Every once in awhile I get a client whose behavior pattern leaves me stumped. It can be especially tricky digging through the layers of lies and deception. Like the one client I worked with for years, who seemed to have a pathological jealousy problem, until he finally trusted me enough to confess that his jealousy was a cover for the fact that he was the one indulging in the affairs he always accused his partners of. Turns out his jealousy wasn’t based on insecurity. It was based on projection, worrying that his partners were doing the same thing he was guilty of.
Having counseled so many cheaters, I’ve already heard a lot of stories. Like the man who cheated on his wife through a plethora of mostly one night stands for many years who kept trying to tell me he just couldn’t help it. After all he was a very successful business man who traveled all over the world. He was constantly surrounded by women, and told me it was not his fault he had sex with them. “I mean they are throwing themselves at me, what is a poor guy like me supposed to do?” That’s when I mentioned to him that candy is also everywhere, so why didn’t he eat it all the time? “Because I don’t want to get obese, so I chose to have control over myself,” he replied. “Exactly,” I responded. “You chose to control your behaviors, or you don’t! So stop making excuses, and do the work to make better (and more loving) choices on behalf of yourself and others.”
Like other male clients I have had, my latest client was another cheater. And, like most of the cheaters I have known he had a lot of convoluted layers of lies that helped him justify his hurtful behaviors. To begin with, he claimed at first to be separated from his wife. So, it seemed like a classic case of helping him sort out his feelings and at first I thought cheating wasn’t exactly a label that fit him. Until I discovered that while dating other women as a supposedly separated man, he was still having sexual relations with his wife and not informing the new women he met about it. “Sounds like you are still a married man,” I said. “Not exactly,” he replied, “I’m in something like an open marriage.” Note: I should have paid more attention to the “something like” part, because in time I discovered that though the wife knew he was most likely sleeping with other women, she wasn’t exactly happy about it. And, there was nothing open to it all. I’ve worked with couples in open marriages, and they are just that — open — about their relations with others. They don’t have a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” which breeds the same dysfunctional pattern of lies, deception, and denial.
No surprise, everything seemed to go fine for this latest client until some of the new women he was sleeping with (i.e. cheating with) got attached to him. Of course, none of them understood that he was really a married man who was just fooling around. They brought into his “I’m separated” façade. “What am I supposed to do? Go without sex?” he said when I attempted to confront him on his behaviors. “But, you have sex with your wife,” I replied. “That’s different. I don’t think of her when I am having sex. I think about other women. How else can I get off?” he rationalized. Suddenly, the other client of mine – the one who made it clear he was a married man while cheating- didn’t look so bad. And, as I listened to my “separated” client my training on understanding the difference between abusive and loving behaviors came more sharply in view.
Unlike cheaters (male and female) who have a period of dissatisfaction in a relationship and don’t know how to work it out through open, loving, and compassionate communication, this latest guy (and my other clients, male and female, like him) fall into the category of players, not just cheaters. Though players are often charming, they are also highly abusive, though their kind of abuse is hard to spot. Like all abusers, players come from an entitled attitude. It is all about their needs and wants. There is no consideration for yours. Think for a moment about the classic attitudes of a player below.
Attitudes of a Player.
• Being with you is mostly about me. What matters most is that I am having fun, my ego is getting a boost, and my needs are getting met. I don’t really care much about yours.
• I like you, but I don’t really want to get to know you. I’d rather think of you more as entertainment and a prize catch. I don’t really want to take time to know you, understand you, appreciate or respect you. And, please leave your “drama” (i.e. humanity) at home.
• I’m not really a player, after all I paid you! So, don’t try to tell me that I’ve hurt you. I paid you (in the nightclub, at the strip joint, as a hooker, in the bedroom, with some trinkets) so how could I be exploiting you? It’s not my problem your feelings got involved and hurt.
• I’m great, because so many women/men are fighting over me. Never mind that I try to pit them off against each other to dodge the bullet of how I am hurting them by demeaning and manipulating them. I don’t really care who gets hurt.
• I’m not dishonest, because I mostly tell the truth. Never mind that I often fail to tell you the whole truth. If I did that how could I get what I want from you? (Like money, favors, sex, my ego boost that tries to tell me how great I am to you). Faking feelings for you, creating false expectations in you that feed your hopes that I may one day want you, constantly sending out mixed messages of being available but not available, and not setting clear and respectful boundaries is all part of my way of making sure I get my needs met, without feeling too guilty about not really paying attention to yours.
• When all else fails, pick a fight and run! That way when I do feel some anxiety about how I am using you, or want to get my needs met elsewhere, I can eliminate it quickly by finding something wrong about you, so I can break up with you and not feel bad about running off to go have sex with somebody else. That my break from you was abrupt and my accusations of what you did wrong were minimal (or non-existent) doesn’t matter. A players got to do what a players got to do.
Why Players Often Get Away With Being Abusive.
• To begin with people often fail to understand that a player is playing them, because players are often valued as “prizes.” Typically, they have looks, money, charisma, or fame. So, people make excuses for their insensitive, cruel, and abusive behaviors.
• Also, players typically prey upon people with abandonment issues so that they are more likely to convince you that there is nothing better for you. They even attempt to make you believe that you are lucky to have them in your life, so that you won’t catch on to the fact that you are far better off if you were rid of them, since they will only make your abandonment and self-esteem issues worse.
• Players often dodge the bullet of being identified as players because they are frequently so evasive. By lying, telling half-truths, pitting people off against each other to divert attention away from what they are doing, or asserting what a prize they are, they dupe you into thinking they are wonderful, instead of deceptive and abusive.
• Players seldom take responsibility for the hurt they cause putting the blame squarely on you. Time and again they attempt to convince you that you are lucky to be with them, and any time you feel hurt, want more, catch them in a lie, and want them to be honest, in their minds, the fault lies with you, and sadly too many victims of their abuse accept that this must be true.
How to Stop Getting Played By a Player.
• Like all abusers, players prey upon people who have abandonment issues, have a history of abuse, or who feel lonely and vulnerable. If you are one of those people, seek out support groups that can help you feel better about yourself. Make a commitment to love and heal yourself, improve your self-image, and learn what love really looks like so you can have more of it in this world.
• Stop focusing on the outer package and look at the inner as well. Players count on your ability to be impressed by outer hype (looks, money, charisma, status, fame). As long as you are dazzled by this, you will be more likely to ignore their lies, deception, mind games, lack of empathy, manipulations, and tendencies to use people to meet their needs while discounting your own. Take time to see what is inside the box beyond the pretty wrapping paper.
• Know what your own needs are and make sure those you are in a relationship with feel responsible for reciprocity. If you are feeling cheated, used, and discounted by a partner, chances are you are! If, when you communicate your feelings about this to a partner, you find you are discounted (or worse ridiculed), back away from the person and if possible remove yourself from him or her entirely. Your needs matter too.
• Learn about the signs of a player and back away immediately from that person if you spot them. This can be hard because players will tend to pour on the charm rather heavily when first meeting you. They will be far more likely than others to flatter you, pressure you, and want to make you feel as if you should be grateful to be around them. Unlike players, people who are genuinely interested in you, want to take time to get to know you. They want to assess what your needs are and learn if it is realistic to establish a reciprocal relationship with you. In short, they are interested in you for the long run, not just the short run. And, they are not focused on having you be interested in their needs over yours.
Reforming Players to Become Better People.
Of the men I have worked with few have stopped their behaviors of being a player unless the rewards tapered off. With the first man I mentioned above, his guilt over cheating on his girlfriends eventually got the better of him. He became exhausted with his double standard and how much it was costing him in the way of time, attention, and money. He was also lucky enough to keep finding girlfriends who got exhausted with him. After getting dumped for the third time, he decided it was time to come clean and learn how to be a more genuine and loving human being.
As for the married successful business man, though his cheating hasn’t ended, the consequences for his behaviors are manifesting. His wife and children essentially hate him. His wife has finally asked for a divorce. His own guilt about knowing how he is just using women as “sexual conquests” is something he readily admits to and it is beginning to bother him more. Worse, he is now 48 years old. Though he knows he could still get away with his behaviors for a time to come, he is beginning to worry that if he starts to lose his money, power, or looks things could start to go radically downhill. Then, he might end up like other male clients I have known who slip into their sixties essentially devoid of any meaningful relationships because they never knew how to establish them. As compensation they often slip into alcohol, marijuana, or other forms of substance abuse to help them cope with the inner mountain of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
And, as for my latest client, the separated guy who is really married, and not telling anyone about it? Though at times he has some anxiety (especially about his children finding out about his behaviors and his wife going after his money in a divorce), for the most part the “chickens haven’t come home to roost.” Being a player is still bringing him too many seeming rewards. Sure, he drinks too much. True, he worries about getting found out. Yes, he is leaving a mountain of confused and broken hearts from women he dumps and he has some growing guilt emerging from knowing this. But, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. In his own eyes, he is still a great guy. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up like the one client I had years ago, who woke up one day to his mistress stabbing a pair of scissors into his balls. Let’s hope he gets conscious before it gets that bad. In the meantime, what the rest of us can do is to spot players more readily, tolerate them less easily, take away the goodies they get from being players, and have the self-esteem to stay away from them entirely until they learn how to truly love themselves and other people.
As I’ve always said, love isn’t blind at all. Love requires 20-20 vision everyone! Time to wake up and see clearly. Players be-gone!
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Blessings and love,
Dr. Lisa Love
Copyright 2010 by Dr. Lisa Love. All Rights Reserved.
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