Bad Boys, Victimization, and Gaslighting: Three Recommendations

Relationships – and more importantly, toxic things in relationships – are a topic I keep coming back to. Partially because it fascinates me, and partially because I’ve seen and experienced so much needless pain.  So much of it could have been avoided.

And one of the things that people – including myself – keep tripping up on is labeling behavior.

You probably aren’t in (or haven’t been) in a relationship with a narcissist.

But you might have been in a relationship with someone who shared some of those tendencies.

That’s a necessary preface to the three things I want to bring to your attention.  The first is via Sassy Psychologist:

Sassy received a request to write about the age-old question of why some women choose the bad boy. I have three hypotheses as to why the bad boys “win” over those good guys who finish last.

I think this is a great post not just for the stated “problem”, but also as a way to think about patterns in your dating/relationship life? Identify the patterns. Stop and sit with them and try to figure out what is driving them, and decide whether or not that pattern works for you.

The other two come from the Savvy Psychologist podcast (which is delightfully short and smart, and has transcripts, thank FSM). Like the first recommendation (and my advice about toxic empathy and narcissism) the labels in the title are useful, but also as a list of really good things to think about when you’re feeling adrift and lost in your relationships (or when you’re looking at other people’s relationships).

The first is “Why Do Victims Go Back to Their Abusers?“. This is a hard (and needed) one for me to read; I have a very hard time accepting when people I care about stay in relationships that are very bad for them… and it helps me understand why some of the people I cared about had a hard time when I stayed in relationships that were bad for me.

The second is “How to Recognize 5 Tactics of Gaslighting“, and stick with me here, because this list is different than many of the pop-sci ones I’ve seen before. If nothing else, this excerpt highlights why I like it and brings us back around full circle:

Unlike in the movie, the gaslighter isn’t usually trying to destroy a relationship, much less destroy a relationship in order to claim something as concrete as a treasure chest of jewels—mwa-ha-ha-ha! Quite the opposite. The gaslighter wants the target around, wants to maintain the relationship. They just want the target around on their terms.

By the same token, gaslighting isn’t always conscious. Indeed, gaslighters don’t sit around stroking their goatees or petting a white cat while plotting to undermine your sanity.

This is important, especially when someone is coming out of an abusive relationship. I’ve seen it way too often (and done it myself): While reasserting oneself after being the victim of emotional abuse, the victim swings so far the other way that they end up doing some of the very things they were themselves subjected to.  Worse, it’s usually invisible to the person doing it. Point this kind of behavior out, and you’re quickly accused of wanting to put the prior victim back into that state of victimhood.  (You know who you are:  I’m still sorry I did this.)  Especially if the person you’re with while recovering is a person who witnessed the prior abuse (or may even have helped you escape it), it’s blindingly hurtful and offensive… and may even continue until the victim provokes the reaction they used to get.

But that’s most likely a different podcast.

Featured Photo by Jaroslav Devia on Unsplash

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