The Attraction Cocktail, Part 2 – Dominance and Competitiveness

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Last time we talked about the first two ingredients of the Attraction Cocktail – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion. The final main component of the Attraction Cocktail is Dominance and then, just a splash of Competitiveness.

Now, Dominance! This is another one that, at first thought, you might say, “What, who me? I am surely not dominant!” But with a closer look, you will see that your dominance looks like leadership. It looks like a woman in charge. It’s not the kind of dominance that over powers. It is the kind that takes charge. Your dominance does put you in control without being controlling. It tells others that you know what you want and will do what you need to do to get it, even if it means you want a relationship with a certain exciting man.

So, there he is – the guy with the magnetic personality who appears as if he “owns” the room! You decide to go for it. He says, “Bring it on!”

His dominance means that you are a challenge. Two “powerful” people means there is energy. This energy is ultimately moving in different directions, but, nonetheless, it’s energy. His dominance means he wants to have power over you. His power is the kind that is controlling but when you first get together it may look like “a man who knows what he wants” and knows how to get it. He will use his dominance to appear as if he is your equal. He will move in your circles and appear to be everything you need. And he will do it with swagger.

But soon his dominance and need to control will become “power over”. And herein lies the risk. Your dominance is not the same as his and when that difference becomes undeniably different, you may already be hooked. You may spend the middle to later part of the relationship fighting for your own.

You may have seen his dominance as “sameness” and felt comforted (thinking that you are always in control and it is finally nice to have someone match you) but that feeling soon fades. By the time it does, you can’t break free. And herein lies the benefit. Your dominance will be the power that, in the end, does free you. You will learn how he controls you, you will learn his patterns and with that information you will gain control and dominance – the kind of control and dominance that will set you free.

So, if this cocktail isn’t strong enough to convince you of the power of his pathology, your risk to it, and the benefit it offers you, let’s add a splash of Competiveness. It is one of the final traits that you both have in common and that you both have in high amounts so it makes sense that it adds to the power of the initial attraction.

Let’s get real! You probably like a good fight. Not one with someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or with someone who is not equally matched to your intelligence, but a fight that helps you gain an edge – a smarter outlook, a challenge to build your depth of knowledge. You would not back down if someone came at you with inaccurate information.

You have a need to make things right, to get the facts and share the facts. Additionally, you will not tolerate being accused of untruths or called inappropriate names. If you think you are not competitive, ask yourself how you would react if someone called you a name or lied about you. I bet you would not back down to that. Well, guess what! He does not like to back down either.

He likes a challenge so he is looking for someone who will tangle with him. This type of emotional tangle is just what he loves. He loves to engage in emotional wrangling. It feeds his need for power. When he can control you emotionally he knows that you are invested in the relationship. And herein lies the risk. This relationship is going to feel like a challenge to both of you in the beginning.

To you, a less passive man probably seems boring. Furthermore, you are not afraid to battle it out and you surely do not want him to “get one over” on you. So this is a great reason to stay and fight. You also might find it a challenge to stay in the relationship and “bust” him doing something, staying until you find the evidence or staying until you find out he’s NOT doing what you think he is.

Your competitiveness means that you are willing and able to battle it out in court. You will go head to head with him and that is just what he wants. And herein lies the benefit. Once you know who he is, you will fight like hell to get out. You will realize that you have won because he no longer has the power that comes from your lack of awareness. More importantly, being competitive helped you build a great life.

You fought for things that were important to you – an education, a great career. It helped you to challenge others and yourself to always be the best and find the best in others. It helped you make good decisions and take a pro-active approach to almost everything.

The best thing about being competitive is that you are often successful. The reason you are successful is because part of competition is knowing when you have been beaten – knowing when to cut your losses and move on to a challenge you can win. It is not about being so headstrong that you stay and fight just to be able to say “I win”. Your competitiveness, combined with all the other traits you possess, leads to more than a need to win. Your traits lead to success.

Because he is sicker than you are smart, you will never “win” with him. So all of your book smarts and street smarts and relationship smarts will not out smart his ability to psychologically damage you. Prolonged exposure leads to inevitable harm. Once you know this the battle is over.

By the end of the relationship, you may not even feel competitive anymore. He has taken it from you. The energy, fire and gusto that you once had may seem gone. But spend some time away. Talk with your girlfriends or family about it. Your fire will return. Your brain will tell you to put down the sword and walk away from the emotional vampire; walk away from the battle that you cannot win. Ultimately, and in the end, this is where the similarity stops and the pathology begins.

Someone who is pathological does not want someone like themselves. Ultimately they know that they lack certain things other people have and they are on a never ending search to get those things. And, because they will never get or be those things, they will use your emotions to control you…so they can fill their empty cup.

So when you ask yourself, “Why me?” the answer is clear. Because you have what he wants. And when you ask yourself, “Why did I stay?” the answer is because you posses traits that meet his needs and he used them to control you. And when you ask yourself, “How do I begin to heal?” the answer is by using all of your traits as powerful healing tools, tools that have helped you create a big, full life in every other area of your life.

When it comes to the traits contained in the Attraction Cocktail you may be asking, “How do I make sure I never get caught up by another psychopath again?”

My suggestion is to use these traits and take the Joyce Brown approach to life. Accept that you are an extraverted, excitement-seeking, dominant, competitive woman. Once you own that, and claim (or re-claim) the benefits, you will find new ways to feed that part of you.

Remember, these are NOT deficits! They are overflowing traits you possess so you must use them. You must do it carefully and cautiously, but you must use them.

Think outside the box. These are just a few suggestions that will feed your need to be extraverted, do exciting things, be a leader and engage with others:

  • Find a hobby. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Take up a political cause or join a social action group.
  • Work with a non-profit agency on an issue close to your heart.
  • Start a club or group focused on a topic, issue, or hobby you enjoy.
  • Learn to ride a motorcycle or take up waterskiing (go big or go home, right?)

Most importantly, you will be using your traits in a way that YOU can control. If you are carefully and thoughtfully aware of who you are and what you need, no one can come along and take that away from you. As Joyce said, “When you aren’t living a big enough life, any psychopath will do.”

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 1 – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion

“People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise” – Molière

 You might be asking yourself “Why me?” Why did you get to be the one to end up in this crazy relationship? What did you do wrong to land THIS guy? The answer begins with what could be called the “Attraction Cocktail”.

There is this powerful potion that has brought the two of you together. This potion consists of the first three Super Traits identified in Sandra’s research:

Excitement Seeking   Extraversion   Dominance

These are a few of the rare traits that you both posses in high amounts. In your cup and in his cup these traits are spilling over. Remember you both posses these at the high end of the trait cut off at 85-95%. Most average people would not test that high in these traits. So, what we have are two high excitement seekers who are both extraverts, looking for a win. Sounds like a recipe for inevitable harm to me – but not immediate harm!

First, and almost within minutes, there is fire and passion, understanding and power, lust and energy. There is electricity – maybe in a way that you have never felt before. While some people might see him as “fake” and “overkill”, you see him as passionate and understanding. In the very early stages of a relationship these traits lead you from one “fun” experience to another. For him, though, it’s about building your trust and testing your boundaries.

Let’s look at each trait on its own because each ingredient offers its own unique characteristics that contribute to the potion.

I am guessing that some of you may be saying, “I’m not an Excitement-Seeker. I do not like to jump out of planes!” But being an excitement seeker is a little more (or less) than that. It can mean that you like to take risks – personal risks, financial risks, professional risks.

It can be that thing that creates in you the desire to go out on a limb, maybe go to the nightclub on your own or sign up on a dating site or go on a blind date. These are not the things that someone who desires boredom would do. It is the excitement you seek in your hobbies…maybe cycling, hiking or traveling. It is the excitement that you get from going to a great job every day – a career that drives you to go for it!

You’re the person who says “Yes!” to new experiences and “Sure!” to risky (yet really cool and innovative) opportunities. It’s that little something inside of you. Think about it. That thing that says “I’ll give it a try, why not?”

So, let’s mix the cocktail. Here you are, with all this desire to “seek excitement” and here he comes, looking for some excitement too! Pow! It’s on! He loves to go, get out there, take risks with no regard for others. His risks are more about feeding his energy. This energy is part of his pathology. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just overwhelms you…they chat you up…with frenetic energy that just doesn’t stop! That’s the energy of a psychopath that must be fed with exciting things.

He’s game for anything! In fact, you may have noticed that if you mention a hobby, it probably is his hobby too! (Later, you find out that he never really liked to do that – it was just part of his hook). He probably loves to travel – if you do; he loves to bike – if you do; he loves to go out with friends – if you do; he loves art – if you do; he loves to go camping – if you do; he loves to go boating – if you do.

Whatever he can do that you do, he’ll do it. Isn’t that exciting? And herein lies the risk: When two excitement-seekers meet, it is a chance to join.

For you it is a chance to build trust; for him a chance to take trust. For you it is a chance to create a bond; for him a chance to build an attachment. For you a chance to feel a connection – someone finally understands you; for him a chance to make you think that he is just like you and that he understands.

Your need for excitement means that you take risky chances. Sometimes those risks do not pay off. You (and everyone else in the world) is also more likely to go along with others when you are in a heightened state of excitement. And herein lies the benefit: Because you are an excitement seeker you will be able to see quickly that he is not “all that and a bag of chips”.

Inevitably, once the relationship progresses, it will become clear that his excitement-seeking fades and the façade he built to trap you will fall to pieces. He bores easily – not because you are boring, but because he cannot sustain the emotional energy that it takes to remain in the relationship. He bores because he cannot do the emotional work to remain committed and he does not have the depth to go where you can go.

You can turn your wonderful, exciting experiences into real emotional, energy-building bonds, and forging strength and character for yourself. He has used the opportunity to manipulate you into being under his control. When he is done with that task, he must find someone else to fuel his need for excitement.

What about the ingredient of Extraversion? You might see in yourself a person who openly engages in conversation, someone who is curious about others, and often is impulsive in social situations. You might be the person who leads in a group or offers to help out more often than others. You are willing to tell your story, share your thoughts, and contribute. Your extraversion wrapped up with excitement-seeking makes for a pretty great package – life of the party even.

So, mixing it up in the room is another extravert. He has no problem going up to complete strangers (how exciting!) and introducing himself and then telling you his life story (or whatever story he thinks you want to hear). He is “owning” the room with so much confidence and bravado it’s almost sexy. He displays expertise to the point he is grandiose – a LOT grandiose!

His extraversion is the mask…the mask that makes you think it’s safe. It’s the mask that convinces you he is what you want him to be. (They are really good at this part – creating that mask of normalcy.)

Extraversion is a great trait to have but herein lies the risk. Your extraversion lets him know that you might play his game. Your extraversion means you will do the exciting things he likes to do. It also means that you are curious and probably would not turn down an offer for fun or the offer to try something new…and he might be just that, in the beginning.

You are someone who likes to get out and meet people and the guy who is “owning” the room is just the guy for you. But there is one thing about extraversion that makes you different from him! That is your ability to truly bond with others. And herein lies the benefit. You must become truly bonded with someone to maintain a relationship.

Extraversion may bring you two together but you need mutual understanding, respect, and unconditional love. This is not what he provides in the long run. It will become clear at some point that his extraversion was a rue to hook you. His mask will fall and you will see that he is really a lonely, empty person who transforms to meet the needs of those around him. You will begin to use your extraversion as a way to break free of him.

When the dynamics of the relationship become clear you will seek out help. You will find people around you who can support you. Your curiosity will lead you to answers and help. You will not fear talking to others even if they don’t really understand. You will keep trying until you find what you need.

Next time we’ll talk about the remaining elements of the Attraction Cocktail – Dominance and Competitiveness – and finding new ways to feed your Attraction Cocktail ingredients.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


Feeling Sentimental?

Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, your birthday, your anniversary, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a graduation … feeling sentimental? I bet you are! You might be feeling a bit of tenderness, compassion, joy, sadness, anger?? It doesn’t take much. Just the idea of these holidays or events can elicit a wave of emotion.

Sentimentality is a feeling. That’s it. It is you, responding to a memory. Feeling sentimental is not the memory but the feeling that it elicits. That is important to understand. Pathologicals want you to feel. When you feel, they are in control.

Herein lies the risk: He used your sentimentality against you. Think about how many times you were in a disagreement and he brought you roses. In that moment, your emotion instantly shifted away from his offense and on to the first time he brought you roses. He might have manipulated your sentimentality when he talked about your children—their births, their accomplishments, their struggles. In those moments, your attention turned away from his betrayal or lack of parenting and towards the idea of “family” and the bond that was crafted. He would send loving cards to you while he was wooing someone else. He used your sentimentality as a distraction. When you were overwhelmed with the feeling of sentimentality, you certainly struggled with staying angry or confused or disgusted.

Additionally, when the cognitive dissonance of “he’s good/he’s bad” is in full swing, this strategy of sentimentality manipulation is one of the things that pulls you back to his side. It’s the part of the relationship that you buy into with so much intensity. You have 5, 10, even 20 years of memories that he can draw on to pull you back to him. Each one of those memories is a point of manipulation on its own … but then he uses them over and over again to reinforce his mask. And you thought it was just another Christmas!!!

Herein lies the benefit: Let’s face it—it is healthy to feel sentimental. Your sentimentality is a reminder that you can bond, in a healthy, emotional and equally connected way. That’s good news. You also have the ability to rationally reflect on the reality of those dates. If you can step back and be an observer of those days, you can see the pathology. Being an observer means that you look past how you felt to see what you saw. When you look back at the facts, the pieces come together. You see the flowers he brought with the shifty smile as if he got one over on you. You see the pretty birthday jewelry followed by the night he didn’t come home. You see the holiday dinner that included insults, projection and persecution. By the time the relationship ended, your sentimentality had been drained. He kept you spinning with the emotions of sentimentality so much that now … when it’s over, you probably want to run and hide as these dates approach. It’s this disdain and disgust that contributed to you leaving. Again, it’s a good thing—that is the benefit. It was part of your awareness process that leads to a full awakening. As hard as it is to look back at those dates, it is powerful to know that SEEING the pathology is what freed you from it. And once you saw it, you left.

Ultimately, if sentimentality is just a feeling, then the dates are just dates. He doesn’t own them—you do. They are just days in the past, events in time in which you were manipulated into believing the picture he painted. Once you begin to separate those days from the new dates ahead, healing can be enhanced. Easter this year will look nothing like Easter 2009 looked. Your birthday this year will look nothing like your birthday did in 2002. This year, this date, this event—you will be in control. You will be in the place you want to be, with the people you want to be around, accepting and giving gifts of your choosing in a fully present and genuine way. No manipulation, no gaslighting, no devaluing, no cognitive dissonance.

Don’t ever run away from your emotions. They are powerful tools; you need them and should treasure them. They do help us give meaning to every moment, every event, every day. They are a part of a very valuable human experience. Together with rational thoughts, reflection and perspective, emotions can create strength in you like you have never known. This year, be strong. Take on each event with a new sense of vigor and excitement. Take your days back—make new memories. The further you get from pathology, the more your mind will become filled with a genuine feeling of sentimentality. Each year that passes you can look back at the events that happened with tenderness and joy—because it was the year you ROCKED IT!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).


My Cup is Empty… Can You Help Me Out?

A pathological relationship might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competitiveness, but soon it evolves into something more… it requires something more to feed it. What a pathological relationship must have is Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion.

I am sure you are thinking these are not really the things you might think of when you think of pathology, but that makes them all the more needed. Keep in mind that a pathological’s ‘cup’ is empty… they lack a sense of cooperation, helpfulness and compassion. So, in order to fill their needs, they MUST find someone who possesses these traits.

It is important to understand the mask a pathological wears. They exist in two distinct ways… the outside perception that they present, and the dark, empty underside of who they really are. As they move through life, they learn to compensate for their deficiencies. One way to compensate is by using what others have and presenting it as their own.


One of the traits they often cling to is cooperation. They need you to be cooperative. They need you to play along. They are running a scam… and without your cooperation it just won’t work.

Herein lies the risk: You are optimistic, and supportive; you are willing to go the extra mile to make things work and, if there is a problem, you are part of the ‘fix-it’ team. Make no doubt about it—you go along with the program. It’s true… the program that is presented is pretty darn convincing… but still, it’s your high degree of cooperation that allows you to be the perfect partner for pathology.

In our brain, a cooperative mind means we will stay stuck in the deceit. We will continue to participate in the ‘he’s good/he’s bad’ scenario. As long as we stay there, we cannot get out. The good news is that, once you listen to the facts and make a decision about what you are experiencing, it is hard to keep playing. This is the beginning of the end of the relationship.

Herein lies the benefit:  Just as quickly and as committed as you are to cooperate, you will be out… just as fast. You are no sucker. Because of who you are, there will be no looking back once you see his two sides… once you know you are dealing with someone who is pathological.  Acknowledging this—deeply and honestly acknowledging this—makes all the difference for you. Making the decision to leave and get out is one thing… getting the intrusive thoughts to stop is another.

As a result of his mask—his presentation of two sides—you will continue to struggle with questioning yourself and what you experienced. Your cooperative mind will want to go along with the program when your ‘fact-finding’ mind tells you something completely different. The benefit here is that you have the choice to cooperate—to cooperate with the facts.

If you can lean on those around you (who are probably telling you he is no good, he’s dangerous, he’s all wrong for you) and the facts as they are presented (he lied to you, stole from you, manipulated you), you will have a much better chance at emotional healing… healing that will last long after you have had no contact.


The next trait a pathological relationship requires is helpfulness. This goes hand in hand with cooperation. You are one helpful person. A pathological needs that too. He needs to know that you will do what you need to do to get the job done. He also needs to know you will stand by him when times get tough.

See, the program he’s running is one big con… so sometimes others challenge him. These challenges can be direct or indirect. They can come from family (yours or his), from co-workers, from friends or acquaintances. No matter the direction, he needs to know that you will be right there beside him… to stand up for him. You, after all, are just trying to help. He plays the victim and you, the rescuer. It is one of the dynamics that keeps you locked in.

Herein lies the risk: You are eager and willing to get the job done… be the person to provide assistance and guidance. You want to make things right… set things straight. He needs a person who will make his mask seem true… someone to vouch for him. Sometimes, you are the person who helps seal the deal… make his con appear real. How could he be lying about who he is with you on his arm?

Herein lies the benefit: You are not going to help someone con others. The gig will be up when you really see him for who he is. You can then use your helpfulness to make sure no one else gets hurt. In turn, you are helping yourself.

You are the kind of person who will be just as strong in aligning against him as you were aligning with him. You will help yourself too… you are the kind of woman who will seek out what you need. You will search the Internet until you find answers and when you do… you will apply the skills needed to disengage and begin healing.

There are a couple of ways to address these traits so that they do not become a risk but are more of a benefit. Your cooperation was tested early on in the relationship. You may have been asked to do things or led to do things just to see if you would follow through. Take a moment and think about the early stage of your relationship. Did you complete tasks that were outside of your personal boundaries… late night meetings, compromising sexual requests, unannounced visits, requests for money?

Take a moment and list these requests or ‘experience-title’ them, ‘Red Flags-Boundary Breakers.’ These represent ways in which your cooperation and helpfulness was ‘overflowing’ from your own cup. Your desire to cooperate and be helpful was greater than your desire to stay true to who you are.

As you begin to heal you can use this list as a reminder of where your boundaries are… give yourself a chance to firmly instill them so that no other person will be allowed to cross them.

Next week, we will look at the third trait in this trio of Super Traits: Compassion.

As we near the holiday season, remind yourself… these are your traits—your gifts—and they should not be handed out to just anyone. Tie them up with a bow and keep them to yourself!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)


I’m Screaming- Are You Listening?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Client Services

“No matter how confused, self-doubting, or ambivalent we are about what’s happening in our interactions with other people, we can never entirely silence the inner voice that always tells us the truth. We may not like the sound of the truth, and we often let it murmur just outside our consciousness, not stopping long enough to listen. But when we pay attention to it, it leads us toward wisdom, health, and clarity. That voice is the guardian of our integrity.” ~Susan Forward

We are taught as young girls to be loyal and trust others. It is expected that we would trust those who show us love, compassion, understanding. It is expected that we would be loyal to those who need us, those who provide us nurturing and those to declare us as the one they love. We are “supposed” to value those actions as meaningful and all inclusive of what is deserving of our trust and loyalty. It is only in recent years that our society is beginning to teach us to question those actions. And now, even as we rightfully begin to question those actions many in our society look at that questioning as a radical notion that means we are “neurotic” or “obsessed”. I mean, when someone tells you they love you, and shows you they love you…why even question them. It’s there in black and white…the words, the cards, the flowers, the affection. Isn’t that enough? Some would even say that a woman as independent as you would be lucky to have someone take you on. So what if he stays out…alone…way too late? So what if he views a little pornography? So what if he chides you in public about your accomplishments? So what if he cheated on you once? So what if he makes promise after promise and never keeps them? He says he’s sorry. That’s enough. And through it all you stay. As expected…you stay, you trust and you show loyalty. Because if you question…it is you who will appear questionable…it is you who will appear disloyal…it is you who will be untrustworthy…in his eyes and in society’s.

Herein lies the risk: You stay because you have been taught and told that it is the right thing to do. It is what you “should” do. You should forgive, stick it out, make it work. And a pathological needs that loyalty. He needs you to stay no matter what. He needs you to help make the pathological mask real. If you stay (you-who is loving, caring, compassionate, understanding etc, etc…) then he will be associated with all of those things and his façade is made stronger. You were taught to trust him from the very beginning…from the first tiny betrayal (his lateness to a date, his odd midnight requests, his sexual fantasies that pushed your boundaries) he wanted to see how far you would go and from there he would know that he could trust you. He balanced all of these betrayals with his confessions of love, dreams for the future…a false sense of safety.

But herein lies YOUR benefit: You can never really silence that inner voice. No matter what we are taught we still have an inner voice…that inner voice that tells us what is right and wrong, what is good and what is bad. Some might call it a moral compass…leading to integrity. It’s there all along, sometimes screaming the truth. In one moment, the voice is clear and loud and unavoidable. Your ability to hear your inner voice is usually preceded by a particularly disturbing event or maybe a period of no contact. But when it comes and once it is there you have a hard time silencing it. Your quest for the truth begins and your search to find and document facts is insatiable. At the end of your relationship it is this voice that leads you out. Now, your trust and loyalty turns inward. You begin to trust yourself and be loyal to your needs. And with the veracity that drove you to say…you now work that hard to leave. You now know that the right thing is not always the most socially accepted path or the easy path…but it is the path that is RIGHT FOR YOU. Leaving may go against everything you were taught and everything you are being told but it leads to safety, security, clarity and peace.

You can evaluate your trustworthiness and loyalty by evaluating the balance in your trust. Does your need to be trustworthy take priority over your own needs? Do you trust at the risk of your own self worth, your own value, your own belief in what is right and wrong? Are you loyal in spite of the inability of the other person to be loyal? These are boundary issues. Often times your boundaries were established a long time ago. They could have been established when you were a girl and you were taught lessons of who you could or should trust. They could have been established when your trust was broken over and over again by a loved one…leaving you with unclear rules as to who is safe and who is not. You can rebuild boundaries as an adult. Breaking down the “little girl” beliefs of safety and reminding yourself that as an adult woman you have power. Take some time to write down what you stand for, what you believe in, what you will not sacrifice. You can consider these your new rules…your integrity laid out for you in black and white. As adults we know that boundaries can be pushed, pulled, removed and reinforced. So you can move ahead knowing that strength will come as you test these re-established boundaries and make decisions, consciously and mindfully, about what you stand for and of course, always listening to your inner voice.

Controlled Contact

“The most dangerous thing is illusion.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It really is. Illusion is dangerous. As much as you want to be rid of the horror of a pathological relationship, as much as you want the chaos to end, as much as you try to make the quiet moments a sign of peace, it is all really an illusion. Just because it’s over does not mean that it’s done. In fact, the relationship’s end can often mean the beginning of a new phase: ‘wash, rinse, repeat.’

In many cases you may be facing parallel parenting or endless court battles. The problem is, you are different. You know what you are up against. The truth is, he is not different. You can’t forget that. So how do you manage what is in front of you?

When ‘no contact’ is not possible because of kids or court, you can institute a policy for yourself called ‘controlled contact’—meaning you are in control. You set the rules; you create and hold onto the boundaries. There is no denying that this will be like walking on a tightrope…with ‘gators in the pond below. This is going to be hard. But when you have control, your path will be less challenging, easier to manage. Most importantly, without illusion you will decrease the psychological impact that he has on you.

Controlled contact begins with evaluating how you communicate. You must look at email, text, phone and in person. The first step is to completely eliminate contact in the most ways possible.  So, ask yourself, “Do I need to see him?”, “Do I need to text or talk on the phone with him?”, “Can I limit my contact to email only?” Make a choice to eliminate at least two methods of contact. This means that you will no longer have ANY communication with him via those methods. You will not respond nor will you reach out via those methods.

The second step in controlled contact is to follow some simple communication rules. Begin with limiting the words you use. This means that instead of a lengthy email or text, you limit your words to three or four. You can respond with “OK.” or “Yes.” or “No.” Those are complete sentences, by the way. Next, if you must use more than a couple of words, eliminate all emotional language. You can do this by not using phrases like, “That’s not fair,” “You keep hurting me,” “You just don’t get it.” All of these phrases and those like them convey emotion. This emotional language is just the thing that he needs to hook you… just the thing that will let him know he still has you hooked.

The third step is to be an observer during contact. Stay alert by using linking and labeling.  Linking and labeling is a technique to link the behavior of the Cluster B personality with the label of the behavior—identifying it as projection, gaslighting, crazy-making triangle, etc. For example, pay attention and identify when you see the crazy-making triangle. Listen to his words and the position he speaks from—is it victim, persecutor or rescuer? When you know which role he is speaking from, it will help you to remember that you do not want to be in any of those positions with him… so be the wall. Give him back ‘nothing’. You have to stay outside of the crazy-making triangle because he never will.

The fourth step is to track your success. Write down what works and what doesn’t—when you make a mistake, write it down and don’t do it again. When you do this, you are paying attention to patterns of his reaction to things. This allows you to get your feet back underneath you and to actually be able to predict his responses.

Finally, write down rules for yourself. For example: “When I’m on the phone with him, I will talk to him for no more than 15 minutes.” Another rule might be: “When I talk, I will stay on topic—like the kids’ school issues.” When you set rules for yourself you are taking back your power. Throughout the relationship he controlled the conversations, content and all. Now, you decide.

For you to preserve your mental health you must stay in control when you can. The aftermath of a pathological relationship is not perfect, and it can often leave you feeling like you will never get control back again. But, the truth is, once you rid yourself of the illusion that he will ever be any different, you gain some power back.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)



Compassion is a Funny Thing

Compassion is such an important trait to possess. It implies a caring for others which includes understanding, awareness and identifying with others. It is the acknowledgement that you “get” them. You clearly understand not only who they are but also their pain and hurt. You are the person who feels what others feel. With your compassion you not only feel what others feel but you are compelled to do something to help them. Your compassion is a word of action because you are a person of action. But it is this action that puts your trait over the top.

This is the point in which your compassion spills over…out of your cup and into the cup of someone whose cup may be empty. For someone who is pathological, your compassion is what they need. They do not have compassion for others so they take yours, using it to manipulate and strengthen their mask. They mask the horror of who they are with the fantasy of who you need them to be.

Herein lies the risk: He is just looking for someone to believe his story, and it is usually a really good one. He needs someone to believe that he is the victim and he is worthy of “compassion” and “help” so you will cooperate. Once you listen to his story, your compassion kicks in and you will do everything you can to help him and join the team. Compassion is the feeling which drives your helpfulness and cooperation. Remember, for you, compassion is an action word.

Herein lies the benefit: Once you realize who and what he is, your compassion shifts. It is hard to have compassion for a thief and a liar. It is hard to have compassion for a con-artist and a manipulator. So, when the day finally comes when you see who he is your compassion shifts. Again, your shift of compassion combined with knowledge and resourcefulness leads you to get out of the relationship. You are no longer willing to participate in his charade, no longer willing to feel his pain. But the most interesting part about real compassion is that it will evolve into compassion for his disorder.

The truth is that he has a disorder which will never go away. He is missing something that others have and he has lived his life compensating for his deficiency. The symptom of his disorder is inevitable harm for those who end up in an intimate relationship with him. His disorder is incurable.

After a while, you will learn that the best way to leave the relationship and begin your healing journey is through compassionate disengagement. You will begin to understand how you would never ask a blind person to see anymore than you would ask a pathological to feel. You will accept the unchanging nature of the condition out of compassion…compassion which understands limitations. Compassionate disengagement means you have chosen to see his disorder, understand his disorder and move toward healing the effects of his disorder by leaving. The action of your compassion has now turned toward your healing.

Take a minute to think about the “feelings” you may still have for him. If compassion is still an overwhelming feeling, then take a minute to focus on what you are resisting. Your continued compassion that pulls you toward him is a sign you are not truly convinced as to who and what he is.

Take a minute to list the reality of your relationship. You can list the experiences you have had that led you to believe he was pathological. List the undeniable behaviors or experiences you have witnessed…and even the things he should have done but did not do.  When you compare your list of reality to the behaviors that are typical in pathology, the reality will be undeniable. With the facts comes compassion that his disorder is unchangeable and you can begin to disengage.

The trio of Super Traits – Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion – are traits that tell us what you have to offer others…and yourself. These traits represent your ability to give back, to care, to share and to understand. They are not the kind of traits you would want to “go away”. They are not the kind of traits you would want to stifle. These are the traits which have allowed you to understand others and make things happen. They have allowed you and driven you to make things better. They have created in you a light that others feel and are drawn to.

As with all the other traits that overflow in you, the solution is not to put the light out but to turn it into something manageable…and something not so bright that those who have NO light are filled with YOUR light.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).


How People Regard You—I’m Not What You Say I Am

Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services

~ “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” ~ (François Duc de La Rochefoucauld)

Life isn’t all about appearances. Life is about movement, awareness, insight, change, compassion. Life is about interactions with others. As we move through the world, we move through it together. Whether we accept it or not, we impact each other.

Conversely, we are impacted by others. Our impact on others is often a concern. It is a part of our conscious awareness. We wonder (and sometimes obsess) about how others regard us. Alfred Adler describes this trait of how people regard us in terms of “social interest,” our ability or potential for living “cooperatively and contributing to the good of others.”

We learn to adopt this trait early on, on the playground. As children we are taught to be aware of others’ feelings and to be nice to others. We learn that words do hurt (in spite of the childhood lesson regarding sticks and stones!). We learn lessons like “make a good first impression” and “do unto others …” All of these childhood (and adult) lessons teach us that what others think is important. Now, this isn’t all bad.

Considering we are social creatures, and knowing that we impact each other, it is pretty important to be concerned with how other people regard us. Possessing this trait means that we have compassion and empathy. It means that we want to play well with others. But this trait, like all the others in excess, can be dangerous. It can be especially dangerous for someone who finds their way to a playground with a psychopath.

Herein lies the risk: Psychopaths lack concern for others … real, empathetic concern. They can fake it well, but deep down they move through the world not concerned about their impact on others but about having control and power. So, being concerned about how other people regard them is twisted. It isn’t so much about positive regard as it is negative regard. They want people to believe they are in control, powerful, smart, and likable, etc. They want to cover up who they really are … manipulative, dangerous, callous, superficial, glib, and controlling. (Writing those words reminds me why they HAVE to develop a mask … it would be hard to spend two minutes with someone if we saw those traits.) So, they move through the world, mask firmly in place, covering who they are with what they want you to believe.

For the woman in a relationship with a psychopath, it’s the trait of how people regard you that keeps you stuck. You are concerned with the feelings of others, you are concerned about your impact on other people (and a psychopath will remind you all day about your impact on him!) As long as you believe you are having a negative impact you will stay until your impact becomes positive. Sad part is, it never does.

He knows you need to be seen as kind, compassionate, loyal and honest—and he also knows that you don’t give up. So as long as he can make you believe your impact is negative, then give you a glimmer of hope that he can change, he’s got you. You stay because you must be seen by him and others as having a positive impact, a high concern for how others regard you. This concept works well in all other areas of your life, but with a psychopath it’s the thing that puts you most at risk and the thing that keeps you there.

Herein lies the benefit: When you realize that he cannot change, you’re out. When you fully and completely come to believe that he is only motivated by power and control, you know that it is no longer about what he thinks or how he sees you … in fact, this flips.

You begin to realize that he sees you as a sucker. He has used everything good about you to fill his empty cup. He has taken what is good and right and manipulated it (and you) for his own agenda. You also realize that he is not only hurting you, but he is having a negative impact on others … most likely people you care about. Knowing this becomes your strength. It becomes the fuel to the fire that burns the relationship to ruin. You will not play with others who have no regard. Think about it. Would you allow an employee, client, friend, or your child to manipulate your good nature this way? Not a chance! You’re out! No more playing with a psychopath; time to take your toys and go home.

So, when all is said and done, you have way too much concern for how other people regard you, and in the context of a pathological relationship that is really, really dangerous. So, how do you put a lid on that trait?

First, be concerned about this trait only when it comes to your pathological. Chances are this trait has served you well in other areas of your life, so don’t be overwhelmed with having to “change” everything about you. This trait is appealing to psychopaths, so just put a lid on it in the context of your relationship.

Next, be aware of your thoughts and actions when he persecutes you, when he calls you stupid or crazy, calls you irresponsible and uncaring, attacks your skills as a mother or tells you that you are being “mean”. When he does this, he is seeking to control you through this trait. HE IS CONTROLLING YOU THROUGH YOUR TRAIT.

Allow this thought to come into your awareness and then challenge it. Who is doing this??? A psychopath. Allow the truth to come into your awareness and you will be compelled to accept it. Additionally, with that knowledge, you can counter any thought with a true thought. You might begin to remind yourself that what he says about you is part of his mask, part of the fantasy that he is creating to keep you in the relationship.

Fantasy is not reality. You know who you are – and you are not who he says you are!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).

What Do You Tell Them

By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services

“Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window,
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find.”  ~ Unwritten
by Natasha Bedingfield

“I was in a relationship with a psychopath.”  What an opener, right?  Starting with the harsh truth isn’t always the best way to begin a conversation.  One of the most difficult parts of moving on with your life is figuring out how you are going to tell your story.  The truth doesn’t always come easy.  And let’s face it, the vast majority of people in your life will never understand.  But their lack of understanding does not prevent them from asking what happened to you.  So, you might as well figure out what you are going to tell them.

There are a couple things to consider when deciding what you are going to tell others.  You might be tempted to tell everyone the severity of the manipulation, or the details of every gaslighting incident, or the shame he made you feel for HIS affair.  But this temptation is often driven by your need for validation.  You can temper this desire by validating yourself.  You have to come to accept that he is what he is.  When you fully understand Cluster B, you will know that it is a complicated disorder.  You will know that, really, it is a disorder of social hiding.

Cluster Bs, by nature, do not make themselves known as such.  The disorder is marked by a perfectly placed mask.  This is what they want others to see.  They have worked their whole lives creating that mask.  It was created through a process of learning what works, what can be believed and what is socially acceptable for their environment.  It is pure survival for them—life or death.  It is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will see who they are.  And it certainly is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will understand the two sides.

If they don’t show it, how are others expected to understand it?  Because of this mask, only you might know.  You will know the good and the bad, the sweet and the sour, the lies and the truth.  You saw the behaviors, you heard the contradictions, you felt the fear.  Essentially, you don’t need anyone to tell you that.  And if you believe yourself, the need for validation ends.

Once you have established a pattern of self-validation, you can begin to determine who needs to know what.  First, consider your audience.  Everyone does not need to know everything.  You might want to evaluate who needs to know what.  Your co-worker might not need to know as many details as your sister.  Your boss may not need to know as much as your co-worker.  Your acquaintances may not need to know what your neighbor needs to know.

Each of these groups may have very different experiences of your Cluster B; therefore, proving to them who he is may put you in a defensive position.  That’s the last place you need to be in the recovery process.  So, be honest with yourself about what your Cluster B gave to the people in his life and the people in your life.

Think about telling some people nothing.  What a novel idea—not talking about your trauma.  This strategy can be helpful in keeping your mind in a place of validation and away from defensiveness.

You can maintain recovery thinking by not looking outside of yourself for answers once a traumatic memory has been resolved.  You have done the work; you know what you know, so now use it to validate yourself.

To say nothing can also protect your recovery.  The co-worker who questions, “Why didn’t you leave sooner?” might not need to know all the horrible things that he did which prevented you from leaving.  But worse than that, the co-worker may not need to know that you did not leave because he continued to build a fantasy for you.  That every time you finally decided to leave, he pulled you back in with roses, a romantic getaway or a sentimental recounting of your first Christmas together.

If you decide to launch into positive memories with your co-workers… you are re-traumatizing yourself. You have now taken the leap back into cognitive dissonance just to explain to someone else what you already understand.  What if you just said to your co-worker, “I left when I was ready to leave and I’m glad he’s gone.  How was your weekend?”

Once you’ve determined who to tell what, you can then begin to craft the language that you will use.  Some people can understand the clinical words and explanation.  These are the people who can understand what it means to be with a psychopath—someone who might read some of the books you’ve read or read an article about pathological relationships.

Other people may need more common phrases like, “I was in a dangerous relationship,” or “I was psychologically manipulated.”  Still others may respond to the use of a metaphor.  Sometimes it helps just to say, “He’s like a little child,” or “He’s like a bad case of the flu … I just can’t shake him.”

There is never really a script that can convey what you should say or even could say to help those around you understand.  Truth be told, most won’t ever understand.  They can’t validate you.  Sometimes it’s best to just find one person who might get it, or at the very least, is willing to listen when you need to talk.  The rest of the time, the focus doesn’t have to be on telling your story, but rather, living your life.

As singer Natasha Bedingfield says—your story is “unwritten.”  In every moment you decide what to say and what NOT to say.  There are so many layers and intricacies to a pathological relationship.  And each moment, each experience that you had, was traumatic.

It is crucial that you manage the story you tell.  With a blank page before you at each new opportunity to speak about what happened, remind yourself that speaking the words represents your power.  That should not be considered lightly, and with each word that leaves your mouth, you are risking your power.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)


Want to Buy Me Dinner?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

If you owe me dinner—raise your hand.  For the last several years I’ve been making bets with women all over the country.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “So, we know that once you are in the speed dial, you’ll always be in the speed dial.  Cluster Bs don’t know how to do closure and he will contact you again.  Not because of who you are but because of who he is.”

Survivor: “But, you don’t understand. He’s really pissed. I humiliated him in court. He hates me, calls me all kind of names to the kids. Really.”

Me: “Ok … so, wanna buy me dinner in (enter your city here) when I come to town if he contacts you?”

Survivor: “Sure, because it will never happen.”

And, about two months later, or six weeks later, or eight months later, the text comes from him.

Survivor: “OMG, he texted me and called me ‘baby’ and said he missed being at home.”

Me: “I know.”

What I know is that Cluster Bs don’t/can’t do closure.  They don’t/can’t end a ‘relationship’ because they are not emotionally intelligent enough.  They lack the skills needed to end a ‘relationship’.

Closure is what we typically hope for at the end of a healthy relationship. The elements of closure for a healthy relationship require two people to agree the relationship as it is should end, there should be a mutual understanding of the reason (this could come in the form of a nice talk or argument ending in resolution), and there is an expressing of emotion that matches the behavior of ending a relationship. You might see a range of emotions, an expression of hurt and empathy and an end to the behaviors related to being a couple. Doesn’t this seem like the complete opposite of what you see when a pathological love relationship is over?

Closure is a foreign concept to a Cluster B. It represents everything they are unable to do. They cannot behave in a way that matches what they say. So, when they say it’s over—they don’t leave. They cannot understand your emotions or the impact of their behavior on you, so when they say, “I’m sorry,” they repeat the same bad behavior again because they haven’t done anything wrong in their mind.

They can use the words of emotion but don’t feel it like you and I do. All of the elements of relationship closure require an understanding of the abstract nature of emotional words like ‘love’, ‘sorry’, ‘remorse’, ‘frustration’, ‘hope’, ‘trust’, ‘intimate’, ‘appreciated’, etc. … They do not have the ability to read past the word to its deeper interpersonal meaning. They can’t see how the word moves us or how the word is not just one word, but often made up of many concepts that are represented by one word. This lack of understanding of the abstract nature of our emotional language is part of the neurology of Cluster B disorders.

Without the ability to give closure, they don’t leave. What remains is your need to get closure.  And it is that mismatched ending that tortures you—your expectation of closure and his inability to give it. The circle is set in motion when he never goes away and you keep seeking closure.  Round and round it goes until you accept his inabilities. Only then can you end some of the pain of the break-up. When you begin to accept his inabilities, you can then begin to give yourself the gift of closure, because—as we have already established—he cannot give it to you.

He will continue to reach out for many reasons. This is part of the disorder—an underlying neurological part of the disorder. He can’t do endings. But on the surface those reasons can be varied. He might get bored down the road.  In between relationships he often seeks excitement (game playing) so he pulls out the Rolodex. You are in it because he knows that he has controlled you before and that you have ‘played’. Remember, he is not a good learner of ‘failure’, he just knows you played.

Another reason is primary needs. He gets his needs met through control, so if he needs sex, shelter, or a cover, he will turn to those who have provided it in the past. Finally, it may be ‘just for fun’… he wants what he wants when he wants it. He is impulsive and cunning at the same time; he has poor behavioral controls and a need for stimulation. This means that he is coming for anyone who can offer what he needs—without regard for their safety or well-being.

Coming to know what he can’t do, what he is incapable of and truly believing it, is the way out.  It means that each time your mind brings a thought like, “he said he loves me,” or “he keeps coming back, so he must be sorry,” or “if I just love him more, he will do better”—you must challenge with knowing he is a Cluster B.

You really have no impact on WHO he is. And the key to challenging these thoughts is not having a conversation with yourself about the ‘why’.  You’ve read over and over again the answer to the why. The researchers, neuroscientists and The Institute have answered that ‘why’ question so you don’t have to anymore. It is what it is.  When the thought comes via question—answer it. When the thought comes as a statement— respond to it—“Because he’s a Cluster B.”

You don’t have to make that dinner bet with me or anyone else. You can accept that he will come to hook you again. Knowing that he will re-contact allows you to remain clear-minded. It allows you to ‘predict’ his behavior. His disorder is marked by certain patterns that are predictable and this is one of them.

However, if you live in a really cool town, somewhere that has a great restaurant, let me know— I’m thinking about trekking cross-country to collect my bets.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


What Will You Do

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

In May, 2012, Vicki Bolling lay dying in her front yard, shot three times by her husband. The local news reports said that the death of Ms. Bolling was no surprise to her sons. According to news accounts, her sons reported that she suffered years of physical and emotional abuse that included threats, manipulation and intimidation. She was married for 30 years. Her son, John Stevenson, was quoted as saying “She is the only one in the world who could love a monster.” (Tampa Bay Times, May 10, 2012)

We know that she is not the only one…we know that loving a “monster” is possible. For women who love psychopaths, love and monster often exist in the same thought. The problem is, someone who has never been in the midst of this level of psychological trauma may not understand…they don’t understand why women stay…why women don’t see how bad he is. This lack of understanding of the power of pathology is killing women.

Domestic homicide is preventable. The mission of the Fatality Review Committee in Pinellas County, Florida is to convey that message. I am a member of that Committee and it is their responsibility to bring to the table members of the community who share a vested interest in uncovering patterns related to local domestic homicides. In the last 12+ years, the team has reviewed well over 100 cases. Cases are reviewed only after they have been finalized in the criminal justice system.

Domestic homicide, both locally and nationally, does not occur in a vacuum…there are warning signs and, in a community, there are trends. Our report, published in May 2012, outlines the seven trends in our community for domestic homicides.

  1. In 89% of cases there had been no contact with the local domestic violence center. Domestic homicide is preventable when victims reach out to domestic violence centers for safety and resources.
  1. In 89% of the cases there had been no referral to a batterer intervention program. Domestic homicide is preventable when perpetrators connect with batterer intervention programs and their underlying behaviors and beliefs are addressed.
  1. In 88% of cases there was a male perpetrator and a female victim. Domestic homicide is preventable when our society shifts to the belief that all people are of equal value and control over others is no longer the standard.
  1. In 85% of cases there was no injunction for protection filed. Domestic homicide is preventable when victims are encouraged to file injunctions for protection and have access to information and safety planning to assist in the process of leaving.
  1. In 76% of cases substance abuse was a contributing factor. Domestic homicide is preventable when those who have a substance abuse problem are assessed for issues related to violence, both perpetrators and victims.
  1. In 68% of the cases the perpetrator had a prior criminal history. Domestic homicide is preventable when criminal history is identified as a pattern of behavior and the information is made openly available to victims and during domestic violence court hearings.
  1. In 69% of the cases friends, family, coworkers and/or neighbors were aware of previous violence. Domestic homicide is preventable when everyone in the community takes a stand against violence; stop asking why she doesn’t leave and start asking what you can do to help her leave.

These trends mean something. A “trend” refers to the idea or awareness of repeated, connected events. It’s not a black and white predictor but rather a clue to a potential. Trends are used in many areas of our lives. Many follow financial trends or housing market trends; some look at trends related to medical issues and even trends in our environment. Those people who use trends take advantage of facts and information found in the reality of our lives…trends don’t rely on the maybes of the past but rather the truth that exists in the past.

What is powerful about trends is their ability to provide safeguards as well as hope. Trends help us connect missing pieces to prevent poor choices and they help us highlight information that will lead to improved choices. If we are open to it, they translate into the framework for prevention.

Prevention in the area of domestic homicide is risky. The risk comes because of the severity of getting it right or getting it wrong…human life is at stake. But I believe we must move through the risk. By “move through” I mean acknowledge it…learn from it and then see what follows. So, beyond acknowledging the risk lies a focus on prevention.

The trends that have come from our local review of domestic homicide highlight many areas that need more focus. The realities of these trends are not unlike acknowledging the realities of pathology. Identifying patterns of behavior in one person and accepting the reality of who they are can help prevent continued pain. We must begin to call it as it is…we must pay attention to the facts and the patterns of behavior.

So, what will you do? I invite you to be an observer! Begin to pay attention to the people around you. As you observe the behavior of others, do so without judgment…without including your “opinion” about who they are…leave out the morals that might have been handed to you or the input of society that doesn’t fit for you. Observe the behavior as it is…look for patterns… and when you uncover a pattern that violates who you are…or violates the boundaries of someone you love….do something.

As part of the mission of the Institute, we ask you to spread the word about the power and impact of pathology. Share this report with those in your community who are invested in saving lives. Talk to them about the trends and patterns and about pathology. Domestic Homicide Fatality Review Teams are active in many states and communities…what can you contribute to the conversation? If your community is not talking about dangerous relationships then you can be the start…do something.

Finally, if you are experiencing physical and psychological abuse, please consider creating an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit. To learn more, visit

You can find the full report Preventable: A Review of Domestic Fatalities in Pinellas County, Florida online at

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


Moving Day – Time to Lighten Your Load

There comes a time when carrying around too much stuff becomes unbearable. You’ve dragged other peoples stuff through the joy and the muck of your life because you felt obligated. You’ve believed that if you carried it, they would move on, get out of your way, change. Well, that load gets heavy and as you carry other peoples stuff I am guessing that you have started to realize that you can’t get them out of your way.

It is one thing to carry someone’s stuff – their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and pains. This “stuff” and your choice to pick it up is a part of who you are. It certainly needs to be managed. A big piece of recovery from pathological relationships is learning that you have a choice regarding what you pick up from others. Psychopaths don’t give you a choice. Recovery also means that you understand that the “stuff” he threw at you – his thoughts, opinions, beliefs and pain – are tools he used to manipulate you. As you move through recovery, you learn to drop these and dismiss them as untrue and invalid.

There are a lot of reasons to get rid of his stuff. First and foremost, his stuff is triggering. A lot of women ask me about how long their recovery will take. There are many factors that play into that answer. Unfortunately, the thoughts, opinions, beliefs and pain that he injected into you are deeply rooted. The work on those is long and hard. But one reason that recovery can drag on is because you are triggered by the “things” that he left behind. Because of the way the brain processes a trauma, the things he left behind can be a big part of why you may be struggling to get better.

When trauma happens, when the psychological manipulation takes hold, the pieces of the experiences shatter into your mind in a thousand pieces. Each part of the traumatic experience lands in a place in your mind and it may not be the right place. The random pieces of the memory, like the tree you were sitting near when he proposed and then used your money to buy the ring, becomes a trigger. Trees take on a whole new meaning. You feel anxious when walking by the sofa in the den of your own home because you had sex with him on that sofa after he was missing for three days. These things have been assigned meaning – the sofa, the tree, the ring – all now make you feel a certain way. Often those feelings are uncomfortable and certainly do not match with what those items are. Trees should not make us angry and sofas should not make us anxious. Trauma can do that. It turns ordinary things into sources of discomfort.

The solution is to get rid of the items that are his or that are connected to him. Getting rid of “things” is not the only strategy you should use to ease your trauma symptoms but it can be one in your tool box. If the “thing” is causing you emotional pain and it’s possible to get rid of it, then please do. I invite you to let go of him and his things. Stop trying to carry around what has become too heavy for you.

When your load is lighter, there is room and space for healing. When your brain is not triggered every minute of every day – just from sitting on your own living room couch – your brain can get quiet. A quiet brain is a working brain and healing can take place.

So what will you remove from your home today?

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


The Gift of Time-Managing the Pace of a New Relationship

 “Time ripens all things; with time all things are revealed; time is the father of truth.” ~Francois Rabelais

There is one task in dating after a pathological relationship: to discern pathology from non-pathology before you are hurt. In order to achieve this task, you must be prepared to buy yourself some time. Pathology is not decided by one event– not one lie, not one affair, or not one nasty fight. Pathology is discerned over time by watching for a pattern of behaviors. Your experience with one pathological will help you know the behaviors and pattern; however, if you do not give yourself time, you will NOT see it.

The very first thing that happens in a pathological relationship is that you are overwhelmed. A pathological often moves fast and hard. They love-bomb, they challenge your “no’s,” they show up unannounced, they come along just because, or after you tell them that you have plans with friends they send text after text. When you tell them you’d like to see them Sunday instead of Saturday, they send flowers on Saturday letting you know you are missed. While you are at work they send emails, call, or even show up.

They are beginning the process of control with each one of these events being part of a pattern that serves to overwhelm and manipulate you. You perceive the attention as loving, sensitive and compassionate or it may even be something you have not felt before. You hear the talk in your head that says “he must really care about me because he wants to share every moment with me.”

The problem with pathology is that this intensity in the early phase takes away your ability to “feel” the danger. The intensity blinds you making it nearly impossible to see the boundary violations, see the tests that you are being put through, see that the acts of “love” are really fantasy development. What I hear most about this early phase is feeling fear and excitement at the same time. But what inevitably happens is that the fear is squashed by excitement. He pulls you in with flowers and scares you with a boundary violation. As you begin to question the violation, he sends a sweet text message so the fear fades quickly.

The solution is giving yourself the gift of time. Slowing down in a relationship allows both the fear and excitement to be sensed. If the relationship is built on fear, you need to know that. If the relationship is built on excitement, you need to know that too. Our feelings are a tool…a warning sign. They let us know when something good is happening and when we are in danger. You need to feel the fear so that you can decide how to act. But, if you are moving so fast that you cannot feel these emotions, you will miss the warning signs.

Time will reveal the truth. Not only will going slow help you to feel the danger if it is there, time will allow the patterns of behavior to reveal themselves. For pathologicals with good masks, this may take a while for them to slip. Your task is to put the pieces together and when you see who he is, believe it and do something about it. It might not be one lie, but two or three is a pattern. It might not be one boundary violation, but two or three is a pattern.

In this day and age, slowing down is not really part of our lives. We move fast today. Technology makes things so easy and allows for quick, direct (sometimes even intense) communication. We are often under pressure to move fast in relationships, having put off “love” for career. So the task of slowing down requires that you look at how we date today.

  • Technology: Focus on limiting the amount of texts and emails that you send while in the early stage dating. Limit texts or emails to once a day or less and limit content to setting up dates or quick check in. Leave real conversation for the face to face meetings. Take a look at your facebook friends and consider not adding a new friend until they are an actual friend. Adding a person that you have not even met in person or who you have had one dinner date with might not be the best choice. When using online dating sites keep emails simple, straight forward and of a non-intimate nature.
  • Contact: Consider dating once a week. Leave Fridays and Saturdays for a traditional date night and hold firm to your boundary. Even if you are not mutually free on those days for two or three weeks, you just bought yourself some time. Hold firm to boundaries regarding when you are available. If you have plans with friends or family, do not cave when the pressure comes to let him participate.
  • Time: Be vigilant about how long you spend with one person in early stage dating. Allow yourself two or maybe three hours for first, second and third dates. This would include a dinner date, an outdoor activity date, or a group date. Keep phone calls short and pleasant. Again, leave real conversation for face to face meetings.
  • Relationships: You can slow things down by keeping your early stage date just that, a date. He does not need to meet the kids, the parents or any other close family. The process of bringing a new person into your intimate circle only intensifies the relationship in your eyes and puts you at risk. The person you should introduce him to is the non-tolerant best friend. The friend that warned you about the last one!

And a word about sex and slowing down: think about it. That’s it. Just think it through. Whatever you choose, make sure you have taken the TIME to think it through. Sex means that your neurochemistry will shift and you will sense a deeper attraction, a deeper sense of relationship investment, and even craving. Those are all neurochemistry shifts you cannot control. Sex means that your mind and your beliefs about the relationship will change. Sex means that you could be triggered or struggle with the intimacy involved…are you ready?

The task of pacing and slowing down gives you control. When it comes to discerning if your potential date is pathological you will only be able to do that if you remain in control and you control the pace. Give yourself a chance. You knew the first time around too, but he was better at being a pathological. You knew the first time around, but he moved faster and moved with an intensity that was meant to overwhelm you. This time you will know, you will see, and you will be able to choose differently if you give yourself the gift of time.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


Your Cup Runneth Over and How to Put a Lid on It

Your cup runneth over; therefore, you are at risk…but because it runneth over you can survive.

There are some who see their cup as half full with the perspective that life is full of opportunity and hope. There are some who see their cup as half empty with the perspective that life is a struggle and trouble abounds. But…. what if your cup “runneth” over? What if you have so much to give, so much to share that your cup spills into the lives of others? Sounds good – all of these great qualities…sharing, giving, generosity, just spreading their power and joy to all whom you meet. But here’s the catch – and there is always a catch. What if someone has an empty (or nearly empty) cup? What if someone came into your life and nuzzled (or pushed) their cup right up against yours? What if they NEED what you have to experience excitement, to feel powerful? This “empty-cup” person will surely catch the spillover, they will surely gather up and collect all that they can. Now, think about this from the opposite perspective: an empty cup moving through life SEEKING an over-flowing cup, finds it, takes from it (in fact, empties it) until they are full and you are empty…what results is inevitable harm.

The Institute’s research has shown us that you posses temperament traits to a higher than average degree than other women (there’s your cup – running over). In fact, the research has shown that, in most of the traits, you scored 85 to 97% higher than other women. That means a lot. It means that if someone is normally empathetic they clearly understand others’ perspectives. But for you, empathy means feeling the feelings that others feel….and wanting to do something about it. It means that you NEED to feel purposeful, responsible, loyal or trustworthy just to feel like yourself – not because you lack it. This is not just WHO you are it is WHAT YOU DO.

The good news is that these qualities are the things that people want and should have. These are the temperament traits that create strong, conscientious, goal-directed, focused people. These are the traits that allow you to be successful in both your personal and professional life.

So, here’s the bad news. They are also the traits that psychopaths need. They are the traits that attract the “empty cups.” They are the traits that let psychopaths know you will play the game with them. They are even the traits that keep you in the game…that keep you fighting for the relationship.

This may be new news to you. I have worked with many women who have said to me, “I needed something…that’s why I stayed with him.” I get that…there is a feeling of something missing when you are in a relationship with a psychopath. But it is not because you do NOT HAVE these things…it is because HE TOOK THEM from you.

Here’s the evidence. Look at your life before the psychopath. Look at your life outside of the psychopath. What do you see? I’m guessing it is a pretty good life. Without being too presumptuous, let me guess that you have friends and family who love you and who you love; you have a great career that you created based on what you love and what you are good at; you are sociable, friendly, giving and often find that others like to be around you. This is you – either before him or when you are not in his presence. This is true because this is who you are. Shocking? I hope not! That thing you needed was not something he had. It could have been the fantasy relationship you created with him but it is not something he brought to the table.

Speaking in detail about all of the traits identified in The Institute’s research as risk factors, be clear – they are also the things that will get you out and keep you out. They are the things that have allowed you to create a great life before him and will allow you to re-build a great life after him.

Let’s look at how your traits put you at risk and then examine ways in which you can use that to begin detachment from the relationship and create a healing path along with techniques for building each trait.

But before we begin that process I need you to PUT A LID ON IT! If your cup is over-flowing it is time to put that lid on. Here’s what I want you to do:

  • Get the information. Once you know better you have to do Read the materials provided on the website ( site to begin to understand the dynamics of these relationships and what your risk factors are. Read Chapter 7 of Sandra’s Book “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, 2nd Edition.
  • Use your traits. I know that your cup may “feel” empty but it really isn’t. These are character traits that cannot change. They don’t just go away. But you get used to not using them so it feels like they are gone. They are not. You probably use them at work, with other loved ones, with friends. These traits are there. (Another great benefit to using them is that if you haven’t done it in a while, it will confuse your psychopath and he won’t know how to react.) Finally, the more you use these wonderful traits, the more your cup will re-fill itself. You will begin to re-gain your confidence and personal power. And that brings detachment and healing from the relationship.
  • Most importantly! Only use them when someone deserves it or earns them through time and demonstrated by behavior. These traits are precious.

Now you know how precious they are and, if you are not careful, you will end up in an endless cycle with an empty cup. There is no need to throw trust, empathy, responsibility, or even helpfulness around to every person you meet. You can take a moment, breath and evaluate each situation using time, reason and demonstrated behavior as determining factors. Be good to yourself and treasure who you are…you owe it to yourself.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


The Value of Good Judgment

Judgment: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought; the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought; the ability to make good decisions about what should be done. –

Judgment is a process. It is a thing that we all do and need to do in order to make choices in life. You must have a judgment too. It is not a bad thing. Many women struggle with the idea of “judging” their pathological partner. The fear is of getting it wrong. What if he is not pathological; what if he can change; what if does care? Fortunately, with good judgment all of those fears can be mitigated.

Judgment, according to Merriam-Webster, is an opinion. That means that it is specific to you, based on your filter. Having a judgment about another person can be tricky because of this. It means that you alone are viewing the person through the filter of your beliefs, your understandings, your fears and your needs. Thinking about judgment this way, it is easy to see how judgment can be a problem.

If you believe that all people are good then your judgment of what was done to you is tilted in one direction. If you understand that all people can change, then that slights the experience in a specific direction. If you are afraid to be alone or afraid to be wrong, then what has happened to you shifts in another direction. If you see others based on what you need (not based on their needs), then there is another shift to a new direction.

The problem comes when your beliefs, understanding, fears and needs have not adjusted to your current situations. As our lives change and we grow, these things change. We incorporate new beliefs and understandings when we have new experiences. We have different needs as we change and we certainly develop new fears and at the same time, settle old fears. Each moment of our lives, we are new and different people.

But, you can get stuck. When you experience something shocking, overwhelming, scary or challenging, it can take some time to shift. It is in this moment of needing to shift that you often sit still. As you sit still, the need for good judgment becomes more necessary. It is here where you must begin the process to shift; it is time to begin to develop new beliefs and new understanding; time to assess new fears and new needs.

The other reason I love the definition above is because it reminds us of the “careful consideration” part of judgment. This is pretty important and it is what makes judgment a process. So many times, because we have a conscience, we never have judgment without careful consideration. At the very least, we do not act on a judgment without careful consideration. In fact, “careful consideration” requires some judgment. They go hand in hand. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for that.

If we accept that judgment is a human experience, then we accept that we all judge. And when we judge others we still give them another chance, ask more questions to learn more, share a little about ourselves with them, or show them what we expect before we act on our judgment of them. All of these acts are part of our “careful consideration” process. We balance our judgment with additional information over time.

Understanding the value of the word judgment is important when attempting to understand the aftermath of a pathological relationship. Chances are there are thoughts in your head related to not wanting to judge him. Even more likely, you have been told by a friend or professional not to judge him. The truth is, you must judge him and everything else in your life. Choosing to leave a pathological relationship comes after months, years and/or decades of a process of judgment that included your opinion and careful consideration. Your process is your process.

Don’t let anyone invalidate your thoughts about what happened to you and what you believe about it by telling you not to judge him. In fact, as you moved through your life with him, I hope that you judged every moment. I hope you spent time checking in with each moment, asking for more information or giving second chances. And when you did, you watched the results that helped you create new meaning and new understandings.

You are capable of determining what you believe, what you understand, what you are afraid of and what you need. And you are certainly capable of doing that with careful consideration. I am certain that your decision to leave was not (or will not be) made in a day.

Trust yourself.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)