I am a licensed professional counselor. My practice focus is in general counseling, depression, anxiety, couples, custody issues, and LGBTQ.
If you have ever been the victim of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or any other personality disorder, including a sociopath or psychopath), you have been ‘primed’ to be victimized again by another one. One of the biggest ‘marks’ (targets) for con-men are single women with children. This is because this demographic profile represents a very vulnerable and ‘easy pickins’ opportunity for the NPD.
This is a central fact that women who fit this profile must understand: you are a clear ‘mark’ for exploitation by a man with a personality disorder. These kinds of perpetrators are like sharks; they can literally ‘smell’ even a drop of blood in the water. They have the uncanny ability to locate single women with children who are in some kind of difficulty. What difficulty? It could be financial, it could be that the woman is in recovery from a previous relationship (probably with a narcissist), or perhaps the woman is having a tough time disciplining a child (usually a male child), or the woman simply unconsciously broadcasts her strong need to be in a love relationship.
It is important to remember that to an individual with a personality disorder, you are only either a toy, a tool, or an obstruction to what they want. They are like a ‘Terminator’, there is no genuine feeling, compassion, or caring, and they will absolutely never stop what they do. And just like a ‘Terminator’, they have the ability accurately imitate human beings that do have caring hearts. All, of course, to exploit the ‘mark’.
There is a little known branch of magic called ‘cold reading’ (and cold readers want to keep it ‘little known’!) that is a replica of what personality disordered predators are naturally talented at. Most magicians and clinical counselors (including myself) have to study and practice ‘cold reading’ skills that personality disordered predators seem to be born with.
Cold reading is a matter of intelligence gathering that is going on every moment the predator is exposed to the prey. In our example of a single woman, say, with a young son, the predator is collecting bits and pieces about her personality, what she is looking for in a man, how she feels about her child and the child’s other parent, her income level, and measuring her attractiveness, to name a very few items on their checklist. All of these bits of information give the predator the information that they need to shape their presentation to the victim, and be assured the presentation that develops is tailor made to the victim’s desires. As the victim reacts favorably to the charm and positive attention (‘He’s such a gentleman!’), the predator gains even more information that the victim is not even aware that they are giving to the predator. For a simple example, most folks cannot comprehend what a plethora of information that can be had by a quick glance at an open purse or wallet. Why would you let a relative stranger glance into your purse? Well, you already trust him, right? You are, after all, already on the date.
Typically, intelligence gathering will include things like personal relationship history, especially concerning the last break up. The predator will put much effort into validating what a slime, or what a stupid idiot your ex was for what he did or for ‘letting you go’. There may be also acute interest in who your friends are, and which ones are closest to you (he won't like them, or at least will be aloof from them). This applies for family members, too. The predator wants to know who he is going to have to isolate you from, and how many people he will have to deal with. Also, he wants to check to see if anyone you know may know him and his rather spotty past.
It will seem then, as if the predator can ‘read your mind’, because usually by the second date, they already have figured you out well enough to know exactly what kind of second date is going to bowl you over. For example, if in the first date you mentioned that you are ‘just a simple girl, low maintenance, just someone looking for the things every girl looks for', the second date might be in a local park, with a carefully hand packed picnic lunch and feeding of the squirrels. This may also be the date where the predator begins to actively ‘run the scam’.
Running the Scam
‘Running a scam’ means the tactics that are used to take advantage of the ‘mark’. Within one (or more typically, two) dates, the predator will begin to groom the victim by ‘sharing’ some information that makes him seem very vulnerable. Information like how hurt he was in his last relationship, or how the ex will not let him see the kids, or the death of a close friend, etc, etc. This tactic is to increase your confidence in the predator, and it also places subtle pressure on the victim to ‘share’ equally in turn, giving the predator yet more information to shape his presentation.
Many personality disorders, though, have a very difficult time containing their ‘crazy’, and will make small errors when something out of place ‘leaks out’. This will typically be mentioning something that is oddly inappropriate for the stage of relationship that has begun, like: ‘how do you feel about sex toys?’ If the victim is startled or disquieted by the comment, the predator is very quick to pour on extra charm, sweeping the comment out of existence. Only later (usually much later) does the victim recall these weird comments and realize that they ‘missed’ something important back when the new relationship was all hearts and flowers.
Another marker is the pace at which the romance takes place. It is often described as a ‘whirlwind’, and ‘magical’, even unbelievable. The predator knows that he cannot afford to wait to have the mark hooked after the initial infatuation has died down. Infatuation is a neurochemical process that produces lots of feel-good brain chemicals and hormones, and lasts about 2-3 months. The predator knows that he has to get a better hook inside that time frame, so everything is geared towards having sex with the victim. Sex is important not only for it being ‘the next stage’ in the relationship, but because good sex produces bonding hormones. Predatory personality disordered men are often highly skilled technicians at sex. When a victim gets the idea that her new love interest ‘just perfectly seems to know what I need in bed’, the relationship has, indeed, gone to the next level.
Personality disordered people absolutely love to be adored, that is why they initially adore the victim, to train them in what they want done for themselves. Because the predator at least intellectually understands exchange theory in relationship, they model what they want the victim to do for them. Since most human beings do, in fact, begin to return what they get in relationship, the predator knows he has the victim hooked once she begins to ‘give’ to the predator.
Not far from this point, the predator may make a rapid behavioral and affective change, where he is no longer charming or giving, but is expecting and demanding to be served. The honeymoon period gives way to expectations of gratitude from the victim towards the predator, as well as other abuses, like borrowing funds or cars, freeloading by moving in and not working, and demeaning comments ('You are too fat, stupid, ugly, for anyone to want you; you could never get someone as good as me again').
Maintaining the Scam
There is no action in the ‘relationship’ that the predator has not thoroughly thought out and planned as a means to continue to exploit the victim. Like sharks never sleeping and always moving, personality disorders are always plotting, figuring odds, and manipulating. The means to maintain the scam becomes ever more elaborate, and eventually begins to break down due to the weight of the deceptions and lies.
To a predator, lies are fundamental, as are other deceptions, like building plausible cover stories for where they have been and what they have been doing. Most personality disordered predators always have one or more marks that they are grooming to replace the one that may find everything out at any moment. The other thing that the predator has going for him is the fact that human beings have what is called ‘persistence of memory’, especially for positive, rewarding things. The victim, at one time, had an extremely powerful, positive and rewarding experience of the predator, and they remember this. They have been convinced that they can have that back, if they only work harder at pleasing the predator. Secondarily, by this point in the relationship, they have a great deal invested: time, money, and attachment to name a few. In addition, the predator has already likely fully convinced the victim that things that are not going right in the relationship are the victim’s fault.
As predatory personality disorders get older and gain experience, many get even better at what they do. It is not uncommon for them to be able to keep a victim in the dark about the truth for years, even decades. Essentially, some predators are able to duplicate what is known as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in their victims. This syndrome might also be called ‘capture-bonding’, which is a kind of brainwashing in which hostages begin to identify and feel good about their captor, sometimes to the point of even committing crimes for them that they would not ordinarily do. This can be a very strong effect, as can be seen in the young female followers of Charles Manson.
Rest assured, when the personality disordered predator gets bored with his toy, or the victim is no longer useful, or the victim is getting in the way of what the predator currently wants, the victim will be kicked to the curb. But, the predator is likely to continue to harass and play with the emotions of the victim, especially if they have a child together.
If you are a victim of a personality disordered predator, you can recover, with the help of a clinical counselor who is well versed in helping such victims. A serene, productive, and positive life is possible following being a victim, and it is important that you get the training you need to avoid becoming a repeat victim of yet another predator.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Suzie from Carson City on November 21, 2018:
William, I feel a second visit to this thread is warranted after having recently read the stunning story of "Leon Jacob," followed up by viewing the 20/20 documentary of this Classic Narcissist.
Learning of this man and the untold damage he incurred upon several women, as he ultimately destroyed even his own life, literally left me shaken to my core. What an incredibly dangerous & frightening human being Leon is.........but fortunately, he is serving a life sentence, rendering him (somewhat) harmless at this point.
I enjoyed reading your article again. Paula
Anon on November 20, 2018:
This can be completely shifted too. The more I read the more I realize some part of me had to know but I didn’t. A single man with a son with a sob story about why his mother left (which kills me even thinking she could do this but the worst but good part is he knows 100% he’s loved more than anything by me. He also has seen his dads games and plays them back on him. This/my child has the world sitting in his hands but if I leave no one to stay sober or commit to a daily routine with a “tween.” He knew I was separated and had been through entirely too much than one individual should ever have to but I was a happy person with a ton of goals and if I ever got married again it would be REAL. I could be myself no one lies no want has to be right every second and no one ever emotionally scars the person they truly are in love with. That’s why I’m here to say nothing is perfect ...I’m perfect with that but appreciate every second b/c life will teach you when you don’t even feel like you needed or deserved it that bad things happen within seconds so every word that comes out of your mouth needs to be at least not hurtful.
LogansNanny on May 02, 2018:
I have been researching narcissism since my beautiful son was captured and imprisoned in fatherhood! This article confirms my understanding 100% thank you.
I know that mostly men are predators and women become their victims but let me tell you it's no less devastating when it's the other way around!
Luckily she did not destroy our close family bond and we have been able to "rescue" him quite early on but not before she persuaded him that all borrowing for luxury items needed to be in his name only! He was not the cash cow she dreamed of!
Her "concern" now is that their son does not suffer. She should have thought of that, and obviously we will do our best to ensure that our beautiful grandson and son are safe from this woman!
McKenna Meyers on September 05, 2016:
Very helpful. It's important to remember, as you stated, that the personality disordered individual does not experience emotions like we do. They'll always have the upper-hand because they have no real feelings to encumber them. They are Terminators as you so aptly dubbed them.
geo on February 24, 2016:
We endured abuse from our daughters and their husband's .
We ended our relationship with them and are back to enjoying life once again .
The best thing one can do is walk away and say Good bye.
Suzie from Carson City on January 09, 2016:
This is a fabulous read on the Narcissist! Also needless to say a must-read for single Moms (or at least those who may be vulnerable)
I need to say that these young women are the most difficult to counsel. It's a struggle just getting them to accept that they fall into the category of "abused women." As you pointed out so well, the fraudulent "charm" and talent to mimic a nice guy are so prevalent in these men.
No, it's not just men of course. Narcissistic females are just as lethal for men as their prey.
You have done a wonderful service. Excellent work.
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on January 09, 2016:
Thank you so much for this information. I needed so much to know why my daughter has abused me for so many years. Now I know, and I feel, empowered to do something about it.
A dark cloud is gone and the light shines through once again. I'm grateful for your help.
Liv Carradine from Los Angeles, CA on June 10, 2015:
Soooo many women need to read this! You have written down in words what I've been trying to tell my sister and girlfriends for years. After my divorce I dated a narcissist for a short time. I refused to tell him what kind of man I was looking for because I didn't want him to impersonate him. He pretended to be offended by that comment. I didn't know that being a generalized a**hole had a clinical name. Thanks for sharing ;)
Chuck Fasst from Portland, Oregon on May 29, 2015:
i like the way you talk about that "cold reading". And the other thing is what I call the "N-speak." They are always giving out clues during conversations. People who are not being abused by them are often enthralled with them.
Jen Card on March 07, 2015:
Very good hub. Thank you for sharing your knowledge,
it's very helpful.