How Pathological Is TOO Pathological?

“How sick is TOO sick?”

One of the characteristics of women who have been in Pathological Love Relationships is that they are very forgiving and tolerant of less-than-stellar mental-health qualities in their intimate relationships. That’s because, according to our research and to name but a few, the women have very elevated traits of compassion, empathy, tolerance, and acceptance. These are excellent and humanitarian traits to have… except in a relationship with a pathological person. These traits can then create ‘super glue’ that keeps you in a relationship you should NOT be tolerating, accepting, or being empathetic about. The problem is, women often don’t realize that someone can simply have ‘narcissistic traits’ or ‘psychopathic traits’ and still be a danger to them in a relationship.

That’s because it doesn’t take much pathology to dramatically and negatively affect her and the relationship. It only takes a drop of abnormal psychology to really screw up the relationship and the others around him. This is why even ‘just traits’ are important to identify. ‘Just traits’ means he has SOME of the criteria for, let’s say, narcissism or psychopathy, but not enough to fully qualify for the full diagnosis. But let’s not split hairs here! A few traits are enough to qualify for being TOO pathological. It DOES matter that he is a tad bit pathological because any of the traits of pathology are negative and harmful.

A little or a lot?

Would it matter that he had a little or a lot of low empathy? No. The result is the same–low empathy and the pain he causes others. Little-to-none is almost none—it doesn’t matter if he is a little unempathetic or a lot. Not being able to have empathy is the bottom line.

Would it matter if he had a little or a lot of poor impulse control? I doubt his poor impulse control affected his sexual acting out, his drug use, or his wild spending habits.

A little goes a long way in poor impulse control.

Would it matter if he had a little or a lot of rebellion against laws, rules, or authority? Probably not. Even just a little bit of rebellion has the propensity for getting him arrested or fired, ignoring a restraining order or refusing to pay child support. How about ‘just pathological enough’ to really screw up your children with his distorted and warped worldview? Or his chronic inconsistency, his wavering devotion to you or them, his role-modeling of his addictions, or his display of “the rules aren’t for me” attitude?


I watch women look for loopholes to minimize the pathology he has instead of looking at the ways he meets criteria for the pathology he has and finding reasons to get out. Indeed, they find reasons “it’s not THAT bad.” But just a little bit of a ‘bad boy’ is probably too pathological – too sick for a normal relationship. Since pathology is:

  • the inability to sustain positive change,
  • grow to any meaningful depth, or
  • develop insight about how one’s behavior affects others

…even just some pathology is too much.

If he can’t sustain change (you know… all those things he promises to change about himself) or grow or have insight about how and why he hurts you… he’s TOO pathological—TOO sick—TOO disordered to have anything that resembles a normal relationship. Why would you want a relationship that has NO capacity to grow, change, or meet your needs?

Bad-boy enticement is very real… that edginess he has makes many women highly attracted to him. But beyond the edginess can be anything from ‘just traits’ to ‘full-blown pathology.’

Nonetheless, women must learn to draw a line in the sand that even ‘just traits’ is enough to guarantee their unhappiness and put them at risk for harm in the hands of a guy who is ‘too pathological’ for her!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)