Why Do Other Women Support and Enable Him?
Many wives and partners talk to me about how devastating it is to learn what their men called sex addicts tell other women about why their relationships failed. Even more devastating is to discover those other women become protectors and advocates of these abusers, providing everything from meals, jobs, money, listening ear, advocacy if criminal charges are brought, legal aid, references during workplace investigations, hugs and compassionate gestures, and even to offering emotional affairs and sexual favours. They may also gossip and spread negative or inaccurate stories about the wife or partner.
As if that’s not hard enough for wives and partners to learn and accept, some of these women take on more proactive activities for these men. They stalk the wives and partners by gaining access to their social media accounts, regularly reviewing public pages, monitoring posts, blogs, and vlogs, sometimes sharing information about you with him. Some will escalate that activity, using snitch lines and complaint processes to create problems for the wife or partner. A few will even physically stalk them and spy on them.
So, what is this all about? How can these men find women, often well-educated with lots of life experience, and dupe them into doing all kinds of things they wouldn’t do otherwise? Somehow he inspires them to buy into a long line of lies and mis-information (some of which could easily be uncovered as such) and enroll in his support and rehabilitation club. And some go further. They step into your life, usually without you knowing what they are doing or that they are “around” at all. It’s eerily familiar to what he was doing—activities from which you can’t protect your privacy, reputation or personal safety by taking various precautions because the activities are conducted without your knowledge. These women unwittingly have become a key player in establishing an new secret life on his behalf.
Let me share what I’ve learned about con artists and how they operate. I will be using “you” to represent his new target—these women he enrolls in his support club. But many wives and partners may recognize themselves in the con operation that hooked them into the relationship in the first place.
Con artists don’t start by asking you to trust them. This is very important to understand. They start out by asking if he can trust you. By being vulnerable, usually presenting as some kind of victim or wounded animal, they hook you into their narrative and the role they want you to play by trusting you with something important. They may tell you their story of relationship failure, or of childhood abuse and trauma, and beg you to keep it in confidence. They may ask you to hold some money or keep a special memento for safekeeping, ostensibly because the item (or items) aren’t “safe” from whatever forces he is up against in life. It’s the oldest trick in the book and women fall for it again and again.
The con begins not with him asking you to trust him.
It begins with him asking if he can trust you.
Usually the “ask” is way more subtle than as outlined above. It may done over weeks with brief encounters that he uses to present himself as a thoughtful, deep, kind, mysterious, charming and somehow wounded man. He is unfailingly polite. He remembers your cat’s name. He may offer to help you in some way, asking for nothing in return. He will make no sexual overtures and be attentive you being in any situations with him that could make you uncomfortable or nervous. He uses silence. This is one of the traits I’ve seen in many cases. He doesn’t actually give you much information about anything. He uses silence to generate a sense of intimacy and knows you fill it with whatever you want to be there. You are being groomed.
When he finally reaches out to trust you with something he presents of great value to him (his story, his deepest thoughts, his money, his family heirloom, etc.) you feel honoured, special, chosen for a great work. You step up and sign on. Little do you know that he has indeed chosen you, for precisely the same reasons he chose his wife or partner. They are unfailing honest, responsible, caring, and utterly reliable, just like you. This means they and you are also completely predictable. He knows he could leave everything he owns with you and it would come back to him, intact, clean, folded neatly and repacked with care.
Once you are enrolled, he doesn’t know exactly what initiatives you will undertake for him, but he knows they are coming. It might be a share in a big batch of homemade soup or jam, invitations to gatherings or events, a word here or there about possible work, emails and texts exchanging daily intimacies of what you both are reading or seeing out your window. Before long you tell friends, family, colleagues about him, and the terrible thing he’s been through with his ex. You are participating in a cliché now, but you can’t imagine that you would ever be in one, so you believe it all. But the truth is that your credibility is what he is using to make himself more believable to others. You are becoming his social currency by making him palatable. And most of the boundaries he carefully respected in “courting” you will begin to be crossed.
Besides feeling honoured and special, you enjoy what you have together. But sometimes your role is very much about gathering information to report to the abuser in order to please him, and to join him in the intimacy of continuing to have a “secret life” about which the wife or partner knows nothing. Sound familiar?
I suppose some of the women these men recruit after their marriages or primary relationships explode could just be women who are always looking for a man to serve in order to feel better about themselves. But sometimes it’s not that obvious or intentionally purposeful, because in most cases these new women don’t really understand how they are being used, and what role they are playing in his narrative. They have no idea that they are the new targets of the new con. They would be indignant if I suggested it to them. They believe they are too intelligent to be that stupid about a man. But it is also true that some women feel drawn to be in a preferred competitive position to the ex in their relationship with the man. He is playing to this as well. Women know that patriarchy is alive and well and their best hope is to ally with men wherever possible. They don’t pause to consider there is another side to the story. They don’t consider he may be lying or misrepresenting his ex or the events around their relationship breakdown. Or worse, they just know it doesn’t matter. They will fare better if they stand with him instead of her. And they are right. Power and security gathers there, not with abused women.
The thing is, when I put it down on paper it sounds so far-fetched. But when you’ve lived through it, as I and so many of my clients have, it’s just exactly as I describe it.
I’ll never forget how a former co-worker with my ex reached out to me at a work-related meeting and announced breathlessly that “it was all right, you can talk to me because [my then husband] told me everything!” I didn’t know what to say. In my head I was saying “Oh, I’m pretty sure he didn’t or you would have started an investigative process by now!” This happened to me with several different women—and only women. He had been busy with proactive damage control, making up some kind of story that made them sympathetic to him most of all, and just a little bit superior to me because they knew my personal business. I mean, not one of them ever said something a little less confident like “I understand you and your husband are trying to manage a relationship crisis. I’ve listened to him, but I know that you might tell the story differently and I want to respect that.” No, there was no such opportunity. They all announced that they knew—when they didn’t know at all. He had chosen them “to know”. I was already coming from behind. He had set me up by spreading his narrative first as the authoritative one and creating his chosen few, and all I could do was argue against what they already believed, in order to ask them to believe something that cast him in a far uglier light. That’s not what they wanted. Also, that would make me look bitter, vindictive and angry (the greatest offences wives and partners can make in these situations). It also meant his new women couldn’t imagine they lived happily in Switzerland on this matter, when in fact they were in his pocket. And they were feeling pretty smug and special because they “knew everything.” Women who make announcements like that to the wife or partner are not looking to establish a compassionate connection. They are declaring their power that he gave them.
A client of mine endured this torture in a business owned jointly with her common-law partner. He got out ahead of the story while she was still in full C-PTSD episodes and unable to come to work. After only weeks she returned to find she had been written out of projects, had her work redistributed to other female employees who were thrilled to have the opportunities to show him what they could do and so grateful for his trust in them. (Are you seeing what he did there?) Their loyalty was now lodged with him—emotionally and financially. My client, in her traumatized state, was unable to undo what he had done and was unable to work in an environment where her employees were becoming openly disrespectful toward her, just as he hoped. In the break-up, she left with very little of the real value she had helped to create in that business.
Another client found her faith community had been “primed” with a narrative that painted him as a remorseful husband seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. He had trusted them with a sinner’s story, and they came through for him, even though he had done nothing with respect to treatment and accountability. The women took his side and considered her need for more time and a sense of safety in her home as a lack of forgiveness, refusing to submit to her husband, and pride. They knew how to succeed in this community. She was isolated and judged as the greater offender. He had enough casseroles for years in his deep freezer.
The point is that these people are all just the next con for these men. They are not special. They are useful. Unfortunately they may also hurt you and make your healing more difficult. The only thing I can suggest here is what I have done. If they are people I know, I change my relationship with them. I don’t spend any energy trying to tell my story, argue my case, or help them to see how he is using them. If any one of them were to come to me without the arrogance of announcing they “know everything” and offer care and an invitation to hear what I’ve been dealing with, I would consider speaking with them in more detail. No one has. I don’t seek them out but I am polite and courteous if I see them. If they are people I didn’t know before, but come to know in the time afterward, I draw a circle of Light around me, and live my life with safety uppermost in mind. I use high privacy settings on the social media I do use, and the information I share on my public blog is considered before I share it. But they don’t stop me from standing in my truth and describing it so that others will be encouraged to do the same. I write for wives and partners of men called sex addicts. Always.
I hope that knowing how a con actually works may help you to understand the circumstances in which you meet women who have become his champions, or learn of new women freshly recruited to that role. May you have “the grace to hold yourself, while those around you crawled” (Elton John, Candle in the Wind).
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