ASK DR. LEEDOM: How does one ever get over the heartache of being taken by a con artist??

Con artists are a special category of sociopaths. In fact, most if not all are also psychopaths. If you were tricked by a con artist, I would say you are in good company, since all three of the authors on this blog were also fooled by con artists! This week one of our readers posted her story as a comment to ASK DR. LEEDOM: FAQ #1 “Why is this so hard for us mentally?” Her post illustrates many of the important characteristics of a con:

In 1998 I was ripped off by a con artist, whom I met through a personal ad. I was going through a very serious depression at the time, and that’s when I met him. He seemed like a breath of fresh air, very intelligent, different than other men I had met. He seemed very supportive of me, and what I was going through with my depression.

He asked me “what are your goals”. I realize now, that this is how he tricked me – into believing that he was going to help me achieve a few things—I said I wanted to move into a home – he helped me find a home – but guess who was paying the high rent of the home??? ME. Once I moved in with him, he had COMPLETE control of me, and was using my credit. He convinced me to order a variety of credit cards, and buy all types of things for this home that we were living in, stating that he had money invested in the stock market that would take care of it all.

When I look back on it now, I realize how stupid I was, but at the time, I was going through a very serious depression, was not thinking clearly, and allowed this jerk to manipulate me. He would go into these screaming rages, and this is one of the ways he controlled and intimidated me into doing what he wanted.

We were only together for six months, because when the money ran out, he was gone. While I was out of town, he took off, and moved a lot of the possessions (which I paid for) out of the house.

I had to declare bankruptcy, my good credit was ruined, and I lost an apartment that I had paid for – as he convinced me to take out a mortgage on my apartment & he would invest the money for me, and I would get an excellent return on the money.

I was too devastated to pursue the guy in a civil law suit, and am trying to move on with my life – this happened almost 9 years ago, but still remains fresh in my memory as though it were only yesterday.

How does one ever get over the heartache of being taken by a con artist??

The first thing to notice is that con artists target vulnerable people they meet in settings like ads or the internet. In my case, I was a single mother who was still healing from the loss of a relationship, and I met him through the internet. Depression, anxiety and losses make people vulnerable.

The second thing to notice is that con artists sense what lovers are looking for and pretend to be that person. In particular, they pretend to be emotionally intelligent and caring. They are also charming and fun to be with. The fun part serves to relieve sadness in a person suffering from depression or getting over a loss.

The third and most important thing to notice is that con artists play upon our dreams. I had an experience identical to this woman’s. One day shortly after our marriage my husband asked me, “If you could do anything in the world you wanted to do, what would you do?” I told him I would start a substance abuse clinic where people could receive needed treatment irrespective of their ability to pay. My husband then said, “I’ve accomplished my own goals, now I am going to make your dream come true for you”¦”

Con artists know when they get your dreams they get you. They then simply do the Bait and Switch Game. You see, they bait you with your dream then switch to something else. They do the switch slowly and subtly over time. Psychologically, the victim doesn’t want to see the switch because then he/she would have to give up on the dream.

By far the most painful, difficult aspect of healing for me has been the fact that my dream (which was basically altruistic) was used to hurt me. Many victims just want a stable, happy family for their children. When these motives, which come from goodness, are used for evil, the effect is particularly damaging. I think that con artists do this damage intentionally, trying to actually murder by suicide. They are on such a power trip, they get enormous pleasure from destroying people. That is a subject for a later post.

So how do you get over having been conned? First don’t give up on your dreams. In my case, the dream changed. I realized that if I worked at it, I could prevent many more cases of mental illness or addiction than I could ever personally treat. Thus my dream transformed into something else.

Second, don’t give up yourself. Your dreams reflect important values and qualities you have. Even though it is very painful to have these used against you, it is even more painful to lose yourself. Don’t let the con artist take any more from you than he/she already has.

Lastly, have the courage to keep working on your vulnerabilities. If depression made you vulnerable, stay in treatment. If loss and loneliness made you vulnerable, work to find more healthy outlets. Take good care of yourself, don’t abuse substances, be sure to exercise and eat right. Write down new goals for yourself and make a little progress in those goals every day. Lastly, give yourself positive messages about making progress and being the good person you are. If you are doing all these things be patient, better times are just ahead.

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159 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: How does one ever get over the heartache of being taken by a con artist??"

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This guy used my depression against me too and more.

Because he works in mental health and has been in the same job for a long time, of course I thought he was the healthy and stable one. So I bought into all his crap and he just beat me down even worse to the point where I really DID become non functional. It’s the same old story – started out feeling relatively good about myself in spite of the depression, only to sink to new depths where I no longer knew myself.

I do still have the anger, but I’ve given up on revenge. I used to have fantasies – oh, I’ll do such and such and re-enter his life and he’ll say “Wow! She’s done great!” I no longer think that way.

He just blew me away in Jan when he fabricated a phone call I never made to him. It was one of those calls (if I had made it, which I did not) that would have required immediate action, not him calling me 15 days later. So after that I just really wrote him off along with any idea that someday he’ll be sorry. No, he won’t. He’s already moved on (or had a long time ago) and must have just been bored at 11:30 p.m. at night and thought it would be fun to mess with my head. No thanks.


Your anger is based on hardchore betrayal and injuries, and are aboslutely justified. The only way to reduce the anger is by taking the anger head on and channel it. In order to channel it, it’s important that you can allow yourself the freedom to be angry and accept that this comes with wanting to hurt him. The wise person then creates an anger ritual where you imagine to hurt him, but do not in fact cause real damage.

Some people pummel their mattrass or pillow when they feel the rage. I had an imaginary mind ritual where I imagined my ex in my living room and I threw imaginary china plates at him, with every plate symbolizing a lie, betrayal or behaviour that hurt me. Once it smashed to smithereens in my mind it meant that particular lie, etc was dealt with. At the start I was throwing a lot of china in my mind each day (especially the first few weeks) but in retrospect it also diminished quickly. After 2 months I rarely had to do it at all anymore. If I ever felt angry again it had become a manageable level, rather than all consuming. If you have a garden you could build a can wall and throw balls at the cans and imagine each can to stand for something you’re angry about. Just imagine his grinning face on the cans and you’ll have exercise and consciously channeled anger dealing all in one. There are as many ways to set up something either phsyical or in your head to unleash your rightful anger without hurting a soul.


Excellent suggestions for getting rid of the anger. My personal method was imagining his face on a pillow and beating the crap out of it.

Anger is a physical emotion. We need to release it physically, without hurting other people, pets or property that we care about. (Some people buy old china and smash it into trash cans.”

I wrote about this in the following article:

My problem during my rage phase was that I couldn’t do much physical stuff, because I was recovering from a knee operation (typically spath that’s when he broke up with me). I was pretty much immobile, stuck in my house, and unable to sit on my knees while punching a pillow. So, I did it in a kind of rage-meditation; I was completely in that scene with all of my rage and being, acussing him of all the bad he did. It worked perfectly!

Darwinsmom – an excellent solution. The idea is to access the negative emotions and release them – that’s a very good suggestion that I’ll remember for the future.

Great link. I love this quote: ***** You realize your compassion, empathy, and love are not weaknesses. They are the most incredible gifts in the world, when applied to the right people.*****

I am occasionally stuck in rage. I remember having some screaming/crying fits where I beat the SHIT out of my bed, pillows, etc. I wanted the fantasy!

Now, though, I mostly think about his infantile capabilities. Imagining a 49 year old man waddling around in a diaper – because that’s pretty much where he’s at – makes me chuckle.


Great responses…Thank You 🙂

My psych suggested vigorous physical exercise, and this has helped to a degree. The upside: I’m losing weight and improving my cardiovascular conditioning. The downside: At my age I can’t ride my exercise bike for an hour or more every day!

Watch out pillow, here I come!

Anger, yes! Apparently, there “must” be an anger phase to healing. Speaking from my own experiences, this aspect is the most difficult for me to manage. As I’ve posted, before, I have always accepted blame for whatever had been done to me, and expressing anger has never been acceptable simply because of that belief. Somehow, I “deserved” whatever happened, and that goes back to the damaged “inner child.”

Today, I am angry, but it’s a “righteous” anger. Anyone ever watch “Anger Management?” There is irrational anger, and there’s RIGHTEOUS anger. I have a “right” to be angry at what the exspath did – I really do. If another human being accuses me of having been “stupid” to trust him, my response is that he had never given me a reason NOT to trust him and, in his own words, insisted that he was trustworthy. We only know what we know, and when someone perpetrates an elaborate and compartmentalized fraud against another person, “stupidity” is NO reason to “deserve” being victimized.

Rage is different than anger. And, this is something that I want to avoid, at all costs. Rage is dangerous. I never intend to allow myself to dissolve into rage, again.

The original topic of this thread was getting over the heartache of a sociopathic fraud. I don’t know if I will EVER “get over it,” and this is the safest place for me to “talk” about my healing without hearing that I just need to “move on” and “get over it.” I am moving further and further away from the exspath experiences, but I will always carry the emotional scars from all of my experiences with spaths – I think that those “scars” should be a reminder to me to develop an almost icy counetance when I’m dealing with other people. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong – no excuses or tolerance. If it “sounds” good or “seems” good, I have to teach myself HOW to step back and observe.

And, I think the bottom line with regard to anger for me goes is that I was angry at MYSELF for having “missed” red flags – and, yellow ones. 🙂 That anger was misdirected. My anger is now directed towards the individual who perpetrated a long-con and terrible fraud. I don’t deserve my own anger. THAT’S where I became snagged for a very long time.

Brightest blessings.

Another good article! Thank you, Liane Leedom!

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