Predator Definition: Learning To Recognize Signs Of Predatory Behavior

Updated June 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault and violence which could potentially be triggering.

Sometimes we get into relationships with people, and they start well, but then, later on, they engage in objectionable behavior that we find troubling. Some of those behaviors might be relatively benign. If someone tends to leave their dirty clothes lying around, then most people would agree that’s not a basis for ending a partnership or a marriage. But what about behaviors that are in no way acceptable in society? What about predatory behavior, for instance? 

In this article, we're going to explore the definition of predatory behaviors and tell you what you can do if you're observing predatory behavior in a partner, including the option of speaking with an online therapist. Predators in relationships or someone behaving like a predator is someone to be wary of, so it's important you know what predatory actions to look for.

Is Your Partner Showing Potential Signs Of Predatory Behavior?

What Is Predatory Behavior?

When it comes to relationships, predatory behavior can have a fairly broad definition. One kind is overt behavior, where the individual has planned to stalk someone and has harmful intentions toward them. Their aim, in this case, might be to sexually assault the person they have in their sights, or they may wish to perpetrate an act of violence against them. Their intention could also be something like robbery. There are also predatory behaviors that are considered as crimes of opportunity. In these cases, rather than stalking behavior, you might see the person target someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on a dark, deserted street at night.

Predatory Sexual Behavior

Male predatory behavior that is sexual is much more common than female predatory behavior, but women can also be perpetrators. The intention with such behavior might involve sex crimes, like rape, or something like fondling or groping someone on a crowded subway. Placing a camera in a public bathroom to get some upskirt shots of unsuspecting women is also considered predatory. Such activities by sexual predators are premeditated.

Violent Predatory Behavior

Predatory violent behavior and predatory sexual behavior don't have to be mutually exclusive. They can be tied directly into each other. For instance, the predator might have it in mind to beat someone up in addition to sexually assaulting them.

Violence can pertain to things other than sex, as well. It might be brought on by the sight of a person who is of a particular religion, gender, race, or sexual orientation. These might be crimes of opportunity, or they might be premeditated. Usually, though, the predator will try and put themselves in a location where they might run into a person whom they deem suitable to attack. For instance, they might spend a lot of time in a part of town where a suitable target is likely to show up.

Predatory Behavior For Personal Gain

Predatory behavior that is for personal gain would be something like robbery. Again, these actions could be planned out beforehand, or they might be crimes of opportunity. Alternatively, they might see some goods being loaded onto the back of a truck, and they may decide to try to snatch them on the spur of the moment. They might also find a way to a person's sensitive information online. These predatory behaviors might include a sexual or violent element as well.

Predatory Behaviors In Relationships

If you don't know someone, then you have no way of knowing what they're doing or not doing. If you're walking down the street in a busy city, and you're passing hundreds of people, then it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to pick a predator out of a crowd like a red flag. That's because they're not wearing a sign announcing their intentions.

If you know someone, though, and you are in an intimate relationship with them, then there are going to be possible warning signs that they might be a predator. Some of them may be more obvious, while others might be more subtle.

Predators With Strong Feelings Toward Particular Groups

Perhaps you are dating someone or are in a committed relationship with them, and you know that they hold strong opinions about a particular group of people or those who are different than them. It could be just about anyone, but your partner or spouse has made their feelings known about this group many times to you. They might have discussed those feelings with others, or they might be more careful about keeping them concealed. They might even have talked about what they would like to do to that group of people. They might have spoken about committing violent acts against them.

This sort of hate speech could be the predecessor of predatory behavior toward individuals who belong to the group that your partner finds so objectionable. There is no reason to jump to that conclusion immediately, but you are probably the person or one of the people who know your partner best. It is not a bad idea to ask yourself if that sort of behavior is something of which you think they might be capable.

Is Your Partner Showing Potential Signs Of Predatory Behavior?

You Know That They're Very Adept At Lying

There is a thought in some circles that many predators are often dumb brutes and that they're easy to spot because of that. While it is occasionally true that some predators are easy to identify because they don't bother to hide their feelings, many of the cleverer ones are much more adept at concealing what they think and feel.

If you are in a relationship with someone and you know that they're very skilled at lying, then it should catch your attention. Maybe they will relate to you an anecdote about the way that they manipulated their boss at work by making up a story to get some time off. Maybe in mixed company, you will hear them invent a story or embellish one with great ease in such a way that they are believed by anyone who is listening. Only you know that the story is a falsehood because you know that it happened differently or didn't happen at all.

Again, this is not a clear indication of predatory behavior. What it implies, though, is a kind of moral flexibility. If you bring it up with your partner, they might say something like, "But I wouldn't lie to you, though." That might be true, and maybe it's not, but it should still be on your radar that you are interacting with a potentially devious person. What might they be keeping from you?

You Don't Always Know Their Whereabouts

If your spouse or partner disappears sometimes and you don't know where they are or what they are doing, then that might be a cause for suspicion. That is particularly going to be the case if they disappear for extended periods, and they also have talked about their dislike or even hatred for some group of people. It could also be that they're telling you that they're doing one thing, but you have a strong suspicion that they're up to something else. They might be having an affair, or they might be doing something that is considerably more sinister than that. Look for news online about hate crimes or crimes of a sexual nature that occurred nearby, which seem to fit the timeline for when your partner was out of the house.

Do They Seem Too Perfect?

There are also those individuals whom you might begin a relationship with, and they appear to be too perfect for words. They have grandiose stories about their life, and they seem flawless, perhaps using cunning language to accomplish this. People with a psychopathic disorder often engage in predatory behavior, and they can be very smooth, using a distinct grooming process to attempt to lure you in. If someone seems too good to be true, then it's entirely possible that they are hiding a dark side from you. They might not necessarily be a predator, but there is likely some aspect of themselves that they have not yet revealed.

How Can You Know What's True About Your Partner?

The question of how you can spot predatory behavior or tell if your partner is a predator is a tricky one, but ultimately, you will have to rely on your intuition. The longer you are with someone, then presumably, the better you will come to know them. Predators can be quite skilled at keeping up appearances, but sooner or later, the mask that they wear slips in some way. You should be watchful for those slips.

This isn't to say that you should view everyone you have ever had a relationship with in a suspicious manner. Most people are just what they appear to be. But most people are also more intuitive than they realize. They can spot predatory behavior or the possibility of it more easily than they think. The question is whether they want to.

You might see your partner or spouse acting suspiciously, but you intentionally put blinders on. You might suspect them of something. Even though the proof is right in front of you or there is compelling circumstantial evidence, you might not want to rock the boat, so you'll say nothing.

When it comes to predatory behavior and spotting a predator who is right beside you, you need to trust your instincts. You should avoid accusing your spouse or partner of anything if you're unsure, and even then, confronting them directly is probably not the way to go. You could put yourself in significant danger if your hunch turns out to be correct.

If You Have Ironclad Proof, Contact The Authorities

If you have a strong feeling that your spouse or partner is a predator, whether one who is committing violent acts, sexual ones, or anything else along those lines, it is imperative to report it. You might love them, but you have to accept that they are a threat to society if they are perpetrating acts which are harming people. Attempt to put yourself in the place of the people being targeted. They don't deserve what is happening to them. Just because you might not know them personally, that does not mean that you can ignore what is taking place. If you do, then you become complicit, and you don't want that on your conscience.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Do You Need To Talk To A Therapist About Suspected Predatory Behavior?

Talking to a licensed therapist who has expertise and experience in responding to predatory behavior can be beneficial. A therapist can help you determine what steps you need to take to keep yourself safe as well as how to report the crime. A therapist can also help you cope with the aftermath of reporting and provide a nonjudgmental space for you to heal. This kind of therapeutic space is potentially healthier than talking with family about the situation.

An effect or after-effect of ”turning in” someone who has predatory behavior can be depression. Depression can keep you stuck in moving on with your life. If you’re feeling depressed, let your therapist know, as this can be addressed as a means to aid your healing. If seeing a therapist face-to-face feels like it’s more than you can handle right now, then consider an online therapist. This means that you don’t need to travel outside of your normal route, which a predator could have their tabs on. You could schedule an appointment during a break at work or a time when you are normally home, and your partner is not. 

Online therapy has been shown to be effective in treating depression. A literature review of 14 articles found that people who have depression and sought treatment via online therapy saw a reduction in their depression symptoms similar to those who were treated with traditional therapy. Online therapy is also beneficial in reducing symptoms of anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. If you’re interested in learning about people’s experiences with BetterHelp, our online therapy platform, consider reading some of the reviews below.

Counselor Reviews

She is a great support through one crazy event after another over the past few months. Everything from fighting against unfairness at my job to having a teen stalker in my neighborhood. She has given great advice on it all. I really appreciate her patience with working around my unpredictable schedule. Highly recommended! Thank you, Catherine.

Very comfortable talking with her. Helped me to understand that my husband has multiple issues that are not my fault. Helped me to focus on me for now. 


If you think that your spouse, partner, or someone else with whom you have a relationship might be engaging in dangerous or predatory behavior, then you can reach out to one of our online licensed counselors or therapists at BetterHelp. Talking to someone and telling them that you suspect someone is a predator or exhibiting predatory signs is the first step toward getting yourself out of the situation safely. 

Remember, your aim is not to be an informant of predator behavior against someone you love or know, but if you discover signs that they are committing crimes or taking sexual harassment actions, then it’s your responsibility to act. Because this is online therapy, you can meet with a counselor or therapist anywhere you feel safest and at a time that’s convenient for you. 

Commonly Asked Questions

What are signs of predatory behavior?
What is an example of predatory behavior?
What is predatory behavior in humans?
What does a predatory person mean?
Are narcissistic people predators?
What are the signs of a child predator?
What is a predatory mindset?
What is a predatory relationship?
What are the traits of a predator?
What causes someone to be a predator?

Target disruptive behavior in therapy

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started