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Fatal Attraction Syndrome – A False Form of Love

False Love - Fatal AttractionSynopsis: This mini love lesson first explorers a real life example of this false form of love’s deadly attack possibility; then answers what is a fatal attraction; and what is a fatal attraction syndrome; how does a fatal attraction syndrome work; what about sexuality in fatal attraction syndromes; does loving a person with this syndrome make a difference; is there a difference between men and women with this syndrome; and what can be done.

A Deadly Attack

Dark was just falling and she slowly pulled her car deep into the shadows of the overhanging trees, across the street from her lover’s house.  She looked into a large bay window where his dining table was set for the evening meal.  Her furor grew as she watched her lover and his wife and their three children laugh and cheerfully sit down to enjoy a time of family love together.  She kept thinking “kill the mother, kill children and he will have to turn to me.”

When she saw her lover reach over and kiss his wife on the cheek she put the car in forward gear.  His wife kissed him back and he obviously enjoyed it.  Her foot stamped down on the accelerator and she took aim with the car.  Then at full power and with insane rage she raced full speed at the bay window. Her last thought was “Even if I kill all of us, I will have him with me in eternity”.  This is what she later related sitting in a women’s prison convicted of attempted murder.

Due to very good house construction no one died but all sustained serious injuries , one child crippled for life.  More than a year of family, individual and couple’s counseling brought the family through the ordeal that followed.  Expert testimony presented the perpetrator of this tragedy as suffering from the most dangerous of all ‘false forms of love’, that of the Fatal Attraction Syndrome.  That diagnosis, however, did not qualify her for an ‘innocent by reason of insanity verdict’ as her lawyer’s psychiatrists recommended.

This is but one of a number of traumatic and tragic fatal attraction cases I have dealt with in my work with the families of murdered victims, and as an expert witness.  Let me say that I also have worked with a number of people trying to escape from being the victim of a fatal attraction syndrome and with those suffering this affliction, and with that perspective I can tell you – it is not easy work.

What Is A Fatal Attraction?

A fatal attraction is simply defined as an attraction that can and sometimes does lead to death. Think ‘moth to candle flame’.

The fatality may be of the one who is attracted, as in the case of the moth.  The targets of the attraction also are in danger of dying via murder when the full, fatal attraction syndrome is at work.  Sometimes both die, as all too often happens in a murder-suicide termination of a fatal attraction relationship.  Whoever stands in the way of a person suffering a fatal attraction syndrome, and various innocent bystanders, also can be in serious danger of being the victims of fatal attraction syndrome dynamics.  In other words, no one dealing with a person in a severe fatal attraction syndrome dynamic should consider themselves safe.

What Is a Fatal Attraction Syndrome?

A fatal attraction syndrome is a fairly complicated, false love phenomenon involving a very destructive, obsessive and compulsive pattern of relational behavior.  It begins when a person first finds themselves, sometimes suddenly, very strongly psychosexually attracted to another person.

Quite commonly there grows up a delusional, fantasy conviction that the target of their attraction is, or certainly will become equally attracted to them.  The person afflicted with this syndrome then becomes increasingly, sometimes rapidly obsessed with seeking a possessive, controlling, intimate, exclusive, love-getting relationship with the targeted person.

Increasingly little or nothing else matters but the growing, consuming drive to have the targeted person become and be constantly available, and when that person is present for them to be fully focused on satisfying the desires of the one suffering this affliction.

This consuming drive eventually obliterates healthful, normal, interpersonal functioning though sometimes a semblance of outward normality superficially can be maintained.  In one fashion or another the behavior becomes more and more abnormal and extreme, and the emotional needs of the person experiencing the syndrome become increasingly impossible to satisfy.  When that happens truly crazy thinking mixed with horrible to experience emotions dominate and all too frequently lead to deadly behavior.

This syndrome is a form of False Love because it is not motivated by a desire and drive for the well being of the loved one, as is healthy, real love.  Instead, it is motivated only by a desire to get love.  People afflicted by this syndrome easily move toward harming the supposed loved one while real love is healthfully protective of the loved one. (See “The Definition of Love” at this site)

How Does A Fatal Attraction Syndrome Work?

No one knows for sure how fatal attraction syndrome works because doing research on it, as you might imagine, is quite difficult.  Psycho-dynamically the thinking goes something like this.  A person encounters someone who sub-consciously reminds them very strongly of the mother they had when they were an infant, or father they had as a young child.

This sets off an infantile need to obtain the targeted person’s caring attention, focused nurturance and other behaviors indicative of love.  This grows into a regressive drive to have all needs satisfied by this one other person, which of course is impossible.  Thus, this insatiable drive becomes infuriatingly frustrated, which in turn triggers infantile rage.  Sometimes in uncontrolled fits of anger, and sometimes in diabolical well-planned and carried out actions destruction results.

Another theory is that there is a neuro-physiological or neuro-chemical maladaptive occurrence in the brain which is triggered into malfunctioning when psychosexual attraction mechanisms are activated.  It is hypothesized that this brain process may be a primitive mechanism going slowly out of existence but once was helpful in acquiring and retaining mating partners.

Since it so commonly is unsuccessful and so frequently results in the death of those who cannot escape it and in the death or incarceration of those who perpetrate this syndrome, it is speculated by some that it could be a way to wipe out the weak.  Thus, it would represent a ‘survival of the fittest’, evolution mechanism favoring those who go about love in a more loving, adult way.

Still others think that if ‘obsessive/compulsive disorder’ brain chemistry and ‘mate attraction’ brain chemistry mix with each other they may make a monstrous neuro-chemical mess in a person’s brain causing this syndrome.  This especially is likely if there is the added complication of severe ‘parent/child attachment insecurity’ in the background of the afflicted person.  All these explanations are hypothetical, educated guesses; no one knows for sure.

What About Sexuality in a Fatal Attraction Syndrome?

Sexuality usually plays a big role in this syndrome, but not always.  Quite frequently the sexual desires of the one experiencing the syndrome are part of the ‘need package’ they want satisfied by the person they have fixated on.  It frequently seems that the sex desires of the afflicted grow more peculiar, then bizarre and extreme, and finally dangerous.  When the sex desires get to a level where they cannot be satiated, violent sexuality may result.  This is where death sometimes occurs.

Does Loving a Person with This Syndrome Make a Difference?

So far the evidence available would suggest that in the long run, even with lots of healthy, real love being showered on the fixated person, it probably won’t have a sufficient, curative effect.   Certainly there may be cases where love has made a sufficient difference, and that probably especially is true in the early stages of this difficulty.

Some people who suffer from this syndrome become stalkers and in other ways keep invading the privacy and personal lives of their targets.  They never get close enough to be loved but in the process they can cause lots of fear and misery in their target.  The love of family and friends may help somewhat.  Also putting stalkers, privacy invaders, etc. (especially the scary, threatening ones) in prison long enough that they may mature, seems to help some.

With other people the syndrome seems to start after a relationship has been going for awhile, and they indeed could be loved by the one who becomes their obsessional target.  Once the syndrome takes hold, the love given to the obsessed person becomes ‘never good enough’, ‘big enough’ or ‘right enough’, or so it seems.

I consulted on a case that involved what seemed like a quite romantic and erotic relationship, that was doing well for more than a year.  However, when she wanted a little more time to herself he became compulsively domineering, insisting that her career be put aside along with her family and her friends, and that he be the only person in her life.

This led to a violent breakup.  He then followed her, bugged her house and all sorts of similar invasive things.  Physically violent fights erupted in public.  Restraining orders, and injunctions, arrests and other legal and police actions only seemed to make it worse.  It ended when he smashed down her front door with an ax, and then smashed through the bathroom in which she was hiding, and at the last possible second she brought out the gun the police had advised her to carry, and when he still raised the ax and advanced on her she shot him through the heart, killing him instantly.

Is There a Difference between Men and Women with This Syndrome?

No, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference.  Both men and women are susceptible to becoming dominated by fatal attraction syndrome.  Some people think that females who had more difficulty being loved by their fathers and males by their mothers experience this syndrome, but no one knows that I’m aware of.  One group that some people think is less susceptible to being afflicted by this syndrome are those who seem to be fairly strongly bisexual.  Another resistant group is made up of both the men and women who become strongly, healthfully self-loving.

What can be done?

For those men and women who suspect they may be in the destructive throes of this syndrome, seek therapy with a psychotherapist who is experienced and works deeply and powerfully.  If medicines are prescribed, take them.  If hospitalization is recommended, go.  This is a serious condition that all too often only gets worse without help.

For the friends and family of people they think might be caught up in a Fatal Attraction Syndrome get them to therapy.  If they are violently acting out already, get the police involved.  Then love them a lot, and if requested to go to family therapy to help also.

For those who are targeted, if you are being stalked or if you are experiencing other invasions like your computer being hacked or phone being tapped, seek the aid of police and possibly an attorney, then go to counseling for yourself.  Also take lots of safety precautions like double locking doors and windows and obtaining a good burglar alarm.  As much as possible be with people who can protect you.

If things are going from bad to worse, in spite of those safety actions, I’m sorry to advise doing what so many end up having to do to save their lives.  That is disappear.  Many people only have survived this severe syndrome by moving to another city, out-of-state or even out of the country.

A fatal attraction syndrome can involve incredibly powerful obsessions and compulsions, and in an especially bright person can be extremely difficult to escape.  I’m aware of a case in which he searched for her for three years and found her in another nation, forced her to put on scuba equipment, took her down deep in a lake, tied her to a sunken log, cut off her air supply, tied himself to a log and cut his own throat, so they died together in the only peaceful place he had ever known.

I’m also aware of a woman who after eight years found her targeted person and managed to secretly poison him, though he did survive and she’s in prison now, still writing him passionate letters.  The extremes to which fatal attraction syndrome afflicted people sometimes go can be both intensely frightening and quite astonishing.

For everyone else, watch out for people who are overtly domineering, perfectionistic and controlling, covertly needy and insecure, obsessional, compulsive, idealistic about romance, have few or no true close friends, are sometimes violent and have outbreaks of rage, who are actively substance addicted, false love addicted, are easily jealous, can’t hear criticism or negatives about themselves, and who were likely either ignored a lot or suffocatingly parented.

Again, arming yourself with real, love knowledge in order to identify false love behaviors and syndromes is self-loving protection and could save your life.  Good luck and beware.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question
Do you love yourself enough to stay away from a person who might seem to be prone to fatal attraction syndrome, even though otherwise they seem to offer you everything you ever wanted in a love relationship?  If you suspect you may be afflicted with this syndrome do you love yourself enough to immediately go get deep, strong help from a loving but powerful therapist?

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