We all have an opinion. It is wise to know when to express it and when to shut up. In fact, when it comes to matters as personal as relationships, the most sensible thing to do is not give an opinion, unless they ask us for advice.
Unfortunately, there are people who do not limit their opinion, but interfere in the relationship, causing harm. These people not only believe they have the right to judge the relationship, but they can slander or sow discord so that the relationship falls apart.
In fact, there are many ways to intrude on a relationship. These are not always direct attacks on the person, many times they are poisoned darts that are thrown continuously. Nosy people, for example, can emphasize all the needs that our partner does not fully satisfy. Or they can tell us that we are investing too much in that relationship or remind us that we can aspire to better options. They launch a war of attrition in which the goal is to undermine the relationship by attacking its value.
The tendency to sabotage the relationships of friends and family
Now a group of psychologists from the universities of California and Azusa Pacific has analyzed the psychological profile of people who try to sabotage the relationships of others. These researchers asked 1,206 people to think of a friend who was currently in a romantic relationship that they did not like or disapprove of. Then they had to indicate how often they interfered in that couple’s relationship and then they completed a personality questionnaire.
In a second part, they recruited another 2,180 people and asked them to select a family member who had or was in a relationship they did not like. Those participants also indicated how many times they interfered with the relationship and filled out a personality test.
Psychologists found that people with a greater tendency to interfere in the relationships of their friends or family shared two traits of the “dark triad” of personality.
What is the dark triad?
In 2002, psychologists Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams delved into the minds of those who would popularly qualify as “bad people” and discovered a series of common characteristics that they called the “dark triad of personality.” That dark core of the personality is made up of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
Specifically, people who try to torpedo the romantic relationships of those close to them share two traits: narcissism and psychopathy.
The narcissistic person is characterized by selfishness and a constant need for recognition and admiration from the others. They believe they are special and need constant attention, so they can feel jealous of that “other” who takes away the love of the friend or family member.
For this reason, they tend to believe that they have the right to interfere in the relationships of the people who make up their circle of trust: the closest friends and family members. In a way, “they feel authorized to negatively influence relationships that they do not like”, as the researchers explain. Narcissistic people believe that they “know what is best for the others” and feel entitled to blow up relationships that can overshadow them.
On the other hand, people with psychopathic traits are characterized by their emotional insensitivity and lack of empathy. This trait makes them manipulators par excellence of the feelings of the others.
“People with psychopathic tendencies may enjoy negatively interfering with a friend or relative’s relationship because it harms a romantic partner they don’t like. The damage suffered by the loved one is considered simply collateral damage,” according to the researchers.
These people also lack feelings of guilt and act impulsively. They do not hesitate to avoid moral or ethical codes if they achieve their purposes.
However, it is worth clarifying that these people do not suffer from a personality disorder, they only have what is known as accentuated personality traits. In other words, they may have a more marked narcissistic or psychopathic tendency than others, but without falling into psychopathology.
How do you react to people who meddle in relationships?
The relationship is a matter of two. If from the outside we notice that a person intrudes too much in that intimate life, it is important to react quickly, but with caution.
First of all, we must ask ourselves if their perspective is valid. Ultimately, the emotional involvement in a relationship can prevent us from seeing certain toxic behaviors that could be harming us. Therefore, it is important that we reflect on the possible veracity of their comments.
However, if we think that the objective of that person is to sabotage a balanced, healthy and satisfactory relationship, it is important to put a stop to it before it is too late. It is best to be blunt, without being rude, but making sure not to leave room for interpretation or future interference.
Collisson, B. et. Al. (2021) Meddling friends and family: Dark Tetrad traits predict interference in disliked couples’ romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships; 38(7): 2008-2028.
Paulhus, D. & Williams, K. M. (2002) The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality; 36(6): 556-563.