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.
Dangerous Versions of “The Loser”
There are more severe if not dangerous versions of “The Loser” that have been identified over the years. If you are involved in a relationship with one of these versions, you may require professional and legal assistance to save yourself.
Physical abusers begin the relationship with physical moving — shoving, pushing, forcing, etc. That quickly moves into verbal threats with physical gestures — the finger in the face, clenched fist in the face, and voiced physical threats such as “You make me want to break your face!” Eventually, these combine to form actual physical abuse — hitting, slapping, and kicking. “The Loser” is always sorry the next day and begins the mean-then-sweet cycle all over again. Getting away from physical abusers often requires the assistance of family, law enforcement agencies, or local abuse agencies. Female losers often physically attack their partner, break car windows, or behave with such violence that the male partner is forced to physically protect himself from the assault. If the female loser is bruised in the process of self-protection, as when physically restraining her from hitting, those bruises are then “displayed” to others as evidence of what a bad person the partner is and how abusive they have been in the relationship.
There are losers that are severely ill in a psychiatric sense — the movie description of the “Fatal Attraction”. Some may tell you wild stories and try to convince you that they are connected to The Mob or a government agency (CIA, FBI, etc.). They may fake terminal illness, pregnancy, or disease. They intimidate and frighten you with comments such as “I can have anyone killed…” or “No one leaves a relationship with me…”. If you try to end the relationship, they react violently and give you the impression that you, your friends, or your family are in serious danger. People often then remain in the abusive and controlling relationship due to fear of harm to their family or their reputation. While such fears are unrealistic as “The Loser” is only interested in controlling you, those fears feel very real when combined with the other characteristics of “The Loser”.
Psychotic or psychiatrically ill losers may also stalk, follow, or harass you. They may threaten physical violence, show weapons, or threaten to kill you or themselves if you leave them. If you try to date others, they may follow you or threaten your new date. Your new date may be subjected to phone harassment, vandalism, threats, and even physical assaults. If you are recently divorced, separated, or have recently ended another relationship, “The Loser” may be intimidating toward your ex-partner, fearing you might return if the other partner is not “scared off”. Just remember — everything “The Loser” has ever done to anyone will be coming your way. “The Loser” may send you pictures of you, your children, or your family — pictures they have taken secretly — hinting that they can “reach out and touch” those you love. You may need help and legal action to separate from these individuals.
Guidelines for Detachment
Separating from “The Loser” often involves three stages: The Detachment, Ending the Relationship, and the Follow-up Protection.
- Observe the way you are treated. Watch for the methods listed above and see how “The Loser” works.
- Gradually become more boring, talk less, share fewer feelings and opinions. The goal is almost to bore “The Loser” into lessening the emotional attachment, while at the same time not creating a situation which would make you a target.
- Quietly contact your family and supportive others. Determine what help they might be — a place to stay, protection, financial help, etc.
- If you fear violence or abuse, check local legal or law enforcement options such as a restraining order.
- If “The Loser” is destructive, slowly move your valuables from the home if together, or try to recover valuables if in their possession. In many cases, you may lose some personal items during your detachment — a small price to pay to get rid of “The Loser”.
- Stop arguing, debating or discussing issues. Stop defending and explaining yourself — responding with comments such as “I’ve been so confused lately” or “I’m under so much stress I don’t know why I do anything anymore”.
- Begin dropping hints that you are depressed, burned out, or confused about life in general. Remember — “The Loser” never takes responsibility for what happens in any relationship. “The Loser” will feel better about leaving the relationship if they can blame it on you. Many individuals are forced to “play confused” and dull, allowing “The Loser” to tell others “My girlfriend (or boyfriend) is about half nuts!” They may tell others you’re crazy or confused but you’ll be safer. Allow them to think anything they want about you as long as you’re in the process of detaching.
- Don’t start another relationship. That will only complicate your situation and increase the anger. Your best bet is to “lay low” for several months. Remember, “The Loser” will quickly locate another victim and become instantly attached as long as the focus on you is allowed to die down.
- As “The Loser” starts to question changes in your behavior, admit confusion, depression, emotional numbness, and a host of other boring reactions. This sets the foundation for the ending of the relationship.
Ending the Relationship
Remembering that “The Loser” doesn’t accept responsibility, responds with anger to criticism, and is prone to panic detachment reactions — ending the relationship continues the same theme as the detachment.
- Explain that you are emotionally numb, confused, and burned out. You can’t feel anything for anybody and you want to end the relationship almost for his or her benefit. Remind them that they’ve probably noticed something is wrong and that you need time to sort out your feelings and fix whatever is wrong with you. As disgusting as it may seem, you may have to use a theme of “I’m not right for anyone at this point in my life.” If “The Loser” can blame the end on you, as they would if they ended the relationship anyway, they will depart faster.
- If “The Loser” panics, you’ll receive a shower of phone calls, letters, notes on your car, etc. React to each in the same manner — a boring thanks. If you overreact or give in, you’ve lost control again.
- Focus on your need for time away from the situation. Don’t agree to the many negotiations that will be offered — dating less frequently, dating only once a week, taking a break for only a week, going to counseling together, etc. As long as “The Loser” has contact with you they will feel there is a chance to manipulate you.
- “The Loser” will focus on making you feel guilty. In each phone contact you’ll hear how much you are loved, how much was done for you, and how much they have sacrificed for you. At the same time, you’ll hear about what a bum you are for leading them on, not giving them an opportunity to fix things, and embarrassing them by ending the relationship.
- Don’t try to make them understand how you feel — it won’t happen. “The Loser” is only concerned with how they feel — your feelings are irrelevant. You will be wasting your time trying to make them understand and they will see the discussions as an opportunity to make you feel more guilty and manipulate you.
- Don’t fall for sudden changes in behavior or promises of marriage, trips, gifts, etc. By this time you have already seen how “The Loser” is normally and naturally. While anyone can change for a short period of time, they always return to their normal behavior once the crisis is over.
- Seek professional counseling for yourself or the support of others during this time. You will need encouragement and guidance. Keep in mind, if “The Loser” finds out you are seeking help they will criticize the counseling, the therapist, or the effort.
- Don’t use terms like “someday”, “maybe”, or “in the future”. When “The Loser” hears such possibilities, they think you are weakening and will increase their pressure.
- Imagine a dead slot machine. If we are in Las Vegas at a slot machine and pull the handle ten times and nothing happens — we move on to another machine. However, if on the tenth time the slot machine pays us even a little, we keep pulling the handle — thinking the jackpot is on the way. If we are very stern and stable about the decision to end the relationship over many days, then suddenly offer a possibility or hope for reconciliation — we’ve given a little pay and the pressure will continue. Never change your position — always say the same thing. “The Loser” will stop playing a machine that doesn’t pay off and quickly move to another.
In This Section
- About Counselling and Psychotherapy
- Counselling, Psychotherapy & Mental Health Bibliography
- Mental Health News
- Online Therapy and Online Counselling
- Self-Help and Overviews
- Are You Dating a Loser? Identifying Losers, Controllers and Abusers
- Depression: Understanding Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
- Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory
- Spanish Translations
- Stockholm Syndrome: The Psychological Mystery of Loving an Abuser
- Understanding Personality Disorders in Relationships
- Symptoms, Diagnostics, and Medications
- Types of Counselling and Psychotherapy
- Web Resources in Counselling, Psychotherapy and Mental Health
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by