There is a reason why relationships with narcissists are fraudulent.
“Victims receive what is known as a ‘double hit’ – they are troubled by the loss of money as well as the loss of a relationship. For some, the loss of the relationship is more significant… This type of fraud can lead victims to lose faith in their ability to seek out a future romantic relationship and lead to a drop in self-confidence. Victims often feel duped – tricked into believing that they were participating in a consensual, loving relationship… Individuals who are defrauded as part of romance scam are often blamed by others for being naïve, as outsiders often feel as though the scams should have been easily identified. It is crucial to remember that this is NOT the case. Victims unknowingly participate in these relationships under false pretences and the level of deception perpetrated against them can be highly sophisticated and complex.” (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2016)
“Here’s the thing– it’s important to grasp what a sociopath is. It isn’t personal. No woman is any better than any other woman. She’s no better, we’re no better. It isn’t even a matter of consideration – sociopaths don’t love anyone. Sociopaths don’t like anyone. They don’t prefer anyone over anyone else. They have no feelings. We could be absolutely anyone to them. Their victims are interchangeable and replaceable. They run several hidden as well as visible ‘relationships’ constantly. This is the way it is. Always. It’s a faux relationship. None of us matter in the least except for one reason and one reason only: each target supplies something the sociopath wants or needs.” -Jennifer Smith (Arabi, 2016)
Let us first take the case of “romance scams” before turning to what happens when one gets into a relationship with a narcissist or a sociopath.
It’s common knowledge that the purpose of “romance scams” is financial fraud. What we may not realize, however, is that there are additional repercussions. The “romantic fraud” that accompanies the financial aspect of romance scams may not be illegal, however, it can have consequences that can be just as devastating, if not more so.
Once a romance scam comes to an end, the loss of the money may feel humiliating, embarrassing, or in some cases, may even cause a hardship. Investing monetarily in a scam and later learning it is a scam involves a material loss that may hit the ego, but it doesn’t affect the core perceptions of the self.
In contrast, when a perpetrator “gets inside” someone else’s emotional core for the purpose of accessing that person’s financial assets, there is an additional harm committed beyond financial. The violation of trust alters not just the way the person comes to see himself or herself but the world itself.
The con artist creates a false idea so believable that the other person invests a part of his or her life. Interactions genuine on the part of one person only generate emotions and create memories that take up residence in that person’s mind for the rest of his or her life. When the person learns they were never real, those mental holes can never be covered over.
Something intangible has been stolen, something fundamentally human inside that individual broken. Learning that someone you built a part of your reality with does not exist can never be undone. It can only be accepted and, perhaps, moved past.
Now let’s move to an examination of relationships with narcissists and sociopaths, where physical interactions with a living, breathing person can persist for months, years, decades.
The fraudulent aspect of narcissistic abuse may or may not involve financial abuse. But it always involves a loss of the self.
Not a Love Story: Relationships with Narcissists are Fraudulent Because…
This is the story of Rob.* Rob is a romantic con man.
Rob enters into a relationship with a woman sometime in 2012, Target A. She is a friend of his best friend’s girlfriend. All of them become a close-knit group and enjoy leisure activities together.
Later in the year, Rob travels to his country of birth for his sister’s wedding. Without telling anyone and while still in the relationship with Target A, he becomes engaged to another woman, Target B, a woman he has never met before.
When he returns to the United States, however, he does not inform any of his friends that he got engaged, nor does he break up with Target A. His father, however, who works with one of his friends, gives the friend the news, who tells the others. Target A is shocked and devastated and breaks up with him. Rob is cold and emotionless at first, but then later tries to tell Target A he made a mistake getting engaged, that he felt pressured, and they continue to see each other on and off until she moves away.
Meanwhile, Rob dates other girls as well at the same time he continues to see Target A and stay engaged to Target B. At least one, Target C, he brings around the group of friends, but the friends force him to tell Target C that he is engaged.
Rob goes to London and meets Target D. He stays for three months and they have a very intense relationship. He tells her that he wants to marry her and bring her to the United States and tries to get her pregnant, but she takes a morning-after pill so that doesn’t happen. Other times, he barely acknowledges her presence and stands her up when they have made plans.
When he returns to the U.S., she gets a new boyfriend because he tells her he doesn’t know when they will see each other again. His jealousy drives him to tell her that he has gotten engaged to Target B, in an attempt to make Target D jealous and punish her for getting a boyfriend of her own What he doesn’t tell her is that he has been engaged to Target B all along the entire time they have known one another, instead making it sound as if it happened “because he could no longer have” Target D, so he might as well get engaged to Target B.
Rob turns to online dating apps to meet women but uses the name Bob instead. He meets Target E, who never learns anything substantial about him, including his real name. When she tells him she might be pregnant, he blocks her phone number.
Rob meets Target F, whom he also at first gave the name Bob. After a couple of weeks, he tells her his real name. (As an aside, Target F never knows his real age because the age he gives her conflicts with the age some other people in his life have been told, she later learns, and multiple stories exist for why he is inconsistent).
Target F and Rob enter into an intense relationship. He asks her to marry him after six weeks–before he has even seen the inside of her apartment. Meanwhile, he continues to meet new women on dating apps and to see other women he has already known. Sometimes he cancels plans with her at the last minute.
Six months into the relationship is when the love-bombing really begins when Target F tires of the hot-and-cold behavior. Rob claims he truly loves her more than he has ever loved anyone and is sorry he has never shown it. He “has been so hurt in the past,” but now wants Target F to give him a chance to really open up. Believing that he deserves this chance, she decides to let him try.
She falls deeply in love and becomes more open and trusting with him than she ever has with anyone else.
Target F learns, however, that Rob is engaged to Target B. Rob tells her that it was a betrothal that happened when he was a baby and it has been called off, that he has told both his parents and the woman that he isn’t going to marry her.
Target F also learns about Target D, with whom Rob is still interacting. Rob claims that Target D is “crazy” and “obsessed with him.” Target F also finds evidence of online sex chatting with random women, which Rob claims only occurred at the beginning of the relationship before they had gotten so serious and won’t happen again.
Target F and Rob move in together in their fourteenth month. Eighteen months into the relationship, Target F learns the following in the span of about three days:
- Rob had cheated on her multiple times;
- Rob had not, in fact, been betrothed as a baby but had just gotten engaged three years before to Target B while in a relationship with Target A and that the engagement was still on;
- Rob had told Target A that he was still in love with her a few months before, while Target F was a mere few feet away;
- Rob is still talking with Target D, telling her he wants to marry her and is trying to bring her to the U.S. from London and put her in a hotel while he and Target F live together.
Rob grows livid when Target F confronts him with what she has discovered. Rob will not move out of their apartment or let Target F move out and threatens her with financial harm. Rob states that if she will go on a trip that week with him that was pre-planned, he will move out with no issues and do all of things needed to make that a smooth transition. Feeling under duress to agree to his terms, hoping that one week will allow her to have her freedom from him, Target F agrees.
During the trip, however, he intermittently withdraws, stonewalls, makes threats, smears her to strangers, emotionally and physically abuses her, threatens to rape her, and claims to be sleeping with women he has met on the trip while they are there. She begins to fear for her life, believing he might have brought her to the Caribbean to kill her for insurance money. He also in other instances claims he can’t live without her and she is the love of his life.
Target F cannot stop financially or legally interacting with Rob when they return, and this is when the true mind control begins, also including more physical abuse and complete isolation, as he is now the only person left with whom she is interacting socially.
Rob has claimed once again that he has called off the engagement to Target B once and for all.
Rob had a girlfriend several years before, Target G, whom he had already discussed with Target F previously. He had claimed that Target G had gotten pregnant by his best friend and that is one of the reasons for his lack of trust.
At some point in the present, however, Target G reappears in Rob’s life and the story morphs into something else. Suddenly, Rob claims that the child is his. Rob claims that Target G had told him that the child was his at the time she was pregnant, but that he hadn’t taken responsibility, and his best friend had decided to start raising the child as his own. So not only had Target G had not a child with his best friend, a storyline he’d used to act victimized, Rob had known he’d had a child of his own and had chosen to pretend the child didn’t even exist.
As contact continued between Target F and Rob, she learns that Rob is still talking to Target B about marriage–the engagement is not called off (although he keeps putting it off). Target B claims that Rob has told her Target F was just a friend, an American whore, and not to worry about her. He tells Target F that Target B doesn’t understand him, she is someone who grew up in a different world and they have nothing in common, that they don’t want the same things out of life and he would be bored if he ended up with her.
Rob claims to both Targets that the other is lying.
He asks Target F to get married or run away with him, but she won’t. He marries Target B, who has met him only once and knows him only through text and phone call communication. He continues to contact Target F and ask her to marry him after he is already married.
Target F goes no contact through a series of events that ended with more questions than answers.
After Target F goes no contact, Rob’s friend contacts her to ask if Rob tried to sleep with an ex-girlfriend that Target F knows, Target H. Rob had to have met Target H after his wedding since that was when his friend dated her.
I am “Target F” and This is Also My Story
I can’t tell it in fifteen minutes.
I can’t tell it in one hour.
It is three stories in one.
The First Story
The first story, the story above, is his story his way–the one where there are no secrets. It is a first-person story from beginning to end as he lived it, not as he narrated it for others. He is the quintessential unreliable narrator.
Relationships with narcissists are fraudulent because they benefit only the narcissist. They are fraudulent because actions don’t match words, because actions don’t even match actions. They are fraudulent because lies pile upon lies, even when it makes no sense for a new lie to be told.
The Second Story
The second story is mine and has to be narrated much differently. It begins in the middle.
For me, it all began that moment we met, that day he took me out and we stood in front of a pool table placing bets–the best two out of three…
“If I win I get a kiss,” he’d said. It sounds like the beginning of something.
And it was. Oh, yes, it was. Just not the thing I’d believed it was. I didn’t know I was entering in the middle of the third act, and that there were five.
Telling it his way is like giving away all the clues I never had, like revealing the backdrop to a mystery that everyone in the story can only see a piece of at a time before he shines the light somewhere else lest they see too much.
It’s a time-travel story where I had to go into the past to understand the present. When his story began colliding with mine, my whole life unraveled into nothing then rebuilt itself from the ground up. The real version, finally, with all the missing pieces patched in.
The Third Story
The third story is every survivor’s story. It’s the one that explains how and why. It’s the one that cannot be told through the narratives or the facts of the story, but through an understanding of the psychology of the mind and the social world we inhabit.
Why does he behave that way? Why do I?
It’s the story of the research behind why relationships with narcissists are called fraudulent, each pairing between narcissist and victim fusing into a fierce cult of two.
Are Your Questions the Same Questions I Used to Have?
Here’s what I know now about what happened. Understanding it has helped me to get my mind back and turn my own life around. I’m dropping these here in one place in case they can help anyone else.
- Did Rob love me?
- Did Rob abuse me?
- Why is it so hard for me describe what Rob did as abuse?
- Why did Rob hurt me?
- What did Rob want?
- What was Rob’s problem?
- Why was my relationship with Rob always doomed?
- Why couldn’t I stay away from Rob?
- Also, why else couldn’t I stay away from Rob?
- Also, what other reasons explain why couldn’t I stay away from Rob?
- Why did I miss Rob when he hurt me so much?
- Why wouldn’t Rob leave me alone?
- How can I know that Rob will stay away from me now?
If you’d like to get a copy of the toolkit that I developed to help go no contact, it is available at this link:
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. (2016, January). “Helping Victims of Fraud Recover.” Accessed April 25, 2019 at https://crcvc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/helping-victims-of-fraud-recover_Jan2016_final.pdf
Arabi, Shahida. (2016). Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare. CreateSpace.
*Rob is not his real name.