How the most serious problems in personal, family, and romantic relationships arise from a weak violence inhibitor

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When entering into any kind of relationship, and especially when it comes to romantic relationships and starting a family, people, as a rule, expect to receive mutual benefits. Of course, there are rarely relationships without flaws and problems that one way or another will have to be solved or accepted as they are. But what they definitely do not want from them is the harm in any of its forms, including physical and psychological. The problem of abusive relationships occupies a fairly significant place in our society. It can be given many causes and different solutions. But what you need to pay attention to first of all is the people themselves who seek to harm their close ones. Let's look at what is wrong with them and what terrible consequences their actions can lead to.

It is known that the ability to perceive and understand the suffering of other people plays an important role in the inhibition of harm. This is what the Violence Inhibition Mechanism Model (VIM) tells us about, which is based on the idea that the average and healthy individual has restraints on aggressive behavior developed in the course of biological evolution. People with a fully functioning violence inhibitor will obviously be predisposed not to harm others. Often, the very intention to take the actions leading to this will already cause an aversive reaction in them. And even without this, such a reaction will necessarily appear as an unconditioned reflex in response to direct observation of the suffering of another person, and especially non-verbal distress cues, such as expressions of sadness, fear, or crying.

Violence inhibitor dysfunction is expressed in a person precisely by a decrease in the ability to perceive and adequately respond to the suffering and distress cues of other people. The result of this is an increased level of instrumental aggression and antisocial behavior, callous and unemotional traits, consisting in a lack of empathy and guilt, as well as concern for the feelings of other people, and even the emergence of psychopathic traits. And now we will look at examples of what relationships with individuals with such a dysfunction lead to.

Many studies show low levels of happiness and long-term violence in relationships with them. For example, as one recent Canadian study of victims of abuse in heterosexual relationships shows, up to 30% of abusers meet the criteria for psychopathy, and it is these people who are the strongest predictor of long-term violence in a relationship. Also, due to a dysfunctional violence inhibitor, they easily ignore distress cues from their partners unless they can use them for their own manipulative purposes. For example, by manipulating fear, they can intimidate their partner, force them to have sexual contact, or take substances. And what is the main conclusion of the study – it is psychopathic abusers that have the worst effect on the mental health of their partners, leaving them with post-traumatic stress disorder [1].

Another study confirmed that according to the VIM model, violence by husbands towards their wives is associated with their diminished sensitivity to expressions of fear. Also, their psychopathy was associated with misidentifying fearful expressions as neutral [2]. Another study found that the presence of callous and unemotional traits in a partner is associated with reduced relationship satisfaction. Antisocial behavior, in turn, is associated with psychological aggression and a short-term relationship. And speaking of physical aggression, it is associated with three components of psychopathy at once, including the two already mentioned and impulsivity [3]. The situation is similar to sexual satisfaction – it is lower in those women whose partners have psychopathic traits [4].

A huge review of research on the impact of psychopathy on family and other relationships was made by Professor Liane J. Leedom [5]. It addresses the claim that psychopathic individuals change their partners very easily, so they are characterized by sexual promiscuity and multiple short-term marital relationships. Such a claim is questioned in view of the evidence of psychopathic individuals who maintain long-term relationships and, unfortunately, cause harm to their partners. Relations with them are often assessed unsatisfactorily, characterized by frequent conflicts and even physical violence. Also, psychopathic individuals tend to stalk their former partners, and in general, can behave vindictively when threatened with abandonment. And finally, cheating is common in such relationships.

It is worth briefly mentioning how psychopathic individuals behave in other types of relationships. Making friendships, they only try to satisfy their material and social needs, while being cruel and often not helping others. And their friends are reluctant to break off such relationships, which can be explained by the effective manipulation by psychopaths and the establishment of a strong social bond with them. As parents, psychopathic individuals act in an obsessive, hostile, and neglectful manner toward their children, driving them into a host of psychological trauma, behavioral problems, living problems, poverty, and drug use. Problems are also encountered when normal parents have children with psychopathic tendencies. From such children, they can also expect abuse, ignoring their problems, as well as parasitism. Also, a significant problem is a situation when there are both normal children and those with psychopathic traits in the family. It is violence against siblings that is the most common form of domestic violence in Western countries. The same is also true for domestic sexual violence.

As we mentioned earlier, psychopathic individuals, due to their ability to ignore the suffering of other people, can easily manipulate them. Women who love psychopaths and cannot get away from them are often held back by just such manipulation and suggestion. And they can enter into relationships with such personalities because of the charm of their manipulative skills in relation to other people (but as we see, this plays against them). Also, do not forget that humans tend to become attached to other people, even to those as bad as psychopathic personalities. And sometimes a disorder of the opposite nature, hyper-empathy, can also play a role. So, women suffering from it sympathize with their partners, regardless of their behavior [6].

By reviewing all the facts listed here, we can see how terrible the consequences of relationships with individuals who have violence inhibitor dysfunction. It is this pathology and the psychopathic traits that arise from it that well explain why some partners can behave cruelly, spoil relationships, manipulate others and negatively affect the mental state of their close ones. Such relationships should clearly be avoided, and in the long term, such a condition in some people must be detected in time and corrected by therapeutic methods. The quality of romantic, family, and other relationships in society will greatly increase if people begin to take seriously the problem of violence inhibitor dysfunction in some individuals.



1. Humeny, C., Forth, A., Logan, J. (2022). Psychopathic traits predict the severity of post-traumatic stress in survivors of intimate partner abuse. Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 193. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2022.111611;

2. Marshall, A. D., Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2010). Recognition of wives' emotional expressions: a mechanism in the relationship between psychopathology and intimate partner violence perpetration. J Fam Psychol. 24(1):21-30. doi:10.1037/a0017952;

3. Golmaryami, F. N. (2016). The Romantic Relationships of Young Adults with Elevated Callous-Unemotional Traits. University of New Orleans;

4. Pilch, I., Lipka, J., Gnielczyk, J. (2022). When your beloved is a psychopath. Psychopathic traits and social status of men and women's relationship and sexual satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 184. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2021.111175;

5. Leedom, L. J. (2017). The Impact of Psychopathy on the Family. In (Ed.), Psychopathy - New Updates on an Old Phenomenon. IntechOpen. doi:10.5772/intechopen.70227;

6. Brown, S. L. (2018). Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of inevitable Harm With Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists.