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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation in Relationships: A Clinical Vignette

In my prior article, Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation in Relationships, I identified the signs of this dynamic and it's intentional and manipulative nature.  In this article, I'm providing a fictional clinical vignette to give more details about this phenomenon and how psychotherapy can help.

Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation in Relationships

Clinical Vignette: Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation in Relationships:
When Amy, who was in her mid-30s, met Ted at her friend, Mary's party, she was immediately attracted to his good looks, charm, intelligence, self confidence and sense of humor.

Prior to meeting Ted, she had not met anyone that she liked for over a year, and she was feeling lonely.  He called her within days of meeting her and asked her out to dinner that same week. Soon they were seeing each other on a regular basis at least 2-3 times per week.  Amy enjoyed his company and she sensed that he really liked being with her too.

She liked that Ted said he wanted to settle down and have children because she really wanted children too.  She was concerned that her "biological clock" was ticking and being with a man who wanted children was very important to her.

After they were dating for six months, Ted told Amy that he was laid off from his job.  He also told her that his lease would soon be up and he wanted them to live together.  Amy told him that she would also like them to take their relationship to the next level and agreed that he should move in.  So, Ted moved into Amy's apartment.

Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation in Relationships

Six months after Ted moved in, Amy had a talk with Ted about where their relationship was going (see my article: Is It Time for "the Talk"?)

Ted told Amy that he wanted to be with her for the rest of their lives, so they began talking to Amy about getting married.  They were both enthusiastic about getting married.  A month later, they got engaged and they began planning the wedding.

A couple of months before the wedding, Amy told Ted that she wanted to stop taking her birth control pills so that they could have a baby soon.  This was something that they had talked about before, but they never talked about when they wanted to try to conceive.

Ted seemed anxious when Amy spoke to him about stopping the birth control pills.  He told her that he thought it was too soon, and they should wait until he got a better job with an increase in salary before they had a baby.

Amy knew that Ted was concerned about money, but he never mentioned before that he wanted to wait to have children. After being laid off from his sales job, he took a temporary to get by until he could find a better paying job.

Amy told Ted that they could manage financially on what she earned and his income from the temporary job.  She told him the she didn't care if she was supporting both of them for a while until Ted could get on his feet financially.

She also told him that she was concerned about her age and if she would be able to conceive if they waited longer.  But Ted was adamant that he wanted to wait.  He told her that he didn't think it would be much longer before he had a better job.

Somewhat concerned and disappointed, Amy agreed that they would wait until he got a better job.  She knew that he was doing his best to search for another job and she didn't want to nag him about it.

But one day, he left his email open and she happened to see an email from an employment recruiter.  Out of curiosity, she read the email, which was open.  The recruiter said that he was having a difficult time trying to find Ted a job because he was terminated for poor job performance from his last job and, since Ted's industry was one where people had close ties, word had gotten out about Ted's termination.

Amy was surprised to read this because Ted told her that he was laid off due to cutbacks.  He hadn't told her that he was fired for poor job performance.  She decided she would ask him about it when he got home.

But when Ted got home that night, he told her that he had wonderful news.  He said that he received a a great job offer. The job would involve a lot of travel, and they needed him to start right away.

Amy was surprised and pleased to hear Ted's good news.  He was in such a good mood that she refrained from questioning him about the email from the recruiter.  She told herself that the recruiter must have made a mistake, and she and Ted celebrated the good news.

Ted started his new job a few days later, and he said he had to fly out to California for a couple of weeks immediately.  Although Amy was disappointed that the new job would involve so much travel, she was glad that Ted had a full time job that paid well again.

While Ted was in California, he called Amy to talk briefly.  He said that he couldn't talk long because he had dinner meetings and he wouldn't get back to his hotel room until late.

During one of those calls, Amy brought up having a baby again and Ted got angry, "I just started this job!  Give me a chance to get settled!" and then he hung up.  Amy didn't hear from him for the rest of the week.  She tried calling him several times, but her calls went directly to voicemail and he didn't return her calls.

While he was away, Amy worried about what it meant that he wasn't calling her or responding to her calls.  He had never behaved this way before and she didn't know what to expect.

When Ted got home, he was in a grumpy mood. Amy tried to talk to him, but he went into the study and closed the door.  He didn't come into their bedroom until she had already fallen asleep, and he left for work the following morning before she woke up.

Annoyed and frustrated, Amy made up her mind to ask Ted what was going on.  She couldn't believe that he would still be so annoyed with her.  But an hour before the time that he usually got home, he texted her that he would be in a late night meeting and she shouldn't wait up for him.  It worried Amy that he also told her that he wouldn't be available to talk by phone.

When Amy woke up the next morning, she realized that Ted had not come home at all.  She tried to reach him on his cellphone, but he didn't respond.

Alarmed, she texted him that she would meet him after work in front of his new office building.  Ted texted back immediately that "under no circumstances" should Amy wait for him outside his office building.  He told her that he would be home late due to late night meetings and she shouldn't wait up for him.  Amy tried to call him several times, but he didn't respond to her messages.

By now, Amy was very worried that something was seriously wrong in their relationship.  Not sure what to do, she left work early and, despite what Ted told her, she waited for him outside his office building for more than two hours.  When Ted come out of the building, she tried to reach him again, to no avail.

She asked the security guard in the building if he knew Ted's company and what floor it was on, but the security guard said he never heard of this company.  Amy thought that was odd, and she decided to go back home.

As Amy walked home feeling dejected, she was crushed to see him walking across the street with an attractive young woman on his arm.  They were busy talking and laughing so Ted didn't see Amy.  In tears, she followed them from a distance and saw them go into a residential apartment building a few blocks away.

After that, Amy knew that Ted was having an affair and their relationship was over.  But she wanted an explanation from Ted.

When he got home that night, Ted was in a good mood.  He gave Amy a hug and no longer seemed angry with her.  Hurt and angry, Amy pushed him away, "I saw you today with another woman!  What's going on?  Have you been cheating on me all along?"

Ted stepped back angrily, "What are you talking about?  I don't know who you saw, but it wasn't me."

Amy burst into tears, "Ted, I saw you with my own eyes! Why are you lying to me?  We're going to get married in a few weeks.  What are you doing?  And do you even have a job or have you been deceiving me about that too?"

Ted's manner changed.  He suddenly became cold, "Alright.  Now you know.  Are you satisfied?  I don't have a job.  I just told you that I did. And, yes, I've been seeing someone else.  I tried to protect you from all of this, but you had to be nosy."

Amy was too stunned to say a word, but Ted continued, "Look, you were the one who wanted to get married and have a baby.  I never really wanted to get married and have children.  I was trying to please you, but we're not getting along, so what's the point?  Let's just call it quits."

Amy was shocked.  It was all happening so fast.  She tried to talk to Ted, but he began packing his things, "Amy, it's over.  Move on with your life."

After he packed his things, refusing to talk to Amy, Ted left abruptly slamming the door behind him.  She called their mutual friend, Mary, in tears.

Mary listened patiently and when Amy finished talking, Mary cleared her throat and spoke hesitantly, "I'm sorry, Amy.  I heard from a friend a few years ago that he did the same thing to her.  He moved in with her when he lost his job, he proposed to her and then he left her for someone else.  She said it was like he turned into another person and blamed her.  I was hoping that Ted had changed.  You both seemed so in love, and I didn't want to spoil things by telling you.  I had no idea he would do the same thing to you.  I'm so sorry.  I should have warned you..."

Amy was numb after she heard Mary's words and she hung up the phone while Mary was still speaking.

A few days later, Amy contacted her friends, relatives and the wedding vendors to let them know that the wedding was off.  She gave no explanation.

Soon after that, Amy began psychotherapy to deal with her shock and loss.  Her psychotherapist listened empathically.  Then, she explained to Amy that it appeared that Ted had manipulated her for his own selfish reasons.  She also explained the "bait and switch" tactic that some people in relationships engage in.

Amy found out a few weeks later from an acquaintance that Ted was now living with his new girlfriend, the same woman that Amy saw on his arm.

During the next several months, Amy attended her weekly psychotherapy sessions.  She felt emotionally supported and understood by her psychotherapist.

They used EMDR therapy to work on the trauma of being manipulated and abandoned by Ted and the humiliation and sadness she felt about cancelling her wedding (see my articles: What is EMDR Therapy?How EMDR Therapy Works: EMDR and the Brain, and Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Gradually, over time, she began to work through the trauma.  She also began to understand what happened, how Ted had lied to her all along about wanting to get married and have children so that she would take him in and support him.  She also realized that she overlooked certain red flags about Ted's character.  She understood that her loneliness and desire to be in a relationship might have made her more susceptible to Ted's charisma (see my article: Relationships: Falling For Charisma Instead of Character).

After talking to other people who knew Ted, Amy found out that Ted's usual pattern was to get involved with a woman and move in with her when he was having financial problems.  They told her that he was usually unfaithful and began a relationship with a new woman before he left his current relationship.

Gradually, as Amy continued in therapy, she regained her self confidence again.  When she met another man that she really liked, she was leery of trusting him.  But, over time, she lost her fear of being in a relationship again, and she opened up to this new experience.

People who engage in bait and switch tactics are usually very good at manipulating other people.  They can be very charming and take advantage of people.

In some cases, like in the vignette above, they are narcissistic and often engage in gaslighting.  These traits might not emerge until later on in the relationship.

There are often red flags, but the person who is being conned often misses these red flags because of their own state of denial.

The bait and switch can be about anything, as I mentioned in my prior article.

Getting Help in Therapy
Experiencing betrayal and manipulation by someone that you love is a shocking and hurtful experience.  It's a traumatic experience that can make it difficult for you to trust again.

Working with an experienced psychotherapist can help you to overcome this traumatic experience (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

Rather than suffering on your own, you owe to yourself to get help from a skilled licensed mental health professional so you can heal (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I have helped many people to overcome betrayal and loss so they can move on with their lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.