Lovefraud recently received the following email:
I suspected that my ex boyfriend was a sociopath, but your website confirmed it. I always thought that sociopaths were murderers like Ted Bundy or Casey Anthony, but I realize now that the vast majority lead “normal” lives (whatever that means).
I’m a divorced mom with a precious little daughter. My ex boyfriend was the first man I dated after a long and abusive marriage to an alcoholic. I was with my ex boyfriend a little over 2 years, although he exhibited signs of sociopathic (or what I considered narcissistic) behavior, including chronic infidelity, pathological lying, a grandiose sense of self, a total lack of empathy (particularly towards his five children whom he rarely saw), a lack of responsibility, impulsivity, etc. You get the picture.
Fortunately, he didn’t bilk me out of money, but, unfortunately, he completely drained me emotionally to the point where I feel like I will never be able to find or love a truly good, healthy man. I am a strong woman, though, and I know this feeling will subside over time. After reading through your website, I’m 100% positive I will never see or speak to my ex boyfriend again.
The last time I saw him, he told me he was going on a secret mission trip and that he could not talk to me for at least two weeks, but that he would spend the holidays with me. I threw him out of my apartment that night, but I continued to email him while he was away on his important, “James Bond” business trip. To make a long story short, I found out that he was with another woman in a foreign country. I was not surprised by this discovery and, perhaps, it is a blessing in disguise that I found out. It strengthened my resolve to have no contact with him, as your website suggests.
My question to you is how do I forgive myself for staying in this relationship so long even though I routinely saw the signs of his sociopathic behavior? Most importantly, how do I forgive myself for putting my daughter in harm’s way by being with this creep? Finally, would it be best if I stayed away from dating for a period of time so that I can clear my brain of this whole ordeal?
I’ll address the reader’s questions one at a time.
How do I forgive myself?
We cannot blame ourselves for what we didn’t know. And all of us who have been targeted didn’t know about sociopaths, about what they really are and how they really behave.
Here’s what we all believed that is not true:
- Everybody wants to be loved.
- There is good in everyone.
- Sociopaths are all deranged serial killers.
Here’s what none of us knew:
- Some people pursue romantic relationships not for love, but for exploitation.
- Sociopaths can look us right in the eye, tell us how much they love us, and be lying.
- Sociopaths listen to us carefully not because they’re interested, but to figure out how to hook us.
- There are people who have no inner core—they change their personalities to reflect what they perceive we want.
- Sociopaths are motivated not by love, but by power and control.
- Sociopaths hijack the human bonding process.
This last point is very important. Sociopaths deceive us into falling in love with them. As we fall in love, all of the biological processes that Nature created in order to ensure the survival of the human race kick in.
When we love someone, we form a psychological bond with the person, so that we feel a compulsion to be with him or her. This bond is linked to chemical and structural changes in the brain that are much like the changes associated with addiction. So we feel an irresistible pull to keep the relationship going. This is why we stay.
Here’s another thing we don’t know: Sociopaths do not form these psychological bonds the way the rest of us do. But they’re good at faking it. So while we are legitimately falling in love, they are pretending to fall in love, and they are fabulous actors. In reality, they are only using us.
How do I forgive myself for putting my daughter in harm’s way?
You forgive yourself because of all the reasons stated above. But with your daughter, you take the next step. You teach her, in age-appropriate ways, that there are bad people in the world. There are people who lie, who cannot be trusted, and she must stay away from them.
You also teach her to trust her instincts. Our instincts will usually tell us when someone is bad news. But we’ve long been conditioned to override our gut feelings, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to wait for “proof” before ending a relationship.
Nature set up our biology to encourage us to stay with our partners. But Nature also set up our biology to warn us when predators approached. Make no mistake— a sociopath is a predator. So if someone makes us feel cautious, afraid or creeped out, we must honor that and run away.
Would it be best if I stayed away from dating?
Absolutely yes!!! You must give yourself time to heal.
Remember, sociopaths are experts at finding our vulnerabilities. If you are still feeling injured in any way because of your experience with the ex-boyfriend, you are a walking target for another sociopath. Many, many readers have told me that they escaped an abusive relationship, found someone who seemed to be the answer to their prayers, and the new lover turned out to be worse than the previous one.
You must make a decision to recover. Face what happened. Allow yourself to grieve and get the negative emotions out of your system. As you put your emotional and psychological health back together, eventually you’ll find a new relationship without even trying.
The answer is always within. Heal yourself, and the rest will fall into place.
Lovefraud originally published this post on February 4, 2013.