The Hopeless Romantic
You met this great guy (girl). They cook you dinner. You come home to a path of roses on the floor. Beautiful walks on the beach with wine. You’re connecting with this person. And not because of the things they’re doing, but because you’re enjoying the natural human process of forming a relationship. It feels safe. It feels pleasurable – as relationships should. And if this were a healthy partner, that would be fantastic!
But if it is a narcissist or psychopath you’ve engaged with, your life is likely about to be turned upside down. In the beginning you would have no way of knowing the vile, hateful, competitive, selfish behaviors awaiting you in the future that some with these conditions demonstrate. Many pathological narcissist are experts at romance.
When the switch in behavior from the abusive narcissistic or psychopathic individual occurs, it would not be uncommon for the unsuspecting target to ask:
What kind of relationship is this?
Who is this woman (or man)?
What happened to the person I fell in love with?
What did I do wrong?
Let’s play a little game …
We are rarely, if ever, on a level field with an abusive partner. There tends to be a strong component of ‘game playing’ to the relationship. Individuals with severe personality disturbances (e.g., psychopathy, narcissistic personality, antisocial personality) interact in this manner regardless of whether the non-disordered partner is completely open with them or not.
The non-disordered partner is at a disadvantage, as they are rarely aware of everything about their partner. They only know what they are told or allowed to see. This is one of many distinctions between ‘normal’ relationships and abusive relationships. Information is hidden that their partner should know, sometimes through lies of omission. Many will have secret lives.
To the person with personality limitations of this type secrecy and privacy is a form of power and control. It helps them to feel better about themselves (even excited) that they are cunning enough to conceal information from you.
With ‘normal’ relationships there can be a breakdown and partners decide to move on and go their separate ways. Naturally, this can happen with personality disordered partners as well. However, within these relationships there tends to be deception, disloyalty, manipulation, psychological abuse, secrecy, blindsiding, and betrayal that accompanies the breakup.
The abusive partner often presents himself in a favorable light in the beginning of the relationship, which facilitates bonding and fondness from the ‘normal’ partner – perhaps even love. Then later these individuals seem to change, completely revealing an intimidating or sneaky individual who should have never been trusted.
Where are their Morals?
Individuals with psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder tend to be immoral (although they know morals). Without a moral compass guiding them, they derive pleasure from socially unacceptable behaviors – for example deception. Deception is a part of feeling powerful to them. It is a method to control another person, which tends to be important to someone with violating and antagonistic personality traits.
To control the reality of another individual is stimulating for someone who enjoys power. To tell her that he is faithful and that her instincts are merely paranoia and insecurity, when in fact her intuition is accurate, can be an exhilarating experience for an abusive, controlling individual.
Demonstrations of Hate
Pathological narcissists may refer to their former love object in vile terms that make it clear their intense disrespect and lack of acknowledgement of their partner as a human being. For example, some male partners have referred to their female mates with demeaning language, such as wh***, sl**, c**, b****.
Through such vile language they demonstrate their objectification and hate of their mate. However, it is not uncommon for them to return to the very person they spoke poorly of (without supplying an apology or any demonstration of contrition). They will behave as though they have done nothing wrong.
They tend to be shocked and confused as to why their mate (who they referred to as a derogatory term or was on the receiving end of a frightening rage episode) continues to have hurt feelings regarding the mistreatment. The abusive individual might respond with annoyance or anger at her emotional state. They might recommend that she, “let it go! Stop holding on to the past!” | “Get over it already!” | “This is why we have problems – you want to make me out to be the bad guy!”
These relationships are often extremely damaging
For most, abusive relationships are hard to adjust to, even for the individual who makes attempts to make it work. Unfortunately, if the partner has a personality prone to abuse (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, antisocial personality) then boredom, lack of sustained interest in their partner, immorality, control and callousness will be common factors within the relationship. This can make life a roller coaster of pain for any devoted partner.
Even if someone tried to be the devoted mate and attempt to minimize the emotional aggressor’s behaviors in order to survive the abuse, it is not uncommon that the impact of the mistreatments will manifest itself physically. For example, poor health, accelerated aging, headaches, body aches, fatigue, sleep problems, and weight gain.
There are levels to abuse … However, there should never be abuse
Not all abusive relationships are the same. The individual with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder will naturally have their own style and unique traits they bring to the table in addition to their disorder. However, it is common to find the following within their relationships:
• A vile level of name calling that most non-disordered individuals would never use in reference to someone they care about.
• Unreasonable control of their partner
• Attempts to isolate and foster dependency
• Emotional manipulation geared to shred self esteem and self worth
• Frequently changing and often contradictory view points and opinions.
No one signs up for deception, psychological abuse, lack of care, and betrayal from someone they loved and trusted. However, a significant number of abusive relationships will include these components.
Please take care of yourself.
All the best,
Rhonda Freeman, PhD
©2013 (Updated 2020)