Partners in Evil: The Psychopath and Malignant Narcissist Combo

You probably have heard on the news about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Duguard, when she was only 11 years old. The young girl was kidnapped on June 10, 1991 from a school bus stop near her home and held hostage for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Garrido raped and imprisoned Jaycee. They had two girls together (age 11 and 15 at the time they were discovered by the police), whom Garrido and his wife also imprisoned in unsanitary tents in their backyard.

At the time they kidnapped Jaycee, Garrido had already been convicted of a sex crime. Despite the fact that parole officers checked regularly the house, they didn’t bother to look in the couple’s backyard, behind a fence. Nancy Garrido is shown on one tape interfering with the police inspection, harassing the inspector in order to distract him and prevent him from finding Jaycee and the girls. She is a partner in her husband’s crime; a fellow abuser. The couple pled guilty to kidnapping and other charges on April 28, 2011 and were convicted on June 2, 2011. Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years of imprisonment while Nancy received a lesser sentence of 36 years to life.

We see this phenomenon of dangerous duos, or partners in evil, on the news over and over again. What kind of women stay with male psychopaths, enable their wrongdoings, participate in them and then cover them up? Sometimes it’s female psychopaths who partner in crime sprees with their male counterparts. The most notable example of this is Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the young Canadian couple who kidnapped and killed several young women, including Karla’s younger sister. They were convicted in 1993 and are perhaps the inspiration behind  Oliver Stone‘s controversial movie, Natural Born Killers (1994). Usually, however, two psychopaths together can’t last long. Each has to outdo the other in wrongdoings; each wants to be top dog; each looks out for number one and, at the slightest provocation, turns against the other (as, in fact, happened in the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka).

The partnership between Phillip and Nancy Garrido reflects a different dynamic: the equally dangerous yet usually far more enduring combination between a psychopath and a malignant narcissist. In this combination, there is a clear top dog who guides the relationship: the psychopath. However, the malignant narcissist helps him carry out his wrongdoings and covers up for him. What is in it for a malignant narcissist when she teams up with a psychopath? How does this dynamic play out and why does it last? These are the questions I’d like to address next.

I have explained at length the features of a psychopath and why his lack of conscience and empathy, combined with an underlying psychological sadism (enjoyment at causing others pain) would lead him to commit the kinds of crimes Phillip Garrido was found guilty of. But what kind of woman stands by such a man? My hypothesis is: a malignant narcissist. All narcissistic personalities–even those who appear to have high self-confidence and to consider themselves superior to others–crave constant validation. An insatiable need for validation forms the core of unhealthy, excessive narcissism. I say “excessive narcissism” because we all have egos or selves and thus we all have some narcissistic tendencies that are healthy–in moderation–and make us the individuals we are.

Psychopaths are very adept at identifying individuals who suffer from unhealthy, excessive narcissism. Why? Because such individuals appear to be vulnerable and insecure. Caring too much about what others think and pinning one’s self-esteem on the opinions of others is, indeed, a weakness and a vulnerability. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a weak and relative sense of self that needs constant validation. They need to feel better than others or superior to others in order to have an identity and feel good about themselves.

Psychopaths form a symbiotic relationship with such highly narcissistic individuals by holding out the promise of becoming a superior and very special couple. Because psychopaths have an inherent sense of superiority and because they’re thrill seekers who consider themselves to be above the rules and laws, they often manage to convince such narcissistic partners that together they make an unbeatable power couple: closer than other couples, better than them, smarter than them, more cunning than them, hotter than them. During the honeymoon phase of the relationship, there are no words in any language to describe this superlative superiority.

The problem is, as we know, that psychopaths inevitably pass from the idealization phase to a devaluation phase in all of their relationships. This is part and parcel of their personality disorder: to become bored with and emotionally detach from every person they are with. Since a narcissistic partner requires constant reassurance of her superiority to other women–especially since the psychopath,with his constant flirting and cheating, gives her plenty of reasons to be jealous of them–she will feel threatened during the devaluation phase, when he no longer finds her hot, virtuous, brilliant, practical, wise, and all the other qualities he formerly (and all too briefly) ascribed to her.

That’s when the most dangerous and pathological aspect of their relationship begins. During the devaluation phase, the malignant narcissist begins to be rewarded almost exclusively by the punishment of other women the psychopath hooks up with, uses, devalues and abuses. She may no longer be as wonderful as she seemed in his eyes in the beginning. However, there’s this reward left in their “special” and “superior” relationship: by staying with her; by needing her as an alibi and cover for him; by harming other women jointly, she proves her (sick) love and loyalty to him while he, in turn, acknowledges her superiority to all the other women he uses and abuses worse than he does her.

The worse other women are treated by the psychopath–in more commonplace cases, used and disposed of like dirty condoms; in extreme cases, raped and murdered–the more this abuse confirms her special status in his eyes. Such women are without conscience, without remorse, without empathy just like the psychopaths themselves. They are manipulative, deceptive and abusive like psychopaths. The main difference between such malignant narcissists and the psychopaths is that the narcissists are in some respects weaker and more vulnerable.

They tend to be followers rather than leaders because of their excessive need for validation, which puts them at the mercy of others and makes them especially appealing to psychopaths: as their partners in life and allies in wrongdoings. If you read about other similar cases to that of Phillip and Nancy Garrido or about the psychology of cult followers, you will see this psychological dynamic at play. There are few more enduring and dangerous duos than these partners in evil: the psychopath and malignant narcissist combo.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Advertisements

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?

The Psychopath’s Hook: Love Bombing, Sex and Flattery

Nobody is lured by anyone through initial criticism and abuse.  If a psychopath undermined your self-confidence on the first date, you’d quickly dispatch him on his way. Relationships with psychopaths are about utility and power. The psychopath will use you for whatever purpose he wants–sex, money, a mask of normalcy–and keep you in your place by getting you to focus on your weaknesses and pouncing on your insecurities. However, no relationship with a psychopath starts that way. On the contrary, once they set their eyes on you as their main target (their “prize”), psychopaths typically engage in whirlwind romances. They can’t get enough of you. They want to see you and make love to you all the time. They flatter you constantly. They tell you that no woman they’ve ever been with is as smart, as beautiful, as classy as you are. You are the one true love of their lives. Their only love. Victims tend to eat the flattery up, since after all, who doesn’t like to be told such positive and beautiful things? They don’t ask themselves a common sense question: Why is this guy flattering me so much?

This is, indeed, the first question you should ask yourself if you’re being “love bombed,” as they say, by anyone. How many healthy individuals do that? And what makes you so special that out of all the people in the world you turn out to be the most beautiful, brilliant and exciting of all?  Could it be that this man has an ulterior motive? Could it be that he told each one of his main targets the same lines? And if so, why? To show you how absurd love bombing is and why you should display great caution when you encounter it, just consider the following analogous examples. We tell our children not to approach strangers who try to lure them with nice words and candy. Those individuals are probably social predators, pedophiles. But why do grown women accept such flattery without raising an eyebrow? Shouldn’t the advice they offer their children also apply to them?

To offer a second common example: in the seventies a lot of women hitchhiked. They didn’t necessarily ask themselves why is this stranger being so nice and giving me a free ride? Most of the time they were safe; a lot of the time, they weren’t. Some got picked up by social predators–rapists and even murderers–whose “niceness” was only a lure. There is a pattern emerging here. Most normal people don’t love bomb. They do not engage in over-the-top flattery; they do not make promises of eternal love right off the bat; they don’t call you the love of their lives without even knowing you. These are patterns of behavior that should be suspicious because they are very common lures for predators.

Psychopaths commonly engage in love bombing as their hook, to sink their claws into their victims. The flattery, declarations of love and romantic encounters bond and attract the victims to them. This process is not reciprocal. Since psychopaths attach to others without emotionally bonding to them, they only bond the target, not the predator. Such techniques pump up the victim’s confidence and get her addicted to the supply: of flattery, of romantic words and gestures, or constant displays of “affection” and love making. But only one person–the victim–is actually  making love. The other one–the predator–is conquering her, getting her to depend upon his presence and approval, so that he can later tear her apart. That is a psychopath’s main goal: to exercise control over his targets and ultimately harm them. The psychopathic bond is, as Sandra Brown aptly puts it, “a relationship of inevitable harm.”

When victims are still in the honeymoon phase of the psychopathic bond they rarely believe that the person who appears to woe and romance them so much, the one who claims to adore them, intends to use, control and ultimately destroy them. But as the relationship with a psychopath unfolds, this underlying goal becomes more obvious. He starts to get you to focus on your weaknesses. He starts to tell you the criticisms leveled against you by other people (supposedly) so that you focus on those issues. Initially the criticisms don’t come from him (supposedly). They come from your colleague or your friends or his family members. Then, slowly, they start coming from him. Maybe you should exercise more. Or lose some weight. Or you don’t wear the right kind of makeup. Or professionally you’re not successful enough. Or you’re no longer as sexually exciting to him. Bit by bit, criticism by criticism, the psychopath undermines your self-worth. This process may happen in a few months or may be painfully slow and gradual, a matter of years. Either way, it’s highly effective. You are already used to his flattery and validation. What are you doing wrong that you’re no longer getting them? Your sense of who you are and self-confidence begin to slip. You do what you can to regain his approval, or perhaps even his idolatry. His “love”.

The moral of this story? If someone is too positive and flattering and gives you too much attention in the beginning of a relationship, it generally means you’re in for a very bumpy road later on, filled with criticism and manipulation. When somebody starts love bombing you, don’t ask yourself: How in the world did I get so lucky? Ask yourself: What does this guy want from me? In a psychopathic bond, the idealization phase of flattery and wild declarations of love is by far the most dangerous because that’s when a psychopath conditions you in a positive way to pin your self-worth on him. Once you do that, he gradually and steadily conditions you to accept his increasingly negative criticism, to chip away at your identity and self-esteem. This eventually happens in every relationship with a psychopath. You will not be the exception that confirms the rule. Nobody proves to be a psychopath’s “one true love,” no matter how much he flattered them and said he loved them in the beginning.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To

Almost every victim of a psychopathic predator deals with the burden of anger and resentment. We feel betrayed by the lies, by the cheating, by the constant manipulation, by the entire mask of sanity. Everything about the relationship that we considered real and based on true love turned out to be a sham. The person we thought we knew and loved was not the person we thought we knew and loved. We ended up loving an illusion, a mask and ultimately only a fantasy of love, not a real person, not a real relationship. So feelings of anger and betrayal are natural in the aftermath of a toxic relationship with a psychopath. Natural, but burdensome. It’s difficult to carry around so much anger. We’re often advised to forgive, if not actually forget the experience. Forgiveness is presented as a religious and ethical ideal, akin in some ways to the equally ideal notion of unconditional love. Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To (HarperCollins, 2005), argues that forgiveness, like the notion of love, can’t be automatic. It is something earned, based on a reciprocity between a truly repentant person and the person who forgives. Since psychopaths cause intentional harm and lack conscience–and therefore also lack any meaningful sense of remorse–how applicable can the notion of forgiveness then be to a relationship with them, to what they did wrong? In the article below, How Can I Forgive You? as well as in her book and in her seminar (www.janisaspring.com), Dr. Abrahms Spring offers a more meaningful understanding of forgiveness: one that is earned. Please welcome her guest post below. 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Almost everything that has been written about forgiveness preaches to hurt parties as to why they should forgive: Forgiveness is good for us; and good people forgive, is the common refrain. But in my clinical practice of over three decades (mostly working with couples recovering from infidelity), I’ve found that when someone acts in a hurtful way and isn’t able or willing to make meaningful repairs, hurt parties choke on the mandate for them to forgive. This makes sense to me. Why are we preaching to the hurt party? Why not turn to offenders and ask them to earn forgiveness?

When hurt parties are pushed to forgive an unrepentant offender, I find they often react in one of three ways:

1)    They refuse to forgive and insist, “Forgiveness may be divine, but it’s not for me.” They’re then left not forgiving – hating and hurting and living in a grudge state – and we know this isn’t healthy.

2)    They’re taught to forgive, they try to forgive, but inside, they often feel cheated and disingenuous.

3)    They say they forgive, but often even those people who describe themselves as the forgiving type, actually forgive less in reality then they’d like to admit.

To me, there’s a missing option in the work of forgiveness, or in the work of healing from interpersonal wounds. Something the lies between the fluffy, inspirational concept of “pure” forgiveness (asking nothing in return), and the hard, cold-hearted response of not forgiving.

I’ve developed a radical alternative which I call “Acceptance.” Acceptance is not forgiveness. Acceptance is a healing alternative which hurt parties accomplish for themselves, by themselves. It asks nothing of the offender which is good because in this condition, offenders have nothing to offer. I say, when an offender is not sorry, when they are unable or unwilling to make meaningful repairs, it is not the job of the hurt party to forgive them. (I call this Cheap Forgiveness). But it is the job of the hurt party to heal themselves. This is the work of Acceptance and in my book, How Can I Forgive You?, I spell out 10 steps hurt parties can take to heal themselves. (One step involves choosing a level of relationship with the offender that serves their best interest. This can range from cutting off to full engagement. A second step would be de-shaming the injury).

What I call Genuine Forgiveness is reserved for those offenders who have the courage and character to make meaningful amends. Again, in my book, I spell out exactly what offenders must do to earn forgiveness, and what hurt parties must do to foster this process. Acceptance is intrapersonal; Genuine Forgiveness is interpersonal.

The work of Genuine Forgiveness operates like that of love. We can love someone alone. (We’ve all been in those relationships). But doesn’t it feel more genuine, more satisfying, more embracing, when we love someone who deserves our love, who treats us with tender regard?

Between Envy and Contempt: The Psychopath’s Emotional Pendulum

Envy and contempt don’t necessarily go together. They’re both very negative emotions, but in some ways they’re polar opposites. Envy is about wanting what others have and you lack. Contempt is about disdaining what others want or have. In a psychopath’s mind, however, these two emotions coexist. Psychopaths want what others have. They want to be loved, even adored, for who they are, despite continually lying to, cheating on and mistreating those around them. They want to have professional success, despite the fact they rarely put in the work for it and even cheat their customers or bosses. They want to be respected by their kids, despite the fact that they emotionally abuse them or regard them as mere possessions or trophies. They want to have what normal human beings often have in life but they can’t because of their underlying abnormality. This is why their main emotion is contempt for others and, more generally, for human endeavors, accomplishments and goals.

I became attuned to this pendular attitude when I noticed my psychopathic (ex) partner’s inexplicable and unjustified criticism of and disdain towards others. I recall in particular one incident, when he put down a friend of mine who is a very talented and successful fiction writer, who had just published a novel on the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union, which was very similar to my novel about communist Romania, Velvet Totalitarianism. His novel did very well not just in terms of sales but also in terms of critical reviews. My ex referred to that writer as “a Loser” and “a failure” because he didn’t sell in the same quantities as books like the Harry Potter series. I was stunned by the fact that this man (my ex), who had accomplished nothing with his life and got booted out of every job, would put down someone so much more accomplished than him, who was also a nice person. My friend hadn’t done or said anything to insult my ex. My ex’s gratuitous insult towards a talented, successful and nice person stuck with me. I didn’t see any reason for it.

Later, after I informed myself about psychopathy, I realized that he was indirectly also putting me down, so that I wouldn’t feel satisfied with the literary success of my fiction if it wouldn’t be on the scale of books like Harry Potter. Just like he had identified in his wife a low body image and conditioned her to feel fat when she wasn’t, to the point where she had joined Overeaters Anonymous, or pressured her to leave a lucrative job where she was very much appreciated by her colleagues, so he was hoping to find my insecurities and make me feel bad about my dreams and accomplishments.

There were many such incidents during the course of our one year together, which I went over in my mind retrospectively, after the breakup, when I was trying to come to terms with the pathological relationship. To offer one more telling example, I was equally shocked when he greeted the good news that his sister-in-law had just given birth to a new baby with the contemptuous statement: “The kid’s butt-ugly”. At the time, he was already pressuring me about wanting us to have a baby together. I realized that this is how he processed any news about others having something he wanted: with mean-spirited criticism driven by envy. This trait bothered me at the time but, as usual, I chalked it up to his emotional immaturity.

Psychopaths have contempt for worldly ambition, for money, fame or success in any field. They have contempt for human love, viewing it as a weakness that can be easily manipulated. They have contempt for bonds of friendship outside of casual fun or mutual utility. Envy and contempt, wanting what others have yet disdaining it at the same time, are not contradictory emotions for a psychopath. They form the essence of the psychopath’s pendular movement, which springs from an underlying narcissism: his natural equilibrium, or state of being. Psychopaths want to be better than others at everything we thrive at and hold dear, but at the same time they disdain human values and their fellow human beings.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction