William James, an early writer on psychology from the late 1800’s wrote about happiness and reality. I think what he has to say applies a lot to the issues that women face in pathological relationships. Let’s see how…

The crux of James’ pragmatic approach to happiness was rooted in his belief about expectation and its effect on how we come to feel about whether we are happy or depressed. The shortcut to his analogy about beliefs and happiness is:

‘If your reality lives up to your expectations, you experience happiness. If it doesn’t, you are depressed.’

Women who enter into relationships with pathologicals who are notorious for their hidden lives and covert disorders are not dealing with his reality. In her defense, how could she be? She doesn’t even know what his reality is–his disorders, his hidden life, or his pathology that is yet to annihilate her. His charming presentation is anything but real but is effective because it simply hands back to her a mirrored image of all her desires. This mirroring back increases her sensation of attachment because it comfortably reflects herself. Humans feel most at home with the traits that are most like them. However in a pathological, the mirroring, the traits and the resulting connection are not authentic–it’s merely her reflected traits she is attracted to IN him. His mirrored traits are nothing more than a magician’s illusion.

But what impacts her most is not that it is a sham–it’s that she believes it IS real. William James said “The value of any truth is utterly dependent upon its use to the person who holds it.” The value of him being normal is critically important to her in the beginning of the relationship. She will be relationally dependent about his portrayal of himself as true and real. Why? The women we surveyed tested extremely high in relationship investment. What she puts in and gets out of her relationships is almost the single most important thing in her life. The value of the psychopath’s truth is dependent on how much she wants it to BE true. In essence, she sees what he portrays AND she sees what she is invested in: this relationship.

What this creates with a pathological however, is that the first brick laid in the building of this relationship is flawed with all the corrosiveness of his disorder but pressure washed with the glow of his impression management. His mask and skillfully skewed image is built on sand with nothing to build off of. Upon that first brick of reality (or in pathology’s case, unreality), her next brick, which is expectations, is laid.

Her concept of reality about him and the relationship, in the end, can never live up to her expectations she has for them as a couple. Her foundational belief upon which all of this is built is that he is who he says he is, and that he is normal. Her expectations are based on normalcy. Such as–the relationship is going to bring the love, attachment, and joy that she perceives she is experiencing. What woman doesn’t expect that there isn’t potential in the relationship initially? After all, his best performance is always his matinees! Expectations are of a shared life, building a business, buying a home, raising children, growing old together–normal life stuff. Except–the first brick of reality wasn’t what it seemed.

What are realistic relationship expectations for covert pathology? How DO you build a healthy relationship with a narcissist or psychopath?

Most women will never choose in-your-face-pathology for a partner. However, not consciously choosing pathology still does not deter what she ends up with. Her expectations for their relationship are eventually pitifully ignored if not sabotaged. Her time, youth, love, loyalty, finances, trust, and sexuality were all poured into an expectation of a life together. None of this, of course happens for long.

Instead, pathology produces what it always produces: infidelity, a thief of all things sincere, loathing, financial disaster, distrust, and robbery of sexuality and spirituality. As its psychological signature and imprint, it marks her with the all the signs of Aftermath symptoms. Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, obsessive thinking, stress disorders/PTSD, cognitive dissonance are her hallmark signs of having truly experienced a pathological love relationship.

In retrospect, it is easy to see in pathology how expectations have everything to do with the eventual outcome of unhappiness. When reality is skewed and he is not as he seems, and normal expectations for happy life are unfortunately with an abnormally disordered person, the outcome is misery.

Skewed reality + Unadjusted Expectations = Misery!

Pathological relationships always end in this way. It’s their trademark. While you can’t adjust what their impression management did to you initially, you can adjust what you come to expect from someone this disordered. When he lies, does it one more time, steals, cheats, hides his life—the only adjustment that can be made is ‘were you expecting normal behavior from an abnormal disorder?’ What part of him ‘doing it one more time’ is really a shock? The expectation (once you know his pathology) is what keeps you stuck in the cycle of your intrusive and obsessive thinking. If you dig down into what you are really thinking, you are expecting ‘this time’ the pathological will be different. He will be honest, he will tell the truth, he will pay the taxes, he won’t cheat, he’ll stop porn, he will stop splitting the children against you….

Your expectation of a permanently disordered and low-conscience abnormality is creating your continued depression. Adjust your expectation and you will adjust your future.

If your reality lives up to your expectations, you experience happiness. If it doesn’t, you are depressed.