There is an extremely painful reality with most survivors of psychopathic or narcissistic abuse that seems to be a huge sticking point in early recovery: The psychopath’s ability to move on as if she never existed and take up with someone new. This is universal. And because it is, it has been written about countless times by others, but in addressing a survivor’s angst about it, it is often met with, “Don’t focus on what he’s doing” or “It’s time to move on.” These pat answers do not validate a survivor’s ‘why’ questions, nor help to alleviate even a little bit of pain from relationship with an individual that represents what extremes really are when it comes to abuse.
Most of the blog posts, articles and books I’ve read about this in trying to find answers and solace for myself when I dealt with my ex psychopath luring and capturing his new victim awhile back (and all the victims in between), address the issue of the reality of his moving on so fast and why. The reasons for this are outlined with regards to his propensity for boredom, thrill seeking behavior and novelty, his tendency to idealize, while his targeting is very specific to what he wants out of the potential victim, be it money, sex, an image prop, or simply to exploit in an effort to achieve ‘power over’.
Outlining the characteristics of these men (and women too) is helpful in understanding why he did this, yet it does little to ease a survivor’s pain. Many survivors seek validation about their judgment in having ended the relationship, whether or not they did the right thing, or if they were right about him.
If they were dumped, they want to know what they did that was so wrong that he could have left and taken up with someone else so fast, when chances are he was doing this before he left and just found a new victim that will give him what he wants. Remember, psychopaths needs and wants change all the time.
There is not a victim on the planet capable of fulfilling the psychopath’s insatiable needs and addiction to power and control. As fast as he appears to attach to the new victim, is as fast as he can detach from her, or anything else he wanted or needed at one time or another, from his previous victims.
What you, the survivor, really want to hear is that he’s an asshole and that the relationship he has now won’t work. You want to hear that you weren’t ‘wrong’ about him and that’s he’s not changed in another relationship, although he will give every indication possible that this is what he’s done.
The articles and blogs I’ve read, encourage a survivor to hurriedly move on from obsessing about their pain and why he is now with someone else. My approach to that is a little different. It’s very difficult to move on from the relationship when you need understanding about the psychopath/narcissist and validation with that understanding. So I will attempt to piece meal this a little bit in hope that it helps you to understand that the chances of his relationship working out with the next victim are ZERO.
Now I’ll explain why.
Psychopaths have no empathy. Yes, I know, you wanted to believe he loved you. You wanted to believe what he said was true. You wanted to believe that no one on earth could possibly be so deceptive and such a lying piece of shit! I know! But guess what? He is. And he can lie, deceive and manipulate without blinking an eye. The psychopath can do this because they think, they do not feel.
It’s very disconcerting and frightening to watch a psychopath target another victim. I had opportunity to see this with my ex, when he was doing his online dating near the end of the relationship with me. The mask slipping, he did not hide his predatory behavior from me once I knew, but he didn’t know how closely I was observing, while suspecting and researching his potential disorder.
He assessed each target according to his needs. Women are often so upset when they see the new victim. The survivor obsesses on the new victim’s ‘appearance’ and who she is and his appearances and images of bliss from his social networks. In a culture that is somewhat narcissistic and superficial, image is everything, right? Wrong. What images were projected when he was with you? Looking in back at the WHOLE of the relationship, was that image accurate? Or did it serve the psychopath’s exploitative and manipulative purposes at the time?
What astounded me in my observance of my ex’s predatory dating habits was that it didn’t really matter what the potential new victim looked like. The new target’s appearance was merely secondary to fulfilling his needs. He had moved through an earlier time in his life where he needed a woman as a beautiful, thin, wife and mother prop, such as the first and second wives were for him, and instead was moving closer to the ‘retirement’ phase of his life, requiring an entirely new set of ‘needs’ to be met by his potential targets. He was attempting to date lonely women with money. His bank account and the desire to live comfortably in retirement, needing someone to help pay off his massive debts from borrowed money and child support/half his 401k to his wife, said it was time for a change!
I noticed that the majority of the women he was targeting, exploiting and manipulating, were vulnerable. All were successful in some way, but much older, overweight, divorced, single a long time, widowed. None were “attractive” in the sense of what he had chosen before. This, in his mind, would guarantee a new victim’s emotional dependence upon him because her very vulnerabilities were linked to her low self worth, her appearance, or her mounting loneliness, no matter how ‘successful’ she was monetarily. Many a survivor believes that her monetary success should somehow prevent such targeting from a predator. Some survivors believe that they were ‘happily single’ and ‘just a little lonely’ when the psychopath showed up. But these vulnerabilities are NOT superficial and grow over time to be enormously subconscious. A dull ‘ache’ in the psyche is bait for the psychopathic predator.
As my ex-psychopath sifted through potential victims, he studied each one intently, assessing her for her use value. He studied her vulnerabilities, the things she liked and disliked. He researched her on the internet through Google searches to find out more about her. He found out through facebook what she liked to eat, drink, and who her friends and family were.
It did not take him long to shift into low gear and strategize in luring two potential victims. One of them was an old high school friend that was now somewhat wealthy and owned her own business. She was the ultimate catch in his mind, but she was far too healthy and caught on to his games. She wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Six weeks prior to asking the current victim (now wife) to marry him, he made one last attempt to ‘date’ the target with the most financial value. She rejected him. So he went in for the kill with victim three. My ex never considered taking a breather to ‘work on himself’ between his divorce, his continued relationship with me and its ending, and his fast paced luring of victim three into marriage after eleven months of dating. But you see, this is what psychopaths do…
Healthy men and women do not want to get married at the speed of light! Psychopaths and Narcissists are consistent ‘boundary pushers’. The love bombing is the height of abuse in the relationship and requires an excessive amount of energy on the part of the psychopath to exploit and manipulate, to cultivate a victim’s future emotional dependence and addiction to him.
So think about this for a minute: This is how your ex probably targeted you. It was once surprising to me, while hearing many survivor stories, how the survivor so easily forgets the love bombing, manipulation and exploitation of her and does not recognize this behavior with the new victim.
Part of this inability to recognize what I term as ‘new victim’ envy, is that the survivor, this time, is observing the psychopath’s love bombing and it harkens the survivor back to a time when he was so seemingly engaged and ‘into’ her, when the psychopath, in reality, never really was ‘into her’ in the truest and meaningful sense.
The psychopath would never have a victim if abuse were introduced from the beginning in a way that pushes the potential victim away, even though exploitation and manipulation IS abuse. The psychopath is investing all of his energies into the new victim, not only to get his needs met, and to win the victim’s addiction to him, but once the victim is dependent, the psychopath begins the cycle of deprivation all throughout the relationship to come. It is the survivor’s ultimate deprivation through the loss of the psychopath, the withdrawal of addiction to the psychopath, that the survivor is experiencing as she observes the psychopath with the new victim.
The new ‘relationship’ the survivor observes with the new victim appears to be vastly different, as if the psychopath has changed. In a way, this is true, as some things that occurred with the survivor will not be the same in the new ‘relationship’, because the new victim is a different person with different unhealthy boundaries and vulnerabilities.
The psychopath’s projected images of happiness that you see, or rather ‘their’ happiness, are just that! But in reality, the luring and honeymoon phase of the relationship are manifestations of the disordered one’s psychopathy and narcissism.
It’s critical to remember that psychopaths will ‘morph’ into and mirror their new victims. Her interests and passions in life will not be like yours, therefore it makes sense that he will appear to be ‘different” and in a way he is, because he is now pretending to be her perfect partner. What you are seeing, quite literally, is that he has become an extension of her. He is now a reflection of her interests and who she is because he cannot do this for himself. Psychopaths are chameleons, empty to the core. They are different personalities for each individual they come into contact with.
A personal example of this with my last psychopath and one of his targets (while being involved with and just before marrying the new victim), who liked eating at exotic restaurants, so he studied up on it a bit and was prepared to dine on exotic foods to which he would never eat again when she rejected him. His need to present a persona with her was over. Never once, in ten years, did I see this man eat kangaroo! My ex abandoned this spontaneous ‘obsession’ with the exotic likes of his potential target when he knew she was not taking the bait. He did, however utilized some tactics he used with her and applied it vigorously to the new victim. Much like a snake shedding its skin, the psychopath leaves most of his former, yet newly created persona behind, without ever looking back, if the new target is not interested.
My ex is also a worship leader in his new church, so image is very important to him, appearing to be a ‘good’ Christian man. His circles have dwindled a bit since the last church that he attended with his ex-wife, but nevertheless, he was calculating in that the new victim was clueless about his past behavior and was not from his immediate area. This made it easier for him to create a new persona and to distance from those in his community who knew of his deviant behavior and take up with those that support his charade. He was able to compartmentalize and isolate the new victim from those who knew of his past. But there are those around him, his children included, that know of his behavior and past, yet work with him to hide it under the guise of the ‘redeemed’. The psychopath counts on these supportive individuals to keep his facade and image going and the new victim blinded to his former life.
His targeting is really quite predictable as are the consequences. The reality is that a psychopath will never be short on victims. There are many, many vulnerable victims in the world, a lot of unhealthy people. If this doesn’t work out for my ex, he will simply move onto the next victim.
Now, what about the new victim that stays? Well, how long did you stay? Why did you stay? We can’t assume she is staying for the same reasons and it doesn’t mean that he’s not abusive anymore. It means that she’s willing to buy into all of his bullshit, while he pushes the boundaries very slowly in an effort to gain more control in her life under the guise of a protective and powerful love. Just like he did with you.
It’s the depth of emotional dependence and of vulnerabilities that were exploited in the victim, that determines how long she stays, as well as the psychopaths ability to prolong the honeymoon period, further cultivating that dependency. Some victims are much more emotionally dependent than others. The very deeply imbedded vulnerabilities the victim has, without empathy, the psychopath reaches in and pulls out, even while she may believe she has none at all.
During luring, psychopaths easily assess the potential ‘longevity’ of their targets willingness to stay, based upon their histories and vulnerabilities, her belief systems and his ability to push her boundaries. The healthier she is, the least likely she will stay long and will catch on to the psychopaths oddities, behaviors, lies, intentions and deceptiveness, covered up right now in all that Mr. Wonderful.
A man of good character, someone of healthy mind, has no need to exploit and manipulate women. The men I have in my life now, who are friends of mine, find my ex-psychopath to be and what he did to me, unfathomable and repulsive to them.
Healthy minded men, will also recognize that they need to take time from a long marriage or relationship to grieve, with self reflection and time out for themselves to be alone for awhile. Regardless of what myths befall men in our society, there are men who do this. There are men who ask themselves, “What happened?” and “What changes do I need to make and what do I need to learn from this?” How do I know this? Because many of them are survivors too.
People who are healthy do not run from relationship to relationship, hiding from themselves, or chasing a utopia that does not exist, yet are fantasies that lie in what our culture and society defines as romantic and erotic love. The manifestation of true love and happiness. As most survivors learn to understand, once the relationship ends, is that this ‘fantasy’ is not remotely real.
Healthy men do not degrade, humiliate, use, lie, rewrite history, omit parts of their histories with new partners, hide behind their mask of narcissistic religiosity and/or monetary success. They have remorse, they have guilt, they do not talk about their ex’s in degrading, humiliating ways. Not even in subtly. Healthy men do not need to control, rush the relationship, love bomb, suffocate, manipulate their children or other minion (supporters), to keep their secrets.
They do not need to mirror the likes and dislikes of their victims because they will have their own likes and dislikes that differ in degree from their partner. Healthy men will not triangulate others with the new victim, whether he uses the ex-wife, her children, his children or the family dog, Healthy men do not do this.
Healthy men are not habitually unfaithful and live double lives, but all psychopaths do. If a healthy man does ‘cheat’, they make amends immediately and work on themselves and their relationships to change it. A psychopath never will. A healthy man does not sabotage, create drama, have child like temper tantrums, rage out of control, laugh at your pain. They do not provoke arguments, do not twist words, do not blame shift or project blame onto you or others. They do not spend time talking about how awful so and so is and what was done to them. They do not purposely and sadistically provoke reactions out of you, just to watch you writhe.
A healthy relationship does not cause confusion and chaos. It does not create cognitive dissonance, it does not repeat painful behaviors meant to harm.
Healthy minded men do not tell you that you are their ‘soul mate’. They do not assume intimacy and love within the first few weeks or even several months. They do not move in with, or marry you within months in order to access your bank account to help pay off their debt. Have I listed enough?
The only thing that a psychopath or narcissist changes is his persona and his victims. Nothing more.
At the beginning of the relationship, during the honeymoon phase, the psychopath is very suffocating in his apparent ‘neediness’ of his target. He makes her to believe that he is protective and ‘jealous’ of anyone who dares to get near her. This appearance of ‘need’ and spending so much ‘smothering’ time with the new victim is about control. It is about power. This is a very critical piece that survivors need to remember when they think he’s ‘happier’ with her. The only time a psychopath is ‘happy’ is when he’s got what he wants and only for awhile because eventually, without empathy or conscience, his boredom once again becomes an issue and it’s not long before he’s on the prowl, even while he is with the new victim.
I’ve yet to meet one survivor whose ex did not cheat, whether she knew about it during the relationship or after. Some psychopaths are cheating from the very beginning, setting up their triangulations before hooking the main target permanently, like my ex-psychopath was. This assures his ability to remain completely uncommitted in the marriage or in a co-habitation situation. Psychopaths also love triangulations and pitting women against one another, while they adore and worship him, is one of their favorite games.
Many a survivor has shared with me that while their ex’s are hooking up, or are hooked up with the new victim, that he attempts to ‘come back’ to her, or that he’s sleeping with someone else she knows and the new victim is not aware of this, yet the survivor sharing this oft repeated story, can’t understand why he seems so happy with ‘her’? Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? How ‘happy’ is he, when he’s trying to bait you, and/or sleeping with someone else? Flirting with someone else? Our deprivation, brainwashing and exploitation by the psychopath, makes the reasons he has ‘chosen her and not you’, look as ridiculous as it truly is.
The psychopath’s entire life is all about controlling and exploiting others. They are time freaks and they compartmentalize everything and everyone in their lives. They usually have many cellphones with easily removable sim cards, as well as multiple email addresses, online dating sites under pseudonyms that they hide brilliantly from their main target. Do you really want to be her again?
The fantasy that the psychopath builds for the victim from the beginning is very powerful and involves her deepest vulnerabilities. If she is already at an emotional deficit and is vulnerable, the psychopath will have better success in keeping her in the relationship, no matter how abusive it will become. This is where it’s important to be mindful about your escape and how fortunate you are to have gotten out. The new victim will surely suffer an immeasurable amount of pain in the future. I have seen victims who have relinquished their power completely, unable to live without their psychopaths to the point of complete enmeshment and addiction that will be life long, no matter what the psychopath does to her.
I know how painful it can be to see the psychopath and his new victim in ‘real time’ on his social network. Whether in images or in person, but we have to look past what we see as exclusive and bring into reality the whole picture. This picture includes what he did to you and every other victim in his life. Psychopaths have an insatiable addiction to power and the subsequent pain of the abuse they create and cause for others.
As survivors, we literally have to learn how not to want the psychopath anymore. Deprogramming and excising our addiction to him comes through no contact. When we see who he really is, the jealousy, anger and hurt about the new victim will ease over time. Who wants to marry, live with and/or date a psychopathic abuser? If you still want or love him, it’s because you are looking upon him with eyes of empathy. You’re projecting your feelings onto someone who is incapable of having them. It’s also a reflection of the wounds you must heal, a reflection of your low self worth, forfeited for his opinions of you. It’s a reflection of his power over you and the emotional dependence you have upon him.
Survivors begin to move forward when they understand and finally accept that their ex partner was disordered. It’s at this point that they are they able to switch gears and begin to look at their involvement in the relationship and what made them vulnerable to a psychopath or narcissist in the first place.
Changing your perspective hurts. You will have to take every positive thought about him and change it into one that is realistic. His ‘love’ for you was manipulation, the rest was deprivation and abuse. He lives to take you to the highest emotional mountaintop in the beginning and watch your reactions as he slowly or quickly pushes you off, watching as you fall, and ‘rejoicing’ in sadistic glee as you hit bottom.
Is this really the life you would want to continue? The life you just escaped and that the new victim now has to contend with?
As you cultivate your own independence and change the story of the relationship to an accurate one with regards to the psychopaths love bombing and subsequent abuses, it will help you to embrace yourself and your new life more, bringing relief to you and your new freedom. For you truly are free.
When you struggle with his ‘choice of her over you’, keep in mind your own beginning with him, what he did to you, what happened during the relationship, and that true and real change does not occur with a simple change of victims and persona, but through self reflection, therapy, and most of all time. NO ONE can ‘change’ someone else to ‘instant happiness’. Don’t allow the fantasy he fed you and that you briefly lived in his exploitation of you, to be the guiding principle in gauging his ‘change’ with her or his ‘new life’ with her. She will have her own lessons to learn, just as you are learning them now.
I wish you peace.
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**Note: Psychopath is my term of preference, however narcissist and sociopath are also interchangeable here. While I use ‘he’ in referencing the psychopath, this article also applies to men who have been the victims of psychopathic women.