If you’ve had your heart broken into a million pieces by a disordered partner, you probably want to know, how long does it take to recover from a sociopath?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question. Involvements with sociopaths cause serious damage to your emotions, psychology, health, finances, social connections — to your very life. It is certainly possible to recover from a sociopath, but it will probably take longer than a typical breakup.
Not breakup — betrayal
Why is it so difficult to recover from a sociopath? Because this is NOT a typical breakup — it is a profound betrayal.
When normal people like you enter into a romantic relationship, it’s because you are searching for an authentic connection with another human being, a person to love, who will stay with you through thick and thin. Sometimes, you discover that the relationship just isn’t working out. Perhaps the lifestyles of you and your partner are too different, or you live too far apart, or you can’t tolerate each other’s quirks. It’s painful, in fact, one person may hurt more than the other, but the two of you gave it your best shot and failed.
With a sociopath, however, the entire premise of the relationship is a lie. You are looking for an authentic connection, but the sociopath is looking for someone to exploit. You discover that the sociopath just wanted money, or sex, or was living a double life, and all the sociopath’s professions of love and promises for the future were just bait to keep you hooked.
The betrayal leaves you shaken to the core. Therefore, more time is necessary to get over it.
How much time? It’s impossible to predict because every case is different. The short answer is that it will take as long as it takes — but there are steps you can take to make it go faster.
No Contact with the sociopath
First, and most important, have No Contact with the sociopath. Cut the person out of your life. No phone calls, text messages, email and certainly no in-person meetings. Why is this so important? Relationships with sociopaths change the structure and chemistry of your brain, much like addictions. In fact, many people experience these relationships as addictions. Therefore, you must break the addiction.
The longer you “stay on the wagon” and maintain No Contact with the sociopath, the stronger you become. This is using time to your advantage. But as anyone who’s struggled with other types of addictions knows, if you give in to your addiction a little bit, you have to start all over again. The time you previously spent maintaining No Contact is lost.
In situations where you must have some type of contact, such as shared parenting, your goal is to do your best to minimize interactions. More importantly, you want to achieve Emotional No Contact with the sociopath. This means you get to the point where the sociopath simply means nothing to you. You know and accept what the sociopath is, and when you see that typical behavior, you just roll your eyes.
Because No Contact with the sociopath is so important, it is one of the issues you need to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue holding the sociopath accountable for his or her actions. Sociopaths should be help accountable — they get away with their moral or actual crimes far too often, which emboldens them and harms society. But the truth is that going after the sociopath keeps you in contact with him or her, which can slow down your personal recovery. So you need to decide — is it worth it?
Hastening recovery from the sociopath
The other thing that can make your recovery faster is consciously deciding that you are going to heal, and taking the necessary steps to do it.
First and foremost, take care of yourself — eat right, get exercise, get sleep, don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Involvement with a sociopath may have left you with anxiety or depression. Healthy habits go a long way towards combating anxiety and depression.
You then need to decide that you’re going to deal with the emotional and psychological effects of the involvement, using whatever method works for you. If you can find a therapist who gets it — great. If you find comfort in church, prayer, meditation or spiritual practice — fabulous. However you do it, you must get the toxic emotions and energy out of your system, or they will eat you up.
It’s important to look deep within yourself, beyond the experience with the sociopath, to discover why you were susceptible to the sociopath in the first place. These human predators target your vulnerabilities. In fact, they can spot vulnerabilities that you don’t even know you have.
Did you have wounds from your childhood? Did you have mistaken beliefs that you were unworthy or unlovable? Something made you vulnerable. To truly recover from a sociopath, you must find out what it was and heal it.
If you maintain No Contact with the sociopath and focus on your own healing, over time, recovery will happen. And sooner or later, you’ll discover that your life is happier than you ever thought it could be.