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—
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:
- Your involvement with the sociopath.
- Your marriage to the narcissist.
- 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.
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.
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.