Red Flags Chapter 5
By Donna Andersen
Sociopaths engage in calculated seduction. When sociopaths overwhelm you with attention and affection, they are not sharing the spontaneous outpouring of love in their hearts. They are employing premeditated tactics designed to achieve their objectives of power, control and sex.
The first step of seduction, of course, is to make themselves appealing to you. The Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey asked what respondents found enticing, intriguing or captivating in the beginning of their involvements with the sociopaths. Respondents were free to write anything they wanted, and their answers were analyzed for common threads.
The five most prominent themes were:
Made me feel special — 27 percent
The top response wasn’t a trait of the sociopaths — it was how the targets reacted to all the attention they received. Sociopaths piled on affection and expressed their love, which made the survey respondents feel great.
Energy — 26 percent
The sociopaths radiated a high-spirited energy, an exuberance, a magnetism. Respondents described it as confidence, intelligence, intensity, competence and stability.
Physical appearance — 24 percent
Sociopaths look just like the rest of us—some are ordinary, and others are hot. Physical appearance, of course, is a big part of any romantic attraction. Survey respondents described the sociopaths they were involved with as beautiful, handsome, gorgeous and cute.
Charming — 23 percent
Sociopaths have a way with words. Survey respondents reacted to their charm, charisma, conversational skills, and their seemingly natural ability to always say the right thing.
Personality — 18 percent
Respondents described the sociopaths as pleasant, fun and exciting.
In addition to these themes, 12 percent of survey respondents said that the sociopaths were honest, had good character or shared their values. At least, they appeared that way. Another 11 percent mentioned sexual attraction, and 7 percent said they had similar interests. Four percent of respondents said the sociopaths seemed to be their soul mates, and 3 percent were drawn in by the pity play.
Sociopaths, at first, don’t act like jerks
From my personal experience, I certainly agree with the survey respondents. My sociopathic ex-husband, James Montgomery, did his best to make me feel special, and because of his efforts, I was willing to give the man a chance, even though his physical appearance was not all that attractive to me.
Montgomery treated me like gold. His attentiveness started with our initial email correspondence. We met via the Internet, but he lived nearby — I wasn’t worried about the pitfalls of a long-distance relationship. During our three weeks of preliminary correspondence — his notes were clever and well written — he made it clear that he was interested in me.
When we did meet, Montgomery was attentive, charming and entertaining. He asked questions and listened to my answers. He was quick to pay me compliments. Yes, he talked about himself a lot, but he was intelligent and intriguing, so I didn’t mind — I felt like I was getting to know him.
Significantly, when Montgomery said he would call me, he did. Now, before I met him, I spent a lot of years in the dating game. Many, many times, men said to me, “I’ll call you,” and then fell off the planet. When Montgomery followed through with this basic courtesy — well, that scored some points.
So, in the beginning of our encounter — I don’t want to call it a relationship — he did everything a man who was trying to impress a woman would do. He wore a sport coat when he took me out to dinner. He brought me little gifts. I interpreted these gestures as signs of his budding affection.
Had Montgomery behaved like a jerk — stood me up, acted out in public, flirted with other women in front of me — I would have dumped him. He did none of those things. While he was reeling me in, he was a perfect gentleman.
Of course, I now know that he was on a mission to snag a target, and was simultaneously treating several other women exactly the same way. Apparently, I was the first to bite. He proposed; I accepted. Yes, it was far too soon — but I’d heard all those fairy tales about love at first sight. Why couldn’t it happen to me? I didn’t realize that all his expressions of affection were empty lies.
It would certainly be easier to spot sociopaths if they always acted like jerks. Unfortunately, they don’t, at least not in the beginning. Many of them have excellent social skills. And, they have an inbred talent for seduction.
I was seduced.
How do they do it? How do they get their targets to fall for them? Sociopaths engage in three basic strategies, sequentially or simultaneously, depending on what they discern will work. They may actually test different strategies, and if one seems to be floundering, switch to another. The strategies are attention, mirroring and expressions of love. Within them, you’ll see the tactics I described as the Red Flags of Love Fraud.
Strategy #1 — Over-the-top attention
Suppose you’re an average person in the dating world — not a supermodel, top jock or movie star. As an average person, there are probably times when you feel underappreciated, even ignored. You smile at a girl in a bar, and she walks on by. You have a date with a guy, he says he’ll call, and you never hear from him again. Sometimes you may feel that dating is depressing.
Then you meet someone new, and suddenly you’re the most important person in the world. Your new friend wants to be with you all the time. Wants to know all about you. Asks questions about your past, your ideas, your desires, and listens carefully to your answers.
Your friend makes no secret of his or her interest in you, showering you with compliments, flattery, gifts and dates. Your friend does everything that a smitten admirer is supposed to do. As one man who completed the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey wrote, “She was very attentive. Always sending ‘thinking of you’ type cards.”
If you’re an average dater, nursing your share of past disappointments, it’s easy to believe such overwhelming intensity is love. You wonder, “Have I finally found my fairy tale romance?” Unfortunately, this constant, over-the-top attention might not signal love, but a sociopath. This is how sociopaths create the whirlwind romance, how sociopaths sweep you off your feet.
“Whirlwind” was, by far, the most frequent description in the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey of how relationships with sociopaths began. A total of 28 percent of respondents used the term “whirlwind” or words like it — fast, intense, overwhelming, love at first sight, swept off my feet, an instant connection. Here is how one respondent described the beginning of the relationship — and the end:
BEGINNING: Things moved much faster than I thought they should, but I got swept up in it. By the second date, I was his girlfriend. Within a couple of weeks, he’d introduced me to his family. Before a month was over, he’d taken me to his hometown for a weekend visit.
THE END: Threats against my life and against the lives of my friends. Many crimes: PCS (meth), drug dealing (meth), theft, burglary, arson, felon in possession of a firearm, driving with a suspended license, violating probation … I could go on and on. Both his mother and sister have restraining orders against him and are terrified of him.
It’s enticing to think that someone is so enamored with us that he or she can’t bear to be away from our luminous presence. But what appears to be enchantment may actually be entrapment. “Sandra,” for example, probably wishes she had known about the perils of the overly devoted beau before she met “Randy.”
“Nobody ever paid that much attention to me in my entire life,” Sandra said. “Randy lead me to believe we were soul mates, once he found out how much inheritance money I had stashed away.”
Randy bought her a ring within the first month, although they couldn’t marry because he was evading taxes. He moved in with Sandra within three months. They bought a house within six months, although it was in Sandra’s name, because he was evading taxes.
What was the deal with the taxes? “He said point blank that he was evading taxes because they had taken enough from him,” Sandra recounted. “That he was Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor by getting his employee’s job under the table.”
Sandra’s friends thought buying the house was a bad idea, but Sandra decided she would take a chance on love. Still, she had apprehensions, which she shoved aside.
That was her mistake. It turned out that Randy was a financial wreck. He had no bank account and his address was a post office box. Along with evading taxes, he had committed fraud. In less than a year, Sandra lost the house and a big hunk of her inheritance.
Strategy #2 — Mirroring your image
Any dating coach or marriage counselor will tell you that for a romantic relationship to be successful, the partners must be compatible. The two people need to have comparable outlooks on life, shared values, mutual interests, similar backgrounds — enough in common so that they can get along, keep each other company and grow together.
Sociopaths understand the importance of compatibility. They understand it so well that they make themselves just like you.
This is the “chameleon” aspect of their character, or lack of character. Since sociopaths have no real internal substance — no beliefs, no values, no emotional connections to people or principles — they can put on a new persona as easily as you put on a new coat. They mold the persona to match you.
How do they do this? First, they study you. Today’s social media make this easy. Be aware: If you post frequently on Facebook, or write your own blog, you may be giving potential predators all the information they need to seduce you.
“Lucy” met “Amir” on the Internet. The relationship lasted less than a year — Lucy found out that Amir was abusive, deceitful and created drama out of thin air. But that’s not how their involvement started. In the beginning, Amir seemed to share her interests and values. Lucy found out why: He had added her as a friend on Facebook so he could discover what was important to her.
“He blatantly lied about his interests so I would think we had something in common,” Lucy said. “Mirroring my values, always agreeing with me when I had strong opinions about something, mirroring my interests, being physical very quickly, acting like a know-it-all, lying about everything.”
The Internet and social media make it easy for sociopaths to research you, your connections and your interests. Still, sociopaths usually get all the information they need for seduction directly from you, through conversation and correspondence. It happens early in the relationship, under the guise of “getting to know you.” It goes something like this:
“So,” the sociopath asks, with pitch-perfect sincerity, “what do you really want in life?”
“I want to have a family before I get too old,” you reply. (Or, “I want to live on the beach on a tropical island.” Or, “I want to send my kids to a top college.” Or, “I want to retire while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”)
“That’s what I want,” the sociopath replies, with a touch of feigned surprise. “We have so much in common. We must be meant for each other.”
Respondents to the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey put this phenomenon into their own words:
Simply convinced me that he was just like me by emulating what I said, what I believed and how I acted. He was my twin!
He and I enjoyed the same activities. We shared similar stories and feelings. We seemed to have the same perspectives on life and love. He became everything I wanted.
Marriage counselor Gary Cundiff, MFT, believes that sociopaths select targets based on their best qualities. Then, the predators morph themselves into copies of their targets, so that they appear to be perfect partners. In an article on the Lovefraud Blog, Cundiff explained how they do it:
“Using each piece of information, they create the disguise — a mask carefully constructed to look like their prospective target. Flawlessly, they weave a canvas picture of their mark, a tapestry precisely reflecting the brightest, most honorable aspects of your personality, sewing in the most desirable and wanted details, literally stealing your persona, mirroring this image back, without the defects of character, flaws and shortcomings.
“The pathological relationship is a one-dimensional interaction. You fall in love with yourself as presented by this reflecting object. The attraction is irresistible. People are attracted to those who are similar to themselves. By transforming themselves into a reflection of their prospective prey, the sociopath becomes the most alluring figure imaginable, and the propensity to trust that person becomes compelling.”
As a result, Cundiff says, “You experience a sense of oneness like none other. At the emotional center of this connection is intensity never felt before, making the appeal and apprehension addictive.”
This is exactly what one survey respondent described. She wrote, “Tons of stuff in common, never felt that close to someone before, never felt that kind of attraction and intensity of feelings so fast or strong.”
Sociopaths intentionally create the mirage of oneness. To do it, they go after your deepest desires. In their probing, disguised as “wanting to know what’s really important to you,” sociopaths sneak into your inner sanctum, the core of your being.
They target your dreams.
Fifty-six percent of respondents to the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey agreed that the sociopaths asked about their hopes and dreams, then promised to make them come true.
This is perhaps the biggest reason why the deception of the sociopath is so painful. Sociopaths steal our dreams and use them against us. In those heady early days of the relationship, as the sociopaths listen intently, we spill our guts, telling them what we really want, what is really important to us, our most profound desires in life. We think they’re listening because they truly want everything that we want. In reality, they’re listening to discover the deepest places within us where they can set their hooks.
What better way to draw us in than to promise to turn our most heartfelt aspirations into reality? How can we resist someone who believes as we believe, wants what we want, and seemingly has the capacity to achieve it?
It’s a brilliant tactic on the part of the predators. They use our dreams to hook us, promise to make our dreams come true, and we believe them. Then, because we cherish our dreams, we can’t let go.
Strategy #3 — Expressions of love
When you and another relatively healthy person begin dating, you are both testing the waters. You are spending time with each other to see if you like each other enough, or have enough in common, or get along well enough, to keep going. Yes, one of you may be more interested than the other, but neither of you has made a decision.
Hesitation is normal in the beginning of romantic relationships. So is reticence. You may be willing to talk about your interests, work and adventures. Maybe even your political and religious views. But early on, you don’t usually tell the secrets of your heart, whether they’re loving or painful. And you don’t really expect your date to spill his or her guts, either. Women, in fact, are accustomed to men who are “tough guys” or “the strong, silent type,” and rarely reveal their emotional natures at all.
So when your new romantic interest engages you in deeply personal conversation, confesses the sorrows of his or her past, and professes that you are the person who can heal the wounds, in fact, with you, true love is finally possible, well, what do you think?
You think, “Wow! This person is really opening up to me! I’ve never seen anything like it! It must be love!”
These predators know that talking about feelings is a sign of trust, trust is crucial for love, and love means they can get what they want. So they talk fluently about feelings — especially their feelings of appreciation and affection for you, the target. And they demonstrate their feelings as well. Sociopaths are masters of the “grand gesture.” In the Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey, 41 percent of respondents agreed that the sociopath “did something extravagant to demonstrate love for me.”
It’s not that they actually feel the emotions they share with you, or feel them the way the rest of us do. Rather, sociopaths have learned that if they mouth the words of emotion and do a sufficiently convincing acting job, you believe them, which means you are primed for manipulation.
For example, “Bridget” met “Victor” on a dating website. After two weeks of email communication, they met in person. From that point on, Victor called Bridget almost every day, and they chatted online every night for hours. He couldn’t wait to see her again.
“Within a couple of weeks he asked me to be his girlfriend,” Bridget said. “At that time we started spending every weekend together. He would come over on Thursday nights and stay ’til Monday mornings … even without being asked or discussing it. He just was there all the time.”
Never before had Bridget felt such an instant connection and ease. “Victor made me believe that he loved me more than anything, ever,” Bridget wrote. “He had a hard past and had never been loved unconditionally, but he saw that heart in me. I remember my sister asking me once if I loved him and I paused and answered, ‘He loves me soooooo much.’ Then she asked again, ‘But do you love him?’ After a long pause I said, ‘Of course.’ Looking back, I was hesitant … there was always something that I held back about. He even would say that he was always a few steps ahead of me, but that was okay because he knew I would catch up. I guess I felt like he loved me so deeply that I couldn’t give that up.”
Bridget always wanted to be married, and that’s exactly what Victor promised — he would spend forever with her. Even when Bridget got upset with him, Victor made sure they talked things through so they could move on. After all, they were “forever” — theirs was a special endless love that other people never found.
Bridget’s family all liked Victor — everyone except her grandfather. When Bridget’s mom told him about Victor, Granddad said, “Sounds like a con man to me.”
Bridget learned that Victor wasn’t working — he explained that he’d lost his job in a large layoff. He also had bad credit, which was why he didn’t have any credit cards. Then, when his sister kicked him out, Victor moved in with Bridget.
At the time, she was having the roof on her home replaced, and Victor got a job as a salesperson with a roofing company. As a favor to him, Bridget allowed him to bid, and his company won the job. Sort of.
“After our relationship ended, I needed some insurance documentation from the roofing company and I discovered he had not worked for the company,” Bridget said. “Victor hired guys off the street and pocketed the money. He even provided me with a fraudulent invoice. He also used my credit card without my approval and I discovered he had a warrant for his arrest in another state for credit card fraud.”
The relationship with Victor, who promised “forever,” lasted a little over a year and cost Bridget more than $10,000.
Research on sociopaths and love
Many professionals in the mental health field are under the impression that sociopaths do not express love. In fact, the first draft of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), reflected this viewpoint.
The draft included a definition of antisocial personality disorder that was substantially revised and improved from the previous edition, DSM-4. However, the introductory description of the disorder contained the following sentence:
“Their emotional expression is mostly limited to irritability, anger, and hostility; acknowledgement and articulation of other emotions, such as love or anxiety, are rare.”
Dr. Liane Leedom and I were seriously troubled by the statement. We had both been married to sociopaths, and we were both subjected to abundant professions of love. So were thousands of Lovefraud readers. We were concerned that if this sentence became part of the official diagnostic description, sociopaths could fool clinicians into thinking they were not disordered simply by talking about love. So in the Lovefraud DSM-5 Survey, we asked if the sociopaths expressed love or caring.
The answer was a resounding “yes!” Fully 85 percent of survey respondents stated that the individuals they were involved with verbally expressed love or caring. Not only that, 44 percent said the individuals expressed love every day.
Sooner or later, these proclamations of love usually stopped. Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that eventually, the sociopaths’ emotional expressions were, indeed, limited to irritability, anger and hostility. But first, virtually all sociopaths pursuing romantic relationships seduced their targets with expressions of love.
The updated draft of the DSM-5 further revised the description of antisocial personality disorder. I am happy to report that the statement about these individuals not expressing love is no longer included.
More on how sociopaths express love
The Lovefraud DSM-5 Survey asked respondents to describe how the individuals they were involved with expressed love, and how it changed over the course of the relationship. Again, the survey respondents could write whatever they wanted, and an analysis revealed recurring themes. Many of them have already been highlighted as Red Flags of Love Fraud.
Love bombing — 18 percent
Sociopaths lavished attention on the respondents early in the relationship — calling all the time, sending texts and emails, wanting to spend time together, quickly proclaiming love and rushing the relationship along.
Love early then stopped — 17 percent
Many respondents reported that initial loving behavior ended, either suddenly or gradually.
Love through spending money — 16 percent
Respondents frequently reported that the sociopaths spent money on them, buying gifts and flowers, going out to dinner, concerts and on vacation. This, of course, is normal courtship behavior, so sociopaths know what they are supposed to do in order to reel their targets in.
Expressing love through sex — 14 percent
Many respondents mentioned plentiful and satisfying sex, especially in the beginning of the relationship.
From love to hostility — 11 percent
Respondents described how they had been idealized in the beginning of the relationship, but eventually subjected to outright hostility, characterized by rage, abuse, humiliation and degradation.
Lying about love
Hundreds of comments in the Lovefraud DSM-5 Survey made it clear that the undying love proclaimed by the sociopaths was, in fact, only a temporary phenomenon. So when sociopaths speak the words “I love you,” are they lying?
The answer probably is that some are lying, and some don’t know what they’re saying.
When we learn language, our brains learn to associate particular items, processes and concepts with particular words. Most of us have learned to label our warm feelings about a person, and our desire to be with and take care of that person, as “love.”
Sociopaths may have learned to label something else as love — perhaps sex, or the pleasure they experience by getting you to do what they want, or even predation. So when they say, “I love you,” they may not be lying. It’s just that in their minds, the word “love” has a different definition.
Remember, the core problem of sociopathy is an inability to love. If they feel no connection to other human beings, no empathy, they can’t possibly understand the feeling of love, nor know what the word means. Some sociopaths even admit this.
She confessed she didn’t really understand the concept of love and had trouble classifying love; i.e. romantic, platonic, familial, etc. She didn’t seem to understand what love was, and stated that. She said she loved everybody. She started telling me she loved me after I told her first, then rarely said it. It became an issue of contention. I’d never experienced this with a woman before — very odd. Usually women are the first to state love and it usually comes after several physical, sexual sessions. She was being honest! She didn’t know what the emotion love was.
But even if sociopaths don’t truly know what love means, other stories from the Lovefraud DSM-5 Survey indicate that they clearly know that they are using the expression of love to manipulate their targets.
One of the most shocking results of the survey was the number of respondents who reported that the minute they were committed — moved in, married or pregnant — the sociopath’s behavior towards them drastically changed. Any pretense of love and caring was dropped. This complete reversal of behavior was reported by 2 percent of spouses and romantic partners. Here is how some of them described the startling change:
Affection, sex, expressions of love, gifts, everything seemed almost perfect. Once I moved in with her everything changed. I almost left the first week but hung in for 6 months of hell.
At first, he’d call me a dozen times an hour to tell me he loved me, couldn’t live without me, needed to hear my voice; then when we got married, that stopped … and he didn’t tell me he loved me ever again. He “won his prize.”
Love was expressed only when I was ready to give up on the relationship and had shown signs of seeing thru her. Later, after she got pregnant and we married, she never expressed it … she had me right where she wanted me.
Continually professed “love at first sight.” Admitted after marriage it was all an act to see if he could “get/catch” me.
In these cases, expressing love was obviously nothing but manipulation. The problem is that some sociopaths can say words of love with so much apparent emotion that they seem to be genuine. “A convincing way of expressing love, such that I was 100 percent sure she experienced it,” one survey respondent wrote. They can also keep the charade going as long as they think it necessary.
Many sociopaths, however, eventually get tired of playacting. Then, they may speak the words, “I love you,” but they can’t be bothered adding the appropriate emotion. As one survey respondent wrote, the sociopath “would say ‘I love you’ almost robotically, like he was saying good morning, but his actions never matched his words. He would do something so cruel and then say ‘I love you’ as if nothing ever happened.”
Bait and switch
In the end, sociopaths pursuing romantic relationships engage in classic bait-and-switch scams. They seduce you with overflowing attention. They engage in impression management to present themselves as everything you are looking for; in fact, they are just like you. They whisper words of unending love. And once you are well and truly hooked, committed, cohabitating, pregnant or married, or, once the sociopaths are bored, everything changes.
“Julie” and “Ken” both moved thousands of miles from home to take jobs with a particular project. They were both in their 40s and neither knew anyone else in town, so they started hanging out together.
“I did not rush into anything, but within a couple of months I thought he was my best friend,” Julie wrote. “I thought my romantic ship had finally come in. Boy, was I ever wrong.”
The project was located on an island, and the waters around it were magnificent. Julie and Ken had great fun exploring it together. Although Julie felt misgivings about Ken, she ignored them. “I made excuses for him in my head, mainly because I wanted him to be the man I thought he was, not the man he really is,” she explained. “When he said things to me like, ‘I use people,’ I thought he couldn’t possibly be serious, and that no one would say that about themselves. Actually, he was right — he does use people.”
Ken told Julie that he had been separated from his wife for six years, but they hadn’t divorced. Then, when Ken had been spending six nights a week at Julie’s house, his wife came to visit for Christmas. He was obviously still married.
“I broke up with him the first time then,” Julie said. “He wormed his way back into my affections and became increasingly mean and manipulative. I broke up with him again after he tortured a cat in front of me. He followed me, actually stalked me, for a couple of months, and then became his ‘great’ self. Once he lured me back in — it took eight months of very hard work on his part — he then discarded me in the most hurtful, brutal way possible.
“He fooled me,” Julie continued. “He pulled the bait and switch on me. He made me believe he was everything I had been waiting for in a man. He claimed to like the same things I did and to have the same values. He was a liar.”
Winning through persistence and pursuit
So how do they do it? How do sociopaths convince their targets to enter romantic relationships? The Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey asked exactly that question. Love bombing was the most common tactic, which I’ve already described. The next most common tactic, experienced by 12 percent of respondents, was simply persistence. The sociopaths pursued their targets, wined and dined them, never gave up.
“Cheryl” was subject to both love bombing and persistence. She worked with a man, “Todd,” who pursued her for more than a year, even though she wasn’t interested. “He didn’t stop,” Cheryl said. “Just wore me down, even though there were red flags all over the place. Told me we were meant for each other, how rare it was to find the mental, spiritual and physical attraction. I thought, regardless of the red flags, that if this man continued to pursue me with no success for more than a year, he must have a true interest in me.”
Finally, Todd’s persistence won her over, although Cheryl still intuitively felt something was wrong. “I kept stuffing it down because he seemed so genuine and earnest about working hard to become a better person,” she said. “My sister said he was the devil. Others said he was no good for me. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. People can change if they really want to. He said I was such a good example in his life of the right things to do and he needed my guidance.”
Still, periodically she tried to break off the relationship. “I would work up the courage to end it, then felt bad — he didn’t have a job, or didn’t have money, or he was all alone,” Cheryl wrote. “I would think, ‘What kind of person am I to just leave someone I care about in that kind of situation?’ So, after about a week I would jump back into the relationship.”
It lasted a few years, then “creepy stories” about Todd slowly started leaking out. “Jail, lifelong therapy, addictions, drugs, medications, being checked into a mental institution,” Cheryl related. “I believe there was quite a bit more on a more disturbing level, but by then I didn’t stick around to find out.”
Cheryl also figured out why Todd seemed to know her so well, and was so similar to her — morally, ethically, spiritually and even similar hobbies. “Guess having access to my emails to family and friends (via work servers) helped with that,” she said. Todd had surreptitiously read her emails.
The sociopathic objective
Sociopaths like power, including the power of conquest. They seduce you, pulling out all the stops to make their affection seem genuine in order to exploit you, or entertain themselves, or prove that they still have what it takes to hook a target. As one survey respondent wrote, “He said on a forum (incognito) that he manipulated women until they loved him, then he was done and could leave them.”
Essentially, sociopaths want to win, although what exactly constitutes winning changes with their circumstances and mood.
People with normal human emotions find such behavior impossible to understand. How can someone do this? Bewildered targets of sociopaths often ask Dr. Leedom, “What did he really feel? What did he want from me?” She addressed these questions in a post on the Lovefraud Blog:
“This question is easy to answer intellectually, but very hard for victims to accept emotionally. There are three pleasures we get from our love relationships. The first is pleasure in affection. The second is sexual pleasure. The third is pleasure associated with dominance and control. Sociopaths experience sex and dominance as enormously more pleasurable than affection. Therefore, they are in relationships to get sex and power, pure and simple.”
Take, for example, the case of “Felicia” and “Tom,” who met on a dating website. Felicia was divorced after a 30-year marriage in which she was both ignored and verbally abused. She was starved for affection, and Tom, who was in his 40s, provided it. Here’s how Felicia described his attention:
“Intense/multiple daily emails, quickly sent me phone numbers of his parents and sister for ‘references,’ sending Xmas gifts, having a ton of expensive flowers delivered (sigh, my weakness … ), calling me ‘just to check in,’ chatty, sharing hopes/dreams that mirrored mine, had manners, was highly educated, appeared responsible, claimed to be an open book, had same job for 30 years, acted caring, warm, decent and loving.”
But even with all the attentive emails, Tom respected Felicia’s boundaries. “Tom always wanted me to feel ‘comfortable,’ so he never really rushed/forced me into the next phase,” Felicia said. “This so thoroughly disarmed me, I fell head over heels completely and thoroughly!”
Felicia was attracted to Tom’s intelligence, along with his manner of writing and speaking. “He was getting a second master’s degree in theology,” she wrote. “He was industrious and capable. Used a lot of ‘we’ statements … I had catapulted into a state of extreme limerence such as I’ve never known before. I wanted to die in his arms someday and even have his baby, despite the fact that I was 54 and had had a hysterectomy! I thought/talked about him *constantly*!!!”
Felicia felt this incredible passion for Tom — even though she didn’t meet him in real life for more than a year. And, before they met, she discovered that Tom was not faithful to her.
Tom actually forwarded to Felicia an email from the dating site where they met that suggested his newest matches. He told Felicia that since he had met her, the “woman of his dreams,” he was no longer interested in anyone else. Tom didn’t realize that at the bottom of the email was his password to the dating site. Felicia debated — momentarily — then decided to access Tom’s account. She discovered that Tom was lying. He was, in fact, corresponding with several other women, even trying to meet one of them.
Felicia was crushed, confused and furious, but didn’t accept what she had learned. “I was just heartbroken over the lie/betrayal, yet I mentioned nothing to him except that I had had a ‘bad dream’ that he was cheating/lying to me,” she said. “His response was anger/denial. ‘Why, how could you think of such a thing when I call you constantly, I truly love you and would never hurt you?’ Blah, blah, blah. And, foolishly over another six months, I shelved what I had found out. We met in person. He appeared to still be The Man of My Dreams!!! I was in love! He was in love, too. We got married two months later … DUH!”
After they married, Felicia discovered that Tom was, in fact, cheating on her — with both women and men. He was secretly into pornography, and his sexual demands made her uncomfortable. Felicia became so anxious, depressed and sick that she considered suicide.
Tom didn’t take any money from Felicia. In the end, the seduction was nothing but a game.
Why targets found the sociopaths enticing
1. Made me feel special
3. Physical appearance
Sociopathic seduction strategies
1. Over-the-top attention
2. Mirroring your image
3. Expressions of love
Red Flags of Love Fraud is now available in the Lovefraud Shop and on Amazon.com. You can order a printed book or e-book.