Dating a kleptomaniac can be a massive challenge for relationships, especially if you weren’t aware of your partner’s disorder from day one. However, it’s not impossible to make romantic relations work.
So, if you’re suspecting your partner is suffering from kleptomania or considering starting to date one, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’ll be taking a look at relationships with kleptomaniacs to help you understand the disorder and what you can do about it.
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Things to Know When Dating a Kleptomaniac
The trickiest thing about kleptomaniacs is that the disorder is challenging to discover and address. If your partner starts stealing, either from you or in general, you need to apply some countermeasures.
To manage kleptomania, though, you first need to learn the ins and outs of it. Let’s take an in-depth look at it.
What Is Kleptomania?
Kleptomania is a psychological disorder whose main characteristic is a constant desire to steal.
At the moment, the condition isn’t well-understood by the scientific community. The research isn’t well-funded, either, which leads to many misconceptions surrounding the disorder.
Diagnostic criteria for kleptomania include the following:
- The urge to steal not for monetary/personal gain
- Feelings of tension before a person steals
- Feelings of relief after stealing, followed by remorse and regret
- Taking items, not due to anger, revenge, antisocial personality disorder, or similar conditions
As you can see, only the person in question can tell you whether the criteria apply to them – so, the state isn’t straightforward to diagnose. People struggling with the disorder might also face other disorders and substance abuse.
Understanding the myths surrounding the disorder can help one handle such a person, though – both a professional and a loved one.
Many misconceptions surround this disorder, but the five below are the most common.
Kleptomaniacs can control their compulsion to steal.
Not true. Medical professionals actually consider this condition an impulse control disorder. So, the individual might try to stop, but they can’t. With proper therapy, however, they become able to control themselves.
Kleptomaniacs steal items of value.
As you’ve seen in the diagnostic conditions, compulsive thieves steal to satisfy their urge, not to gain value. They’ll more often get insignificant objects they won’t ever use.
So, they won’t secretly take anything because they can’t otherwise afford it, and they won’t focus on stealing for financial gain.
They feel no remorse.
Again, as we mentioned above, the opposite is the truth. Those people might fear their actions will get them arrested, although the urge hits at any time. They might even take something from a loved one’s home, which leads to even more regret.
You can use kleptomania for legal defense.
Unfortunately for some patients, this isn’t the case. The law finds an individual 100% responsible for stealing even if they have a diagnosis.
This rule applies because most kleptomaniacs have some level of sense of impulse control, particularly in other moral issues. The only difference in judgments is that they might get time in a mental institution instead of a jail.
You can’t treat kleptomania.
Luckily, there are several treatments based on evidence that suggest this disorder can be treated. There’s no specific cure, but most individuals will find at least one of the possible treatments efficient.
Most often, this includes psychotherapy or CBT, getting to the bottom of the disorder, and teaching the patient impulse control. In some cases, they might also get prescribed medication to help them control urges.
Dealing With Kleptomaniacs
Having read all this, you must be wondering – what can I do to help? The first and most important thing you can do is give a troubled loved one care and understanding.
Showing them that you see them for who they are and helping them admit they need treatment is the best possible first step. If a kleptomaniac sees their partner accepting the reality of it all, they’ll find it easier to do so themselves.
In some instances, they will also need medication – ensure they take them regularly. Apart from professional psychiatric help, you could encourage your partner to join a support group. Recreational activities also help – and this, you could do together.
In essence, during the beginning periods of treatment, help them keep busy. Doing so helps them avoid relapsing.
If you fear they’ll steal from you, be honest about it. Relationships are two-way streets, and it’s normal that you’re affected by the issue. Show them that mistakes can result in significant problems.
Finally, remember that it might take some trial and error before you find a treatment that works for your partner. Medical professionals understand that therapy should entail medication and psychotherapy, but no standards exist.
Researchers are also testing various methods to discover which works best. You’ll need to do the same. Here, you could also encourage your partner to read into treatment options together and help them choose.
Dealing with a kleptomaniac in a romantic relationship takes patience and resilience.
If you don’t think you’re capable of storming through treatment with them, it’s okay to leave the partnership. If you do stay, be sure to offer help and support to your partner – they’ll need it, and your relationship will develop if you go through it together.
While we can’t say that dating kleptomaniacs has an advantage over dating a person not dealing with the disorder, it’s not the worst thing that can happen. There are some positive sides, especially if you’re already in a relationship and seeking to continue it.
Can Be Overcome
Most mainstream research sees kleptomania as a psychological problem, solvable by therapy. New studies, however, suggest that it involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, which means it can be treated using specific medication, too.
Either way, kleptomania is a disorder that a person can overcome with sufficient support and professional help.
Potential for an Honest Relationship
Psychologists who treated compulsive thieves found that a common denominator among them was a sense of deprivation. In essence, they feel like something was taken from them and submit themselves to the compulsion to feel like they got it back.
While this implies psychological trauma, it also suggests that you might create a trusting, healthy emotional environment with a kleptomaniac.
Kleptomaniacs Aren’t Sociopaths
While a common misconception shows compulsive shoplifters as lawless sociopaths, that’s far from the truth. In fact, their emotional personality is quite the opposite. Many have active ethical codes or even follow a religion.
They feel shame when they steal. They don’t want to do it. Again, this creates the possibility of a healthy romantic relationship and healing.
Of course, it’s essential to mention the negative sides of this relationship to help you gauge whether to stay. Depending on your partner’s disorder, the implications change, but these below are the most prominent.
Related to Other Disorders
Often, kleptomania relates to other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, stemming from childhood. Your partner might need a lot of work to overcome the underlying conditions. If you plan on staying with a kleptomaniac, you’ll also have to put in the effort.
Your Partner May Not Own Up
As mentioned above, kleptomaniacs tend to feel shame and embarrassment after stealing. So, especially earlier in the relationship, they might keep their issues from you. Even if you notice, they might wave it off as if it was nothing. Confrontation might also be necessary.
Can Be Problematic
Finally, and obviously, if your partner is a compulsive shoplifter, they might have trouble with the law. So, prepare yourself for bailing them out if they get caught, and if you go shopping with them, get ready for potential problems – or to cover for them.
The Bottom Line
The main problem of compulsive thieves and shoplifters is that they might not be aware of their issues. This disorder is all-encompassing, related to other mental health problems, and defeating if the person doesn’t get help.
So, to conclude, it’s possible to date a kleptomaniac. If they’re ready to cooperate, it’s also possible to overcome the disorder and have a happy relationship. Remember, though, that it requires a lot of work. Be prepared for it if you find yourself in such a situation and consider whether you want to stay before you take up the responsibility.