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Heeding the exploiter’s earliest warnings

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Steve Becker, LCSW, CH.T, who has a private psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and clinical consulting practice in New Jersey, USA. For more information, visit his website, powercommunicating.com.

In my work with clients involved with exploitative personalities, it’s not unusual to learn, together, that detectable, early warning signals went unrecognized, minimized, or both.

This isn’t to blame the subsequent victims of abusive partners; there are many instances where such clues were lacking (and even when not, blame is inappropriate). But it’s to appreciate, undefensively, that the honeymoon phase of a relationship is almost, by definition, one that invites a level of denial. The denial helps protect our fantasy that we’ve finally met our perfect love partner. It’s in the honeymoon phase, especially, that our need to idealize a prospective partner is at its strongest, correspondingly leaving our objectivity—and sobriety—at its weakest. This makes for a worrisome combination, specifically encouraging the ignoring of ominous signals that, even if subtle, are no less invaluable and critical.

In retrospect, my clients are often surprised to admit that the exploiter in whom they chose to invest really did “tip his hand” more than they wanted, later, to admit. Not all, but many sociopaths aren’t clever enough to fully disguise, even in the early stages of a relationship, their core self-centeredness and insensitivity, if our radar is sufficiently non-compromised.

The key, of course, is first to recognize these signs. But interestingly this isn’t the hardest challenge. The hardest challenge is then to heed them.

I find that many of my clients were in fact cognizant of odd, disconcerting behaviors/attitudes that their exploitative partners were reckless enough to reveal (or incapable of concealing). They may have even felt troubled by them. But in their intense need to want the relationship, and the partner, to be the elusive fit they so hungrily sought, they found ways to suppress their uneasiness: to ignore and/or minimize the significance of these signals; and rationalize the alarms their instincts triggered.

In other words, it’s not so much that their antennae are necessarily impaired (because often they aren’t); rather, it’s their weak response to what their antennae properly register that is the problem. It’s like a smoke detector that goes off in a distant room in the house. You hear it, or think you do, but you’re so slumberously inebriated that you convince yourself you’re not hearing what’s inconvenient to hear—maybe it’s not really the smoke detector—and so rationalize, at great personal risk, your inaction. The inconvenient, much less pleasant reaction (and action) would be to confront—and not ignore—the dimly perceived, but potentially lifesaving, signal. Among other lessons, this suggests just how inconvenient and unpleasant it sometimes is to have to take the steps necessary to protect ourselves.

When I work with clients who find themselves in, or recovering from, victimizing relationships, this theme takes on great meaning and becomes a source of self-empowerment. My clients are determined to become more confident, not only in their radar for uncovering the first dubious chinks in their partners; they are even more determined to learn how to heed these earliest warnings in present, and future relationships.

Whether the warning is more jarring, like a flash of previously unseen rage or coldness, or more subtle, like a disarming expression of entitlement, they’ll want to notice it (the first, and easier task); and then, confronting their powers of rationalization, they’ll want to examine it seriously and soberly for precisely the implications they’re so fearful of seeing.



200 Comments on "Heeding the exploiter’s earliest warnings"

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  1. libelle says:

    Dear One, I am with you concerning the music that relates HEAVILY on the relation-ship that wrecked! I had really get to reconnect (rewire my brain) to some kind of music and also wear specific clothes to other events for months so I was able to listen to the songs or was able to wear the nice clothes again without bad memories.

    Glad you did not kill this person! (it would have ruined your life!!)

    “What can I possibly be feeling? I have no context for the deception, the lies, the deceit. There is no context for your kind. That, I suspect is why tangling with your kind is so disorienting. Like being dropped off the roof on your honeymoon; you can’t grasp who pushed you before your bloodied jaw cracks open on the pavement.”

    Well, dare I imagine that you are not hitting the pavement? BUT plunge with style in the deep blue Maledivian sea as you fall off the rooftop of a hut in the midst of a lagoon, and the personal butler is rowing to get you swiftly in the boat, and in the boat the sharkish lawyer is rowing too: like ambulance chasing lawyers chase “just-married”-cars!! My sister always says whenever she sees a happy newlywed couple stepping out of a church: “New arrivals to my office ahead!” 😉

    And also I think LF is a kind of a weird but wonderful place, like a mirror VERY far away mirroring the very best and the very worst in ourselves. And it helps getting clear about thoughts, letting go obsessions, sorting them out, and maybe these thoughts might help somebody else (for me LF was and IS a huge help and a true lifesaver!) Thanks Donna!

    It would be really a “trip around the world” meeting all these beautiful folks in person! And one more thing: when something is IN YOU, it is unique. Do not search elsewhere! Whether it is elsewhere or not is of no importance: You already found it. (((Hugs)))



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  2. one_step_at_a_time says:

    libelle – what a glorious post to wake up to!

    it’s so funny that you mention this beautiful scene in the Maledivian sea..i watched a show last night that featured the Bahamas and i a friend from Belize sent pictures, and i went to sleep thinking about being in the Caribbean…and it was wonderful!

    the only thing about it being in me and wanting it in others, is that i want someone to play with!

    have the best day…all smiley over here. thanks.



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