In a world of Facebook “likes” and online dating questionnaires that seem to narrow down the soul-mate search to a simple (and yet oh so witty!) checklist of wants and needs, it’s easy to focus on the superficial ways in which we do or don’t connect with each other. And granted, that stuff can make or break a first date, and can be indicative of a long-term connection. We both love darts! He’s got a flat butt too! Another unabashed Miley Cyrus fan?! Still, superficial connections have a tendency to mask bedsheet-sized red flags. Like, oh, say, the fact that your date is a raging narcissist. So we turned to Gordon Livingston, M.D., author of the book How to Love: Choosing Well at Every Stage of Life, and asked him to weigh on the, well, weightier issues. Specifically, seven personality types that you should avoid in your search for Mr./Ms. Right. Even if said Mr./Ms. performs the best damn air guitar solo you’ve ever seen.
1. The Self-Absorbed Hysteric
These so-called “histrionic” people often describe themselves as “passionate and emotional.” Their primary drive is to be the center of attention. Their self-absorption and superficiality make it hard for them to engage in the give and take of healthy relationships. Danger signals that one is in the presence of a self-absorbed “hysteric” include shallowness and a more or less constant need to be the focus of attention. It is just very hard for them to get beyond their own needs to consider their obligations to others, even their own children.
2. The Narcissist
It should not be hard to recognize people who manifest a grandiose sense of self-importance, and yet they cause untold heartache. In a culture where physical attractiveness and self-confidence are highly valued, their glibness and stories of success are initially appealing. Commonly intelligent, they are able to feign interest in others so that their lack of empathy may take time to become apparent. Think of those people you know who exhibit a sense that they are so special that they are outraged when anyone places constraints upon them, who have difficulty participating in conversations that do not center on them, and who convey in ways large and small the fact that everyone else exists primarily to meet their needs and desires. Not good candidates for a lasting relationship, that’s for sure.
3. The Sociopath
If we see others only as objects to be manipulated for our own pleasure or gain, we are sociopaths and operating outside our culture’s laws and norms. Sociopaths are unconstrained by feelings of attachment or loyalty, see life as a game, and are motivated only by a need for power and control. Unfortunately, such people are usually glib, charming, and able to draw others to them. Their defining characteristic is a capacity for deceit. Once it begins to dawn on you that they are so self-centered that no concept such as the rights and needs of others ever crosses their mind, they begin to seem like people from another planet.
4. The Clinging Dependent
Here we have people whose primary need is to be taken care of. They have trouble making decisions; they require constant reassurance from others. In return they are self-sacrificing to a fault. They are prepared to tolerate all manner of mistreatment, emotional and physical. They fear abandonment and cling to those they see as reliable sources of strength and support. Are you prepared to be the sole emotional refuge of another?