another explanation for their behavior

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#1 Jul 3 - 9PM
whoknew's picture

another explanation for their behavior

FYI-a good article about how/why they are the way they are for those of us that need a reminder (like me). the last paragraph will be especially helpful for those of us that are tortured by thoughts of the OW. hope someone finds this helpful!

Because they suffer from incurable personality disorders, psychopaths repeat over and over the same relationship cycle, no matter whom they’re dating or for how long. Relationships with them are always castles–or, sometimes, marriages–built on sand. Today I’ll describe the entire process of psychopathic seduction, from its seemingly ideal beginning to its invariably bitter end.

In their book on psychopaths in the workplace, entitled Snakes in Suits, Babiak and Hare state that the psychopathic bond follows certain predictable stages: idealize, devalue and discard. This process may take several years or only a few hours. It all depends on what the psychopath wants from you and whether or not you present a challenge to him. If the psychopath wants the semblance of respectability–a screen behind which he can hide his perverse nature and appear harmless and normal–he may establish a long-term partnership with you or even marry you. If all he wants is to have some fun, it will be over within a couple of hours. If he wants the stimulation and diversion of an affair, he may stay with you for as long as you excite him. Despite the differences in timeline, what remains constant is this: eventually, sooner or later, you’ll be discarded (or be led by the psychopath’s bad behavior to discard him) as soon as you no longer serve his needs.

Babiak and Hare explain that although psychopaths are highly manipulative, the process of idealize, devalue and discard is a natural outgrowth of their personalities. In other words, it’s not necessarily calculated at every moment in the relationship. Overall, however, whether consciously or not, psychopaths assess and drain the use-value out of their romantic partners. (Snakes in Suits, 42) During the assessment phase, psychopaths interact closely with their targets to see what makes them tick. They ask probing questions, to discover their unfulfilled needs and weaknesses. They also commonly lure their targets with promises to offer them whatever’s been missing from their lives. If you’re recovering from a recent divorce, they offer you friendship and an exciting new romantic relationship. If you’ve suffered a death in the family, they appear to be sympathetic friends. If you’re going through financial difficulties, they lend you money to seem generous.

During the manipulation phase, Babiak and Hare go on to explain, psychopaths construct the “psychopathic fiction.” They pour on the charm to hook their victims emotionally and gain their trust. They present themselves as kind-hearted individuals. Of course, in order to do so, psychopaths resort to outrageous lies since, in reality, they’re just the opposite. In romantic relationships in particular, they depict themselves as not only compatible with you, but also as your soul mate. While seeming your complement, they also present themselves as your mirror image. They claim to share your interests and sensibilities. Babiak and Hare observe: “This psychological bond capitalizes on your inner personality, holding out the promise of greater depth and possibly intimacy, and offering a relationship that is special, unique, equal–forever.” (Snakes in Suits, 78)

Because psychopaths are great manipulators and convincing liars, as we’ve seen, many of their victims don’t heed the warning signals. During the early phases of a romantic relationship, people in general tend to be too blinded by the euphoria of falling in love to focus on noticing red flags. Also, during this period, the psychopaths themselves are on their best behavior. Yet, generally speaking, they get bored too easily to be able to maintain their mask of sanity consistently for very long. The honeymoon phase of the relationship usually lasts until the psychopath intuitively senses that he’s got you on the hook or until he’s gotten bored by the relationship and moved on to other targets. He shows his true colors when he’s got no incentive left to pretend anymore. As Babiak and Hare note, “Once psychopaths have drained all the value from a victim—that is, when the victim is no longer useful—they abandon the victim and move on to someone else.” (Snakes in Suits, 53)

This raises the question of why a psychopath idealizes his targets in the first place. Why do psychopaths invest so much effort, time and energy into giving the illusion of intimacy and meaning in a relationship, given that they never really bond with other human beings in the first place? One obvious response would be that they do it for the sport of it. They enjoy both the chase and the kill; the seduction and the betrayal. They relish creating the illusion that they’re something they’re not. They also enjoy observing how they dupe others into believing this fiction. Moreover, whenever a psychopath expresses admiration, flattery or enthusiasm for someone, it’s always because he wants something from that person. I think, however, that this explanation is somewhat reductive. Many psychopaths experience powerful obsessions that resemble intense passions. Besides, this explanation doesn’t distinguish conmen, who fake their credentials and interest in a person, from psychopaths “in love,” who are pursuing their targets for what initially seems even to them as “romantic” reasons.

A broader explanation, which would include both kinds of psychopaths, might look something like this: as research confirms, all psychopaths suffer from a shallowness of emotion that makes their bonding ephemeral and superficial, at best. When they want something–or someone–they pursue that goal with all their might. They concentrate all of their energies upon it. When that goal is your money or a job or something outside of yourself, their pursuit may appear somewhat fake. You’re a means to an end. You were never idealized for yourself, but for something else. But when their goal is actually you–seducing you or even marrying you–then their pursuit feels like an idealization. Temporarily, you represent the object of their desire, the answer to their needs, the love of their life and the key to their happiness. But this feeling of euphoria doesn’t last long because it’s empty to the core. As we’ve observed, once psychopaths feel they have you in their grasp—once your identity, hopes and expectations are pinned on them—they get bored with you and move on to new sources of pleasure and diversion. We’ve also seen in Cleckley’s study that the same logic applies to their other goals as well. Psychopaths tire rather quickly of their jobs, their geographic location, their hobbies and their educational endeavors. But it hurts so much more, and it feels so much more personal, when what they get tired of is you, yourself.

Their loss of interest appears as a devaluation. From the center of their life, you suddenly become just an obstacle to their next pursuit. Since psychopaths are intuitively skilled at “dosing,” or giving you just enough validation and attention to keep you on the hook, you may not immediately notice the devaluation. It’s as if the psychopath intuitively knows when to be charming again (in order not to lose you) and when to push your boundaries, further and lower. Your devaluation occurs gradually yet steadily. One day you finally notice it and wonder how you have allowed yourself to sink so low. Occasionally, he throws you a bone–takes you out, plans a romantic evening, says kind and loving things—to lead you to dismiss your healthy intuitions that you’re being mistreated. If the psychopath allows himself to treat you worse and worse it’s not only because you’re much less exciting in his eyes. It’s also because he’s conditioned you to think less highly of yourself and to accept his dubious behavior. Because you want to hold on to the fantasy of the ideal relationship he cultivated, you go into denial. You accept his implausible excuses. You put up with your growing fears and doubts. You rationalize his inexplicable absences, his increasingly frequent emotional withdrawals, his curt and icy replies, his petty and mean-spirited ways of “punishing” you for asserting your needs or for not bending to his will.

But at some point, when he sinks to a new low or when you catch him in yet another lie, you slip out of the willful denial which has been your way of adjusting to the toxic relationship. Because he has lowered your self-esteem, you ask yourself why this has happened and what you did wrong. If he cheated on you, you blame the other woman or women involved. The psychopath encourages you to pursue such false leads. In fact, he encourages anything that deflects attention from his responsibility in whatever goes wrong with your relationship. He leads you to blame yourself. He also inculpates the other women. He implies that you were not good enough for him. He claims that the other women tempted or pursued him. But that’s only a diversionary tactic. You have flaws and you made mistakes, but at least you were honest and real. The other women involved may have been decent human beings, the scum of the Earth or anything in between. Think about it. Does it really matter who and what they were? You are not involved with the other women. They are not your life partners, your spouses, your lovers or your friends. What matters to you most is how your own partner behaves. He is primarily accountable for his actions. Not you, not the other women.

Also, keep in mind that psychopaths twist the truth to fit their momentary goals and to play mind games. When you actually pay attention to what they say instead of being impressed by how sincere they may appear, their narratives often sound inconsistent and implausible. What they say about other women, both past and present, is most likely a distortion too. Psychopaths commonly project their own flaws upon others. If they tell you they were seduced, it was most likely the other way around. If they tell you that their previous girlfriends mistreated them, cheated on them, got bored with them, abandoned them, listen carefully, since that’s probably what they did to those women. Their lies serve a dual function. They help establish credibility with you as well as giving them the extra thrill of deceiving you yet again.

So why were you discarded? you may wonder. You were devalued and discarded because you were never really valued for yourself. As we’ve seen, for psychopaths relationships are temporary deals, or rather, scams. Analogously, for them, other human beings represent objects of diversion and control. The most flattering and pleasant phase of their control, the only one that feels euphoric and magical, is the seduction/idealization phase. That’s when they pour on the charm and do everything they possibly can to convince you that you are the only one for them and that they’re perfect for you. It’s very easy to mistake this phase for true love or passion. However, what inevitably follows in any intimate relationship with a psychopath is neither pleasant nor flattering. Once they get bored with you because the spell of the initial conquest has worn off, the way they maintain control of you is through deception, isolation, abuse, gaslighting and undermining your self-confidence.

That’s when you realize that the devaluation phase has set in. You do whatever you can to regain privileged status. You try to recapture the excitement and sweetness of the idealization phase. You want to reclaim your rightful throne as the queen you thought you were in his eyes. But that’s an impossible goal, an ever-receding horizon. Every women’s shelter tells victims of domestic violence that abuse usually gets worse, not better, over time. For abusers, power is addictive. It works like a drug. The dosage needs to be constantly increased to achieve the same effect. Control over others, especially sexual control, gives psychopaths pleasure and meaning in life. To get the same rush from controlling you, over time, they need to tighten the screws. Increase the domination. Increase the manipulation. Isolate you further from those who care about you. Undermine your confidence and boundaries more, so that you’re left weaker and less prepared to stand up for yourself. The more you struggle to meet a psychopath’s demands, the more he’ll ask of you. Until you have nothing left to give. Because you have pushed your moral boundaries as low as they can go. You have alienated your family and friends, at the psychopath’s subtle manipulation or overt urging. You have done everything you could to satisfy him. Yet, after the initial idealization phase, nothing you did was ever good enough for him.

It turns out that he’s completely forgotten about the qualities he once saw in you. If and when he talks about you to others, it’s as if he were ashamed of you. That’s not only because he lost interest in you. It’s also the instinctive yet strategic move of a predator. If your family, his family, your mutual friends have all lost respect for you–if you’re alone with him in the world–he can control you so much easier than if you have external sources of validation and emotional support. Psychopaths construct an “us versus them” worldview. They initially depict your relationship as privileged and better than the ordinary love bonds normal people form. This is of course always a fiction. In fact, the opposite holds true. An intimate relationship with a psychopath is far inferior to any normal human relationship, where both people care about each other. Such a relationship is necessarily one-sided and distorted. It’s a sham on both sides. Being a consummate narcissist, he loves no one but himself and cares about nothing but his selfish desires.

If and when he does something nice, it’s always instrumental: a means to his ends or to bolster his artificial good image. Dr. Jekyll is, in fact, always Mr. Hyde on the inside. And even though you may be capable of love, you’re not in love with the real him–the cheater, the liar, the manipulator, the player, the hollow, heartless being that he is–but with the charming illusion he created, which you initially believed but which becomes increasingly implausible over time. From beginning to end, all this phony relationship can offer you is a toxic combination of fake love and real abuse. He constructs the psychopathic bond through deception and manipulation. You maintain it through self-sacrifice and denial.

But pretty soon, when you find yourself alone with the psychopath, you see it’s not us versus them, your couple above and against everyone else. It’s him versus you. He will act like your worst enemy, which is what he really is, not as the best friend and adoring partner he claimed to be. If he criticizes you to others–or, more subtly, fosters antagonisms between you and family members and friends–it’s to further wear you down and undermine your social bonds. Once he tires of you, he induces others to see you the same way that he does: as someone not worthy of him; as someone to use, demean and discard. Before you were beautiful and no woman could compare to you. Now you’re at best plain in his eyes. Before you were cultured and intelligent. Now you’re the dupe who got played by him. Before you were dignified and confident. Now you’re isolated and abject. In fact, right at the point when you feel that you should be rewarded for your sacrifice of your values, needs, desires and human bonds–all for him–the psychopath discards you.

He’s had enough. He’s gotten everything he wanted out of you. Bent you out of shape. Taken away, demand by demand, concession by concession, your dignity and happiness. As it turns out, the reward you get for all your devotion and efforts is being nearly destroyed by him. Ignoring your own needs and fulfilling only his–or fulfilling yours to gain his approval–has transformed you into a mere shadow of the lively, confident human being you once were.

He uses your weaknesses against you. He also turns your qualities into faults. If you are faithful, he sees your fidelity as a weakness, a sign you weren’t desirable enough to cheat. Nobody else really wanted you. If you are virtuous, he exploits your honesty while he lies and cheats on you. If you are passionate, he uses your sensuality to seduce you, to entrap you through your own desires, emotions, hopes and dreams. If you are reserved and modest, he describes you as asocial and cold-blooded. If you are confident and outgoing, he views you as flirtatious and untrustworthy. If you are hard working, unless he depends on your money, he depicts you as a workhorse exploited by your boss. If you are artistic and cultured, he undermines your merit. He makes you feel like everything you create is worthless and cannot possibly interest others. You’re lucky that it ever interested him. After the idealization phase is over, there’s no way to please a psychopath. Heads you lose, tails he wins. But remember that his criticisms are even less true than his initial exaggerated flattery. When all is said and done, the only truth that remains is that the whole relationship was a fraud.

The process of the psychopathic bond is programmatic. It’s astonishingly elegant and simple given the complexity of human behavior. Idealize, devalue and discard. Each step makes sense once you grasp the psychological profile of a psychopath, of an (in)human being who lives for the pleasure of controlling and harming others. 1) Idealize: not you, but whatever he wanted from you and only for however long he wanted it. 2) Devalue: once he has you in his clutches, the boredom sets in and he loses interest. 3) Discard: after he’s gotten everything he wanted from you and has probably secured other targets.

For you, this process is excruciatingly personal. It may have cost you your time, your heart, your friends, your family, your self-esteem or your finances. You may have put everything you had and given everything you could to that relationship. It may have become your entire life. For the psychopath, however, the whole process isn’t really personal. He could have done the same thing to just about anyone who allowed him into her intimate life. He will do it again and again to everyone he seduces. It’s not about you. It’s not about the other woman or women who were set against you to compete for him, to validate his ego, to give him pleasure, to meet his fickle needs. He wasn’t with them because they’re superior to you. He was with them for the same reason that he was with you. To use them, perhaps for different purposes than he used you, but with the same devastating effect. He will invariably treat others in a similar way to how he treated you. Idealize, devalue and discard. Rinse and repeat. This process was, is and will always be only about the psychopath for as long as you stay with him.

Jul 6 - 6AM
Cgrl's picture


The reason why he would go through the whole thing with you over and over is because he had no supply at the time and knew how to play you to get you back into his fold. I did the same thing. He would discard me - we would not talk for a month or two and them bammmm.... he would contact me and I was still at a point where I had no idea what he was, but my heart was still wanting him so I would always push everything aside. The last one- leading us up to getting back the last time lasted eight months. He emailed me and my heart was still there even though I was here for the eight months reading and wrapping my brain around what he is-but I went back believing he wasnt because I asked him and he said "I am not a narc". Again, he convinced me with all the great crap and I will change, I will stop drinking, blah blah blah. I know now he just used me because he had nowhere elso to go. Now - he has left again, the same exact way, again only he has now come out of the closet - do I believe he is gay now- I know they will use anyone. Does not matter. The only thing that matters is that he is gone. Yes, it hurts. He has given me a chance to finally, after four and a half years of crap to have a real life and meet a real str8 guy now. So no. No one wins in the end with these guys. Just remember that. No one wins. Do not do the "what if" - I am living proof that you can go back and forth and eventually they do the same exact thing, over and over.
Jul 5 - 8PM
AkitaGirl's picture

Perfect Timing

Boy I really needed this right now. Thank you for your timing. This is by far the best post I've read to understand and heal from the nightmare with a Narc. I come to this board every day to try to understand and get through this. I think the part about taking the treatment personally is one of the hardest things to let go of. It all makes perfectly good sense and I will reread this I know many, many times.
Jul 4 - 4PM
Susan32's picture

The "Us Against the World" mentality

The ex-Psych prof WANTED to foster antagonism between me&my family/friends. Yet I still went to Bible studies, Lenten soup suppers, I didn't abandon my friends for him. He'd be the one pulling the disappearing act, and would say the next day after being a no-show at concerts/lectures "Go be with your friends." After the final D&D... I went back to be with my family. He had WANTED antagonism between my sister&I (I guess when I broke NC in '09, I was like the messenger in "War and Peace" who gleefully tells Napoleon about his defeat) Not only did it failed, but it did so spectacularly. The ex-P idolized Leo Tolstoy, who fostered an "us vs. them" mentality with his wife Sofia. He alienated Sofia from her family&friends, even her own children. Sofia was so consumed with adoration for Leo... that at the end of his life, he publicly discarded her in the name of his ideals (see "The Last Station" movie) The ex-P thought I'd be like Sofia, that it would be he&I against the world... well, it worked... NOT.
Jul 4 - 4PM
Erali's picture


Word for word out of his mouth: "If they tell you they were seduced, it was most likely the other way around." Thanks for this!
Jul 4 - 12PM
Journey's picture

Thank you for posting this

Thank you for posting this article! I've read it before, but it helps to reread it over and over. It is reassurance for me whenever I have doubts, if I question what really happened or how the role I played in our relationship contributed to the abuse of me... My exN was so very, very covert in his manipulations and even the abuse that I am still reeling from it almost 2 years after he left. Journey on...

Journey on...

Jul 4 - 12PM
enpsychopedia r... (not verified)
Anonymous's picture

astonishingly accurate description

I think the signature difference, the red flag that stands out most clearly for me now, but wasn't as obvious at the time, was the 180 degree personality shift. When interacting with others we see all manner of moods, tensions, playing out in an emotional landscape. With these guys, the actual landscape changes and it can be in the blink of an eye. The warm charmer becomes as cold as ice. When narc and I had any kind of heated exchange where I was struggling to get clarity, particularly about basic issues like, "where is this going? I want to get off the hamster wheel!", he changed instantly. The scenery fell away, the props all changed. The loving caress of a voice became clinical detached and legalistic. He didn't question, he cross examined. The sunny tropics became polar winter. Talk about climate change! He described the way he related to people in general, prior to his twenties as profoundly anti-social. As he is a math whiz, possesses intelligence an order of magnitude beyond most of us, I just figured he was a geek who had done a brilliant job of overcoming Asperger's. Until the last D and D, psychopathy would have been the very last thing I would have suspected him of. Well, goes to show and learn. And..what doesn't kill you DOES make you stronger. It just takes a while!
Jul 4 - 10AM
FreedomJane's picture


This article is so spot on spectacular. As I sit here, STILL, thinking maybe it was me... boy oh boy! As a result of being even more educated on their entire process, I think I am going to love myself a little more than usual as I continue to heal from this painful narcissistic injury. Bubble bath, here I come!
Jul 4 - 9AM
ordinarycourage's picture


This is the best article yet. Initially when I found out about the OW I compared myself to her. What was I lacking? My exN seemed to enjoy it when he could pit us against each other. Ex. - He would send her to pick up our daughters for visitation as he was too busy. To know that it isn't personal both hurts and heals.
Jul 4 - 12PM (Reply to #10)
enpsychopedia r... (not verified)
Anonymous's picture


What you HAD was ordinary courage. What you've got now is something extraordinary! So happy that you have come to realize that it's not you. That's significant. All you can feel for the next and the next woman ad nauseum is tremendous sympathy. Aren't we lucky we escaped intact? My idiot sent me a hand written letters describing sexual encounters he had with his wife! That's after he was well aware that I was falling deeply in love with him. And this he encouraged every step of the way. What kind of evil nutcase does something like that? I dismissed it at the time as extremely quirky, an example of vestigial social retardation from his vanquished "Asperger's" OY vey! Hate him, hate him...wouldn't want to date him! And, joy of joys....I'm not! ER
Jul 5 - 8PM (Reply to #11)
IncognitoBurrito's picture


The N's 2nd ex-wife highly suspects that he has Asperger's. Yet he meet all of the criterion for Narcissism. Now I'm really confused! It is possible to be both a Narcissist, and to also have Asperger's? Is this common, do you know? Are they often co-morbid? Or is that rare? Is it plausible for a Narc to feign Asperger's, to throw people off? Do Asperger's sufferers exhibit characteristics similar to narcissism? I'm highly interested, and curious, as to the correlation, if any.
Jul 4 - 8AM
bakingfortherapy's picture

Great article!

Thank u soo much for the info spelled out in such a useful way. I can't wait ti get to my office tomorrow so I can print it out to remind myself of what I went through. I have turned the corner but it's always good to reaffirm what happened to me. I truly felt like a casualty if not a fatality of a war! I always remind myself these men are SICK, SICK, SICK. Their only motivation is "what's in it for me" Be strong everyone. We deserve SO much more !!!
Jul 4 - 8AM
Smarter-thanthis's picture

Crazy, but ONE question........

Feels like this article was written to me. It is even crazier that it applies to everyone that comes in contact with a narc. The similarities are jaw dropping to me. My question is..........idealize, devalue....discArd. I get that. HOW does he repeat the SAME cycle with ME for 10years? My friends say because I let him..........I KNOW.......I just want to know HIS angle on it...... What makes ME interesting again, over and over again, AFTER he d&d's me ????? Anyone know???.
Jul 5 - 5PM (Reply to #7)
Redhead1's picture

I have never read this

I have never read this article. THanks for posting. I have tried to tell the people closest to me what I went through. There is so much and I am not a good story teller. I learn the different behaviors at different times and it all gets fragmented for me sometimes. This article has it all and I love that it tells the story in its entirety. I will print this out and it def needs to be a must read in steps 1-3. It gives the whole picture in one post. Thanks again. Best article yet, to me!
Jul 4 - 9AM (Reply to #6)
bakingfortherapy's picture

Why? How? Questions we ask over and over

I went thru a long relationship w a N. 8 1/2 yrs of bliss w my soul mate and 2 yrs of hellish " I love u, I love u not" why and how? It is true bc we let them but they were using us.. Bc they could...they were getting SOMETHING from us. Be it concern, attention, hopefulness that mb one day they would grow up, make it right, see the light, follow thru on their promises- u pick- Why and how? I asked myself over and over too.. They are sick users who have manipulated us!! U deserve better!! Hopefully it is all lessons to make us wiser!! Hang in there!
Jul 4 - 1AM
sara g
sara g's picture


Thank you for this post. NO matter how many times you read it, somehow it always helps and relieves to know that they are not giving the NW everything that we worked hard for but were never given. Rather, everything that the N is doing for the NW now is the trap before he digs his claws in. My XNH is about to start living with his NW and is now doing evrything that I wanted for her even though I lived every day with every type of mental torture and games imaginable. From what Ive heard, she was married to a classic N before. NOw she thinks that she has found the man who will cure her of what her XNH did to her. Unfortunately she has no idea what is in store for her. Which brings me to this point. We should thank our starts that we, here on this forum have been lucky enough to gain insight to what has happened to us and we can therefore be careful not fall into the trap of another N again. Some women, Like my XNHs NW for some reason does not have access to the information and therefore the awareness that we do. But thank you again for the post. It's always healing to be reminded that we were brainwashed and manipulated by a sick mind because the idea that we gave ourselves willingly to these madmen is unfair after all we've been through.
Jul 3 - 10PM
girlsinger's picture

great article!

Hi there wow Thank you so much this is hands down the best article I have ever read on this subject be blessed k
Jul 3 - 10PM
rosedewittbukater's picture


Thank you so much for posting this. Holidays are always difficult. I was feeling pretty down this weekend and even beginning to question myself wondering "maybe it was me" or maybe it wasn't "that bad". But reading this reinforced I was in denial and just generally brought me back to reality! The entire article almost seems like a recreation of our entire relationship, or rather "fraud". Thanks again for this excellent post.
Jul 4 - 10AM (Reply to #2)
FreedomJane's picture

It's not you.

If this article signifies your relationship with the narc, then it's not you. Always remember that!