By | February 15, 2009 239 Comments

After the sociopath: How do we heal? Part 4-Bargaining

If there is a single category of memories that still can make me squirm, it is the remembrance of what I did to make my sociopath love me. And what I did simply to keep him from hurting me. And what I did to try to understand the things I must have done wrong, because he didn’t love me. And all the ways I pretzel-twisted my brain to excuse him for his lies, deception, disrespect and greed.

The topic of this article is the next phase of healing from a sociopathic relationship: bargaining.

We are in the process of healing from the moment we sustain any emotional trauma. Relationships with sociopaths typically involve many traumatic events, both large and small. Some of these events are the “blows” of insults, coldness and various types of violence or violation of our trust. But these blows, however painful they may be, are less damaging than the events that threaten our identities by making us question our own values and ability to trust ourselves

Bargaining is one of the two ways we negotiate with pain. The first is denial, which was discussed in the last article, Part 3. Denial enables us to postpone facing trauma, until we’re ready, or until we’ve found support that can help us think it through. In denial, we make a temporary deal with ourselves not to think about it and to block our normal feelings. It’s an interior mechanism, a way to control our own reactions.

Shifting Denial to the Outside World

Bargaining is an advance on denial because, at least, we are beginning to negotiate with the outside world, rather than our own psyches. But like denial, bargaining is magical thinking. We’re still not dealing directly with the facts as though they were real. We are finding reasons to make them unreal, and looking for ways that we can influence the situation so that it becomes we want it to be.

“She’s just acting cold, because she’s had a bad time and needs to get over it. If I am more loving, she will warm up.”

“He is being so rude to the waitress, because he came from a background of uncaring people. If I show him how much better service he’ll get if he’s courteous, he’ll see that it’s true and become the gentle, caring person I know he really is inside.”

“She’s sleeping around because she’s insecure about her looks or afraid that I don’t really love her. If I try to be more supportive and more complementary, she’ll come to recognize that no one has ever loved her more.”

“He’s telling me that I don’t deserve to be loved, because he secretly feels he doesn’t deserve to be loved. If I convince him that he’s lovable, it will open his heart.”

“He never shows up when I need him, runs profiles on dating sites, and disappears for days or weeks. He says everything would be better if I trusted him, so I’ll try to trust him more.”

In each of these examples, we are faced with evidence that the person is, at minimum, behaving in ways that we don’t like. If we want to analyze it further, we could say that this person is behaving as though they don’t care how we feel. Or if we wanted to characterize the person by his or her behavior, we could say that he or she is acting like a selfish, out-of-control sleezeball. But we don’t have to do any analysis at all to simply check our own feelings and determine that we are not happy about it. Or that it causes us pain.

In the bargaining phase, we are ready to acknowledge our own pain and the material fact that is causing us pain. However, we are not yet ready to connect all the dots in the sense of recognizing that we have a serious and unmanageable problem on our hands.

The Three Elements of Bargaining

The components of traumatic bargaining are three very different things. One is acknowledgement of the trauma. This is an important new stage in our healing process. It’s the first time since the trauma occurred that we consciously accept that something happened to us. That “something” came from outside of us. It was not something we did to ourselves.

The second component is our vision of how things ought to be. This could be how things used to be — like when we had our perfect lover. But it might be a vision of how we want things to be in the future — like when we and our perfect lover settle down in a “happily ever after” relationship. There are all kinds of possible visions of reality that we are trying to get to, or get back to. Particularly in relationships with sociopaths, where there are so many different types of trauma — identity, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, etc.— we may be holding tight to any one of a variety of visions.

The final component is the bargaining itself, which is a kind of bridge between the unwanted reality and the desired vision. That bridge is made up of all the things we are willing to do to earn that reality.

Bargaining is a basic skill of life, an everyday event in which we negotiate with family, friends, employers, customers to find satisfactory shared outcomes. We even negotiate with inanimate objects, like regularly changing the oil to get longer service from our cars. These little trades in life are so common we hardly notice them. We make little deals all day long, as we pragmatically navigate around and through all the things we have to accommodate in our lives.

However, post-traumatic bargaining has a different flavor that puts it squarely in the realm of magical thinking. Instead of negotiating for some future outcome, we are trying to change a here-and-now fact. The fact is not what our sociopaths did, but what their actions say about them. We don’t want them to be what they appear to be.

In this bargaining, we are appealing to someone or something that we imagine has the power to change that fact. In attempting to solicit its cooperation, we are hoping or believing that we can convince that power source to care about us.

Please, God, if you’ll only”¦

That beginning of a supplicant prayer ends with “and I promise I’ll”¦” Please, God, if you’ll only help me pass this test, I promise I’ll do my geography homework forever. Or we may not bring God into it. We may wear our lucky underwear to the game, so we’ll sink more basketballs. Or if I sign over my paycheck or dress like a floozy or rush to get you another beer when you toss the empty over your shoulder, maybe you’ll love me.

Doing a rain dance may not appear to equate with trying to have a happy relationship with a sociopath, but it has similarities. One of those similarities is that we are depending on formal rules that we imagine are something like infallible. So, if we are very, very, very good, and follow the rules punctiliously, then the result will be that the sociopath loves us or that the sociopath will be zapped with some cosmic healing ray that makes it possible for him to love at all.

While bargaining is a developmental advance over denial, it has one big similarity with denial. That is, we still feel like we have some power, even if we now recognize that most of the power resides elsewhere. In terms of our volunteering or collaboration, we’ve stepped up to the “can-do” plate, and we’re trying to fix the situation. Maybe this will work. Maybe that will. We’re operating on hope or faith in our own magic.

Our approach to this is childlike, in the sense that we are defining that outside power as something there to fulfill our desires. As all of us have learned one way or another, trying to elicit “love” from a sociopath is like trying to get attention from the devil. We may get the attention, but it is very, very expensive.

In fact, our very belief in these rules — whether they are the rules of courtesy or Christian behavior or how we imagine lovers are supposed to act — is something that sociopaths use against us. They make us feel guilty for not trusting them. Or concerned about how pitiful they are. Or crushed because we are doing all the right things, and still not succeeding in being loved.

The Craziest Phase

The bargaining phase is characterized by hope and frustration. It is also the first real learning phase of recovery. We have acknowledged that there is something wrong, and we are experimenting with solutions to fix it.

Until we’ve learned enough to realize that we can’t avoid the unpleasant facts, we are in what might be characterized as the “craziest” part of our recovery. We’re throwing good energy after bad. We’re doing the same things that worked for us in other relationships, over and over, without getting results. We don’t understand the rules of the game. We don’t know what else to do except be better and nicer and more giving, and our judgment about what we can afford to lose goes haywire.

Our pain and disbelief about the nature of this relationship are only one kind of bargaining trigger. We are probably in the bargaining stage with other traumas, like the loss of our money or possessions or jobs or professional credibility or our children’s safety or our privacy or our hope of simple break-up. We can become absolutely frantic with bargaining. We may feel like we’ve got so many plates in the air we can’t even remember our names.

This can be particularly true in after-effects of a sociopathic relationship, which can seem more traumatic than the relationship itself. As we detox from the hypnotic effect of the sociopath’s influence, we may finally emerge from denial about our losses. We may attempt to negotiate recovery of things we lost. We may appeal to other sources of power, like the police or the legal system, only to discover that no one believes us because the sociopath has done such a good job of characterizing us as unstable or untrustworthy. Or because no one knows anything about sociopaths, and assumes that we’re exaggerating.

In dealing with sociopaths, one of the most difficult things is to determine which situations we can control and what is out of our control. Our own histories as competent and effective people make it hard for us to give up trying to find a solution. Before we give up, we are likely to lower our expectations of fairness, understanding and support, not only from the sociopath, but from the legal system as well as our previous social support systems, like friends and family. As sad as this may seem, it is all part of the great information-gathering exercise that bargaining is.

The First Clarity

Just as denial gave us the gift of time, bargaining has its own gifts. One is a great deal of new factual knowledge about the world we live in. Many of us say that we wished we never learned what we learned in these experiences. But like them or not, these are realities about the people and circumstances we may face in our lives. Knowing them will eventually make us smarter, stronger and more confident in taking care of ourselves.

We also learn the lengths to which we’ll go, if there is something we want badly enough. Some of that is good news and other parts make us uncomfortable. But like the facts about the world, this will be useful information when we are farther in our recovery process.

The most important gift of knowledge comes from our successes and failures in bargaining with the sociopath. We learn that we “succeed” when we’re willing to give up anything we have and everything we are. We learn that we “lose” when we attempt to hold onto our own identities and independent resources.

Eventually, those of us who are going to be survivors come to recognize a very important fact. It’s a fact that was in front of us from the minute we realized that we were not happy with what was going on or that we were in pain. That fact is that the sociopath causing our pain.

There are a few additional facts that we may figure out at this point (depending on which trauma we are working on). One is that the sociopath doesn’t want to be fixed. Another is that the sociopath doesn’t care about our pain.

In this knowledge, we face the reality that nothing we can do will make the sociopath behave like a feeling human being. No matter how many opportunities we have to please the sociopath, or earn love, or prove our worth, or gain trust, we cannot change the wiring of the sociopathic emotional system. And worse, our attempts to “bargain” for love or any form of caring tend to cause us more losses. Whatever we give, whatever we do, whatever pleas we make for compassion or understanding, it is like throwing ourselves against a Teflon wall.

Helping Ourselves

These insights open the doorway into the next big phase, anger, which will be the topic of the next article. In the meantime, it’s a good thing to remember that we may be experiencing various phases at the same time, especially since we are likely to be processing many different types of events. All of the phases have their reason and their importance in healing.

As the “craziest” of the phases, our bargaining phase is the time that we are most likely to be making other people crazy too — whether we’re still inside the relationship or we’ve stopped it but are still trying to fix it some part of it. Our family, our friends, anyone who cares about us may become frustrated with us or even cut us off. When everyone outside this relationship can clearly see that something is wrong — either with us or with our lovers — they become understandably impatient with us, if we are acting like we in the middle of a great work in progress, rather than in the middle of a train wreck.

If the bargaining phase can be characterized as addictive behavior on our side, because we’re totally focused on getting love or validation to “fix” our pain, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be open to intervention. Likewise, finding the power in ourselves to intervene is not likely.

But if we could, or if there is a part of us that is watching aghast at what’s going on, it would be a good time to start keeping a ledger of losses. Even if it’s only a mental record, but writing it down would be better. Start keeping a list of the betrayals, the financial losses, the insults, the lies, the sabotage, the demands to compromise our values, all the things that make us less than we formerly were.

Keeping this list may be the hardest thing we ever do when we’re inside the relationship, because it is exactly the kind of thing a sociopath would view as disloyalty or distrust. To the extent that our feelings are co-opted, we may feel guilty about doing it. But if we can do it — and it’s equally valuable to do after the relationship is over — we reestablish connection with our own identities and feelings, instead of seeing the world though the lens of the sociopath’s intentions.

Keeping the “black list” or the “sad list” or the “list of disappointments” will help us move through the bargaining stage faster. It will help us find our anger, which is where we start to regain our power over our lives and our hearts.

Namaste. The courageous healing spirit in me salutes the courageous healing spirit in you.


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If I only make sure that his eggs are scrambled, because I know he hates it when I break the eggs “easy over.” If I just hadn’t said that thing about helping to pay the rent, since he lives here. I know he’s jealous because he loves me, so if I only hadn’t stayed past 5:30 to have that meeting with my boss, the VP of Marketing, so he could hand over everything I need to do for the next 3 weeks. If only I were good enough, . . . then everything would be fine, right? God? Right?

This betrayal is on such a level that it defeats our rational exercises in bargaining. I did my homework, I was a good person, I produced miracles over and over, in the face of his disdain, his laziness, his stupidity. I never imagined that he actually COULDN’T care. That is like saying that gravity doesn’t pertain to him. That he can’t sweat.

When we get past the bargaining with the impossible, maybe we can start to make sense of our lives again. As Keifer Sutherland said, in the season finale of “24” that I watched, weeks after I walked away from the S/P who had stolen my life: “You can never negotiate with a sociopath.”

In this phase of healing, we may still be bargaining with ourselves, with our view of God, with our sense of reality. I understand that. In my case, the conscious, malicious betrayal was so clear, I never had that illusion. I guess my bargaining is that somehow I think that “the system” or “my records” or “my rights” will prevail, if I can only get my strength and courage back.

I know that the S/P will never keep a bargain. He will never agree to anything with any intention to complete. Without a witness, his words are as significant as the stale air in a motel room. With a witness, well, who knows . . . it depends on the witness, and the person who judges the situation, and whether following through somehow matches up with his disordered agenda. And then my life is still stuck in the hands of others, who probably don’t “get it” about his dysfunction and the evil that ensues.

Kathy, you are laying out a pathway to healing. OMG. How do we turn our backs on everything!?

If I can just be patient enough, then . . .

I’m bargaining again.

Thank you for your soul-delving insights. As ever, you give us so much to consider, and you frame it so that we can work with it, re-examine, struggle, and return to the template you give.



Wonderful article, the series of articles have really helped me. This one really describes me to a T… with the addictive behavior and bargaining phase. I have kept a journal this past 9 months, I wrote down almost every conversation, and it was all bargaining on my part, and I wrote what I was feeling at the time. I do look at it now with disbelief that I am so tolerating and naive.

Ox Drover


As always a very VERY good article with a great deal of wisdom in it.

The “magical” thinking, the MALIGNANT HOPE, that I held on to for so long, resonates in every paragraph in the article. Giving up that HOPE, when there IS NO hope, was extremely painful for me, but it has also freed me from the continual anxiety of wondering “what to do to fix it” and the frustration of continual failure of all my “fix it” plans.

Thanks for a wonderful article! Namaste and TOWANDA!!!!

Healing Heart

There it is! I’ve been waiting for the fourth installment – thank you Kathy!

Another terrific piece. I wish I could have had these four essays a year ago – but having them now is pretty good.

I remember the bargaining stage very well, and it certainly went on for a long time. Most of the bargaining seemed to be with myself. My gut would be screaming at me that he was lying, cheating, and just generally abusing me – but then I would talk my gut out of it with my head. I’d say “He couldn’t possibly be doing that – he’s a good guy, he loves me.” And I would take “We’ll see” perspective that really was bargainese for “I will find some tiny scrap of an indication of good behavior in the future, ignore the vast majority of horrid behavior, and decide that this is ample evidence that he is a good man.” Or, I would tell myself “when this stressful period ends…..” “when the seasons change….” “when he gets over that cold…..”

So many bargains. Guess who got the short end of the stick each and every time? Guess who got a big stick to the head each and every time?

Kathy said about important things to realize:

“One is that the sociopath doesn’t want to be fixed. Another is that the sociopath doesn’t care about our pain.

In this knowledge, we face the reality that nothing we can do will make the sociopath behave like a feeling human being.”

This was absolutely critical for me. It still is. I found it hard to believe that my ex S didn’t care about my pain – HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? But there were so many glaring examples of it, one after another, that eventually, even with all the denial and bargaining I could muster, I simply had to face the horrifying truth that he just didn’t care if he hurt me. I didn’t know it was humanly possible to “not care” about the pain of someone else, particularly someone you loved. But there it was – there it is. It’s terrifying.

Thankfully I am moving through these phases – two steps forward, one step back.

The other day I was driving home from work and the thought just came to me “I got out….I am actually out.”

Kathy – thank you for another terrifically insightful, articulate, and helpful essay.



Great article.

Looking back, I realize I spent the last third of our relationship in the bargainning phase. Praying to God, caving in to S, the works. I look back at my craven capitulation and it makes me physically sick.

I grew up in a house where physical and mental abuse were the norm. I”ll credit S with one thing — kicking and screaming I was finally dragged into adulthood.



“And I couldn’t understand the dull, uncomprehending look I got in return at first. In the early days, I used to joke that he must have been brought up by wolves. Later he got irritable, and after that abusive, when I brought my feelings up.”

Ah, the progression of “looks”.

In the first phase S would wink at me across the dinner table and laugh at what I said.

In the second phase I got the dull, uncomprehending look.

In the third phase I got the irritation.

And in the forth phase the abuse.

Abuse. The gift S kept on giving. And I kept taking.

You’re right. We ARE going to have a lot of fun with anger.

Healing Heart

Yes, yes, yes! I used to wonder why my ex S didn’t leave me. He seemed to either be irritated at me, enraged at me, or disgusted at me. Yet he didn’t leave. And I was distressed all the time in the end – which seemed to irritate him – yet he didn’t leave. I wondered why – still wonder why sometimes…but I suppose all the feelings of distress really didn’t mean much to him. My distress meant nothing – I know that. It either didn’t register at all, or annoyed or disgusted him. It certainly didn’t register as being hurtful to me. If it registered, it was as an obstacle for him.

He just kept training me to keep it to myself, and for a while I was a star pupil at Sociopath obedience school. He would yank the collar, and I would whimper and shut up. And then I learned not to whimper, but to just shut up.

The things he did to me at the end were incredibly cruel – cheating on me on Valentines day – yelling at me because I suddenly needed a surgery that threw off his day (his sex schedule), and abandoning me when I needed someone to help me through a painful recovery. I needed someone to be with me, but was too ashamed to ask any one else because I would have to admit to them that my “partner” had actually abandoned me to have sex with another woman instead of following the doctor’s orders to help me. I left him shortly thereafter. As soon as I was medically well enough…..I demanded he leave. And I changed the locks. But he didn’t leave until I threw him out. Even though our relationship seemed horrendous to me. I guess it wasn’t to him.

Kathy – I am so psyched that the next installment is ANGER! This is where I have been for the past two months. I feel enraged at him (still can’t believe I wasn’t at the time), and feel somehow resentful that I lost the opportunity to tell him off by going NC before I was out of denial about what he did. But I know NC is more important.

I need to read this installment a few more times as I always get more and more out of your essays each time I read them. Plus, the posts by LF members to your essays are so terrific too, so I want to soak those in. But I have to admit, I am eager for the ANGER installment!


Kathy and Healing Heart:

“…this is the one fact that consistently confirms it for me. No one with normal human feelings could have endured being the cause of so much grief, anger and visible pain in another person. Any healthy person would have stopped the relationship, left it for both our wellbeings.”

Doesn’t that just sum it up?

By the time I sent S packing and changed my locks (I really need to invest in a locksmith company — 60 percent of their business comes from people ending relationships) I was broken mentally, physically, spiritually and financially was closing in. S had been locked out the night before for not paying 10 grand in back rent, was using cocaine, was drinking excessively, was dodging creditors and was in ill health.

Two pieces of human wreckage. The phrase “stop the madness” would have been an understatement.

However, in a moment that gives you an idea of where I was on the insanity scale, I remember asking him “Is the door closed?” Note how I didn’t say “The door isn’t closed if YOU…”.

S said, in his most pious, pompous, pedantic manner “It is if things go back to how they were in the beginning.”

No sane person would stay in that relationship for their own sanity. Which, I now see, was my sanity reasserting itself when I sent him packing. And the fact that he would even consider wanting to stay in it is a pretty strong clue on his level of insanity.

Then again, he had no incentive to leave. He still had my money to go through, my life to wreck, my career to tank. So much damage to do and not enough time.


I think they DO care about our pain: some of them really, really enjoy it. Even when they seem indifferent, that’s another tool in their torture kit. Yes, Kathy, we need to get through it. Good course material.

Healing Heart

Yes, two pieces of human wreckage. Though I was devastated by being “wreckage,” and he didn’t even (notice that he was human wreckage. Just another day in the office. In fact, our break up was apparently a lot less dramatic than his other break ups which have usually included a series of interactions involving police and lawyers.

But Matt, like you, I look back and am stunned at what I put up with. Absolutely stunned. And yes, THANK GOD sanity kicked in and I finally extricated myself. I think he might not have ever broken up with me – why would he? Just like yours….He was getting everything he wanted under his conditions. So he had to deal with an unraveling, devastated, girlfriend – but that didn’t bother him a bit.

Rune – I wonder sometimes about whether or not he enjoyed my pain. It certainly didn’t seem to stop him from doing anything he wanted, but I can’t quite discern (maybe this will become clearer as time passes) whether or not he actually enjoyed watching me go deeper and deeper into pain. He didn’t like to hear about it – never asked for the gory details, but I suppose it was in full view – if he bothered to look. I just don’t know if he cared about me anough to profit from my pain. I think I was a piece of furniture to him. I don’t think he even “got” when I was in pain.


I just had a counseling session today through my employee assistance program. Fortunately, the counselor knew all about sociopaths. He said something that stands out in my mind. “The best sociopaths are the ones that don’t give any clues.” They are seamless. They are so convincing at their game. He reminded me (once again) that I couldn’t have seen it coming. I can’t believe that after all this time, I was still judging myself for getting involved with a married man (who told me his divorce was filed and coming through any day now). How would I have known he was lying?

This counselor also came from a military family and agrees that the army can be somewhat of a sociopathic organization (with regard to how they used me for my testimony and then discarded me). He thinks I might have a shot writing to the Congressman. But outside of that, there is probably nothing I can do.

The hardest thing (and the counselor pointed this out to me) is that my main support system–the reptile site–was ripped away from me. I don’t know what to replace it with. I can’t even tell my friends there why I left. It’s very frustrating and hurtful. There just aren’t that many people who like snakes around here, and they are such a big part of my life. I really miss the site. I wish there were some way to go back on it and expose/ignore the sociopath. I just don’t think I’m strong enough for that.


The P DEFINITELY enjoyed my pain. And if I didn’t let it show, he would even say things like “doesn’t this hurt you?” (referring to emotional pain, wondering why I wasn’t bursting into tears when he was ripping up poems I had given him and photos). And he would appear almost oppositional defiant at times. He’d say let’s go climb such and such mountain. And I’d say great and mean it. Then he would not do it. We’d go do something he hit on that I didn’t want to do.

I did lots of bargaining and I am stunned not only at what I put up with but even more so with what I did, the pretzel twisting you refer to Kathy. He was FROM my early teens, having come back 40 years later, so I was REALLY recreating trauma, LITERALLY reliving my past, trying to make it come out right this time, without realizing what had REALLY happened the first time (that it was not just a normal young teen break up) and add to that, in choosing him as a teen, I was recreating “love” as I knew it at home, which was with a Narc. And I really think it threw me back into ACTING like a young teen again. (There is a Psychology Today article called “Guess Who’s Back” that talks about how reconnecting with your first love can unleash those old teenage hormones and you are back in the moment in a matter of minutes.) I totally disconnected from reality and having the start of it all be through the unreal world of email didn’t help! What a mess. The most painful experience of my life BY FAR.


Stargazer, I think we all go through recycling about blaming ourselves. Even my post above was a lot about what *I* was doing to myself. But I have to remind myself that I’ve been basically the same person in almost every relationship I’ve had in my life, and he is the ONLY one who hurt me like this. Whereas he has lots of train wreck relationships. So who is the problem?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess that part of my self-blaming is I DID do things that showed a lack of integrity all on my own, that I can’t blame on him at all. So I have some legitimate shame, but as the therapist said, it wouldn’t cause me such shame if I didn’t have such high ethical standards ordinarily, and I’m back in my integrity now.

But as far as the pretzel twisting….being willing to accommodate other’s needs is normally a good, positive trait. But as OxD reminds us, some of us need to remind ourselves to look out for ourselves a bit more or a whole lot more. But if we were only around nice people, there is no flaw in us! The problem is not everyone is nice. Some are evil. By choice or not, they are evil.

I have a TON of wonderful girlfriends, who are TRUE friends, so I know I can’t be THAT bad!

Ox Drover


You two above posts are so right on! My P-son loves the intrigue and the “scoring” and if he can score on me that is even better as I am his “arch enemy.” Any win against me is a big boost to his ego. Even when he loses (to anyone) though, he doesn’t take it as a defeat, but simply a small set back, never his fault, of course.

Star: Yes, we lose all kinds of “supportive” things in our lives, and we have to make new support networks. We have to let go of the old support networks that they have contaminated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find or make new ones. Just about my whole community and many of my neighbors and friends are no longer supportive of me, and I have no doubt that many of them “blame” or “damn” me for “neglecting my poor old mother in her hour of need, what an ungrateful child I am. I can’t go from house to house telling each of these people the TRUTH, for starters it would make me look “crazy” and the smear campaign is one of those things that the one who “gets their licks in first” usually wins….and since we weren’t out to smear them FIRST, or even expose them, they have done the damage before we even find out we have been smeared.

I wish that wasn’t so, but too many times it is true, we get smeared and when we try to tell the truth, it just makes us look more “guilty” in the eyes of the people they smeared us to. I am accepting that truth, and let the neighbors think what the heck they want to. I will hold my head up and I KNOW THE TRUTH, and in this case, MY OPINION IS THE ONLY ONE THAT COUNTS. I will survive, and will create new support systems, and the rest doesn’t matter. I can’t change what I can’t change and I’m not going to grieve over it any more. “God grant me the strength to change what I can and the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The things I cannot change, I have to accept—I may grieve over it for a while, but eventually I will have to accept it in order to move on down the healing road. I have to leave those things behind if I am to make progress. That’s just the truth of the matter. Remember, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off! ((((hugs)))))


Dear Kathleen, thank you for this marvellous post! It described my bargaining to the point (including most of the horrendous examples you described!).

My gut got it after two months, November 08, still in the honeymoon phase, reacting with panic one night (I was waking up in the middle of the night in greatest horror I never have experienced before and I had no idea where this could come from, as I was next to my beloved soul mate). The brain started working only after a long bargaining phase of nine months, last April 08, when X revealed to me what he thinks of our future “relationship”, being basically some kind of Escort service; then I turned my back on him and left him on the railwaystation and have not seen him ever since.

My heart really “got it” on this Valentine’s day when the anger kicked in by reading his last card, when I discovered that ALL THE RELATIONSHIP FROM THE BEGINNING WAS ESCORT TO HIM!!!

Then I was able to toss all the things in my huge garbage bag, and my diary and the last email for him (my last try to fix him, written on Feb.6 2009, shame on me!) will be burned in 7 days in the wooden stove of our little holiday hut in the Alps.

I also can so relate to the examples of Healing heart, Rune, Justabouthealed and Matt, our X have all been to the same psycho prep school!

I think they use pain as all the other feelings to get control; it is merely a game to them, and the feeling of control the feeling of the other is particularly rewarding. I always tried not to seem too happy because I knew he would deliberately destroy this feeling in a short time after he discovers it by annihilating it or make me believe that this particular feeling is wrong.

“So he’d apply a little “perfect lover” and then he’d apply a little destabilization, and then if it looked like I was falling out, he’d be the perfect lover again for as long as it took to make me forget about it.

And I’m not sure if any of this was really conscious. He just had a very sharp instinct for what it would take to keep me in line, and he kept pulling whatever string was necessary to do that.”

So true, exactly as X acted on me too. Maybe it is instinct; I am not sure. Maybe he is just SO perfect in reading others and playing them, or the perfect mirror. I got so angry at X because he made me break NC and made me to reveal to him that I still care pretending he had changed! Just to prove with his last card that this too was a lie.

But as Matt put it, I got the basic soul insulating skills the parents were not able to provide to me as a child. It catapulted me finally to adulthood at the sweet age of almost 47!

Star: it is very difficult to let go of support systems. We had a long way to go with my 6 year old niece to get rid of her millions of pacifiers she carried with her; and my other niece at age 9 was still carrying her comfort cloth “with hole to kiss through”! And it would be deavstating for me thinking NOW that I will be without Internet for a whole week next week and not being able to do Lovefraud browsing, but I have to face THAT too, without that no skiing! Maybe you can find some substitute for your virtual snake site, for instance meet real people who love snakes? Put up a group with gatherings at one apartment a time, with invitation to see the snakes, putting up a topic on snakes for lecture and food?

I thank you all for this insight you all gave; you are truly my therapists! I wish you all a very nice P-free evening!


The thing that REALLY pisses me off about losing this support system is that it’s not just any support system. I meet people and make friends really easily. I have sympathetic friends I can talk to any time. The snake forums are very unique and irreplaceable. I cannot put up ads in condo and apt complexes because it will freak people out and I will get in trouble. I have to keep them low key. I tried putting up ads on Craigs list. I got some trolls and lonely needy guys with iguanas who want to date me. It’s not just that the site is a support system. It is my main source of support for the snakes. It makes having snakes much more more interesting. For instance, if I get bit, I can post a picture and we can all laugh about our “badge of honor” and being in the bleeder’s club.” If I show my bite to a normal friend, they just say, “That’s disgusting!” Snake people are just a different group. And they are some of the funnest people to goof around with at the end of a hard day at work. I feel like a huge part of my life is ripped away. I swear, if I ever see that sociopath, I’m gonna wrap my hands around his neck and………Or maybe I’ll just have my snake do it.


Kathleen, One of the best most concise descriptions of what it FEELS like to be around a P. Interesting that so many of us have described feeling “needy” and then settle for the facsimile.
That is the lasting gift from the P. If needy got me that, I am needy no more.

None, they do have feelings. But they only feel for themselves.

And virtually all their feelings are negative boredom, irritation, envy, resentment, frustration, anxiety, and despair. All about their own situations. Everything and everyone outside themselves are just props that are performing more or less according to their plans and desires.


star: There is a web-site for groups of people that want to get together for all sorts of fun stuff, you’ve probably heard of it… … I belong to a couple of groups that are just women and we go to a movie, out to lunch, went to the race track one Friday night… anyway, the point is, you can go to the site and type in your interest and see if there is anyone else in your area interested in snakes or reptiles. My daughter belongs to a group where everyone in the group owns a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

Elizabeth Conley

Ox Drover,

It still blows my mind that your community doesn’t support you.

Your psychos are convicted criminals, and still people don’t get it. Wow!

In a way, that helps me accept that the rest of us should have little or no hope for our dupes.

Ox Drover

Dear Elizabeth,

Part of the community does, but the vast majority, who are really “not close friends,” just neighbors, hear the gossip of that dumb witch who is my mother’s part time maid and tale bearer (you know how people like that love to spread the latest chit!)

There is also a strong sense of responsibility in the community for people “taking care of their parents” in their old age. Many people keep their aging parents in their homes, or move in with their parents to care for them. Even if someone puts a parent into a nursing home because they can’t care for them adequately, they probably visit 4-7 times a week to see that their care is adequate. So my NO CONTACT with my mother is a complete and total contrast to the community expectations. “After all, you only have one mother.” (and I am my mother’s only child, which makes it worse.)

Many people know that I DID move into my parents’ home, when my step dad was dying with cancer and mother had surgical complications, and stayed there for 18 months and cared for them, so those people are somewhat “confused” about why I am NC with mom now.

Also, my mom is well known as a “saint” in the community, and she plays the “poor pitiful old lady” role very well. There are many “reasons” why people in the community are not supportive of me. Few are openly hateful, though I have encountered one who was (the MIL of the maid), and of course the maid herself.

I have also not gone around the community smearing my mom, and generally I don’t tell the REAL story, just something along the line of “well, you know how old folks get strange ideas” (people will usually accept that).

As far as the part about the Trojan HOrse P and my X-DIL, people ARE supportive about that part…but also, few people know about my P-son in prison in TExas. Quite frankly, that whole story is so convoluted and so “outrageous” that people would think I was a pathalogical liar if I tried to tell them the tale with all it’s twists and turns. Heck my own therapist asked me to bring in documentation to prove I wasn’t a paranoid nut case! LOL

I’m just at the point now that I am caring less and less “what the neighbors think” and my mother cares TOTALLY what the neighbors think, she is careful to keep up her MASK in the community, and with all the little old ladies at the church etc. to play the “poor neglected saintly old woman” when she is anything BUT saintly. I can’t change much if any of this, so I am finally coming to the point that what those people think is of less and less importance to me. The PEOPLE WHO COUNT know the truth. I know the truth. What else matters? Nada.

Also, I think like the article said, that if they accepted the TRUTH of your situation, they would feel UNSAFE in their own life, and that is too much for them to handle. It is more comforting to believe “there is good in everyone” than to realize and accept the truth that there are EVIL people out there and they look just like the rest of us. That’s a scary thought, so they would rather be in denial than scared.

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!

Learing to validate ourselves I think is a big step and a necessary one.

Elizabeth Conley

” Quite frankly, that whole story is so convoluted and so “outrageous” that people would think I was a pathological liar if I tried to tell them the tale with all it’s twists and turns.”

“if they accepted the TRUTH of your situation, they would feel UNSAFE in their own life, and that is too much for them to handle.”

Ox Drover, you are so wise! It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but most of us are in the same boat, albeit to a lesser extent.

I’ve got a bit of good news. My son has just been “cured” of a very unusual middle ear disorder called a “congenital cholesteatoma”. He’s spent the first 10 years of his life with poor hearing and balance, as well as chronic headaches and quite a bit of stress. All that’s behind him now. His surgeon just performed a procedure to rebuild our son’s middle ear and confirm that the disease was gone. It is gone, and the rebuilding of his middle ear went well. There’s always a chance the cholesteatoma will return, but often they don’t. The occurrence of this disease to too small for there to be reliable statistics.

The local schools, (both public and Christian) have been a real pain through all of this. I’m afraid the other mother’s in this neighborhood have been kind of nasty too. In spite of the fact that my son is very well behaved and his condition is not contagious, they’ve pretty much kept him away from their little darlings. So called “nice” people made his life hell before we started home schooling, found an understanding church and became part of a good home-school co-op. Many searched for excuses to criticize me, because they needed to believe he was ill due to negligent parenting.

Now he enjoys performing in plays, ice skating, boy scouting and Sunday School. He does well in his studies.

The experience has changed us a lot. I look around at the people we associate with now, and I’m thankful. The circle of friends is smaller, but they’re true blue. Even though our son’s well now, I plan to keep the circle small and be cautious with new relationships.

Between the N, the S and our son’s struggles to be accepted in this community, I’ve learned some important lessons. We’re going to remain very careful in our relationships and the organizations we join.

Like you, I’ve come to realize that the opinions of most people simply don’t matter. Most people don’t know enough to have an informed opinion about the people they so carelessly judge. Luckily for them, they haven’t faced any real challenges in life. They just don’t know what it’s like.

Elizabeth Conley

Uh-oh! I just heard the words “Surrender puppy! Come out with your tail wagging – I’ve got you cornered!” Sounds like the dog is about to get nailed with a barrage of nerf fire. I guess I’d better depress morale with a spelling test and a couple hours of Math and Social studies!


Kathleen Hawk said:

“Regarding enjoying causing pain —

Mine did, under the right circumstances. Which basically boiled down to destroying someone who was in his way. ”

Oh boy, thit seems so familiar. I have listened endless hours of his grand schemes of undermining his friends and colleagues that did not buy into his games. He gathered personal information about people then used them in the right moment to stab them. He would have utter hatred for certain people (especially women in their 50’s and 60’s, mommy issues perhaps) He made fun of one woman he worked with; he said she did not have her first orgasm until she was in her fourties and she had her first orgasm with a black man. He thought this was so funny. I did not think this was so funny or as a proof what an idiot this woman was supposed to be. Why would this be any of his business anyways? But as a stupid patsy-brainwash of his, I just nodded.

He also once told me that when a friend of his was visiting from out of town, he made him walk a lot and would not give him time to eat because he thought that his friend was a “fat f**k”. This was the s sadistic punishment he enjoyed. He enjoyed toying with people, it gave control and meaning to his life


Thank you for another essay at the moment of my greatest need. I caved in and called the S to let him know that his daughter (who can’t get ahold of him) is in dire straits. He actually chuckled and then said “If you call me again I’ll press charges”…WTF?! I hadn’t talked to him in almost six weeks. Once again I was shocked and dismayed that he didn’t react like a normal person i.e., where is my daughter? how can I reach her? Is she ok? NOTHING like that at all. I guess this is my one step back. I won’t do it again not for anyone. I was starting to feel normal again and now this crazy thinking has permeated my being today. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?! God, I get so angry at myself. Guess I’m ready for the next installment on anger.



It happens to the best of us. It took me two full years before I could maintain No Contact.

I got the chuckle out of mine once or twice too. They really, really enjoy the thought of us, in pain, desperate for some explanation, some sign of their humanity. THAT’S THEIR PAYOFF. Don’t give it to them.


Thanks for making me feel a bit better about breaking the NC. It is still difficult for me to understand why he can’t understand and see his horrible behaviour. I need to get out of that hamster wheel because it truly is mnaking me nuts. .


I remember when I was in the bargaining phase. It lasted about 2 months, but crept in from time to time for the following few months after that. I kept looking for signs that he may really care for me. Thank God I’m off that rollercoaster. I also thought I had moved on from the anger phase until the S reappeared and took my internet family from me. I don’t think there’s a section (maybe part 6) on recovering from the loss of an internet community? 🙁



Where did you find this “deprogramming class”? How interesting. I wish I had gone to that! Never mind. I got it on my own. :o)

Thanks for a great article. You really do an awesome job of taking the experience apart and looking at all the peices. I find it hard to do that. Or at least, I find it hard to write like that. I wish I could!

I am past the anger phase but I am looking forward to reflecting back! I am not sure I ever felt totally angry… perhaps that was my ranting in the car phase. I used to have arguements with BM in my car… but he wasn’t there. Kinda weird, isn’t it? I kept replaying the events and trying to explain to him why he was wrong to treat me the way he did and that it was wrong for him to think he was a victim of me. I explained over and over to my imaginary BM that he had abused ME and not the other way around.

I told all my stories to myself in the car. A few times, I pulled over and cried. I suppose there was some anger in there somewhere.

Thanks again.. E


Evening All:

Today was one of those days where you realize you actually are making progress.

By the end of my relationship with S, I felt so incompetent at everything I attempted.

To say I am technologically challenged is an understatement. S let me know how proficient he was and how inept I was every chance he got. Yet, today I bought a new computer, got it set up for wireless, downloaded the software and got it interacting with my blackberry. Okay, I still haven’t gotten down setting up additional email accounts, but I’m getting there.

Not only did I tackle that, I actually found my kitchen and a vat of redbeans (and rice) — the genuine slow-cook New Orleans traditonal dish.

I’m sitting here feeling pretty pleased with myself at the moment. Never thought I’d see the day where I actually accomplished something technological on my own.


Matt, I’m so glad to hear about your good day. Having any victory over a computer can give you such a feeling of accomplishment, can’t it? LOL My computer usually kicks my butt. It’s always a good computer day when you can solve a problem without calling the guy in India who hardly speaks English and reads from a script.


Matt, I’m starving. Share some red beans and rice with me? 🙂


I was thinking more in the lines of sharing the recipe?


star: oops, it was over here.


LOL I just responded on the other thread. I couldn’t find it. Do you mind giving a quick summary? 🙂


KH: Wow! Just read your ‘notes’. Everytime I think I might be mistaken about whether or not my ex is a sociopath, bam, I get hit with the truth again. That’s him to a tee. Thanks for sharing!


kathleen: That has been the hardest part for me to accept, that he was just here for the money. Am I that horrible to be around otherwise? After hating myself for 90% of my life I had finally started liking myself, now I won’t even look at men, I’m like Kramer on Seinfield when he turned yellow from smoking and told Jerry “Look away… I’m hideous!!!”


The de-programming class sounds interesting. I find a lot of parallels between cults, cult grooming and the s.


STargazer, Sabinne and Kathy:

Here’s my recipe for red beans and rice.

First a bit of background which gives you the clue on how to cook this dish properly. Red beans and rice was the traditional Monday dish in NOLA.

Why? Because Monday was laundry day. In those days laundry was a whole day event — stoking the stove, boiling the wash water, pounding the clothes on a rock by the stream (okay, scratch the last one).

In any case, housewives were so busy doing laundry on Monday that they needed something they could put on the back of the stove in the morning and have it done by evening. Hence, they key to makng this recipe turn out right — SLOW COOKING.

And that concludes today’s histroy/trivia lesson. Now, on to the recipe.

First the ingredients:

2 pounds of red beans (soak overnight!!!)
1 large onion (or more if you like)
3-4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper (lot-o-pepper)
Lea & Perrins
Ham or sausage or both (I use kielbasa. Make sure sausage is spicy). Also, I’ve found that throwing in 3 or 4 hamhocks add a nice flavor.

Rinse beans. Saute onons, garlic, meat (briefly). Add spices. Add beans. Cover with water (about an inch over to start). Cook over low to medium heat for several hours. Stir regularly, but keep covered. After the beans have softened remove a cup or two from the pot and mash them.

Add mashed beans back in to pot — this step makes the beans creamy. If you find the mixture is too soupy, cook without the lid until mixture has thickened. Pour over rice. Traditionally, people like McIlheney’s tabsco sauce with this. Also, jalapeno sauce, pick-a-peppa sauce, etc.

The trick with this is SLOW COOKING. If you try to rush it, the mixture starts sticking to the pot bottom and getting a scortched taste.

This mixture will probably give you 1- to 12 servings. I find I dish it out into single serving containers and freeze them. Easy to microwave.

Bon appetit!


Dear Kathy, unfortunately for me it was the other way round with us.

ME being the “whore” but for free! That was the most horrendous experience finding out about it, and I ended the whole on the spot! First I thought this was how he saw the “relationship” at the end. Since last Valentine’s day I know he saw it like this straight from the beginning; it was always his plan to have a “relationship” on these premises.

The deal was: Being at his complete and total disposal, to show up when X pleases to have a) sex, company, b) theater, cinema, arts exhibitions, c) concerts, d) needs a female on his side, and most importantly

d) to vanish on the wink of the eye of his without any sign of sadness when a) he has to be busy, b) he is not in the mood, c) when his children are around, d) when he has more important things to do.

He got VERY angry when I expressed some kind of longing for him while leaving him. I never understood this, as my former friends and I always had reciprocal sad feelings while parting.

And all for a little food, some affection every once in a while; sex which I liked first a lot, then it got very mechanical, in the end it was down right humiliating; but mostly very strange controlling behaviour.

I now know that I am WAY TOO EXPENSIVE for him to afford ME!

You seemed for everyone being in power over this poor toyboy! That must have pissed him off a LOT, I guess! Did he make you suffer for that in private? Just guessing, X would have for sure!

We can thank the universe that we got freedom from these monsters!

I am a firm believer on Buddhistic karma, and for sure the X will have to pick something dreadful on the next round on Samsara. But I do not care!



Libelle: You wrote: that boredom, irritation, envy, resentment, frustration, anxiety, and despair is their emotional lot in life. I really thought you were describing my S. I can’t imagine that they are all like that. Amazing.
I remember thinking that if I didn’t end it I was going to become very, very sick with some sort of disease or something because of this man. I sent him off with his mother to Texas where he proceeded to steal from them. I am so glad I had at least a little bit of sanity at that moment. Now I need to just be able to get past him being a part of my thought process on a daily basis. I will start reading about Stokholms Syndrome next.

Thanks everyone! I rely so much on this blog just to get me through my day knowing I did the right thing.

Ox Drover


I remember talking about your, and MY, “car rants” and we were sooooo alike in that. It took me a year not to rant when I would drive and like you said “way back when” we were talking about it, I wonder what the other drivers thought about some crazy woman ranting and pounding the steering wheel and screaming as she drove down the highway! LOL

Gosh I did A LOT OF THAT! I would even DREAM of talking to them and trying to get them to SEE REASON in my dreams, but for what it is worth, I no longer feel a NEED to try to convince them of anything. I think the last one I let go about wanting to “CONVINCE” them was my mother, but she was also the last one I ‘Processed.” She still has the power to make me angry when I see her, but I am making sure THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

My son, C has taken to calling her by her first name instead of “grandma” like he always did before, and he will not speak my P-son’s name, but refers to him as “my X-brother” and his x wife is always “My X-wife”–never by her given name. I thought about your designated “Bad Man” and I think if we don’t refer to them by their “names” (or in the case of my mother by her title of “mother”) it helps us see that they are not who we THOUGHT THEY WERE.

A name in an “identity” and we associate that name with the person we thought they were, the person we grieve for losing, and by taking away that “identity” (that FALSE identity) and giving them another “identity” like “the bad man” or “my X-brother” or X-wife, we strip that fantasy identity of its reality in our hearts!

I realize my “mother” was never a mother to me, not anything that is represented by the term “mother” but my “maternal genetic donor” (or something to that effect) I would probably have been better off if she had had the good sense to give me up for adoption. The BEST thing she ever did for me was to marry my stepfather (My DADDY, and believe me he lived up to every nuance of that word) whereas my “Paternal genetic donor” was never more than that! In different ways, but both of them, both my sperm donor and my egg donor, were never PARENTS to me. Owners, maybe, but not even benevolent ones at that. Between the two of them, I was setup for a life time of psychopathic interaction, habituated to that as “normal.”

From some of the stories I have heard here, too, I think that I am far from “alone” in being habituated to abuse as “normal” and “expected” behavior in “those we love.” I AM, however, proud to say that I have risen above that programming, and the people here at LF are also rising above that as well. NO MORE AUBSE, NO MORE PSYCHOPATHS.


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