You might think that dating and violence are two things that don't go together. After all, when you are dating someone the idea is that you want to make a good impression. But it's often in making that good first impression that the actual violence and abuse starts.
Before we get into how that occurs exactly, a few general pointers. Dating violence is also called dating abuse, intimate partner violence, intimate relationship violence and relationship abuse and it is physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse from a romantic or intimate partner. When the partners live together, it is often called domestic violence.
It's important to keep in mind that it happens to men as well as women, it occurs in all the age groups (yes, even the 60 and 70 year olds are victims sometimes) and it also happens in same sex relationships.
Examples of dating and violence include name calling, insults, threats, humiliation, hitting, pushing, biting, control of finances, isolation from others, unwanted sexual touching, rape, bullying through social media, demanding phone and other passwords and so on. You can read a fuller list of emotional abuse signs here.
It's pretty obvious to most that such things as rape, physically hitting, threats, shouted insults and being told to do things that you would not normally do constitute dating and violence and for most people, if they happened on a first date then there wouldn't be a second date. So how come these things happen on a regular basis in many relationships? How come people who believe they would recognize an abusive relationship actually end up tolerating such things over periods of time, often for years?
There are a group of people who set out to control and dominate others. They consider themselves superior and they feel they are entitled to what they can get. For them, the end justifies the means. That basically means that they will do whatever is necessary to get what they want.
There are articles and books written in which the authors say that people who control in relationships are lonely, insecure and needy, and there may be people like that. However, this article is about those who want to control because they want to control. That's how they spend their lives, manipulating others around them for their own selfish benefit. They expect to have their way all the time, they expect preferential treatment and they can be cruel and nasty when they don't get these things.
You would think that they should be easy to spot, right? Well, this is where the problems start.
These people are called manipulators for a reason. They know that if they show their true colors at the start, people will run a mile from them. So they hide their real nature initially, but they don't just hide it, they also present their targets with a facade. They size up their targets, assessing the person's wants, needs, desires, fears, strengths and weaknesses, Then they pretend to be the ideal partner for the target, offering what the person wants or needs, allaying the person's fears and pretending to be what the person wants in a partner. The manipulators will pretend to be interested in the same things as the target, to have the same values and even to have had the same past experiences.
The target, of course, is thrilled to have found such a perfect partner. They feel like their soul mate, Mr. Right or Miss Perfect has just walked into their life and not only that, but this person is actually interested in them! They are being showered with attention, compliments, gifts and they feel just fantastic, euphoric even. Very soon they are head over heels in love. And I mean very soon! It can be a few days or even just hours... Being in such a state, where the emotions are so strong, means that a person cannot think very rationally and they definitely have no sense of problems or difficulty in their lives at a time like this. This is very significant because if a family member or friend tries to warn the target about this wonderful person, the target will simply brush off any concerns because their own experience with this new partner does not fit with any signs of danger or concerns.
This honeymoon period can go on for a variable amount of time. The target, or rather victim at this stage, is besotted with the new partner, whether this partner is in an intimate relationship, a business setting, a mentoring situation or any other of a number of settings. The victim will have all sorts of plans for the future in their head which will have been encouraged by the manipulator. In fact, they may not even be able to think of a future without the manipulator.
I have said that the target is already a victim at this stage because you have to remember that the person that the victim has fallen in love with is not real. The manipulators in such situations are acting out a role, they are playing a part. They are telling lies. They are deceiving their targets. They are flat out pretending to be something that they are not. This is psychological abuse. All those lies constitute verbal abuse.
The manipulators know that first impressions count and when a person is head over heels in love with another it is very hard to shake such a strong initial impression. The beliefs the victim has about the manipulator being a good person, caring. loving, witty, intelligent, successful and so on are very strong, often stronger than normal healthy beliefs. But they have been fooled by the showy misrepresentation of the manipulator and they are blissfully unaware of the unpleasantness behind it, often for a long time.
At some point, often when there has been some level of commitment on the part of the victim, such as moving in together, getting pregnant, or even just agreeing to be boyfriend and girlfriend, the controlling behavior starts. The manipulator begins to demand more and more things. There may be criticisms of the victims ideas, clothes, body, friends and family. The manipulator may push for more access to the victim's life, such as wanting passwords, access to mobile phone and such things. The manipulator tends to want to spend more and more time with the victim.
In particular, the victim is made to feel bad for not giving in to what the manipulator wants. The manipulator knows how to make the victim feel very, very good about themselves, now they start to make the victim feel bad as well. The manipulator starts to control and manipulate very much the emotional state of the victim in order to control thinking, decision making and actions.
When these things start, the victim tends to forgive because, after all, they are with a fantastic person and everyone has off days. The unexpected behavior is put down to stress or problems at work or some other reasonably acceptable excuse. And besides, afterwards, everything settled down and things were wonderful and normal once again.
But then more bad stuff happens. There may be shouting, name calling, humiliation, criticism. The victim is told he or she is too emotional and overly sensitive. There are lies, although the victim may not actually recognize the extent of this. But the manipulator always has excuses that seem difficult to argue against. The mistreatment at the hands of a family member as a child, the ex-boyfriend who cheated, the ex-wife who took them to court and cleaned them out, all these things elicit pity from the victim and make it hard for the victim not to accept the outbursts from their (abusive) partner.
At this stage of dating and violence, the victim rarely considers the partner as abusive. There seems to be some sort of logic to what is going on and the victim is committed to the relationship and is prepared to put in the effort to make it work. Sure what couple doesn't have problems of some sort? Here is a comprehensive list of the warning signs of abusive relationships and you can read more here about why the signs of a controlling relationship are hard to spot.
Bit by bit, the power in the relationship shifts to the manipulator. This may be imperceptible to the victim because they are living in the middle of it all, the excuses of the manipulator are repeated over and over and the victim ends up believing them and the beliefs of the victim that the manipulator is basically a good person are still strong. And the manipulator will keep the victim so busy, mentally and physically, that the victim has no time to sit back and reflect on what is actually going on in the relationship.
There seems to be one crisis after another. The bad times now outweigh the good times. There may be many days of unpleasantness before there is a day or two of niceness. During the bad times, the victim tries to do things to appease the manipulator so that there can be good times again. When the good times arrive, the victim relaxes a little, hoping that now things will settle down. They tend to forgive and forget the bad stuff. They really want things to be the way they were at the start because things were so good back then.
However, the rules begin to become more and more strict. Tomatoes have to be cut a certain way. No talking to certain people. The victim has to account for where money goes although the manipulator does not reveal what they do with money. Certain topics are taboo. The manipulator decides what to watch on TV. The manipulator decides when they go out, with whom and for how long. In fact, the victim has to check in with the manipulator before making any decisions. It started out having to check in for big decisions but now it includes small decisions as well. The victim may not recognize this, they may simply think it's better to check with the manipulator so as not to upset him or her.
What kind of person deliberately engages in this kind of dating and violence? We are talking about someone who has no consideration or empathy for others, someone who is not concerned at all about the health and welfare of their partner.
The people that I am specifically referencing are those with a personality disorder where their relationships with others are abnormal because the interactions are based on coercion and exploitation.
These people are better known as psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. If you had not considered this already, it may be a bit of a fright because people often have a particular idea of what a psychopath or sociopath is and their spouse does not fit that at all. So let's have a closer look at what a psychopath is.
A psychopath is basically someone who has no conscience. They do not experience grief, remorse, embarrassment, shame, fear, love, compassion or empathy. The idea that there are individuals with no emotions is very difficult for most people to grasp. It's not something they have even considered as a possibility. It is much more likely that people think that someone has difficulty expressing their emotions, or they know how to control themselves very well but the thought that they may not have the emotions at all is foreign to the vast majority of normal, feeling people.
Not having emotions allows the psychopath to do all sorts of things to people and they never feel bad about it. (This explains how some psychopaths are serial killers or serial rapists.) This is very important. The significance of this cannot be overstated. These manipulators can abuse and mistreat others as they wish and it does not bother them.
They do know the difference between right and wrong, they just do not care. Making a decision to be cruel and abusive in a comment to their partner is the same to them as deciding between strawberry or chocolate ice cream.
These people use mind control to rule over and manipulate the emotions, the thinking, the decision making and the actions of their victims. Their motivation is power and domination. They don't allow any independence or individualism in the people under their influence. Critical thinking and rational analysis is actively discouraged. They want and demand complete control over all aspects of the victim's life.
The second thing of note about psychopaths is that they consider themselves superior to those around them. They believe they are entitled to anything they want and as far as they are concerned there is no reason that they should not have it.
A narcissist is also a person who has a personality disorder and the distinguishing feature here is the desire for praise and recognition. The narcissist wants to be the center of attention and their belief in their own superiority makes them arrogant and conceited. They insist on compliments and adoration from their victims.
I think it's obvious that dealing with such people is a completely different situation than dealing with someone who is lonely or needy or who is simply 'stuck in their ways' and wants things done their way! If you think you are in a situation of dating and violence and your partner is a psychopath or a sociopath or a narcissist, you really need to learn about what is being done to you and do something about it. If you are in the psychopath's world and you don't have a map, you are in big trouble!
Little by little, often so subtly that you don't notice it, the manipulator, whether it's a psychopath, a sociopath or a narcissist, shifts the balance of power in the relationship so that they are controlling you. They control your emotions, your thinking, your decision making and your actions. In fact, they are controlling so much about you that often family and friends will comment that they hardly recognize you anymore. They may try and point out how you have changed, how you are not your usual self. Irrespective of how much you argue with them, deny the changes or stand up for or defend your partner, the fact is that they are noticing the effects of the manipulator on you.
If someone has different ways of thinking than you do, different ideas, different emotions and different behaviors, you would obviously recognize them as a different person. But this is what the manipulator is doing to you. They have changed your way of perceiving the world (they are the center of your universe), they have changed your decision making process (your decisions are organized around what the manipulator wants or does not want) and they have changed your behaviors (don't do anything that would upset the manipulator). They have, in fact, changed your personality, your identity. This new personality is called a pseudopersonality, or false personality, because it has been imposed on you without your awareness or your agreeing to it. It is not actually 'you' although you typically won't be aware of how much you have actually 'changed'.
This pseudopersonality idea was first described by Edgar Schein in the 1950's after studying the Korean prisoners of war after their release. Instead of reverting to their normal beliefs after being released by their captors and returning home, they remained strong advocates of communism. The ideas and beliefs installed in them by their captors, using powerful influence techniques, persisted over time even when the prisoners were supposedly free to choose. Coercive persuasion was the phrase he used and now it’s called such things as thought reform, mind control and undue influence.
This description of the pseudopersonality is very useful in understanding what happens in situations of dating and violence. The victim is changed at their very core by the manipulator and the changes are designed for the benefit of the narcissist or psychopath.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to believe what the manipulator says, it's programmed to put the wants and needs of the manipulator before it's own and it's programmed to be very dependent on the manipulator. The pseudopersonality never completely destroys the real personality but rather it suppresses and dominates it.
This explains the internal conflicts the victims often have, where they feel they are at war with themselves. One part of them wants one thing, another part wants something else. One part of them believes one thing and another part believes the opposite. Foe example, the real personality may want to leave the relationship but the pseudopersonality is programmed to stay. The real personality may not like the manipulator but the pseudopersonality is programmed to love and adore them. There is no way to resolve these conflicts while the pseudopersonality is in place and while the pseudopersonality is dominant, the real personality typically ends up giving in to the programming of the pseudopersonality.
When a person thinks of leaving the relationship, the dependency of the pseudopersonality may be so strong that the victim cannot even imagine a future without the manipulator and the idea of leaving is dismissed. People may want to leave a situation of dating and violence but actually doing it can be almost impossible. This will seem strange to those who do not understand mind control, but this is what it's actually like for the victim. 'Just walking away' is not an option because of the dependency created in the pseudopersonality of the victim by the manipulator.
The pseudopersonality typically thinks that the manipulator is basically a good person because the start of the relationship was so fantastic. The pseudopersonality is also programmed to think that the manipulator is intelligent, important and right, while the pseudopersonality believes itself to be responsible for any problems, defective with lots of faults and nowhere near as worthy or deserving as the manipulator.
There are several important things about the pseudopersonality to keep in mind. It has been imposed with strong influence techniques over a period of time. The pseudopersonality has been tricked into thinking that it was making it's own decisions. These factors mean that the pseudopersonality does not disappear as soon as the person leaves the mind control situation. The pseudopersonality persists unless you actively undo it.
The patterns of thinking and behavior of the pseudopersonality will cause you problems in your life in all sorts of ways. There may be emotional problems, trust issues, sleep and eating disorders, memory and concentration difficulties, identity issues as well as flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. Difficulties arise because of the persistence of the beliefs of the manipulator including the idea that you are worthless, stupid, inferior, etc. as well as the the idea that you are responsible for all sorts of things that you really are not responsibility for. The dependency also persists and often just shifts to another person that is close to you.
Of particular importance is that if you have a pseudopersonality, whenever you meet another psychopath or narcissist, they will recognize that you have been in a traumatic situation before and they will see you as an easy target and they will go after you. This is often why people end up bouncing from one abusive relationship to another, not because they 'attract narcissists and psychopaths'.
If you are experiencing dating and violence and your partner is a psychopath, then you are in a situation where your 'loved one' is determined to control and dominate you and nothing you do is going to put an end to that. There is no treatment for sociopathy. They do not change, no matter how much they promise. You will never have a relationship that is between equals or fair in any way. It's just not going to happen.
The only way to stop the violence and the abuse is to get out. Based on what I have said already this, of course, is by no means an easy thing to do but it's the best thing you can do.
Sometimes a victim has to learn about psychopaths and narcissists to realize that they need to leave because they are so used to the abuse that they don't even realize anymore that they are being badly treated. Some victims need to understand the control that is being exerted over them in order to reduce their dependency on the manipulator so that they can actually leave. And some victims just need to run because they are in an extremely dangerous situation and they will have to 'pick up the pieces' later.
Either way, it's very important that you learn about mind control, about psychopaths and sociopaths and narcissists. You have to learn how you were being controlled, what tactics and techniques were being used against you, how these affected your emotions and thinking and why you ended up doing the things you did. Understanding the subtleties of these influence techniques is vital to reducing their effect on you.
And all this is best done with the help of an expert in this area. Be careful about working with someone who does not understand psychopathy and mind control. With the best of intentions in the world, someone who is not familiar with mind control may actually do more harm than good.
An expert will help you understand what was done to you, how it was done and why it was done in your particular situation. They will help you to undo the harmful beliefs and ideas of the manipulators, to get rid of the pseudopersonality and help you to establish your own personality. They will also help you avoid the (many) pitfalls of a mind control situation. And they will also save you a lot time, because to undo a pseudopersonality on your own is practically impossible because of the nature of mind control. The victim's pseudopersonality is programmed to believe that not only are the problems the fault of the victim but that the victim should be able to fix things on his or her own. This makes it very difficult for the pseudopersonality to actually get professional help.
To learn more about dating and violence here is more information about preventing dating violence, mind control, dealing with a sociopath, life after dating a psychopath, recovering from narcissistic abuse, how to divorce a sociopath, and healing from emotional abuse.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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