Judging Character – Part Two

In today’s world, making the right assessment of a person’s character before getting involved in a serious relationship is more important than ever (see also: Becoming a Better Judge of Character).  As I point out in Character Disturbance, each type of character exhibits certain, reliable signs (in patterns of interpersonal behavior, dominant attitudes, ways of thinking about things, etc.) and if you know what to look for, you can possibly stave off disaster.  What follows is a detail-altered story of two individuals I’ll call “Jack” and “Amy,” that illustrates the kind of trouble that can ensue when someone’s character is wrongly appraised.

I first became acquainted with Amy after a friend suggested she seek me out and she called to make an appointment for her and her husband Jack.  Amy and Jack had seen a therapist a little over a year ago and Amy was disappointed in the results.  She tried to understand what the therapist said:  that Jack must have grown up lacking the approval he needed, especially from his mother and the other significant women in his life, that he had a deep fear of genuine intimacy and commitment, and that his cheating was a way to get the affirmation he craved and to build his self-esteem.  And she worked really hard doing her part to allay those fears, but things were still not working out.  She thought she could get past the fact he had two affairs, but now, even after therapy, and even after all her hard work, everything was going wrong again.  The lies, the constant wondering, the rants and the denials that made her feel like the crazy one – they were all back.  She just couldn’t understand or take much more of what she feared would be his constant unfaithfulness.  All sense of trust was gone.  She also felt both used and discarded.  She wanted more out of life and a relationship but somehow felt guilty and selfish about it.  From time to time she did think she might have to leave because of how hard it was to bear the hurt.  But she’d invested so much of herself trying to make things work, and there were occasional glimmers of hope, so she couldn’t bring  herself to simply walk away.   

The different demeanor Amy and Jack displayed told me a lot before we even began talking during the first session.  Amy appeared anxious for help, while Jack appeared not only disinterested but a bit put off by the whole thing.  Still, Jack did a lot of the talking, right from the outset.  He wanted to know what good it might do to come to sessions, how much I charged, and also made it clear that he believed that the reason they were in my office was because Amy was “never satisfied” and expected “far too much” in their relationship. He was a “damned good provider” and she had all the money and comforts a person could possibly want, so he couldn’t understand what all the big fuss was about.  He readily admitted the two affairs he had confessed to before they saw their first counselor, but said that he was “stressed” at work at the time and wasn’t feeling very appreciated at home.  He also insisted that his dalliances “meant nothing at all” and that Amy’s “paranoia” was not only unwarranted but had recently gotten “out of bounds.”

I asked Jack what he had done to “repair the damage” he’d done by breaching the trust in his relationship with Amy.  His immediate reply, “Huh?”, said a lot, all by itself.  But to add insult to injury, he quickly added: “Well, she was supposed to quit snooping, and quit questioning me all the time. And she was also supposed to give me some positive attention – that’s what the therapist said she should do.  But did she do it?  No!  She’s still sneaking around trying to check my cell phone and emails all the time.  I even had to close one email account and open another just to have some privacy!” Jack seemed outraged and indignant. But he didn’t seem like someone who felt horribly about having injured the love of his life, remorseful for his actions, and willing to make amends.  It was all on Amy.  These were immediate and clearly present signs of character disturbance, so it would be no surprise at all what I would eventually ferret out before the interview was over with regard to his behavioral history.

By the end of the interview I’d managed to learn that:

  1. Jack actually came from a loving, caring family who pretty much gave him everything, including more attention and approval than anyone might ever need.
  2. He had always been a thrill-seeker, being quite the daredevil most of his young life and was just as heavily into fast cars as he was into “fast” and “willing” women.
  3. He had crossed many other lines and boundaries than merely those pertaining to his marital vows.  In fact, he’d engaged in enough shady practices in his business that were it not for his wealth, means, shrewdness, and access to top-notch lawyers, he might well be in jail.
  4. He had many more “dalliances” than the two he confessed during his prior therapy stint and since that time had numerous others but got “careless” with his texting on his cell phone which is how Amy’s suspicions recently became aroused again.
  5. He saw absolutely nothing wrong with his behavior.  The women meant nothing to him and he had given Amy “everything a woman could possibly want.” He had “absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.”

Now this was a man of such deficient character that he couldn’t possibly conduct a relationship on the plane to which Amy aspired. And he’d been this way since adolescence.  Moreover, after listening to Amy describe why and how she fell in love with him, it was clear she had virtually no ability to accurately appraise his character or anyone else’s for that matter.  Of course, the stint in therapy didn’t help matters on that count either, for this was not a self-esteem deficient, approval-hungry, wounded soul who deeply feared commitment because his mother never loved him enough (as the therapist suggested), but rather a self-indulgent, empathy-devoid, remorseless thrill-seeker, people exploiter and abuser, and serial boundary and rule violator.  A man without remorse and devoid of real contrition (for more this see: What Real Contrition Looks Like and Contrition Revisited).  So trusting the therapist’s judgment on things only made matters worse.  Only lately was Amy becoming more willing to listen to her own inner voice, which had long been trying to tell her what kind of person she was really dealing with.  Still, she was too afraid and unsure of herself to act on what she was slowly coming to realize.

I worked with Amy a relatively short time, considering how much she needed to change with respect to the way she viewed herself, her worth, and how she judged the character of others.  But once, as they say, the light bulb moment happened, she was on a roll. And after she dealt with her own character issues, especially her emotional dependency and feelings of inadequacy, then found her strength and got her bearings, she made a commitment to never sell herself so short again or give herself away so cheaply.  It’s a commitment she’s kept to this day.

Next week’s post will provide another example of the power that comes along with being able to make sound character judgments.

29 thoughts on “Judging Character – Part Two

  1. Oh how I wish I had met Dr. Simon 30 years ago. I now have learned that when something or someone seems upside down it is/they are. After being married for 45 years,I divorced my N (my diagnosis) husband. I was alone for 7 years. I now have my daughter and her son (14) living with me since Sept. I am realizing that my daughter is abusing alcohol. Oh Boy! Here we go again. She is very secretive like her dad was and boy does it bring back memories!

    I believe the only recourse that I have now is to join Al-anon to get some help and knowledge.

  2. I once talked about some liar I’d met with my friend and my friend had a view this guy might have had a “dual personality”. Now, I think he didn’t mean actual multiple personality disorder. Also, while I think the guy we talked about actually was a habitual liar, my friend’s mention of the concept of dual personality is interesting.

    Can someone actually, genuinely have a dual personality without it being the case of multiple personality disorder or other dissociative disorder?

  3. I don’t think a charecter disordered person would be seen as having a “dual personality”. They are manipulative, mine wanted me to see her as a victim so as to ensure I’d support her. To others she called me ‘abusive, callous,crazy’. When she found new support, she physically attacked me, and told others I had attacked and beaten her. Guess who they believed? No dual personality there. Just cold, calculated, disorder.

    1. Yes, it’s a difference whether someone is putting on a false act for purposes of aggression and impression-management or possesses a personality style that’s more erratic, incoherent and inconsistent.

      I don’t know if this is one widespread misconception, but I can see how it could lead astray.

  4. It’s just that they keep their real personality hidden. Especially if they are covert aggressive. They only let those closest to them see the real thing. Other people would never imagine that they could be that way. Dr. Simon calls it “image management”. I love it when their mask slips and everyone gets to see the real person.

    1. Yes, actual dual personality is a wholly different thing.

      Now, since character is a part of personality, I think covert aggressors’ charm can be a genuine part of their personality, only superficial(not that it matters too much).

      To differentiate, dual personality is that someone actually has an erratic, inconsistent personality style. It’s hard to explain. I’m not talking about borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorder or any dissosiative disorder. It’s that the concept of dual personality, while having genuine basis, is also misleading in some cases.

    2. Noel…………..You are right on target there! And, the more done with you they are the faster and further the mask falls. I do think it slipped from time to time before he was totally done playing with me but he also used those earlier displays as part of his game. Seems the game and tactics change as the relationship* devolves. how pathetic it is to excel at this one thing in your life and not even do that all that well. As I’ve said many times before………..the strongest card in their hand is the victim’s ignorance and consequent inability to really understand what is happening to them.
      Quite honestly, while I would never harm anyone physically unless my safety was in jeopardy, I would relish the chance to expose him of the piece of trash looser he really is. It would make my day, week, year to see him pulled over by the cops doing a field sobriety test! I would just HAVE to stop and ask him if he would like me to call Mommy for him.
      He has plenty of people fooled but not everyone. I’ve had many people tell me that there is just something about him that creeps them out or that they think he is a pedophile or weird or gay, all things he probably isn’t aware that people think about him. Apparently not everyone is fooled, but these are people who are not personally involved with him so they may not be under his grasp.

  5. Wow, this looks all too familiar, only mine couldn’t hold down a job! I didn’t take nearly enough time to assess his character, because I was running from my parents at the time, who had their own issues. We also went to the therapist and had the same results! He loved her, let me tell you. Go figure! He had image management down pat, too. Everyone used to tell me how “lucky” I was and what a great guy he was. My inner voice, who screamed he was a cad, finally won out. I am so thankful. I used to be sleep deprived and anxious, and now I am at peace and feel safe. I am so glad I found this site!! I can put my insecurities to rest.

    1. That’s absolutely great! Good going, Lisa! All comments here are very insightful in their own way(even though I do praise myself in passing). This is a site absolutely worth following.

    2. Lisa, congratulations! I’m happy for you you are free of him and now know what to look for in the future. You sound strong and informed so I’m sure a Good relationship is something you can look forward to. My gut told me something was wrong but without the frame of reference I have now, i had no way to interpret it to the degree I do now. When you don’t KNOW how bad someone can be, it’s easy to lean towards the benefit of the doubt and fall for their BS promises and declarations of undying love. And, in the case of covert deceit, manipulation and emotional abuse,,,,concrete proof is not something you can back up your gut feelings with. what pathetic childish losers they are to take advantage this way…….just mind boggling that they have any self esteem at all……That I will never understand….how they can feel good about what they do, how they can “live” with the reality of the nightmares they create in other peoples lives.

    3. Because it’s all fight for them, ones not as fit for fighting deserve to get their “just desserts” and then there are always other fighters coming from around the corner?

  6. The “dual personality” under discussion may be, in some cases, just plain old being “two-faced” depending on who is present. For example, my son is a computer genius, but is not “street smart” and married a woman who manipulates him and he can’t see it. When I was staying with them for a short time, when he was present, she would come up to me and hug me, making a big show of it, but when he was not there, she would repeatedly shut the door in my face, when I wanted to talk to her. I have simply withdrawn from that situation. I pray for him daily, but have no contact. (I’m necessarily shortening the story here, would take too long to tell all details.) They live 1/2 mile away.

    Other CAs with whom I have interacted in my business — when I describe their words and actions to my friends, sometimes the friends understand, but other times they look at me in a sort of “wondering” or “questioning” way. Many of the things they do or say, when taken only one at a time, don’t seem so bad, but when viewed as part of a whole behavioral style, form a pattern clearly visible if you know what to look for. I keep studying Dr. Simon’s books, I believe I am getting better at spotting these people up front and “I’m sorry but I’m booked for the next six months, so I won’t be able to help you,” or, “that’s going to cost $$$, are you sure you want to have that done?” Since all the ones with whom I have interacted are penny pinchers, that last gets rid of them easily.

    1. Yes, I meant that there definitely is a difference between being two-faced and having a genuine dual personality, a personality that lacks that certain consistency to it. I have hard time explaining the latter in clear, unambiguous detail, but the former I think everyone here gets instantly.

      1. J…..I get it…what you say about ” a personality that lacks that certain consistency to it.”

        Even with issues or vulnerabilities, I am consistent. My personality is not mutable. It may be watered down at times appropriately, like I wouldn’t swear in front of my grandparents for an example, or my table manors might be more precise in certain company than they would be around more familiar friend. Reading what you wrote though triggered a memory of a vague observation i made of Spathtardx when we were together and it was exactly what you said here about consistency. I also think that inconsistency can be another tool that manipulators in relationships use to create a weakening dynamic in the victim. Kind of along the lines of intermit ant positive reinforcement but slightly different.
        It was another one of those things that just got kicked under the rug as day followed day and time marched on.

      2. Actually, Puddle, I*m not talking of deliberate inconsistency designed to confuse and disorient when it comes to dual personalities. I intuitively know this thing, but have harder time explaining it. I’m talking about when someone’s personality actually is erratic. Others may even wonder if that kind of a person is schizophrenic(even though s/he isn’t). A personality style just lacks that certain cohesion.

        Perhaps someone else could explain better?

        1. J, I see the difference and i saw the type of thing you were initially talking about in Spathtardx. It was just kind of an after thought about a deliberate and tactical personality switch and really, I’m not sure that “personality” is the right word in the latter because it’s more behavioral.
          As far as I have come to understand, these people are who they need to be depending on who they are with and what they want to accomplish or gain so they do have many different way they present themselves and it’s probably very difficult for them to keep it all straight!! I would guess that there are accidents from time to time! :)

        2. To simplify:

          Actual inconsistent dual personality style vs being two-faced “deliberate and tactical personality switch”(well put, Puddle!)

          I have an idea many people could also get tangled up in this. That’s why I think this is important to clarify.

    2. Elva, “Many of the things they do or say, when taken only one at a time, don’t seem so bad, but when viewed as part of a whole behavioral style, form a pattern clearly visible if you know what to look for.”
      That is SO true which is one reason I had a very difficult time even trying to do couples counseling with Spathtardx.

      “I believe I am getting better at spotting these people up front and “I’m sorry but I’m booked for the next six months, so I won’t be able to help you,” or, “that’s going to cost $$$, are you sure you want to have that done?” Since all the ones with whom I have interacted are penny pinchers, that last gets rid of them easily.”

      VERY good!!

  7. Has anyone ever seen an instance, where someone with problematic character has brought themselves so deep down into ruin that they seem to have no humanity left at all, that they seem literally or almost literally like animals, comparable to representation of Lucifer in Dante’s Inferno?

    1. You can read about such people on the news sites nearly any day. Or you could talk to any experienced law enforcement officer and ask what they might have seen / experienced. Some incidents are so gruesome that emergency responders, who are trained to handle very distressing things, must seek counseling. All through human history you can find examples of human depravity. You can tell garbage by the smell and you don’t generally have to investigate any further.

      But I feel I should caution you, if you continue studying such a subject past simply being able to recognize it when you see or hear of it, at the very least you will have nightmares. And I have seen instances of a person who thought she was being sophisticated, but was instead succumbing to a prurient interest in the sex lives of males with whom she came in contact at work,to the point where, if the sexes had been reversed, she would have been considered guilty of sexual harassment. I don’t believe she could really be considered Christian at this point. I’m not giving any more details here because of privacy concerns, even though she has since moved away.

      Please be very careful — if you go seeking evil, evil might find you instead. There is a very good reason why
      we are told in the Bible (Philippians 4:8)(J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English)– “Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy.”

      I wish you well in your search for understanding, but again, please be very careful.

    2. Afraid evil sometimes finds good people to ruin without them needing to do anything. I do believe it’s for the best to keep ourselves conscious of what nourishes us. Still, we can’t exactly be naïve. We’ve got to know that certain kinds of things do exist.

  8. I have seen one who brought herself so low, only she doesn’t see it. What she did was to accomplish her objective by any means possible. Though most people don’t believe it because she’s my own daughter. She had the habit of writing her plans out on line and in print, along with the reasons why (blame to others). She was simply born that way, I unknowingly helped her along believing she was shy and insecure. At 17 she set up a 14 year old for sex fantasies and used it online to weave a tale of rape. Just one of her sordid games. Evil? She is very happy with herself, many friends, and a narcisist for a husband.

  9. Dr Simon, since neurotic assumptions have prevailed, a little detail about those came to me:

    We probably can think of that as a collective belief, can’t we? Now, don’t people gather evidence for pre-existing beliefs and reject evidence to the contrary? I have a thought this detail could be important in doing small changes that add up.

    1. J, I think you are right that SOME people collect evidence which proves or disproves pre-existing beliefs, however….I think those people are in the minority for sure and are often times the ones who are labled heretics in history. also, most people are content going with the flow and find it quite unsettling to question most anything!
      There is a silly movie ( that I liked by the way!! ;) ) here in the states called Men In Black. I don’t know if it has made it to your neck of the woods or not but there is a great little dialogue in it about the topic that is central to the movie which is that there are aliens from other galaxies living amongst us here on earth but they are disguised. You can look it up on IMDB, but here it is!

      “Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
      Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.
      Edwards: What’s the catch?
      Kay: The catch? The catch is you will sever every human contact. Nobody will ever know you exist anywhere. Ever. I’ll give you to sunrise to think it over.
      [starts walking away]
      Edwards: [shouting after Kay] Hey! Is it worth it?
      Kay: Oh yeah, it’s worth it…
      [starts walking again, stops and turns back briefly]
      Kay: … if you’re strong enough!”


  10. I AM Amy. Except in counselling my STBXH was really quite good at saying the right things. Crying even – “I am glad we are getting there, I’m just really sad that this change happened as a result of such pain and trauma (his infidelity/ies).

    But I always came out feeling short-changed, because a lot of the time he would also be perusing the book titles on the book shelf or yawning, and once we were back outside, the “connection” felt in those moments in the room had disappeared as quickly as they arrived. I lived always feeling so sad and disappointed and empty.

    Problem is STBX is also a therapist, so has probably learned well the responses expected and required to keep the mask in place. Such a clever manipulator.

    I am and have been a TERRIBLE judge of character in terms of intimate (HAH) relationships, but never will I be fooled again.

    1. Wearyasallhell,

      Hi Amy, I am sorry about all you have been through. Yes, there are a lot of therapist out there such as your husband. I would encourage you to read the current topics by Dr. Simon. It will help you to regain yourself and take back your life. It’s about building sound character in our lives.

      I welcome you to join in on the conversation. We have a lot of well versed posters who have been on the journey your on and are more than willing to lend a helping hand and share their experiences and knowledge.

      Take care and God Bless

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