A reader posted the following comment on Lovefraud’s Facebook page:
“This website helps me too, but now, as I venture into the world of dating again, I find that my past is terrible hindrance. So difficult. Any advice gratefully received. Just want to be happy.”
Many times I’ve been asked, “After what your con artist ex-husband did to you, can you ever trust again?” Yes I can. I do. I am remarried, and I am happier now than I’ve ever been, in fact, I’m much happier than I ever was before the sociopath.
So how do you climb out of the abyss of profound betrayal? How do you recover? How do you move forward, to the point where you can actually love again?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way. Maybe they’ll help you.
1. The only way out of the pain is through it
It hurts. Once you finally realize that your entire relationship was a mirage, that there was no love, that the sociopath’s intention all along was to exploit you, the pain is shattering. And, to make matters worse, you feel like a complete idiot for falling for the lies, for allowing the sociopath to take advantage of you as long as he or she did. Not only were you conned, but you participated in being conned.
You are filled with disappointment, despair, anger and outrage. You are totally justified in feeling these emotions, but they’re really unpleasant. It’s so painful, and you just wish it would all just go away. You may feel so overwhelmed that you ask a doctor to “give you something.” But although antidepressants may help you cope in the beginning, when the shock is so raw, they don’t solve the problem, they just mask it.
So sooner or later, if you want to recover, you need to face the pain head on. You have to get the toxic emotions out of your body, or they will eat you up. But you can’t analyze yourself out of the pain. Emotion is physical, and it needs to be drained off physically.
The only real way to end the pain is to allow yourself to feel it. I spent many hours curled up on the floor, sunk into my grief. I screamed in rage. I envisioned my ex-husband’s face on a pillow, and punched it until I collapsed.
Whatever technique you use to drain the emotion, you’ll have to employ it more than once, because there isn’t just one disappointment or one betrayal. Sociopathic relationships create layers of them, so getting rid of the negative emotion is a process. As you release a layer, another one will rise to the surface.
Here’s the good news: Getting rid of the pain creates space within you to feel healthier emotions, like peace, happiness, gratitude and joy. The longer you travel down this path, the more the balance shifts. Your negative emotional state gradually transforms into a positive state.
I can’t tell you how long it will take—everybody is different. But eventually, you can get to the point where you’ve released the pain. You don’t forget what the sociopath did, but it just doesn’t affect you any more.
It’s best not to start dating until you’ve made good progress in dealing with the pain of the sociopath. If you try to meet someone while you’re still wounded, there’s a good chance that it will be another predator. He or she will seem to swoop in to rescue you, but the real agenda will be to take advantage of you—again.
Wait until you’re feeling better before trying to date again.
2. Learn the core lesson
Sociopaths set out to exploit you, and they are fully responsible for the pain that they cause. Still, there was something within you that made you susceptible to the sociopath’s charms and promises. Even when you felt misgivings, there was something that made you doubt yourself, listen to their explanations, give them another chance.
After this terrible betrayal, it’s time for you to figure out what that original vulnerability was and heal it.
You may realize that you’ve experienced betrayal before. Perhaps your parents or other family members were disordered, and you grew up believing that manipulation and emotional blackmail were normal. Perhaps you experienced psychological, physical or sexual abuse, and never really recovered from those wounds.
Or maybe your parents did the best they could, but you still absorbed damaging beliefs. In my case, for example, I grew up believing that I wasn’t good enough as I was; I had to earn love by being the “good girl” or getting all A’s in school. Where did that idea come from? Well, perhaps from my parents. And maybe that’s what they learned from their parents, who learned it from their parents. Mistaken ideas can be passed down from generation to generation.
It’s time to break the chain.
Often, when you honestly examine the pain inflicted by the sociopath, you find that it is directly connected to some earlier, more hidden emotional or psychological injury. And that’s when you may realize that you can draw value from the run-in with the sociopath. As you release the pain of betrayal, you can go deeper to release the pain of the original injury as well.
But it’s important to be gentle with yourself. You didn’t know about the deep injury, or to protect yourself, you pushed it out of your awareness. Now you need a shift in consciousness. Now it’s time for you to believe that you are worthy, you are lovable, and you deserve the true gift of life, which is joy and happiness.
When you fully embrace these beliefs, you’ll find your life experience matching them.
3. Trust your intuition
You may feel that after allowing yourself to become romantically involved with such a loser, you can’t trust yourself to choose a healthy relationship. When you first end the relationship, this is probably true. That’s why you shouldn’t date right away. It’s also why No Contact is so important—it gives you the time and space to psychologically disengage from the sociopath, so you can escape the fog of manipulation.
But as you travel the road to recovery, you’ll become more comfortable believing in yourself, and trusting yourself. After all, you probably knew something was wrong with the sociopath, or the relationship, very early on. Most people do. But you didn’t listen to your instincts, and continued the involvement until it turned into disaster.
Here is what you need to know: Your intuition is designed to protect you from predators. Your intuition is the best defense you have against exploiters. So if you ever have a bad feeling about someone, if you ever sense that something is off, pay attention.
Of course, sociopaths are really, really good at the game, so you may not pick up a warning right away. It may be weeks, or even months, before you see some WTF? behavior. But if you see that first hiccup, or become aware of that first little twinge of suspicion, tune into your own feelings. If you keep getting negative hits, act on your instincts and end the involvement.
Then, don’t be upset that you attracted another one. Be proud that you caught on so quickly, before too much damage was done. It’s a sign of your recovery.
The more you clear away the trauma, the better your intuition will work. Eventually, it will tell you that someone is right and good, and that it is safe to open your heart again.
And then, with all the healing work that you’ve done, you’ll be able to experience true, fulfilling love.
Lovefraud originally posted this article on April 16, 2012.