A person with an INFJ personality is first and foremost an introvert. This means he or she often prefers staying in to going out, and solitude to socializing. This can make things difficult when the INFJ wants to meet someone new. The thought of making small talk with a group of unfamiliar people can be enough to make an introvert scrap the idea of forming a romantic relationship altogether.
Enter the sociopath. The term conjures images of people like John Gacy, Ted Bundy, or Jeffrey Dahmer. But not every sociopath is a serial killer. Sociopaths share common traits like failing to conform to the rules of society and deceitfulness, but they are also intelligent, charismatic, and charming. Their intelligence allows them to engage in deep conversations about abstract concepts, something INFJs crave with their whole being. The sociopath is a master at manipulation and will attempt to play on the INFJ’s emotions until he successfully charms her into a relationship that he can exploit to his full advantage.
(Please note: I’m using the pronouns “he” and “she” only as an example. Both sociopaths and INFJs can be any gender. And, although this article explores the relationship between the INFJ and the sociopath, INFJs are not the only Myers-Briggs personality type who may become entangled with sociopaths.)
Let’s take a look at how a relationship between an INFJ and a sociopath might unfold, plus why INFJs may keep trying to save the relationship long after others would call it quits.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
The INFJ and the Sociopath in a Relationship
The INFJ is caring and empathetic. Her life’s mission is to help other people solve problems, so when the sociopath tells her that his landlord unfairly evicted him from his apartment, the INFJ is quick to offer him a place to stay. The sociopath may spin an elaborate tale that plays on the INFJ’s sympathies. The more solutions that the INFJ offers, the wilder the sociopath’s story becomes until it seems that there is no other solution than to have the sociopath move in permanently.
When the sociopath says that moving has put a strain on him financially, the INFJ’s selfless nature may move her to reach into her wallet to lend him money. Then the sociopath gets into a car accident. It seems that the insurance company has raised his rates, so the master manipulator once again spins the situation to his advantage. He tells the INFJ that if she covers him under her insurance, not only will it be cheaper for him, but she will also get a multi-car discount. The INFJ has high levels of empathy, so she is once again eager to help. She may not see that the sociopath is creating a situation that takes responsibilities away from him, and puts them on her.
By the time the sociopath has failed to kick in his share of the car insurance payment, the INFJ has also seen other irresponsible and deceitful behaviors. Kind and caring, the INFJ may not give the sociopath an ultimatum. Instead, she seeks to find the reason for the sociopath’s irresponsibility. She believes that if she can make a connection between the cause of the sociopath’s behavior, and a solution to his problem, she can come up with a plan to fix the situation.
Sociopaths engage in risky behaviors with no concern for the consequences they bring. So it’s not surprising that many sociopaths have problems with drugs and alcohol. The INFJ may liken his substance abuse to an illness, because this reasoning aligns with her empathetic nature. The INFJ’s passion and devotion to causes may lead her to put all her energy into finding a cure for the sociopath’s illness.
Supportive Caretaker vs. Codependent Enabler
This is where the actions of the well-intentioned INFJ begin to walk the fine line between supportive caretaker and codependent enabler. Codependency is a term for a dysfunctional relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, immaturity, or irresponsibility. The codependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of the person who is “sick.”
And this comes at a huge cost. When codependents place other people’s health, welfare, and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self. The Extroverted Feeling function (Fe) of the INFJ allows her to tune her behavior to the needs of the sociopath, so the more changes the INFJ implements in an effort to help the sociopath, the more codependent the relationship becomes.
The INFJ enjoys seeing a project to completion. Unfortunately for the INFJ, her efforts to cure the sociopath’s addiction will never be complete. Addiction is a symptom of antisocial personality disorder, and there is no cure for the disorder itself. As with any form of substance abuse, the addict has to want to change, and since a sociopath has no regard for the risks associated with drug abuse, it is unlikely that finding a solution to the problem is something that he will actively seek.
The harder the INFJ pushes for sobriety, the more hostile, irritable, agitated, and aggressive the sociopath will become. When the INFJ asks him where he’s been, he may criticize her for being paranoid. When she denies him access to her money, he may chastise her for being too controlling. When she refuses to cover for his indiscretions, he may complain that she’s not being supportive. For the INFJ who seeks to please others, the constant conflict can become almost unbearable, and she may do just about anything to keep the peace.
The INFJ’s Breaking Point
Fortunately for the INFJ, she also has a breaking point. When her need for personal growth, emotional intimacy, and shared values have been met with deception, betrayal, and hurt, she will react with an explosion of negative emotions. Her natural problem-solving abilities will eventually turn to solving a new issue; how to escape from the codependent relationship with the sociopath.
The INFJ will realize that putting out a hundred sparks will not stop her house from burning unless she does something about the giant bonfire in the middle of the living room. She may react by lashing out at the sociopath, or cutting him out of her life completely — what’s referred to as “the INFJ door slam.”
Often the catalyst for this change comes from realizing that the codependent relationship is having an adverse affect on others in the INFJ’s life. Being a devoted and caring parent, the INFJ will be quick to stop any action that threatens the safety of her children even if it means upsetting the sociopath that has taken so much of her time and energy.
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When the INFJ has had enough, her otherwise warm and caring nature can turn cold and distant. Her interactions with the sociopath may become blunt and judgmental. This dark side of the INFJ personalitysurfaces when she can no longer tolerate the emotional pain of the toxic relationship.
To the sociopath, it may seem like this behavior has come out of nowhere, but for the INFJ, it comes after intense contemplation of the many wrongs that have exhausted her patience. Though leaving a toxic and abusive relationship comes with its own challenges, the dark side of the INFJ is stubborn and intense. She will turn her attention towards a future where the sociopath no longer controls her emotions. Drawing on her Introverted Intuition, she will process what she has learned from this relationship and will finally have the closure that she seeks.
Are You in a Relationship with a Sociopath?
Antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, but as with any condition, there are signs and symptoms to watch for, such as:
- Sociopaths are fast talkers. They will switch back and forth between charm and threats to get what they want from you.
- They do not take responsibility for their actions. They will place blame on everyone but themselves.
- They will play the part of the victim and try to exploit your sympathy.
While these are some common signs, the easiest way to tell if you are dealing with a sociopath is to focus on their behavior rather than their words. The sociopath may tell you that they care about you, but if they were unable to speak, would their actions let you know? If the answer is no, you might be in a relationship with a sociopath. So what do you do about it?
- End the relationship. Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult disorders to treat because the sociopath has to want to change. The disorder itself makes them unable to see that they are the problem. Trust me on this; as much as you’d like to, you can’t fix them!
- Leave. If you share a residence, it’s better to get out now and cut your losses. Stay with a friend or relative until you can secure a permanent place without the sociopath’s name on the lease. If the sociopath lives in your home, be prepared to have a law enforcement officer escort them off the premises, and file a restraining order if needed.
- If you are in a situation that requires you to still associate with the sociopath, such as when children are involved, try to keep communication to only what is necessary. Use text messaging instead of phone calls whenever possible.
- If you must communicate with the sociopath, do so calmly and without passion. The sociopath will most likely try to provoke you into an argument or debate that will toy with your emotions. Do not engage! The best way to discourage them is to not play their game.
- Seek help. When you are ready to leave, the sociopath will play the victim. They will try to convince others that you have treated them unfairly. The more people who know your side of the story, the more difficult it will be for them to drag your name through the mud. Seek support from friends, family, law enforcement, and legal help when necessary. Find a support group for survivors of sociopaths and narcissists or speak to a mental health counselor about your feelings.
If you think you may be dealing with codependency, or need help escaping an abusive relationship, call 1-800-799-SAFE.