Forgiving oneself for making bad choices is never easy, and I know there are authors and posters on LF who are true experts in the area of self-forgiveness. But let me come at this from an angle slightly different than my usual Lovefraud fare.
It’s often just plain hard to bust a flat-out liar and deceiver. And it’s often suprisingly easy to effectively flat-out lie and deceive. Let me say this again: it’s pretty easy to live a life of deception, making it no big accomplishment to deceive the brightest, most astute, most sensitive people.
Lying and deceiving, and doing them well, even over long, extended periods of time, duping anyone and everyone in the process—again, my point is that it’s not nearly as hard to do as we might tend to think, and so it’s really nothing for the exploiter, however slick or not he may be, to feel especially proud to be so good at. Because fraud, and deception, just aren’t that hard to perpetrate.
And the converse is more important—it’s often really easy to be victimized by liars and deceivers, again highlighting how relatively undifficult it is to lie and deceive effectively, and NOT how dumb one is to fall for the lies and deception.
The truth is that few, if any, of us were raised to enter relationships vigilant for exploiters and imposters; not one of us, I suspect, ever took a formal course in how to identify exploiters and other sundry disguised frauds in the context of “intimate” relationships.
This just isn’t something any of us goes to school for; it’s not something any of us expects to experience; and so, reasonably, we think we have much better things to do with our limited time than to strive to become experts at imposter-busting.
Seriously, how many of us really want to spend our precious little time in this short life in the paranoid, depressing undertaking to become, if it’s even theoretically possible, skilled at unmasking exploiters?
Sure, there are professions one can enter if this is one’s bag—to bust imposters. But marriage and intimate relationships are not “professions.” We assume, with statistical support behind us, that it’s unlikely that the individual we’ll become (or have become) involved with is likely to be a pathological liar and deceiver.
Of course we know anything’s possible, but it’s still, statistically, a low enough risk not to compel our constant vigilance, anymore than the risk of contracting relatively rare forms of malignant cancers should necessarily compel our vigilance and dread.
Now some pathological liars may be excellent at their exploitation skills, but more often than not they are just good enough exploiters to perpetrate fraud successfully for the reasons I’ve suggested.
Does this abdicate us of our duty to heed signs that may, sometimes, be discernable? Of course not. As I’ve written in prior Lovefraud articles, we want to give ourselves the best chance possible, against odds already stacked against us, to bust deceivers and imposters. And as I’ve written elsewhere, sometimes those signs are present, because many exploiters are really not so good at disguising signs of their venality, and some of them are, in fact, really pretty bad; and sometimes, for many possible reasons, we do a poor, ineffectual job at recognizing and heeding those signs.
But it’s also true (and it’s the emphasis of this article) that often these signs are not present, or not obviously present enough to overcome the basic (and I would argue, healthy) state of trust with which we enter intimate relationships. Because again I note: for understandable reasons, we simply don’t enter these relationships naturally suspicious of, or vigilant for, corruption in our partners.
We simply aren’t on the lookout to be exploited, and for this reason, as I’ve suggested repeatedly, this gives the exploiter an enormous edge for, by definition, he is preying on the least suspicious of his potential victims—those who love him.
Consequently this makes him ultimately cowardly, incredibly cowardly, not his victims foolish or gullible. Let me say this again—this makes the exploiter incredibly cowardly because, among other things, he is preying not on gullible fools (as he may perceive, contemptuously, his victims to be), but rather on those who have entered into a relationship with him on a natural, healthy pretext of trust (thereby making them the least challenging, the easiest, victims to defraud).
This reminds me of the bonding exercise in which one partner, demonstrating trust in the other, agrees to fall backwards in the faith that the receiving partner will catch and protect her. This isn’t gullibility at work but rather natural trust and faith she is risking that her partner will catch her, and not let her fall and injure herself. The exploiter in this analogy as if goads his partner into falling backwards and then, instead of catching her, as she should reasonably expect he will, he lets her drop and so injures her badly. And she, the victim of his deception, is left to feel shocked, betrayed and wounded.
Staying with this analogy, she, the victim, may not discover how treacherously her partner has let her fall this until much later, as the horror of his history of lies and deception begin, shockingly, to emerge.
And so I suggest to all who have been betrayed and exploited by perpetrators of fraud, especially (but not exclusively) in the context of an intimate commitment, I say to you, cut yourselves some slack, some serious slack. You are not naïve. You are not gullible.
We live in a world which makes it relatively easy for exploitive personalities to injure others. If we were all paranoid, living in a paranoid mindset, this might limit our risk of exploitation; but most of us, thankfully, are not paranoid. We are not living in a mindset of vigilance to be screwed-over by others, especially those we rightfully deem least likely to hurt us.
This confers the advantage to (and all shame on) the exploiter—and should leave his victims comfortable in their ultimate dignity and innocence.
(This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)