Reconciling with A Psychopath: The Dangerous Lure of the Honeymoon Phase

Many of the victims who are tempted to get back together with a psychopath have a nostalgia for the luring phase. They don’t dream of getting back with a serial cheater, a pathological liar and a controlling narcissistic individual. They long for the return of the seemingly loving person they first encountered. In other words, they want the psychopath to put his mask back on: only this time they want the mask to be real–his real self–not just a ruse.

During this honeymoon period the psychopath put on a very desirable front. He was helpful, attentive, respectful, flattering, generous, romantic and nice. He made promises that sounded great. He pledged  commitment, fidelity, loyalty and everlasting love. He looked into your eyes and told you he doesn’t need any other partners. You were the person he looked for all his life. Let’s face it: cheesy lines sound very truthful and romantic when they play on the chords of the tune you want to hear.

Psychopaths are good enough actors to make such cheesy lines sound plausible to their victims, not only because of what they say but also how they say it: looking into your eyes, speaking in a low, hypnotic voice, even blushing with emotion or shedding a tear or two at the right moment. For me, the Chris Rea music video below, called Looking for the summer, captures very well the nostalgia and the hope that you can return to the honeymoon phase of any romantic relationship  the second time around:

But the psychopathic bond is no ordinary relationship, as the one featured on this video. It’s an extraordinarily toxic relationship that involves predation. As seductive and appealing as the luring phase with a psychopath may be, as the victims who reconcile find out, this illusion only happens once. I’d like to analyze here some of the reasons why even those who make the grave mistake of returning to their psychopathic ex’s–and thus jeopardize their recovery, their happiness and perhaps even their lives–cannot recapture what they experienced with the psychopath in the beginning.

From the psychopath’s perspective:

1) You are no longer a new pursuit for him. Psychopaths are excited by novelty: by duping and seducing a new person. Within a few minutes, hours, or days of getting back together with a psychopath you will see that he considers you as familiar as a pair of old shoes.

2) You have demonstrated weakness in his eyes. A breakup with a psychopath happens because he has mistreated you: lied to you, cheated on you, stolen money from you, controlled you. Whatever form the mistreatment took, it was serious. You may have broken up with him as a result of the mistreatment or he beat you to it and broke up with you first. It doesn’t really matter. The relationship itself was at the very least emotionally abusive. If you get back together with a psychopath you’re letting him know that you are willing and ready to take abuse. And he will dish it out. To him, your willingness to accept the abuse will be an indicator of your weakness, not of your love and loyalty as you may believe. Rather than a more enduring rekindling of the old flame you can expect less respect and more mistreatment. The fundamental inequality of the psychopathic bond will deepen, creating an even bigger and more overt schism of double standards in his favor.

3) You are showing neediness. If you need him so much that you are willing to return to him even after the abuse, then he will continue to play catch and release games with you in the future. Psychopaths are psychological sadists and as such enjoy tormenting their victims. By engaging in a series of breakups and reconciliations you have proved yourself to be an excellent subject for these cat and mouse experiments.

4) Relatedly, you have also proven yourself to be a reliable backup. Psychopaths return to their former targets out of boredom and the compulsion to maintain control over you and your relationship. Usually, however, those targets don’t excite them as much as new pursuits. They therefore use them as backups, to return to them periodically, when they are bored with everyone else, when a newer and more exciting flame is busy or on vacation, or whenever they feel like it. By getting back together with him, you are showing that you think so little of yourself that you’re willing to be available for a psychopath on his terms, at his beck and call.

5) Last but certainly not least, the psychopath is getting back together with you to punish and destroy you. How dare you break up with him? Or, if he broke up with you, how come you didn’t grovel enough to get him back? If he didn’t finish you off the first time around, by destroying you emotionally and financially, he may this time. He has a good shot at it, thanks to your willingness to forgive him. At the very least, he will humiliate you by waving under your nose his wooing other women and the honeymoon phases with them, which are forever gone for you. Needless to say, this is not the foundation for the romantic reconciliation you envision. At best, it’s the groundwork for being friends with benefits. Only the psychopath isn’t your real friend, but your worst enemy masquerading as a friend to use and hurt you some more.

From the victim’s perspective:

1) You’re not blinded by novelty and love anymore. In fact, you’re not falling in love with the psychopath at all. You are returning to a relationship you now realize is deeply flawed, hoping that if you both work at it you can correct it.  You are therefore returning to the psychopath with a lost innocence (or blindness, more like it) expecting that he reform. It will not get better, however, it will get a lot worse. Which leads me to my next point.

2) Your expectations won’t be met. Psychopaths feign working at a relationship long enough to get what they want. If you already got back together with the psychopath, then he has pretty much lost the incentive to fool you, unless you have something else he wants, such as money. The more you see that the psychopath isn’t taking the relationship seriously again and willing to put in the work to improve it, the more you’ll express your frustration. In response, the psychopath will rebuff you and project the blame unto you. So what happens next?

3) You will either have to accept the fundamental inequality of the relationship or you will have to fight him tooth and nail on every issue. Either way, the result will not be particularly pleasant or romantic. You’ll either be reduced to the status of a subordinate in the relationship or you will continually fight for an equality and fairness that is impossible in a psychopathic bond. Such a relationship is predicated upon lies, inequality and dominance.

4) You are too aware of his deception. The original honeymoon phase was based on a huge pile of lies that you believed or at least wanted to believe. You believed that he loved you. You wanted to believe he could therefore be faithful to you. You wanted to believe he could care about you and your loved ones. You wanted to believe that he could consider your common interest rather than making purely selfish decisions. All these assumptions proved to be wrong. He was purely selfish. He loves no one but himself. He acted in such a way as to hurt you and your loved ones. They say that ignorance is bliss. But that’s not really true. Ignorance is vulnerability and what you didn’t know has hurt you. At any rate, it’s impossible to return to the original state of ignorance when you believed all his lies. You can’t even give him the benefit of the doubt anymore because he’s already proven to you that he doesn’t deserve it. Everything the psychopath tells you from now on will seem suspect.

So your relationship will be founded upon inequality, warranted suspicion and distrust,  wounded feelings and impossible expectations. Anyone who gives a psychopath a second, third, fourth or fifth chance based on the fantasy of the honeymoon phase will live a nightmare in reality. Real life with the psychopath will be filled with double standards in his favor, with jealousy and deceit, with constant tension and fighting, with higher expectations from him and fewer efforts on his part to meet you halfway and improve the relationship. Keep this reality in mind whenever the dangerous lure of the honeymoon phase haunts you.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

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