One thing that’s certain about sociopaths and exploitive personalities generally: when it comes to relationships, they are the worst historians.
They are chronic historical revisionists—that is, they are constantly revising history.
And their revisions are headed in predictable directions—to make them look good, unguilty, unresponsible for the damage they’ve caused and, of course, whenever possible, to position themselves as the true victims of the circumstances.
And that’s, of course, when history interests them. And history will interest them, but only when they can use it against you. If it suits their need, say, to punish you for a decision you made in the past, even before you met them, abusers may use this knowledge of your history as a weapon of attack or control in perpetuity.
The issue on which they fixate, for instance, may pertain to a sexual relationship that predated your knowing them; they may have coaxed, if not coerced, this information from you, perhaps in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, on the pretext of their wanting to know, preciously, everything about you.
They will not have hinted at their truer, underlying motive: to stumble upon eternally damning evidence of your corruption for future, endless punitive purposes.
On the other hand, when history obstructs, rather than enables, the exploiter’s self-centered agenda, then surprise surprise, he will have no use for, or interest in, it whatsoever.
History (accurate history, that is) will instead loom as a great annoyance to be ignored, if not aggressively suppressed. In such cases, the exploiter is likely to frame your interest in the history of his exploitation of you as off-limits.
How ironic—suddenly the self-centered, chronic boundary violator invokes the sanctitude of his boundaries, fingering you as lacking respect for his space. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so not-funny.
The problem of the exploiter’s manipulation or censorship of relationship history is grave inasmuch as healthy relationships depend on partners processing their history together with integrity; and also with the aim of deepening their intimate connection through joint efforts to understand, and make mutual meaning, of their shared history.
When this process is corrupted, there is no chance for a healthy relationship.
The exploiter, by virtue of his underlying disdain of your integrity, boundaries and individuality, makes this vital collaborative process impossible. This is not a process he will ever feel motivated to engage; and it’s a process, in any case, that will overwhelm his deficient capacity for true intimacy.
(My use of “he” in this post was for convenience’s sake. This article is
copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)