Instead of the Cult of Self-Improvement Cultivate Self-Respect

Self-respect is essential for survival. It is a form of self-love that solidifies our identities and protects us from dangerous pathologicals. Self-respect gives us definition and boundaries. Unlike the absolute narcissism of toxic indviduals, self-respect (and self-love) does not entail the exploitation of others nor is it a total self-absorption.  It is also very different from the idolatry that psychopaths commonly engage in during the luring phase of the relationship, when they flatter and love bomb you, in order to manipulate and control you.

In earlier posts I explained that a psychopath controls those who need him for a sense of self-worth and meaning in life. Any woman may be initially hooked by a psychopath during the seduction phase of the relationship. But those who stay with him of their own volition once his mask of charm comes off often suffer from an extreme form of dependency. They have little or no independent self-worth and need the psychopath’s periodic validation to feel sexy or attractive or brilliant or like a good mother and wife: whatever form of validation they need depends upon him.

 “Willing” victims of psychopaths and other control-driven individuals are not necessarily suffering from low self-esteem in a conventional sense of the term. In fact, they may have a very high opinion of themselves. But they do suffer from a highly dependent or mediated self-esteem. They need a “special” person’s control to feel good about themselves and to get a sense of meaning in life. These are the most loyal and promising  long-term victims for psychopaths, who stand by the disordered individuals no matter what they do wrong.  They give their psychopathic partners a kind of absolute power over the lives in a similar manner that cult followers do to their pathological leaders.

In so doing, they relinquish agency and control over their lives. Such highly susceptible individuals may stay with a psychopath even once he stops validating them on a regular basis, and offers only tokens of praise or fake “respect” from time to time. By that time, they’re already trauma bonded to the psychopath, which may keep them emotionally and mentally enslaved to him for life.  The psychopath uses such dependent personalities for his own destructive purposes. He never offers them any genuine love, though he may offer them the false validation they so desperately need.

In life, you gain peace and fulfillment from your own healthy self-esteem and from cultivating a respectful attitude towards others. This sense of balance is largely internal. Nobody else can give it to you. There are literally thousands of “how-to” and “self-help” books on the market. They claim to help people find their inner balance in all sorts of ways: through yoga, Pilates, other mind-body exercises, improving their looks or increasing their sexual stamina. I suspect that most of them work about as well as the perennial miracle diets. They may produce some immediate results. But they rarely fundamentally change a person or improve the quality of his or her life in the long run. Some of them, such as the retreats run by James Arthur Ray, a very popular self-help guru, are extremely dangerous, bordering on cults run by disordered leaders who enjoy controlling others, milking them of their money, and pushing their limits even to the point of death:

http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/r/james_arthur_ray/index.html

To improve yourself more enduringly, you need to cultivate a healthy perception of who you are and know what you want from lifeDysfunctional lives and relationships often stem from character distortions, such as the ones I’ve described so far, which leave you dependent upon the perceptions of others to gain a sense of self-worth. Those most likely to exploit such neediness or vanity are not those who have your best interests in mind. They’re likely to be individuals who want to use and control you. There’s no magical step-by–step procedure that can give you a healthy self-esteem. Just as losing weight depends upon having a healthy, moderate attitude towards your body, so improving your self-image depends upon having a healthy attitude towards your mind. “Know thyself,” the ancient Greeks advised. This, like so much of their practical wisdom, is very good advice.

This is not to say that moderation, or what Aristotle called the mean between two extremes, is always the answer to everything. Nobody can be equally good and equally bad at everything. We all have a combination of weaknesses and strengths. Knowing yourself, in my estimation, means using your strengths to improve your life and the lives of others rather than to appear superior to them or to gain their approval. Being an artistic or mathematical “genius,” or being very popular and beautiful–however exceptional you may be in some respects–doesn’t entitle you to special treatment. It also doesn’t justify you mistreating others in any way. In other words, your strengths shouldn’t feed your vanity, as they do for narcissists and psychopaths, just as your weaknesses shouldn’t cripple you.

Reaching an inner balance also requires having the right motivation for your endeavors. For instance, don’t create art to impress others or to become famous. Create to offer yet another instance of beauty and meaning to enrich your life and perhaps also the lives of others. Don’t write books to become rich or consecrated. Write to express a talent that makes you happy and that may contribute some human wisdom that is best expressed more creatively. Don’t give to charity or behave nicely to others to be considered generous and kind. Help those in need and be a genuinely decent human being.

If you have a healthy self-image, your strengths and talents will radiate primarily from within. They will give energy to others rather than being absorbed from without, by depending upon their external validation. Similarly, having a healthy self-esteem entails working on your weaknesses without allowing them to haunt you, to become deep-seated insecurities that malicious individuals can exploit. Such a healthy attitude towards yourself and your life therefore implies some detachment from the views of others: from how they perceive you, what they expect from you and what they say about you.

Of course, none of us live in a vacuum. We’re all partially influenced by the views and expectations of our partners, our families, our colleagues, our friends and society in general, as we well should be. But those with a healthy self-esteem are not determined primarily by others. For as long as they behave decently to other human beings, they don’t fold under when their partners, family members, friends or peers criticize them. They also don’t lose their self-esteem when they fail at some of their own goals. Conversely, they don’t feel superior to others just because some people praise them or because they attain some level of success or even fame. Success and fame, like the criticism and praise of others in general, comes and goes. Knowing who you are and what you have to contribute can last a lifetime.

The main thing that can save you from a psychopath–or from any other manipulative person who wants to take over your life–is cultivating a healthy self-esteem. This may seem like a truism. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of common sense that many know but fewer actually practice. Any therapist will tell you that he or she stays in business largely because of people’s unrealistic perception of themselves. Character distortions not only damage our self-confidence, but also taint our relationships. They make us excessively vain, or needy, or inflexible, or too willing to bend over backwards just to please others. More seriously, character disorders, such as psychopathy and malignant narcissism, are unfixable in adults.

Fortunately, however, most people don’t suffer from such constitutive emotional and moral deficiencies. More commonly, we suffer from distorted perceptions of ourselves. This puts us at risk of falling into the clutches of controlling individuals. To find your compass you need to look within, as the Greeks wisely advised. Ultimately, nobody else can save you. You can save yourself by living well, which depends upon knowing your worth–neither underestimating nor overestimating it–and pursuing with a mostly internally driven self-confidence the path you want to take in life.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction



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A Better and Stronger You: Leaving the Psychopath for Good

Many of the women who love psychopaths intuitively know that they’re dealing with a sick man. Yet they feel like they have invested far too much for far too long into the relationship to give up on him. Their self-confidence and sense of reality have been severely undermined. They may tell themselves, hoping against hope, that their love and patience will fix the dangerous man. Or that after spending fifteen years with him, they can’t throw away the entirety of their youth, as if those years together were all for nothing.

As Sandra Brown M.A. puts it in Women Who Love Psychopaths, nobody escapes completely unscathed from such a toxic relationship. However, the harm is not linear: in other words, it’s not necessarily true that the longer you are with a psychopath the more you are harmed. Even short-term relationships with a disordered man can be very harmful. Conversely, even women who have spent 20 years with a psychopath can escape those toxic bonds and emerge better and stronger from them.

However, the damage seems to get worse from the time you realize you’re with a psychopath or disordered man and come to accept his abuse: the pathological lying, the gaslighting, the cheating, the putdowns, the threats and the relentless chipping away at your self-esteem. Women who stay with known psychopaths, or with men they know to be very bad, adapt to increasing dosages of harm. This can severely damage their own personalities and the way they interact with others, sometimes beyond repair.

On the positive side, even if you’ve spent many years with a psychopath, you can escape this toxic relationship. Chances are, you used to be a strong person. In previous posts we’ve seen that psychopaths prefer to seduce extraverted, accomplished and confident women. They could easily prey upon passive and weak women. But they prefer the challenge of destroying a strong person instead. We’ve seen how psychopaths use their partners’ strengths against them. They use women’s trust to deceive and cheat on them as well as, more generally, to play mind games. They isolate previously sociable women. They undermine the confidence of women with high self-esteem by focusing on their real or imaginary weaknesses. It’s not unusual to develop neuroses, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders while involved with a psychopath. He will even cultivate those maladies, and lead you to focus obsessively on them rather than on your strengths and achievements, to keep you under his thumb.

We’ve seen how psychopaths use women’s capacity to love and their tenacity–their high emotional investment in the relationship–to keep them on the hook. They lure them with strategic withdrawals and empty promises to improve, which are belied by consistent, though often hidden, abuse. They dangle whatever women want most in life before their eyes–true love, fidelity, commitment, a happy life together, returning to the romantic and exciting honeymoon phase of the relationship–only to make conditional demands, that erode their partners’ dignity and self-respect.

To counteract these strategies and reclaim your life, you need to reassert your agency, your strength and your boundaries. You need to recognize that you’re not just a passive victim of the psychopath’s control, even if you were, indeed, victimized by him. You have agency. You willingly began the relationship with the psychopath. You willingly stayed with him despite seeing red flags early on in the relationship. You may have willingly taken him back after discovering that he repeatedly cheated and lied. You may have also engaged in some immoral behavior to keep him in your life. You may have hurt or neglected those who loved you for his sake. Each step you took as a couple was not just his own doing. It was also yours. Sandra Brown points out that seeing yourself as an agent in your life decisions doesn’t imply denying the fact that the psychopath has hurt you or minimize the extent of your pain. It just shows you that you have the power to determine your life choices. Just as you chose to become involved and stay with a psychopath, you also have the power to disengage from him for good. (How to spot a dangerous man,  32)

To understand why you made such poor and self-defeating choices, you need to assess realistically both your strengths and your weaknesses. In earlier posts, I identified some of the potential weaknesses of women who get involved with psychopaths, which led them down a self-destructive path. The main one is an unrealistic and dichotomous view of themselves, which is narcissistically inflated (as better than other women) in some ways, and too weak (as less than other women) in others. You don’t need a psychopath to identify your qualities and flaws. You don’t need his manipulative criticisms that undermine your self-confidence. You don’t need his fake and conditional flattery to feel good about yourself. You know who you are. And, deep inside, after so much mistreatment at his hands, you also know that it’s clearly in your best interest to leave the dangerous man and end the sick relationship with him. Your self-preservation, not just your self-esteem, is at stake.

Exercising your agency also implies reasserting your strength and your boundaries. If you stayed with a psychopathic partner it’s because he undermined the strength that he originally admired in you and that drew him to you, like a parasite to its host, to destroy you. You can find that inner strength again to live your life free of him. The longer you will be away from his noxious influence, the stronger you will grow.

The psychopath has strung you along by eroding your boundaries: your moral sense of right and wrong, your sexual boundaries and your empathy. When you draw the line and say no more and mean it, the psychopath loses and you win. By way of contrast, each time you do what he tells you, each time you override your intuition to believe his lies, each time you violate your sense of right and wrong, each time you neglect or hurt those who care about you, each time you engage in perverse sexual acts just to please him, he wins and you lose.

The women who stay with psychopaths may be strong women, as Brown’s research indicates. Yet many of them lack sufficiently strong boundaries. They may be strong in other areas of life. But they become weak as far as their personal relations with the psychopath are concerned. These, unfortunately, become the fulcrum of their existence. Staying with a psychopath indicates that they’re willing to compromise their values, their relationships and their standards just to keep and please a disordered man.

To reclaim your autonomy and your strength, you need to reassert your boundaries. The negative experience with the psychopath has no doubt made you more aware than ever of what you stand for since you were repeatedly pressured by him to lower your standards and to violate your principles. Each time you did that it hurt because you lost not only part of your values, but also–and more importantly–part of yourself.

Asserting the limits of the person you are and of what you stand for constitutes an essential step towards rejecting the psychopath. Most likely, he won’t even stay with you if you assert yourself and don’t give in a single inch to him anymore. As a narcissist, he can’t tolerate any real equality in a romantic relationship. He has to be “top dog.” He constantly reaffirms this status through the power he exercises over you, his family and his acquaintances. Because he doesn’t regard you (or anyone else) as his equal, the psychopath can’t offer you genuine respect for your values, your activities, your needs and your identity. His fake charm, his controlling and possessive attention, his disingenuous and manipulative flattery and the empty romantic gestures he made (mostly in the beginning of the relationship) are not the same thing as genuine love, mutual caring and respect.

As we’ve seen, a psychopath is incapable of having a caring and equal relationship with anyone. For this reason, psychopaths seek women who are strong but exceedingly flexible; women whose boundaries they can erode and whose identities they can distort. If you regain your sense of identity and boundaries, you become much less vulnerable to psychopathic seduction and control. Psychopaths are parasites who want to suck the lifeblood–the emotions, the confidence and the strength–out of you. They violate your sense of self, through what psychologists call “enmeshment.” As your identity blends into his, your whole life revolves around meeting his ever-changing needs. The more you violate what you stand for and who you are to please the psychopath, the more you dissolve into the dangerous relationship with him. As Sandra Brown states,

“Boundaries are indicators of where we start and end, and where other people start and end. We set limits–or boundaries–in relationships to protect our bodily selves and dignity… Drawing your identity from a dangerous man… can have disastrous outcomes.” (How to spot a dangerous man, 201).

Not every misfortunate experience has a silver lining. Some, like fatal illnesses, may be purely tragic. Fortunately, overcoming a relationship with a dangerous man is one of those life experiences that does have a silver lining. After having been involved with a psychopath, for whom “love” means conquest, ownership and dominance, a normal relationship with a decent, respectful and honest partner will seem almost miraculous by comparison. Nothing about healthy human bonds can ever be taken for granted again after one has experienced the worst life has to offer.

Clearly, in choosing a psychopath you lost part of yourself and wasted part of your life. Such a destructive relationship came at a cost. Fortunately, you still have the power of choice as to how your life will continue. You don’t have to throw away the rest of your life to him. This experience may have weakened you in some respects.  But if you utilize it the right way, it can also make you a much stronger person. Whatever time, energy and emotion you spent on the psychopath weren’t completely wasted. They have taught you how to know and defend the limits of your identity and values. They have taught you who to appreciate and love in life and who to reject and keep out. They have revealed your strengths and your limitations. They have made you more independent, since you’ve seen how flattery and criticism by others can function as a form of mind control.

It’s now up to you to decide if you will allow the psychopath to continue to undermine your dignity and the quality of your life or if you will rely upon your strengths and true love bonds with others to live the kind of moral, honest and fulfilling life that you deserve. The psychopath has kept you under his control by narrowing and intensifying the range of your experiences. You consequently focused only on him and on how to twist yourself, like a fish on a hook, to please him.

You can reverse this process. You can broaden the sphere of your existence by expanding your interests and focusing on those who deserve your affection. In fact, you can do more than that by helping inform others suffering at the hands of psychopathic partners about this dangerous and camouflaged predator. Making a clinical diagnosis of personality disorders is, of course, only up to experts. But identifying potentially dangerous traits isn’t just for experts. Any of us can be adversely affected when we allow disordered individuals into our lives. Knowledge is the most essential form of self-defense.

Widespread information about physical and emotional abuse has saved millions of people from domestic violence. Spreading information about psychopathy may help save millions of additional lives from harm. Ironically, the disordered man who wanted to destroy you both morally and emotionally can give your life a higher, more other-regarding purpose. In the past, you may have relegated too many of your decisions to the psychopath. But, ultimately, the power of choice in what you do with the rest of your life lies in your hands, not his. May the new year bring you peace and happiness, free of the toxic relationship with a psychopath.

Happy New Year!

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

A Vain Fantasy: His One True Love, the Exception that Confirms the Rule

In some cases, women stay with dangerous men not because they’re forced to, but because of a toxic combination of denial and wishful thinking. They believe that even if their partners have been abusive in the past, they will change for them and thanks to their influence. Somehow, they hope that they’ll break the pattern and be the one exception to the rule.

To illustrate the absurdity of such a belief, consider the following extreme scenario: you know that your partner has raped and killed other women. Be he promises he wouldn’t do that to you; that you‘re in no danger because he loves you. The other women were bitches; they provoked him; they deserved it. Only you are the love of his life; his dream come true. Would you believe him? Would you place your trust in him? By far most victims of psychopaths would say no. By far most psychopaths aren’t serial killers. But the process of thought should be the same even in the cases of ordinary, “charismatic” psychopaths.

While most women would clearly see through the holes in the logic of being the exception that confirms the rule in the extreme case of a psychopathic serial killer, they fail to see it when it applies to the emotional abuse and devaluation that’s part and parcel of every psychopathic bond. No victim of a psychopath, no matter what he promises her and what declarations of love he makes, escapes the mistreatment that his previous partners got. It may be a different form of abuse, targeting her specific vulnerabilities, but she will be harmed.

If you are the psychopath’s new partner, then you are next in line for emotional abuse. It’s that simple and predictable. To believe you will be his one true love, the exception that confirms the rule, is to engage in a wishful thinking that is not supported by reason or facts.  I’m pasting below a great article I found on this subject, by Annesthesia, published in September 2001 and called, appropriately enough, You think that you are so special:

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Because you’re so SPECIAL…

by Annesthesia

You two have a “connection,” a rapport that he didn’t have with his ex. You have more things in common, similar personalities. He’s pointed out all the ways that you two are so alike – it’s just uncanny. You are so lucky to have met him at this point in your life. He says that he really appreciates you for who you are – and he’s the first person to really do that, isn’t he? Sure, he said the same things to *her* when he got together with her (and then grew to hate so many things about her), but it’s different with you. He couldn’t possibly be operating from scripts anymore. And it’s so nice to finally have someone YOU can lean on, isn’t it? It’s hard being on your own, building a career, managing a household, and doing it all yourself. All of a sudden, here’s this guy offering to help in ways that no one ever did. Knowing all the things you have been longing for and wanting in a partner. He couldn’t possibly be hooking into your heart-felt desires and hurt places and pretending to be the answer, because he knows that’s where you are vulnerable. He couldn’t be pretending to like the things you like, and want the things you want, and be the person you have been looking for, because it’s part of his patterns. Just because he did that with the women that came before you, doesn’t mean he’s doing that with you. He’s really sincere this time.

He’s told you all his deep dark secrets (at least, all the ones he thinks can win him sympathy and attention). He’s acknowledged how he behaved badly in the past (even though it was brought out by who he was with). You two must have a very special connection for him to be so open and “honest”. And he seems to be remorseful, so that must mean he won’t do that kind of thing again, right? Not with you. You’re special. So what if he told his ex the same kinds of deep, dark secrets, opened up in the same way? So what if he exhibited the same kind of remorse for things he did to partners before HER? So what if he told her all the same sob stories and pretended to be working on his shit with her? So what if he lied to his therapist and others? He really means it this time, with you.

He says things are going to be different with YOU. Even though he SAYS he accepts responsibility for his actions, he also says that it was really things in HER that brought out his bad behavior. He’s not going to be like that with YOU. Sure, he said the same things to HER, but this time he’ll be different, because he’s told you how YOU are different from her. (So what if he’s told other people how you remind him of HER? That doesn’t mean he’s following the same old patterns, targetting the same types of women. That doesn’t mean that he’ll be turn abusive with YOU at some point…) He’s such a sweet, wonderful, helpful guy, it MUST have been something in HER that caused him to act badly, right?

So what if he was busy cutting her down behind her back with their mutual friends while he was telling her she was the “best thing that ever happened to him”, and that he had “never loved anyone as much as he loved her”? That doesn’t mean he still has the capacity to be manipulative and dishonest and cruel. He was just confused, the poor man. And besides, he won’t be like that anymore, with the right woman to love him and dote on him. She just didn’t give him the kind of attention he really needed. But YOU will. So he’d NEVER do that to YOU.

So what if it was less than a year after breaking off with his ex before he got together with you? It’s not like an abuser should spend a few years in therapy, and work on his stuff before getting involved in another intimate relationship, right? I mean, after over 4 decades abuse and being an abuser, he can get himself fixed up enough to stop harming others in a just few months, with the right woman to rescue, er, “help” him.

And those stories of how his ex-wife emotionally abandoned him… He’s just had it so ROUGH all his life! He told you how she didn’t even try to keep the marriage together or say that she wanted to try to salvage their relationship when he said he wanted to separate. She was just so unfeeling! The poor man – here he was trying so HARD and all – seeing a counsellor and everything! It couldn’t possibly be that SHE was so emotionally beaten down by his behavior that she was RELIEVED when he wanted to leave… He couldn’t have been emotionally abusive and dishonest with HER too! If his ex-wife didn’t trust him, it had nothing to do with HIM and his behavior – it must have been HER issues.

So what if he USED YOU to break a trust with a woman he was already seeing? It’s not like they were actually *partners* or anything! She was just convenient for hurting his ex (he set her up really nicely to do that a couple of times), getting attention, an ego stroke, and occasional sex while he was waiting for the *right* woman to show up. Since you came along, he doesn’t need her anymore. He’s got YOU to feed his ego. And breaking her trust was a convenient way to ensure that he wouldn’t have to bother with her anymore and could focus on YOU. He did it so carefully too. (He knows that it’s the series of “gentle” cuts that leave the most stinking wounds.) That way, SHE would be the one saying she didn’t want to have anything to do with HIM, and he could blame HER for why they can’t still be friends. Isn’t he clever? What a creative way to get rid of someone when they are no longer useful!

And if this most recent woman doesn’t want to see him anymore or even be friends with him, it must be because she is jealous of the wonderful relationship you and HE have! It must be because he dumped her for you, and she’s just not big enough to accept that. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the WAY he did things or tried to blame HER for his behavior. It couldn’t have anything to do with him LYING to her and using her, and having a hidden agenda of expectations that he told her she just wasn’t living up to. Nope. That would be his old M.O. playing out again, and he was a changed man by the time he met you. So it couldn’t be THAT.

Besides, even if she deeply cared about him, he didn’t have the same deep feelings for her, so that makes it ok to have sex with you, before talking to HER about it, right? He was just so TAKEN with you! Doesn’t that just make you feel all . . . oh, I don’t know – SPECIAL? She just wasn’t long term partner material, and he made that clear to her anyway. If she knew he didn’t have the same feelings, and was willing to continue to be used by him because she had fallen in love with him, who was HE to turn down that kind of attention and strokes? It’s not like he had any responsibility to not take advantage of someone who was emotionally vulnerable or anything. And he broke things off with her eventually. He just didn’t tell her about you and the sex stuff right away because he wanted to *protect* her from getting hurt. What a GREAT guy! See, he really did have amazing consideration for HER feelings! Withholding information isn’t the same as LYING or anything. That’s not dishonest, right? It couldn’t possibly be that he was deliberately stringing her along until he was sure YOU were hooked. No. He’s too sweet and charming and nice for that. He was just CONFUSED about his feelings, that’s all. Besides, it’s not like you two had UNPROTECTED sex before he told her about you, so that he could use you (the way he used HER) to break THAT trust as well… Even if he’s BROKEN A SACRED TRUST THIS SAME WAY, SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE (with other partners and lovers), he wouldn’t be repeating the same old abuse patterns with you.

You’re special.

And even if he WAS being dishonest at the start of your relationship, he lied to someone ELSE. It’s not like he was dishonest with YOU (that you know of, yet), so that makes it OK, right? (So what if ms-non-partner-material thought the same thing, and excused him, the first time she found out he was dishonest with her? This time, he will be different, because he really LOVES you.)

Of course, he told you how his last sex partner said she didn’t think it would last between you two (when he broke it off with her)… but he couldn’t be using THAT as a ploy to hook you further (wanting to prove her wrong). So what if he used exactly the same line on each new mark in the past, telling the next one in line that the previous one didn’t believe the two of you could last?  He wouldn’t be using LINES and PLOYS and subtle MANIPULATION on YOU…

Even if in his past, he DID say,

“Some of the problems I bring about by vamping, pumping up the  emotional content of a situation. Of course that’s easy to do with a  new friend. I have a stock of techniques and behaviors, tested. I’m  also inventive … so I pick up new techniques fairly quickly…

It’s just I’d rather enjoy the “romance”. It comes naturally to me. I  enjoy doing it. It’s also a head trip for me, with my poor self  esteem, to have someone so taken with me. I like the first results,  the joyous feelings, the elation, the euphoria, just not where it  leads.”

… he couldn’t possibly still have been doing that with her, or even YOU. He has REAL, deep feelings for you. You’ve even seen him cry and show his vulnerable side. That MUST mean he’s sincere, right? He couldn’t possibly be using YOU for an ego stroke. Not the man YOU know.

He’s just so caring and sensitive and considerate. He’s so sweet, rubbing cream into your hands and feet at night, sending you little cards, reading to you in the afternoon, doing all those romantic things. He really does seem too good to be true – cooking, cleaning, intelligent, literate, creative, affectionate. So what if he was like that for the first year or so with her too… before the subtle patterns of abuse started to creep in? So what if all that “wonderful” behavior shifted until he was telling her he loved her one day and then telling others how horrible she was behind her back the next? He wouldn’t do that to you too, down the road. She must have brought it out in him. He couldn’t possibly be playing the same game over and over again, with you as the next target. All those wonderful things he has done – all the romantic things, all the ways he has helped out and called, and done things for you, they couldn’t all be just scripts. “Stock Techniques” for hooking. No. This time, he’s sincere. This time he’ll be different, with you.

So what if he has been incapable of honesty and integrity all his life? So what if he actually admitted to his ex (just about the time you two met): “I am afraid of truth-tellers. I have so many lies in my past and present. The truth burns.” That couldn’t mean that he was telling lies to YOU. After all, he was so HONEST about his dishonesty so THAT’S got to count for something… It must mean he realizes his mistakes and won’t make the same ones again, right? The fact that he acknowledges things is so CONVINCING. If he acknowledges it, then he couldn’t possibly STILL do those sorts of things. Sure, sure. He had HER convinced too. But he couldn’t possibly be STILL lying to YOU. You’re special.

So what if two of the other women he was involved with wound up in the psychiatric ward? So what if he “helped” a vulnerable friend by encouraging her to break her marriage vows, exacerbating her marital problems, and then abandoning her when she asked if he could be there for her? He needed an ego stroke and she was conveniently there and conveniently vulnerable from a death in the family. So what if he undermined his ex’s support network and used a mentally ill woman’s attraction to him to try and hurt her further? So what if he used and hurt a dying woman so that he could feel needed and in control? He was just being HELPFUL to all those women. Maybe he LIED to them, sometimes, but that was only to PROTECT the fragile little dears. He’s SUCH a sensitive guy, you see. He couldn’t POSSIBLY have been USING people for ego strokes.

So what if he used and was abusive to his life-partner’s children in order to get back at his her? Hurting and using kids is excusable, right? (After all, she must have deserved it. THEY must have deserved it. Right? Because he really DOES love kids… or at least, that’s what he has said…) The guy YOU know could never be like that. And… well… even if he WAS, he’s obviously changed. He’s undergone a miraculous transformation in just one year. He’s just shed ALL those abusive patterns and become a NEW man. He’s going to be completely different, with you.

Yeah, sure, he might have done those kinds of things in the past, but the past is the past, right? It doesn’t have any danger of repeating itself with you. Just because all those other women were “damaged”, doesn’t mean that he will someday be telling people how damaged YOU are… Not YOU. You’re SPECIAL.

His love for you is so strong and your connection to each other is so different (at least, that’s what he has told you, and you know you can trust him, right?), he wouldn’t EVER do anything deliberately hurtful or malicious to YOU. He wouldn’t undermine YOUR support network and use your friends to hurt YOU. He’d never make snide remarks about YOU behind your back and then make sure you found out about it. No no no. SHE must have brought that out in him. But you, you’re special.

Besides, he’s been in therapy. That must mean he’s sincere, right? He wouldn’t possibly be using the whole “therapy” thing as a cover-up to make himself look better because his reputation got damaged after the fiasco with his ex. He couldn’t possibly be using contrition, and the “I feel so bad about myself”-line to get sympathy and support! He couldn’t possibly be looking for a person to hook into that is in a different town so that she has less likelihood of finding out his past. He couldn’t possibly be going after women who have a strong sense of personal responsibility because he knows how to manipulate that to try and get them to feel responsible for HIS sick feelings. He couldn’t possibly be seeking out active, intelligent, dedicated women, so that he can PUNISH them when they don’t direct all that energy to HIM. Just because he has engaged in such manipulative behavior in the past doesn’t mean he would be doing that NOW. Not with YOU. You’re SPECIAL.

He’s so contrite and sincere about “working on his issues”, he couldn’t possibly be lying about that. Just because he has a history pathological lying to himself and others, doesn’t mean he’ll be that way with you. Besides, if he has deceived himself so completely that HE doesn’t know it’s a lie, then he can’t be held accountable for it, right? He can always claim that he doesn’t have good “memory” for things in the past. But don’t worry. He won’t use that sort of deception and evasion with YOU. You’re special.

The poor guy just made bad choices before (you). Sure he made mistakes, but if most of his ex(s) don’t want to have anything to do with him, and some now think he is mentally ill, it must be because THEY are unstable – I mean, look at how amazing and kind and charming he is with you… He couldn’t possibly have been like that with them TOO… He wouldn’t be using stock romance “lines” on YOU.

This time, it’s REALLY love. You’re Special.

Sure, he did a *few* things in his past that were unkind, but he needs to be forgiven for HIS behavior, (after all, she drove him to it), but HER mistakes and reactions to his abuse, were unforgivable. But things will be different with you. He won’t think YOUR mistakes are unforgivable. He won’t apply a double-standard to YOU. He won’t expect YOU to be perfect and subtlely criticize you when you don’t measure up to his standards. You’re the one who is going to change his life. And, of course, you keep your kitchen immaculate, so he’ll have no reason to criticize THAT.

And speaking of unforgivable, of COURSE he can’t forgive her for doing things that *hurt* him (he’s so deeply sensitive, you see) – but he couldn’t possibly have lied about the things he said she did. He couldn’t possibly have “set up” situations so he could cry foul… He wouldn’t have ENCOURAGED her to do things so he could later claim that he was hurt by her… And, well, even if he DID, maybe do that, he certainly won’t do it with YOU. You’re too special for that. Any time he tells you he’s happy for you and he encourages you to do something, he’ll REALLY mean it, with YOU. He won’t create a revisionist fantasy of your past so that he can insist you did things to hurt him as a justification for his cruelty to you. He won’t secretly resent you for not devoting all your time to him. Even if he DID do that with her, he won’t do it with you. Especially after he makes all those sacrifices and moves in with you. He won’t secretly be dependent on YOU for all his attention. He won’t be more demanding of you and your time and resent you when you don’t give it all to him. Not THIS time. You’re SPECIAL.

He’s such a nice guy, he won’t “help” you (especially unsolicited) and then have an unstated hidden agenda like he did with all the others. He’s going to claim his right to be “selfish” now, because he’s been so USED from all the excessive GIVING he did in the past that nobody really appreciated. The poor guy. He’s never taken time to be selfish in the past – not even when he was sitting alone in his room, sucking off his hurts, or using other people. That wasn’t selfish – that was just “acting out”. But he’s better now. Don’t worry. He won’t use his new-found right to be “selfish” against YOU. No. He really is a changed man, with you. With you he will give unconditionally.

It’s no WONDER he behaved so badly! Look at how his ex was always hurting him, oppressing him with her refusal to live her life solely for him, expecting him to be honest with his feelings and actions, when he just wasn’t ready. And besides, he just can’t handle confrontation, you know? And like, she’s just so SCARY when she’s upset (it’s just so unbeCOMing when women display any anger!) that he HAD to act that way. She actually raised her voice at times! Can you imagine? He had this abusive childhood, so nobody else is allowed to have anger except HIM. Because, like, he can’t DEAL with it, and he shouldn’t be expected to! He couldn’t possibly have been projecting HIS issues on her so that someone else could have his anger FOR him, or so that he could get angry with someone other than himself! He couldn’t possibly have been DELIBERATELY hitting all her hot buttons to hurt and upset her so he could lay blame. And, well, even if he DID do that for years, he won’t do it anymore, with you.

And if somehow you accidentally do things that “trigger” his old abuse patterns, he’ll be so sweet in telling you how you are doing things that remind him of her, so that YOU can change YOUR behavior. After all, you wouldn’t want him to start acting abusive again because of something YOU did.

And you don’t have to worry about that, because you’ll never get upset with him, and you’ll never challenge him to be honest or to accept responsibility for his actions. SHE did that, and it was “controlling,” but it’ll be different with you, because you know better. And you won’t need to worry about calling him on his behavior anyway, because he’ll NEVER lie to YOU. He’ll always be completely honest and upfront with you. He won’t have to “forget” any promises he made to YOU. If he is inconsiderate, it won’t be DELIBERATE, with you. If he lied to her or anyone else, it was because they drove him to it. With you, he won’t withhold information, or distort the truth. He won’t break fundamental relationship agreements with YOU. He won’t HAVE to, because you’ll be right there validating him 24/7, supporting him and telling him how he’s so CLEVER and BRAVE to have escaped such a horrible relationship, and how wonderful it is that he is working so HARD to overcome his terrible past!

And it’s a good thing he’s not going to do any of those things he might have done in the past, because then you won’t have to worry about forgiving him. You see, she REPEATEDLY forgave him for the lies and the accidentally-on-purpose “mistakes”, and all that did was make him feel bad about himself – that she could forgive and he couldn’t. Wasn’t that AWFUL of her to make him feel so bad that way? So she DESERVED to be punished even more. And she should NEVER have shown any guilt when he manipulated her. It just caused him to hurt her more. He told her it was “like blood in the water for sharks” for him. She should have known better. YOU know better. But then, he won’t be manipulative and passive-aggressive with YOU.

He’ll be different with you. You’re SPECIAL.

And sure he made her work at the relationship when he wasn’t really trying, but that wasn’t being dishonest – he just didn’t know what he really wanted, so that made it OK to put the burden of the relationship responsibility on her. Sure he admitted that he wanted her to make him the first priority in HER life, but he wasn’t willing to afford her the same consideration. But that wasn’t one of his patterns. He won’t do that with YOU. Besides, he admitted his dishonest behavior after they broke up, so that makes it ok. It erases everything. His slate’s clean. He even said he was sorry, months later, so that shows how sincere he was. He couldn’t possibly still have been interlacing the apology with blame. He’s not STILL acting manipulative and projecting issues…. and well, if he is, he’s only doing that with HER because of their history – he wouldn’t do that with YOU.

And it’s so sweet how he still talks about how much he cared for his ex, how much he did for her out of love. Sometimes, he even talks fondly of his treasured memories of her, of how she “helped” him (when she wasn’t hurting him, the witch) – that must mean he’s a deep, sensitive guy, right? Maybe you can even “help” him to forgive her and heal from his terrible past… Just like SHE thought she could “help” him…

And besides, he did so many NICE things for her and all those other women. That should count for SOMETHING, right? It’s not like he was emotionally abusive or manipulative ALL the time. So it kind of cancels things out, right? It’s not like he HIT anyone or anything. At least the things he did didn’t leave any VISIBLE marks. Besides, he probably just made honest mistakes, that’s all. He couldn’t have actually got off on seeing them hurt and crying. He wouldn’t have LAUGHED condescendingly in someone’s face while she was crying. Not the man YOU are involved with. HE certainly doesn’t remember doing anything like that – and HIS memory is inviolate.

Even if he HAS been emotionally abusive and dishonest with others, he’s going to be different with you. Especially after you two move intogether. It IS especially hard on him having a long-distance relationship. He wouldn’t be talking about how hard it is to keep up the intensity and connectedness over such a distance. He wouldn’t be implying that the relationship might not last if you don’t move in together… He wouldn’t have some kind of hidden agenda around that. He wouldn’t be trying to subtley manipulate you, and get you worried about losing him, like he did with the others. He just REALLY CARES for you, and really wants the two of you to be together.

He’s told you how different he feels with YOU. How different he IS with you. How healing your love is. How much he NEEDS you. What a wonderful person he thinks you are. How important you are in his life. How much he values and appreciates you, and misses you when you are not together. How amazingly transformed he feels now that he has finally met someone as SPECIAL as YOU.

So what if he told her the same things? He really MEANS it this time, with you.

He’s a changed person, (this time, for REAL) with you. You’re special.

You don’t need to talk to any of his ex’s to find out what he was REALLY like, because the past is the past, right? You couldn’t possibly learn anything from their experiences, because he’s not going to be like that anymore. It couldn’t possibly be that they have anything valid to say. Besides, you trust him to tell you the WHOLE TRUTH about his past (as far as he can “remember” it), right?

And he’s such a sensitive, caring guy, he REALLY does wish he and his ex could be FRIENDS now. Even though he NEVER ONCE called her or emailed her and said, “Listen, I don’t want it to end like this. Can we please talk?” (Even when he was still living downstairs. Even when she was in tears, begging him to *please* leave. NEVER ONCE.) SHE is the one to blame for all the bad feelings. It was HER responsibility to rectify things with HIM. And he can’t understand why she would have NO desire to have any contact with him, NO desire to have anything to do with him – after all he did for her, after what they had. After all, SHE is the one who did unforgivable things. He’s so uncomfortable around her now, because of how much she hurt him.  He wouldn’t STILL be projecting HIS issues on her, and implying that they are HER issues… After all, he’s a changed man.

But you don’t have to worry. He won’t PUBLICLY divulge YOUR insecurities or deeply intimate things you told him in confidence – he won’t betray your trust – like he did with her. No matter what happens between you and him, you’ll ALWAYS BE FRIENDS. You and he will always be able to work things out. So what if he said EXACTLY THE SAME THING TO HER (and all the others) too? It’ll be different with you. You’re special.

He won’t wait a year or two before he starts in on YOU. He won’t then use his knowledge of YOUR insecurities and emotional hot buttons to deliberately hurt YOU. He won’t start using psychological warfare to couch his deliberately hurtful actions in social plausibility with YOU. He won’t flirt with your close friends and use any attraction they might have to him, against YOU. NO. He won’t tell you that you just weren’t meeting his needs or living up to his expectations. He won’t expect you to read his mind. He won’t try to make it look like YOU are the reason he is unhappy, and YOU are the cause of your relationship problems. He won’t set you up to get upset with him so that YOU are the one who breaks it off with him, (or you get so angry with him that he HAS to break it off with YOU) and HE looks like a martyr (AGAIN). So what if he made all the same promises to her? Just because he was following some of his old patterns when he got involved with you, doesn’t mean he’s going to follow through on the rest of them. He’s CHANGED now.

You’re special. Just like SHE was when he was with HER. Just like they ALL thought they were.

He’s so sensitive and compassionate, he couldn’t have talked coldly to them about killing animals or wanting to break someone’s legs. No. Not the man YOU know. He’s different with YOU.

And when he starts telling you how much he MISSES his adult son, it won’t be to deflect, and distract you from being upset with him because he has just said or done something really inconsiderate or unkind. It won’t be to evoke sympathy from you and get you thinking what a wonderful, caring parent he is. Just because he lived less than a mile away from his son and hardly ever SAW him doesn’t mean that the “missing” monologue is for attention and redirection.

He’s so nice right now, so supportive. So what if he was that way with her too at the beginning? He won’t revert back to his headgames of praising and encouraging one minute and subtlely criticizing how you keep the house, the way you do things, things you say, in the next. He wouldn’t yank YOUR chain like that.

He’s so attentive right now, so interested in everything you say and do! He won’t turn around one day and tell you he’s NOT INTERESTED in the things that interest you, and then accuse you of not paying enough attention to HIM. He won’t get mopey and upset because you get more attention than he does at social functions. He won’t resent you for your charisma. Just because he did that before doesn’t mean he’s going to do it again with YOU. As long as you make sure HE is the center of attention, and he’s getting his ego stroked, he probably won’t get nasty with you… Right? It couldn’t be that he is a bottomless pit, and that you can NEVER give him enough attention. Not the man YOU know. Not with YOU. You’re special.

And the fact that another woman’s experience was so terrible with him, his distortions and multiple personalities so devastating that she felt compelled to warn other people about him and the “type” of abuser he is – well that’s no consequence. It must have been *her* that brought it out in him. He’s so different now that he’s found YOU and your healing love. So what if he said the same kinds of things to her? You are going to ignore those nagging little doubts in the back of your mind, because you want to believe so badly in the sweet, helpful, romantic person he is portraying right now. You don’t want to believe there is a dark malicious side to him that enjoys seeing others suffer. You want to believe you are special, and he is right there encouraging you, building you up, telling you how nobody understands him the way YOU do. He’s telling you that he just wants to stop feeling BAD about himself (and she made him feel that way, the witch!). He’s telling you that if he can’t make it work with you, he’s afraid he can’t make it with ANYONE… It’s so tragic… (Yeah, he said that to her too, but so what?)

YOU are the one who can “fix” his wounded ego. Your relationship with him will be So Much Better than his last ones, because you’re special! With you, he’ll be honest and straight-forward for the first time in his life. He won’t become cruel or passive-aggressive. He won’t play headgames anymore. He’ll stop using and discarding people like old kleenex. He won’t be rude or unkind or disrespectful like he was with those other women. HE LOVES YOU SO MUCH, HE’S NOW A CHANGED MAN. (Changed for the better, of course.) Not because of therapy. Not because he’s removed himself from relationships and taken some serious time to get his shit together. Not because he REALLY apologized (without interlacing it with blame) to anyone he harmed in the past, or made amends. Not because he’s done any REAL work. Not because he’s actually admitted to his real motivations, or made a single sincere change.

He just needed to find the RIGHT woman to “save” him from himself and “help” him become a better man, and that’s YOU.

You just KNOW he’ll be different with you. Right?

Breaking the Love Addiction: Disengaging from the Psychopath

Several readers of this blog mentioned feeling addicted to the psychopath. Today I’d like to repost an article I wrote a year ago, when psychopathyawareness was just getting started and building a readership. Addiction–both physical and emotional–is the right term to describe the hold the psychopath has on his victims. After the relationship is over, many victims feel lost or empty without the psychopath. They need the excitement the psychopath brought into their lives: even if it indicated his emotional shallowness and need for entertainment rather than passion. They need the constant attention, even if they learn that it came from the psychopath’s desire to control them rather than love. How do you escape from these obsessive thoughts and need for the psychopath?

The psychopathic bond resembles any other kind of powerful addiction. Nobody and nothing can save an addict unless she’s willing to save herself. Others can only offer her emotional support, information and help. That’s what I do here.  Most books on romantic relationships tell readers what steps to take to get them or to improve them. By way of contrast, I tell you bluntly and in detail why and how to disengage for good. If there’s one kind of relationship that’s not worth saving, it’s one with a psychopath. You can’t change a psychopath. Therefore, you also can’t improve your relationship with him. Psychologists call psychopathy “pathological.” They state that psychopaths suffer from a severe “personality disorder,” not just normal human flaws that can be worked on and ameliorated. Sandra Brown underscores in How to spot a dangerous man before you get involved that “Pathology is forever.” (23) It’s the result of a faulty brain wiring, sometimes coupled with emotional trauma that occurs during childhood development, which can’t be altered in any significant way once the psychopath reaches adulthood.  Brown doesn’t mince words when she describes a psychopath as “an emotional predator” who represents “the pinnacle of poisonous and pathological dating choices.” (179) When involved with such an individual, she cautions, “You will never change his physiology or his bad wiring. You will never love him into safety, sanity, or sanctity.” (21)

Women involved with psychopaths have been conditioned by their partners to assume most of the blame for the problems that occur in the relationship. They’re often deeply in love. They hope that the psychopath will magically improve and grow to love them more meaningfully. Often, they seek therapy, counseling or support groups. They grasp at any straw that can help them salvage the refuse of a pathological relationship. As time goes on, they focus on the increasingly fewer positive aspects of the relationship. They cherish the memories of how well they were treated in the beginning. They go into denial so that they don’t have to face the deliberate malice of the person they love, to whom they may have devoted their entire lives. When faced with the vast discrepancy between the psychopath’s nice words and his malicious actions, they feel lost, disoriented and alone. They stubbornly cling to the psychopath and to the fantasy of romantic love he initially created.

After spending months or even years with a psychopathic partner, after building a family or dreaming of a bright future together, it’s very hard to accept the fact that everything good about the relationship was an illusion. It’s difficult to see that every one of his qualities, words and gestures were manipulative and fake, intended, as is everything a psychopath does, to get you under his spell and undermine your dignity and strength. It’s extremely painful to realize that the psychopathic partner has never cared about you, no matter how vehemently or how often he may have professed his devotion. It’s infuriating to realize that you’ve been duped and used for his selfish and destructive purposes. It’s frustrating to see that most other people, who aren’t well informed about psychopathy, won’t understand the degree of deception, brainwashing and betrayal you’ve gone through.

To give you an idea about how difficult it is for this highly abnormal experience to translate into a normal frame of reference, I’ll offer an example. When I watch episodes of the History Channel on Adolf Hitler, he looks to me, as he probably does to many other viewers who didn’t experience the mass indoctrination at the time, like a ridiculous looking madman, screaming and flailing his arms about. Quite honestly, I can’t see anything appealing, much less mesmerizing, about this man. In watching Hitler’s dramatic gestures and listening to his unappealing shouts, I find it hard to believe that he exercised such a powerful and destructive mind-control over an entire nation. But, clearly, he did. Not just over one nation, but over several. Those who have not fallen under a psychopath’s spell are not likely to identify with the experience or to comprehend it viscerally. They will remain sufficiently objective to find attachment to a psychopath puzzling, perhaps even incomprehensible. But such unhealthy attachments aren’t rational, to be examined from a distance, with hindsight and full information in one’s hands.  Psychopathic bonds are largely emotional in nature. They’re also based upon a steady flow of misinformation and powerful mind control.

Consequently, if you’ve experienced the psychopathic bond, not many people will understand what you’ve been through and what kind of disordered human being you’ve had to deal with. It may be upsetting to witness that even (most of) the media coverage of criminal psychopaths doesn’t grasp the nature of their personality disorder. Journalists often mistakenly attribute their crimes to more easily comprehensible and common motives (such as greed, sex, financial or emotional crises or substance abuse) rather than the psychological profile that makes these social predators so dangerous to others. It may be saddening to see that in therapy, if you fall upon someone unfamiliar with this personality disorder, you and your psychopathic partner are assumed to be equally at fault for the turmoil in your lives. Worst of all, it will be painful to face the truth that no amount of love or patience or therapy or medication or anything at all can save a psychopath and your relationship with him. He will always remain what he is: an irredeemably selfish, shallow and heartless human being. If you’ve been involved with a psychopath, this truth will hurt. But ultimately, as one of the contributors to lovefraud.com wisely stated, it will also help heal your pain and set you free.

People tend to say that, as far as problems in romantic relationships are concerned, there are two sides to every story. This assumption doesn’t apply at all to relationships with psychopaths. In those, one person deliberately damages the other. What remains true, however, is the related popular adage that it takes two to tango. A relationship with a psychopath represents a macabre dance that hurts only one partner, but that takes two partners to participate in and continue. If you’ve been involved with someone who exhibits psychopathic traits, you have the power to take back your life. You can choose to disengage from that disordered individual, learn from your mistakes and make far better choices in the future.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 


Why don’t psychopaths let go of their victims?

Several readers have indicated in your comments that the psychopaths you broke up with (or who broke up with you) don’t let you go. They can’t accept that the relationship is over. They still try to contact you even though you told them in no uncertain terms you wish to break all contact with them. Despite this finality, they still harass you with unwelcome emails or phone calls. Sometimes they use your child or children as intermediaries, making the situation even more painful and complicated. So the question arises: Why can’t psychopaths take no for an answer and let former relationships go?

I’ve offered one answer to this question in the post Relationship Boomerang. Psychopaths juggle many relationships at once. Some are in the idealization/luring phase; others are in the devalue phase; yet others are in the discard phase and finally many are in the discarded phase, to which the psychopaths return when they get bored with all of the above.

Since, fundamentally, psychopaths engage with other human beings only because they need idolaters and subjects to use and dominate, an insatiable and obstinate need for control is the main and most fundamental reason why psychopaths can’t let go of their victims. Letting go would mean that they lose ownership over former targets. They no longer can get them to do their bidding. They can no longer lie to and manipulate them. They can no longer use them for supply, be it an ego boost, sex, money, or power. Those targets are out of their reach, out of their hands.

This also means that those former targets can move on and have the opportunity to lead much healthier and better lives without the psychopaths. This is the one thing that a psychopath can’t tolerate: the idea that you are far better off without him. The idea that you can find love again, or regain control of the finances he decimated, or find a better career that he destroyed.

To move on, you need to sever all contact with the psychopath. The psychopath may not release you, but you can free yourself. If he emails you, keep all the emails and once you establish a pattern of cyberstalking turn them in to the authorities. Even rerouted IP can be identified by the police. If he calls, don’t answer. If he leaves messages on the phone, let the answering machine record them and keep them as evidence to show the police. A restraining order may not offer much protection, but proving a pattern of stalking could land the psychopath in jail. Keep all the evidence against him but never engage directly with him (or her) in any way.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 


Why do psychopaths target married or “taken” individuals?

Some of the readers of this blog have asked me: why do psychopaths target married or “taken” individuals? Why don’t they prefer people who are single and available? My first answer is a reminder that psychopaths target everyone. They are constantly performing in their heads a cost-benefit analysis that intuitively assesses how they can use and exploit each individual they meet.

For those psychopaths who are sex addicts and/or sexual predators, obviously the use-value that matters most has to do with domination through sex and romance. When a psychopath enters a room, he scopes out everyone and zones in on the prey that he intuits might be vulnerable or open to his advances. Psychopathic sex addicts have plenty of easy prey: one night stands, friends with benefits and flings. They do go after easy targets.

However, those targets are not enough because their domination and conquest are purely physical, not emotional. This is why psychopaths also latch on to more challenging prey. They promise them commitment and express (phony or superficial) love in order to sink their teeth deeper into them, body and soul. Feeling the love in someone else’s eyes gives psychopaths and narcissists a sense of power, almost omnipotence, that is very arousing, especially since they know that the love is based on a foundation of lies and false premises. The conquest and dupery of their victims is doubly intoxicating for them.

Choosing married or otherwise “taken” victims adds a third dimension to their sadistic pleasure. When they seduce a married woman, they are not only conquering that person’s heart but also “taking her” from another man. To psychopaths this represents a double conquest and therefore also a double defeat of their victims: both of the person they dupe into loving them and of the person they both cheat on. The thrill of seducing married individuals, to manipulate and hurt not only a given target, but also her significant other and family, often proves irresistible to psychopaths, fueling their false sense of superiority, power and invincibility.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

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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