By Kathleen Hawk, author of the After the Sociopath: How Do We Heal? series on Lovefraud.
Donna Andersen is living proof that even the most successful, confident and assertive people can get emotionally entangled with a dangerous predator. Her story is a textbook case of how a professional con man can seduce his victim by offering her the dreams she has not yet achieved by herself. And then ups the ante of what she has to pay until the relationship becomes not just expensive, but destructive and toxic.
But this book is not about being a victim, but about being a victor. It covers three main topics. First the awful relationship, which followed a pattern that is familiar to anyone who has been sucked into a commitment with a predator. Then, the rude awakening, extrication and recovery. And finally, the exploration of his previous relationships and the work, sometime in collaboration with his previous victims, to seek repayment and revenge, as well as publicity and education to prevent future victims.
For me, it was the final chapters delivered the greatest value. This is not a short book, and frankly, by the time I realized that Donna intended to write about the other women, I was tempted to put it down. I am so glad I didn’t. For anyone who has asked herself “How do they do that?” the answer is in these chapters. Listening to the way this man lured other women — of different ages, financial circumstances, and relationship status — was extraordinarily instructive. The pitches were all different in their approach and their promises, but they were also the same in one crucial element. They all pivoted around the circumstances of the targeted women’s lives, and what they needed to feel okay with themselves or their lives. And they all came down to him taking money from them, unpaid work or sex — and sometimes all three.
One of the wonderful things about Donna is that she takes herself and her life very seriously. There are no questions in this book about whether she has a right to take care of herself, or to protect what is hers, or to attempt to recover what she’s lost. To see a “victim” with that kind of temperament react to being betrayed at virtually every possible level is a lesson in healthy reactivity. She was horrified and broken-hearted, but then she became angry and determined to right her situation. She figured out quickly that dealing with sociopaths requires a different set of rules, and she was smart and mature enough to be ruthless in dealing with him, but not to let it destroy her compassion toward the rest of the world.
For the thousands of people who have discovered Lovefraud.com and spend time healing on its blog, this is the story behind this wonderful resource. The character of the Lovefraud blog is shaped by Donna’s single rule of operation — that participants be supportive of one another. This simple bit of emotional intelligence, backed up by Donna’s willingness to enforce it, has created an collaborative environment of vibrant compassion and growing wisdom.
Donna Andersen is no fool. But that didn’t protect her from being fooled.
This book is part of her mission to help other people recognize, protect themselves and recover from these experiences. There is life after the sociopathic relationship. Donna’s story is a guide to taking back our lives.