The following unfolded after she witnessed the first “slip of the mask.” She questioned what had just happened, since at the time, she did not understand. However, she quickly learned that she was not allowed to have thoughts or ask questions. Doing so constituted “interrogation” or the “the third degree.” He became angrier and angrier, blaming her for the mood shifts she observed.
Confused, she noted that they had not seen or spoken to each other in days and asked what she did to cause such upset. The exchange was out of control, and like nothing she had ever seen before. Things were wrong and she wanted out. She pulled her luggage from the apartment’s outside storage closet, with the intent to backtrack the 1500 miles she had just moved to be with him. What came next is uncommon, unless, of course, we are dealing with disorder.
The cold reality in disguise
The angry words took a pitiful turn. In a sad tone, he advised, “You should leave now. If you don’t, I will ruin your life.” Although now years in the past, she remembers the words as if they were spoken yesterday.
Why don’t we heed their warnings? Although psychopaths or individuals with a number of psychopathic features utter few truths, when they do, we often fail to hear what is really being said. They frequently tell us of their intentions, but in ways we just don’t understand.
He went on to tell her that her life with him would be miserable. He cried as he told her that things would never be as she wanted, and as long as they were involved, she would have nothing. He told her that there was no predicting just how bad it could get. He then professed his love for her, and told her that he didn’t want to hurt her in the ways he suspected he might. He told her to go and never think of him again. She should find a “nice guy.”
Confused, she suggested they work on making their lives together great. She asked how he could know that things would not ever be good. No explanation. He simply responded by saying that he was sorry for dragging her into “such a mess.” Then, as abruptly as the “crying” began, it stopped. Looking into her eyes, he coldly told her “this” was not something he could control, but rather, something that would just “happen.” Now, seeming happier, he smirked, and said, “…but I would like it if you’d stay.”
Of course he would like it. And of course she stayed. She ignored the instincts responsible for her churning gut, which were telling her to run and never look back.
What she heard
Although she had trouble rectifying the conflicts between the words and actions, she heard a “wounded” person speaking. She heard the words of a person who didn’t believe in himself or the potential of the universe. She heard the words of someone kind and gentle, who had been beaten by life. In spite of several years of work, he was making very little money and having trouble breaking into his industry.
He had a “depressed” ex wife, who ran up thousands of dollars of credit card debt in his name and became pregnant in an effort to either trap him or “save” the relationship. He couldn’t be sure which.
She heard that he was sad and did not feel worthy of real love or the good that real love could bring. He could not seem to find it anyway. She heard guilt for involving her, the love he knew was real, since he worried about his future lack of success possibly bringing her down with him.
She heard wrong.
What she thought
She thought that with a little hard work and a lot of love, everything would be fine. But she did not realize that the conversation she thought was happening, was not happening at all. Had she known then what she knows now, she would have understood things – heard the words and thought the thoughts – very differently.
What he meant
In the exchange described above, he was telling her about himself. He was letting her know that he was not the kind or gentle person she initially thought. His actions and behaviors were not influenced by the stresses of emotional burden, as his words suggested. Nothing he did indicated true sadness either. He was strangely content.
He did not seem bothered by the fact that he could not provide. In fact, he seemed un-phased. So much so, that rectifying the finances became her burden. When she questioned this, he alternated between asserting that it was all just too much for him to handle and that he was used to “having nothing,” so it didn’t bother him. However, she noticed he made sure his wants and needs were met, even if those around him suffered. She began to suspect that the credit concerns were not created by an ex or anyone other than himself. The future would eventually become history and prove her correct.
He also knew what his previous relationships had been like. Although the specifics varied from person to person, with the individual actions and personalities playing roles in how things ultimately unfolded, none were successful. Some lost more and were treated worse than others, which may be why he was unable to predict how bad it could get.
He mentioned love and caring
When they speak of love, it is often nothing more than a means to manipulate. However, there may be some they actually do care about. But they do so very differently from the rest of us and it is always self serving and potentially dangerous. What they feel is superficial and may whimsically change.
While they tend not to be terribly insightful, they do have some level of awareness of what is occurring. While they generally don’t see themselves as wrong, if and when they do, they simply don’t care. They may have fleeting notions that the results of their actions may harm others. Yet, they carry on unconcerned.
So, his warning may have been sincere, but he did not want to lose his plaything badly enough to really save her. He enticed her to stay.
Why do they really tell?
If he did not truly want her to go, why did he divulge the truth? These pitiful tender moments may simply be part of the process, further drawing us closer or more committed. They may also be fishing expeditions to test our reactions and the measure the potential “supply” they can extract from us. It is also quite possible that they are just plain fun. Are they teasing us? I suspect it may be a rush for them to know that they are, more or less, detailing our demise, while we remain completely clueless, and feeling sorry for them in the process.
I don’t think this story is uncommon. While we cannot blame ourselves for our inexperience in the past, we can learn to listen differently in the future. This extends to all types of disordered interactions as well. Who, in their right mind, would have taken the exchange detailed above to mean anything more than it appeared? Few. Those with personality disorders rely on this, regardless of who we are to them.
Who would suspect anyone of discussing demise and love or friendship concurrently? It happens. When it does, it is a recipe for confusion and disaster. So, let’s practice listening. We cannot change them, but we can change ourselves. With that, we can overcome.