Fear of Intimacy, Cheating, and Preemptive Abandonment

Uploaded 9/4/2018, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

If you are afraid of intimacy, you will choose a partner who is also afraid of intimacy.

We all seek love, we all seek companionship, but some of us dread love and companionship even as we look for them, and this is what Freud called ambivalence.

The intimacy averse members of a dyad, of a couple, will both make sure that there is no intimacy, so they will, for example, travel alone a lot, they will keep exhaustingly busy, they will be absent from home, they will withhold sex or abstain from it, they will cheat on their mates, they will have emotional and sexual affairs, with many others, and so on.

But there is one important thing, one important technique, that all these couples, intimacy averse couples, employ, and this is they abuse and statistically torment each other.

But why the compelling need to hurt your partner? What's the aim? What's the goal?

Well, the obvious answer is that abuse and intimacy are mutually exclusive.

In an abusive relationship, there is little risk of intimacy and lots of avoidant behaviors, lots of avoidance.

But there are two additional reasons to abuse, two additional reasons to harm and hurt each other.

First of all, people with fear of intimacy have intense and overpowering emotions of fear and shame and guilt.

They choose abusers as their partners, because being abused is their comfort zone. Being abused affirms and confirms their self-perception as bad, as worthless, as whorish, as dumb, and deserving of conscience.

I'm abused, therefore I am. These people force their mates to abuse them, and this is called projective and introjective identification.

The second reason is that abuse legitimizes and justifies cheating, adultery, infidelity, and extramarital dalliances.

Such people say, he is abusing me, so he deserves what I'm doing to him.

Sex addicts, adrenaline junkies, like psychopaths, labile people with emotional dysregulation, like borderlines and people with histrionic personality disorder, somatic narcissism, all these types of pathological types of people, all of them are in need of sexual novelty. They are in need of constant conquests, sexual conquests, in order to regulate and stabilize their sense of self-worth, their self-confidence, and self-esteem.

So these kinds of partners need abuse as an excuse. They say, of course I'm promiscuous, of course I'm cheating on my partner all the time with many other people, but it is all my partner's fault. He is abusing, rejecting, mistreating, and humiliating me. He deserves his punishment, and I need to feel desired, wanted, loved, and cared for again. That is why I'm cheating.

But of course, these issues of abuse and counter abuse, because of course cheating is counter abuse, these issues are part of a bigger pattern, and that bigger pattern is the question of inter-couple relationships.

So we have the issue of abandonment anxiety as a pivot.

Unlike psychopaths, and very much like borderlines, narcissists suffer from extreme abandonment anxiety.

In most narcissists, this is unconscious. It is channeled via various self-defeating and reckless behaviors, deteriorating impulse control, acting out, and as we mentioned, fear of intimacy.

The narcissist is terrified of losing his source of secondary narcissistic supply, usually his spouse or intimate partner.

One of her roles is to serve as the narcissist's external memory, to record, to recall them, and to replay the narcissist's moments of glory. Such spouse would say, you looked so handsome and so great up there on the podium last year, and this would gratify the narcissist and restore him to life.

She also buttresses the narcissist's grandiosity by colluding with the narcissist in a shared psychosis.

So she could say to the narcissist, you are a misunderstood and much angry genius, giant honey.

Her personality perfectly matches the narcissist's pathologies, perfectly resonates with them.

If the narcissist is a masochist, his spouse or his mate will hurt him. If he is a sadist, she will submit. If he is a paranoid, she concurs with his secondary delusions. If his power is praised, she envies him and competes with him only to succumb to his superior power time and again.

To allay his anxiety over the impending and ineluctable loss of the relationship, the narcissist pushes his intimate partner away. He avoids intimacy. He ruins intimacy.

And this is called preemptive abandonment.

This counterintuitive behavior fulfills two psychodynamic needs.

One, to regain control and mastery of the relationship.

The narcissist is able to say, she did not abandon me, it is I who discarded her. I did the abandonment.

And two, to resolve the cognitive dissonance of being so utterly dependent on an inferior person and thus exposed to possible hurt and rejection.

Again, the narcissist says, I didn't really love her. I didn't really need her. She was a nuisance, so I got rid of her.

Preemptive abandonment restores the narcissist's sense of omnipotence, of control, of power. He needs it in order to sustain his grandiosity and he needs his grandiosity in order to disintegrate.

So intimacy is a huge threat to the narcissist's grandiosity, to his false self, to the entire superstructure, which anyhow is precarious.

Because if the narcissist is intimate, he is dependent. If he is dependent, he can be hurt. If he is hurt, he disintegrates.

Having rejected and humiliated his partner in what we call counter-dependence, the narcissist is mortified by the possible consequences of his actions.

He is actually afraid to be abandoned. He tries to make amends, tries to compensate her, to move her, to re-enquire his better half.

He suddenly becomes romantic or sexual or generous or kindly or caring or helpful or supporting or protective.

This is especially discernible.

When the injured partner is in bad mental and physical shape, or when she is in need of assistance, it is infamous approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion.

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