Grooming in Narcissistic & Psychopathic Relationships
Updated 2020 (© 2013)
Not all behavior in the beginning of a relationship with a psychopath or narcissist is grooming. For many, the emotional high they demonstrate is probably genuine. Just like the rest of us, they are stimulated by a new relationship and swimming in a cocktail of love chemistry (e.g., dopamine, endogenous opioids, hormones).
But, unlike non-disordered partners, in addition to this natural ‘high’ of love, there is usually the presence of manipulation.
Grooming is a process that sets a certain image in the target’s mind of who the psychopath is and his (her) past experiences. They have the goal of making themselves appear trustworthy to you. They want to disarm you from thinking that there could be any problems with them. Grooming is their way of creating a narrative for you to believe in. By doing that, they get exactly what they want from you without much, if any, resistance.
Some with pathological narcissism will create 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.
For example, “I’m a cancer survivor” | “My ex husband abused me.” | “My last girlfriend died.” | “I was cheated on and I don’t know if I can give my heart again.”
Each of those statements can pull on a person’s heartstrings, facilitate bonding, and elicit nurturing from the new target. If you have empathy it may be difficult to resist having a response to this type of manipulation.
Through the grooming process they create the narrative that they are safe, generous, loving people. This works well for them because, when they decide to engage in irresistible, violating behaviors it is much better tolerated and forgiven by their targeted mate. Additionally, the onset of violating and dark behaviors are incongruent with the message their target ‘learned’ during grooming.
Is he this innocent victim that’s been hurt by many, who is sweet and adores me? Or is he a horrible person who just called me a vile name? It can all be confusing and lead to cognitive dissonance.
Unfortunately, for many with psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder, relationships are treated as games. Eventually, it will become apparent to the target that their partner’s ‘love’ was not deep or real. This can keep a non-psychopathic partner immobilized (and invested) for quite some time trying to determine ‘how’ a person who loved so intensely in the beginning could become so bored, uninvested, and callous as the duration of the relationship increases.
This is the nature of psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder. No one is bonded to, appreciated, or valued.
All the best,
Rhonda Freeman, PhD
© 2013 NeuroInstincts | All Rights Reserved
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