top of page

Unveiling the Mask: A Guide to Dating Someone with Dark Triad Traits

What is it like dating or being in a serious relationship with the dark triad? Can you recognize if your romantic partner or date possesses these “dark” traits?

two people sitting near the bonfire by the beach

The whole concept of Dark Triad personality traits sprung from researchers Delroy L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams’ study in 2002. Dark triad may be a phrase likely familiar in the workplace for when companies conduct personality tests to employees; but dark triad is kind of a huge buzz in Psychology. Since it was first coined, dozens several studies have emerged. It includes what’s the role of these dark personality traits in romantic relationships and dating scenes.

Understanding Dark Triad

Dark triad pertains to the three distinct but deeply related “dark” personal principles. There’s psychopathy (acrimony and lack of empathy) , machiavellianism (strategic manipulation), and narcissism (extreme self-involvement). Most of the time, these personalities associate among clinical sample groups. But Paulhus and Williams examined that each of these traits are in the sequence of everyday life. This means these “dark” values are somehow in all of us no matter how little is the percentage.

the dark triad

Subclinical Psychopathy

Considered to be the darkest of the dark triad; described as being highly impulsive, sensation-seeking while showing lack of empathy and remorse, and anxiety.


Rooted from the political philosophy of Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli. His book, The Prince (1513), construed as an endorsement of the “dark arts of cunning and deceit in diplomacy”. People with this character parades high self-interest. They are strategic in manipulation and duplicity. And they would do and say anything to achieve their goals and what they want for themselves.

Subclinical Narcissism

Narcissists appear with extreme self-regard, selfish, and show utmost arrogance. Also, they’re short in empathy and are ultra sensitive to criticism and opinions of other people. They tend to become emotionally abusive and possibly cause harm when treated in a way they don’t think they deserve.


Recognizing the Dark Triad

A person that bears these three dark personalities can be a true threat to your happiness and well-being. Thus, it is important to know how to deal with the dark triad when the people around you embody it.

While “dark triad” is not an official psychological diagnosis, each trait is constant in clinical settings; psychologists, clinicians have a separate handful of tests to individually measure narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy personality levels. Over time, few tests have been designed to assess all three traits at once. Researchers Peter K Jonason and Gregory D. Webster in 2010 developed a concise, 12-item test scale called ‘The Dirty Dozen’.

No one can automatically detect if a person possesses these dark characteristics. Especially since these people carry a good grief of manipulation. They may pose to be a good person… plus psychotherapist and author, Paul Hokemeyer, PhD mentioned that these people are typically “charismatic and charming”. Dark triad characters have a willingness to exploit others to their personal advantage.

Signs and Relationship Patterns of the Dark Triad

two people sitting in front of a small fire

One of the key markers that you are in a relationship with someone high on dark triad is when you feel unsafe. And here are more patterns to watch out for:


Well, lying seems to be normal in our everyday life encounters. But those higher on the dark triad are good at deception and they know it. They lie on a regular basis, probably to conceal truths they don’t like others to see. They purposely condition situations in their favor.

In the context of the three traits: machiavels deceit with white lies while narcissists lie about appearance and popularity. The darkest trait, psychopathy, drives people to lie for completely no reason at all.

Relationships built in deception wipe out the sense of individual security. Plus, it’s obviously not good when you tend to build a life together with that special someone.


Partners who are high on the dark triad scale are more likely to cheat. This may be a result of their dark traits. They do not care about the feelings of those around them, even their partner’s.

Dark triad partners tend to follow a certain pattern of infidelity. Those higher on psychopathy traits lead their relationship to end when they cheat. While machiavels have the ability to manipulate their romantic partner and verge on the relationship to go on. Machiavels can even make you second guess and question yourself. They can get you thinking maybe you are or you caused that problem in your relationship.


As dark triad partners are likely to cheat, it’s interesting to notice that they are afraid of their own ghost. The narcissist in them is inclined to be extremely jealous of something that has not even happened yet. This is called preventive jealousy.

Sometimes, partners high on dark triad scale may not be the one jealous but the one to induce jealousy. A study investigated that those grand in the dark trifecta could also be expected to lack emotion. Therefore, lower jealousy when they are in the dating scene. There were some indications before that showed dark triad individuals may not be apt to settle in a long-term relationship. Thus, it would be useless to be jealous of something short-term. And so, their cunningness may also result in just making their boyfriend or girlfriend jealous.

Absence of Warmth

People containing the unholy trinity traits may have varying levels of it all. But they most certainly and eventually miss out on being agreeable. As mentioned, partners high on dark triad are doubtlessly charming and charismatic especially in the beginning of your relationship. So they may seem agreeable or show warmth at first but then show the “not-so-much” side of that later on. Machiavels can purposely act gratifying when the situation favors them. But sooner or later they won’t be able to keep that act and their disagreeableness will display.


Leaving the Dark Triad

It is really scary to discover that you are/were in a relationship with someone who possesses the dark triad traits. Let’s hope you are reading this because you like to know more about how dating the dark triad looks. And not because you are reviewing memories you experience now or before. We understand that can be traumatic and hard to heal and recover from.

two people standing on a balcony at sunset

Some ways to go forward when you get out of the relationship chained with the dark triad:

Be compassionate with yourself

Be kind to yourself and don’t blame yourself for what happened. It’s truly daunting to realize you loved and cared for someone whose personality aims to hurt you. It’s possible to be in a situation where your safety is at risk. Especially when you are dealing with the dark trio traits. Use resources and never be afraid to seek help.

Seek support from your family and friends

It’s essential to surround yourself with people who are positively close to you and genuinely care about you. They will be able to help out and believe in you.

Keep moving forward

Commit to yourself. Leave. Because building and working on a relationship with someone high on the dark triad must be a non-negotiable. Move on and keep moving forward. Seek professional help if you need to.


Ending Thoughts

Being in a serious relationship with an individual with high levels of dark triad are not built to last. They can and will cause harm to your overall being and happiness while you are with them. They may cause pain even after things end between the two of you. One thing to keep in mind is it isn’t your fault you are conned by the dark triad. You may seem compatible and encompass immense dating chemistry at first because they designed it to look like that. Everyone deserves to have a genuine loving relationship and dating the dark triad ain’t it.



bottom of page