10 signs you’re dating a sadist and caught in an unhealthy relationship

Is your partner cruel and demeaning? If yes then you might be dating a sadist. Here are some ways to spot a sadist.
A couple caught in an argument
Having a sadist partner may lead to an unhealthy relationship. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 1 Dec 2023, 12:25 pm IST
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Sadism refers to the enjoyment or gratification that some people derive from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others. There are various types of sadism, including sexual sadism, which is when a person derives pleasure from causing physical or psychological pain during sexual activities. There is also interpersonal sadism where a person enjoys hurting others in non-sexual contexts. In the case of passive-aggressive sadism, a person expresses hostility in indirect and subtle ways. Let us tell the ways to spot a sadist so that you can figure out if you are dating one.

In the context of mental health, sadism is often associated with sadistic personality disorder, which is a condition characterised by a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning and aggressive behaviour. This disorder can significantly impact interpersonal relationships and overall psychological well-being, says psychiatrist Dr Rahul Chandhok.

What are the ways to spot a sadist?

In the beginning of a relationship it might be difficult for you to figure out if your partner is a sadist. Here are some signs that can help you to know if you are dating one!

1. Cruelty

A sadist may exhibit a consistent pattern of cruelty towards you and people or other beings around them.

Unhappy couple
Is your partner a sadist? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Lack of empathy

A lack of empathy for the suffering of others is a common trait of a person with sadistic personality disorder.

3. Enjoyment of pain

While you may feel bad, your partner may express enjoyment or satisfaction while causing pain or distress to others, says the expert.

4. Manipulation

If your partner is a sadist, they may engage in manipulative behaviour to control and dominate you and others.

5. History of violence

Some people find hitting others quite normal. In case of sadists, a history of violent behaviour with their partners, friends or colleagues, even in childhood, may be evident.

6. Power and control

A sadist has a strong desire for power and control over others, so if this quality is present in your partner then it is definitely a red flag.

couple fighting
A sadist always wants to be in control. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Dehumanisation

If your partner views you and others as objects rather than individuals with feelings, you may be dating a sadist.

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8. Deceptive charm

A sadist may use charm to deceive and manipulate others, which may be hard not to fall for.

9. Lack of remorse

Guilt about doing something wrong is experienced by most people, but not sadists. They have limited or no remorse for the harm inflicted on others.

10. Likes to humiliate people

A sadist likes to take digs at people, so your partner may body shame you or point out minor mistakes, especially in front of others, just because they enjoy doing it.

How to deal with a sadist?

Addressing sadistic personality disorder often involves psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy, shares Dr Chandhok. It aims to identify and modify maladaptive thought patterns and behaviours, fostering empathy and alternative coping strategies.

Group therapy may provide a supportive environment for the person to develop social skills and gain insight into their behaviour.

Pharmacological interventions, such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotic medications, may be considered in some cases to manage impulsive or aggressive tendencies.

However, treatment success varies, and long-term prognosis can be challenging, as people with sadistic personality disorder may resist therapy due to a lack of insight or motivation for change.

So, if things don’t work out with your sadistic partner, don’t feel guilty about it. Walking out of a negative relationship will only increase your chances of meeting someone more positive, leading to your happiness.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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