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 Les presento la traducción del artículo "El complementario y su psicópata", una gentileza de la traductora María Gowland, que será útil para ampliar la difusión de estas investigaciones sobre el vínculo psicópata-complementario. Todo aquel que quiera colaborar con traducciones de artículos a otros idiomas, será bien recibido en esta página. Gracias.

Dr. Hugo Marietan, marzo de 2008


The Complementary and his Psychopath (1)

Hugo R. Marietan (2)


Traducido por María Gowland


"One is the torturer and the tortured. The torturer is in the wrong because he believes he’s not taking part in the suffering; the tortured is in the wrong because he believes he’s not taking part in the guilt.” Schopenhauer


A way of being

This topic is approached from a clinical point of view, therefore the descriptive aspects will be emphasized

To be a psychopath is a way of being, a personality, a variable of human types. It is not an illness but an atypical way of being, infrequent, raucous, due to the patterns of behaviour that don’t fit in on some occasions with the general patterns of behaviour in the community.

The psychopath is a person who has a different behaviour because he has different needs to satisfy. That’s why he makes a particular use of his liberty, he draws his own codes, and he repeats patterns of behaviour and has needs of intense stimulation. All this analyzed by an ordinary person who sees the psychopath as someone who, in some aspects of his behaviour, can’t adapt. The psychopath doesn’t behave like a psychopath in 100% of his actions, he reveals his psychopath in certain types of relationships.

Another basic characteristic is reification. This implies taking away from the other person the attributes that make them be valued as a person, that is to diminish them, to consider them as an object and in that psychological manoeuvre be able to manipulate them.

Ultimately, in a serious psychopathic act the psychopath commits an action of such magnitude that this very act describes him.


Forms of relationship of a psychopath.

The psychopath has at least three ways of relating psychopathically with another person. 

The associative is when the psychopath comes in relation with another psychopath. This type of association is given when the project he/she has to undertake is completely beyond him as an individual. The relationship is tense and the balance is maintained while the objective persists. It must be remembered we are talking here about extremely narcissistic, egocentric, and consequently the attachment they might have is only justified by the objective.

The second type of relationship with the other is circumstantial, that is, when the psychopath encounters the occasional victim; when he acts his psychopathy for criminal purposes, a rape, fraud, for example. It is a ‘specific’ encounter.

Another form of relating is the complementary one. This is when the psychopath encounters his complementary or the complementary finds his psychopath. It’s a relationship with a double track and it is far from the preconception of victim and the one responsible for that suffering. Both actively take part to maintain the connection. I believe that the person who is able to remain together with a psychopath is not another psychopath, as it is normally understood. I believe that the one with more chance of relating and remaining with a psychopath is the neurotic. This relationships are seemingly stable METAESTABLE, they are maintained, but with explosions and unbalances all the way along its development. 


The complementary

I wish to point out the descriptive aspect of this presentation is drawn from my experience in treatments with complementaries who live with psychopaths.

I have observed that a persistent psychopathic circle is formed; and I think no system remains if it does not conceal a need.

The type of need that the complementary satisfies with the psychopath or the type of bond that leads to this relationship being maintained is not based on logic but on the irrational.

When attending these people the first thing that arises in their speech is the complaint. The complementary uses the scenario of the therapist – patient relationship to communicate his complaints. These are not ordinary complaints, they’re complaints about humiliation, disqualification, even physical aggression. The way of presenting the complaint can vary from the justification (“I provoked it”), minimization (“he/she hit me but it’s nothing), the level of detail (to morosely dwell on every detail of the events), seeking sympathy (“he/she makes me suffer so much, isn’t that so?”)


The secret pleasure

From the ordinary logic, one could ask; What’s this person doing with that psychopath? What are the benefits of maintaining this relationship? Reasoning under logical parameters, the permanence of this relationship can’t be understood. Even if the circumstances that lead to acts of aggression and the ways of preventing them can be analysed, these are repeated. By this what I mean is that to reason or clarify why these things happen, in this case is useless because the bond is irrational.

The complementary often gives the impression that he relates to the psychopath through anguish, in other words, that following this premise, the bond would be an unpleasant one. However after seeing many of these complementary patients, I think the bond is the pleasure obtained not necessarily the pleasure of suffering. It is an indescribable suffering where the suffering is a secondary effect of that enjoyment DISFRUTE. The complementary person brings us the complaint, shows us the price of their pleasure, shows us “ the bump on the head” 3.

This type of secret enjoyment, in the sense that it is (consciously unknown) to the complementary and sometimes even to the psychopath. However there is something there that unites them; perhaps in their ‘animalness’, in the irrational, there lies the pleasure.

On some occasions, in the argument some of the complementaries maintain, they tend to relate it to some kind of special enjoyment, with sex for example; but that does not manage to justify paying the price of humiliation, lowering the other person’s self esteem, their deterioration as a person. Some are able to grasp that with the psychopath they were able to uninhibit their repressions; they’re able to carry out the forbidden.


The Unmodifiable

Another characteristic of the psychopath that should be taken into account is his impermeability to modifications. The psychopath is a person who is able to tolerate a great deal of pressure, he/she can put up with punishments, and even so maintain his/her position. This makes the complementary give in because the other’s position is unyielding; he puts him/her in the position of “ this is what there is, take it or leave it...if you can.”

The complementary ends up fighting, not against the psychopath, who cannot modify, but against themselves, against their awareness of their self worth. And he/she is forced to give in. This being forced to act against himself/herself, is highly painful. Yet the absence of the psychopath is even more painful. This makes the complementary pay the price and continue with the relationship.

The golden rule that maintains this relationship is the formula “ with him/her I feel bad but without him/her I feel worse. “ Between the ‘bad’ and the ‘worse’ lies the enjoyment.


Particular Codes

If you talk in depth with these people, it can be seen that between the psychopath and his/her complementary own codes, signals, gestures are established modifying the other’s behaviour. A patient used to say to me “my father looks at me in ‘that way’ and I already know what I have to do.” Another patient would say “ I used to follow him from behind, he didn’t want me to stand beside him to avoid commitment; however, by his way of walking I knew if I had to stand by him or stand aside or whatever.”


Undermined Self Esteem

The complementary has his/her self-esteem undermined. I use the term ‘undermined’ because the erosion that the psychopath carries out on the complementary is generally not a grotesque or brutal action but on the contrary it can be very subdued and subtle; it disqualifies, creating insecurities (it’s a game of a prize and three punishments”, where it’s never clear when the prize comes and when the punishment, or even why) until the complementary’s self esteem ends up being  diminished.  One consultant said to me: “Before I was never this insecure. I had a job, projects, initiative, I used to get by on my own. Now I have to ask everything, even the most insignificant little thing. He finds criticism to all my plans and arguments, always finds a but, a reason to criticize, the negative side. He isn’t aggressive, but makes me reason and in the end I adopt his position and convince myself that my way of approaching things is silly.”

The psychopath does not spend his time pondering what to do to get the complementary to do such and such a thing, or what to do to disqualify him/her or lower their self esteem. What he/she does is not a planned strategy to obtain a certain behaviour. They are what they are. This type of behaviour that ends up undermining the complementary comes out spontaneously.


Intolerable Asymmetry

A marked asymmetry is established regarding the consideration towards the other person. The psychopath sees the other as something that belongs to him/her, at their disposition and without a need for a logic to sustain this position. That’s the way it should be and that’s it. The complementary considers himself/herself and his partner as a person. He/she doesn’t know they are with a psychopath. Some of his/her behaviours can seem a bit strange but he/she can’t get out of the system to evaluate and draw a conclusion; “he/she is a psychopath”. Considering him/her an equal is where the judgement fails: “I don’t understand why he/she did that, in his/her place I would have…” And he/she suffers thinking of a mistake or expecting an apology; he/she wants to be considered by the psychopath as a person. This is an illusion, something impossible to obtain. The mind of a psychopath cannot be empathetically understood. 



Contact Zero

What is our role as therapists, in this type of relationship? When the bond is very strong there’s nothing to be done. When the relationship is broken it’s generally because the psychopath leaves his/her partner, and this is the possibility the complementary has of getting out of the vicious circle. Otherwise it’s very difficult. The other possibility is when the complementary is so fed up, in other words when the suffering broadly surpasses the benefits he/she obtains from the psychopath. This is when the complementary seeks help. The intervention of the therapist in this case, considering it is an atypical relationship, must also be atypical. A family tie that is not standard cannot be treated in a standard way.

The basic rule to achieve the separation between a psychopath and a complementary is “zero contact”, considering the bond is irrational as soon as they see one another again the psychopathic circle starts all over. The therapist must be creative and take on a more active role than usual to broaden the possibilities of the complementary.


The limits of words

Neither words nor arguments are of any use considering that the psychopath is a good manipulator of words, a liar who can often be very convincing, especially with someone who strongly desires to be convinced, such as the complementary.

Some pointers that can give results are: play the teacher, so that the person is able to understand the characteristics of the psychopath, raise their own self esteem, achieve zero contact, strengthen their affection with antidepressants and sedatives (separating from the psychopath produces a paradoxical effect: relief and a great deal of anguish at the same time).


The manipulation from exhaustion.

If the complementary tries to get out of the psychopathic circle, as ‘THE THING’ belongs to the psychopath he/she will pursue psychopathically. For example, a consultant once told me: “I was on my way to work and as I looked through the window, I’d see him in the street, when I went out some place at night I’d see him in the same place, or when I got home at dawn I’d find him at the door waiting for me”. The fear of finding him anywhere at any time in the end left her confined to her house and even this way he tormented her by phone and with a lot of letters. This exhaustion is such a strong pressure that it generates a great deal of anguish. In this case resources from other previous conversations are used.



What happens once the complementary has broken off from the psychopath? Experience has shown that the person never goes back to being the same after being with a psychopath. Once he/she separates the best thing is to make new contacts. However if they are normal they seem boring, dull and unstimulating. A lot of time can go by before it’s possible to form another relationship. This makes the distance with the psychopath harder. Sometimes they are able to form a new relationship with an initial harmony but then the person turns out to be another psychopath. So a person who has been through the experience of being with a psychopath will never be the same again and his/her tastes will never be the same. What can be expected after having satisfied deep needs? The thirst, the memory?



1 Conference presented at the 7th International Congress of Psychiatry organized by AAP  on October 18th  2000. Round Table: “Psychopathy” This topic can be completed with the reading of two previous articles; 1) Psychopathic personalities, Alcmeon 27, November 1998 and 2) Describer of Psycopathy, Alcmeon31, November 1999; which can be downloaded from internet from the site: o


2 Psychiatric Doctor of the Borda Hospital; lecturer of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. E-mail:  Internet:


3 The matter of the “bump on the head” comes from the following: one of my patients was recurrently hit on the head, (he didn’t hit her on other parts of the body to avoid leaving marks) she’d say to me lowering her head and separating her hair: “Look Dr. see the bump he’s left me?”



If you feel you identify as a complementary or have doubts, write to me at, and

Put your name, place of birth, age and describe your problem in as much detail as possible.


Traducida el 4 de marzo de 2008.




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