Cutting Ourselves Some Slack

Forgiving oneself for making bad choices is never easy, and I know there are authors and posters on LF who are true experts in the area of self-forgiveness. But let me come at this from an angle slightly different than my usual Lovefraud fare.

It’s often just plain hard to bust a flat-out liar and deceiver. And it’s often suprisingly easy to effectively flat-out lie and deceive. Let me say this again: it’s pretty easy to live a life of deception, making it no big accomplishment to deceive the brightest, most astute, most sensitive people.

Lying and deceiving, and doing them well, even over long, extended periods of time,  duping anyone and everyone in the process—again, my point is that it’s not nearly as hard to do as we might tend to think, and so it’s really nothing for the exploiter, however slick or not he may be, to feel especially proud to be so good at. Because fraud, and deception, just aren’t that hard to perpetrate.

And the converse is more important—it’s often really easy to be victimized by liars and deceivers, again highlighting how relatively undifficult it is to lie and deceive effectively, and NOT how dumb one is to fall for the lies and deception.

The truth is that few, if any, of us were raised to enter relationships vigilant for exploiters and imposters; not one of us, I suspect, ever took a formal course in how to identify exploiters and other sundry disguised frauds in the context of “intimate” relationships.

This just isn’t something any of us goes to school for; it’s not something any of us expects to experience; and so, reasonably, we think we have much better things to do with our limited time than to strive to become experts at imposter-busting.

Seriously, how many of us really want to spend our precious little time in this short life in the paranoid, depressing undertaking to become, if it’s even theoretically possible, skilled at unmasking exploiters?

Sure, there are professions one can enter if this is one’s bag—to bust imposters. But marriage and intimate relationships are not “professions.” We assume, with statistical support behind us, that it’s unlikely that the individual we’ll become (or have become) involved with is likely to be a pathological liar and deceiver.

Of course we know anything’s possible, but it’s still, statistically, a low enough risk not to compel our constant vigilance, anymore than the risk of contracting relatively rare forms of malignant cancers should necessarily compel our vigilance and dread. 

Now some pathological liars may be excellent at their exploitation skills, but more often than not they are just good enough exploiters to perpetrate fraud successfully for the reasons I’ve suggested.

Does this abdicate us of our duty to heed signs that may, sometimes, be discernable? Of course not. As I’ve written in prior Lovefraud articles, we want to give ourselves the best chance possible, against odds already stacked against us, to bust deceivers and imposters. And as I’ve written elsewhere, sometimes those signs are present, because many exploiters are really not so good at disguising signs of their venality, and some of them are, in fact, really pretty bad; and sometimes, for many possible reasons, we do a poor, ineffectual job at recognizing and heeding those signs.

But it’s also true (and it’s the emphasis of this article) that often these signs are not present, or not obviously present enough to overcome the basic (and I would argue, healthy) state of trust with which we enter intimate relationships. Because again I note: for understandable reasons, we simply don’t enter these relationships naturally suspicious of, or vigilant for, corruption in our partners.

We simply aren’t on the lookout to be exploited, and for this reason, as I’ve suggested repeatedly, this gives the exploiter an enormous edge for, by definition, he is preying on the least suspicious of his potential victims—those who love him.

Consequently this makes him ultimately cowardly, incredibly cowardly, not his victims foolish or gullible. Let me say this again—this makes the exploiter incredibly cowardly because, among other things, he is preying not on gullible fools (as he may perceive, contemptuously, his victims to be), but rather on those who have entered into a relationship with him on a natural, healthy pretext of trust (thereby making them the least challenging, the easiest, victims to defraud). 

This reminds me of the bonding exercise in which one partner, demonstrating trust in the other, agrees to fall backwards in the faith that the receiving partner will catch and protect her. This isn’t gullibility at work but rather natural trust and faith she is risking that her partner will catch her, and not let her fall and injure herself. The exploiter in this analogy as if goads his partner into falling backwards and then, instead of catching her, as she should reasonably expect he will, he lets her drop and so injures her badly. And she, the victim of his deception, is left to feel shocked,  betrayed and wounded.

Staying with this analogy, she, the victim, may not discover how treacherously her partner has let her fall this until much later, as the horror of his history of lies and deception begin, shockingly, to emerge.

And so I suggest to all who have been betrayed and exploited by perpetrators of fraud, especially (but not exclusively) in the context of an intimate commitment, I say to you,  cut yourselves some slack, some serious slack. You are not naïve. You are not gullible.

We live in a world which makes it relatively easy for exploitive personalities to injure others. If we were all paranoid, living in a paranoid mindset, this might limit our risk of exploitation; but most of us, thankfully, are not paranoid. We are not living in a mindset of vigilance to be screwed-over by others, especially those we rightfully deem least likely to hurt us.

This confers the advantage to (and all shame on) the exploiter—and should leave his victims comfortable in their ultimate dignity and innocence.

(This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)

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326 Comments on "Cutting Ourselves Some Slack"

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Dear Petite,

I am so glad to hear the strength and understanding in your posts.

The thing I think is that the “????” about what they say and do that comes up at the time, we “explain away” even though somehow it doesn’t “sound right” some how. Then only when we are looking BACK at the relationship in retrospect can we see that our INSTINCTS of it “wasn’t right some how” were right on.

My X-BF at the time we were dating said some horrible things and I “explained” them away—he kept telling me how he wanted to burn down his “cousin’s” house because his cousin had insulted his father and had done some other things that were immoral to his father. I kept telling him that was not right to do such a thing and so on. Trying to talk him out of doing such a thing. I should have instead have realized ANYONE WHO WOULD SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT SUCH A THING AS THIS “violates the HONESTY RULE #1” and dumped him….but when I was in my greatest pain I had actually felt some of the same desires for REVENGE against some of the people who had hurt me, so I “understood” why he would want “revenge” but I knew he would “never actually do such a thing.” Yea,, right!

In his talking about wanting to burn his cousin’s house, he described how he would do it….he was an electrician so it would be an electrical fire that could not be traced he thought to arson. Funny thing, too, the “reasons” he wanted to burn his cousin’s house CHANGED STORIES several times…again, I excused that change, when in fact, it was a made up story about his “cousin.”

Then, his X-girlfriend’s house burned one day—-an electrical fire no less, and it was a day he was in her town, and he did not seem at all surprised when I told him her house had burned, he had a key to her house, and his comment was “well, good enough for the bitch.”

There’s no way to “prove” he burned her house, but she and I both know he did it. He even threatened her, and he knew how much her carefully restored vintage home meant to her, and she lost her grandmother’s antiques as well. He told her he would “rock her world” and he did. He rocked mine too, just not quite as badly as he did hers. We are both grateful we escaped from him, though. So is his x wife of 32 years!

The man had cheated on his wife the entire time of the marriage, kept a harem of women on strings as “friends with benefits” and in more than one way got a negative answer to the question IS HE AN HONEST PERSON? Yet, I wanted so badly everything else he seemed to have that I overlooked that ONE little teeny weeny thing—HONESTY. LOL I will do my best to never do that again….because if a person is not honest, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

thanks Oxy.
yes I have learnt so much from you. I want to shout out loud and clear to all the psoters here – listen to Oxy, she has such good insight, she is seeing it for us from outside, while we are in the fantasy of love, she is seeing the nightmare of evil looming over our heads.
her frying pan is ready and we do need that boink ever so often as we simply do not want to let go of the fantasy.
Oxy – one cannot thank you enough.

Thanks Petite, but keep in mind that NO ONE and NO ADVICE however true can save anyone, they must save themselves. In fact, I think Donna has an article here somewhere about that very thing. Each of us must in the end save ourselves. It is like the labor of child birth, we each have to push through the pain to deliver ourselves from the situation. In delivering ourselves from the fantasy of the psychopaths there is no “c-section” to cut through it, it is simply a matter of we either have to push through the pain and deliver ourselves or continue to suffer in the pangs. We can have the best coach in the world and if WE don’t push through the pain we are never going to get the job done! So take a big TOWANDA for yourself, I may have helped and coached and held your hand,, darling, but YOU ARE THE ONE WHO PUSHED THROUGH THE PAIN! I’m proud of and proud for you! (((hugs)))

yes Oxy, we have to push thru the pain.
the helping hand is there, but each one of us have to swallow the bitter pill and try to push the pain. I am still in the very early stages of recovery, and I can see the advantage of coming out new and regaining my confident, strong self.
I like your examples – saying – there is no C-section in delivering ourselves out of the fantasy of the N/Ps.
what a fantasy they draw us into, a dream come true, wrong – a contract for nightmares.

I know there is a lot of diversity here at LF, however, the following links are, in my opinion, valid and worth reading. My intention isn’t to offend anyone. Just food for thought coming from a Christian perspective.

Dear Forgivemyself,

Thanks for that article link THAT IS GREAT!!!! I noticed though the FIRST comment made is about going “NC” is not what Jesus would have done….actually Jesus and Paul both advocated NC…Paul said that if your brother (fellow Christian or even close family member) “offend” thee then speak to him privately, if that didn’t work, go with witnesses, if that didn’t work to get them to change their behavior take it to the Church, and if that didn’t work. treat them like a heathen —don’t even eat with them. THAT is NC. Psalms also says “evil companions corrupt good morals.”

GREAT LINKS! Thanks!!!

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