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Triangulation, Targets and Stimulation – Common Psychopathy Intimacy Style

Triangulation, Targets, and Stimulation

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A common pattern demonstrated by some individuals with psychopathy is the need for stimulation by having old and new partners compete.


If you are comfortable – read the following vignette that illustrates an example of triangulation.

Mandy and Carl had been married for three years. Given Carl’s symptoms of psychopathy, the relationship was rocky and ever-changing. There were patches of good times, but most of the time Mandy was distressed and on edge in response to Carl’s behavior.

It was difficult for her to bond with him due to his disorder and despite endless hours of explaining, arguing and pleading with him to change, his callous, selfish behavior remained. What she did not know was that Carl had a personality disorder. A condition that prevented him from bonding or caring for others. She assumed, with some effort and guidance, he would be able to change and grow.

Mandy’s parents, who did not believe in divorce, were heartbroken by their daughter’s emotional decline and encouraged her to leave. You see, Carl had cheated on Mandy on three occasions, each time blaming his infractions on her overbearing behavior. Carl would express, “You’ve changed! All you do is criticize me. She really appreciated me!

Mandy attempted to ‘manage’ Carl’s behavior by implementing a system of daily checks (Carl was not aware of this). She would check his phone, his email and installed a program on the computer that allowed her to monitor his online activity. She was not proud of this behavior, but she was desperate to keep him from setting up another online dating account.

Carl was a physician. Therefore, Mandy had one of her girlfriends, Sherri (also a doctor) keep an eye on Carl at work, as he loved flirting with the young interns. Sherri would occasionally reprimand Carl immediately when she felt he was crossing the line with the women. Carl would often express to Sherri that he was only arranging an innocent mentoring session over coffee. “There’s nothing wrong with that!” But Sherri knew his game.

The chore of keeping Carl faithful seemed to be a 24-hour job and required a team. Mandy was exhausted; however she was committed and felt that one day he would ‘wake up’ and realize that he did not want to lose their marriage.

Despite Mandy’s persistence in monitoring Carl’s behavior, he managed to meet another woman. This time, he also decided to leave.

Mandy was devastated by the betrayal and fought with Carl regarding his decision to abandon the marriage. Across a period of two days, he packed his belongings and moved into an apartment. Mandy felt destroyed.

Carl grew closer and closer to the other woman, Katy. Their relationship was intense, and he invited her to move in with him. The relationship with Katy seemed to become stronger each day, as she felt that she and Carl were a team against Mandy.

Carl would speak poorly of Mandy regularly to Katy, telling her that Mandy’s problems with insecurity, anger and obsession with the relationship were too much for him to bear. He complimented Katy for being a much better woman than Mandy.

The next few months were chaotic. Mandy would see pictures and posts on social media of the two of them having the time of their lives. Mandy even felt betrayed when she read the responses of a few of their friends who would state, “Glad you’re finally happy buddy. You deserve it!

Then things started to change. Carl asked Mandy if they could talk. Although she was filled with anger and pain, she accepted his offer. He told her that he still loved her and that he wanted to try again. Carl and Mandy spent the night together.

The next day she felt confused, but mostly she felt even more intensely connected to Carl. To Mandy’s surprise, she felt competitive. She wanted to ‘show’ Katy that she was not going to take him. She had three years invested in Carl – “Katy it’s not going to be that easy honey!

For months, Carl went back and forth between the two women. Telling each of them that he loved them and that the other was crazy. He would promise Katy he would finalize the divorce and leave Mandy “for good.” However, the next day he would tell Mandy that Katy was just a fling who will not leave him alone because she is young and obsessed.

The women hated each other and began to hurl attacks online. On one occasion they had a meeting (each with the goal of making the other leave Carl alone). It ended in a screaming match.

Mandy decided to seek treatment with a psychologist because her problems with Carl and Katy were consuming her life. She was miserable. It took months, however through treatment she was able to analyze the patterns of behavior that had been present for years with Carl.

One day, Mandy made a decision based on her newly gained insights. She knew that drama and secrecy were stimulating to Carl, and he seemed to thrive on it. Therefore, Mandy cut off contact – no more sleepovers, no texts, no date nights, no phone calls. And although it was tough, she also decided to move forward the divorce. (“How could I have considered postponing it while he has the audacity to live with another woman!“)

Mandy disengaged from all social media by blocking his accounts. She made the decision not to be an observer of his life or part of his audience. Mandy knew that it would be easy to drop out of Carl’s life, given that they did not have children. She was able to handle all communications regarding the divorce via her attorney.

Coming to this point was not easy for Mandy, it had been over a year that Carl moved out and met Katy. But because of the emotional storm Carl created, she felt sucked in and participated in behavior that caused her to feel ashamed of herself. She was working through forgiving herself and regaining her confidence with her psychologist.

Six months after Mandy removed herself from Carl and Katy’s life, he reached out to her, sending texts of “miss you,” “good morning beautiful”  and “I don’t know where we went wrong.” He again made attempts to rekindle his relationship with Mandy and spoke poorly of Katy. It seems that Katy had moved out, due to Carl cheating with a resident at the hospital. Katy reached out to Mandy to apologize and asked if they could meet because she was distressed regarding the breakup. She wanted someone who could relate to Carl’s behavior. “Mandy, I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you. He is a liar and a cheater. He doesn’t care about anyone!

Mandy pushed delete on the messages from both of them. She knew that Katy would likely soon be entangled in her own ‘love’ triangle with Carl and this new resident. Mandy wanted no part of it. She felt thankful that she was finally out and free. “No more triangulation for me!

© 2013 NeuroInstincts | All Rights Reserved

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