Women Who Love Psychopaths (2008) looks into the pathological relationship patterns between women and psychopaths.
Sandra Brown says that some psychopathic traits can be attractive and, in particular, they can be attractive to women who also have some specific character traits.
About The Author: Sandra L. Brown holds a master’s degree in counseling from the Liberty University and she is the CEO of ” The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education”. I couldn’t find much information about it except for its Facebook page.
In any case, the author has focused her studies and work on pathological relationships with dark triad men, especially psychopaths and sociopaths, and women.
1. Dangerous Men Have Low or No Empathy
The book focuses on 3 of the Cluster B Disorders:
- Narcissistic Personality Disorders
Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) includes both sociopaths and psychopaths.
My Note: BPD is different
In my personal view, it’s a mistake to include here the Borderline Personality Disorder, both because they are quite different, and because the book mostly discusses predatory behavior.
Furthermore, narcissism should include “unprincipled narcissists” and not any other types.
That being said, I liked the author’s idea of grouping and simplifying the dangerous men she describes in the “low/no empathy and conscience” category.
Brown says that one does not need to be a full-fledged psychopath or diagnosed as one.
A few traits can be enough for a harmful and toxic relationship.
2. Psychopaths Seek Power
Psychopaths seek power.
But, contrary to most other people, they are much more likely to find pleasure in using their power destructively (Rieber and Vetter, 1994).
Psychopaths enjoy power the most when it induces victimization, and that’s what makes them highly dangerous.
However, how they get what they want must not always and necessarily be through violence.
It can be covert aggression, control through paranoid jealousy, passive aggression, guilt-tripping or, the author says, even pathetic neediness.
Here is a real-life example of guilt-tripping and pathetic neediness:
And it was working.
So you must be careful when people appeal to you as their only possible savior.
You must walk that line where you want to help people, but you don’t want to help them to sucker you down.
3. Psychopaths Present A (Fake) Successful Image
Sure, many men lie and play games, but the psychopath hides some true malignant personality.
Many psychopaths like to present themselves as truly successful. Some even are successful.
But many just fake it and, in some cases, also recruit the help of others for their lies and fabrications.
Some psychopaths can be found in professions that imply empathy, like medicine, theology, or psychology. So don’t be swayed by the job title.
4. Traits of Women Who Love Psychopaths
These are the traits of the women who love psychopaths;
- Extraversion and excitement-seeking
- Relationship investment and positive sociability
- Concern for having others’ high regard
- Harm avoidance
The author goes into detail on why they matter and why they are at such high risk for pathological relationships.
I will quickly review them here:
- High extraversion: women who love psychopaths also chase fun, novelty and dislike boredom and “boring men”. They often talk about how their initial exchanges hooked them up, while other women would would have felt like the psychopaths’ dominance dangerous or overpowering
- Attraction to dominance: albeit this is not a listed trait, the author mentions that women who love psychopaths tend to be attracted to dominance and dominant men, and that’s a risk factor because psychopaths tend to be dominant
- Competitiveness: she refuses to take the loss and is more likely to stay and “battle it out” and make the relationship work. Or to “battle him out” and avoid “losing”
- High relationship investment: this trait often gets confused with “codependence“, but wanting to invest and give is a normal human tendency that is simply more accentuated in women who love psychopaths. Giving a lot is great with a man who is healthy and giving, but with psychopaths, it’s a risk factor because they will take everything and give nothing.
And that’s why “princesses” and “divas” who ask for investment don’t mix well with psychopaths
- Social sensitivity: the psychopath leverages her high empathy with (false) stories of his past pains
- High attachment: the author bundles “attachment” with “relationship investment and social sensitivity”. While many women would tread more carefully, women who love psychopaths attach quickly and deeply.
- Sentimentality: she focuses more on the positives and remembers more of the positives. Psychopaths see affection as a way of making her addicted, and her high sentimentality helps the psychopath in his dark pursuit of power
- Concern for having others’ high regard: they care too much about what others think about them, including the psychopath. After all the toxicity, some women still care about “staying friends”
The author also adds “tolerance”, as in the ability to withstand pain, “trust”, “loyalty” and “high morality”.
Psychopaths like women with high morals because she is unlikely to do to him what she’s done to her.
- Trust: These women tended to trust too much, too soon. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, women were more likely to trust the psychopath’s words rather than his action.
In the most glaring example, one woman ended up doubting she even saw the psychopath in bed with another woman when he denied there was anyone in the room.
- Loyalty: women feld bad about breaking promises and vows. Including promises of “never leaving him” which were done before he turned into Mr. Hyde.
5. Attractive Traits & Techniques of Psychopaths
Here is what makes psychopaths potentially seductive and attractive:
- (Fake) success: many of the psychopath attractive traits, like business success, resourcefulness and directedness, are the fruit of lies and fabrications
- Operant conditioning: the psychopaths Dr Jekill / Mr Hyde double personality rewards positive behavior and punishes bad one, molding her personality to fit what he wants
- Some psychopaths can make women feel safer.
Said one woman:
“At some level, his false power feels like protection, even though in many ways it is the opposite. It feels like it is the strong protection that I had at home from my father. The fact that he can do actions disregarding rules in society, feels like a strong protective force when it does not work against me or others.”
- High sexual drive: psychopaths are very high in sex drives, which can help make the beginning of the romance feel like a whirlwind of passion. Sex also releases oxytocin, which makes women feel bonded
- Bold initial move: psychopaths sometimes start the relationship with bold moves that captivate the woman. And sometimes it’s strong chemistry with the psychopath’s “rawness”
- Replaying abusive past: in some cases, the psychopaths simply “help” the women to repeat patterns of abuse from their fathers (traumatic replay)
- (Fake) emotional bonding: psychopaths don’t feel much emotion, but they can make women emotional. They do so talking about the 3 Ps: past, pain and perceptions
- Love bombing: intense focus on her, constant chasing, making her feel like the only one in the world
- Emotional roller coaster and threatening the relationship: once she’s hooked, the psychopaths keeps her insecure and (unhealthy) attached by threatening the relationship (called “dread game” in Red Pill communities). The pathological relationship’s keyword is “inconsistency”
- Make-up sex: make-up sex is part of the roller coaster of negative and positive emotions which is so addictive. When the psychopath has turned into Dr. Hyde, sex can become her only way to feel bonded to him
- Isolation: the psychopath seeks to isolate her from friends and support network
- Highlight her resistance: when women want to trust him, it’s often enough for the psychopath to highlight their resistance to make it disappear
- Appeals to family desires: when women want children, the psychopath implies or outright says he’s looking to settle down and have children (also read: atypical seduction techniques)
- Persistent pursuit: psychopaths were fast to move from the first contact to closer and closer relationship under the guise of “so into you that I can’t resist”. Her high investment trait blinds her to the risk of men chasing and moving fast
- (Fake) vulnerability: the psychopath exposes his wounded side to make her feel sorry for him and trust him more.
That makes her feel safer about moving fast (yes, that can work, but do read “vulnerability is not power“). That’s why some women refer to psychopaths as “incredibly macho” and yet “wimpy and needy”
- (Fake) initial support: in the beginning, he encourages to do more, be more and believe in herself. Later he will do the opposite and undermine her self-esteem
- Dark psychology of Trance, Hypnosis, and Suggestibility: female victims tend to be more suggestible than the average population, and the author says the psychopaths leverages it. She says psychopaths have “hypno-power”
The book is written in 2008, and the author also takes aim at the pick-up community of that era which focused on NLP and hypnosis.
Psychopathic traits are found in many people not just diagnosed psychopaths.
The web sites devoted to ‘seduction techniques’ are an example of varying levels of psychopathy and are now being taught online to others. Anyone wanting to do this to another person, by definition is high in psychopathic traits.
I actually don’t fully disagree with Brown. There is something true in what she says.
But it’s also a major generalization with which I can’t fully agree.
Finding a mate does not equate psychopathy, of course, and many people writing and learning seduction are simply looking for a mate and a healthy relationship.
And she goes on saying:
The difference between students of seduction and the professional psychopath is that most psychopaths know these techniques instinctively.
In fact, the worst psychopaths are probably the ones teaching others and making a fortune from the new hot seduction online communities.
If I think of the early pick-up artists, she might be right.
But, again, I don’t agree with the generalization that learning seduction necessarily equates with high psychopathy traits.
How to Induce Trance
The author says the following techniques induce trance:
- Sexual intensity
- Breathing and heart rate becoming in sync through sex
- Sleep deprivation
- Euphoria – feelings of connection and the effects of sex hormones
- Flickering lights
- Kinesthetic – through the sense of touch generating feelings or emotions
- Intense playing or enjoyment
- Prayer and meditation (cults use it)
- Neuro-feedback—also referred to as Biofeedback—which changes brain waves and alters your state of consciousness
- Peak experiences or flow states (heavy concentration produces a sense of interconnectedness)
6. Psychopaths’ Arguing Tactics: How He Wins & Keeps Her Around
Relationships with psychopaths have lots of emotional turmoil.
And lots of fights.
Psychopaths fight in the following way:
- He rages
- When that doesn’t work, he is tender
- When that doesn’t work, he says she is just as sick as he is so they might as well stay together
- When that doesn’t work he threatens to find another woman
- When that doesn’t work he fakes insight that she was probably right all along about what’s wrong with him and is the only one who understands him
- When that doesn’t work, he threatens—he’ll tell her family, work, children, etc. something negative about her
- When that doesn’t work he carrot dangles with something she has wanted—to get married, have a child, buy a new house
- When that doesn’t work, he says she must have another man which is why she is not making up with him
- When that doesn’t work, he’ll go to church
- When that doesn’t work, he claims he has serious medical conditions like cancer to bring her back to him
What a nice piece of work, eh?
7. Breaking Up With A Psychopath
Since psychopaths are all about power and dominance, they want to end the relationship themselves.
Often, they will end the relationship in the most destructive way possible. With a power play or by leaving one last mark on her soul.
But even when he leaves, there is no “for ever” in the psychopath world. He will circle back in the future, sometimes years and years later, as if nothing had happened.
But what if it’s her to end it?
Well, then the problems start.
Psychopaths cannot tolerate that she is now not under their spell anymore, they are vindictive and they will try to damage her as much as possible for the “affront” she is doing to him.
When She Can’t Leave
Sometimes it’s hard for her to leave.
- Intensity of the attachment
- Impacted by depression or PTSD (see “The Body Keeps The Score“)
- Anxiety and fear, which in turn increase the betrayal/trauma bonding dynamics
- Financial concerns
- Social or religious pressures
8. Psychopaths Do Attach, But Like Things, Not People
The author says that psychopaths don’t bond, but they do attach.
Why would they become stalkers otherwise, which we know they do?
Normal people also attach, but we attach to things.
Psychopaths attach to women because they want to possess them and have power over them.
Says the author:
Psychopaths seek others because it is through human contact that they get to experience dominance
9. Sex With A Psychopath Is Great… Or Terrible
Sex with psychopaths is not always a great experience for women.
Some consistencies included: bonding through women thought was occurring, intensity, frequency, deviancy.
And then, either the best or worst sex they had ever had.
Of course, psychopaths often added their lying twist to make women feel even more bonded.
Says one woman:
“He was so completely captivated by how our sex drives were identical. He said he had never felt that about anybody and how we were completely different from anything he had experienced.”
The sexual aftermath, either in the positive or in the negative, contributed to making women struggle in the aftermath.
Bad Sexual Experiences
Often sex helped the psychopath, but often the psychopaths’ tactics and demeanor only pushed women away.
For example, said one woman:
“He would speak to me disgustingly like, “Come here and suck my dick.” He would put me down sexually. He couldn’t see how his treatment of me led to my lack of desire for him. He told me he didn’t have to put up with me—that other women wanted him.”
Some other times, psychopaths forced women to tell him how good he was.
Said one woman:
“I would have to measure his penis regularly with a tape measure and tell him how nice it was to know I was sleeping with a man so well equipped and that his penis was attractive.”
Psychopaths are often deviant in a way that is not sexually attractive. Among the craziest stories, a psychopath spits on the woman while having sex, while another defecated on her because he came too soon (!!!).
Some other times, psychopaths’ hyper-sexuality means it’s also channeled in ways which are disgusting to most normal people, for example to children -including their own children-.
Said one woman:
“I never felt totally comfortable with him sexually. I always felt like he was a pedophile.”
And of course there was the woman who fought in court to keep her children away from him but couldn’t manage to protect them through court.
Psychopaths Don’t Like Active Women
Psychopaths often prefer sexually passive and submissive women.
Because psychopaths don’t like it when women come to them: that doesn’t give them the feeling of power that they crave.
10. Psychopaths’ Shit Tests
“Shit tests” is a vernacular term for women testing men during seduction.
Well, the author says that psychopaths test women to gauge their likelihood of hooking.
For example, they will violate her boundary early on, or ask for help right after they have shown lots of affection to test her level of cooperativeness.
The examples of the book weren’t just “highly cooperative” but, it seemed to me, quite naive of women as well.
So, sometimes, “naiveness” is the true trait that allows psychopaths to extort money or goods from women.
11. Psychopaths Won’t Change
The judicial system is:
Sending them to batterer intervention, anger management or some other treatment is to waste resources and gives women the false impression that they have been ‘treated’ when what is wrong with them is actually highly untreatable or treatment-resistant.
Also see “Why Does He Do That” for the perspective of Ludy Bancroft, a man with decades of experience in running treatment seminars for abusive men.
12. Road to Recovery
Brown devotes a chapter on how to recover from pathological relationships.
Among the most important steps:
- Understanding the pathology
She must learn to tell the difference between healthy dominance and pathological dominance, excitement seeking behavior and “pathological” excitement seeking.
- Deep introspection
If a woman is picking similar partners and replaying similar relationships, she must find out why.
Luckily, it’s not love but it’s traumatic attraction.
- Self-Care: the psychopath took all her energy, now she must focus on herself
- Symptom management: the recovery should be treated as a potentially serious case of PTSD. The author discusses “intrusive thoughts” and “cognitive dissonance” particularly
Not all dominant men are psychopaths, but most psychopaths are dominant.
On courts who need to wake up to the incurability of psychopathy and stop allowing psychopaths around children:
Wake up courts!
Sociopathy is created from toxic early childhood environments. This toxicity is largely a child’s exposure to how the low/no conscienced think, feel, relate and behave during parenting.
I couldn’t agree more.
I loved “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, I learned a lot and I believe it can be an extremely useful book for many.
Yet, I also have quite some criticism.
1. Very small sample size
I quote from the book:
Dr. Leedom was very helpful in assisting in developing the Women Who Love Psychopaths research survey. Over 75 women worldwide completed the survey.
In the beginning I thought that was a type, but I doubt that the most important number in the whole book is a typo.
And this is a very low number to make any generalization.
On the other hand, it’s a positive sign that most of the psychopaths have not been incarcerated, contrary to most other authors who studied imprisoned psychopaths.
2. What About Sexual Market Value?
As I read the book, I had this nagging, lingering question:
What if the women who fall for psychopaths simply have fewer options and few suitors?
That would certainly make the psychopath’s job easier: game a woman with fewer options and everything becomes easier.
I quote the author:
The psychopaths they got involved with were far below their level of career status and education.
Why were they dating below their level?
Many of the women in the examples were not the youngest either. That should raise the question if psychopaths’ biggest targets are not also facing a difficult dating market.
Unluckily, the author never addresses the question from that angle.
Sure, it’s politically incorrect, but it could well be part of the picture.
3. Doesn’t Add Up On Extraversion
Extraversion is a critical trait of women who fall for psychopaths?
That made little sense to me.
Introverts make for easier targets, usually.
The author of “Psychopath Free” was introverted. A negative review on Amazon for this book said she was introverted. Robert Greene in “The Art of Seduction” says that the best targets are isolated and introverted.
And I also think the same.
Extraverted people meet more people, have bigger social circles and, in general, are also more worldly and experienced.
Plus, the author seems to equate extraversion to power and dominance. She says:
This type of extraverted, competent, and competitive woman could easily emotionally overpower a man who wasn’t similar in his own extraversion.
I’m not convinced there is such a strong overlap between extraversion and dominance.
4. Sometimes Unscientific
The author says that psychopaths have a “predatory 6th sense”.
Psychopaths have been endowed with what seems to be a 6th sense to hone in on women’s feelings of loneliness and grief
Women are fascinated by the whole idea of a 6th sense in men who ‘know’ her so completely so early.
“The whole idea of a 6th sense”?
This is nonsense.
Or, talking about hypnosis, she says:
There are hypnotic techniques that trained hypnotherapists regularly use. The psychopath no doubt uses these as well
Based on what?
5. Poor Grasp of Scientific Principles
Sometimes it feels like the author has a poor grasp of scientific principles, of what’s “proven” and what’s just an indicator.
For example, she says:
Psychopaths instinctively know that women high in cooperativeness will stay in relationships with them longer.
That has proven to be true.
She indicated that when the psychopath had dated a far less cooperative woman, their dating period was far shorter!
Sure, it makes sense, but it’s not been “proven” to be true.
Or, later on, she says:
All of the women reported that they were harmed by the relationship with the psychopath.
Stated another way, 0% reported 0 harm.
That alone should alert courts (…) with decision making power over psychopaths and pathologicals that someone is always harmed by them.
Nobody argues that a relationship with a psychopath is likely to be destructive.
But… Does she realize that her sample is not representative because it’s self-selected?
In her sample there are only women who have been armed. It’s like going to a hospital and saying that cars kill. Sure they do… But not all the times, maybe.
6. Women Can Feel The Wounded Psychopath?
The author says that women in her sample talked about how they can feel others’ emotions, especially the “wounded psychopaths”.
And she writes:
This is one indicator of why they feel so deeply attached to the psyches of the psychopaths—sensing at a deeper level the undiscovered disorder and its brokenness.
This made little sense to me.
Psychopaths feel little emotions and aren’t very likely to be wounded and emotionally pained.
I think it’s more like the women who wanted to see something deeper, catching at straws, believing -against evidence- that if they only keep holding onto it, they can make it right (see: “women who love too much”).
I loved reading “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, and I learned a lot.
Not only it teaches a lot to anyone interested in people nad psychology, but it’s also useful information for very practical purposes.
I would give it 5 stars for the pro-social and potentially life-saving information it contains.
We need fewer women who fall for psychopaths and fewer children fathered and reared by psychopaths, and Brown’s work helps with both.
But at the same time, I cannot gloss over some generalization and the lack of a truly scientific approach.
Including the very small sample size which is used for sweeping generalizations to the whole population.
For that, I would give it 0 stars.
Yet, I can still recommend “Women Who Love Psychopaths” to any woman who’s either in a relationship with a psychopath, has been with one or, potentially even more life-saving, to any woman who is out dating.