After he’s gone: Looking at the sociopath through open eyes.

My 100% responsibility.

I had a glass of wine last night with a girlfriend who is leaving for a three month holiday at the beginning of February. Where she’s going is not important — except when put in the context of who is at the place she’s going to. A man. A man she once loved who could not, would not commit. A man who hid behind silence. Who never told her where he was, what he was doing or who he was with.

She spent the first year after leaving him healing her broken heart. And then she started dating. A few months ago she decided to phone the man far away. “We were such good friends. Friends stay in touch and I just wanted to see how he was,” she told me.

With that phone call, the game was on. Three months ago she decided to go visit him. “Great!” he said. Now, plans laid, trip organized, her packing almost complete, he has stopped calling and stopped taking her calls.

“Why does he do that?” she asked.

“Because he can,” I replied.

I also had lunch with a friend yesterday who, after 15+ years of marriage, told his wife on Sunday night that he is leaving. “I didn’t tell her I know about her lies, the cheating, the affairs,” he said. “I just told her the love is gone. It’s time for me to leave.” She shed two tears, he said, and that was that. And then he told me when he got home last night, she did everything in her power to seduce him. “I love you,” she said. “I promise to give you everything you want. Don’t leave me.”

“Why does she do that?” he asked.

“Because she can,” I replied. “Because it’s what she does.”

When I was with the psychopath, he did what he did because he could, because it is what he does.

While I was with him, I focused my energy on coping with what he did, coping with his lies disguised as truths, coping with my confusion, my fear, my anxiety and avoided, at all costs, coping with the truth — what he was doing wasn’t what was making the biggest difference in my life. I was. By not focusing on my ‘doing, I was choosing to live with his abuse, his lies, his deceit, his manipulations.

What I wasn’t doing was making the difference between living with abuse — or not. I wasn’t looking at me as the root of my own sickness. I was looking at him continually — looking for my answers in what he was doing, saying, being — and not checking myself out against what I was doing, saying, being by remaining in his duplicitous embrace. I continually denied what I knew to be true — he was lying. I continually told myself, ‘it can’t be true that he is lying’ and instead reminded myself, ‘It must be true. He loves me. He wouldn’t lie to me.”

The lie in that statement was — I positioned the pain of my existence in the context of his loving me.

The truth is, from hello to good-bye, I love you to I hate you. You’re beautiful to you’re ugly — everything was predicated on the lie of what he was doing, saying and being. In my denial of the truth, I bought into his lies and gave up on me.

I never asked myself the tough questions, What do I feel about what he’s doing? How does it affect me? What can I do to change my situation? What if I give myself permission to leave without hearing his voice telling me I can’t? What if I quit calling his abuse love? What if I quit taking responsibility for his bad behaviour and instead, take responsibility for my own?

If by chance, I did happen to ask myself one of those tough questions, I always completed my answer with — I can’t leave him… and then I recited the litany of reasons he’d told me why I could never leave. In the process, I became very, very emotionally sick. In my ill-health, I never gave myself the cure I needed to rid myself of the disease causing my illness — I never left him because I kept my focus on trying to figure out him — not trying to figure out a way to heal myself.

For me, focusing on his behaviours, trying to figure out why he was doing what he was doing, continually looking for meaning in everything he said, and keeping the light fixed on him, kept me stuck in confusion. It kept me from shining the light on my own behaviour. My constant angst around his bad behaviour protected me from having to face my bad decision-making, poor judgement in character — and ultimately, face myself, with tender loving care.

I feel for both my friends yesterday. Theirs is not an easy road. Both will have to decide to either do what is best and caring of them — or not. Both will have to give themselves medicine — or not. Both will have to turn up for themselves and let the other person go — or not.

Turning up for me has been a constant journey into self-love. It has been a continuous quest for finding my truth within me — and letting go of looking for my answers out there. Whatever answers I find in someone else will always be best for them. Just as whatever answers someone else finds within me, will always be first and foremost best for me.

In healthy self-care, the person I keep healthiest must be myself. I cannot properly care for my daughters without first taking care of me. If I always jump to their aid, continually do for them and not do for myself, I will drain myself of energy, of passion, of commitment. For in my desire to do for them always, I let go of my responsibility to do for me so that I am strong enough, courageous enough, healthy enough to do for them what is loving, supportive and caring.

Once upon a time, I gave up on me and gave into a man who told me he had all my answers. He was my shortcut to happiness. Lost on that road to hell, I found myself again beneath the debris of his tumultuous passing through my life.

In healing, I have awakened to the truth within me — I am 100% responsible for my journey. I am 100% responsible for living in the light of love, for turning up for me and living this one wild and precious life as if it is the only life I’ve got — it is. It is my responsibility to live it up.

The question is: Where do you let go of responsibility for your one wild and precious life looking for someone else to turn the light on?

Posted in: M.L. Gallagher

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48 Comments on "After he’s gone: Looking at the sociopath through open eyes."

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You are really growing by leaps and bounds! I don’t know if you can see this in yourself but your post are full of inspiration for others.
It was a very poweful thing you said about measuring abuse. And I think many women that find themselves in abusive relationships find themselves doing the exact same things.
Saying to themselves well he hasn’t done _____ yet.

I guess the bottom line is that if we ever find ourselves having to measure abuse, it is already to the point that we should be leaving the relationship. Abuse is abuse. It can’t be measured.

Jules and Tryingtorecover
Of all the girlfriends I traced (many) not 2 look alike. It’s not looks that matters to a sociopath. I couldn’t understand until I checked an article on this site about how sociopaths choose their victims. Trusting, nurturing, financially stable, moral women. Isolation a bonus. Look it up – it explained a lot for me. I also believe sociopaths sometimes like the challenge of seducing, then enslaving women who don’t quite match the criteria. It’s very dehumanising to realise that but really, they don’t care who we are nor what we look like, as long as they think they can get what they want from us. Don’t feel jealous but sorry for their new victims and warn them if you can.

Yes it is very strange the growth that is happening while I sleep and live and breathe. I honestly feel more detached from it all than I have in a long long time. For those who are questioning whether to stay or leave … GO AHEAD AND LEAVE!!!!!! This detachment has happened in just a few miraculous weeks. Other LF regulars can probably attest to the fact that when I arrived at this site I was devastated. I was hurt, angry and full of despair about the future. This difference in me has emerged in three short weeks since he left and I’ve had VERY limited contact with him. I can’t believe the turnaround myself – I didn’t dare to hope I could ever feel better about this. Even though he had left, I thought I would continue to feel this low, despairing, disempowered feelings – I thought my time with him had destroyed me forever.

I now know that I will never ever be the same as I was before I met him – that just isn’t possible knowing what I know now. But I am recovering from his abuse. And education is what makes all the difference. Education and community with people who understand and validate my experience. That is what this site provides – it allows me to pick through the ashes of those years and understand that I did nothing wrong and there was nothing I could have done to help him or help the relationship. It also allows me to see it could have been so much worse – it could have been more years with him, physical abuse, addiction, more financial losses I couldn;t recover from.

I am so grateful for feeling better – I wanted to die for years at my lowest and still contemplated it when he left. Now I want to LIVE!!! And what sweetness that is! So if my growth provides any inspiration for others … I hope it is this – I hope someone reading this one day realises their strength is not gone for good – it has just gone underground and will return WHEN THEY LEAVE THE SPN. I hope someone is inspired to take a chance on themselves and cut these scumbags out of their life. That is what reading here gave me – the strength to leave and trust that I would be ok. That’s a huge gift and one that all the self help books, counselling, psychotherapy and family members didn’t give me. I am so grateful for Donna having the foresight to put up this site and maintain it – I am so grateful for the posters sharing their insights and experiences.

I know the journey will have more ups and downs – that is the nature of healing – some days you can cope and others you can’t. But I do know I won’t ever be in that dark despairing place again – I got my ticket out of there.

On measuring abuse – witsend you are right – any time we are measuring abuse there is a problem. We need to teach y oung women there are many ways a man can destroy them by using their own good traits against them. A punch in the face is one obvious way, but there are hundreds of other more subtle ways. And Oxy … ok you can be the Queen! I am happy with being the Princess of self beration … it’s all in the past now.I am immensely grateful for all of your supporting words … I really hope I get to meet you one day.

Hugs to everyone getting over being used by an SPN. The road is hard initially but there is hope and you will get past it. Healing is possible – even if you doubt it! I certainly did – I thought I would never get over this, but even now the memories of what he did are starting to fade and become less important. It’s my life now that counts – it’s the person I am now that matters. I will never forget the pain of this relationship but it no longer has the power to bring me to my knees – that’s some pretty good progress in a short period of time!

Dear Polly,

Sweetie, it makes my heart sing to hear the power that has come to your posts, and like Witty, I am so glad that things are turning around for you today and lately! I have felt where you were when you frist came here, crazy as an out-house rat! (that’s a technical term! LOL) and boy was I ever crazy! There were ups and downs as well like you mentioned, but over all it was a journey that led to much healing and joy and peace coming back into my life—then wham! Out of the blue, I would be back in the abys sometimes.

Today was one of those days—it was both a great day and a miserable day, the pits and yet hope! I found an HONEST LAWYER, and he will help me, one way or another, and he is a sharp man, and KNOWS WHAT A PSYCHOPATH IS, and guess what ??? He read “Snakes in Suits” and knows who Bob Hare is!!!!

But just the strain of talking to him, telling this horrible story again to another person who had not heard it, and sounding like someone who is crazy as an out-house rat (there’s that technical term again) sounding like a parnanoid delusional nut case, made me realize sometimes no matter how strong we are, or think we are, we need to, as I Corinthians 10:12 says, “he that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”

It is humbling to me to realize that no matter how much I KNOW, and how strong I think I am, when that FLOOD of adrenaline washes over my psyche, I crumble into dust, and shake and cry like I don’t know what. All my knowledge of what Ps are and all my knowledge of what to “do” flies out the window and I just weep and feel sorry for myself, throwing a pity party and then feeling guilty because I have “let it get to me” like I’ve never had this happen before. Hell, it isn’t like I am a P-virgin, I’ve been screwed by the BEST OF them!

And yet, I also wept with tears of gratitude that the attorney would help me, no matter what. Tears of gratitude that HE GETS IT! WOW, Matt, you are not the ONLY honest lawyer in the world, I know THREE now.

But I also realize that I CANNOT TALK TO THE PAROLE BOARD MYSELF, because I iam not and cannot be “emotionally detached” enough to NOT sound like a freaking bitter nasty old lady when I try to relate all this verbally.

I know why the minister didn’t believe me, now when I tried to get him to listen to me, because I DID sound like a nut case, when I tried to tell him what my egg donor and my P son had done. It isn’t about TRUTH or FACTS it is about PERCEPTION when we are trying to convince others about what our PSYCHOPATHS have done to us.

I’ve been an excellent public speaker for 30 years, but there is NO way I can do it now, not talk to these people and tell them my story, because I can’t make them believe it. I can’t
“condense” War and Peace into 100 words or less and KEEP THE PLOT understandable much less believeable.

But, even though it has been a ROUGH day, I do know, and am reassured by the fact I have an attorney that ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, will assist me through the parole process for my son and HOPEFULLY GIVE ME A CHANCE OF KEEPING THAT MONSTER IN PRISON—five years at a time for as long as he lives.

I’m going to go to bed now, and crawl into my hole and pull the hole in after me, but tomorrow WILL be a better day, and I’ll get through this.

Polly, I am so glad you are doing well… hang in there sweetie, the “bad days” will get few and far between, I’ve not really had a bad one for 6 months or so…and it used to be HOURLY! (((hugs))) and please keep me in your prayers.


I’m glad you found an attorney who can help you. I know how emotional this will be for you. That said, I’ll give you a bit of advice I often give clients — going to court, going before an administrative board, it’s all a performance. You know your son will be giving the performance of his life. You need to give the performance of your life (think Lana Turner in “Where Love Has Gone” or any of her other 3 hankie weepiers like “Imitation of LIfe” of “Madame X.”

One way I tell my clients to do that is to write the whole story out. And then edit it. And read it aloud. And then edit again. Etc. over and over and over. Because your goal is to get the facts out there, with the proper degree of what I call “Humane Emotionalism.” You can’t come across as an automaton. And you can’t come across renting our garments.

A lesson I learned as a screenwriter about “Pitching” a story — boil it down to 3 sentences. 3 sentences equalled 3 acts of every movie. And they all boil down to this: You get the man up in a tree (the setup). You throw rocks at the man in the tree (the obstacles he has to overcome). And you get the man down from the tree (the conclusion/resolution/what you want).

Also, here are a few quick rules to remember for when you’re speaking. First, a person can only say 8 words on one breath. Second, a listener can only hear 6 of those words. Third, the most effective sentence in history is 2 words “Jesus, wept.”

So, write down everything that is in your heart on your computer. Then print it out — triple spaced with 2 1/2 inch margins on each side so you have plenty of room to edit. Then go through and get rid of everything that is hyper emotional and not relevant to what the message is you want to convey (in the writing biz we call it “killing your darlings). 90 percent of the first draft will be scrapped. Then go through and repeat — over and over until you are comfortable with what you want to say and all the stuff that will make you look crazy is gone.

If you need any help with this, contact Donna off-line. I’m more than happy to help, since as you know, I was both a screenwriter and a lawyer.

Matt has a great idea with the editing. LESS is often more. It is just so dang blasted hard knowing what is important and what is not when you first let the “flood gates” open and start writing.
And I DO think it is ok to let SOME emotion (not alot but some) flow into what you say because after all you are his mother. Better a little emotion than alot of bitterness.
I think you will do great. You have a little bit of preperation time and you can rid yourself of all that pent up emotion while your going through the process of writing stuff down.

Does the family members of the girl show up at the parole hearings? If so I would think that what they would have to say to the board would help your case as well.

Dear Matt,

I didn’t know you were a screen writer. Thanks, I will have donna send my e mail to you off line. I am going to need all the help I can get.

I do have absolute confidence in this attorney, but I also know that no matter how well I seem to be doing the emotions flood over me and my tonoe of voice and everything I say makes me come across ANGRY and hostile.

The whole story is like “war and Peace” and I know we must keep it down to a couple of paragraphs and a few documents, but I don’t want to take a chance and blow it. Parole lboards do onot want to hear much, short time, get to the basics.

I think at this point, I will have the attorney speak for me.

He did also suggest that we (he) contact the victim’s family and llend them help as well. I am hoping at least that a crimiinal’s family coming there with an attorney to fight the parole (a frist in history I think) will at least raise the eyebrows of the parole board….most families who don’t want their convict out just do NOTHING, don’t hire them an attorney etc.

I do knonw my son and my egg donor’s plans though, and that is to present me as NUTS and it is just a “little family feud” “nothing important” but I think we have enough evidence to over come that.

I mainly was just suprised at how the EMOTIONS hit me between the eyes with the old “shot at and missed, chit at and hit” feeling of a major stress rush…sort of like Henry when Mike drove up the other morning without warning.

This is feeling like the interactions I had with the minister that didn’t believe me, and I guess I must ahve sounded and looked like a nut case when I was talking to him. Maybe why he didn’t believe me.

I finally calmed down, but still feel weak as a kitten after the stress load, but some rest will cure that. I was suprised though, how hard it hit me today, just the ttalking about it. The lawyer was NICE though. Very compassionate and the fact that he said “He sounds like a psychopath” gave me great confidence in him.

Tomorrow willl be another day, as Scarlette O’Harrow said, so onward and upward, I just want to get this thing done and get it ready to go when the time comes. Just one more hurdle to pass. Thanks Matt! You are a great friend! ((((Hugs)))) Love, Oxy

A comment I have about this article is not only “because he can,” but, “because we let him.”

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