By | December 17, 2009 224 Comments

Watch out for this defense mechanism

You are involved, say, with a pathologically self-centered personality, perhaps a narcissist or sociopath?

That is, he wants what he wants when he wants it, and he’ll do whatever’s necessary (his entitlement) to get it, or take it.

Key diagnostic trait: he reserves the right to punish you when you obstruct his agenda.

Now here’s the thing: in the heat of the moment, you may actually be pretty good at confronting his abuse. Maybe you stand up for yourself pretty effectively? Maybe, in the moment, you’re even pretty good at setting limits and challenging his nonsense?

So then what’s the problem?

The problem occurs when you step away from these incidents.

In stepping away from them, you potentially risk enacting your own form of compartmentalization, by which I mean that, while in the moment you may address his abuse with some backbone, yet beyond the moment you effectively “drop the ball” by failing to process, and own, the greater pattern.

It’s a case of our seeing the trees in the forest just fine, yet somehow, defensively, ensuring that we fail to see the forest through the trees.

I’m referring, of course, to a kind of defense mechanism with which some—not all—of us may be familiar?

As I suggested, strategically this defense mechanism deploys a form of compartmentalization, while tactically it assumes forms of denial, minimization and avoidance (of reality).

What precisely is the function and, more importantly, the danger of this defense mechanism?

Its function, I suspect, is to prevent us from connecting the dots; that is, our failure (defensively) to connect the dots enables our avoidance of confronting the greater pattern that underlies the series of incidents.

So long as we address the “abusive incidents” separately—as discreet events—thereby defensively ignoring their wider pattern, then we can rationalize more easily our “staying in” the relationship with a kind of pseudo-dignity and pseudo self-respect.

To be clear, we achieve this self-compromise by reframing the abuse as a series of brushfires to be troubleshot on an ongoing basis, much like a manageable chronic illness.

And especially if, as I’ve noted, we’re pretty good at this—somewhat effective, that is, at confronting these brushfires on a case by case basis—then it becomes easier to compartmentalize in the manner I’m describing.

The danger, of course, is how this defensive process—in its reframing of the exploitation as a series of disconnected, but manageable, events—supports our denial that the relationship has, in fact, been globally and fatally compromised by the exploitation.

This highlights, yet again, the basic conundrum of defense mechanisms: the protection they confer is so often exceeded, unfortunately, by their cost to our well-being and, sometimes, integrity.

(My use of “he” in this article was for strictly for convenience’s sake, not to imply that females aren’t capable of the behaviors discussed. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)

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What an article – STEVE !!!!!!!!

I am just blown away this morning……..

So many times I had asked myself why nothing changed , maybe we just couldn’t communicate – maybe I didn’t explain myself right, maybe I hadn’t used the write words to get my point across – always wondering why things happened repeatedly – NO PERMANENT CHANGE .

I FAILED TO SEE THE PATTERN …….I did just what you said.
I kept most incidents apart from each other and did not look at them as a WHOLE of his behavior .

This mechanism, as you say, ALONG with his intermittent crumbs of good behavior was a perfect formula to keep me from feeling like I was a total pushover.

I did defend myself, I did argue , I didn’t always ignore the disappointment and hurt – but I let each one go separately –

and if I mentioned the fact that it was just more crap on top of more crap – well , he would accuse me of being unforgiving and always bringing up the past.

So I didn’t – and admittedly didn’t want to – look at the BIG PICTURE , instead of the LITTLE SNAPSHOTS of abuse.

You’ve added yet another piece to my puzzle – BRILLIANTLY !!

You never fail to dig deeper into our hearts, minds and spirits , Steve – You just keep moving that healing process along – always lighting the way with your own compassionate soul and amazing articles that keep us wanting to know more!!!!

Ox Drover


YOU GOT ME PEGGED! Thanks for clarifying this, I think it described the “former me” to a TEE!

It is so easy to minimize and trivalize and “put in the past” all those brushfires, but in the end, enough of them char the landscape into nothing but ASHES and WASTE.

This is one of the most helpful articles and one of those “ah ha!” moments for me, Steve, thank you. GREAT ANALOGY!

Elizabeth Conley

“The danger, of course, is how this defensive process—in its reframing of the exploitation as a series of disconnected, but manageable, events—supports our denial that the relationship has, in fact, been globally and fatally compromised by the exploitation. ”

Brilliant Article. I couldn’t agree more.

I was raised to settle disagreements with people by sticking to the topic at hand and avoiding remarks like:

“You always…”
“Yiou never…”
and “Last week/month/year/yesterday you… … and now you have the nerve…!

By sticking to the matter being disputed, and seeking to de-escalate arguments quickly, I’ve enjoyed very good relationships with countless people. Some of these people have been considered by others to be difficult or even emotionally ill. These people’s supposed problems have seemed insignificant to me. I get along with almost everyone.

The exceptions have been with the tiny handful of cluster B personalities I’ve encountered. The very conflict resolution skills that work with healthy people have backfired with these disordered people.

With these people, by ignoring that

“They always…”
“They never…”
and “Last week/month/year/yesterday they… … and now they have the nerve…!

I’ve failed to address the real matter. In any dispute with these people, the real matter to be resolved was not the apparent topic of our current conflict. It was the underlying pattern of a series of apparently unrelated incidents.

Only when I came to the “intollerant” position that “There’s always some Mickey-Mouse drama with you – Isn’t there!?!” was I able to walk away without feeling hopelessly guilty.

“You always…”
“Yiou never…”
and “Last week/month/year/yesterday you… … and now you have the nerve…!

IS the point with a cluster B.

Ox Drover

Dear EC,

As always, you have such wise comments, you are right in saying “you always, you never, …” because that is exactly what it is, they DO NOT CHANGE they REPEAT the same DRAMA over and over, but they do NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE PATTERN….

It brings me again, back to the phrase my egg donor said aloud, ,”Let’s just pretend none of this happened and start over” NO! NO!! A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!

Let’s just admit there is a PATTERN HERE and it has NOT changed, it is the SAME and I wont’ play any more!

Oh, how this article resonates with me, clear to the core. I can look back at every UN successful relationship I have ever had and THERE IT IS!

Like you, I try to stick to the NOW when settling disagreements with people and avoid the ALWAYS and NEVER statements, but I have learned NOW that the BIG PICTURE, THE PATTERN is the most important thing….if it REPEATS and REPEATS, the “always” and “nevers” need to be explored in more depth and if that doesn’t work—WALK AWAY FROM SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE A PATTERN.


As stated above in the article, I think the behavior of disordered individuals is sort of like a syndrome. I mean it’s not just one thing about them. It’s usually the SUM of their behaviors over time that reveals what they truly are.

It starts with a whisper (too faint to hear)…..then, a tap on the shoulder (you shrug it off)……then, a pebble falls on your head (you kick the pebble away)…….then, a rock hits you in the face (you put ice on it)…..the next thing you know, the entire mountainside is coming down on you.

We all want to believe the best in people, but I think we also need to believe those red flags when they are waving in front of us.

One thing my life experiences have taught me is to really be AWARE of the people around me, and the people I meet.
I just try to listen VERY CAREFULLY to what they say, and how they say it.
And, of course, their actions have to match up.

In women’s self-defense classes, they tell us to be aware of our surroundings. I think that is a good rule for ALL of us to use in order to protect ourselves.


Wow. Excellent article Steve. This is exactly what happened to me. I can’t tell you how good it feels to sit here and read this and go “YES!…YES!…YES!” to all of your examples. It’s like a balm to my soul….very affirming and healing.

Many of the things you wrote about make me think of another thing that you touched upon. My ex sociopath was a master at turning around relationship psychology and counseling techniques. In hindsight, I can see that this is the WORST thing with his type. He would use it against me time and again.

Perhaps even worse than that is getting into relationship counseling with an evil player like him. He will seduce the counselor in the first session and hook her with his FAKE tears, FAKE caring, FAKE meekness, Oh so sad story, and FAKE desire to make it work for both of you. He will have her eating out of his hand with his ACT! What he REALLY wants is back-up in his fun house mirror world of reality so he can HAVE HIS WAY and it WILL be used to disgusting effect. That’s what happened to me. All I can say is that I am so glad that some part of me, however muffled at the time, knew that and was revolted by it. It took me a while, and it got way worse with him first, but now I can see just how he manipulated everything.

“Its function, I suspect, is to prevent us from connecting the dots; that is, our failure (defensively) to connect the dots enables our avoidance of confronting the greater pattern that underlies the series of incidents.

So long as we address the “abusive incidents” separately—as discreet events—thereby defensively ignoring their wider pattern, then we can rationalize more easily our “staying in” the relationship with a kind of pseudo-dignity and pseudo self-respect.

To be clear, we achieve this self-compromise by reframing the abuse as a series of brushfires to be troubleshot on an ongoing basis, much like a manageable chronic illness.”

This is brilliant and so true. The thing of it is that, I DID recognize this. I DID see the pattern. But, by the time it was an ingrained pattern that I recognized, I was so beaten down, spiritually, energy-wise and psychologically that I had very little reserve to THINK clearly for any extended period of time. THAT is a problem for sure. Because, as you say, I was good at confronting the abuse when it was happening. The problem happens after the fact. Exhaustion sets in. His histrionic, blaming, paranoid tirades went on for hours (I started timing them at the end….6 to 8 hours on average…and usually through the night). I became a zombie.

He would normal relationship advice against me when I tried to get some sanity by going into another bedroom, saying I needed some space and time. He’d block me and barge in continuing with his rants, never leaving me alone saying I was detaching and disconnected and I was the problem and we needed to solve my problem and my issues with intimacy and trust.

This from a guy who cheated on every single woman he’s been with; can barely open his mouth without lying; never met a promise he didn’t break and had absolutely ZERO empathy. Fear and anger are the only two emotions he truly knows.

I have a the problem????? Yeah right.

But, that’s how it’s turned around. Because my OWN recognition that I am not perfect and my own desire to make things right and believe the best is triggered. The way that normal counseling practices were turned on me by accusing me of not trusting and forgiving is astounding and creepy. It’s definitely something to look out for.

“The danger, of course, is how this defensive process—in its reframing of the exploitation as a series of disconnected, but manageable, events—supports our denial that the relationship has, in fact, been globally and fatally compromised by the exploitation. ”

Yup. Precisely.

What bothers me and what I have to get over in my recovery and forgive myself for (not beat myself up over anymore), and learn from, is that in my gut, I felt that. I felt a part of me die every time that happened.

Why was I taken in again by his reframing? I believed HIS fractured, reframing view of reality and not what I knew somewhere in my ever-dwindling soul to be true.



major food for thought. I would add another component and that is THE FEAR that underlies the kind of ‘denial’ you describe

I can only speak for myself as I’m not so sure it would be the same for all. But at one point, I was so “invested” in this “relationship” with the P the biggest threat was to actually connect the dots. In some imbalance, staying with the delusion was preferable to losing it. It was a horrible process of repeated cruelty and even though I stood up to him admirably (It felt even good to spend time trying to help him see what he was doing…almost easier than not having the drama, I liked it because I felt strong)

eventually like a drop eroding stone over time I realised I was being Robbed of money, lied to and cheated on even though he denied any of these facts.

He enjoyed the spectacle of me PROVING what he was doing. He didn’t care one way or the other. He was finished with me if I saw through the scam, and biding his time while he played with me on his hook…It was truly horrible, chilling dawning that he didn’t love me (even though he said the words every day) that it was all a very energetic act that he was getting tired of keeping up especially as I was finally understanding what was happening.

I would compare it to a child seeing Santa Claus and running over with a big smile to hug him, thrilled and delighted to see him. Sitting cosy on his knee chatting away, with a smile on his face, Santa bends her arm behind her back slowly until she cries in pain….sorry but that’s what it felt like, it would be so hard believing what was actually happening because Santa loves children and he would never hurt one he loved….maybe I’m imagining what he is doing, maybe I did something wrong, maybe Santa is a psychopath…..ah yes they never told me about that possibility!


I also believe that one of the best ways to protect myself from predatory personalities is to identify those aspects within MYSELF that makes me vulnerable to these toxic individuals.
It has already been discussed to infinity on this site, because it is SO CRUCIAL.

That means doing some work on OURSELVES.
I’ve also learned that NOT everyone in my life really wants to do that. (Good to know)
But, I really believe that if you are able to identify those qualities that the SPN was able to exploit, you can transform those same qualities from a “weakness” to a STRENGTH for yourself when dealing with predators.

For example, as a child, I was raised to LISTEN to the adults and put others first. I was disciplined everytime I failed to do these things.

I believe these are a few of the qualities that made me vulnerable to predatory individuals.

Even today, I still want to put others first, and I am still a great listener.
But, these days, with all of my life experiences, and everything I’ve learned about personality disorders, I have shifted those qualities from being my “weakness” to being a source of STRENGTH for myself when I encounter questionable individuals.

I still LISTEN to people. But, now I listen for different things.
Instead of just listening out of consideration, or getting to know someone better, I am also listening for CONTRADITION, CONTEMPTUOUS STATEMENTS, LIES, & DOUBLE TALK.

I still put other people first, just in a little different context. Now, I let others reveal themselves to me, before I open up too much to them.

I’m the same person I always was. I’m just a little more educated and aware of the world around me, and the people in it.
I could be in a rotten mood every day because of my current family situation, but I have learned that you can find laughter & joy no matter where you are on your path.

I REFUSE to let a few encounters with disordered individuals jade me for life.

Because, when it comes right down to it, our experiences with these types of predators is really just life experiences.
As devastating as it is, I really believe that we all have the ability to HEAL, and move forward onto a better, happier, and healthier life.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the human spirit is resilient!!!


Excellent article.. triggers more awareness..

how we brush things aside thinking that we are being too sensitive .. when they are revealing who they are…in so many ways…

I think when I look back it’s becasue I didn’t want to see.. I wanted to believe the dream….

and they are so good at throwing you off track… making you doubt what you know..
which goes back to the gut…. your gut … you know how you feel..
and a post above that stated to listen clearly to what is being said not what you want to hear but what is realy being said…



I will NEVER ignore my gut instincts again. EVER!

For me, because I am Christian, I call that voice in my gut the voice of God (or Jesus) speaking to me.

But, it does not matter what religion you practice or what spiritual path you are on.
We all have that voice in us.
I believe we need to listen to that voice.

kim frederick

Thanks for the insight, Steve. I certainly stood up for myself, made my dissatisfaction known, asked to have my wants and needs met, so I told myself I wasn’t a push-over…but it took me seven years of hell before I left. That is where MY disfunction shows up. I thought I was so powerful I could change him, and come hell or high water I would….NOT!

I liked your analogy of the brush fires. To add my own spin: Fire fighters use a technique called contolled fire to fight wild fires. If an out of control fire is encroaching on open forest that they want to protect, they will encircle that land with a controlled fire.
This fire burns a trench between the forest and the encroaching fire, leaving a a barrier of nothing, So the fire dies out. Burn a few trees and save a whole forest.

My point? I’ve been burned enough, now I’m NC. He finally managed to burn that trench around me, and now he can’t touch me. Sucess.


haha Thank you Steve 🙂 Your articles are incredibly helpful. As are all of the article on this site. I’m very grateful for that.

The thing about clarity that I’m experiencing right now, is it brings forth all of the repressed other emotions so forcefully, it can be overwhelming. I’m up and down like a yo-yo right now and my emotions are all over the place.

I am in and out of the anger phase. It reminds me of that quote, by Gloria Steinem (i think?) “The truth shall set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Although, anger wasn’t really the first thing I felt when the fog started to lift. There is also deep sorrow.

One of the positives is this site to come to when I’m feeling alone with all of this. Thank you for your insights as well.

Ox Drover

Dear icansee,

That wuote is one of our favorites here!!!

Your emotions going up and down like a roller coaster and from anger to sadness, bargaining, denial, etc will go on for a while as you grieve your losses. Google Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s grieving process and it will give you some ideas of what you are going through, which is TOTALLY NORMAL!

So don’t be disturbed by the roller coaster, it is all part of the process and you will eventually come to some acceptance of what has been, and work on yourself to become more adept at protectin g yourself, setting boundaries and getting the BIG picture in the future. to learn the warning signs RED FLAGS of psychopathy in others that you meet and setting back fires as needed to protect yourself from them.


Hi Oxy,

It makes total sense that that quote is a favorite here. It’s so appropriate.

Thank you for the reference to the grieving process. I will look it up. Everything is just so….MUCH…right now. On top of all the emotions I am just completely drained spiritually and physically, which is normal I’m sure too.

I think I’ve come to a kind of acceptance, and I’m past the denial. But being in the initial acceptance opens the floodgates to all of the other emotions. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like an illusion and brainwashing that’s suddenly been wiped away and NOW all of the stuff I SHOULD have been feeling and was pushing down for so long is finally really coming up. I know this analogy might seem extreme, but I feel like I was a prisoner of war that sided with the enemy for a while. Now, I’m in limbo putting together the pieces of myself.

Yes, you make a very good point about working on myself. That is my first and foremost priority right now. I neglected myself for too long. Protecting myself and learning about setting boundaries is extremely important to me.

I realize that I have a serious problem in that area. I know that comes from my family history. But, that’s only the first step. I have learned how not protecting my boundaries can just about destroy me. Now, I need to learn to practice setting them. I am on a waiting list for assertiveness training classes in the new year and I can hardly wait. I know that a lot of problems I’ve had in my life, the latest Hellish experience with the ex sociopath being the worst, are due to my not setting personal boundaries.

As for the red flags…well OMG…I sure have a great text book example to learn from. It’s funny because now I can spot personality disorder all over the place and believe you me, I KEEP AWAY and they do NOT get a single ounce of my attention.

Another thing is that some of them are so in tune to body language, I’m pretty sure I spotted a psychopath a couple days ago on my way home from my therapy appointment. I was walking along the street and this man was walking with one of his kids and his wife was trailing behind in the snow pushing a baby stroller and with a toddler. The guy had a vibe about him from 30 feet away and was shooting me the “look”. Instead of being creeped out and looking away like I WOULD have done before, I met his gaze, and kept it for as long as I could. I basically stared the creep down. I’ve NEVER done that.

After I passed them (the woman did not make eye contact), I thought to myself…THAT guy is an abuser. I can FEEL it.

The other red flags as far as behavior with psycho/sociopathy…definitely something that I will recognize in the future and that I’m going through a process of realizing and learning.

NEVER AGAIN. That’s one of my new mottos.

Thanks for all the positive reinforcement Oxy 🙂


It’s such a coincidence that I read this post today. I was just thinking about this very thing this morning. So timely.

I’m in the midst of sorting out my family like with my SP mother and my brother and sister. My sister, who is my best friend, and I are not speaking to each other right now partly due to this very issue.

For years and years my mother has cried to my sister about how I abuse her. In other words, I’m the abuser of mom. According to mom I also am incapable of love and only care about money and mo is terrified of me due to my abusiveness. My sister, who KNOWS ME (we used to talk on the phone every day) treats each episode as if it were a one-time deal. How many times does she need to see that our mother uses her to bash me before Sis gets it mom and I aren’t 2 silly women duking it out, but that I am, in fact, the victim? Our mother does cruel things to her too! How many times have I heard “she’s getting old” as an excuse for mom’s antics?

Our difference of opinion on the matter has caused a huge rift between us and we’re not not talking. I want to shake my sister out of it. I feel like she’s in a cult. Why can’t she see what’s going on?

An interesting dynamic in our family is that SP mom gets to do anything she wants. But if you get angry with her, that’s far worse than anything she did to you, so you have no right to complain. My brother told me not too long ago that when he was 14 our mother strangled him. BUT! HE was acting like a brat, so he had no right to complain. I asked him why he didn’t strangle his own kids. Lightbulb!

I wonder how many of us have experienced that same sort of rationalizing in order to avoid having to take a good long look at the SP’s entire body of work?

Ox Drover

Dear Running away,

Your sister has been trained as an enabler by your mother, to NOT SEE THE BIG PICTURE. I have been there, though I have no siblings from my mother, believe me I know the drill, she used my own children as her own and pitted them against me, of course with the P one, this was just fine for him and fine WITH him as “grandma always took hhis side”—and that was true.

While you may be “best friends” with your sister, as long as she is hooked into the DRAMA of your family’s dysfunction, the relationship will not be a good one. That is what makes it hurt because you love her and consider her an important part of your family.

I love my son C who is NOT a P, but when he was married to the P woman and HOOKED into it all, I had to distance myself from him until HE SAW THE LIGHT. I wasn’t sure he ever would, it was only the grace of God that when his wife and her BF tried to kill him that they didn’t succeed and he did SEE THE LIGHT, that my egg donor is an evil enabler, his P brother is a P, and his X-wife is a P, but until HE SAW THE LIGHT there was no relationship between us except I loved him from a distance but NC. that was sad, but I realized I had to do it that way for my own protection.

The people the Ps “dupe” (and many times these are some of their children) act as what I call “psychopaths by proxy” because they help to suck in the victim and keep him/her there. they don’t realize what theya re doing is “bad” because they think they are “helping the family” and “keeping peace” but in realioty they are enabling the psychopath to continue the abuse. It is sad, but sometimes the “duped” person does see the light, just keep hoping and praying that your sister will be one of those that “escapes” the toxcic FOG of your mother. (((hugs))))


Oh, hi, everyone. I just thought I’d share this “personal and confidential” e-mail from an eminent, professional, psychopath/sociopath being sued by a friend of mine. He wants to “resolve difficulties.”

Just to illustrate how you “had to be there” to see the damage this a-hole has caused to a lot of people. Because he sounds like such a nice man.

* * *

Dear Ms. X,

Why the harsh words? No matter how you conduct yourself, I have always treated you and your group with respect. I have seriously listened to your positions, and taken time to answer the extensive questions your group put to me. Very few practicing medical doctors have taken the time to seriously listen to your group as I have. I may not agree with what you say, but I have defended your right to say it.

Because [state] law precludes [your friend’s] lawsuit, it really is in her best interest to withdraw the suit. It also would be best if you withdrew your harsh statements against me. I’m sure neither one of us wants to spend large amount of time in court rooms, so why don’t we talk instead?

If you decline to accept this offer to resolve, regretfully I must ask you to tell me what attorney will represent you.

I look forward to your thoughtful response to these serious issues,

Dr. Blah-blah-blah

* * *

Wow, I’m such a hard-assed bitch, huh? With any luck, I’ll get even more “harsh.” I’m learning. And what did I say about this guy? Nothing except to stay away from him, he’s a sociopath. My cop friend says this is just the way perps talk.

Hope you enjoyed it.


“THE ‘SPATH’S’ ENTIRE BODY OF WORK” Nicely put runningaway!

I haven’t talked in detail with the dupe who is sueing the spath i interacted with, but I want to. I want to know about the entire body of work. There are many of us.

I did tell her about lovefraud. I hope she passes it on.

I want to do a long post about the ‘female spath’. It is just hard to get ‘there’, I spend a lot of time pushing it away, ’cause other things need my attention.

I realized that other night that it has been 3 months since the spath was in my life daily, less than two that in found out ‘he’ definitely didn’t die (nor the rest of sock puppets), and one month since I knew that he was a she, a serial con, and spath extraordinaire.

the hardest thing, besides the mess of my life re housing and work, is that i am very isolated. i feel like i am living a double life. i have all this turmoil and shit inside of me on a daily basis and there aren’t many i can speak to about this. I am very much an inside on the outside person, so this is damned hard on my nerves. but i also know that I can’t tell folks about this in general.

My 2 friends who have gone through my whole experience with the drama/ trauma of the boy, don’t really want to hear it. i try not to talk about it much, but then i feel even more isolated. i am a bit pissed with them actually. it’s not going to go away faster if they ignore it. it just makes me feel unstable in those relationships, too.

I was in a meeting the other day and i watched the behavior of two of the principals – i was interacting with them, but still watching them, and i was thinking, ‘gaslight, gaslight.’

in a debriefing after the meeting, I said as much…i didn’t share HOW i knew what they were doing, but i did talk about the mechanism, and what it was meant to do.

I had my laptop between them and me and I was glad of it – cause i could see things on my desktop, that grounded me – like the folder labelled, ‘BULLSHIT’ (for the spath’s stuff), and the one labelled, ‘NOMOREBS’.

I’ll be back . 😉

one step


p.s. the debriefing WASN’T with the principals.


I wrote this BEFORE reading this post…HA! My questions have been answered…thank you Steve from one fellow therapist to another.

Ya know, as I was sitting at work today, I began reminiscing about all the ‘strange’ incidents that occured during our 3.5 year relationship. What struck me was how subtle all the craziness was. I had bought him an IPASS for Christmas thinking it would help out with tolls when he came to my house. About every 4 months or so I would put 15 or 20 dollars on it to help pay for the cost as each time he came to my house it cost him 3 dollars each way. When it came time for ME to use the IPASS because he lost his license it hadnt occured to me that he NEVER put money on it for me! In fact, he would ASK me to put money on it for him”but not ONCE did he do this for me.

Silly things like this that I passified while dating come to mind every once and a while and I have to keep from being hard on myself for ’allowing’ the abuse, manipulation or useing.

Sometimes I wonder if, as a sociopath, they KNOW exactly what they are doing at any given moment (referring to precontemplation) in time or are these behaviors ingrained (referring to biology).

After we broke up in June, he continually said “I just wish we could get back to how it was our first year together” and it struck me as odd. My ‘situation’ has remained almost EXACTLY the same (with the exception of earning my Masters and Type 73), my character has remained the same, my intentions have remained the same”etc. What had changed, though is his ability to ’hide’ his TRUE self. And so as he said this to me I thought “so, he can CONTROL how he chooses to act with me” because how he was when we initially met and how he was at the end were polar opposites. Ok”so if hes in control, then whats the motivation for acting soooooo poorly?


One step…

Funny…Ive got a folder labled “asshole’ on my computer for all his poems he sent while we were apart…AHHH HA HA!


r- babe,

I was pretty happy when i moved from using the ‘bullshit’ folder to using the ‘nomorebs’ folder 🙂

the no more bs folder has all the stuff i have archived for the DA and the lawyer AND lovefraud posts that speak to me.


Ahhh…yet another question…

After we broke up, he had texted me saying ‘we just need and want different things from a partner. Your boundaries blocked out alot of what I needed most.”

To this day, I still cant wrap my head around what his ‘needs and wants’ were that weren’t being fullfilled…(and I am NOT blaming myself, trust me!)


ouuu, your boundaries blocked out what he needed most.

umm, that would be your LIFEBLOOD, and the barrier was your SKIN!!

Ox Drover

Dear Roxy-babe,

I agree with One step, your boundaries blocked out him sucking the complete life out of you!

Looking at the BIG PATTERN is what we must do, but at the same time, we don’t want to be “dysfunctional” and keep “brining up the past”—actually we DO because we see a pattern there, but they use the FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) to stay in the Now and only “fight about” what is happening now, NOt bring up all the OLD BS that they have tried to block out our seeing over and over and over again.

Yep, the BIG pattern is what we miss because we CARE, but yes, they do know what they are doing, they are GETTING THEIR WAY–they don’t have to contemplate it, it is NATURAL with them, just like a pit viper strikes at something warm because it has heat sensors on its face, they strike at us becuase that is waht they do, they don’t have to think about it any more than the freaking snake does!

Most of it I think is biology, but there is also some learning curves in it as well, but put them both together and you have a predator, just like a cat has an instinct to hunt but must train itself, so does the psychopath. They get better as they go on, what gets them what they want is a GO. They don’t in some cases learn from their mistakes, but tthose Ps aren’t really successful, but the ones who can learn from mistakes and hone their skill get pretty dog gone good at it and rise up the social and corporate and political ladders into high and powerful positions.


one_step_at_a_time says: umm, that would be your LIFEBLOOD, and the barrier was your SKIN!!





Dear OxDrover,

Thanks so much for your supportive words. I didn’t realize that the sperm donor (I think that’s what you called your mom) was your mom. I thought it was your husband. I’m so thankful that I have someone who’s been through this with a parent to talk to.

It’s so weird going through this because my siblings and I are used to my mother’s behavior. It’s hard to see it for what it really is. For example, is she just a ditz-brain or is she conning us? She can be really nice and give us gifts. Then she’ll be horrible. It would be so much easier if she were just awful all the time. But that’s how sociopaths work! The truth is, I’m terrified of her.

I think my sister is suffering from a sort of Stockholn Syndrome. She says she “used to” think of herself and a fixer – that she would get in the middle of things to help keep the family happy. And I think that’s sort of typical of youngest children. But it amazes me that she can’t see that she’s still doing it.

I love my sister so much and have always felt like I needed to keep her safe. So it’s extra hard. She’s in a bad marriage to someone who is very narcissistic. Fortunately, she’s got a great therapist helping her. I hope and pray she can eventually come to see what’s going on. I know her therapist has told her that mom has a personality disorder. I guess it’s baby-steps to telling her mom is a SP. I’ll be he’s figured that out.

My therapist suggested that we agree not to talk about mom. But how do I trust her not to tell mom things I don’t want her to know? I know my sister felt very guilty about selling me up the river, but she obviously felt to tied to mom that she had to protect her and did it anyway.

I’m thinking that, thought this is very very hard, that I shouldn’t talk to my sister for a while. Can you help me out here? How can I keep her in my life? I feel torn between my love for her and my need to keep myself safe.

One thing we have going for us is that mom has gone so over the top since my father died that it’s easier to see her for what she is. She’s acting like a kid in a candy store. Maybe that will help my sister face reality.

Thanks again for your dedication to helping all of us.

Ox Drover

Dear Runnning,

Glad I helped you some, my “egg donor” is what you call your mother, my “sperm donor” is who you would call your father. Neither of them earned the respectful terms “father or motehr” in my estimation, but they did give me their DNA.

I know you love your sister, and would like to help her, but unfortunately if she is still emotionally duped by your mother, your mother will USE that to get information and so you are not safe sharing information with your sister right now, I would thinnk.

At one time my oldest son C was duped by my egg donor, by my P-son (his brother) and also his P-wife, and it was not safe for me to be around him or to tell him anything. It broke my heart because I loved him so much and hated to see him caught in this 3-spider web, but there was nothing I could do, so I distanced myself from him and loved him from a safe distance.

I think you may have to do that with your sister. You cannot FIX her any more than she can fix your mother. I think you must focus on YOURSELF first and foremost and heal yourself before you work on anything else. We tend to put ourselves last and try to save others, and unfortunately, EACH OF US must save THEMSELVES. We may float someone a life preserver, but it is up to them to grasp that information and grab the live preserver, we can’t swim out there into the deep and drag them kicking and screaming against their wills to safety, even if we could, they would dive right back into the surf. they must see the need to get out and then swim for themselves. Unfortunately, even dupes don’t always see the need to get away from the abusers.

I am glad your sister is getting therapy and maybe she will “get it” but that is out of your control. YOU are the only thing in your own control. So focus on healing yourself, and staying distant from your sister, but you can love her from a distance. Pray for her. (((hugs))))


crap – just lost my whole post…

essentially, i wouldn’t have survived this last year if i didn’t compartmentalize, AND it probably kept me hanging in their longer with the spath….and all the @#$%^&* spath’s I have known.

if i don’t compartmentalize the trauma and the mess of my life right now I get so overwhelmed I freeze in fright. My ability to compartmentalize has eroded – i spend a lot of time trying to get stuff into boxes.

I went to a college ope nouse to find aout a program, a career path I am really interested in. A permanent way out of my current financial situatation. And i relaized as i sat there doing the math that I did not have enough working years to pay off the sizable loans. and this meant>No career in that sector>no money> no savings for retirement> baglady. I am at risk of homelessness now and if I don’t compartmentalize this stuff I will go mad.

Things have gotten worse and worse the last few years – nothing like injury and bad economy (in this town long before the economy tanked last year)…things compound, i swim to survive, but i keep sinking down further.

i think compartmentalization is a tool; we need to know when to use the wrench and when to use the screwdriver.

one step, who is feeling way sorry for herself today.


I remember when he and I were together saying to my mom and friends “I feel like if I let him jump inside of my body or pocket and carry him around everyday, he’d be the most content”.

I also remember saying “I feel like he’s ON me”, literally…like I couldnt get him off of me as he just leeched onto everything I did…from his clothing style, to his motivation at the gym, to how he carried himself, to how he treated people.

It was strange…like he watched how I did things and mimicked ME, but presented himself as if this was really how HE was! Im getting creeped out more and more each time I post something…

Thank you lovefraud blog and everyone who responds. I really do need this to continue on the path of healing, closure and maintaing my stance of NO CONTACT!!!


r babe –

this mimicry was noted by another poster here. wish i could remember who – staying sane or maybe stargazer??

i felt it too in my situation – a familiarity that might otherwise have felt nice with someone else, but was a slow blooming creepiness with the spath.

others here have said that they take what we present and mirror it back to manipulate (this would be the hooking us phase of the process) and also to pretend to have some shininess of their own.

i have the same thing around posting – sometimes i get quite triggered by writing and reading here, and sometimes i am REALLY paranoid that she might be reading my writing. hard for me that this is online. i’d rather sit in a room with everyone.

I don’t know how she is going to react if i out her online, or if i give evidence against her. so when i read the nightmares that people endure when they out them, it freaks me out. but i need to know what people expereince, and i need to take a ong hard look at my goals and motivations and decide what is necessary and important and what is just feeding my ego.



It sounds as if she still has some control over you. Maybe ask yourself “So what if she reacts to something posted online”…it doesnt seem to me that your “job” is to provide her with comfort and coziness.

Where does this fear come from relating to you ‘outing’ her? What is your relationship “status” and what are the consequences (in your mind) if you expose your reality with her?

I hid quite a bit (mostly that ‘princess’ had been locked up for 2 years and had a child he had never seen) from my extended family at the cost of continuously being on guard and bordering paranoia, fearing he’d be ‘found out’. What crap!

It is easy to sorta ‘follow the rules’ of living with /dating/whatever the sociopath because they are soooo smooth. There is a covert fear that is instilled in the ‘victims’ as we dont want to have to ‘deal’ with all the wrath and aftermath (whether it be tantrums, silent treatment, lies, etc) if we cross a line…after all, we are SUPPOSED TO BE loyal to the sociopath NO MATTER WHAT!


hi r babe:

i am definitely not trying to supply her with comfort and coziness. i don’t have a sense of obligation to her. it’s not about her, its about my wanting a spath free life.

she DOES have a history of waging nasty smear campaigns.

I am not trying to protect her, but me.

she has threatened me in relation to work. she might be able to do me some harm there, and i cannot risk that.

she has threatened to do me physical harm – i don’t think that that would ever happen. she lives far from me and she’d have to haul herself here.

i am not in relationship with her. not completely nc cause i know a bit about what she is doing online as someone is watching her for me, but have changed all my contact info so she can’t get to me at home.


Steve, another stellar piece that hits home with me…thank you! I was famous for this. I think I actually became one of the trees in the forest. It prolonged my enabling, my denial and ultimately the amount of time he spent taking what he wanted without a thought to remorse.
I liken it to a war. There are many small battles, many of which I won. After each battle, though, I would slip into denial and allow myself to feel good about myself. I had stood up for myself! What I didn’t do, however, was connect all these little battles to the war itself. And he was winning. Not for a minute did he let up, I just chose not to see that. This pattern continued for a very long time and I settled into it. Battles won, feel good about myself, ignore the obvious, new battle won, denial, etc.. When I finally realized it for what it really was, the true winning(freedom) in all of this was to get him gone asap. He is still trying to drag me into his war, but there can be none if there is only one person. I refuse to engage.
Thank you again!


and after i posted about the watching thing some questions come up for me.

i see that one of the reasons i used to go and look myself was to ‘know what was going on’ – so that she couldn’t blind side me again.

and that is now why someone else is watching her for me. BUT THE ONLY WAY SHE CAN BLINDSIDE (EXCEPT AROUND WORK) IS IF I AM STILL IN THE GAME.

things have changed. i have contact with lawyers,etc. so i know she is being dealt with in the best way – may not work, but it is legal and public.

I don’t feel the same obligation to the others she is duping there – cause i see it is at the cost to myself. dunno.

for me, it hooks into my vulnerablilities right now – my ‘good name’ is really important – cause everything else is so in edge, and may get worse. and i can’t afford having my name smeared. if my work and housing was stable, and when my work and housing are stable – then it will be different.


Steve, thank you for this article. Why is it that some of us see these behaviors and warning signs, yet we ignore them? All the signs were there for me with a man who is a psychopath and now is stalking me. Like someone who rubber-necks at an accident site, I just stayed to watch. I was in utter disbelief that an adult could be capable of this behavior. Stupidly, I thought I could show him a better way of being, a more refined way of being. This man has ruined my life, there is no stopping him.

For now, I just want the stalking to end. I want him to move on. In the future, I want to learn how to avoid these characters and better myself in a way that I am able to connect the dots quickly and walk way unscathed. To this point, I have been very naive.


Steve, excellent article.

Noticing the patterns as you describe is key for us in slowly realizing that we are not dealing with a mature and compatible adult companion, even if he initially seems to be so or is close in age to us.

The ongoing inappropriate/negative behaviors, invalidation of the partner’s perceptions and minimization of emotional pain, the N/S thinking his words of apology should be adequate even when no change is evident through consistency in positive actions — all are part of what makes the disordered person impossible.

Forgiveness is one thing, but it was offensive to my intelligence to hear a grown man claim I should continue to overlook utter stupidity, lack of insight and unwillingness to take personal responsibility on his part.

Once I knew I had done my part in helping the relationship evolve to a healthier place, I began getting turned off. There was a point when it all got old, tiresome and intolerable, and I found myself changing how I perceived my ex. He went from someone I had enjoyed to someone whom I found boring due to his obvious stagnation. He simply was not pleasant company after a while, especially when I compared how alive I felt being around other people who were not nearly as self-centered and who were very normal in other good ways.

That’s one reason why the N/S attempts to take up as much of our time as possible or isolate us — because they cannot measure up well in comparison to emotionally-reasonable and psychologically-reciprocal people.

Indeed, a person on the path of healing will eventually say “Good riddance.”


Jeepers, Recovering! What a brilliant and concise communication. I just starting looking at him and thinking ‘Reeeally, are you kidding? This is getting extremely tiresome’. I absolutely registered his behavior as offensive, boring, tedious, repetitive, small-minded, and superficial….. As the mask began to slip, it was tedium, just one tiring and chaotic drama, after the next.

AND, it is good to remember that.


Helplessangel, So hard to read that he has ruined your life. I don’t know the actual details of your story, but I understand the feeling of having one’s life destroyed. Please keep visiting Lovefraud, and reading the articles. It will help you with that naive-ness (I think that is naivete, but I don’t know how to spell it!). Glad you are here. Slim



I think that is naivete, but I don’t know how to spell it!




You have nailed my experience: my feelings, my illuminations and my defenses so precisely I just feel as if my acknowledgement and appreciation of said ‘nailing’ should be automatically registered, as maybe some sort of tingly and lovey feeling in your heart, that I would not be needing to repeat myself, in my neverending thanks for your words. In other words, I feel like a broken record, of thanks.

But, whatever, thanks again for the totally spot on ‘detailing’ of how we, some of us, do what we do.

This article leaves me no shadows to hide in. THANK-you!


Steve, boy how I wish I knew all this 5 months ago. I did rationalize his behavior,make excuses for his behavior. funny how our mind to tries to make it okay somehow…I have a legal question kind of regarding no contact…got divorce papers and we have to go before the judge, called a default hearing in Jan. I don’t want to see him, we are not fighting over property or children and thought the judge would just sign the papers and move on, but no, I have to appear, so my question to you and others out there, if I don’t appear, the divorce will go throuhg anyway right…I don’t ever want to see him, he is pure evil, he is conniving. And if I don’t go, would he put a spin on some things and I am not there to defend myself, can I send my lawyer to represent? or is that necessary, anyone out there have any ideas…I am on celexa for depression and xanax for anxiety since all this..can my doc write a letter, any one out have some help for me?
I still dream about him, sometimes he is nice is my dreams and sometimes he is the devil he is, how long will it take for me to be rid of him mind and soul, this guy messed with my head, and as the post above have commented, in a naive way of seeing normalcy we did it to ourselves or allowed it to manifest…any help here would be appreciated. I come to this site when I feel weak and start to think of the persona he put on, the nice funny guy he never really was and this site grounds me right back to the reality that he is one sick sorry fool..I am so appreciative of this site…I would have gone crazy by now has it not been for this place of refuge and comfort to come to.
my love to all of you and your struggles

Ox Drover

Dear clovis, I would consult with your attorney over the legal question, I am sure s/he will be able to answer your question. I wouldn’t take any chances on the divorce being canceled! LOL Glad you are here, keep on reading!


I haven’t posted in quite awhile, mainly because I fell back into the well of the relationship I was trying to avoid, then decided one more time, that I would try to RESOLVE. And here it is the holidays and I’m back in the onfusion and disappointment and just wanted to be another poster child here for others to see how dysfunctional these relationships are if you let them drag on – despite the nice times you think (at the time) make them worth it. And I wanted to tell you, Steve – how much I’ve appreciated your writings in particular – you have a special way of getting right to the insidious ways we deceive ourselves in these situations – as well as how these people operate time and time again – you are very astute and keyed in to all the subtleties of emotion that happen.

Today I had the rug pulled out once again – after weeks of promises of money coming through on the sale of a house of his and the transfer pending of money to my account – still supposed
to be happening tomorrow – and then the request for ‘spotting him’ another fifty or 100 dollars, coming right on top of several nice days of being together. I gave him eleven dollars this
morning and just said that I was so tired of this habit of his saying or promising these paybacks or nice things we’ll be doing together, and then he asks once again for money and for me
to have faith in him – which amazingly enough, I still have slight pangs of guilt for not having that undying feeling for seeing him through yet another hard time. I”M experiencing hard times! I”M paying for the heat, the food, the alcohol, the gas for the car, and it’s more than I would usually pay for just myself! Lately he’d met a few more of my close friends – this, finally after 8 years and now he puts me on the phone more with his brothers back east – there will seem to be progress and then wham – it’s always about money and changing circumstances. I’m so sick of this money thing – it’s always MY money going out, especially after I’ve made anything extra with my art and feeling good about it, that sense of pride when you can support yourself (in all ways). And then it seems like
it’s snatched out of my hand – just depresses the hell out of me!

So here I am again – I’m at that point where I still have some love for him, but the love for myself and compassion for my own struggle and efforts in trying to do right
by myself is taking center stage. I don’t want to resent him but more and more I do! This morning he left after we had some words – I gave him the eleven dollars I had in my wallet and did not give him the fifty (or forty) he asked for and then he left, disappointed in me when he says there will be a large amount in my account tomorrow. I will feel like a sh– if he does come through – it would be
so wonderful in so many ways if he would – but I am too used to the other shoe falling – in that way, I’d say I’m only human, wouldn’t you?

Thanks for listening yet again, I have looked in here from time to time but have just been busy working and trying to stay afloat in my life, getting ready for Christmas. Love to you all.

Ox Drover

Dear persephone,

LOCK THE DOOR, DARLING! Don’t let him back into your life! You KNOW THE TRUTH, and I know it is painful to accept it, but how much more of the lie are you going to BUY into? Personally, I will be willing to bet my farm that you never see the 11$ much less any more.

Wake up girlfriend! YOU deserve better! Keep on reading here and TAKE BACK YOUR POWER! The power to say to him, “this isn’t working, YOU aren’t working, I don’t want you in my life—go away” and mean it! Even if it hurts, you know he is like a DRUG and going back to him and listening to his lies is only like another shot in the arm, it may make you high for a while, but it is wrecking you, soul, mind and body! ((((Hugs))) and my prayers!


(my name stands for aerobics psycho babe 🙂

When asking yourself those questions, like “Id say Im only human-wouldn’t you?”, try to rewrite your story in your mind and say the actors are your friends. If your good friend came to you and told you the SAME story, but it was her, what would you say?

Would you tell her that she’s creating her own drama by being with him? Would you tell her that the only one who can make a change is her? Would you tell her that the lies WILL NOT STOP until SHE changes the script? Would you tell her that he doesnt love her because if you love someone, you dont use and manipulate them?

Hopefully you would say all these things. Sometimes being a ‘friend’ to ourselves and treating ourselves as we were ‘defending’ our BEST friend in the WORLD forces us to recognize that WE are NOT here to be treated like dirt-just as our friends arent.

Be kind to yourself and treat yourself as though YOU are the most important person in YOUR world…he clearly isn’t.

Ox Drover

Dear R-babe,

Good way of putting your advice! Great way in fact! We must treat ourselves as well as we treat others, and EXPECT others to treat us as well as we treat them! (((hugs)))

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