If you’re dating a ‘loser’, you may recognize in your partner some of these characteristics described by Consulting Clinical Psychologist Joseph M. Carver, PhD. This article continues with a note on dangerous versions of the ‘loser’ and offers guidelines for detachment. Also see the new “Relationship Quiz: True Love or True Loser?”, which may help you to identify and highlight experiences of concern within your relationship.
This article was published to the Internet several years ago and was originally written to help identify “Losers” in relationships. The e-mail feedback I have received on the article has been tremendous. It’s clear the article is a way of identifying not only “losers” but controlling, abusive, and manipulating individuals. It’s also obvious these warning signs are not only found in dating relationships — but in our spouse, our parents, our friends, and our relatives. There are more victims in the environment of the Loser than his or her partner.
I’ve been contacted for help by the friends and loved ones of people involved in relationships with Losers (controlling and/or abusive partners). The loved ones want to understand the situation and ask for recommendations and guidance. For this group I have also recently published “Stockholm Syndrome: The Psychological Mystery of Loving an Abuser”.
Obviously, this article has created the need for sequels. I hope to publish a guide to assist Losers who want to change their life and behavior. An article addressing sons and daughters who were parented by Losers is also being planned. If our parent or parents have the characteristics listed in this article, our ability to function as a healthy adult may be hindered due to the dysfunctional family/parent model. My goal is to follow this issue and provide help and guidance to all those involved with controlling and abusive individuals — from partners to extended victims.
Very few relationships start on terms other than sweetness and politeness. In the beginning, “the honeymoon” of the relationship, it’s difficult to determine what type of individual you are dating. Both you and the date are guarded, trying to obtain information about the other as much as possible without seeming like a police detective.
Romantic relationships can be wonderful with the right person. A relationship with the wrong individual however can lead to years of heartache, emotional/social damage, and even physical damage. A damaging adult partner can damage us, damage our loved ones, and even damage the way we feel about love and romance in the future. They can turn what is supposed to be a loving, supporting, and understanding relationship into the “fatal attraction” often described in movies. A variety of “bad choices” may be encountered each week — most of which are easy to identify and avoid. We all know to avoid people that appear insane or abusive and not select them as a dating partner. However, some individuals are better at hiding their personality and behavior abnormalities. In an effort to provide some warning about these very damaging individuals, this paper will outline a type of individual commonly found in the dating scene, a male or female labeled “The Loser”.
“The Loser” is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship. “The Loser” has permanent personality characteristics that create this damage. These are characteristics that they accept simply as the way they are and not a problem or psychological difficulty. In one sense, they have always lived with this personality and behavior, and it is often something they learned from their relatives/family. Psychologists usually treat the victims of “The Loser”, women or men who arrive at the office severely depressed with their self-confidence and self-esteem totally destroyed.
The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of “The Loser” and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically. If your partner possesses even one of these features, there is risk in the relationship. More than three of these indicators and you are involved with “The Loser” in a very high risk relationship that will eventually create damage to you. When a high number of these features are present — it’s not a ‘probably’ or a ‘possibly’. You will be hurt and damaged by “The Loser” if you stay in the relationship.
- Rough Treatment: “The Loser” will hurt you on purpose. If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property EVEN ONCE, drop them. Male losers often begin with behaviors that move you physically or hit the wall. Female losers often slap, kick and even punch their male partners when upset.
- Quick Attachment and Expression: “The Loser” has very shallow emotions and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to “The Loser” is how quickly he or she says “I Love You” or wants to marry or commit to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating you’ll hear that you’re the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you. You’ll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures. This is the “honeymoon phase” — where they catch you and convince you that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. Remember the business saying “If it’s too good to be true it probably is (too good to be true)!” You may be so overwhelmed by this display of instant attraction, instant commitment, and instant planning for the future that you’ll miss the major point — it doesn’t make sense!! Normal, healthy individuals require a long process to develop a relationship because there is so much at stake. Healthy individuals will wait for a long time and a lot of information before offering a commitment — not three weeks. It’s true that we can become infatuated with others quickly — but not make such unrealistic promises and have the future planned after three dates. The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions which later cause “The Loser” to detach from you as quickly as they committed. “The Loser” typically wants to move in with you or marry you in less than four weeks or very early in the relationship.
- Frightening Temper: “The Loser” has a scary temper. If your boyfriend or girlfriend blows up and does dangerous things, like driving too fast because they’re mad, breaking/throwing things, getting into fights, or threatening others — that temper will soon be turned in your direction. In the beginning of the relationship, you will be exposed to “witnessed violence” — fights with others, threats toward others, angry outbursts at others, etc. You will also hear of violence in their life. You will see and witness this temper — throwing things, yelling, cursing, driving fast, hitting the walls, and kicking things. That quickly serves to intimidate you and cause you to fear their potential for violence, although “The Loser” quickly assures you that they are angry at others or situations, not at you. At first, you will be assured that they will never direct the hostility and violence at you. But they are clearly letting you know that they have that ability and capability — and that it might come your way. Later, you fear challenging or confronting them — fearing that same temper and violence will be turned in your direction.
- Killing Your Self-Confidence: “The Loser” repeatedly puts you down. They constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel “on guard”, unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something wrong. They tell you that you’re too fat, too unattractive, or don’t talk correctly or look good. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to treat you badly later — as though you deserved it. In public, you will be “walking on eggshells” — always fearing you are doing or saying something that will later create a temper outburst or verbal argument.
- Cutting Off Your Support: In order to control someone completely, you must cut off their supportive friends — sometimes even their family. “The Loser” feels your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their behavior. “The Loser” begins by telling you these friends treat you badly, take advantage of you, and don’t understand the special nature of the love you share with them. In some cases, if they can’t get rid of your best same-sex friend, “The Loser” will claim he or she made a pass at them. If you talk to your friends or family, “The Loser” will punish you by asking multiple questions or making nasty accusations. Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you’ll develop the feeling that it’s better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you. “The Loser” then tells you they are treating you badly again and you’d be better to keep your distance from them. Once you are isolated and alone, without support, their control over you can increase.
- The Mean and Sweet Cycle: “The Loser” cycles from mean to sweet and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started dating. You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other purpose of the mean cycle is to allow “The Loser” to say very nasty things about you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence. “The Loser” often apologizes, but the damage to your self-esteem is already done — exactly as planned.
- It’s Always Your Fault: “The Loser” blames you for their anger as well as any other behavior that is incorrect. When they cheat on you, yell at you, treat you badly, damage your property, or embarrass you publicly — it’s somehow your fault. If you are ten minutes late for a date, it’s your fault that the male loser drives 80 miles per hour, runs people off the road, and pouts the rest of the evening. “The Loser” tells you their anger and misbehavior would not have happened if you had not made some simple mistake, had loved them more, or had not questioned their behavior. “The Loser” never, repeat never, takes personal responsibility for their behavior — it’s always the fault of someone else. If they drive like a maniac and try to pull an innocent driver off the highway to assault them — it’s actually the fault of the other driver (not his), as they didn’t use a turn signal when they changed lanes. They give you the impression that you had it (anger, yelling, assault) coming and deserved the anger, violence, pouting, or physical display of aggression.
- Breakup Panic: “The Loser” panics at the idea of breaking up — unless it’s totally their idea, and then you’re dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten to end the relationship. Both male and female losers may threaten suicide, threaten to return to old sweethearts (who feel lucky they’re gone!), or threaten to quit their job and leave the area — as though you will be responsible for those decisions. “The Loser” offers a multitude of “deals” and halfway measures, like “Let’s just date one more month!”
They shower you with phone calls, often every five minutes, hoping that you will make an agreement or see them just to stop the telephone harassment. Some call your relatives, your friends, their friends, and anyone else they can think of — telling those people to call you and tell you how much they love you. Creative losers often create so much social pressure that the victim agrees to go back to the bad relationship rather than continue under the social pressure. Imagine trying to end a relationship and receiving tearful calls from all his or her relatives (they secretly hope you’ll keep them so they don’t have to), seeing a plea for your return in the newspaper or even on a local billboard, receiving flowers at work each day, or having them arrive at your place of work and offer you a wedding ring (male loser technique) or inform you that they might be pregnant (female loser technique) in front of your coworkers! Their reaction is emotionally intense, a behavior they use to keep you an emotional prisoner. If you go back to them, you actually fear a worse reaction if you threaten to leave again (making you a prisoner) and they later frequently recall the incident to you as further evidence of what a bad person you are. Remember, if your prize dog jumps the fence and escapes, when you get him back you build a higher fence. Once back in the grasp of “The Loser” — escape will be three times as difficult the next time.
- No Outside Interests: “The Loser” will encourage you to drop your hobbies, interests, and involvement with others. If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they totally control.
- Paranoid Control: “The Loser” will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you don’t answer their phone call, you are asked where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc. They will notice the type of mud on your car, question why you shop certain places, and question why you called a friend, why the friend called you, and so forth. Some losers follow you to the grocery, then later ask if you’ve been there in an attempt to catch you in a lie. In severe cases, they go through your mail, look through your purse/wallet, hit your redial on the phone when they arrive, or search through your garbage for evidence. High-tech losers may encourage you to make “private” calls to friends from their residence, calls that are being secretly taped for later reference. They may begin to tell you what to wear, what to listen to in music, and how to behave in public. Eventually, they tell you that you cannot talk to certain friends or acquaintances, go certain places, or talk about certain issues in public. If no date is planned on Friday night, “The Loser” will inform you that they will call you that night — sometime. That effectively keeps you home, awaiting the call, fearing the verbal abuse and questions you might receive if you weren’t home for the call. This technique allows “The Loser” to do what they want socially, at the same time controlling your behavior from a distance or a local bar.
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