What does marriage have to do with it? About five percent, actually. The inclusion of ‘multiple short-term marriages’ as a identifying characteristic of psychopathy on the PCL-R boggles me. Maybe our instability of relationships is an indicator of an underlying personality disorder, but the focus on marriage itself is misguided at best. It makes it harder for homosexual or young psychopaths to register and further confuses what exactly psychopathy is. Never mind that in a world full of failed marriages, it seems to paint everyone as a bit of a psychopath when, in reality, the system has failed. Life is not like Ozzie and Harriet and the role of marriage is quickly dying in Western society.
I think there is much to be said about the combination of our parasitic lifestyle and the friendships and relationships that we start and stop on whims. We do tend to use partners for whatever they are worth and leave when the benefit is no longer present. We may give ‘love’ in ways that are different than partners expect, leaving to our partners leaving us. Some of us may enter relationships without any feelings toward the other, as a means of gaining some benefit that would be less if we were to obtain it on our own or via friendship solely. However, all of this without marriage does not register on the PCL-R, the de facto standard for psychopathy diagnoses.
In many ways, it becomes much harder for the young or homosexual to register as a psychopath. In many ways, we may have the spirit of the condition but miss out on the benefits of embracing it because others get wrapped up on those two points we cannot obtain. Just as the inclusion of ‘revocation of early release’ hurts the smart or non-criminal psychopath, the inclusion of ‘multiple short-term marriages’ hurts the psychopath that does not, or cannot, choose marriage as an option in life.
The diagnosis of psychopathy has huge ramifications. It can lead to indefinite imprisonment and a social stigma that can never be shed. Since it is such a big deal, shouldn’t the assessment governing such a diagnosis focus on hard principles? The inclusion of marriage as a factor in psychopathy is insulting and short-sighted. It belittles the psychopath’s ability to move from relationship to relationship or friendship to friendship, even though such gets at the spirit of the criteria. In addition it paints society as requiring stable, loving marriages in order to be successful and respected. The unlucky soul that is physically abused from marriage to marriage would score higher on the PCL-R for this trait than the psychopath that moves from relationship to relationship but does not ever get married. Remember Ozzie and Harriet? Have you seen I Love Lucy? Are you an aficionado of 1950s sitcoms? Life simply does not work that way anymore and having marriage as a core component of the PCL-R simply makes no sense.