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ASK DR. LEEDOM: How can I move on?

This week we received the following email. I am sharing it with you because what she reports is very common on a number of levels that I will discuss.

I was married to a sociopath for 25 years. They were horrible years because most of that time I had no idea I was married to a sociopath. I was deeply in love when we met. He told me everything I wanted to hear. Knowing all my weaknesses and fears he fed them, made me totally emotionally dependent on him. He helped me get great jobs, pumped me up so I would keep making more money, while of course he lived off me. But at the same time kept telling me I was ugly, fat, sickly. He had affairs. All of this and I still kept hoping he would change and someday really love me. He even encouraged me to do some illegal stuff — which I did — just to make him happy.

Twenty five years and when I finally couldn’t take it any more I left (8 months ago) Thought that was the end of it — but I actually kept worrying about him. He didn’t have a job or enough food to eat.

Well, he had used my computer one day when he was visiting and his email site was left on. I got curious and started reading his emails. He had been seeing other women, started relationship while he was still with me, telling them the same things he had always told me — but what I found most hurtful was that he was talking to these women about me in derogatory ways. That I was a psycho, unattractive, that I didn’t inspire him to do anything, etc. In many ways, this should have been good. Had I not seen that with my own eyes I would have never believed that my husband of 25 years who told me every day that he loved me more than life itself was bad mouthing me to these other women. I feel such anger and hatred in me that I know is not healthy”¦but I don’t know how to let it go.

I cut off all communications with him, but I still check into his emails. It’s like watching a soap opera — I’m hooked on this and don’t know how to stop. Every day when I see a new email where he’s dragging my name through the mud, it just makes me feel like crap. Even though I know he’s heartless and I should just not care what he says — I do. This is the man I slept next to for 25 years. I’m 58 years old and I can’t even think of starting a new relationship with all this distrust and hatred in my heart. How in the world would I ever trust another man? The duplicity that men are capable is incredible and every man I meet gives me the creeps.

Is there any hope that I could ever get over this? I just don’t know how to move forward.

First of all 25 years is a long time to spend with another person, might as well be a lifetime. To come to grips with that, a person has to focus his/her attention on all the other things he/she did and accomplished during that time period. Usually the relationship was not the only part of life. Since the outcome was so bad the mind naturally wants to focus the attention on the bad and recovery means fighting this natural tendency.

Second, worrying about the sociopath is extremely common. Again overcoming this means focused attention. Attend to what this says about you. You are a person who cares and naturally worries about those you have loved. Just because you have a feeling does not mean you have to act on it.

The third issue, spying on the sociopath. I have seen that behavior a great deal so don’t feel you are unusual because you do this. I have also observed that the spying is often linked to anger, as is difficulty letting go.

Why would spying, anger and difficulty letting go be linked? I think this relates to a need for power and mastery over the situation. How many times have victims said, “I just didn’t want him/her to win”? I think recovery starts with admitting that we “lost” and the sociopath “won.” In the same breath though we have to question what the “prize” for winning was. If we don’t go on with our lives and recover, we give the sociopath a real prize!

The fourth issue is trusting again. That will come with recovery, but perhaps the trust for others will always be different. I will say that evil people tend to capture our attention. Some studies show that the good has to outweigh the bad 4 times in order for good to capture as much attention as bad. Evil men are much more visible in society, so make it a point to focus your attention on the loving empathetic men you know. This is difficult for many women who are attracted to power because they do not find less powerful men very attractive.

I would rephrase, “The duplicity that men are capable is incredible and every man I meet gives me the creeps.” To the duplicity of every man I focus my attention on… I am working on a book, both discussing love and empathy in men and telling the stories of men who have been victimized by sociopathic women. I am doing this to help both men and women realize that loving behavior is the norm for men. We just attend to evil/powerful men more, the loving man goes unnoticed. He is invisible to us.

That gets me to recovery and some tough advice. Recovery takes a great deal of work and self discipline. In order to have the mental discipline you will need to stop reading the emails and move on, you have to work on your physical health. If you are out of shape, smoking and/or using alcohol, you may have great difficulty recovering. The part of the brain that is responsible for will power and impulse control is easily affected by poor health andxiety and lack of sleep. Start with a total health program. That program will go a long way toward lifting anxiety and depression. Keep a healthy diet and exercise every day. I would really like us to have a virtual exercise club and I put up Fit and Smart for that purpose. On that web site you will find a free program to help structure your exercise routine.

Fill your free time with activities that build you up mentally and spiritually. Build yourself up mentally by reading and perhaps taking a class. Build yourself up spiritually by volunteering or participating in a spiritual community. If you do all these things, you will have the health and strength to focus your attention where it needs to be. The writing of M. Louise Gallagher may be an inspiration to you. Sandra Brown, M.A. also has a recovery program for women.


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126 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: How can I move on?"

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Dear catherinejane3,

It does seem sometimes that we ARE all “talking about the same guy” doesn’t it–the behavior is pretty predictable is so many ways.

Unfortunately, most of the time “naming names” doesn’t do any more good than “spitting into the wind” does, it just comes back right into our faces.

There are threads on here about should we warn his next victim? Sometimes (rarely) it does some good, but most of the time not. Even if he has a long criminal record they convince others that it was all a “big mistake.”

Now that he’s out of your life, the focus needs to be on YOU, your healing, your recovery, your learning.

The BEST thing I think you can do is to READ AND LEARN as much about the psychopaths that you can, so that you will recognize the RED FLAGS that tip off that you are dealing with one in the future. Many of us didn’t learn that lesson after the first encounter with the psychopaths and we had another encounter with another one. I’m 60 years old and have been dealing with them my entire life and I didn’t learn until recently what I need to know to shore up my own defenses against them, against ANOTHER encounter.

Better late than never, because there are more out there, and for whatever reason we seem to have an invisible “tattoo” on our heads that says to a psychopath

“pick me for your next victim, I’ll fall for your lies. I’m a good person you can prey on!”

Learning to “spot” them, and to fix the “holes” in ourselves that gives them an entry point is the healing that we need to do. They are just like snakes and know where to look for the entry points, and they are soooo good “he was so adoring, flattered me all day long”—yep, they can do that, “a verbally abusive fight. His language was reckless and foul…very disrespectful of me”–yep, they can do that too. “had lost my house and that he was no longer interested” Yep, it’s true, they are out for what they can get and will do anything to convince you to let them use you.

(((hugs)))) It will get better. Read and Learn how you can make it better.

It has been 2 years for me now since my abuser left me and dumped me on my birthday. He cheated on me repeatedly, made and kept a list of women’s name he slept with and there were plenty of names after mine, I found a woman’s soiled underwwear in his nightstand. Through it all I stayed with him and worked feverishly to try harder at pleasing him and making him happy. I conceded to his wishes and catered to him. I really believed he was my friend and that he truly cared about me like I did for him. He contacted me numerous times after the breakup but I did not respond. I know it would lead to just more pain for me. I should be happy he’s gone…good riddance that’s what everyone around me said. Yet after 2 years I am still hurting. I still miss him and think of him every single day. I can’t seem to let go. What is wrong with me that I can’t let go of this man who mistreated and hurt me so badly?

Dear Stillhurting,

I’m sorry that you are still suffering from the trauma with this man. First off, you could NOT have”pleased” him and made him love you no matter what you did, he CANNOT LOVE anyone. Only fake it for a while. ACTIONS show how we really feel about someone, we do not hurt and cheat on someone we “love.”

There is a book here called the Trauma Bond (it is in the LF store or on Amazon) and you can I think find your “life story” in that book. Strangely enough, the abuse they heap on us BONDS us to them, it was first called the Stockholm Syndrome where it was first observed when some hostages of bank robbers fought the police to protect the kidnappers…duh? One of the women even waited 10 years til the guy got out of prison and married him. They had never met these men before the day they were kidnapped and held hostage. The chemicals released in our brains make us BOND to these people, sort of like an addiction only it is nothing you did to start it, but you must work hard to break it. Elizabeth Smart that little girl that was kidnapped for 9 months was trauma bonded, didn’t even try to get away, Jaycee Dugard was held bonded for 19 years and didn’t try to get away. It wasn’t because she wasn’t abused but because the abuse bonded her to the abuser.

I know it sounds “crazy” but I think to one degree or another most of us have been trauma bonded to our abusers or we wouldn’t have stayed around hoping it would get better or missing them.

In areas were slaves outnumbered the owners, there are not many historical episodes of slaves revolting against their masters, and I think the trauma bond accounts for lots of that. I have seen dogs trauma bonded to their abusive owners who kicked and beat them, and still the dog stayed. Not that we are dogs, but the “bonding” is similar. You wonder why an abused wife or child doesn’t just run away, or why a dog stays with an abusive master–pretty much the same thing, chemical bonding in our brains.

LEARNING about what is going on inside your own brain/thoughts and what is the “reward” for him abusing you helps us to heal, to unchain ourselves from the slavery of our Love for them. We DO/DID love them, they did NOT love us because they can’t. OUr pain is real, but we can conquer it and free ourselves.

Read and learn, Stillhurting! Glad you are here! It is the first big step toward healing! God Bless!

stillhurting, I understand what you are saying, I have been here at LF quite a while, learned, read, posted… and I still think about him everyday, I feel like turning my head inside out. My usual healing of this problem (IN THE PAST) was to just find somebody else, but I’m toughing it out on my own right now so that I don’t repeat my same mistakes. He also contacted me and I wouldn’t be controlled anymore, I felt just as you do, that I would be hurt more, I KNOW I would have been hurt more. I hope this stops soon, for you and me and many others who have written about this. I believe that we will get better, that hope keeps me going, I have read many posts where the person has gone through this and now feels very happy and content.

Trauma bonding seems to be the most nefarious aspect of a relationship with a sociopath and for me, the best explanation as to why it was always difficult for me to muster any anger toward my x-spath. When he dumped me, he was my “caretaker,” having only a day before spent the night in s hospital with me.

Objective people don’t think very much of him at all. Even to this day, I need to intellectualize both what he did to me and what I eventually learned about him.

I feel I’ve turned a corner. Despite the fact that my ex continues to find LAME excuses to email me, I continue to ignore them and see him more for what he is.

I saw the movie Solitary Man with Michael Douglas last night. It was on On Demand. It was such a CLASSIC sociopath story. One time his daughter says,

“No, don’t bother talking, because you’ll just tell me what you think I want to hear and then do whatever you want anyway.” The movie is filled with classic sociopath lines.

Although in this case he does have moments of growing a conscience, so it kinda blows it there. But worth watching anyway.

I have been working harder than I have in years at getting my body back into shape. It makes a HUGE difference to my recovery. At the end of this, I will be a better person.

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