REGISTER | LOGIN

How do I forgive myself for staying in a relationship with a sociopath?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.


Comment on this article

9 Comments on "How do I forgive myself for staying in a relationship with a sociopath?"

Notify of

Yes, you have to get okay with being uncomfortable and accept what has happened.

Never apply fault or blame to yourself. You won’t move forward if you do.

Thank you for answering the question about dating. My ex got married Dec 1st. I hoped that signaled the end (although it really hasn’t). I don’t know how to heal so that I can have a healthy relationship in future. I have no interest now but maybe someday I will and I don’t want to repeat what I went through with my ex.
I don’t know if I am dealing with my negative emotions the right way.

I used to (still do sometimes) beat myself up emotionally, for NOT hearing my intuition nudging me during those times when I wasn’t married, or maybe engaged, to LEAVE, dump him in one way or another. I didn’t KNOW that every nice, sweet, loving thing he said or did, would be used against me in the future. I even accused my ‘gut feelings’ of NOT being there; but they were. They were so subtle, so quiet, I didn’t heed or know what they were: warnings, red flags, danger signs. I’m still forgiving myself. Still accepting that it “wasn’t MY fault”..I haven’t dated in the many years since my divorce. People still think they can or should ‘fix me up’ with a new friend. I’m wary still, and NOT eager to be ‘fixed up’.

My intuition was always on the money. I just didn’t listen to it because of all the gas lighting, blame shifting and minimizing that went on. I had no idea that he was using these tactics on me.

One of Dancing Dick’s favorite lines was……”Trust me.” Sometimes I visualized a snake….other times I would shudder and my hair would stand up when he said that. I thought I was crazy. I was right on the bullseye! He was a master at gas lighting. Looking back…being married to Dancing Dick…..was scarier than a Stephen King novel. The man is a monster.

mine was probably pulling its hair out; all the ways I kept getting ‘nudges’, inner feelings of upset, hurt, anger and still kept on going with him. I’m still not sure what or how I finally did get the courage to pack up, move out and get a divorce. All I knew was, if I didn’t do it, I’d be a dead woman..literally. I still regret losing 30 years of youth, strength, joy, hope to trying and failing to make this work. He counteracted, minimized, shifted blame..I didn’t know people used these against others for harm, control, power trips. I know now. Websites like this have helped more than I can say.

I think it’s great to ask yourself why you stayed so long, but only when you can do it to know yourself and your motivations and not to beat yourself up. When you can answer the question truthfully without judgment, then it’s easy to forgive yourself and move on. We don’t know what we don’t know until we know. Relationships – especially with sociopaths – have an addictive element. You may find that the answer has a lot to do with the sociopath’s con, and it may have something to do with your own vulnerabilities. Either way, if there are any decisions you made that you could have made differently, accept responsibility and move on. Responsibility is not the same as blame or judgment. IMO, it is not helpful to blame. Just see him clearly for what he is, and see why you were an easy target. See and learn from it.

I feel ashamed that I stayed married to a liar/cheater/pervert/narc for 31 years. I was so beaten down….I thought it was impossible to escape. Again…..counseling was of no help (no counselor ever picked up the fact I as married to a narc/spath). And….the church walloped me with “forgiveness.” There was no “real help” until now.

The narc/spath (Dancing Dick as I call him)- was all over dating sites. He took up with a “head janitor woman” before the ink on the divorce was dry. His need for superiority is clear as a bell. He found an uneducated janitor woman to impress with his intelligence and his high paying job as a computer programmer for the State of Indiana.

We stay because we want to make sense of things. It’s quite normal to want to understand. When we could no longer deny what we were doing.
We got out of Dodge.
And found healing.
All you did was love.
Stop beating yourself up.
Start showing yourself love.
Little ones pick up on non verbal cues!

You could be me!!!! Married ( still until I get the courage to divorce) for 20 years to a serial liar, cheater, workaholic with no concept of empathy or remorse. He stood me and my family up for my 40th birthday dinner claiming he had to work, with no notice, and 4 days later calmly stated he didn’t love or want me and was moving in with his married lover ( 3rd affair I know of) and her 2 daughters. He calmly went downstairs and repeated this to my devastated children. Then just as calmly walked out the door.
He too took up with the factory janitor. A woman of no education, no driving licence, where he is the engineering manager at the company. All the woman he has had affairs with have been from his factory floor. All had low paid jobs, no education and some sort of emotional issue eg unhappy relationship or death in the family.

He ground me down over the years to a shell of a woman who had no confidence, believed I didn’t deserve love and that I needed him for everything.
I’m slowly finding myself again. It’s 8 months since he left me. I didn’t think a sociopath could be a normal looking person . Always thought they were axe murderers. This page has taught me.

Send this to a friend