Grooming | New Romantic Partnerships with Manipulators
© 2013 Rhonda Freeman, PhD
For many individuals with severe personality disturbances there is an additional layer to their excitement and addiction in the beginning stage of their relationships - Grooming. Unlike the excitement they have for their new target, the grooming component of their relationships is intentional. It is tailored to set the victim or target up for future use.
Grooming is a manipulative form of behavior modification used to covertly ‘tell’ the target how to behave. It connects positive experiences and emotions to the predator, narcissist, or psychopathic individual.
Most will feel positive emotions toward someone who lavishes them with gifts, time, understanding, and special experiences. This tactic is commonly used by abusers such as child molesters and pedophiles, to bait a child into feeling trustful of the perpetrator.
Grooming is manipulation
– purposeful manipulation with an end goal of
taking advantage of the target.
Although we often associate 'grooming' with those who harm children. Grooming is commonly used by manipulative and psychopathic individuals who target adults.
Grooming is a behavior that is natural for some personality disordered individuals. Therefore, even a psychopathic individual with limited intellect (e.g., Low Average/ Borderline IQ) can easily demonstrate this behavior pattern and pull a victim into their grooming cycle. Particularly if that victim is very young (e.g., prepubescent child) or extremely trusting.
For the psychopath or narcissist, this tactic is most effective when used with targets who:
- • Give high levels of trust without the other person earning it.
• Have high levels of empathy and tend to see the good in everyone.
• Rationalizes or ignores red flags and their own instincts.
Hence the reason many psychopaths and narcissists 'test' the waters and gather information from their target to determine the best grooming approach to take. In some cases, he (she) will quickly size up the target and realize the individual is not someone who could easily be dominated, particularly if they detect the target's empathy is low and dominance is high.
Grooming is a process that sets a certain image in the target's mind of who the psychopath is and his past experiences. He may create or exaggerate information about past partners or components of his life that are not true (deception) in order to 'groom' his current target into demonstrating certain behaviors.
The grooming process facilitates an impression that the psychopathic individual or manipulative person is a safe, generous, and trustworthy individual. Perhaps even vulnerable and a victim of mistreatment by former partners. Hence, when he eventually engages in violating and abusive behaviors it is much better tolerated and forgiven by the groomed target. She may even be apt to feel she is at fault.
Therefore, when things start to go wrong, she will likely blame herself, rather than the individual with the psychopathic traits. She is prone to feel invested and deeply bonded. Therefore, as any loyal partner would - she is not apt to walk away or place the fault with the disordered partner.
For example she might have the following internal thoughts:
He lashed out so harshly because perhaps I pried too much into his whereabouts. He told me his last girlfriend was an insecure stalker and maybe he thought I was starting to behave just like her. I feel terrible! I have to assure him that I won’t call again asking where he is. I need to show I trust him. He must be so disappointed in me.
Benefits of Grooming
One of the many benefits of grooming (for the psychopath) is that the target is likely to take some ownership of behaviors that really had nothing to do with her or are not their fault. A well groomed partner is prone to keep the image in her mind of a loving, victimized, supportive guy. She experienced it herself during the grooming process, therefore she knows this to be true. It becomes her reality.
The target will rarely have knowledge or realize that she was set up right from the start. A groomed target is likely to hold his secretes, not share with her loved ones that she is being abused, or tolerate extreme mistreatment and disrespect. It is usually only in the aftermath of the relationship that the target realizes that she was involved in a game orchestrated by a controlling/ callous partner and not a real relationship.
As you might suspect,
and/or some form of a deep bond
are required for grooming to be effective and 'pay off' for the manipulative, psychopathic or narcissistic partner within their intimate relationships.
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