On Earth Day 2006, It's Not Just Toxic Dumping That's a Concern: "Toxic Dating" is Also on the Rise

Share Article

Survey says: 35% of Americans have dated a 'jerk,' 33% have dated a 'creep' and 18% have dated a 'witch.' Narcissistic traits exist in Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie dating situations. Overall, 21% of Americans have had "toxic" dating experiences in which "normal rules" do not apply.

According to a telephone survey of 1,025 Americans, 33% of Americans have dated someone who turned out to be a 'creep,' while 35% have dated someone they ended up calling a 'jerk' -- and 18% have even dated someone who turned out to be a 'witch.'

Overall, according to the survey, 49% of Americans admit that, at least once in their lives, they got themselves involved with Mr. Wrong (or Ms. Wrong.) And 21% describe being involved in a dating experience that turned out to be just plain 'toxic.'

"There's this whole New Age thing going on that no one is to blame for anything," says Julia Sokol, the author of recently-released relationship book called "Help! I'm In Love With A Narcissist," (M. Evans $21.95), who conducted the survey with the assistance of Opinion Research Corp of Princeton New Jersey.

"But the truth is that there are people out there in the dating pool who are toxic and who just should not be dated. With these people, it's best just to identify them as undateable and pass on by."

Says Sokol: "According to our survey, the American dating pool has become increasingly polluted."

A substantial percentage of these undateables fall into the category of "toxic narcissists," says Sokol -- people who are so self-focused and so self-absorbed, that they are essentially unable to relate to the needs of others in a dating situation, or even realize that those needs exist. "These are people who feel the normal rules just don't apply to them," says Sokol.

According to the survey, 35% of Americans say they have been involved with a narcissist in a dating situation. "Freud first identified narcissism as a negative characteristic in an essay published in 1914," says Sokol. "It's a personality disorder that, in its most severe toxic form, affects over 1 million people, and millions more share at least some of its negative traits."

Perhaps not surprisingly, according to the survey, 49% of Americans say they have had their heart broken in a dating situation. Overall, 36% of Americans say they have been harmed emotionally in the past by someone they dated; 25% say they have been harmed financially by someone they dated; and 10% have been physically harmed by someone they dated in the past. Least surprising: 55% of Americans say they have dated someone who just out and out lied to them.

"There's a world of hurt out there in the dating world for the unwary," says Sokol. "It's tempting to think that you can fix the bad personality traits of someone you are dating, but in certain extreme cases, the person is actually unfixable. In those situations, you are better off just learning how to identify these people, categorize what their problem is, and avoid them, focusing instead on the people you meet who offer meaningful relationship potential."

Narcissists: Full of Harmful Charm

Why in the world would anyone want to commission a survey to see how many people have dated 'jerks,' 'creeps' or witches? That's a valid question, says Sokol.

"This was meant to be a survey of people in their kitchens and bedrooms and living rooms across America, and we wanted to use words that people actually choose themselves when they are in the middle of what are often to them inexplicable dating situations," she says. "People always know there is something wrong in their relationships, but they typically lack the tools to precisely diagnose the exact problem and solve that problem or walk away. What exactly is wrong? They don't know. So they often fall back on very vague and uncomplimentary -- words such as these."

It's frustrating for the Average Joe not to have the tools right at hand to identify what is wrong in a relationship, says Sokol. But once you start talking to him or her about the specific behavior patterns of the toxic people they have been dating, says Sokol, people are quick to identify their dating partners as narcissists.

"A light bulb goes on in their heads," says Sokol, "because you can actually identify people with serious narcissistic issues because of the way they make you feel. And it's very empowering to be able to finally figure out that the problem is not you -- it's your dating partner."

"It's like a huge weight is finally lifted off your mind," she says. "It's not me! It's him! It's her!"

And no one is safe from running into a narcissist partner -- not even a self-help author.

"When I was younger, I sort of specialized in narcissistic men -- although not nearly as much as Jane Fonda, of course," says Sokol. "Let's start with my inappropriately flirtatious boss who put a sign over his desk that read, 'Even when I'm wrong, I'm right.' There was also my ex-husband who regularly made himself feel better by making me feel bad. And then, of course, there was a veritable string of untrustworthy and self-involved boyfriends, who inevitably managed to get me totally involved in the ups and downs of their confused psyches."

Says Sokol: "It was a sad period in my life, and one for which I was completely unprepared. Most of my support came from my women friends, many of whom knew men who were even more self-centered than the ones in my life. We would get together and tell 'can you top this' stories that made us laugh as well as cry."

Concludes Sokol: "If he's not really all that into you -- it may be because he is only into himself."

If you want to determine if the person you love has narcissistic traits, says Sokol, there are a few test questions to ask yourself.

1. Do you often feel as though you are doing most of the work to keep the relationship going and your partner happy?

2. Do you feel that nobody is thinking about you and what makes you happy?

3. Is your relationship completely organized around your partner's interests, schedules, and activities (or lack thereof)?

4. Do you feel controlled by your partner's up and down moods?

5. Do other people tell you that your partner is 'difficult,' 'selfish,' and 'self-absorbed?'

6. Do you find yourself covering up for your partner's inappropriate behavior?

7. Is your partner making unilateral decisions that affect your life and well being ('We need

to move to Belize')?

8. Is your sense of safety and security regularly threatened by your partner's impulsive,

selfish behavior?

9. Do you feel like a slave to your partner's ego?

10. Is everything always about your partner (with your needs and priorities obliterated)?

"It's easy to fall for a narcissist," Sokol says. "They can be very charismatic and usually engender strong emotions. They like to think of themselves as special, and at the beginning of a relationship, they will frequently draw us into their world and make us feel as though we are equally unique. That's why getting involved with a narcissist can be such a heady, whirlwind experience. Falling in love with a narcissist is easy, but the problems of building a workable, long-term relationship with such a person can seem almost insurmountable.'

Says Sokol: "Narcissism is not just a word, it's an experience. It's an all-consuming, confusing, vexing, perplexing and often incredibly destructive experience. They are power-hungry, manipulative, selfish -- and think they're smarter and better looking than everyone else."

In Help, I'm in Love with a Narcissist, Carter and Sokol illustrate the common pitfalls of narcissistic relationships, while helping readers come to terms with exactly what they are experiencing. They also draw the connection between narcissism and commitment issues as well as between narcissism and addictive behaviors such as substance abuse, giving readers the power to see all the ways that narcissism manifests itself. With in-depth analysis, readers will learn how to cope with narcissistic relationships and how to get help or get out.

Written with the compassionate language that people have come to expect from these proven relationship experts, Help, I'm in Love with a Narcissist goes beyond a simple explanation of the condition as it helps men and women avoid and/or learn to cope with people who are incapable of loving anyone but themselves.

The survey has a margin of error of 3% and was conducted during the period from April 22 to April 25, 2005.

About the authors: Steven Carter and Julia Sokol are the bestselling authors of The New York Times bestseller "Men Who Can't Love," "He's Scared, She's Scared," and "Getting to Commitment." They have appeared on national talk shows such as "Oprah," "The Today Show," and "Good Morning America." Carter and Sokol's work has been featured in such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, New Woman, and Mademoiselle, and they periodically lecture and run workshops throughout the country. Steven Carter lives in Los Angeles, California and Julia Sokol lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Jeff Barge
Visit website