In my last LoveFraud article I discussed strategies for vetting your new partner for “personality skeletons” lurking in the “apparent” history.
I’d like to focus, here, more specifically (and in more depth) on individuals with a pattern of discarding the people in their lives.
Sociopaths and other seriously disturbed narcissistic personality types will have this history—that is, a history (past and recent) that’s almost certainly littered with friends, family, and anyone who was once useful, whom they’ve cast off ostensibly for one or another reason.
As best as possible we want to glean this history, if it’s applicable and somehow accessible. In such cases, we want to ensure that blinding defenses such as denial, avoidance, idealization and incuriosity (among others) don’t compromise our observational powers.
More than that, we want to be sharply astute to evidence suggestive of such a history.
And why? If for no other reason than that adults with a track record of cutting loose the people in their lives simply do not outgrow this pattern.
In other words, this is a deeply inscribed aspect of their character, from which none of us carries special privileges to immunity or protection.
Yes, we’ve discussed this and other aspects of pathological narcissism before, but it’s always useful, I feel, to take a fresh view of it.
As we know, sociopaths and similarly character-disordered personalities engage in relationships, and in a great many interactions, almost strictly to the extent that they perceive you to be useful to their interests.
I think we can agree that, just as soon as the exploitive personality perceives that your usefulness to him has run its course, it will follow like clockwork that his use for you will correspondingly expend itself.
These personalities measure you against the criterion of your useful shelf-life which, in a sense, puts you in a not so different category from, say, an appliance, or, for that matter, any possession or object whose utility depreciates over time.
From the height of his satisfaction with your optimal utility to him, the sociopath begins a slow, inexorable and, in some cases, disorientingly precipitous, phase of depreciating you. He may, or may not, begin this process by idealizing you. But even if he does, he won’t be idealing you; rather, he’ll be idealizing your utility to him.
I’d like to stress this point again: Sociopaths, and I include all pathological narcissists, never really idealize you; they idealize your present utility to them.
And, of course, from there, it’s all downhill.
When exploiter’s depreciation of you is complete, then it’s time to discard, and replace, you. This constitutes his “moving on.”
If he could list you as a deduction on his tax return, based on your depreciated value to him, he would.
And so his discarding may take a more literal form, like leaving or ending the relationship; or it may take the less literal, but worse, form of his staying (or hanging around) while abdicating, increasingly, any and all sense of accountability in the relationship.
Now that you give him so little of compelling worth, so little to value and use (except, among other conveniences, perhaps a roof over his head), the exploitive “partner” no longer feels he owes you much of anything.
This perspective conveniently enables his conviction of his right to pursue his gratifications elsewhere. Again, this constitutes a form of his “moving on.”
But let’s not mistake what “moving on” means to the sociopath and like-minded personalities: it means finding new victims to exploit.
He may not consciously process his agenda as such (although he might), but we know that this is his agenda.
Many sociopaths, in their warped self-centeredness, subscribe to the philosophy: I want, therefore I deserve. And so the next step follows with dangerous self-justification—taking what they want.
Again, the sociopath may not consciously think, “I deserve to have fun with the credit cards in that guy’s wallet.” But he will want the credit cards with which to have some fun, and whether consciously or not, because he wants them, he’ll feel entitled to seize and use them.
This also explains the prototypical sociopathic telemarketer: he wants the old peoples’ assets, and because he wants them, he feels entitled to take them. Deploying any and every tool in his exploitive toolbox, he then takes all the assets he can from the naive couple.
Once having taken what he can from them, they cease to have use for him, and so he cuts them loose; he discards them. That is, having fleeced them for what he could, he “moves on” in search of more gratification through prospective new victims, who may have what he wants, that he can take.
Very likely he won’t look back, and if he does, it won’t be with empathy, guilt, shame or regret.
(This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of the male gender pronoun is for convenience’s sake, not to suggest that males have a patent on the behaviors discussed.)