There are several signs in a relationship that you are dealing with a toxic individual who has one of the Dark Triad of disorders. First, they often do not have a capacity for empathy. They do not have the ability to authentically understand the world of another person except as it can be manipulated for their own gain. However, they can put on a good “caring” act to manipulate others for their own benefit, particularly if they fall under the heading of covert narcissist. A covert narcissist can maintain the appearance of being a caring, loving person, and hide their qualities of anger, aggressiveness, and envy from the outside world and from their intimate partners, at least for a while.

Second, they don’t feel sorry about any wrongdoing and dislike apologizing. There is little evidence of a conscience, compassion, remorse, guilt, or concern about the impact of their behavior on others, particularly those they love. They may act apologetic or put on a show of compassion, but it is just to mask their real feelings. Some can be incredibly good actors, fooling even the most intelligent person, judges, or therapists. From the toxic person’s point of view, the person they harmed deserved what they got because the toxic person believes they are always right. In fact, they feel entitled to act in their own self-interest, even when others suffer.

Third, they believe they have rights that others would never assume they had. They live in a world in which they have privileges that others don’t. Whether they are objectifying you, cheating on you, or trying to control you, they believe that they deserve what they seek, including when and where they seek it because it is already theirs. They will tell you whatever they believe you need to hear in order to get what they want from you. To these people, a lie is not a lie; it’s a mechanism to control the desired outcome. Misrepresentation of information or twisting facts are tools they employ to intimidate others into compliance. They are chameleons who project a façade that is totally different from who and what they really are. Always in disguise, whether a doctor, priest, or politician, they are not the person you think they are. These damaged souls tend to study others, such as empaths and giving people, to see how they act and what they say, and mimic them. There is often nothing behind their words, which are little more than empty promises. They project sincerity, mimicking what others do and say, raising optimism and unfounded hope in family and friends.

According to Kris Harpster, a Quora member and survivor, posts on the online forum Quora attest to the fact that the suffering and damage these toxic individuals cause is deep and complex. In its essence, it is spiritual abuse and is not often understood as most people do not have minds that work like those of toxic people from the Dark Triad, and they do not understand the “logic of hatred.” To most people, those with these personality disorders are invisible, and the words written by their victims seem dramatic and unreal.

After reading hundreds of stories, and experiencing what I did firsthand, Quora accounts ring truer than any psychology text. I was incredibly lucky to find a therapist who had experience living with such a person, so their evaluation was based on both personal and professional knowledge. Many therapists can cite the characteristics of this personality disorder but cannot translate these clinical traits into what it feels like in everyday life. That is, one can’t really understand these toxic individuals unless you’ve dealt with or experienced one, which is why forums such as Quora are so popular. People who read Quora responses begin to understand their relationships because of the open, honest, and insightful responses on the forum.