Seduced and discarded, lovers feel betrayed.
Over the four-plus decades I have been a relationship therapist, I have seen the most pain, disillusionment, and torture in those who have fallen in love with people who seduce, capture, and then leave them without a trace.
Not only are these abandoned partners bereft and confused, but they are also filled with self-doubt, often blaming themselves for the relationship’s ending. The connection felt perfect, ecstatic, and beyond anything they’ve ever known or felt. What could they have done wrong?
Much of the confusion happens because these relationships don’t end all at once. There are many unexplained absences, multiple excuses, and promises of new behaviors as these partners continue to charm, reconnect, and then disappear again and again.
At some point, the terror of forever loss comes true as the seduce-and-abandon partners disappear. For whatever reason, they have had their fill of the other partner’s agony and pleadings, cannot come up with any more legitimate reasons for their behaviors, or have just moved on to new and more challenging situations.
That is when their bereaved victims come to me, broken and in despair.
Many professionals label these amorous predators as narcissistic personality disorders or trauma-driven people out to even a childhood score. Perhaps they crave intimacy while simultaneously being terrified of entrapment. Maybe they are searching for the perfect partner but sabotaging their efforts.
To the people who are alternately reassured and abandoned, it doesn’t matter why they do what they do. They are trying desperately to understand what happened and why anyone who expressed such profound love could have only been using them. They feel they cannot heal without understanding, and the puzzle pieces are woefully inadequate.
Surprisingly, when I ask them if they regret being in the relationship, many are embarrassed to admit that not only would they never have wanted to miss the experience, but they would likely try again were that person to come back into their life and stay there. They are still trapped in a fantasy over which they never had any control.
How can a person recognize a seduce-and-abandon person early enough not to fall into this emotionally agonizing abyss? And, what do they need to face about themselves that kept them participating?
Common Characteristics of a Seduce-and-Abandon Lover
These relationship predators are often extremely captivating. They can wrap one another in ecstatic sexual experiences, romantic fantasies of forever-binding love, and promises of complete safety. They place their partners on pedestals of adoration and can somehow convince them that they will never fall.
2. Convincing Stories of Life-time Victimization
These convincing charmers often claim unbelievably painful stories of how others have betrayed them, broken their hearts, exploited their talents, and discarded them. They have been looking for someone who would never hurt them and convince their newest victim that they are “the one.”
3. They Believe Their Own Stories
After repeatedly telling the same stories about how wonderful they are and how others are always to blame, they believe them, even if they are exaggerations or fantasies that are likely never to have occurred in how they are professed.
4. Promises Do Not Match Up With Behavior
Glib and convincing, they agree to their availability but show up intermittently, keeping their partners always wondering if they will come through. Their roster of excuses is always unexpected demands of others that could not be predicted and catastrophic inabilities to connect.
They can convince their insecure partners that they didn’t hear correctly, expected something unreasonable, or asked more than they should. “If they are truly the one, they would understand and never challenge their behavior.”
6. Cut Off Accessibility to Others
To ensure their victims do not get rescued by concerned friends and families, they secure time and loyalty in advance and push them to doubt the worries of others. Suppose they want the kind of relationship that is promised. In that case, they must believe totally in the value of the relationship over all else, even if failures to show up continue to happen.
7. Attack Vulnerabilities and Needs
They promise first that their partners will never feel alone again, will always be taken care of, and will never be abandoned if they continue to believe what they are being told without questions. Then, when these kinds of predators want out, they attack that partner for being dependent and “too needy and controlling.”
Common Characteristics of Victims of Seduce-and-Abandon Lovers
1. Die-Hard Romantics
People who have waited their whole lives for the perfect person who would love them unconditionally and forever are most susceptible to these seduce-and-abandon partners. They have usually been taken advantage of in prior relationships for giving too much.
2. Others Determine Self-esteem and Personal Value
They have always determined their value by what others think of them and have never found someone who has loved them so completely before. The sexual connection is also something they have never experienced before and might never again. That person must feel the same as they do. Otherwise, how could it seem so perfect?
There is almost always trauma around abandonment and rejection in their pasts, particularly from a childhood nurturer who alternately pedestalized and rejected them, or they witnessed it between others. The trauma reemerges as they project onto this partner the hope that, this time, they will never be abandoned again in the same way.
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4. Go “All-In” With Relationships
They want so much to love and be loved that they often are not careful to do an effective vetting before giving the relationship everything up front. They want to believe everything a partner tells them about themselves is true.
5. Want to “Save” the Predator
They have always wanted to be the person who could rescue someone wonderful and heal them from their past unfair losses. Feeling that the depth of their love will conquer all, they reconnect each time the predator returns with renewed promises, “legitimate excuses,” and new professions of forever love. When they do disappear forever, ghosting them into oblivion, the grief is unbearable.