Pathological relationships might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competiveness but soon it evolves to 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 that these are not really the things that you might think of when you think of pathology but that makes it 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 that a pathological wears. They exist in two distinct ways…the outside perception that they present and the dark, empty underside of who they are. As they move through life they learn to compensate for their deficiencies. One way to compensate is through using what others have and presenting it as their own. One of the traits that 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 that 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 that 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 will tell 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 that 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 that you will stand next to 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…the 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 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 strait. 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 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 “over-flowing” 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 month we will look at the third trait in this trio of “SuperTraits”-Compassion. As we approach the holiday season, remind yourself…these are your traits-your gifts- and should not be handed out to just anyone. Tie them up with a bow and keep them to yourself!