3 Ways Narcissists Consume Your Cooperation (Which Leads to Your Exploitation)

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jul 21
narcissistic predator

You live by the Golden Rule, treating others as you’d like to be treated.

You take criticism to heart, reflecting on how your words and actions might affect other people.

You are highly empathic, having the ability to sense the emotions of others and respond instinctively in ways that help those in need.

You have a high level of tolerance, embracing the beliefs, practices, and lifestyles of other people.

One thing is true of victims of Narcissistic abuse.  They are the most caring, thoughtful, helpful people I’ve met.  And if you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you possess these same traits I just described.

If everyone in the world boasted your qualities, we’d live in a Utopia.  But, sadly, the world is full of manipulators who seek out and exploit people with your character profile, especially your toxic partner.

Does this mean you should turn villain, acting with cold-hearted callousness – in other words, take on the character traits of your abusive, manipulative, and exploitative partner?  No.  Believe it or not, there are actually people in the world who would love and respect you for your reputable qualities and morals.  Even more, people who would reciprocate them back to you!

However, regarding narcissists and other manipulators, your friendliness and compassion are like a big, flashing neon sign that says, “Hey!  Over here!  I’m like the Energizer Bunny!  I can take a licking and keep on ticking!  I’ll keep going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going…”

You get the picture.

So, how do you maintain your core values while maintaining your dignity and trust in others at the same time?  It starts with knowing how narcissists think and how they use your very best qualities against you.  This knowledge will help you establish boundaries going forward, and allow you to save your efforts for people who truly deserve them.  Following are the top three accommodating qualities narcissists look for in prospective sources of supply.[1]

Cooperation

Being cooperative is generally a good thing.  It helps us gain respect, excel in the workplace, and form friendships and other relationships that have the potential to be long-lasting.  However, where cooperativeness gets us into trouble is when it turns into unbridled selflessness.

Narcissists look for cooperativeness in partners because they know that they don’t possess this trait at its most basic level, and excessively cooperative partners will put in the work of two people to keep the relationship going, projecting their own desirable traits onto the narcissist, thereby filling in the yawning gaps in order to make the relationship seem more normal.   This high level of cooperativeness is the most significant trait narcissists look for in partners because they intuitively know that such partners will stay in the relationship with them way beyond reasonable limits. [2]

Narcissists test their partner’s level of cooperation by starting out with small boundary violations and, over time, are able to get away with severe relationship crimes while simultaneously keeping their cooperative partner believing there is hope for change and improvement.

Signs of excessive cooperativeness –

  • All of your efforts at cooperation result in outcomes that only benefit your partner
  • Your level of teamwork smooths the cracks that result from your partner’s non-cooperativeness
  • You believe that the more cooperative you are, the more connected it makes you to your toxic partner and that he or she will eventually acknowledge your efforts and appreciate them
  • You consistently compromise your own interests and goals to help your partner achieve theirs

What to do:  If you find yourself making all the compromises and consistently putting your own needs last, it’s possible that you’ve developed pathological altruism (which is very common in dysfunctional relationships) and may need therapy to work on boundaries and empathy-derived guilt issues.[3]

Empathy

Your partner has suffered a string of failed relationships, a terrible childhood, and is always taken advantage of at work (if they even have a job!)  In turn, you stay with them because everyone else has left the Narcissist out in the cold, and you believe your love might one day change them, or at the very least, prompt a divine epiphany where he or she suddenly realizes the pain and suffering they’ve put you through.

You’re always there to lend a sympathetic ear, though they barely stifle a yawn when you attempt to confide in them your own problems.  (Or worse, if your problems involve them, you’re suddenly faced with a hulking brute who’s hell-bent on making you pay for pointing out one of their flaws!)

Ironically, your high levels of empathy trigger you to forgive the narcissist repeatedly because you believe his or her behaviors are derived from causes outside of themselves.  You feel sorry for them down to your core and don’t want to leave the relationship because you feel personally obligated to help them and not abandon them.

Believe it or not, the narcissist doesn’t need your empathy, but instead uses it to maintain power over your emotions and the relationship. The same can be said for your high level of cooperativeness (Brown, S.  2009).

Signs of excessive empathy (or hyper-empathy) –

  • You offer compassion and understanding in the face of your partner’s severe cruelty and abuse, believing that your undying patience will eventually have an effect on them
  • You try to educate your partner on the underlying reasons for their weaknesses, character flaws, and emotional wounds, believing that doing so will help them see the error of their ways – even though they’ve raged at you for doing it before
  • You often wind up helping your partner at the expense of your own needs

What to do:  Excessive empathy can be a sign of an underlying mental or emotional problem and can also increase the risk of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors (such as codependency). If you find yourself participating in extreme empathy, talk to a therapist who can help you set boundaries and resolve unhealthy relationship patterns.

Tolerance

Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Have you tolerated the following in your relationship:  pathological lying, numerous infidelities, sexual deviancy, financial abuse and manipulation, porn and other addictions, and/or your partner’s long-term unemployment?

Though you never would have thought you’d put up with these behaviors from a romantic partner, the narcissist likely started out with small boundary violations until they were eventually bull-dozing over all of your deal-breakers, while having you tell yourself it isn’t all that bad (much in the same way that they tested your cooperativeness).

As you can see, tolerance can reach pathological levels when you’re in a relationship where all of your values, deal-breakers, and personal ethics are violated on a consistent basis.  The Narcissist’s ability to have you tolerate more and more unbelievable behaviors on their part feeds their sense of entitlement and dominance over you and also perpetuates their power to get you to tolerate even more awful behaviors the next time (Brown, S. 2009).

Signs of excessive tolerance –

  • You’ve stayed with your partner through their long-term affair (and/or numerous affairs)
  • You agree to sexually demeaning acts to “keep your partner happy”, even though it brings about severe self-loathing (this may include threesomes – with your partner asking you to find the sex partner, an ‘open’ relationship, participating in degrading acts you’ve never considered before)
  • You’ve lost hundreds or thousands of dollars to your partner, perhaps even going bankrupt or losing your home due to all the money you’ve given them

What to do:  Make a list of your top five deal-breakers and be willing to walk away from anyone who doesn’t respect them.  This will feel uncomfortably awkward at first, but only by setting personal boundaries and enforcing them will you be party to healthy relationships where you are respected on an individual level.

Remember, cooperativeness, empathy, and tolerance are all good qualities to have, but offering too much can cause you to lose your voice, feel used, and walked over – which in turn can lead to depression, anxiety, and PTSD in the context of pathological relationships.  If your good qualities are filling the cracks of your partner’s scandalous shortfalls, you can decide today that you won’t let them exploit you anymore.  Get yourself into therapy or a CoDa group in your area, work on setting healthy boundaries, and commit to breaking unhealthy relationship patterns so you can live the happy, fulfilled life you deserve.

Copyright © 2017 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Need extra support?  Grab your ‘Beginner’s Healing Toolkit’ below and activate your recovery from narcissistic abuse!

 

References

[1] Brown, S. (2009). Women who love psychopaths: Inside the relationships of inevitable harm (2nd ed.). Penrose, N.C.: Mask Publishing.

[2] Brown, S. (2009). About Her. In Women who love psychopaths (2nd ed., p. 131). Penrose, NC: Mask Publishing.

[3] Schreiber, K. (n.d.). Too Much of a Selfless Good Thing: Pathological Altruism. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

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(33) comments

[…] Even if a potential target doesn’t display the above behaviors, narcissists can alternately determine if a person is a good target through other behaviors and traits such as:  high levels of trust, compassion, cooperativeness, and tolerance (traits which they gleefully concede they can take advantage of). […]

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[…] you choose to forgive your partner for this, that’s certainly your prerogative, but don’t be surprised when, later down the road, […]

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[…] the cerebral narcissist).  That’s because the narcissist’s partners are typically of the cooperative, empathic, tolerant, altruistic, and forgiving type and the narcissist has no qualms about […]

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[…] This high level of cooperativeness is the most significant trait narcissists look for in partners because they intuitively know that such partners will stay in the relationship with them way beyond reasonable limits. [1] […]

Reply

[…] This high level of cooperativeness is the most significant trait narcissists look for in partners because they intuitively know that such partners will stay in the relationship with them way beyond reasonable limits. [1] […]

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Melinda January 25, 2017

I don’t know if this was mentioned already, but a lot of it goes back to how a person was raised. Some of us have been taught that we should always be “nice”…agreeable, accommodating the whims of others, rarely being honest about our own needs and feelings. I was told that to act this way was “gracious” and that to express my truth was wrong, therefore I wasn’t cooperating or being nice.

This is a way for people to manipulate and control you, to make you feel guilty.

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Anonymous February 1, 2016

Thank you for the article. If I didn’t know better I would have thought you were talking about myself and my relationship with a narcissist. This article almost describes the relationship perfectly. You also have an article about narcissists returning to their ex, which has helped a lot. We broke up many years ago and he always seems to return when he doesn’t have a current relationship or is in limbo between two or more relationships. I believe he currently has a minimum of three women he is toying with and it seems as if each new relationship the victim gets younger and younger. He is currently 54 and the most recent victim I know of is 27, younger than some of his children and even shares an ex boyfriend with one of his daughters. I will admit that sometimes I have my doubts and think that I am the one at fault. I am a very caring person and would give someone the shirt off my back to help them. Most appreciate it. I believe he expects it even coming to me for help while hiding a current girlfriend. I wish I would have found this website and have the knowledge that I now have 20 years ago when I first met him because therapy just doesn’t seem to help. Victims really do need to find therapists that have experience with narcissist abuse. It’s just not that easy to walk away as many know. Thanks again for this article and this website.

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kyle January 25, 2016

Amazing article, thanks so much. Im using the link to the CoDA meetings in my area.

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    Kim Saeed January 26, 2016

    That’s wonderful, Kyle! Many people have gotten great help from 12-step programs 🙂

    Reply

[…] Even if a potential target doesn’t display the above behaviors, narcissists can alternately determine if a person is a good target through other behaviors and traits such as:  high levels of trust, compassion, cooperativeness, and tolerance (traits which they gleefully concede they can take advantage of). […]

Reply
Denise August 31, 2015

I was struggling with understanding how I stayed with him, and still loved him knowing he was sexually deviant. I had tolerated participating in sexually demeaning acts for him. I felt too ashamed to tell anyone, I was in disbelief, at the same time I was self-denying it was happening.
Thank you for helping me to understand my role and how it happened, how to recover and get help by understanding what needs to be worked on by survivors. I felt like I was reading the story of my former relationship. It sure does help deal and treat the shame and guilt I was dealing with.

Reply
Raquel August 22, 2015

Kim – You have helped to bring clarity to a situation that was incredibly painful and confusing, for so many years. All I can say is thank you for saving my life. Literally. Each day gets a tiny bit easier, but with your website, I am learning so much more about the nature of this type of predator. Knowledge is power.
Thank You!!!!
xoxo

Reply
    Kim Saeed August 25, 2015

    Thank you for sharing that my site has helped you, Raquel. You’ve given me a spark of inspiration today <3

    Reply
agmuel July 27, 2015

Hello Kim, Great article about 3 Ways Narcissists Consume Your Cooperation. What you say about a narcissist is exactly what our son is dealing with daily. He is pursuing a divorce from his wife who fits the profile of malignant narcissist. And we are continuously throwing him lifelines to recover and protect himself from her emotional abuse and isolation techniques. There are no limits to what she will do to reel him back in and use him as her narcissistic supply. He is a very compassionate and empathetic person who has a heart of gold and is a very hard worker. He always puts his family first ( they have a one year old son), but his wife is always looking at me, me, and me. We have tried to get him to pursue therapy for his abusive situation, but his masculinity doesn’t want to admit that a 120 pound female is abusing him. And to make matters worse she is very attractive and knows how to use her looks to manipulate and control. At times it seems she is more concerned about her image on social media and her perfect world she presents on there. She is one big contradiction in her posts and now she is into the Bible and the hypocrisy runs rampant in her posts. With our help and that of his friends he seems to take one step forward, and then she incessantly loves bomb him along with Hoovering and guilting and he takes two steps backyards. We are finally getting him to address the “No Contact” approach and it is meeting with some success. Our challenge is keeping him into this mode. We thank you Kim for the articles and your blog to support victims like our son. We just wish there was more recognition of the emotionally abuse from narcissistic females.

Date: Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:18:38 +0000 To: agmuel@aol.com

Reply
    Kim Saeed August 4, 2015

    Hi agmuel, thank you so much for stopping by and for your very kind praise.

    Going No Contact is extremely difficult. It’s similar to going into rehab for substance or alcohol abuse. Typically, there has to be that “one last straw” for the victim to finally make the decision to leave. For example, I stayed married to my Ex for eight years. I just finally realized my Ex would never change and that if I wanted a different life for myself, I had to be the one to leave and stick to my decision.

    I know it must be difficult to see your son (and grand-son) cohabitating with this woman. I’m not at all surprised to learn of her hypocrisy, as that’s one of their classic traits. As you indicated, the world does need to know more about narcissistic females, who often exhibit BPD traits, too, and so are more unstable.

    You may want to suggest a 12-step program such as CoDa. Wishing you all the very best.

    Reply
    Brian August 7, 2015

    Agmuel….I definitely feel for your son. An attractive 120 lb. woman twisted me up like a pretzel as well. She a professional artist and did some of the same exact things as far as carefully cultivating her image in her studio and on facebook with her sweet/soft paintings of children and forest creatures. Who would know or believe that she’s throwing drinks and storming out of restaurants or raging on an almost nightly basis at “liberals” or some other perceived enemy which was usually me? The thing is atleast 80% of the time she was still all smiles and goo-goo eyes to manipulate me right up to the end even as she’s grooming the next guy to replace me. I was even used sexually at the end when I thought it was another passionate makeup. Just writing this is crazy….hard to believe it actually happened or I couldn’t see thru her? I’m 10 years older than her and well traveled. I’ve even played poker w/professional poker players and never met someone that can confuse and manipulate like she did. She made sure I got attached early on to her toddler so there was a child involved in my situation as well. I hope your son can see the light. There is no hope with that woman. I am no longer in love with mine since the split in May but I am filled with so much anger and its already caused some collateral damage in my family. Its a daily struggle. I was all-in with this woman in a way that I never felt with my ex-wife from 15 years ago and my ex-wife was a 100x better woman!

    Reply
    kyle January 29, 2016

    Hi agmuel, your sons situation sounds very similar to mine. May I ask how the relationship is going presently?

    Reply
Lisa July 24, 2015

This post and information was most indeed powerful and informative and so very true. I have learned so much from you Kim and thank you again as I had never dealt with the behavior of a man like this before and really fell prey into this type of relationship and now am so much stronger from your help! Fantastic article and advice! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! 😉

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    Kim Saeed August 4, 2015

    Thank you for your kind praise, Lisa. I am happy to learn that my articles have helped you. You’ve given me renewed motivation today – again, thank you 🙂

    Reply
irenedesign2011 July 22, 2015

So true run fast before it becomes too difficult to walk away from 😉

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Christine July 22, 2015

Reblogged this on Stop Narcissistic Abuse.

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Christine July 22, 2015

I would even go as far as saying victims of narcissistic abuse follow the platinum rule… “Treat others how they want to be treated” !Excellent article

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    Kim Saeed July 22, 2015

    Thank you for the re-blog, Christine!

    Reply
Vanessa July 22, 2015

Yes to all the above. My personal answer after leaving with no more contact for 12 months. Put your energy into your life wishes and in making friends, Get a good counsellor. Rest and recover as much as you can. Realise that your nerves are stretched and you need to take it as easy as possible for a while as your circumstances permit. Never ever again let a romantic relationship be the dominant force in you life.

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lev4yeshua July 22, 2015

Reblogged this on Narc Bait Diary – Ex Files.

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Constance July 22, 2015

Reblogged this on thephoenixagain.

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newsoul1966 July 21, 2015

Thank you so much for this article. It came at the perfect time for me.

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    Kim Saeed July 22, 2015

    Thank you for letting me know, newsoul1966 <3

    Reply
susanbotchie July 21, 2015

Dear Kim, what passes for music feeds the narcs. Those “love” songs tell women that if they’re not sleeping with someone, they are losers. Much of the museech is so Christless, it’s nauseating.

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    Tara July 22, 2015

    And the narcissist knows that women are programmed by pop culture love songs this way and exploits it.

    Reply
      Christina J Kostecke February 1, 2016

      This is so true! My first experience was a guy who would use emo music of all things..what a way to make me feel like everything was my fault! Emo songs 🙁 worse than pop radio imo.

      Reply
Remembertoforget July 21, 2015

Thank you Kim!
Perfect article!

And Tara…I couldn’t agree more!

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Tara July 21, 2015

A narcissistic person is someone with a personality disorder and character issues. They will not give you even the basic empathy. Don’t throw pearls to swine. Actually, it is an insult to piglets everywhere to even say this. Why? At least pigs have a heart. You are not here to be abused. To be honest, the narcissist is, because they deserve it.

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