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Advice for dating again after the sociopath

Lovefraud received the following email from the reader who posts as “Saskgirl:”

I must say that your website is a lifesaver. It has helped me recover from a devastating relationship with a sociopath. It is amazing how many stories I read on your site and can totally identify with them. The people could be talking about the piece of garbage I was tangled up with.

I have been single for about a year and a half and have spent a lot of that time healing and working on me. I am ready to start dating (I think) but I’m afraid that it will be disastrous for me. I was so emotionally wrecked that I’m terrified of being there again. I don’t trust anyone and believe that just about every thing coming out of a man’s mouth is lies.

Now, I have met some men but have given them the brush off because my warning system went off. I am grateful for this because it has saved me a lot of drama. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good perception of what is “normal” dating. I married a narcissist and when I finally got rid of him, I was “lucky” enough to find a full-blown sociopath.

I have recently met a man whom I have opened up to slightly, but my spidey senses are tingling yet again. I understand the concept of love bombing, but I would like to know how I can define the fine line between genuine attraction and caring and love bombing. What is “normal” when it comes to texting and emailing? I haven’t a clue. I don’t want to go into details of why my senses are tingling, however it is increasing difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not to mention very tiring—

Your healing

Saskgirl,

Going from a narcissist to a sociopath — what a nightmare. I am very glad that you are being cautious, and are listening to your “spidey senses.”

Quite honestly, if you are feeling fear about dating, you may not be ready to date. It may seem like you “should” be ready after a year and a half of working on yourself, but recovery is different for everyone, and it takes as long as it takes. You may need a bit more time. After all, you have at least three sets of emotional pain to recover from:

  1. Your involvement with the sociopath.
  2. Your marriage to the narcissist.
  3. A prior emotional injury that made you vulnerable to the narcissist in the first place.

In order to be truly ready for a healthy relationship, you need to be reasonably healed from all of these encounters. What that means is that you’ve reached the point where you have accepted that your partners really did what they did, that you were injured, but you’ve let go of emotional pain associated with the injuries.

Emotional recovery

Often, we can understand what happened on an intellectual level. In fact, that’s the first step in recovery. But accepting what happened on an emotional level is far more difficult. Our goal is to process the emotional injury, to get it out of our system. To do that, we need to allow ourselves to feel the pain. We need to cry, perhaps even kick and scream. (This is best done privately or with a therapist — not at anyone, and certainly not at the sociopath.)

The hardest injury to recognize and address will be the original one. This could have come from a very early incident or relationship when you were a teenager, perhaps, or from your family of origin. Maybe you suffered abuse from a family member. Or perhaps you were picked on in school.

But sometimes your early life was good, or at least good enough, yet you still fell into a bad situation. This happened to me. My parents loved me and did their best — I know that. But somehow I acquired the belief that I was not worthy of love just for who I was. I felt undeserving. These mistaken beliefs were my vulnerability.

(The Red Flags of Lovefraud Workbook can help you uncover your vulnerabilities. It’s a skinny little workbook of checklists and questions to ask yourself. Available in the Lovefraud Store.)

I promise you, the recovery work will enable you to find and experience a relationship that will be much more loving and satisfying than you have ever imagined. When you are whole, it is much easier for you to recognize and enjoy wholeness in another person.

Back to dating

So, when you’re ready, how do you go about finding someone to date?

It’s probably best to stay away from online dating. Yes, everyone does it. I even did it, after the sociopath. And yes, I do know people who have found relationships, and have gotten married, through online dating. But I think dating sites and social media sites have gotten worse than when I used them almost 20 years ago. They are rife with predators. Why take the risk?

I recommend meeting people the old-fashioned way through work, recreational interests, community activities, introductions by friends and family members. If you’re emotionally healthy and open, you’ll just run into possible connections as you live your life.

Email and texts

Suppose you meet someone who expresses an interest in you, and keeps in touch via text and email. If the amount of texts and emails you receive make you feel pressured, then it is too much. What do you do?

If you are not really interested in the guy, you end the involvement. If you are interested in the guy — after all, he, too, may be unsure of the appropriate amount of contact — you gently express your feelings and see what happens. If he backs off, fine. If he backs off temporarily and then ramps up the messages again, it could mean he is either needy or controlling, neither of which you want.

Real love

How can you tell if a relationship is healthy? Here is the secret: Real love is easy. Real love grows at an easy pace. It does not feel rushed or pressured. There is excitement, but not drama. Promises are kept and no games are played. There is no power struggle.

Real love feels like a warm blanket shared by the two of you. It’s cozy. It’s comfortable.

If you do not feel comfortable with a particular involvement, move on and don’t panic. Eventually the right opportunity will arrive.

 

Lovefraud originally posted this article on August 19, 2013.

 


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13 Comments on "Advice for dating again after the sociopath"

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Thank you for reposting this — something I needed to hear – how to separate the wheat from the chaff in men. It’s been two years since my disastrous relationship ended. It took me a year to process what happened. During that time I went online, then quickly off when I found that pool filled with jellyfish and sharks; I dated a few men, but all wanted either a caregiver or a one night stand. A gentleman I had briefly dated before — he had broken it off when he got cold feet – found out what happened with the man everyone was concerned I was going to marry and called me with sympathy and compassion. Eventually he became a valued and trusted confidant, a good friend. It took a long time for me to fully trust his motives – and what swayed me was that he did not make me feel nervous, edgy, doubtful, unhappy or needy. He never pushed, never insisted, never asked me to change anything about myself, built me up when I needed it, gently pointed out my faulty thinking me when I deserved it. He never lied about who he was or what he was doing, never demanded anything other than my own honesty with him. When he let me down he apologized. We both have other friends, male and female, and he never was jealous of my spending time with them, nor gave me reason to doubt his time with his friends. After a year of my testing him and doubting him and doubting myself, I finally believed he was genuine. We became “more than friends”. I am happy when I am with him, and happy when I am not. He calls me or I call him every day and we have fun, interesting conversations, sometimes serious, sometimes silly. We spend time together and time apart. When I need to vent, he listens to me and, like all men, tries to give me advice. I listen to him and give him understanding and sympathy.

Perhaps that is the definition of what a real relationship needs to be. It is all about your comfort level, your feelings, your gut reactions. I am well over 60 so I am not looking for a rescuer, a knight in shining armor, a hero. I am self sufficient, successful, independent, so do not need a man in my life. But I like having this one in my life. He allows me to be me, but wraps me in a cloak of admiration, fondness, kindness and trust. Like Donna said “it grows at an easy pace. It does not feel rushed or pressured. There is excitement, but not drama. Promises are kept and no games are played. There is no power struggle.”

I have forgiven my transgressor, let go of the need for revenge or payback, moved on — but I have not forgotten how very vulnerable I was and how easily I fell victim. So, yes, I still compare people who come into my life to him and look out for the red flags, and always will. But this man has proved himself trustworthy – he has spent two years listening to me, bearing with my doubts, knowing he is being tested and compared, and yet telling me over and over what a wonderful person I am – and I am now beginning to believe it again. Yes – he is a keeper. And yes his feet have warmed up (smile).

There are good guys out there. My self confidence, for whatever reason, was always low. I had to work on myself before I could work on a real relationship. I believe it takes time to know that you are deserving of one.

I could never stomach dating sites. I haven’t formally dated – let alone used one – in ten years. I don’t care.

Some people – I’m sure a lot of them are narcissists – think I’m a loser because I’ve been single for so long and don’t formally date. I don’t care either. I’m not going to risk being murdered, raped, or scammed just so they’ll like me more. I don’t take those clowns seriously. I don’t take predators in the dating scene seriously either. As long as they’re out of my life that’s all I care about. They’re lowlifes.

I refuse to play the desperate single woman for anyone. I know that’s what sociopaths want.

Meeting men in places where you share common interests is healthier, in my opinion.

me either. I’ve been single almost 20 years since my divorce. NO online dating for me, ever! As for being ‘desparate’ Ive just read a Christian book (by a never married man)..and he mentioned the steps you can take, to get married if you’re ‘desparate’ to BE married. Are you kidding me?? NO way.

LOL. That book and that guy sound hilarious.

Funny (not HA HA) is, this book is authored by a man who has a webpage for Christian singles. The review posted on Amazon highly praised this book, so I bought one. It DOES have sound advice about learning to enjoy solitude, rather than be lonely; how frustrating it is for singles in church (church folks/pastors REALLY don’t know what to do with single people), he talks about shy (read introvert) people and how to deal with that. But, the desperation he refers to, if you REALLY want to or need to GET MARRIED is almost funny, if you think of it that way. But, in my experience, books like this just add to the painful business (for us who have been run through the mill of psychopaths) of figuring out who is safe and who is not. By the way, the author did NOT advise online dating, so he got THAT right.

Gotcha. That’s good he did not advise online dating. It just sounded kind of strange to me that a guy who was never married wrote a book about steps you can take to get married if you’re desperate to do it. But I have never seen this book. Do you know/remember the title?

the author’s name is Jack Zavada..the book is Hope For Hurting Singles..webpage is the same name..he IS 45 and never married. Amazon has the book or Chrisian Book Distributors.

Thank you.

Excellent article, I was married to a sociopath and subsequently had a long relationship with a narcissist. I too am wary of dating again and have been single for exactly three years. For the last year I have felt more like my old self but I’ve only met one prospective partner locally, as a consequence I have turned to online dating.
I’ve had “coffee dates” with quite a few men and found them to be an odd bunch. I finally met someone who sems genuine and honest, we both agreed to take things very slowly and our friendship is respectful and easy. Trust your gut instinct, if he seems too good to be true he probably is. Believe me, if someone seems off or tries to love bomb me I run a mile, after my disastrous relationship history I’d rather pass on a prospective partner than take any risks.

Saskgirl,
How did you write those words? They are directly extracted from my head. Further proof to me of the similar nature of those of us who get caught by these vultures.

It is crazy for me to read these words today. I took Donna’s advice & really worked on myself and the underlying trauma that brought me to both my narcissistic ex husband and the sociopathic ex boyfriend. It took a long, long time and it was pretty painful. I can’t say that everything is perfect for me now, but I understand a lot more about myself. I’m good with me and I’ve made some really good progress.

I just recently started dating (6 years after leaving the sociopath) and I’m in such a different head space. I’ve met a few duds along the way but I always come back to the advice and insight provided by Donna and her wonderful resources here on Lovefraud. The advice on here has helped me lace up my running shoes as opposed to dancing with chaos.
Recognizing my early trauma and making peace with it has really helped….. learning to deal with shame and guilt effectively and building boundaries were also things that helped me heal.

It does take time & the rewards are very great if you are willing to put the time in.
In this journey, I learned that I am completely good with being on my own and I truly enjoy my own company. When I was dipping my toes in the dating pool, I went in with no expectations and decided that if the other person gave me push back on certain things, I’d move on. That approach seemed to work.
I also firmly believe in the 3 month rule. I told all the guys that I went out with up front that I wouldn’t have sex with them for at least 3 months…. and we could discuss the timeline after the 3 months were up. There were various reactions and those reactions were very telling of the guy’s personality. Needless to say, I did find one that seems to be pretty good so far, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for good measure.

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