Dangerous Liaisons: Marquis Isabelle de Merteuil [ENFJ 3w2]

Function Order: Fe-Ni-Se-Ti

“I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn’t pleasure I was after, it was knowledge. I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what to think, and novelists to see what I could get away with. And in the end, I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die.”

– Marquis Isabelle de Merteuil

Isabelle has made an art of discerning what people are feeling, thinking, and desire, and manipulating them in whatever direction she wants them to go. She is able to quickly read her victims and appeal to their most basic emotional instincts. In her younger years, she taught herself to keep a pleasant expression on her face all the while “stabbing a fork into the back of my hand.” She is interested in inflicting emotional anguish on others, and instinctively knows how to accomplish this; she manages to outwit and destroy Valmont, by forcing him to turn against that which might save him (true love), and takes great pleasure in telling him that she has triumphed over him. She enjoys toying with Valmont’s feelings, believing it kind of verbal foreplay, and has powerful control over Cecile, in her ability to convince the girl that her ongoing abuse at Valmont’s instigation is a “useful tool.” She quickly discerns Valmont has fallen in love, though he does not know it himself until it is too late. Isabelle often speaks in layers, using symbolism and ideas to get her meaning across. She often deliberately plants words in Valmont’s mouth, knowing he will follow through on the information she gives him, to his own determent (giving him the idea that if he does not reject his lover, his reputation will suffer). Her pleasures are frequent and she soon tires of her lovers; Isabelle has a never-ending stream of activity around her, ranging from lovers to attending the opera. She is more interested in the intellectual banter of Valmont than the sexual attraction, but is also excited when she must shift her plans and develop a new tactic based on environmental opportunities. But her own opportunism in striking back at Valmont instead of surrendering to him brings about her downfall, because she lives so much in the moment as to neglect anticipating the fall-out.

Enneagram: 3w2 sx/so

Everything she does ties in some way to her self-image, and her fear of becoming undesirable in other people’s eyes. Isabelle admits she ‘set out’ to make herself important and desirable and to gain a high position in society, through studying topics and behaviors that would make her appeal to other people and practicing them, so as to ‘become’ the most desirable woman in Paris. She has cultivated a reputation that does not match her true intentions—one of studied goodness that is a farce concealing her inner malicious nature, her love of controlling and manipulating people, etc. Isabelle initially starts the bet with Valmont out of a desire to humiliate her former lover, who spurned her when he left her for another woman. This slight against her reputation, she has never forgiven—but she wants to remain above suspicion in how she orchestrates his public embarrassment. She also spurns Valmont, because he unintentionally insults her by inferring that someone else was a better lover than she was—rather than take what they both want, she pulls away from him, becomes distant and cold, and then embraces ‘war’ rather than surrender. She admits to Valmont she learned how to appear persuasive and important to others, and studied philosophy to ‘learn how to think.’ In short, she is largely a fake. She prides herself on being desirable, seductive, and unattainable, but also in her false goodness toward other people. Cecile turns to her for advice and receives it, and it’s quite easy for her to seduce people.