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Dangerous Liaisons: Is his goal to break me?

Dangerous Liaisons

Dangerous Liaisons, starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer, was about breaking hearts for fun.

Editor’s Note: This Letter to Lovefraud is from a Lovefraud Reader whom we’ll call  “Aubree.” Names have been changed.

I recently got out of a two year relationship with a person who I believe is a sociopath, or at the very least an extremely vengeful borderline. When we first got together, he told me that he used to have a habit of going to bars, finding the prettiest and most confident-looking woman there, and proceeding to go up to her and start picking on her and making fun of her for something that he suspected she might be insecure about. For example, if he saw a girl who was beautiful but wasn’t stick-thin, he’d go up to her and start making snide remarks about her weight. He said he enjoyed doing this because he got pleasure out of “knocking these women down off their high horse.”

Of course, it shocked me that he would do something like that, but he brushed it off and swore it was in the past, saying that he wouldn’t dream of doing it again. He was also a huge jokester – typical life-of-the-party type of personality – and some part of me wanted to believe he was just telling me stories, exaggerating. Looking back, however, I should have heeded that red flag. Over time, he started to take little shots and digs at me, designed to put me down or make me feel unsure of myself. He went from worshiping the ground I walked on to cutting me down. Every time he did this, I called him out on it, and he said he respected that because I “didn’t take his crap.” But every now and then, there was another backhanded remark coming my way. I often got the sense that he secretly HATED me. Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning and he’d be in bed next to me, just STARING at me. But it wasn’t a loving, warm, doting stare. It was an icy, CREEPY stare. It’s like there were daggers flying out of his eyes and straight at me.

Breaking hearts for fun

In addition, every time something good happened to me – like my choosing to go back to school or getting a new car – I would always sense this underlying contempt and rage coming from him, like a seething resentment. I knew in my gut that he didn’t want me to be happy or to thrive – even though he would swear up and down that my happiness and success were TOP priority to him – but I couldn’t wrap my head around why he would be so malicious and hateful towards me. I didn’t want it to make sense.

There is much, much more that went on in this relationship – typical idealize/devalue/discard, complete with love-bombing, I could write much more – but I wanted to write you because I’m wondering if my sociopath’s motivation for getting into a relationship with me was purely to destroy me as a person, to “knock me off my high horse” like he tried to do to those other women? He never took any money from me or anything like that, and never used me for anything physical (I was more into sex than he was). All he ever said to me in the beginning of our relationship was that I “had a light about me” and that I had a happiness that he didn’t have. I’m wondering if it was for this reason that he targeted me, so that he could whittle away my confidence, shame me and eventually break me down? In other words, so that he could “win” by stripping me of what made me, me? It seems so foolish to me that someone would want to steal another person’s happiness or positive traits or destroy their confidence, but I can’t think of any other motivation in his case. He always had to be the center of attention and was constantly complaining that I was the “better looking of the two of us” and the “smarter one” (he had never gone to school and was working an aimless job not fit for a man his age). It’s like he didn’t want the spotlight to be on me, ever. He really seemed like a bona fide misogynist to me.

I know you have a wealth of information on sociopaths and you’ve read so many first-hand accounts, so I’d love to hear any thoughts or insight you have on my situation.

Thanks,
“Aubree”

Donna Andersen responds

Aubree,

Yes, it is certainly possible that this man’s only motivation was exactly as you stated – to destroy you.

Sociopaths engage in romantic relationships for exploitation. Usually, they exert power and control in order to obtain money, sex, a place to live, domestic services, or some other obvious advantage.

But with some sociopaths, the exploitation takes a more sinister form. They exert power and control simply to entertain themselves. They enjoy the idea of being a puppet master. They manipulate people and break hearts for fun.

You may remember the movie Dangerous Liaisons, starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. In this story, seduction was a game, with the objective of ruining people’s reputations and breaking hearts for fun.

Well, some sociopaths engage in this game. People have told me how they were pursued and pursued, and when they finally fell in love, the sociopath simply dumped them.

In other cases, breaking off a relationship isn’t enough for a sociopath. He or she also wants to grind the former partner into the dirt.

It’s truly difficult to comprehend just how heartless these people can be. All we can really do is accept that there are people for whom relationships are nothing but a sick game, and learn to recognize and avoid them.

Lovefraud originally posted this article on Dec. 8, 2013.

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Sunnygal

Sounds like a psychopath.

curly

I have a question is illegal to put our ex’s names on list here, so as to warn others??

I don’t see the importance of analyzing the psychopath’s motivations for anything at all. The point is that you suffered and now need to get better. It would be different if the psycho was your parent, for example, because torturing a child is unnatural in any species. But abusing a female partner is an every day thing, and we now know that it is a riddle that we never will find out, given the fact that brain studies show that these psychopathic characteristics are largely inherited and compounded and/or comorbid. So concentrate in studying why you tolerated so much when you were clear that you were right and he, from day 1, declared to be an immoral, indecent, abuser–and you liked it.

dorabella

Do the psychopaths actually have to see your suffering, the suffering they’ve caused, to enjoy it? Or do they know or assume instinctively that they’ve hurt you and feed off that from a distance, even if you’re not there in a pool of tears in front of them, begging them to stay? I mean, mine just broke off and disappeared – so how did that satisfy him? He didn’t know if he left me distraught, an emotional wreck, or if I was hosting a party to celebrate him going. I can understand if they get to witness your suffering but when they play games at a distance, on the end of a phone, it doesn’t make so much sense.

slimone

dorabella, They just like to play games. Period. Some are short little moments, others long and drawn out torture. Either way, they KNOW it throws the target ‘off’, and is at minimum confusing. So this is fun for them, even if at a distance.

slimone

yellowsubmarine,

While I totally agree that analyzing their motivations is not the end-point, I also think that many of us, at least initially, probe into the why of them because we are trying to understand WHAT they are. And it does seem, in my experience, that eventually our healing takes us away from our focus on them, and back onto ourselves.

I feel that I was helped a great deal by understanding the basics of a personality disordered person, what motivates them, and what ‘belongs’ to them, and not to me (or any victim/target). It very much helped me see what was THEIR responsibility and what was mine. This was a great relief to me as I had historically taken far too much responsibility for outcomes that I truly had not ‘created’, but had allowed.

Slim

slimone

Aubree,

It is helpful to keep in mind, now that you KNOW these kinds of people exist, to ALWAYS respect yourself, and do not put up with any lies, manipulation, put downs, or games. There is simply NO reason to. There are billions of people on the planet to be close to, so no reason to stay close to someone who is not kind, respectful, sincere, and consistent.

If you feel you don’t have the confidence to shut people out to protect yourself then counseling would be helpful for you in understanding why not. I had a hard time with personal boundaries due to my narcissistic mother. I learned that boundaries were not permitted, and were considered ‘mean’.

Now I know that is because my mother was only conditioning me to accept her abuse and her version of reality, which was twisted to say the least. This set me up to accept all kinds of bad behavior from other people, and took me well into my 40’s to undo.

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