People With Character Disturbances: Openness Vs. Awareness

There’s a big difference between being “aware” (at least on an intellectual level) and being “open” or receptive to someone else’s input or viewpoint.  A person has to be in an admissive frame of mind and heart in order to process information at a level deep enough for it to have real meaning.  But disturbed and disordered characters are often so married to their ways of seeing and doing things that they can’t give due consideration to other perspectives.  They’re usually aware of how others want them to see and do things, but they’re also opposed to those ways. Naturally, this creates problems in their relationships.

The lack of openness in disturbed characters is rooted primarily in their arrogance (i.e. their “I understand your way but I think my way is superior” stance) as opposed to their ignorance (i.e. “I simply don’t know any other way”).  Another reason for their lack of openness has to do with their preference.  Most of the time, the ways they’ve come to look on things, think about things, and especially to conduct their affairs are compatible with various traits in their personality.  They may have even tried out alternatives but found the ways they eventually adopted a more comfortable, easy “fit”, especially with respect to their self-image, and, therefore, preferable.  And because they preferred these ways, they quickly became habitual and, in time, ingrained.  Finally, the disturbed character’s lack of receptiveness has to do with their core beliefs and the values they hold.  Now, many are quick to assert that disturbed, and especially disordered characters simply have no values.  But this is untrue.  They do indeed have values, as well as a hierarchy of importance they attach to those values.  What you have to remember, however, is that the values they hold are often significantly different from the values most others might like them to embrace.

Over the years, I’ve counseled many couples experiencing difficulties in their relationships.  Many times, one of the couple was more on the “neurotic” side of the spectrum whereas the other was more on the character disturbed side.  And as I’ve mentioned in my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance as well as some prior posts (see, for example:  Neurosis vs. Character Disorder:  Levels of Awareness), neurotics and disturbed characters differ greatly with respect to their levels of awareness.  I’ve borne witness to many interactions between couples that demonstrate these differences, so I thought I might provide an example (the example is actually more of a “composite” with some minor deliberate distortions introduced and identifying information altered to ensure complete anonymity) from the case file:

Tom and Terri had been married for almost 11 years, and their relationship became rocky almost as soon as the “honeymoon” period ended soon after their now 7 year old child was born.  Initially, Terri verbalized three main complaints:  Tom seemed to have little to do with her except when he wanted sex; he seemed to be always “eyeballing” other women, even in her presence, which made her both jealous and mistrusting; and, he seemed oblivious to her concerns and never wanted to “talk” whenever she approached him about these or other things. Like so many others, she was hoping therapy might help improve their “communication.” Tom, on the other hand, didn’t see where there was any problem. He’d heard all these complaints before but believed them unwarranted. If he didn’t love Terri, he would have left her a long time ago, he insisted. It was as simple as that. But he agreed to come to therapy because he thought it would make her happy.  

The dialog that follows is from one of the sessions.  And you might glean a few important points from it with regard to issues of awareness and openness:

Terri:  Tom, when you look at other women the way you do, it really upsets me.  And then when you don’t want to do anything with me but pester me for sex all the time, it makes me think that’s all you want me for.

Tom:  I’m a man, okay!  I’m gonna look.  I think that’s perfectly normal.  Doc, that’s perfectly normal, isn’t it?  Besides, there’s no law against looking is there?  But it’s not like I’m out there running around all the time.  And okay, I admit, I flirt sometimes, too.  I’ll own that.  But that’s normal, too.  I just don’t see what the big deal is and why it bothers you so much.  I know that it does, but I don’t see why it should.

Terri:  Maybe I am over-reacting.

Tom:  And as for not wanting to do anything with you, well, you’re always wanting to do stuff like going to plays and crap like that.  I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those places.  No real man would.

Therapist:  Tom, you seem to have some pretty strong ideas about what it is to be a man.  One thing I would have to know is whether you are the kind of man who would refuse to try out some different things just because you might think them not manly enough and even if in the short run Terri might be pleased that you tried them and in the long run you might find some benefit in doing so as well.

Tom:  What did you have in mind?

Now here are some things I think are important to observe about this interaction:

  • Tom is certainly “aware” of a lot of things.  It’s not that he doesn’t know the behaviors Terri is concerned about and he’s clearly even aware of how much these behaviors emotionally distress her.
  • Tom couldn’t be more clear about his attitudes.  But the degree to which Terri allows herself to be “aware” of what those attitudes mean is another question.
  • Tom has a pretty narrowly defined view of manliness.   And there could be a whole host of reasons for this.  But all the reasons that could be there are really irrelevant to the major concern of whether he is “open” to modifying that view.
  • Tom’s views about women and the nature of relationships with them are as problematic as his views about men.
  • Terri is more “neurotic” than Tom but she has character issues of her own.  And her level of “awareness” about what drew her to Tom and the challenges Tom’s personality poses for the kind of relationship she wants seems fairly low.
  • Terri is under the misguided notion that awareness and communication are the keys to improving her relationship with Tom.
  • The fact that Tom is not swayed in his stance to even a small degree simply because of his full awareness of Terri’s pain is itself a red flag for character pathology (i.e. it signals some empathy deficiency).
  • But the fact that Tom even asks what I might want to ask him to do differently instead of stubbornly digging in with respect to his position suggests at least some degree of amenability on his part that could possibly be developed over time with much tact on my part with respect to the interventions I might plan.

Now, I mentioned earlier that this “case” is actually more of a composite.  I’ve known many individuals like Tom (and Terri), some of whose personality traits were of such intensity and inflexibility that they constituted a true “disorder.”  Others were not so inflexible or as severely disturbed.  And I can think of two cases that were identical with respect to the presenting issues outlined above but which had very different outcomes.  In one case, the attitudes “Tom” reflected in his statements about men and women were but the tip of the iceberg.  His protestations about the normalcy of “looking” and “flirting” and the attempts he made to manipulate his wife into feeling badly about complaining about these things were really a cover for the troubling beliefs (values) he held about the worth of women and the serial cheating he’d been doing the entire marriage.  All of this was flushed out in the regular confrontation I engaged in with respect to his attitudes and perspectives.  And while this particular Tom was fully aware of both his wife’s concern and her pain, he did not care at all.  Neither was he “open” nor motivated to change.  When his true character became fully evident to his wife, and she realized the kind of intimacy she’d always hoped for simply couldn’t be possible with a person like Tom, the marriage soon dissolved.

The “Tom” in another case was quite different.  While he wasn’t very “open,” especially at first, he wasn’t completely “closed” either.  Still, I had to be careful not to ask too much of him too soon.  But in the end, he was willing to try out some behaviors that he never imagined himself doing (This Tom eventually even attended a play!).  And while his capacity for empathy was impaired, it was not altogether absent, so it improved with careful nurturing.  Tom was intellectually aware of a lot of things.  But as allowed himself to do many of the things I asked him to do (i.e. tasks of incrementally more challenging character) he gained a different kind and level of “awareness” that can only come with the “corrective emotional and behavioral experience” I talk about in Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing.  This kind of awareness inevitably leads to a shift in perspective (Remember, not only do our attitudes and ways of thinking predispose our behavior but also our behavior and the consequences we experience from it shape our attitudes and ways of thinking). And when I confronted him on the attitudes and thinking patterns he displayed regarding women and manliness, the underlying “issues” giving rise to them came to the fore and were dealt with as well. 

In both cases, “Terri” came into the process hoping that improved “communication” would make all the difference. But she quickly came to appreciate how “cheap” talk is and how the different quality of relationship she’d always hoped for with her spouse could only be cultivated by initiating new behaviors, as opposed to talking. And she also reckoned with her own weaknesses of character. She learned that if she stopped backing down when she needed to maintain a firm stand, her self-image would steadily improve. As her self-image and strength of character improved, she began expecting more from her husband and their relationship.  And as she overcame her neurotic denial her level of awareness and ability to see things more objectively improved dramatically. As a result, not only did “Tom’s” full character became more clear to her but also it became clear what the future of the relationship would necessarily be. Terri also came into the process (as so many do) hoping that somebody would say just the right thing or put things in just the right way that Tom would “see” the error of his ways. But to her surprise, what she learned is that the kind of “awareness” she had been looking for was actually more linked to her husband’s “openness” to doing some things differently and eventually realizing the benefits.

Many years of experience have taught me the folly of expending verbally exhorting or otherwise expending any energy trying to get disturbed characters to “see” something.  Long gone are the days when I might have said something like:  “But don’t you see, Tom, that when you (blah blah blah), Terri feels (blah blah blah).”  Besides the fact that “seeing” is rarely the real issue anyway (and, most of the time, they already “see”), the more important question is whether a person has the motivation and willingness to embark on a different behavioral course. Most of the time, when we’re trying to get someone to “see” something, we’re really asking them if they might be willing to at least consider adopting a different point of view. And that’s why openness, not awareness, is the real key to change. And when someone is open and willing, and they try out new behaviors, it’s at least possible that they can come to “see” some things at an entirely different level.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The first Character Matters program is “in the can” as they say in the broadcast biz and you can hear it in it’s entirety by visiting the UCY.TV site. You can also download the podcast and listen to it anytime. And remember, the program is generally first aired live, so you can call in for real time discussion. I must admit to being quite nervous during the first broadcast. But the response so far has been very good, so I’m hoping that with time and some settling of the nerves, the program will only improve, and, hopefully, even expand.

130 thoughts on “People With Character Disturbances: Openness Vs. Awareness

  1. I struggled for years to get the CD “see”. I thought if I could find the right words and offer them in the right way, he’d “get” it. But, I was trying to explain concepts every person on the planet over the age of 4 got intuitively — without explanation. To this day, my communication skills suffer. I lost confidence in my ability to talk people — for somebody, that at the end of the day, couldn’t be bothered.

    Dr. Simon, is it normal for communication skills to be affected? What is that? I’d say the mind-numbing exercise in futility, but that’s just a guess.

    1. Einstien, Someone said something to me once on one of the websites….something like this…..The saddest thing about one of these encounters, the hardest thing to swallow emotionally afterwards, is the fact that it was doomed from the beginning. All of our efforts, sound and unsound, were in vain but they were the only ones who knew it. We were the last to know. I cry just typing those words.
      I tried being nice and tiptoeing around his fake tender feelings. I tried being assertive, I tried saying things differently, at different times,,,,,,,it did not matter! I was a source of amusement to him and a convenience and God only knows what else. my efforts were sincere and being undermined the entire time for his pleasure. What a manboy…..how pathetic he is. REALLY? THAT is what you find entertaining?? looser

      1. “I was a source of amusement to him and a convenience and God only knows what else.” my thoughts exactly. During one of our conversations when I lost my cool and started shouting, he laughed. That laugh still rings in my ears. Sound of his victory over me. I didn’t realized it at that time. But now I made a promise to myself… I am never allowing myself to loose again.

        1. Blossom…….during a blow up/ break up I would instigate talking about things and he would cop this arrogant attitude in his voice and start asking me question, turning the tables on me rapid fire and when i would try to respond and defend myself, he would do this mocking “uh huh,,,,,uh huh…..uh huh….” thing. It would push So many buttons in me and hurt so deeply……I see now he was basically showing me how little he valued me but at the time it was SO disorienting and contrary to the endless declarations of love and devotion…….I can’t tell you how much damage this has dome to my mind. I still have a hard time grasping it and I have 100% entered into the anger phase. it is rage full righteous anger.
          I’m sorry Blossom,,,,,,I know how you feel, I really do.

          1. Yes, I’ve experienced this also. Wife would do all sorts, leave the room while I was talking, would often say “blah blah blah…..I’ve heard it all before. You’re boring me”, would turn up the TV and say “hVe you finished”, would look away and start doing something else. Plain nasty, spiteful, personally vindictive behaviour.

        2. Blossom, I “lost it” once (more than once) at his mothers house and he told me to get out of his house or he would call the sherif!!!!! This was nothing even close to something you would call the sherif about! And he waved me off in this dismissing way…..saying “go….gone on,,,,get out….” waving his hand like you would brush crumbs away?? Unreal,,,,,arrogant, entitled! I can’t even describe how pathetic I see him now….all pumped up with his self righteous attitude, sitting on his disgusting bed in his underwear with a hangover…….at 47 in his mothers basement!! BAWWWAHHHH!!!!! What a man! Yes…..he was SO emboldened with Mommy just upstairs!! LOLOL!!

    2. Einstien, I think for me, it’s pure exhaustion…..and PTSD. I’ve lost contact with several friends that i used to communicate with quite a lot…..just because i don’t have the energy to talk to them! I’m just so wiped out. Like he vampiered my blood and i’m anemic. I don’t know…..

      1. Defenitely, I recognise a full blown PTSD since end 2011, a mega burnout of the relationship with narcisist/explosive sadist/PA/CA person, I lost too much weight and couldn’t perform nor think straight anymore, what help can somebody find having been submitted for whatever lenght of time to such treatment, even friends do not believe you anymore and cannot perceive what it’s like living with such people, it makes you look completely crazy and you do shut down, because it is so unbelievable, it’s what makes platforms like this so very valuable to find that one is not alone……and with respect to PTSD, how can you come out of such experience without????????

        1. Hi Mitzi, From everything I have read the recovery process takes time and I do see changes in myself to some degree…..slowly. I actually never thought i would be where I am now, a year ago I was drowning. I don’t know how long you have been away from him, there has to be quite a bit of time for the spell to be broken and once it is you will see more and more things through a completely different lens. The timing is different for everyone but it’s not the same as a normal ending of a relationship. Just keep reading, Dr. Simon’s web site and others. Eventually all the pieces fall into place, the pieces that didn’t make any sense while you were under his influence. Think of it like sobering up after a night out,,,,,,then the hangover……
          Welcome!

        2. I would also recommend finding a therapist who specializes in domestic violence as soon as possible. The absence of physical violence does not matter because the emotional and mental damage is there and actually can be worse when there are no bruises to point to the damage they have done. Also someone who specializes in PTSD.

          1. Thank you Puddle, I was with a psychotherapist, and my disturbed partner came along and managed to convince the doc that I was the one who needed help for anger management!!!! it just goes to show that he was able to manipulate even the professionals!!! I stopped it and discovered sites like this are more constructive and helpful than face to face, am not in area/region where professional help is available, so this site, after the knowledge brought light to what I was actually dealing with is so valuable, it all hit home and it explained everything, I am better prepared now, and living on my own, away from him, I still care for him, it’s in my nature not to give up, but understand better that it probably “go” anywhere, I saw him few weeks ago and the last night he had an “attack” again, accusing me of things, the paranoia and he “punished”, hitting me again….he looks so powerless when doing it, now, to me, as I better understand where it is coming from, his own helpnessness and incompetence to “feel” like we feel….I’ll be visiting this site everyday to remind me I am not alone and that there are more people submitted and having been submitted to exactly the same behavior of such disturbed characters, I also can see now that he has a combination of traits; sadistic, narcissistic, aggressive, highly manipulative and all with complete awareness….thank you so much for your words!

    3. Einstein, your communication skills are quite adequate, even excellent, given your analysis of your experience. You articulated exactly what I experienced; how many years I argued with a highly educated CD to get him to “see” what was wrong with his behavior when, as you say, “anyone over the age of 4 got intuitively without explanation.” If he had so many degrees, why couldn’t he figure out how to treat someone decently? Because he just wouldn’t. You can communicate just fine, you just didn’t know you were talking to a rock. Forget the rocks, and go out and look for people–people with open ears and open eyes. You’ll be fine!

    4. As did I Einstein. Tried all sorts. Sat her down and spoke to her directly stating my feelings, wrote her letters, wrote her small notes, directed her to expert authority figures/information, would open up my general concerns in family discussion, would try to have indirect general ‘oh look, I’ve just noticed this very interesting article’ type of open conversation. None of it worked. All attempts batted away by her…..as if at will, and with not a care in the world. She simply doesn’t care enough to want to change. Yes, she is aware, she is most definitely not open. I suffer with IBS, at times quite bad, not unconnected to the abuses I have suffered for years. This website has been a Godsend – I really believe so.
      PS. Although I notice you are referring to the spoken word, I personally think you are a wonderful communicator – seriously (I’m not blowing smoke) 🙂

      1. I can understand how Einstein feels the way she does about communication……it’s something that happens with being with them, or it has to me. And expressing yourself on these web sites is different that expressing yourself in personal situations. In the absence of emotional evolvement and many other things that are different about communication on a blog, it seems much easier for me.
        Also, I am much more (or try to be) guarded now and it makes communicating awkward, especially with someone i don’t really know.

      2. Danny…..Ditto Ditto Ditto. I sent him articles to read, books, on and on and on and on……why? Because he SAID that he wanted this relationship to work! That he loved me, etc……I ASKED him if he was open to getting help and reading the things I sent…..he said he was, it was all BS!!
        NOW, compare that to someone who lived here briefly a few years before I met Spathtardx…….After a period of time, basically living as a family with him and his kids….I started having “feelings” for him. I look back at this situation and really get how vulnerable I am to developing bonding chemicals and hormones apparently. ANYhow, I told him how I was feeling and that the situation was becoming confusing for me emotionally. Well, he made it clear and was honest about where he was in regards to relationships in general. SO I GOT IT!!! I didn’t waste anymore time chasing my tail emotionally, barking up the wrong tree, beating a dead horse,,,,,,
        Spathtard was not honest or forthright about ANYthing.

    5. You’re not the only one to fall into the trap you describe, Einstein. Therapists do it also. And it does affect your communication “style,” though not necessarily the skills. You can recover a normal communication style by remembering to keep your attention away from focusing on the other person and their possible response to you and just engaging with the heart and letting your own light shine. In so doing, when you’re dealing with a more “normal” or evolved person, you’ll find the kind of receptivity you never had with the CD person, and this will reinforce you.

      1. Dr. Simon, That advise really struck me in a way I have never thought about.
        “just engaging with the heart and letting your own light shine.”

  2. Regarding “Openness”?? LOL!! With a seriously disturbed individual their whole entire existence is something they could only be “open” with the lowest of lowlifes. If they were really “open” with you it would be game over on the first date! No wonder Spathtardx really never had much to say…..

  3. This is sooooo good. Thank you for sharing this through facebook. I’m sure you have hundreds of fans there reading all of your articles, even if we’re uncomfortable commenting because of the lack of privacy there.

    I have finally come to realize in the past couple of years that expressing my displeasure with someone’s behavior – being open and transparent, letting know that they are hurting me, or whatever – is usually completely ineffective in getting them to stop that behavior. It’s almost as if they (1) See me as very emotionally invested in them and (2) See the situation as a power struggle, where they are winning and I am sad to be ‘losing.’ I assumed that they would care (as I would care about them), but sadly they don’t. They have awareness, and feel no impetus to change.

    What I have found to be incredbily effective is to be indirect (something that goes completely against my nature). Reduce contact, and convey that I am LESS emotionally invested when we do have contact. To my great surprise, I have learned that everyone seems to know EXACTLY what behavior I want from them without me ever telling them. They are highly motivated to change when I genuinely become emotionally distant.

    I have to admit, I feel like my world has been turned upside down. I had always believed in treating everyone with respect. Unfortunately, since I am around a lot of narcissists and quasi-narcissists, that belief has gotten me terrible treatment in return. Now that I have had enough with these people, dislike them, and look down on them… shockingly, they are treating me better than I ever would have hoped for. They clearly value me more, and it’s as if they even LIKE me better. I have always hated people who said things like ‘I have to be a bitch to get respect.’ Now I fear I am becoming one of those people. However, I still treat everyone with respect UNTIL they disrespect me. I no longer forgive people (mentally) over & over, and try to sympathetically understand them when they aren’t sorry and don’t bother trying to understand me.

    Thanks for listening.

    1. Interesting! Your comments have got me thinking…..
      My own interpretation of the point you make is to convey to my wife that I am no longer interested in gaining her approval (which I invariably will never get) or convincing her of the rightness of my arguments (which she will never outrightly admit to being convinced)….on whatever the matter of concern. Gaining her approval and/or trying to convince her used to be a constant preoccupation – I ‘needed’ her to understand…..and she sensed this. So she would revel in flatly refusing to budge, not even a very small part of what I would try to explain to her – my face contorted and twisted and visibly upset in total and utter frustration. She would enjoy looking at me, with her arms folded, looking away in disinterest, whilst huffing and puffing and picking at non existent lumps, bumps or scabs on her arm. She was shaming, she was humiliating me. And she loved it. It made her feel powerful…..in covertly communicating to me that my views didn’t matter. I was unimportant. Quietly, she was telling me to “go to hell!”
      This happens no longer. I’ve curtailed the natural urge to explain myself or make clear any longer. She now spends all her time trying to convince me of her supposed victimhood status.

      1. Danny, I know exactly what you mean – being in that mode of explaining yourself and ‘needing them to understand’ in some twisted way gives them a sense of power. Not good. Glad that you finally came to this realization, too. I have actually come to notice this, btw, in very small and less obvious ways with people. It’s interesting…

    2. Shar, you say:
      “They have awareness, and feel no impetus to change.
      What I have found to be incredbily effective is to be indirect (something that goes completely against my nature). Reduce contact, and convey that I am LESS emotionally invested when we do have contact. To my great surprise, I have learned that everyone seems to know EXACTLY what behavior I want from them without me ever telling them. They are highly motivated to change when I genuinely become emotionally distant.”

      I don’t quite understand where you are coming from here I guess. If it comes down to being “indirect” why bother having this person in your life? What you are saying sounds like passive aggressive behavior >>>to me<<<. It sounds manipulative? I don't mean anything critical by this, I'm just seeking understanding. Why is this different than what a covert manipulator does?
      Please don't take my question in a bad way….

      1. I wondered the same tbh Puddle. I’m reminded of the saying…..”don’t try to out manipulate the manipulator”. It can all get horribly entangled.

        1. Thanks Danny, I was really concerned with my comment being off base or offensive. I am SO HYPERself conscious about MY communications. LOL!

          1. No offense taken. 🙂 What I want to make clear is that although it sounds manipulative, that was never my intention. I was genuinely distancing myself because I was done with them – their response was a surprise to me. It is a bit long and complicated, but these are people in my life that I still have some degree of relationship. I finally (and very genuinely) mentally downgraded them. Maybe you could say that I distanced myself as an emotional boundary. And I finally allowed myself to stop ‘forgiving’ their behavior, and lose respect for them. These are people who were very close and dear to me, and I had many positive memories with. I believe that my actions were only effective in getting them to change because I GENUINELY wasn’t trying to – I was giving up on them – and they knew that. This is key. I wasn’t trying to out-manipulate them. I was truly no longer emotionally invested in them. But instead of going no-contact, I maintained low-contact relationships (for reasons that are too difficult to try to convey here). I apologize if this sounds confusing. I am not even exactly sure where I am emotionally with each one of these people myself, now. I certainly know that I will never feel the same about them. I still feel very little towards them. But I guess I am very tentatively allowing room for forgiveness and character growth on their part. This article by Dr. Simon fascinated me because not only does he nail the little-understood essential fact that so many people ARE aware of what they are doing (pointing out their behaviors to them isn’t the solution) — he also talks about the potential for character building.

            By the way, I definitely know narcissists who react very differently. There are those who are vindictive, and those who could care less. I’m not saying that this will ‘work’ with all types of characters. Maybe this is really about setting emotional boundaries with people who have minor to moderate character deficiencies, and looking at them differently.

            This is deep stuff. From what Dr. Simon says, even the professionals aren’t very good at untangling and making sense of these things. I have read a lot on this subject like most of you probably have, but am still muddling through the waters. Thanks for caring enough to ask me to explain. I hope that I’ve made myself a bit more clear, fwiw.

          2. Shar – yep, makes sense completely for me. I think I see your point. Thanks for the clarification. You sound to me tired. Tired if all the crap, the nonsense, the bother……so have distanced yourself. It’s a coping mechanism. We invest all this time and energy into convincing others, who know they are not treating us equally, that they should be treating us equally. The bottom line is they do not want to do it. They are the most important focus in everything. They will always come first. So after a while we simply have to step off…..and leave them to themselves.

          3. Danny, your response surprised me… I didn’t know I was THAT transparent. You are dead on. I am tired. Tired of trying, tired of crappy behavior… tired of people, to be honest (and I used to think of myself as a ‘people person’). It’s nice to feel understood here. Thank you.

          4. I think most people here are/were dealing with the “vindictive type” of narcissist. On that note, they are pathologically vindictive…if there wasn’t some perceived slight they could use to justify retaliation, they’d just make it up out of thin air. A sight to behold when you finally connect all the dots.

            Shar, I used to be a people person too and although I’m happy, at peace, content, and habitually cheerful, I’m what most people would call a recluse. The bad guys I ran across just wore me out….I’m sad to say that I don’t have much need for people. Casualties of war.

          5. Thanks, Einstein. I am actually much like you. I am an extrovert who has become somewhat of a recluse (along with my like-minded husband). We are tired of dealing with people, and all of the disappointment and drama they seem to inevitably bring. That said, we are both very happy and content living this way. I have never felt this at peace.

            However I am always seeking personal growth, so I do ponder if I can get to some higher plane – which might integrate my not needing people with a bit more tolerance for their failings, but also better boundaries – if this makes any sense.

  4. Well said Shar. I have had many similar realizations and experiences. I too have ‘had enough’ with the quasi- and full blown narcissists. Seeing them for what they are and realizing they will never change is when everything changed for me. I felt my own emotional health improve when I truly stopped caring about these characters and realized they have nothing to offer me. It is disappointing to experience this when you see behind the mask of someone you thought was true, but it’s also ironic and funny to see how quickly their behavior changes when they recognize that you don’t want anything from them, don’t even see them as having anything to offer. It just reveals their desperate need for admiration. I too have always been open and respectful, and dislike that “I have to be a bitch” attitude. But I have given up on wasting emotional energy and precious thought, and more important RESPECT, on the ones I see are not capable of really caring about anyone in the first place. You got this, right on, and thanks for your comments.

      1. Shar, understood…..to the best of my ability!! 🙂 It’s hard to really understand what someone else’s comments really entail when you are not an actual part of their experience and it’s easy (and confusing for me) to interpret, or try to, their experience through my own.
        Your thoughts and opinions are not lost on me though!! It’s all good! I’m glad you were not offended and thank you for the more detailed explanation. Like I’ve said before, I wish we could all just sit down and talk about these things. I struggle for understanding in a format where I can’t ask questions in the moment.

        1. Thanks, Puddle. No worries, I’m amazed at how well you guys are understanding me here – or that I can be understood at all with brief posts on the internet. I really wish I knew more people in real life like all of you.

      2. Shar,
        I really understand where you are coming from. I have been in therapy the last two years and I believe it has helped me a great deal. There have been a few relationships in my life where I feel like I had to step away and take care of my self.
        I have a very horrible relationship with my mother in law over the last 20 years. It got so bad 2 years ago that I was ready to leave my husband and my marriage just to get away. I have never been a daughter in law to this woman, but more or a rival. I was under the illusion that she just didn’t understand where I was coming from. I would try and assert myself and set boundaries. This didn’t work out so well as I felt like it gave her a recipe for exactly what buttons to push. I now know that this woman knows exactly what she is doing. Even our marriage counselor has said that she has basically been trying to sabotage our marriage since it began. I, just like you, have grown very tired of this relationship and have had to walk away.

        1. Sandy, thanks for your message. I am so sorry about your mother in law. I am similarly in a long marriage, and while my mil was okay in the early years, since she was widowed it’s been increasingly tense. My husband is her only child. She wants to treat him like a surrogate husband. We’re going to be first time parents soon and she has already referred to the baby as “her child.” Since then, she has ‘kindly’ acknowledged that I will be the mother, and she ‘needs to step back’ (from where??) Then she let us know very directly that she plans to “be a pest.” I was tempted to say, “I guess I’ll need to get a swatter.” lol. Seriously, though- wow. She basically said flat out, “I plan on not respecting your boundaries.” She absolutely knows what she’s doing. No point in explaining how I feel, or the stress she might cause on our marriage. Clearly, she doesn’t care.

          1. Shar,
            I can so relate. My husband is an only child also. My mother in law has actually flat out said I “stole” him away from her. What you said about surrogate husband, yeah, I get that too. I am not really interested in trying to understand her anymore or to see what I can do to make it better. It is what it is. I think you have the right idea as far as your boundaries are concerned. Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for your family. Having a new baby can be joyful and maybe a little stressful. Don’t let anyone bring more stress into your life.
            On a happier note…Congrats on the new addition to your family!

          2. Sandy, Shar…….I just wanted to add, Spathtardx was a surrogate husband to his mother as well….and not and only child but a late one (last/ youngest by 5 years) and the only boy. Mommy’s little manboy, heavy on the “boy” part.
            Both of your situations caused a pit of the stomach feeling when I read them!!
            Shar, you must unite with your hubby on this and be strong about where the two of you stand together with her involvement in YOUR LIFE together!!

          3. Sandy, Puddle
            Thanks, ladies! I understand what needs to be done – I wish though that I knew all of the right words and actions. Knowing how mil operates will help. Yeah, I’ll need to somehow address this with hubby. When I bring up something about her in a very direct way, he tends to defend her reflexively. If it’s said more casually or subtly, he is more at ease to sympathize with my point of view. I know that deep down he agrees with me in most cases, but doesn’t want to feel like he is betraying his mom. It is hard for him to be assertive with her, but he can do it in most cases (eventually).
            Mil never accused me of stealing my husband from her (wow). But she has weirdly gone on about how much she ENJOYED breastfeeding him – about 10 times in the first few years, and another 5-10 times since. And when they dine out alone, she wonders if people think he is her ‘gigolo.’ (She’s almost 80.) Take care.

          4. Shar…..YIKES!! The breastfeeding thing?? Woah! Sounds like she is triangulating you. Holy crow. I do wish you luck and hope it all works out. It’s a tough one, no doubt but keep studying and have your ducks in a row. IN MY OPINION, Once a man is married or seriously involved with a woman, that is where his loyalty and priorities need to be. I’m certainly not saying he should turn his back on his mother or treat her with disrespect but his new family is top priority. It all trickles down and if the wife/ family isn’t peacefully intact, the kids will suffer.

          5. Thanks, Puddle. Yep, she definitely tries to triangulate us (it’s been happening a lot lately). For many years, I still embraced her as a ‘mom’ figure and really believed that she wanted the best for me/us. (She’s a VERY good manipulator.) I have also always had a great deal of openness and compassion towards her. And now many years later, after losing almost all of her family and friends, she has morphed into ‘the other woman.’ Her only reason for living is my husband (and now, our future child). Her aspiration is to ‘be a pest’ to me. Sigh. Thanks again.

          6. Shar – forgive my directness in saying I recommend you invest in having in place clear strategies to manage your MIL. I’m alarmed by her seeming lack of respect for you and your impending motherhood.

          7. Thanks Danny. I agree with you, and I really appreciate everyone’s input and concern. I’m definitely going to have a serious conversation with my husband. I know that I will need to bring it up in the right way, and at the right time, for it to be effective.

            I also know that I shouldn’t let fear take over. My mil doesn’t really have control over the situation. (Although funnily enough, she said the other night that she ‘realizes’ that my husband and I will have ‘most of the responsibility’ for the baby. Umm, try ALL.)

            I have enough experience with her to know how she will operate. She’ll do a lot of inviting. My plan is to make sure that we always have set plans in advance (“sorry, we’re planning to see friends, look at carpet samples, etc, tomorrow”). She will also probably ask what our weekend plans are, and express interest in joining us. I plan on saying that we want to be fair with both sides of the family. “Sorry, it just wouldn’t be fair to my parents if you were able to join us, and not them – this will be a small family outing.”

            Sadly, I really had always looked forward to having her over more when we had children. I’d like to be able to have her over for dinner during the week without worrying that she’ll try to hijack our plans for that weekend – which I’m pretty sure now she will. Her manipulative and inconsiderate approach is only going to result in less time with her grandchild, not more. Sad.

            She no doubt will be pressuring my husband individually. Not looking foward to the tension that this may cause. But, I’m optimistic that he won’t let her get too out of hand. He has actually already been drawing a couple of boundaries. But he’ll have a tougher time saying ‘no’ to her than I will. They talk on the phone almost every day (my idea- to make sure that she is okay living alone. sigh).

            Thanks for listening.

          8. Oh Shar………i read your posts about your mil and it makes my stomach turn.
            My opinion about dealing with this situation is as follows and please don’t take offense. It’s just MY opinion having read what you wrote. Short version is, it’s too indirect and too high maintenance. I personally think that laying firm but fair boundaries for the protection and welfare of YOUR family is a must. You only get one crack at this family thing! 🙂 Calmly reassure her that you are in no way interested in or trying to exclude her in her role as a grandmother but that in order for this to work for EVERYone…….fill in the blank with your requirements. My opinion, only and I certainly honor your ability to chose the way that feels right and works for you. 🙂

          9. Thanks, Puddle. (You guys are all so respectful here – it’s refreshing!) I am definitely considering saying something more directly. However, I don’t want to jump the gun just yet. She would probably suggest that I am overreacting. As if she were just cutely expressing a grandmotherly interest. Also, I don’t want to appear fearful, as if she has any real power here. I don’t want her to feel validated as a threat, and create a power struggle. I am trying to convey a quiet confidence that I am the mother and in charge.
            My first line of defense is talking to hubby. Second is making sure that our schedule is tight. Third, laying down boundaries if/when she makes things difficult (then we have solid justication for doing so). Unfortunately she has been known to completely disregard VERY clearly stated boundaries (not with me, but with extended family). I know if I were to try to create a boundary now wrt her first grandchild, she would just ignore it at best (if not get offended or more aggressive).
            Thank you for caring. It is a bit of a daunting situation, but I am so thankful now for my age & experience. If I were 10-15 years younger, this would feel impossible. Hubby and I are pretty solid, and while this isn’t easy, he has been learning over time how to handle his mother appropriately. I totally sympathize with those of you in similar situations (and worse).

  5. Hey folks, been back but lurking. Just listened to Dr Simon’s radio presentation, and wanted to say, it was so nice to hear his acknowledgment of all the insightful and supportive folks who come here into the comments! 🙂

    1. Hi Vera!! I wish I could listen to his program…….lousy internet connection for me so I don’t think I can. I’m not really understanding what it is. It’s a program but on the internet, not TV?

  6. Dr Simon, I have been searching for some cross-cultural info on our “favorite” folks, the uber-yankers of all sorts, (Dr Phil, I just discovered, calls them BAITERs in his book The Life Code). Anyways, some Europeans who have looked deep into this particular abyss are saying that their current theory is this: we are not dealing with a personality disorder or any kind of a mental illness, but with a kind of a parasitic evolutionary strategy, and an “edge form” of a human variant that has been making alarming inroads into human society lately.

    Would love to know what you think about that.

    1. Vera, I found Dr. Phil’s book way too watered down but as Dr. Simon says, it is on a continuum so maybe his version is helpful to some. I don’t really remember much of the book at this point.

    2. I think what Dr. Phil calls a BAITER is your garden variety, selfish, me-centric user, and not necessarily someone who falls on the CD continuum. While some of the behaviors are seemingly the same, there is a huge, HUGE difference. BAITERs aren’t monsters.

        1. Ooh, I found one. Excerpt:

          There was a time – back in our more primitive days – when two of the factors we now think of as highly problematic: fearlessness and the capacity for the remorseless perpetuation of violence, were the very qualities the tribe valued most in its dominant leaders. The truth be told, psychopaths probably helped us survive and get to where we are. But in an evolved and civilized world, they have little place. They’re natural predators, but there are no wild beasts to slay. So, as Hare notes, they’ve become intra-species predators (which is why in both of my books I suggest that the most appropriate descriptive label for these personalities is “predatory aggressive”). They’re also not killing each other off in great numbers in tribal wars. As a result, they’re now estimated to make up between 2 – 5 percent of the population.

          1. Now, that is NOT reassuring. Spathtardx’s favorite movie, if he was telling the truth, is SEVEN…….so I’m wondering if the just though I was basically unworthy as a human being for x, y or Z reason according to his warped standards. Maybe he just hoped that he could drive me to kill myself and accomplish his mission yet keep his hands clean.

  7. Hello all — this post really should have been done last week, but was too busy. So, here goes, sorry for the length, but I think it is necessary. I have several points to make, apologies if I do not address each one of you, have gotten to the point that I’m not always sure who said what.

    J.– you asked if anyone had known a person who personified evil. I tried to tell you to be very cautious with that line of inquiry, you replied that you thought it was better to be informed of what we are up against. As one who has seen the very face of evil (details to follow below) I will say I hope you never have to go there.

    Danny, yes you are being psychologically and emotionally abused. Though it seems you are making progress and letting her know that she is no longer so important to you.

    Puddle — you’ve spoken several times about FAS and PTSD. One of the websites I visit every day is sciencedaily.com. It is a science news aggregator including short articles about the brain and psychology. When I was in school back in the dark ages (hah!) it was given as gospel truth that a person was born with all the brain cells she would ever have. Not true. One of the latest articles says that the brain continues to rewire itself all during life. Can I suggest you visit the site, do a search for brain articles, science is changing faster than we can keep up. Another good brain resource is dana.org.

    Forgiveness — someone mentioned that religious people will tell you that you need to “forgive” the one(s) that have offended against you. But here’s the thing about forgiveness, and I quote from The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal Church), c. 1952: “Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; according to thy promises declared unto mankind, In Christ Jesus Our Lord.” These CD people are, in their own view, right, therefore sinless, and would never admit that they might have done anything wrong. They will not “confess their sins.”

    When I realized that my anger (justified) and hatred were eating me alive and not even touching the people who had wronged me, I asked God to take all the negative and harmful emotions out of my heart, and He did. Yes, I still get aggravated often, but I refuse to be held captive by bad and hurtful emotions. And no, it has not always been easy.

    I started to post last week, then thought it was too melodramatic. But, Tundra Woman posted about her biological female parent — and I could relate to that. On the chance that someone else might find a bit of help from my experience, …

    I’m 73, have a long memory back to WWII. I remember never being able to do anything right, she (FBP = female biological parent) was always displeased. When I was almost 5, my younger sister and I were sent to live with S. & W., as foster parents. The problem was, FBP would NOT let go (those of you who have had dealings with NPD know that children are not people in their own right, they are merely possessions.) So we were yanked back and forth frequently. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, would take way too long. But S & W did so much for us, loved us, fed us, clothed us, bought for me, at different times, 3 pianos, 2 Hammond organs, and sent me to college. Foster parents don’t DO those kinds of things, that was God’s hand on my life. Anyway, beginning my freshman year in college, I began to realize that my FBP was seriously mentally disordered. Came Christmas vacation, I did NOT want to go back to her house for vacation, W said she would be terribly hurt if I didn’t go.

    So, went. Dr. Simon, you mentioned possible illness as result of having to be around CDs. Yes. The whole time I was in her house (10 days), I had a horrible headache, plus ran a fever of 101. Spent most of the time in bed (thereby minimizing time spent in her company). Thought at the time it was due to eyestrain, as I needed new glasses. However, when I got back to S. & W., miracle happened, headache and fever GONE! Even thought I had not gotten my new glasses yet. And I had begun to realize that the way she acted was NOT normal. Came springtime, she would come visit about every other week. I would retreat to my bedroom. One day she followed me into my room, wanted to know why I was treating her so coldly, like a stranger. So, I decided instantly to tell her. I, who weep at sad movies even though I try not to, was dry eyed, and proceeded to tell her why, citing chapter and verse of all the things she had done to me. She finally left, weeping and wailing. W. came in about a half hour later, asking what on earth did you say to your mother, she was heartbroken (which I privately doubted, in my view she didn’t even HAVE a heart.) So, I told him just some of what I had endured. When he said why didn’t you ever say anything, I answered, Would you have believed me?

    S & W were good people. He asked if we would like to have counseling, from a minister, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, our choice. I immediately said yes, I knew I needed help, but FBP flatly refused, saying it was all my fault.

    It was about then that I started reading books about mental health, psychiatry, whatever I could find. I had the resources of the college library, and later a univ. library, so was able to make a start. The best book I found was Abraham Maslow’s Motivation and personality, which posited what a healthy personality should be.

    I married, had a son, once in a great while FBP would send a gushy card in the mail. I accepted the first one, my address was typed, no return address. I was so angered that my menstrual period came 5 days early. When another card came about Christmas time, I made some phone calls, got her mailing address and sent it back to her, with the message that I had asked her once to just leave me alone. Now I was TELLING her, leave me alone, or I would give her reason to regret pestering me. I had written her a letter after the first card, but had not mailed it. I had shown it to a friend, who was appalled and said if he ever got a letter like that he would commit suicide. So, I didn’t mail it. But, I still have it, in my files.

    When I was 35, I got a letter from the woman after whom I was named, saying wouldn’t I please reconcile with my mother who was dying of cancer, even as the letter writer was dying, and she would like to have this happen before she died. GAH!!

    She meant well, she just didn’t know. So, I decided to tell her what kind of a childhood I had had. Started writing her a letter. While I was working on that letter, there came flooding back into my mind the memory of an incident which happened to me and my younger sister when I was 4 and she was 2. Now folks, I’m basic and forthright in my behavior, I certainly don’t have even a smattering of “the great
    American novel” in me.

    This had happened during WWII, my father was in the army somewhere in the Pacific. But note, there was almost always some man around the house. Anyway, one evening FBP told us (me and sister) that the current man was going to take us to go rabbit hunting. I knew about guns, had seen them taken apart for cleaning, etc. I was, even at 4, logical enough to realize something was wrong here. Did NOT want to go rabbit hunting. Was told to shut up and go with man in his pickup truck. She was staying home. It was after dark, could see light from homes, he took us way out on the mesa, dirt road off the highway, parked, told me to get out. He was carrying a small rifle, probably a .22. I cried, clung to the door handle, sister was crying too. Now, he was certainly big enough to have overpowered me and dragged me out, shot me and left me dying or dead.
    Then he seemed to give up, got back in truck, did not look for any rabbits, drove home. FBP warned me NEVER to tell anyone about this incident or I would be SEVERELY punished. Accordingly, I “forgot” it until God brought it back to mind. This last bit made it certain in my mind that were were sent out to be killed, and that God protected my life, and my sister’s life. There are very likely other “forgotten” or “hidden” in my mind, but since I function reasonably well, I don’t plan to go digging after them.

    Anyway, finished writing the letter to the well-meaning lady, then decided that since she lived close enough to S &W, would go see her and personally tell her just what my FBP had failed to tell her. She was stunned. And found out that FBP was NOT then dying, did not have cancer. When my sister called some years later to tell me that she had finally died, my immediate thought was, “Good, she can’t muck up any more lives.” What I said to my sister was, “No skin off my nose.”

    Looking back over my life, I can see so many times where God protected me. Did I owe any honor to the biological parents who treated me and my sister in such a dishonorable way? No, I don’t believe so. I honor S and W, as my parents — they are both dead now, but I think they would be pleased with how my life has turned out, even with the many mistakes I have made along the way. I try to pass along useful information to my friends and customers.

    I divorced my husband when it became apparent that he had no desire to work on the marriage. Yes, I made many mistakes too and was willing to go to counseling — he would not.

    About the current European theory of some kind of evolutionary variant, I believe that is a red herring to keep people from getting to the root of the problems. would be interesting to find out who started the idea, and who or what influenced that person. It goes against evolutionary success to try to kill your own offspring — I have seen the face of evil.

    Illness: I have known of a woman who had a VERY prickly personality. One of my friends who knew off her situation said that she had been so very terribly abused by immediate family that she would lash out at anyone to keep them at a distance so they couldn’t hurt her. She died young (30 something) of high blood pressure, kidney failure and I don’t remember what all else, but I’m pretty sure her physical illnesses were psychogenic.

    Best wishes to all, will be glad to suggest other resources if anyone is interested.

    1. That’s quite a story, Elva. I gave silent thanks to your foster parents who gave you your break.

      As to the evolutionary theory: every species has its own predators. Besides microbes, other humans are our only predators. They have found a specialized niche.

      To my mind, it makes sense… once we evolved conscience (perhaps some 50,000 years ago) it would be natural that a small subset of humanity who did not have conscience or only had it in weakened form, would prey on the rest. After all, people with scruples are at a disadvantage in a certain sense — we are not free to go and do anything we please as long as we see personal benefit.

      Are there other explanations of the evolution of this set of traits?

      1. Vera, I don’t know that the only predators we as humans have are other humans really…..it’s just that the big ones that can really take a human out have been hunted down to a level that we rarely encounter them……but they are still there. Don’t know….maybe I am not understanding. 🙂
        The other explanation is that society as a whole has deteriorated. The pendulum has swung severely and I personally think we are seeing the results of that swing in these predators. I would have to say…..just a gut overall impression…….that Spathtardx had a genetic predisposition, I think his father also hated women and his mother encouraged and approved of his arrogant entitled attitude. I’m sure the whole picture has many different unseen facets.

        1. Yeah, that’s it. We have virtually eliminated them, those predators, because we wage war on everything. Predators are, nevertheless, needed to keep a population healthy and on its toes. So perhaps these folks do play an evolutionary role.

          Well, hasn’t society deteriorated because these people have come into genetic prominence? Instead of being marginal in the gene pool, they are the ones who have taken over most of the power and most of the wealth. Therefore, reproductive success… 🙁

        2. I think the ever devolving society we live in has contributed greatly to the number of personalities we see that lack character and integrity. That’s called a ‘bad personality’, which is not the same thing as a personality disorder. The personality disordered person is missing some critical brain wiring – whether they were born with it, or because of severe trauma and abuse during their formative years.

          You can fix a jerk, you can’t fix a narcissist.

          1. Einstien, add to what you are saying a parent who encourages and enables the CD person to be a monster, finds it amusing. Just sick!

    2. Elva, just briefly…….NORMAL brains do rewire themselves, after strokes, brain injuries,,,,and just in general. It’s called neuroplasticity and it has been shown that in a FAS Brain which is damaged in it’s initial development, that there are more mature receptors then immature receptors. That is in reverse of a normal unaffected by alcohol in utero brain. In other words, the FAS brain is not (to varying degrees) plastic/as plastic.
      Canada is WAY ahead of just about any country in the world in FAS research. I watched a very interesting video of a neurological researcher giving a speech about this very same topic. It was from 2013, very current. The research is finding out new things about this issue all the time BUT VERY little is know about adults with the condition. It’s actually very difficult to even get a diagnosis as an adult if you are not grossly affected or “in you face” FAS.
      Thank you for the suggestions though. I’m not being argumentative, just sharing.

    3. Elva, Thank you for sharing your story. You are very VERY fortunate to have had S&W there for you and you are very strong to have told your mother the truth. I’m sure she made quite a drama scene about it to get pity but it doesn’t matter. You did what was right by you and had every right to do so.
      You sound like a very strong woman and no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, thats how we learn. You stood up for yourself and it sounds like you continue to do so!!

  8. I too used to try to explain simple dynamics to xnh. He usually fell asleep while I was talking. I read book, after book, after book trying to figure out where I was wrong and how I could do better. It has been very comforting to find all of the information on the internet during the last 7 years. When I was first married, there was no where to get this information. Also, God placed a minister in our church that xnh and I had grown up with 100 miles away. I called on him when things came to a head. Luckily, he had some experience dealing with this sort of thing. A whole new world opened up. Xnh’s family was inclined to believe the minister also. He was from a very respected family in our home town.

  9. There was no openness from xnh. He was truly covert. He would only talk about safe subjects. In the later years when we were empty nesters, he always wanted to eat our evening meal in a restaurant. I believe this was so I wouldn’t approach the subjects that he didn’t want to talk about, his indiscretions. In fact there never was an appropriate time to talk about them. He wanted me to forget about them without any remorse on his part. He told me “that happened twenty years ago”. All the while he still had contact with the woman he had an affair with, we divorced and he married her.

    After he left, I figured out several times when he had gaslighted me about things that I finally put two and two together. I think he actually enjoyed it.

    1. Noel……Im sorry…..yes, he probably did enjoy it. This is what I mean when I say that once there is no further contact (so they can no longer manipulate you)…..you have to digest the whole situation again only this time you can’t even look at the good times and memories as good. When a normal relationship ends or your partner dies, you are left with memories good and bad but you can treasure the good ones. In these relationshi*s, the good memories are WORSE than the bad because it’s all BS manipulation. Turns my stomach and breaks my heart. What a pig.

      1. You’ve hit the nail on the head with the good memories hurting the worst Puddle. I struggle now with the supposed good times as now I see that it wasn’t real. It feels more like a compromise that just kept things on an even keel…while underneath he was most likely seething. It is heartbreaking when you were the one so completely in love… Now I sometimes can’t believe how much I loved him and if I’m honest I think on some level I still do…it just tears me apart sometimes. You can’t just drop your feelings but yet he seems to have rather easily except for those moments when he cries…though that’s always all about him.

        1. Tori, the tears were not real. Yours were but his are not. EVERYTHING about them is a lie, an act, a manipulation. I’m talking about the worst of the worst here which I believe Spathtard was. It is heart breaking an so mentally damaging for me to come to terms with how I felt about someone who totally used, manipulated, deceived and played me. It’s like swallowing broken glass and I don’t even find words to describe the distain and repulsion I feel towards him now.
          I still cry for the feeling of loving him, he never knew how real my feelings were because he has none of his own to compare them to.

          1. Spathtardx used to bring himself to tears like no other man i’ve ever know,,,,,,complete with heaving sobbing mucous on my bed sheets. Disgusting display. Something always felt off about it but I erred on the side of conforting him because I didn’t KNOW about these losers. Now that I do, I look at his pathetic displays as really REALLY bad soap opera level (if that) shows he put on to manipulate me…….PERIOD! This is why it is rape by fraud/ deceit. he was pretending to be someone he was not and never will be. who knows what his ultimate goal was, I have a few ideas, but the fact is that during the time we were together I willingly gave him sexual pleasure and he took it……happily. if I would have known what I know now, do you really think I would have invested my heart with a scumbag like him? I’ve had men in my life who I thought were pretty bad and trust that I don’t feel good about this, but NONE of them come close to the level of deception this pig pulled on me. At least they were “honest” about being pigs!! They didn’t profess endlessly about how much they loved me and how we were so good together and meant to be together, etc, etc, etc…….

  10. Puddle,

    Exactly, our memories are torture for us. We had so many good times raising our family. Now that I know about all the deceit, everything is tainted with it. Most widows have all their happy memories to reminisce about to comfort them. It is painful to know that it all meant nothing to him.

    I know which of my so called friends were part of the deception because they are long gone now. No one has apologized and been remorseful that they were part of it. I know people have their indiscretions, but it looks like at some point they would feel remorseful and want to make things right. Of course he has probably told his new wife terrible things about me to make her believe that I was the bad guy. I wonder sometimes if she is starting to see behind the mask.

    1. Tori, Noel, this is why some people call it “being slimed”. The damage is so deep, covert, insidious, twisted,,,,,,,,,,it’s like getting slug slime on your fingers……even with soap it is difficult to wash off. It covers every part of you, inside and out. Nothing but time and swallowing the bitter pill of reality will get rid of it….feeling the horrific feelings of betrayal and humiliation. I realize now that the man I was committed to saw me as nothing more than a toy in spite of all the wonderful BS he filled my head with in good times and in bad. I could fill a page with the lies he spewed, even after we broke up. He wasn’t done with his pathetic childish games yet. Layer after layer after layer.
      So I’m sorry ladies……for me and for you.

    2. Noel, of course he has told her and anyone else who is of service to him that you were the one at fault……it’s part and parcel. they HAVE to lie because who they really are would make any decent person run for the hills.

  11. The Net’s been closed for a week here and here we are again.

    About this awareness issue, I’ve spotted some complicating(or “complicating”) factors following this site:

    *Character disordered people can have SOME unconscious behaviors. How they relate to it when they do become aware shows their level of character.

    *Someone can be more neurotic than character disordered and still be a covert aggressive personality.

    *Sometimes it can be hard to tell the mental dynamics going on. For example, some people truly believe in some higher cause they fight for and are ready to commit atrocities for their service.

    Dr Simon, could these bits be included in the new book?

    1. Also, what about the fact that some people can have the wiring similar to psychopaths, but unlike predatory aggressors, aren’t willing to prey on others? Should that fact be included as well?

  12. Dr Simon, could there also be a chapter or two for recovering from any encounters with aggressors?

    Having read a lot about effects of emotional abuse, bullying and toxicorrosacidic relationships, especially the feeling of breaking down, disintegration, burnout, disorientation and being crushed. Also, refering again to Evan’s Controlling People, it does explain how a target of abuse can also get disconnected from themselves, start mistrusting their perception and judgment, have a weakened readiness to think for themselves.

    Couldn’t there be varieties of ways handled in detail that can help in recovery?

    1. J,

      What helped me tremendously, was reading about the effects of emotional abuse, and discovering that what I was feeling (and you covered a wide array) was normal and predictable human behavior. It was such a release to have someone put into words all those jumbled emotions that I couldn’t vocalize.

      What I would like to see more of is how humans are such easy targets. The very things that make us human are the things that make these encounters so catastrophically toxic. I don’t believe the average Joe (the “who’d NEVER” set) understands what a frighteningly easy process ‘brain-washing’ is.

      1. Einstine, That was very well put. and,,,,,the things that make un humans make us targetable. Have you read Sandra Brown’s book? I’m guessing you have.
        I couldn’t agree with you more on this: “What helped me tremendously, was reading about the effects of emotional abuse, and discovering that what I was feeling (and you covered a wide array) was normal and predictable human behavior. ”
        I can remember being brought to tears finally seeing in writing that what I was experiencing was actually understood by other people and that they had been through it as well. I almost could not believe my eyes. It was so validating……sounds like an overused word but it hits the nail on the head.

  13. This one hit home for me. As I try to figure out exactly what my spouse is: Disturbed, Disordered…definitely covert aggressive, I also have to figure out where I fall. A friend recently said, “One of the least talked about, under-belly reasons for depression is that folks are trying to change OTHERS instead of themselves.” In this they are constantly frustrated by the lack of results! Therefore, I am trying to come after this with my eyes wide opened.

    I realize that I have ALLOWED my spouse to do this to me. But, honestly, as I have tried to explain (in seeking support/guidance) to people what was happening, I was often met with lack of understanding. I found myself completely inept at trying to describe this crazy sense of SOMETHING being wrong while at the same time questioning if there truly was anything wrong.

    At this point, as I try to get a handle on this, I see that I have some neuroses. Frankly, I am glad, I would much rather go to the wizard for a brain or courage than for a heart…or worse, a conscience! So, in trying to regain self-control, self-esteem and to create a healthy environment for my family. I need to start working on ME!

    One of the things I have stopped doing is feeling GUILTY for standing up for myself and my children. Talk about freedom! The other thing is, I don’t back down when I ask a question that he obviously doesn’t want to answer. Finally, I am REALLY trying not to be afraid to ask things of him or stand up to him because of the consequences.

    All this being said, I started this about a year ago and for 6 months of that time we haven’t even been in the same country! However, I am still doing it!!

    Folks who continue with CD relationships either through choice, or circumstances. What are some ways you have become empowered in your lives? What are some ways you have stood up for yourselves, gotten your lives back, stood your ground and just…well, won in your own right?!

    1. It’s a struggle. I look for consequences to apply, one of which is a greater distance when other things don’t produce results. It has brought me one amazing turnaround that I did not believe my CD relative was capable of. But really, it was just putting a quarter in my parking meter… on the other hand, his abuse is more subtle now, less obvious, as I have reached out to family friends and relatives. So, better than it was. But it will never be good.

      One hard lesson: don’t confide in people who are foolish enough to confront him with the nasty stuff he’s done. He spread a pack of lies about me that left me reeling. They look for revenge. But telling everyone I could think of, and finding allies, paid dividends, he is much more careful now how he treats me.

      Most useful: be ready with a consequence. If he does x (again), I will do why. Be prepared. Don’t warn him, just do it. Lots of luck!

    2. Beckey, Be careful when you start thinking that you “allowed” this to happen, for him to do this. They are masters of manipulation and covert control.

      ” I found myself completely inept at trying to describe this crazy sense of SOMETHING being wrong while at the same time questioning if there truly was anything wrong.”

      This is a sign to me because it’s exactly how I feel/ felt. I totally know what you are describing and it’s NOT a normal way for a person who is in a normal, healthy, loving relationship to feel. it’s a sign.
      I read somewhere a while back that confusion is a sure sign that you are being manipulated.

      1. Well, it’s true that we allow this to happen, no? I mean, when we are not good at setting limits and boundaries, we become easy targets, easy to trespass upon. And we have then the power to change the game, because we change our own behavior, where our power lies… right?

        1. Vera, you are right and also not taking into consideration the power these manipulators have at manipulating because not all of there bad behavior is visible. It’s just way more complicated than saying we allowed it to happen. A true, covert manipulator is working on the victim from the get go. And you have to take into consideration MANY factors such as the vulnerabilities of the victim the the manipulator exploited. We all have them and sometimes due to circumstances in our life we are more vulnerable than other times. The true sadistic pathological manipulators know this and know what and when to exploit ANYTHING they can.
          our power lies in KNOWING that these people are out there, how they operate, the signs to look and exactly what the signs mean.
          Please read this article about manipulation in relationships.
          http://psychopathsandlove.com/covert-emotional-manipulation-tactics/

          Do not confuse “allowing it to happen” with knowing what is happening when they are laying the ground work for a complete take over.
          As I’ve said before, my friend died from metastasized brain cancer. It did not start in his brain but he was unaware that he had cancer until it had moved into his brain and by then it was too late. it’s the perfect example.

          1. Would you 100% of the time say that a person allowed themselves to be date raped? Have their house broken into? Be cheated on by their husband? there is plenty of agreement on the fact that people who are victimized are actually victims and most certainly did not “allow” this to happen. If I would have known then what I know now I can guarantee I would not have “allowed” it to happen!

          2. So, when a whole arsenal of tactic is being used against you to get what they want from you and it’s all being done with an intention that you are unaware of and they have triggered bonding chemicals and hormones in your brain and their foot is in the door because you couldn’t even imagine that someone would be THAT much of a looser, it had never happened to you before……or to anyone that you know (that you know of), you had never read any of the information you are reading now, etc, etc, etc…….
            Do you see what I’m saying? It’s VERY easy to look back on the whole involvement NOW, in hind sight, with the bond to him severed and my head clearing from the fog of the feelings i HAD for “him” and say…….” I can’t believe I let that happen”! But I feel like I’m not even the same person it happened to……like it was all a nightmare and now I’m awake and remembering it.
            I’ve said this before……if I would have KNOWN what he was doing and who he really was, I would have sh*t canned him very early on. I’m STILL finding out the truth about he lies he was telling me/ not telling me and it’s been over a year since we broke up!

          3. I never would say rape is “allowed” by the woman. Or any physical violence to anyone.

            But with cons… has the person victimized by three-card monte or whatever those street cons do to pull in passers-by, allowed themselves to be taken to the cleaners? Seems to me the answer is yes, just like people allow themselves to be stripped by legal gambling, full well knowing that “the house always wins.” It is our responsibility to get street wise, and stop allowing it, to the extent that we do allow it.

            Kinda like that legend about vampires; they can’t come in unless you open the window for them. Ey?

          4. sorry Vera, I respectfully disagree. Serriously, when someone is manipulating you, obviously without your knowledge, it is no different than someone putting drugs in your drink and then having sex with you. A person could say, well if they wouldn’t have been drinking, or at a bar, or whatever…….they would never have had someone put the drugs in their beer. That is just looking for a reason to blame the victim. Some people are just naive and trusting by nature, some people have problems that affect them in way that makes it harder to protect themselves. MOST PEOPLE don’t have a clue that someone as low as the guy I was involved with even exist…..I didn’t. I’m 54 and have never come across a person like this and my brother is a sociopath, a real live 100% sociopath. But he has never been arrested for Domestic Battery!

        2. You only have the power to change a game you know you are playing and in most situations like the one i was in, I was not playing a game he was so it was two emtirely different playing fields.

          1. PS: I meant “allow” in the sense that I perpetuated the cycle. I wasn’t intentional, I just…was. I WAS arguing, I WAS feeling guilty, I WAS seeing him as broken, I WAS being being lied to, manipulated and shamed. That is what I meant when I said, “I allowed it to happen.”

            Thanks for all of you advice and thoughts on this blog, btw, I am so sorry that your your experience has given you the wisdom. However, I am a grateful recipient.

      2. “I read somewhere a while back that confusion is a sure sign that you are being manipulated”

        Thanks for this!!

        1. Beckey, I can’t reply to your above comment for some reason, no reply button, but I see what you are saying by “allow”. I still think that there is SO much tactical influence and confusion during the relationship that i really don’t think the word “allow” is accurate. I’m not being critical…..just trying to point strongly to the ability they have to manipulate someone on so many levels when someone is not aware of what they are all about. It’s so easy to look back in retrospect and through the lens of what we know now but we did not know what we know now when it was happening. You saw him as broken because he wanted you to see him that way. he wanted you to feel guilty, to argue. all part of the plot and all tactics he uses to manipulate. That is what I have come to see all too clearly now.

          1. Yes, I see exactly what you are saying. Perhaps allow isn’t the best word. Once again, I hate that you are a champion for us because of your experience, but I am truly thankful for your wisdom!

            THANK YOU!

          2. Becky, think of it in this graphic but clear way………A woman who was drugged or taken advantage of while extremely drunk…..””allowed”” a man to have sex with her. she was either too drunk to know what was going on or not in her right/ normal mind set. He had her at a disadvantage. Truth or dare here……….when I was in high school, on at least three occasions, I actually “CAUGHT”, in one way or another (too hard to explain in detail) someone putting drugs in my beer. They knew they were putting drugs in my beer and I did not, i’m talking about at the moment they put the drugs in my beer. If I or another person would not have know or seen them doing this, i would have consumed the beer just as I always would and who knows what I would have agreed to do.
            IN MY OPINION: When you are involved with a covert manipulator, you are as much at a disadvantage as you would be if you were drugged……I FEEL like I was drugged when I look back at the time I was with the pig. It’s so surreal! People who know me, who have know me for years and years and years are stunned that this has happened, that I am this wrecked, that i haven’t bounced back yet. This proves to me that there was something VERY different about him than I have ever experienced (although knowing what I know now? I see that there are times in my past that I have encountered men like this but circumstances of the situations were on my side and the situation didn’t continue long enough or intensely enough to have as much of a hold on me).
            It’s so important for us to help each other by sharing our experiences Becky because it is validation that what happened is real. One of the strongest tactics abusers use is invalidating your perceptions and there are many ways they do this. They twist your sense of your own instincts, perceptions and experiences,,,,,,,OMG…….it’s just so sick and insidious…….all of it. When I started reading books and stories of other’s experiences…….I literally started crying in relief and shock! I could not believe my eyes! “That’s what HE did”!!!! And I started on the road of understanding what was REALLY behind my confusion, depression, despair. What an indescribably painful process of learning this has been.

  14. Got a question for y’all. I just discovered that restricting the expression of negative emotions is another tactic to manipulate. Duh! I lived with that one all the time. Eventually I waited till we were cuddling to bring stuff up, and got yelled at for ruining a good moment. When was a good time to bring it up? Never!

    Well, my question is… how do you tell if someone is clamping down because they are feeling overwhelmed with your expression of negative emotions (because of their own reasons, they are finding it difficult to deal), or if someone is just being manipulative. I used to always assume the former. Gah…

    Thanks for that link, Puddle! You have the best sources! (That’s where I found it.)

    1. Vera, she has great articles! I really respect her too. She knows because she has been through it and took her experience and helps others.

    2. Vera,

      1. I agree 100% with Puddle about ‘our’ culpability in the situation. They are skilled at what they do, and they get away with it because we have absolutely NO idea that it is even possible for such a person to exist. That was one of the most traumatizing things….the realization that the personification of evil is alive and well on earth. You don’t know until you’ve seen one, and by the time you see it, well….you just came from there.

      You’re 100% culpable for every second you stay after realizing what you are dealing with. Period.

      2) He’s ‘clamping down’ because he’s a manipulative SOB…he’s not defending his negative emotions. He’s using every aggressive maneuver in the book to get you to shut up. He doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want to hear it.

      When you know in your gut something is wrong, it is. Remove all manner of malignant hope that he isn’t what he seems to be, and realize that he is.

      1. Also culpable are the misguided folks (often well-intended but under-informed professionals) who promote such “psychobabble” as “defending [his] negative emotions.” 🙂

        1. This was me. I got some of this training in nursing school for sure and some of it from other professionals along the way. It was a happy, wishful, but naive and unrealistic place to be “coming from”! Ignorance was bliss…but certainly not safe, and definitely not reality-based. It’s all in a much better balance now. I’ve said it often but I have to say it again: Thank you Dr. Simon!!

      2. Einstien, Someone said to me a LONG time ago, very early on in my break away from him…… “Puddle, you are standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to jump off because you see a tiny shimmering fleck of what you think might be gold at the bottom”.
        At the time I was RIPPING myself away from him and the last thing in the world I wanted was to be away from him. it seemed like every cell in my body ached to be with him again and I cry now just typing that. It was a combination of not really understanding yet, and missing more than I can say. So I busy-ed myself thinking of countless reasons I could have misjudged him, caused the problems myself, and on and on and on. However, the plot thickened at every turn and the evidence pile grew higher and higher and after a couple “final straws”, I finally saw something so horrific I could understand why I couldn’t really see it before then.

        1. I remember well Puddle….the process of accepting such an ugly truth is a long one. I think much of my problem was my absolute resolve that vampires did not exist. It was just impossible. It defied everything I believed in about people and the world I lived in.

          That’s how we get caught out. Sheer ignorance – or shall I say, innocence. You see SO much before you are able to wrap your mind around the impossible. It is a long, long, long hard road.

          And try to explain to your friends about vampires…right? You’re nuts. There’s no such thing. There aren’t words for things that aren’t real – that’s why we can’t find them.

          1. Einstien,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,”There aren’t words for things that aren’t real – that’s why we can’t find them.”
            Reading those words made me cry. Very powerful and validating. Thank you for that post.

    3. Ouch, this happens to me, too. I have brought things up in the past and felt completely shamed. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Einstien,
    “You’re 100% culpable for every second you stay after realizing what you are dealing with. Period.”
    Exactly and that has been a hard fought battle for me, the realizing, coming to terms with, breaking the spell, breaking through the denial by gaining education and insight into how these monsters really operate.
    There is no doubt I was in denial for a very long time. In spite of the red flags and poor treatment at times (in your face egregiously poor treatment), I still did not realize that i was being played and toyed with. I’ve been with guys before who were certainly not equipped to be in a relationship or treat me right. But it was different. I can’t explain how exactly……..but I KNEW what and who they were. And there was a whole different feel to those encounters. This was something different and to actually put it into words in a way that someone who wasn’t there could REALLY get, seems impossible.
    The denial I was in came from somewhere inside of me that knew that I was in danger of emotional inhalation. it was protecting a very tender wound that if ripped open all at once quite possible could have sent me over the cliff. Even digesting this experience as I have, one small bite at a time, has been the most painful thing I’ve even been through……swallowing shards of broken glass…….it is so primal and so horrible, on every level, words will NEVER be able to do it justice.

    1. Well, what I was trying to say that we let them. That is not the same thing as culpability, fault, or blame. It’s taking responsibility and changing to make sure we are better prepared next time.

      Kinda like this: if the vampire at the window is successful in deceiving you into thinking he is an angel, and you open the window, you are allowing him to enter. No blame. Just clear-eyed recognition! Which is the first step we take on this road. And I think on that we are in agreement, no?

      1. I disagree Vera. In your example I allowed an Angel in the window, not a vampire! I take responsibility for educating myself AFTER what happened but not for “allowing” it to happen or allowing it to continue when it was happening. I did not “LET” him do anything that was deceptive, covert, underhanded, etc! Everything he did was under a veil of lies and deceit. I would like to think I would know better the next time after this nightmare but who is to say someone wouldn’t just use a different tactic in the future?

        Honestly I don’t think someone could though, as long as I feel the feeling of doubt and confusion. if they were good enough to deceive me without triggering those feelings then who knows. Even having people that you know are familiar with the other person is no guarantee because they can TOTALLY fool bystanders. The only way to REALLY know is by being able to speak with someone they have manipulated in the past, past victims. Speaking with his ex-sister in law was very helpful but she didn’t reveal everything.
        And, my friend who had the brain cancer I spoke of………..he got taken in by a pair of manipulative vampires……he had brain cancer and they were milking him for what they could get out of him. sometimes people just don’t have the ability to protect themselves for a variety of reasons. They can be strong in someways and exceedingly vulnerable in other ways. AGAIN………these monsters have been perfecting the ability to study, sum up and exploit people, for their own gain, for a life time. Don’t underestimate their powers of persuasion and manipulation.

        1. Allowing an angel to enter and recognizing that it is/ was a vampire are two different things.
          What I do see very clearly NOW, is the importance of taking your time entering into a romantic relationship. I get that. But there are plenty of other ways these monsters can enter someones lives. there is not always the buffer of a long courtship when it comes to a lot of encounters with people. I had a situation happen yesterday with a delivery that really made me uncomfortable and now I’m left not knowing how to handle it.

        2. Actually,,,,,,,I would hardly say that I let an “angel” in at all………All I can say is that until the truth really became apparent, and I mean REALLY apparent, I didn’t have a clue that he was the monster that he apparently is.

      2. Yes I agree, Vera. Although I am less trusting and more judgemental with regards to character, it is better that way. Not only for me, but for the CD folks, too.

  16. About what Puddle says how these monster can enter, I came to think of some additional resources, as my usual manner goes.

    *Gift of fear I haven’t read, but it’s been mentioned here a lot and I do believe it’s worth reading.

    *Then there is a book I recommend to read with a critical eye, Emotional Vampires By Albert Bernstein. It does handle plenty of different factors present in how vampires can enter and seduce. It also handles warning signs of manipulation. Of course, Bernstein only handles specific types of vampires. His (usually subclinically) personality-disordered vampires are immature, even antisocials, narcissists and paranoids. Going over how to handle them I do recommend a critical eye. Also, I dare anyone read illustrative examples in the book and think how a predator could use them. So recommended, but read with a more critical eye than usual.

    *Another book I’ve mentioned countless times here, Bully in sight by Tim Field, may focus on workplace bullying, but it does have a section on various tactics bullies use to make life hell.

    *Also, one great book rich in detail yet succinct in expression, Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and Erosion of Identity By Marie-France Hirigoyen, handling emotional abuse in various different contexts and manifestations. Obviously you needn’t be a psychopath to deliberately torment someone, but these tactics are very good to be aware of.

    *Also, Nononsenseselfdefense, a website by Marc MacYoung, has, to my recall, been mentioned here alright. Also handles various ways we can get victimized and what we can do.

    *Then there’s the book on Basic influence by Robert Cialdini, called Influence.

    *Women who love psychopaths by Sandra L. Brown has been mentioned.

    *Donna Andersen’s Lovefraud has also been mentioned.

    *Then the website about emotional rape, specifically about emotional rape by psychopaths.

    Anyone think of other resources you could recommend? I listed what I could think of and what I recall has been mentioned here.

    1. Also, the movie In the Company of Men has a perfect example of a psychopath in Chad Piercewell, portrayed By Aaron Eckhart.

      1. Thank you, J! A very good list. Maybe Dr Simon should have a tab here listing the good reads? Oh wait, he does! Must go look.

        I just read The Empathy Trap. Waste of money, pretty much. But the title is priceless. That’s how they often get us — playing us via our empathy and smirking about it all the way.

        1. Say, does anyone know a good book on dealing with the inner bully, those nasty voices inside that bully and manipulate us and sabotage us?

        2. Well-put. “Inner bully”, giving more unnecessary pain in the neck, when bullies and tormentors are giving loads of it already, spurred on by their inner sulky children, who are angry that reality poked them.

          Some books I’ve seen on Amazon, but haven’t read, are Taming the inner gremlin by Richard Carlson. There are also books by Robert Firestone.

          The book I’ve read that I mentioned here recently is Facing the Dragon by Robert Moore. It handles, in terms of Jungian and self psychology, refering also to other psychologies, how grandiosity present in all of us can cause troubles if it’s projected to others(so that others seem, in our eyes, to have great qualities in comparison to us) or used with disrespect(when someone’s ego inflates, letting themm think they’re the great one). This grandiosity can either get us inflated with how great we are or attack us, even drive to suicide. The book handles various ways how grandiosity handled wrong can cause evil to enter into our lives.

    2. Web sites:
      +Psychopaths and Love
      +Narcissists Suck
      +180Rule
      +cadalert.blogspot
      PS, beware of psychopaths on psychopath web sites….

  17. Dr. Simon, others,
    I am aware this is revealing my neuroses, but my curiosity is winning. Do CD’s BELIEVE the things they shame you about? In my case it’s “lazy”, “ungrateful”, “whiney”, “bad mother”, self-righteous”, “pious”, “pie-in-the-sky” and I could go on and on. Do they believe these things or is it simply part of the tactic? I know the bigger question, is, “Do I believe them about myself?” and here is what I am discovering. I can be led there, and THAT is what makes me a beautiful victim. So, in an effort to combat the thoughts, feeling, ideas etc. I am starting to see myself differently. But, I just wondered about that.

  18. I’m in the motions to break up with my fiancé for four years. Never saw what some simple reflection in the last few weeks has shown me! The “conversation” written above sounds like one I’ve had over and over and over again it’s disturbing!! I’ve found myself thinking I was wrong in conversations and arguments because he had me totally convinced!! I found myself constantly trying to get him to understand how I “felt” about certain things, especially about ways he handles the kids. And his response is ALWAYS “it’s not a big deal”, “the way you feel is wrong” things to that nature. I’ve COMPLETELY given up hope in out relationship. He needs professional help, I cannot stand by knowing he will always be this arrogant about “his ways”. I’ve been pushed over the edge with this one!! And literally was blindsighted to the bs he led me to believe. I honestly don’t think he has a soul sometimes.

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