The recent post on marital misconduct, and the many letters I have received from Lovefraud readers, have caused me to conclude that love fraud is a spectrum. Because love fraud is a spectrum, there is some confusion about it. To clear up the confusion, this week I will describe the range of motives for this fraudulent behavior. Remember that one of the most important biologic/social functions of love relationships is to produce and raise children. In my opinion, love fraud that involves children is the most serious. These children did not ask to be born and are at the mercy of the adults responsible for bringing them into the world. Next week we will discuss the implications of the spectrum of love fraud for children.
Love fraud perpetrated by predators
Perhaps the most serious form of love fraud occurs when a person who is certainly a psychopath or sociopath enters into a relationship with the sole intent of exploitation and predation. I believe I was a victim of this type of fraud. There are many other examples of men and women who have been victims of this most severe love fraud; their stories may be found on this web site’s True Lovefraud Stories.
Donna speaks primarily of this type of love fraud: Being the victim of a scam is embarrassing. Humiliating. Victims keep asking themselves, “How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I see it coming?” The last thing they want to do is tell other people how they participated in being duped—even though it’s not their fault.
Unfortunately, the type of person who uses the love bond as a lure to attract his/her prey does not care if children are produced in the relationship. In fact, these predators often use the children to further their own purposes. Sociopaths typically have many children with several different partners. When I first realized I had been the victim of a sociopath, I spoke with Anne McGuire from Fraud Aid (this was 2003, before Donna Andersen put up this site). I asked her, “How many women do you know who have had children with con artists?” She said, “The con artist doesn’t care about whether he fathers children. In fact, the more the merrier… then he can use them as pawns!” With that I discovered I was not alone.
Love fraud perpetrated by parasites
As tragic as the True Lovefraud Stories are, they do not represent a very large percentage of the total cases of what I would consider to be love fraud. The next level of severity of love fraud happens when sociopaths and narcissists seek relationships because they want to be in a relationship. These individuals get married or form partnerships for reasons other than pure predation. They may want to use the relationship as cover to appear normal to the world. They may also dislike being alone. It is very important to understand that although psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists do not enjoy affection, they are very social. They do not enjoy being alone. Thus, these people can be predators as above, or they can be parasites.
The difference between a predator and a parasite is that the parasite does not seek to destroy his/her host. The parasite just wants to suck energy from the host. The parasitic form of love fraud is very common. Prior to becoming a victim myself, I had not known of the predatory type of love fraud. But I saw many cases of parasitic love fraud in my practice.
Victims of parasitic love fraud are often more confused about their victimization and about the perpetrator than are victims of predatory love fraud. The motives of the perpetrator are less obvious in parasitic love fraud.
The parasitic love fraud perpetrator often sees children as competition for the energy of the host. These people often leave the relationship once children are conceived. They may also have abortions themselves, or pressure their partners into having an abortion.
The next most common form of love fraud is perpetrated by persons with narcissistic and antisocial personality traits but not the full disorder. These individuals are capable of a modicum of what might be considered “love.” They enjoy affection some, but have such poor impulse control and moral sense that they are not capable of a monogamous relationship. These are the chronic cheaters.
With the availability of divorce and alternatives to marriage, those that repeatedly cheat are also fraudulent lovers. The motivation to cheat rather than leave has to do with power and control in a relationship. The cheater wants to own his victims. The difference between a cheater and a parasite is that the cheater contributes substantially to the relationship. He/she may share the work of the home and is gainfully employed.
This last form of love fraud is perhaps the most difficult to process. The victim correctly perceives some degree of affection in the relationship. There are also social pressures on these victims. Well meaning friends and relatives may say, “At least he brings home the bacon and sleeps with you every night!” In my experience, most people are looking for real intimacy and fidelity in a partner in addition to sharing a home and finances. The cheater leaves his/her victim feeling inadequate, lonely and empty.
Chronic cheaters are also very problematic when it comes to children. People who repeatedly cheat are not capable of putting a spouse’s well-being above their own. They also are often incapable of the sacrifices required to parent. Cheaters are, however, interested in children as possessions, just as they are interested in lovers as possessions. Again, “The more, the merrier!” may be the philosophy when it comes to children.
Adulterers are people who cheat because they are no longer “in love” with a partner and/or are not getting needs met, but they feel an obligation to stay in the marriage. Adulterers technically also commit love fraud because they do not live up to promises made. Typically, though, these spouses do not repeatedly cheat with multiple partners. An adulterer may form a bond with one other partner and leave the marriage once the responsibilities of child care are over or lessened. As a whole, this group is capable of loving relationships but made a mistake in choosing a partner, and they were unable/unwilling to correct the mistake through divorce.
Adulterers are generally adequate parents because they have ability to love. However, when children find out about infidelity they often harbor feelings of anger toward the perpetrator. Adulterers typically try to support the aggrieved spouse emotionally and financially because they feel guilty over their behavior.
The Inner Triangle
When interpreting the behavior of others within all love relationships it is very useful to consider the Inner Triangle. The Inner Triangle is Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. Psychopaths and sociopaths are people who have no ability to love, poor impulse control and no moral values. These people can only be predators and parasites in ALL of their relationships. Narcissists also lack ability to love, but have an understanding of morality and impulse control. Narcissists can be parasites or cheaters.
Many other people have problems with the Inner Triangle that do not rise to the level of disorder. These people can be cheaters and adulterers in one relationship and function well in another relationship they are better suited to.
The children are the victims
In any case, defects in the Inner Triangle impair a person’s ability to parent. This is discussed in detail in my book, Just Like His Father? Next week I will address predators, parasites, cheaters and adulterers in the context of child care and custody.