Before I outline the reasons you’re having a hard time letting go of the psychopath, I think it’s important to share, from my perspective, who the psychopath IS and what his behavior, words and tactics translate to the victim.
The psychopath, narcissist and sociopath all share the same common and yet dangerous inability to empathize. This means they are not capable of love. There are many other behaviors that tend to repeat themselves in the relationship that show you who he/she is: has no remorse, regret, guilt. Takes no personal or professional responsibility. EXPLOITATIVE, manipulative, pathological lying. Psychopaths are power addicts and everything they say, do, as well as their tactics, involve his/her self-empowerment at the expense of his/her victims. Abusers of any stripe are unlikely to change, but this is especially so with a disordered one.
Abusers have an award system based upon how much they can get from you and how much pain they can cause you doing it. This is very important to remember: Psychopathic, narcissistic, sociopathic abusers live to get a reaction from you. Every reaction you give them, whether good or bad (mostly bad) shows them how much power they have over you and your life. Each time you react, if you pay close attention to the psychopath’s face, or body gestures, it is nigh impossible for him not to hide some form of ‘glee’ or ‘emotional’ satisfaction at your pain. In fact, the very things that harm you the most, that get the best reactions, are things the psychopath will do repeatedly to you. This is the SAME for all of the Cluster B’s.
Psychopaths, narcissists and sociopaths operate within a pattern of predictability in the suffering, damage and trauma they cause in the relationship, as well as after the relationship ends (discard). It begins with exploitation-this is incredibly important to remember too: Exploitation is about INTENT. Intent to hurt you, badly! PREDATORY EXPLOITERS, HUMAN PREDATORS, are what the Cluster B’s ARE. It is in their very nature, permeates their entire psychological landscape and colors everything they do. Exploitation IS the beginning of all the abusers relationships. Predators are strategic. They lie in wait for the kill. They observe their prey, watch its behavior, how it moves, where it goes, how it interacts with the rest of the ‘pack’.
Advances in technology make it incredibly easy for the psychopath, narcissist or sociopath to compile information about their prey, identify their vulnerabilities. They are so focused on their prey, they will go out of their way to learn more before the manipulation (love bombing) begins. Not only will they learn all about you via social media outlets, they will attempt to speak to your friends, family, coworkers, even your employer, to glean as much information as they can out of them about you. The ease with which they can do this is astounding. People think nothing of an inquiry made to them online about a friend for a potential job, a potential ‘date’, anything and everything can and will be used to make the manipulation (love bombing) go as smoothly as possible.
Once the psychopath, narcissist, sociopath has all the information they need to set up a profile (exploitation = intent), the manipulation (love bombing) begins. Armed with information about your vulnerabilities, the psychopath uses love bombing (manipulation) to exploit them. He seems as someone you have known your entire life. He is suddenly your best friend, your ‘Pastor’, you’re ‘teacher’. If you come from a pathological background he will ‘sense’ this and will be the parent that you never had. If you tend to fantasy, and suffer from ‘white picket fence’ syndrome, he will be the Knight in Shining Armor, the quintessential father to your children, the husband that is in perfect sync with you and a life visualized that is beyond your wildest fantasy or dreams. . .
The ‘promise’ that the psychopath delivers in love bombing and manipulation are intrinsically tied to your vulnerabilities. This is usually something we want so badly and have never had, or something we dream about that is largely subconscious until the psychopath awakens this part of us into action. For the psychopath, your vulnerabilities are the gateway to his power over you. Without healthy boundaries, the exploitation and subsequent manipulation (love bombing) will be missed. Ironically, the manipulation (love bombing) will be the biggest red flag you will have as to this predator’s exploitation (intent).
Once the psychopath knows you’re hooked into the promise to deliver what is missing in your life, your fantasy, or the salve to your pain, love bombing slows, and either passively or aggressively, he begins to deprive you of the promise delivered. This twist of events in the relationship is what creates the dependence and addiction to him. It is very much like heroin addiction, or any other powerful addiction. The first ‘hit’ is always the best, but after this, one is merely chasing the ‘beginning’, that first ‘high’. But it is never the same again, so the addict pursues more of the drug that now has him/her dependent and sick. Each time the addict gets a taste of the drug, it takes more and more to reach a level of ‘high’ and it is never like the first time. Dependency turns into a nightmare of wanting, but never having and at great cost to the addict.
This is exactly what the psychopath, narcissist, sociopath does to their victims. The victim experiences deprivation, and is confused as to why the promise is not kept. The victim desperately waits for the psychopath, narcissist or sociopath to give what he/she gave in the BEGINNING, to go back to what he/she was when delivering the promise (the initial ‘high’). The victim’s desperation is met with bone tosses from the psychopath when he feels he is losing power in the relationship, or that the victim is ‘catching on’ and becomes suspicious. A vacation for two, gifts, lots of sex, endless flattery and then when the victim once again believes that the promise is finally about to be delivered, the psychopath begins to deprive again. This cycle will be repeated all throughout their time together.
The psychopath intentionally sabotages the victim, making her/him feel crazy when she/he reacts to the psychopath’s abuse. The psychopath makes the victim doubt herself/himself, as he/she is now questioning the psychopath’s motives and intent. The psychopath uses word salad to bring about cognitive dissonance in his/her victim. The psychopath twists words, and he/she projects his/her own behavior on to the victim. The more suspicious the victim is of the psychopath’s inevitable cheating, the more the psychopath accuses the victim of cheating. The psychopath sabotages the victim by blaming her/him for his/her deprivation. So the victim works harder because that promise is so deeply held within, such a monumental vulnerability, and there is so much pain from what the victim perceives as her/his own failure to ‘please’ when the psychopath refuses to give her/him FULLY what the victim wants.
Further, this deprivation the psychopath knows will lead to questions from his victims as to his behavior, why he will not fulfill the promise. He blames, attacks, projects, and he may even physically beat her for questioning his ‘authority’. The victims REACTION to his DEPRIVATION AND SABOTAGE is what increases the psychopath’s ‘feeling’ of power over the victim.
From exploitative/manipulative beginning, to deprivation, sabotage, abuse and blame during the relationship, to the inevitable discard at the end of the relationship along with a horrendous smear campaign that includes more exploitation of the victim’s vulnerabilities shared with the psychopath, is a predictable pattern of behavior and tactics the psychopath uses to get what he/she wants from the victim. It’s all about power, from beginning to end and not about the victim at all. His/her disorder is not about you at all. It was there before you and it will be thereafter. He does not have the ‘power’ to turn off his disorder like a light switch. It is his very NATURE. The psychopath, narcissist, sociopath is a human PREDATOR.
In my opinion, the exploitation/manipulation phase of the relationship is the most dangerous phase of all, excluding the end and escape out of the relationship. Why? Because this is what the victim will harken to when thinking about him. This is what the survivor will remember, this façade, the human predatory mask, and the PROMISE only briefly delivered in the beginning. This façade includes a very fake, but well-acted part of someone with empathy, concern, deep caring and ‘soul mate’ connection.
The disordered one has observed most of his/her life, the behaviors of others in romantic relationships, so imbedded into our culture and upbringing. From romantic movies to personal romantic relationships that the psychopath ‘picks up’ on throughout the course of his/her life, these are filtered into his/her relationships as the distortion they are in action with love bombing, and exploits the victim’s vulnerability of fantasy about what a romantic relationship IS.
Indoctrination of cultural and societal beliefs about romance and sex are instilled in childhood, via example or with what we are told or what we see around us through adolescence and into adulthood. These distortions are heightened when childhood abuse is involved. Women come to believe that they are not complete without a man.
The deference expected from women in a society that is patriarchal and oligarchic, subjecting them to automated submissiveness and objectified as ‘at the ready’ to please, puts women at risk. We live in a ‘rape culture’ that forgives the perpetrator, blames the woman involved as somehow deserving of her abuse, and even celebratory of the perpetrator/predator, particularly if he is in a position of POWER. Aside from indoctrination that is so widely accepted and somewhat subconscious, putting unnecessary pressure on women to ‘perform’ or to ‘submit’ to ‘their man’, becomes even more problematic for the adult child of a predatory parent in childhood. This young woman’s very vulnerability lies not only within the realm of indoctrination that becomes the things of fantasy in romantic relationships with abusers, but a double entendre when the sexual, physical, emotional sins of the parent are visited upon her in childhood. Sexualized at an early age, sex becomes a reflection of love. Deprivation of love, becomes the promise of eternal and undying love and commitment that the psychopath promises to deliver.
For adolescent girls and adult women of pathological abuse, familiarity with the façade, with former predatory exploiters, makes the adolescent or adult child, not only extremely vulnerable to abusers, but the ‘soul connection’ that the psychopath exploits and that the victim feels initially, is not a connection at all, but bears the fruit of familiarity for the victim through her abuse and her abusers. There may be a vague and distant warning within victims of childhood abuse around the psychopath and with his manipulations in the beginning, but the promise is so powerful, the deprivation she has already suffered so real and present, it too becomes an addictive force in the victims’ life. Her belief that the beginning was authentic and real, painting the psychopath with colors that do not belong to him, such as with empathy, compassion and care, become her own projections of empathy, compassion and care of the psychopath with the new victim. This is why survivors are convinced at the idea that the psychopath has somehow ‘changed’ with the new victim, as she still believes he is capable of something he has clearly shown to her that he is not. This belief, is a pathological outcome of so much brainwashing, lies, gas lighting, cognitive dissonance and the desperation and pain that the promise he did not fulfill with her, will be fulfilled with someone else. She fails to see how impossible this is, as she watches her Knight in Shining Armor, exploiting and manipulating another victim.
I hope this helps give an understandable description of the psychopath, and the pathological relationship. Helping you to understand the dynamics, may bring some sense of relief in that the psychopath, narcissist and sociopath are predictable and the same in every relationship they have. The only thing the psychopath, narcissist or sociopath changes, is his/her mask to mirror the new victim and the victim herself/himself.
Now, to the five reasons you can’t let go of him. As I write, I pray that you experience a release from the grips of the psychopath’s power.
1. No Contact- Without no contact, the addictive pull to the relationship will not end for her/him and the psychopath will do his best to keep power over her/him, even if the psychopath is the one to have discarded him/her. Even while he/she has a new victim. The psychopath often makes curtain calls ONLY to see if the victim will still react to the psychopath. The psychopath will stalk, even while he has a new victim. The victim attributes the psychopath’s failure to fulfill the promise as blame onto herself, rather than recognizing that this person she was with, is a human predatory exploiter. The inability to see the psychopath for who he is, is the most dangerous from beginning to end. The level of depravity, double/hidden lives with other families and many, many other women, and other assortment of depravity and evil, keeps her in a relationship with an extremely dangerous person, keeps her going back to him when he ‘curtain calls’ and is also responsible for the projection of a promised delivered to a new victim, when this is so far from reality. No contact is the survivor’s ticket to freedom from the psychopath’s powerful grip.
2. Ruminating- While this is a common outcome in the acute phase of the relationship, our mind’s way of working through trauma in understanding who the psychopath is and ACCEPTING this, it can also become as addicting as the psychopath and the relationship. Ruminating can keep the victim tied to the psychopath when he is long gone. But lack of acceptance as to whom the psychopath really IS, keeps the victim in spin with endless questions that have been answered repeatedly. Understanding the human predator, that there are people like this that exist, is a very difficult process, but one that can be done when applied to various actions, behaviors and tactics within the relationship. A belief system that is also part of a religious, as well as societal indoctrination that ALL are good, is fallacy. If one is to read the Bible in the literal sense, there are specific warnings throughout that tell us through biblical stories, verses/text, as well as within the context of Christ’s life and teachings, that not all are good, but that some are, in fact, evil. The nature of the predator with intent to cause pain, harm and damage to another human being is proof enough of the reality that evil exists among us, as well as there is good, empathic people in this world. You cannot have one without the other, and a lot in between. When the survivor understands who the psychopath is, obsessing and ruminating about the psychopath wanes and then stops altogether.
3. Acceptance- They key to a victim’s freedom from the psychopath’s power is simply acceptance of who he IS. Acceptance brings about the shift within the survivor from the psychopath, back to herself where it belongs.
4. Another relationship/drama, as distractions- Many survivors, after the discard or ending of their relationship with the psychopath are in so much pain and desperate to stop it, that they immediately head to dating sites (where predators live-over half of the survivors I’ve worked with found their predator on a dating site), or start looking for another relationship. This is a recipe for another disaster. At no other time is the survivor more vulnerable (aside from the beginning with the psychopath), then immediately after a pathological relationship has ended. A hiatus from dating and from relationships are necessary to review what landed the survivor into the most dangerous relationship and with the most dangerous person on the planet. Establishing personal boundaries, therapy, support, learning to have self-esteem (or get it back), learning to self-love, and beginning the work on yourself to have these critical things in place for your personal safety and enjoyment of life, is the ONLY thing that will help to prevent another encounter with a psychopath. I’ve had countless survivors over the years, complain about the psychopath’s ability to move on so fast, while she is already dating or believes she is ready to date…..so fast. Not doing the things necessary to put YOU back together, leads to more disastrous relationships and much more drama and the high potential to be re-traumatized.
About drama- My suggestion in learning how to create self-discipline and personal boundaries, means we aren’t distracted by others drama, gossip, or other related social menaces. Survivor support forums are ‘hives’ of untreated PTSD, drama, power imbalances and hence, more wounding. Allowing yourself to be dragged into further pathological muck, through pathological family, friends, acquaintances and social media, distracts you from wonderful YOU. I understand how frightening it is to bother to think about healing your wounds. I won’t lie to you, it is a very painful, in fact, excruciating, scary and profoundly long process, particularly if you have wounds from childhood. It takes a great deal of courage and monumental bravery to address the issues that made you vulnerable to the psychopath, narcissist or sociopath in the first place. This could be complicated by many other factors, such as financial instability, familial instability, and lack of support. If you come from a pathological home, this will feel as if you’re traveling this road completely alone. But you are NOT. There IS support out there for you, if and when you’re willing to implement a recovery process that is not filled with distractions. True LOVE for yourself, means you’re ready to focus on you. The first step in love of self (even if you don’t feel it), was to leave your psychopath behind. The future is frightening when you don’t know yourself and don’t trust yourself or others, but this CAN be worked through and if you do make this huge leap to yourself, you’ll go through a transition, like a caterpillar does to turn into a butterfly. You ARE beautiful inside and you’re WORTH the time and energy you put into yourself.
5. Fear- Fear of exposing your wounds. Fear that there is something wrong with you for having been duped by your psychopath. I know, early on its easier to blame him completely for your pain and you’re justified in doing so, but there is something that all survivors are inevitably faced with, no matter how hard or how long they run to avoid themselves and that IS yourself. For all the projections of change that survivors put onto the psychopath and the new victim, the idea of change within, seems not only very frightening, but overwhelming and insurmountable. Change is not spontaneous, as the psychopath would have you believe. It doesn’t come from OTHERS, it comes from within and all it takes from you, is a willingness to try.
The false promise that the psychopath delivered in the beginning, is the wound that is reflected in you that is unhealed, a gaping vulnerability within you that needs to be addressed. So many survivors have shared on this blog and privately with me, “But I was doing really well! I was ‘SUCCESSFUL” in my business and in my life! I had a home, a car and 25 degrees!”
But you see, while all of that is wonderful and is part of your beautiful traits, it’s superficial too. Remember that society places great emphasis on class, status and as does the PSYCHOPATH. But while your success might have been one of the reasons the psychopath wanted power over in your life, it is not the reason he was able to exploit you. Our vulnerabilities run very deep, for all of us. Much of the time, we aren’t even aware of them. But all of us have a desire inside to be loved, to be validated and cared for in some way.
Some want the perfect marriage, family scenario since they have ‘everything else’. And even more believe that because they are intelligent and successful that they can’t believe they were duped, or that someone COULD dupe them. But it isn’t about your intelligence. It isn’t about your success. It’s about your HEART. It’s about what’s inside YOU. What you really want in life. The promise that you believe someone else can deliver, when in reality, YOU can deliver it to yourself! You can be your own lover, your own very best friend. You can be the parent you never had. You can have a future that is bright EMOTIONALLY. Having come from a pathological home where money and success was heavily emphasized and used as a ‘status’ background, I can honestly say that NONE of that gave me the love, nurturing, care, compassion and parental concern that was my right as a child. And it hasn’t given it to me as an adult either and I live with one foot out the door to homelessness right now. But I learned that I could still LOVE myself, I could STILL learn to accept and to cope with my life, just as it is, RIGHT NOW.
Five years out now, I’m free from the idea that the promise must come from outside of myself. I’m free from the idea that a man is necessary in my life to be validated, or to feel loved. It doesn’t feel like a desperate need that derives from deprivation. I give this to myself now and am still learning.
I’ve built boundaries, I’ve learned to accept my life in many ways, while still questioning other aspects of it. Having been approached by a few men the last five years, was a testament as to how much work I’ve done on myself. Observing, listening, paying attention to red flags and not giving myself away for free, even while that temptation and small voice inside, the deprived child from within, occasionally gives me a hard time, I quiet her with a walk outside, a loving embrace, a hug to my dog, or to my son, a visit with my new grandson. Or supporting a survivor in pain. Or sitting in the beautiful sunshine with a warm breeze coming out of the west…
NOTHING is worth giving up on yourself for a quick remedy. It seems so much easier to do, but only adds to the guilt and shame that exists and who better to pile that on our psyche than a relationship with a human predator. .
Just give you some much needed thought and healing for yourself.
Onward and Upward
If you are in need of support or guidance, please see the guidance and support page.
*Note: Men are also survivors of psychopathic women. Oftentimes psychopathic women are just as dangerous as men, but in a different way. They use their femininity and cultural/societal indoctrination to paint themselves as victims to men during exploitation. I’ve been ‘friends’ with women like this and the depravity and evil they are capable of is as bad as men. There were/are women in my pathological family who are like this and one wants to stay clear. If you’re a male survivor, I suggest a wonderful website that has helped many men in recovery (although you are WELCOME here), called “AShrink4Men’. I hope that you’ll check it out.