, these shift.” (Women Who Love Psychopaths, 119)
Dr. Jekyll usually comes out to play with buddies, co-workers, employees, students, etc: people with whom the psychopath maintains relatively superficial relationships. Dr. Jekyll also becomes Don Juan–an incredibly seductive lover–in the beginning of some romantic relationships, when a psychopath wants to put on the best possible image in order to conquer a woman, heart, body and soul. But since his positive image is only an illusion, he can’t maintain it over time, in intimate relationships. The real psychopath–a person who is domineering, deceptive, manipulative and cold–reveals itself more and more over time. This transformation from the phony Dr. Jekyll to the real Mr. Hyde occurs in the psychopathic bond for four main reasons:
a) the positive traits are not real parts of a psychopath’s true character
b) as the romantic relationship deepens it also loses its novelty and excitement, so the psychopath invests less and less energy in putting up a front of romance and charm and keeping straight the tangled web of lies
c) psychopaths enter romantic relationships to dominate others, which in turn leads them to engage in increasingly abusive and controlling behavior with their partners
d) to control you, psychopaths engage in Pavlovian conditioning: the carrot and the stick. At first, to lure you and gain your trust you see a lot of carrot. The more control they gain over you, the more they no longer feel the need to reward your “good” behavior (i.e., complying to their will) and resort to giving you the stick (all sorts of punishments, ranging from threats, to cheating, to criticism, to periods of abandonment or emotional withdrawal followed by reconciliations, to physical violence). In other words, they will dish out whatever you will put up with.
The realization that Dr. Jekyll was, in reality, always Mr. Hyde is very difficult to accept. It means coming to terms with the fact that the past was an illusion. It means accepting that even the good memories are lies. It means understanding that some human beings have no real qualities: that they are irredeemably bad. But only once you face this harsh reality–rather than focusing on the positive memories of the Dr. Jekyll facade and struggling to get the psychopath to be nice to you again–can you become strong enough to move on with your life.
This article Dating Jekyll and Hyde Personalities was published on Psychopathy Awareness and it is re-posted here with kind permission and attribution to the author’s bio (Claudia Moscovici, Holocaust Memories)
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