Got Boundaries? Part Three: You Did NOT ‘Participate’ in Your Own Exploitation

Illustration of frog wearing a crown -- the frog prince
Frog Prince, Courtesy of Athalour

A friend brought to my attention a post on a related website asserting that “when we become romantically involved with a sociopath we PARTICIPATE, in one way or another, in our own exploitation.”

<jaw drops>

I take issue with this idea that we participated in our victimization. I feel it takes a victim-blaming stance, even if the author didn’t intend it.

the action of taking part in something.

Participation implies active involvement. In the case of a person involved with a psychopath, that implies knowledge of what was going on but forging ahead anyway.

But in truth what causes us to become involved is a LACK of knowledge of what is really happening, brought about by ignorance of psychopaths and by their psychological manipulation.

“Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics.”

How can we participate in something we don’t even know is happening? How do we participate in our own exploitation if we are not aware of it?

And why the hell would we?

The author states that we ‘participate’ because we “believe what we want to believe,” such as “everyone is good inside” or “everybody just wants to be loved” or “with love, anything is possible.”

I consider the beliefs mentioned above to be normal. Having had these very common and normal beliefs does not mean you participated in your own exploitation, and this post explains why.

One thing psychopaths take advantage of are our subconscious cognitive biases, which are automatic shortcuts our brains take to make life easier but that in reality have the potential to put us at risk. The beliefs stated above are perfect examples of a cognitive bias we all have, which is called the Assumed Similarity Bias: This mental shortcut leads us to the unconscious assumption that others share the same or similar values, thoughts and beliefs. In other words, we believe that others are just like us — for example, if we are an honest, loving and kind person with a conscience, we believe most everyone else is the same way. We don’t consider (or aren’t even aware) that some people exist who have drastically different values and motivations (now we know that all too well!).

I think the correct description is that the psychopath took advantage of this bias, and we believed what we were manipulated to believe — which is that he or she WAS just like us, and valued the same things we did. After all, if we knew the truth things would have turned out very differently.

The problem isn’t your beliefs or your cognitive biases or your vulnerabilities — the problem is that there are predators who are skilled manipulators.

Those of you who are familiar with this blog know I am all for learning about what happened, learning what we were dealing with, and finding out what we might do to avoid being re-victimized. But I have never conveyed the message that we ‘participated’ in our own exploitation. Why? Because it’s counterproductive. If we believe we were somehow at fault because there was something wrong with our (very normal) beliefs, or for whatever else that was normal but that has now seemingly become some fatal flaw that made us complicit in the victimization, it precludes a real understanding of what happened and why. That’s significant, because this understanding is vital to healing and to protecting us from future victimization.

Learning what our vulnerabilities or weak spots are is vital, but having those vulnerabilities is normal — everyone has some by virtue of being human. A ‘weak spot’ is not a flaw that needs to be fixed — the only thing wrong with it is that a predator can use it to his or her advantage. If we want love, want a relationship, it is a huge weak spot — and we should just be aware that it puts us at risk. It’s something most humans want, but it’s not something a psychopath wants — it’s merely an opportunity for victimization.

Our society has absorbed, en masse, some very harmful myths from the ‘new-age’ school of thought. Here are a few of them:

There are no victims.

It happened for a reason.

Nobody can hurt you without your consent.

I wonder why you created this illness (or experience).

There are no accidents.

There are no mistakes.

Your soul attracted this person from the universe to teach you a lesson you needed to learn.

These myths all have one thing in common: They presume the victim has colluded (participated) in some way in whatever the awful event is in their lives… even if it’s only by virtue of the  “law of attraction” or in some other subconscious way.

These myths become so embedded in people’s psyches that they aren’t questioned. And if someone dissents when told “there are no victims,” they stand ready to accuse the unfortunate person of “not accepting responsibility.”

Ironically, they tell us that “accepting responsibility” is the only way to see a situation realistically, so as to avoid it in the future. It’s ironic because in healing from psychopathic abuse, ‘taking responsibility’ is the kiss of death to recovery. It’s exactly what psychopaths want — to make the victim believe they were responsible for the psychopath’s deplorable behavior, that they somehow deserved what they got because of their vulnerabilities (emotions, biases, and desires). When a victim does that, it means that he or she is FAR from any real understanding of what actually occurred and why, and therefore remains at risk of further abuse in the future, as well as prolonged and unnecessary suffering  from ongoing damage to self-worth and confidence, with life-altering consequences.

The belief that “there are no victims” is harshly judgmental and leaves no room for compassion… and that’s rather psychopathic. We don’t need that from each other, nor from those who say they’re trying to help us. People want to believe they’re in control of everything, because the opposite is frightening. The truth is there is much in life that is out of our control.

What’s this got to do with boundaries?

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if we had no boundaries at all before the psychopath came along — we did not participate. It doesn’t matter what we believed — we did not participate. It doesn’t matter what was the matter — we did not participate. Shoring up your boundaries now and becoming aware of your vulnerabilities to prevent another victimization does not mean you were responsible for what happened, and doing so is only possible because of the knowledge you now have. No one would knowingly participate in their own psychopathic victimization. We were psychologically manipulated. The predator simply took advantage of our human nature. We must understand that nature, and create boundaries to protect ourselves.

The blog author also said, “And if we believed in listening to ourselves, we may be more willing to pay attention when our intuition is warning us to get away from someone.”

Intuition? You mean that thing psychopaths are so adept at disarming, just when we need it most?

Mary Ellen O’Toole, PhD, the author of “Dangerous Instincts,” a former senior FBI analyst who now teaches FBI agents and law enforcement about psychopaths, says that they are able to disarm our intuition — and that’s precisely what makes them so dangerous, and so effective.

The view that victims participated in their own exploitation is deeply harmful. It perpetuates ignorance about how predators operate, and it perpetuates shame and victim-blaming. This attitude will do nothing to help someone heal, and everything to continue the abuse long after the perpetrator is gone.

We did not try to turn a frog into a prince, as this author implies — It was the prince who turned into a frog, after all. 



200PX_FINAL BOUNDARIES FRONT (2) copy“This small book was full of tons of useful information. I don’t usually write in my books, but my copy of Boundaries has underlining on almost every page. I was really glad I bought it.”

“My eyes have seen the light. How I wish I would have read this book years ago.”

“”Worth your time! Well written, clear, and concise. So thankful I came across this quick, but powerful read. I so appreciate the wisdom I found in this writing. I feel empowered once more! Easily rated at 5 stars.”


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48 thoughts on “Got Boundaries? Part Three: You Did NOT ‘Participate’ in Your Own Exploitation”

  1. Well said Admin……Well said. If I participated in my “exploitation” that means I participated in my manipulation, right? That goes along with the totally BS thing that some people say from time to time…..”You can’t be manipulated unless you allow it”! It’s rediculous!

    manipulate[ muh-nip-yuh-leyt ]
    verb (used with object) [ma·nip·u·lat·ed, ma·nip·u·lat·ing.]
    1. to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people’s feelings.
    2. to handle, manage, or use, especially with skill, in some process of treatment or performance: to manipulate a large tractor.
    3. to adapt or change (accounts, figures, etc.) to suit one’s purpose or advantage.

    1. Admin

      “to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people’s feelings.” That sums it up, and it means we were not aware and did not participate. Obviously, we cannot participate in our own manipulation. Well said, L.

      1. Patty

        I have been out of my relationship with a psychopath for 8 months. Divorced for 1 year. Grateful for what I have left … I am still afraid I will fall for it again. They manipulate constantly. How do you ever know if someone is telling the truth? How do you move on to a “healthy” relationship after such a seriously UNHEALTHY relationship? I don’t believe people participate in their own victimization. I had doubts, I had friends warnings, but that wasn’t what I saw. It wasn’t what he “wanted” me to see. Now how do we not become victims again?

        1. Admin

          What can we do to prevent being victims again? Learn the facts about psychopaths and about psychological manipulation. Learn how the human mind works, and how that makes us vulnerable to predators. Learn about trust and when to give it to someone, and when to take it away. Find out what you really want from life and from relationships, and give yourself clear guideposts and signs and rules to follow (boundaries) that alert you to when you’re moving away (or being moved away) from what you want and value.

          Will these things work? I don’t know. I hope so, and I believe they will. I’m not sure what other chance we have. Best wishes.

  2. Gayle

    I am all for taking responsibility. However, the idea that we are participating in our own exploitation by becoming romantically involved seems a dangerous track. After all, isn’t the psychopath/sociopath also blaming us already? If we believe this, then are we not joining with the predator?

    When I decided the psychopath in my life needed to be reported, he came out of his silence and began to plead that he had learned his lessons and would not be repeating them, that he was recalcitrant and taking responsibility for anything he ‘may’ have done to hurt me. I read through 3 long texts and discovered that for every “you’ve got to believe me, I am apologizing’ (3 in total) there were over 50 statements blaming, or sidestepping the issues, and placing blame on me. I am beginning to see that the sociopath picks us out, just as a rapist picks someone who is vulnerable. We fit a certain profile that may be seen as masochistic. That is a strong word and I may be stirring the pot a bit with it. By masochistic, I mean we tend to agree that we have done something wrong, which feeds into the sociopath’s agenda perfectly.

    Rather than taking on another’s behavior as our culpability, (how did I get into THIS relationship? Why didn’t I see it coming? etc) it seems much for helpful to find an inner voice that stands strong, setting a boundary with “This will not do!”

    1. Admin

      I agree. We’ve had more than enough blame and shame. A rapist attacks physically, and a manipulator attacks psychologically. Let’s not blame the victim.

  3. Kari Lee

    Sure at the point you learn you are dealing with a psychopath, you participate because you simply cannot believe or you yearn to be with your so called soulmate despite what you know deep down, so you stay and you participate in the manipulation. Your thoughts ping pong back and forth. You tell yourself, “What if I’m wrong? Other couples have yo-yo relationships, ours is no different. He just can’t commit which is normal early in a relationship.” – so the game continues and both sides participate.

    Although I say this, but when I discovered the truth, I ended things quickly and so severely that there would be no way he would ever return into my life. It took every ounce of strength in me plus a few drinks. Anyway, he did end up at my doorstep exactly 3 months later as charming as always. We had a very nice friend/cordial visit – kept the topic light with no discussion of our dramatic ending or any talk about reconciliation (participation at its finest!) It will be a month now since that visit and my mind never stops ping-ponging, but I know not to make contact. I read your blogs every chance I get to remind myself never to participate .. It’s a crazy addiction!

    1. Admin

      But where oh where is the line between when a person didn’t know they were being manipulated / and when they did know and therefore participated? Is there such a line? Or is a person still under the influence of the manipulator if they know, but still can not walk away??? Isn’t the point at which they CAN walk away also the point when the manipulator has finally lost control?

      To me, all that ping-ponging is cognitive dissonance and that is clearly the result of manipulation. The victim may *suspect* s/he’s with a psychopath…and then 5 minutes later feel crazy for even thinking it to begin with! When the truth finally cuts through all the muck, when the dissonance stops, then they can sever ties.

      I’m glad to hear you were able to walk away! I’m glad this blog helps to keep you away. All the best to you.

  4. Mike

    Anybody who thinks you’re at fault hasn’t met a genuine psychopath.

    Having sprung the trap and caused the desired hurt, trouble and chaos the icing on the cake for the psychopath is having the dumb victim believe it was their own fault.

    1. Admin

      Making the victim believe they’re the one at fault is part of the whole process, a BIG part. When we believe we’re at fault we try hard to fix things, and that’s when we’re in the thick of it. And if we continue to believe we were at fault afterward, we don’t really understand what happened. That’s how it seems to me — there’s a fundamental lack of understanding about how the manipulator worked, and failure to see they are still under his influence.

  5. GMc

    Yes, I do feel I ‘participated’ in my own downfall with this particular man (the father of my children). The warning signs were all there and I chose to ignore them. However, after some serious and tough counselling I began to understand how ignoring my feelings had disastrous consequences. I do believe that not being allowed to express and have our feelings acknowledged as a child, it is near impossible to be able to do this as an adult. I have now learnt the hard way. I listen very carefully to my instincts.

    1. Admin

      This may be true for you, but it’s not true for everyone. I know you’re only speaking for yourself; my reply here is for anyone who may be reading it.

      Even those who, as children, could express their feelings and have them acknowledged, will still find themselves unable to do so with a psychopath.

      I’m glad you got the help you needed. Best wishes to you and your children.

    2. jenn

      Hi GMc, your comment totally resonates with me. I get what you mean when you say you “participated”. I feel in a way I did too. Although I really had no idea the extent of the damage he did until after I kicked him out (ie: finding this site and reading lots of books about psychopaths) I stayed in the marriage way longer than I should have. There were with me, also plenty of warning signs (not in the beginning of course) but I stayed because I am a mother, and because of the ping pong thoughts (knowing what I knew to be true, but wait..maybe I was wrong) I stayed. I wasnt strong and didnt want to see the truth for what it was either so I stayed. I didnt want to be the one to “ruin the family” by asking for a divorce so I stayed. Ultimately I did, when I was strong enough and just couldnt take the lies and humiliation and so on..I kicked him out 10 months ago, we were divorced 7 months ago. He still to this day tries to manipulate and play games. I thank god for this site, for if I hadn’t found it, I may have very well kept on thinking everything was my fault and I would not be armed with the information I now have to use in dealing with him. I only have contact with him via text (have to for my children and this way I have written proof of the lies and crazy things he says to me and my kids) and most texts I dont answer because they have nothing to do with my kids, its just a game. I, like you, have started listening to my intuition again, and as bad as things are now, I wouldnt go back, not for a heartbeat and things will get better, in some ways they already are. I just hope he tires of me soon, but I have read lots of times before this type doesnt do that. god give me strength.

      1. Admin

        Having a family definitely complicates the matter even more. Right now I’m reading an excellent book, “The Other Side of Charm: Your Memoir” by H.G. Beverly, a mother of three who went through absolute hell. Her ex was absolutely relentless — I don’t know how she dealt with it. I’m glad the blog has helped you and that things are getting better. Thanks for your comment, and all the best to you and your children. I hope you will get all the strength you need.

        1. jenn

          Thank you for that information. Also I forgot to mention my ex is a cop, so I feel he is even more sneaky in his ways. I have to be one step ahead (or at least try) at all times. It is tiring. I am going to look up that book now.
          Take care

          1. jenn

            I just needed to reply after now reading that book you suggested, The Other Side of Charm, Your Memior. Wow. I am, I dont even know what I am right now. This author writes in such a way, the way you think. It is like she is writing about my life. which is so sad, and really can you even call it a life. I feel like her, everything is a fight. Everything. We are moving 2 towns away, and instead of supporting me on this, and making it easier and more smooth on my kids, he says he will fight me tooth and nail and see me in court. This scares the crap out of me, and even more so after reading this book. I hope my outcome is more positive than hers was/is, but there is no way of knowing for certain. These types truly are monsters, and wish I could just get away, but we will always be tied because of the children. And just like she said in the book, he will live to destroy you. And I know that is his plan. I just hope I have the strength to defeat him. I have to try for my children. And I will never give up because of them.

            1. Admin

              The book is very powerful, especially so because of the way it’s written. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the plight of parents (and children) stuck legally to a psychopath. I’m sorry that I recommended it if it made you feel worse; I hope it’ll be helpful to you in some way. Please make sure you know your rights! And that you have a good lawyer! You will have the strength, because of your kids.

              You might find some help over at Tina Swithin’s blog, One Mom’s battle:

              Also, you may want to read about the “Greyrock Method” of dealing with psychopaths:

              This book may help to prepare you: Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality:

              Best of luck to you, Jenn. Stay strong.

              1. Jenn

                No, it didnt make me feel worse, if anything maybe in a strange way better, and only just knowing that someone else feels and has gone thru exactly what I am going through. It helped in a way, knowing that I have to dot my i’s and cross my T’s in the hope that my situation will go better than the authors. Hope. And my kids. That is what I have. Thank you again, just for being there to listen, and I will check out the others that you suggested also.

              2. Admin

                You’re welcome. I’m hear and I’m listening. Let me know how you do.
                I just posted a book review, and included a warning. If people don’t read it, I hope they will get it anyway and pass it on to their therapist, lawyer, etc. Too many of those who NEED to know about this are completely in the dark.

              3. Jenn

                I agree. I am going to try and get my kids therapist to read it, I know she doesn’t fully understand what is going on here. I am going to talk to my therapist about it too. I would ask my lawyer, but don’t want him to think I’m crazy for asking that. Thats another sad part of this, is people can think you have gone off the deep end and are the crazy one, and you are just trying to blame, especially when they dont see what you see, and most likely they dont. No one does unless they have been through it. It is very scary. And sad.
                But again, I thank you so much for your site, and all the information. It really does help.

              4. Admin

                I have no idea if this is good advice or not…but maybe your lawyer is the one who needs it most, and you should give him the book. Yes, people think we’ve gone off the deep end, but that’s what we need to change. In your case, your lawyer is a key person who can make a real difference in the outcome. Does he have any idea exactly what you’re dealing with, and what he is now dealing with? I know, it definitely inspires strong reactions — I gave my own book to a friend, and she threatened to use it as toilet paper and then sent me a picture of it in a garbage can. I can make new friends, but can you find a new lawyer? It’s up to you, but if someone doesn’t know what they’re dealing with how can they be effective? Maybe send the author an email and ask what she thinks; it’s worth a try. She’s now an activist and perhaps she’d be willing to give you some guidance.

              5. Jenn

                My lawyer does have an idea of what we are dealing with (he knows he is crazy and a bully and relentless) but I dont think he knows truly what my ex is. I have never said it to him in fear that he will think I am crazy. My ex is in law enforcement. My lawyer is retired from law enforcement and decided to become a lawyer, I thought this could give me a leg up in a situation as he knows how they operate, and their pensions are different and that kind of thing. He has gotten us divorced, but now that my ex wants to take me back to court for my children going to school 2 towns away, Im getting the feeling he is not sure what to do. My ex sends me bullying texts, and so I will ask should I respond or not, it does have to do with the kids after all, and we do have 50/50 legal custody (meaning big decisions like schooling) and I just get the feeling he doesnt really understand. And like the author says in the book, most dont. I think I will go out on a limb and ask him if my lawyer will read it. Like you said, I can get a new lawyer, who knows I may have to anyway. Not that I have the $$ for any of this, but I will do whatever it takes for my kids.

              6. Admin

                Whatever you decide, I sincerely hope it goes in your favor. Make sure you read about the “Gray Rock” method of dealing with a psychopath — that might give you some insight as to whether or not to respond to his bullying texts. Only you know him and all the details, and you have an advantage because of all the information you have or know how to find, and have at your disposal. It’s the things you don’t know that you don’t know, that could pose a problem. Don’t let any assumptions get in your way. We are wired to make all kinds of assumptions (and never see that we’re doing it) all the time. When it comes to your ex, or anything to do with him, think it through critically, and ask yourself what you might be assuming or expecting. Keep a record of everything. It’s good that all your communication is written so you have a record of it. Smart move. What about when you have to see him face-to-face? You may want to hit the “record” button on your smartphone. Depending on where you live it may or may not be admissible as evidence, but it can go a long way in convincing your lawyer or therapist of what’s really going on. Just a thought.

              7. jenn

                I did read that gray rock method, and I do try and use that (even though before now I didn’t know there was a name or method to what I was doing :)) It becomes difficult to do always though, especially when I need to respond about the kids. It is so hard to know what is right and what is wrong with some of this stuff. And to make it worse, it seems no one really knows..I just do what I think is the right thing, and that is the best I can do. I do try to avoid any face to face contact with him, and if there is, I try to have the kids there or nearby so he can’t say anything. Thank you for the support, I know with all the information you have given me, I can be better prepared for what might happen next.
                Thanks, and I hope to see another post from you soon. They really help :)

              8. Admin

                “I just do what I think is the right thing, and that is the best I can do.” Just keep doing that.

                I’ve got lots of new posts in the works. Actually they’re just in my thoughts right now, but that’s where they all begin, and where everything begins.

                Best wishes.

  6. Reality

    hello, i am a former victim of psycopath. I had been with him for several years and all the time i had the odd feeling that something was misssing in this man. I often called him emotionally handicapped humorosly and he accepted it also humorosly. He was telling me that what he liked so much in me was my strong mental capacities compined with great empathy which he said he did not had much though. I was thinking that okay , he is a little different but we are good together as we love each other. He lovebombed me for years and manipulated my emotions very well. The fact hat we were long distance the most of the time made his game very easy. I see retrospectively that i presented a challenge for him becouse of my independent personality and the fact that though he was covertly pressing me , i was not abandoning my life to be full time with him. Thats why the long years of his good behavior. He is very intellingent high functioning psycopath , a covert one and as i didnt know that these people exist and me coming from a normal loving family , i quess it made me the perfect target. Of course as always at one time his grandiosity and his sense of entitlement led him to make a terrible betrayal to me that he thought that he could escape from and he used this betrayal in a way that he was emotionally torturing me and in the same time was keeping me around with lies and manipulation . This lasted for some months and i think that he enjoyed it as he felt that finally he got me. But , no . I founf out all and i exposed all. I realised that what was happening was abnormal , i made my research and i diagnosed him. He admittted exactly what he was!! and as he realised that his time was up, he tried to use even this to manipulate me further by saying the usual BS: ” you are the only one that i really love as you only undersand my real me , we have a specail bond and bla, bla ,bla…I didnt go back, never. More than one year ago i dumbed him. You know well that it was very difficult to redefine me after this horrible experience of understanding that who you thought to be your other half was in reality a total fraud. I have found your blog in the early days , it helped me alot to clear a lot og the fog. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS.Along with studying the classicals Hare, Stout, e.t.c i solidified that i never wanted to be close to this man again and i came out of the hell. Now i am in a much better place. I found again myself , but a stronger one. Speaking for boundaries my view is that as long as i encountered with normal people and having common sense and good gudgment myself i didnt need to test them consciously to see how strong they were. But after i became the target of the psycopath who covertly was working on crushing them, i had to redefine them and strengthen them. I dont blame not me not anyone for falling victim to a psycopath when ignorant. Everybody can be a victim. i was certainly one and i am a thoughtful, independent , strong personality with a great carrer and friends- family without history of abuse or other serious issues. However the responsibility that i take is that after i realised waht he is , i was determined that i wanted to keep myself far far away from this pathological person who only detrimental would be for me or for any other close encounter . After i knew i made the desicion to break this spell and kick him in the curb after what he made me go through with his false persona. I am in limited contact becouse of work issues and this though difficult gives me the opportunity to look how fake and without any real value this person was, is and always will be.

    1. Admin

      I’m glad to hear you were able to kick him to the curb. I agree, this can happen to anyone, and the vast majority of first-time victims don’t stand a chance.

      Best wishes and thank you very much for your comment.

  7. efemeris

    oh, victims this victims that, victims are weak, victims are naive, victims have low self-esteem, don’t blame the victim but do make him accountable and so on….
    all that in general terms and in biased ways. many people really do not know how it is to be a victim of a psychopath. perhaps, many of them have not realized at all that they might have been victimized too. they also lack knowledge about victimization. the sad fact is that professional clinicians, psychologists and psychiatrists share this point of view. i knew little about personality and mental disorders. i knew nothing at all about psychopathy. when watching the movie “silence of the lambs” i didn’t know that this guy is a psychopath. even so when watching the movie “cape fear”. did i know that robert de niro’s character is actually a classic psychopath? no. in real life i was familiar with the cases of ted bundy and jeffrey dahmer. did i know that they are psychopaths? no. i knew only that they are serial killers, dangerous people, criminals…..none of my friends, family members, co-workers or bullying consultants and clinicians have ever mentioned anything about psychopathy or NPD. i also had no good coping skills against them. i realized who these people are and how close i was them by reading “without conscience” and “the mask of sanity”. somehow i was never involved in a love relationship with a psychopath. but you never know if this is going to remind like this. no matter how careful you are, you can, at least once in your lifetime, be involved with a psychopath. i was victimized at work. i had a psychopathic boss and a psychopathic co-worker. You cannot spot right away if person is disordered or not. in my both experiences, with the time, i have noticed that something is very off with both guys, when reporting this to other co-workers, company and hr managers, or authorities i was not believed. in both cases i was blamed for being victimized. such accusations are nothing else but psychopathic and narcissistic projections and projective identifications, victim blaming and just world fallacy. why do people support that? in his book “without conscience” hare explains well the sindrom “camouflage society” who takes the side of the predators and not the victims, even if they know very well whose fault it is.

    1. Admin

      I’m sorry you were blamed. They are so good at turning things around, and so many are willing to go along with them. It amazes me now how little anyone knows about psychopaths — even those who should know, like mental health professionals. I thought psychopath = serial killer. Like you, I had no idea. I’m not sure it would have made a difference even if I did; only the experience can teach us all that we didn’t know. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Nearlybel

    What would we do without your site? What did anybody do before the internet?
    That was my perception psychopaths = serial killer.
    And what clarity you bring to my healing heart and head on my ‘participation’ in 20 years of hell.
    I, even after therapy and work on myself, will sometimes wreck my head thinking did I miss something, I must have done, why didn’t I see it? But the more knowledge I gain about their pathology the greater insights I get about myself, and the realisation I am actually OK :).. Keep strong, speak the truth and shine a light on them, they’re vampires and they hate the spotlight! xx

    1. Admin

      Thanks, Nearlybel. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the internet, either. I would have never found out the truth, and therefore maybe never been able to heal. This “theory of participation” does nothing at all to help former victims avoid future victimization, because it negates all that is known about mental manipulation and it gives people a false sense of security…”I should have listened to my intuition…I should have done things differently…and NEXT time I will.” No you won’t, not if you don’t know the facts of what happened. xx

  9. Admin

    “I have distanced myself majorly and am dissolving this relationship as we speak.” Yes, good for you, this is exactly what you need to do. Every description you have written of him on this blog is one of a desperately sick and deeply depraved man. Best wishes to you.

  10. Kat

    I had been devalued and discarded a number of times so in a way I did participate in my downfall, and I continued to sleep with him. After the last horrific one he still wanted to sleep with me. I shared a bed for one last night and in the morning he threw back the sheets and told me to make love to him which I declined. He then left staying he would speak with me and see me again (after previously saying he not) but I was so tired and numb from the last 24 hrs I just went along with it. Then cut me off completely saying his conscience was telling him not to be in touch with me anymore – how can that be? He has no conscience. I am trying to heal but I am so damaged from the last few years. I now know what he is.

    1. Admin

      I’m glad you now know what he is. It sounds as if this is a recent discovery. It’s normal to go through a phase of self-blame and shame in the beginning. But as you learn more about manipulation, you may begin to understand that you were still under his control when you continued to sleep with him. Instead of blaming yourself, I hope you will begin to feel compassion for yourself as you realize the extent of what you have endured. Best wishes to you.

      1. Kat

        Yes, but I still feel so sad and lost. This had been going on for years. He discarded me for someone else but wanted to try again after that failed. After idealising and praising me to get me to let him back into my life he started manipulating, devaluing and discarding me again and again. After wanting to see me and reaping the benefit, he said that he did not see me as a long term partner, more as a helpful friend. I was so confused, shamed and distressed. He saw me as the manipulator and when I raised any of my needs he said that it was not just my decision, that there was another person involved (him). He has now moved abroad and cut off all contact. Says that I know the reasons for this. Some days I think that I will never fully recover from the damage he has caused.

        1. Admin

          My heart goes out to you. You are in the midst of the worse of it, and there is no shortcut to get past the agony. If I were there, I would give you a big hug and just sit with you for a long while, so you would know you’re not alone. It probably doesn’t help right now to hear that you will survive this and you will recover and even be relieved that it’s finally over. He sounds like a terrible manipulator, and that does do a lot of damage, but underneath that you are still whole and you will discover that one day, or maybe a little at a time. I wish I had just the right words to help you. Just have a little faith that you will get through this, even if you don’t know how right now. My thoughts are with you.

          1. Kat

            Thank you so much – your kind words and support means a lot.

            1. Admin

              I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you for letting me know.

  11. efemeris

    thank you for pointing this out again. such point of views are very dangerous. it is not just victim blaming but the just world fallacy too. people tend to think according this thought terminated cliches like “it takes two to tango”. IT DOESN’T!!! this might be the case when you go dancing. it takes two to dance walz, slow dance or any other form of partner dance. we are here not talking about dancing.. we are talking about many forms of abuse and manipulation.
    until experts and all those who share such theories do not get that, we are simply screwed and deliveried as the pray to these predators. Predators know about this huge weakness experts have and use that shamelesly to their advantage.

    1. Admin

      I repeated it because I think it’s just so important. It may take two to tango, but this is NOT tango — I don’t know why people accept that stupid cliche’ as if it has some sort of profound meaning. You’re right, efemeris, we are not talking about dancing! It’s about abuse, plain and simple. I feel deeply sorry for those who read ignorant, harmful crap like what that author had to say, and then internalize it. It’s just more abuse, just more harm. The predator is gone, but others step into their place and keep it going. And whether they mean to or not, it’s damaging. But I wonder if some people do it because they profit from keeping victims in “victim mode.” It’s certainly possible.

  12. Elisabeth

    Thank you SO much for this.see

    Quick rundown. I got out of a marriage to a NPD (I worked hard and long on getting out of that marriage safely and even then he tried to kill several of the children and myself while I was in the process.)

    I ended up remarrying, a friend from work, someone who was SO different. Seemingly gentle and kind, the kind of guy who could just never “get a break”.

    He has brain damage from a stroke at birth. Learning disabilities. Seemed to be a fighter who had come through so much.

    After we got married, the chaos was intense. There was always SOMETHING wrong with him. I look back now and see that it happened every time I started to expect him to provide something in return. He would complain about vague pains and illnesses…. then he latched onto chest pain. Whenever he was expected to actually do something, he had chest pain. His brother died of a heart attack at age 38 so of course everyone took it seriously.

    There was always an excuse, always a reason. It was only when I started pushing past that and saying, “Look, you’re an adult, you need to act like one and contribute to this family” that he began to get violent. I look back and I see signs of violence before that, when I would “push” in his words…. holes in doors and walls and furniture.

    Honestly, as long as I did all the work, brought in all the money, made sure everything was done with and for the children and they never bothered him, encouraged THEM to wait on him hand and foot, let him sit in the bedroom (I don’t say OUR bedroom because he had trashed it so badly, even urinating all over the mattress, that I refused to set foot in it)… then he was fine. Just let him sit and take, take him out for a meal whenever he wanted it (he loved saying how “spoiled” he was) make sure to always bring him whatever he wanted when he wanted it (and believe me, he would whine and snivel if he didn’t get what he wanted) and he was a “doll”.

    Well, last Friday, I told him his behavior was unacceptable. I had been asking him to clean the bedroom for months and the last straw was once again finding pornography on the computer, right where the kids could have easily found it and been exposed to it. I told him that was it, I was done, he got furious, picked me up and threw me.

    I called the police. While I was calling he laughed at me and said, “What do you think they’re going to do, there isn’t a mark on you.” He didn’t laugh quite so much when they arrested him and took him to jail.

    I am taking the kids to go see “Inside Out” today so we can have a talk about emotions, especially mixed and conflicted emotions. I have changed my bank account to one he doesn’t have access to. I give a victim impact statement next Tuesday.

    A deacon at our church is telling me that I have a choice between separating and “getting revenge” or being a “Godly” wife and refusing to have any preconditions for him returning to the home and refusing to “rub his nose in it”. Apparently, requiring him to take any accountability for his actions is “rubbing his nose in it”. This deacon says that if he crosses the line again I just call the cops again and let them handle it. Otherwise, I have to have myself in the situation to “allow God to bless us.”

    Um, no, that’s lunacy. He is clearly escalating. The “next time he crosses the line” I could be far more seriously hurt, now that he knows the cops WILL take him to jail no matter what. I have children at home, both mine and ours, none of which deserve to be exposed to this garbage or to lose their mother to a selfish jerk.

    This deacon even told me that I needed to repent of my “sin” of speaking with the prosecutor on this case! I’m supposedly only supposed to talk to HIS lawyer because I should be doing everything I can to get him out of jail and home “where he belongs”.

    1. Admin

      Hi, Elisabeth. Your story is heartbreaking, and I’m sorry you and your children had to endure not one but two pathological and disordered partners. I’ve heard many people say that everything was great until they got married, and then BAM –the mask came off. The prince turns into a frog monster.

      The deacon at your church sounds like he might be psychopathic himself (they’re attracted to the clergy, since it’s a position where they can have power and influence over others), and if not, he is woefully ignorant. Thank goodness you know better than to take his very bad (and dangerous!) advice. He is in desperate need of either education or replacement.

      Yes, your husband is clearly escalating! The safety of you and your children is the priority. Do you have a plan? How long do you expect him to be jailed, and is there any chance at all of him getting out before then and surprising you? What are you planning to do when he is released? Here’s a link to articles with steps you should take to protect yourself: Safety Planning

      You’ve found out the hard way that setting boundaries with a psychopathic person (or anyone violent) doesn’t do any good, and it can be downright dangerous as your story proves! A quote from my Boundaries book:

      “If you’re involved with a dangerous person — one who harms you physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, or financially — the only boundaries that will keep you safe are No Contact and physical boundaries, meaning physical distance between you and that person. If you start setting verbal boundaries with a dangerous person, they will see it as a challenge they need to defeat. Consider the risk before taking any action. Physical boundaries may be your only choice in such a situation.

      Anyone who purposefully harms you in any way will not respect your boundaries and they will not respect you. Setting and enforcing boundaries won’t help, and may make things worse. The only answer for dealing with these toxic people is to leave the relationship.”

      I hope you have help and support going forward, and someone to advise you how to best protect yourself and the kids. Your local domestic violence organization (or a national DV hotline) should be able to help. National Domestic Violence Hotline ~ (800) 799-7233

      Best of luck to you, Elisabeth. Please take good care of yourself. xo

  13. Thank You for this website & this article in particular. From childhood onwards it was drummed into me that the shitty things done to me were all my own fault (raised by two physically & mentally abusive narcissists at the very least, psychopaths possibly) Heck, i used to feel utterly sorry for my parents having to put up with such a substandard human being for a daughter. As an adult i was a great believer in the doctrin that agreed it was/is all my fault. No surprise then that i’ve had narcs & psychopaths thrown at me in great numbers, most recently in the form of three housemates in a row complete with smear campaigns involving neighbours and close friends. It got so crazy that i finally started asking what i was doing to attract these ‘ghouls’ a search which has led me here. The idea that it isn’t/wasn’t all my own fault is a radical one and is helping me process it all and emerge from the darkness like nothing i’ve ever come across & it feels wonderful. Thank you again.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m sorry to hear about your ordeal growing up. It took my breath away when you said you felt sorry for them for having you as a daughter! I believe your search has led you to the right place. This will lead you to even more that will help you. I’m immensely happy that what you’re reading here is helping you emerge from the darkness! I wish you all the best on your journey, RW. Don’t stop until you get there.

  14. natasha

    I’m recently the victim of a psychopath. He stole a lot of money from me and opened a credit card in my name. I didn’t at first realize that I was a victim, he was so good at what he did.

    I didn’t realize everything he told me was lies until after he stole everything and disappeared. He lived with me and was around me almost 24-7. The psychopath I was with was a con artist. He put me on his cell phone account and then, told me he wanted to add me to his credit card account. Well, he created a new account in my name and made himself an authorized user.

    All I was to him was someone he could steal from, but he was such a manipulator in making me believe he was truly in LOVE with me. He would through a huge fit if any other man was in my life. I didn’t notice at the time and I attributed his behavior to other factors that he had me believing – like that he’s got daughters and only wants to be with someone who is serious. He also had me believing that he bought a plane ticket for his kids and ex to visit family in another country but that she wasn t bringing them back or answering his phone calls. He told these elaborate stories about how he got to talk to his girls one day because her cousin answered his phone call. Another day he told me he talked to his girls But felt hurt because they were more interested in playing with their cousin’s than talking to their daddy. My heart hurt for him. That’s what he wanted though.

    He used his daughters and the idea of a family to manipulate and steal from me. After he disappeared one day (while we were supposedly still in a relationship) I found other victims and women he’s tried manipulating. Someone like him should be in jail. He’s a predator out there using the same lines on women to make them feel sorry for him so he can steal from them.

    It wasn t until after he disappeared that I could see him as a psychopath and master manipulator. While he was with me, I couldnt catch him in a lie. After he disappeared, I did hard core research to find out everything he told me was a lie. He’s not allowed to see his girls anymore because of his craziness.

    Thank you for your article. I wish everyone knew what it was like for a victim of a psychopath.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Natasha, I’m terribly sorry this happened to you. They are truly con artists, and it took all of us time to realize it. They play on our emotions. The power of a good con artist is to “identify your deepest need and exploit it.” It’s very cruel, and it’s difficult to learn you were the subject of such cruelty, and from someone that you loved and trusted. Even if most people don’t understand, there are a lot of us who do—you’re not alone. I wish you all the best, and hope you’ll find the support you need.

      1. Natasha

        Thank you for the reply and the article! And thank you for the site!

        1. Adelyn Birch

          You’re welcome Natasha! I wish you well xx

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