Choosing one to love is important, but choosing self-love is more critical when there's dysfunction.
I was talking with a friend recently at the Texas State Fair as we waited in line to ride the roller coaster. I asked a life-changing question..."How can someone truly love you and desire a future with you, but tell you consistently that you are a bad mate and pathetic parent and you need to change?" Answer: "They can't...that's why they should be banished from your life!". I responded with a big sigh, "You're so right…I think I've had enough roller coasters, I'll sit this one out".
As I sat and watched the roller coaster whiz by, I realized something...critique and manipulation are really destructive tactics to use in a love relationship; crazy-making behavior that makes your head spin. It's painful when the reality sets in that you've been on a roller-coaster ride that at times seemed thrilling and even addictive, but later left you nauseous---realizing you've partaken in a non-authentic, manipulative, and conditional love relationship and that you've likely been co-dependent. Katy Perry's song "Wide Awake" says it best when the realization hits you.
Those who are loving, giving, trusting, wounded, or fearful can be easily duped by a Narcissistic Manipulator and Controller, especially one who also has attractive characteristics. Good looks, passion, affection, charm, romance, humor and fun can be very alluring to someone during a low time in their life. But, don't get sucked in to another's selfish motives...appearances are deceiving and self-preservation is key. Love of SELF has to supersede love for another in these cases, especially when the other is in denial, won't look at themselves deeper and projects all their issues onto you as if you are crazy and not 'up to par' for them. It's important to have keen awareness and discernment in choosing important relationships - trust your instincts. Don't ignore the red flags that signal bigger issues. And don't ignore your friends and family...they aren't blinded by romantic love.
Red flags are behaviors like never apologizing for their part, punishing you by suddenly breaking up OR cutting off all communication and not talking to you for days when they are mad, emotions turning on a dime (i.e., splitting: loving/valuing you then hating/devaluing you), wild accusations when you ARE trustworthy, requesting sex after insulting you, telling you repeatedly your bond is so rare and special that you’ll never be able to replace them, telling you that any other man would just want you for your body, impatience or anger with differences of opinion, inability to effectively cope with frustration, oversensitivity to perceived slights, criticizing you using irresponsible labels such as "selfish", "lazy", "pathetic" "disgusting", "evil", and degrading phrases like "you're not smart enough for me", and "you have no mental acuity". These verbal attacks are interspersed with many moments of loving adoration, attention, compliments, romance, affection, and passion to keep you intrigued enough to stay! Emotional or verbal abuse? They are definitely not messages of self-love or authentic love for the other. Could they be tactics for deflating ones sense of self-worth so the victim won't abandon the abuser? Manipulators have no self-love, don't feel worthy, don't trust others fully and therefore believe they have to 'persuade' love to happen to meet their needs consistently in the future.
But their methods to keep the victim 'locked in' will eventually push that victim away (if the victim's strong enough), and the Manipulator experiences a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now the very person they were trying to manipulate for fear of leaving them, is gone - due to their own destructive behaviors. Typically their love history includes a trail of broken relationships and unfulfilled dreams. But if you ask them why, it's always because of the other person, or because they just chose badly before!
Love is a two-way street in a mature and healthy relationship...but for dysfunctional relationships, it's a one-way, dead end highway. Manipulators use 'romantic love' as a means to an end - using their perfected charm and adoring affection to get their selfish needs met. They sniff out vulnerability and can read you like a book, including all your insecurities and needs. In fact, that’s what initially makes them seem so great - that intense attentiveness! But that same ability to zero in on your needs is also the same ability they have to find your weakness and critique you for it over and over again. And even worse, be prepared for their temper when you've angered them (maybe by just not accepting their verbal abuse as 'warranted') - Narcissistic rage is scary and something you'll wished you hadn't witnessed. How could someone SO loving also be SO mean? It feels like something out of the 1931 horror movie, "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde". Only when it's too late does the unknowing victim realize their nearly fatal car crash. And, like a totaled car, it can take a lot of work to get back to original condition to be drivable again.
So, how do you know when you meet someone who is a Manipulator? If they seem charming and likable, but you feel something in the pit of your stomach, or that feeling that something's "off" - RUN. If they sometimes say things that make you question the truth or yourself - RUN. If you find yourself in a whirlwind romance...they are extremely romantic and very quick to confess their love for you - RUN. If you find yourself feeling sorry for them (confusing pity with love), because they seem like a victim who has always been wronged in their relationships - RUN. If they are not friends with any of their ex's, and don't seem to have strong relationships with their kids or their friends - RUN. Finally, if you are bold enough to ask one of their former love interests for their own experience (and they seem credible) and their story does not sound good - RUN! Most tigers don't change their stripes.
Know that there is no shame in misjudging someone's character or emotional stability - even strong people can be vulnerable at certain times of their life. The problem is if you let the negative relationship continue after knowing the truth. When you constantly give someone the benefit of the doubt, and they're left with all the benefit and you're left with all the doubt…it's time to make a change. Stand for something, or fall for anything. When you find yourself trying to influence others that your mate is "a good, stable, loving person who really loves you", you know you are lying to yourself and are really a victim of manipulation and brainwashing. Others see what you cannot. Try not to beat yourself up for being involved with such a dysfunctional person. It’s normal to feel embarrassment, guilt and extreme pain being ‘taken in’ by someone you gave your everything to – one you trusted but who didn’t truly love or respect you the way you deserve. Ask for moral support from trusted friends and family; others who authentically love you will help you. Get into counseling for your own healing. Don't enable, protect or try to fix the Manipulator at your own expense. Protect yourself. Follow a 'no contact' rule so you're not tempted to re-engage with the person. Life is short, you do have a choice, and we don't have many do-overs available to us as an adult. Surrender to the truth of the situation - the truth shall set you free! A better future and an authentic lover are both awaiting you. Let go of the old so you can welcome the new. I wish you Faith vs. Fear on your own journey of self-love. Oh, and don't ride the roller coaster…it's not worth the thrill and can make you sick.
NOTE: This is a fictional story written to help others based on experience, interviews with others, and extensive research on Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, and Co-Dependency.