How to find love after the sociopath

Donna Andersen and Terry Kelly

Donna Andersen and Terry Kelly on a recent vacation to Florida.

A girl walks into a bar. A band was playing and the place was packed, so there were no empty bar stools.

The girl had had a rough few years. First she married a man who turned out to be a con artist that took all her money. Then she dated a guy who wasn’t a con artist, but broke her heart.

A tall, nice-looking man leaned against the bar. He offered the girl a place to put her coat. Then he offered to buy the girl a drink.

She accepted. They chatted. They danced. And they lived happily ever after.

This story is true. The girl is me, and this happened 13 years ago, on April 28, 2001, when I met Terry Kelly, the man who became my husband.

Did I know on that day that I had met the man I would marry? No, I did not. The relationship evolved as relationships should.

But before I met him, I worked really hard to heal my heart, not only from the con artist, but from all my misconceptions that had made me vulnerable to the scam. I wasn’t totally healed when I met Terry, but I was far enough along that I could once again risk opening my heart.

Overcoming the sociopath

Many, many Lovefraud readers wonder if, after the sociopath, they can ever find love again.

The answer is yes, you can. First, however, you need to recover.

There are two aspects to the recovery. One is overcoming the betrayal of the sociopath. This, of course, is not easy, and it is not instant.

Even if you were involved with the sociopath for only a short time, these relationships are very damaging. You may have suffered terrible abuse emotional, psychological, financial, physical and/or sexual.

When you’re just starting out, recovery may seem overwhelming. Every aspect of your life may be in shambles. So you chip away at it. You work on getting your finances stabilized. You work on processing the emotional pain. You work on rebuilding your health.

It is not unusual for the process to take several years. All you can do is slog through the mess. You keep going until you reach the other side.

Processing the emotions

Although rebuilding the physical and financial aspects of your life are important, the real work, with the real payoff, is in treating your emotional wounds.

Because of the sociopath, you are certainly feeling a full gamut of negative emotions: Anger, fear, betrayal, disappointment, embarrassment, grief, shame, hatred, anxiety and depression.

All these emotions need to be purged from your system. This is important for two reasons: First, if the emotions stay within you, they will fester and turn into some kind of illness. Secondly, the emotions will make you vulnerable to another sociopath. (That’s why it’s never a good idea to start dating before you have healed.)

How do you get the emotions out of your system? You allow yourself to experience them preferably either alone or with the help of a competent therapist. You cry, moan, yell, curl up in a ball, pummel a punching bag whatever it takes to release the emotional steam.

The original vulnerability

As you’re doing this, you’ll probably find that your negative emotions are attached to another experience in your life. Perhaps you had previous dysfunctional relationships or a bad childhood. Or even if you didn’t suffer overt abuse, you may have developed negative beliefs about yourself, such as, “I’m not attractive,” or “Nobody wants me.”

When you remember these earlier experiences or beliefs, congratulate yourself, because you have discovered what made you vulnerable to the sociopath in the first place.

Once you see the connections, what do you do with them? You treat them exactly the same way that you treat the negative emotions caused by the sociopath. You allow yourself to experience the pain in whatever way enables you to release it.

Again, this takes time.

Focusing on peace and joy

As you clear out the negative energy, be sure to replace it with good energy. How? By doing anything that makes you happy and brings you joy anything from reading a good book to enjoying a walk in the park to spending time with friends.

By clearing out the pain and replacing it with peace, you shift your emotional structure and your outlook on life. This changes everything.

Then, you may someday walk into a bar, or someplace else, and meet the person with whom you can share a true and lasting love.


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33 Comments on "How to find love after the sociopath"

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I am so incredibly sorry you and the children are being drug through the mud and pain by this bad man. I am sorry you are feeing devastated. I think many of us here understand all too well your feelings of despair and confusion. It is really hard to face such horrible truths. They hurt…bad. I am truly sorry.

It is normal to be devastated after what you have been through. All of us here (as a general rule) ‘missed’ the abuser after they devalued and dumped us. The reason is at first you still have the experience of the whole relationship as ‘real’. That there was some part of it that came from a genuine connection. And, it is likely true that you made a connection and genuinely cared about him.

Unfortunately people with personality disorders are NEVER creating healthy attachments, or connections, to their spouses/friends/kids, etc….they are only ever using them. They could choose NOT to use them, but I am not sure they can choose to attach or connect. I don’t think they can.

So, when they are done with a particular person, or group of people, they simply leave. Because for them there is not loss of human connection. So, there is no associated feeling of sadness, or regret, or grief. They can move on because of this.

While we are feeling like a bleeding worm on the end of a hook, they are feeling ‘nothing’. Or, excited about their next target (sorry but this is about as much as they feel. Like a cat finding a mouse, they get worked up, excited, but that ‘s about it). This moving to the next target leaves us feeling completely betrayed, disrespected, unloved, and devastated. They know it leaves us this way, they just cannot seem to genuinely care that it does though.

Just like they know they are lying. They don’t believe their own lies, I don’t think. They simply do not care one way or the other what negative effect their lying will have on other’s. They ONLY think about getting what they want. If they have to lie, then the end justifies the means. EVERY time.

He is filing this peace order to establish his ‘victimization’ of HIM by YOU. This way he is establishing that he is innocent and you are crazy and abusive. He is lying, again, to serve his own selfish purpose: to survive, to get what he wants, and to do what he wants. That is all he cares about. He told the judge he loves you to establish that he is a person ‘who loves’. Another lie. But, it makes him look ‘normal’. And, he cares enough about you that he doesn’t want you to ‘get in trouble’. Another lie. He has already ‘gotten you in trouble’. He filed a restraining order against you, for doing NOTHING. How much more trouble can he get you into.

Take it one moment at a time….one breath. If you can don’t speak to him or allow him into your lives (as much as possible). Try to eat, even a little. You need to recover some of your ‘wits’, because he will likely come back to create more problems, even might express what a big mistake he made, and how you are the love of his life. You may believe him.

It would be better if you didn’t. That means you have to take care of yourself, as much as you can.

If you have any close friends, who totally get what is going on, lean on them. Try to stay away from folks who don’t understand. Telling them, if they don’t ‘get it’, will make them think you are crazy.

YOU are NOT crazy. OK?

If you can find a therapist, and can afford one, go. I did. It was immensely helpful. We never talked about psychopaths…..but it was still someone who supported me in staying away from someone ‘bad’.

Sleep whenever you can. I found it really difficult to sleep….because I was so nervous, and had so much anxiety. So grab sleep when you can.

This website, and the incredibly people here (Donna!), saved my life. At first I wasn’t ready to let go of the awful person I was entangled with. Over time, reading everyone’s stories and advice, it was easier, and I was able to make a complete break.


great advice Slim!

Great article Donna. It gives me encouragement to know that it is normal for it to take years to get back to feeling good again. I am out of the situation 2.5 years and still am not at a point of being able to trust people. All in time, I guess.

From my experience with my ‘current Spath’ the best thing you can do to help yourself out of the relationship starts with UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE SOCIOPATH looks like and What their agenda is. If you are experiencing lies, sneaky behavior, etc., then keep a log of those behaviors that seem ‘out of balance’ with the situation. There are tests available through the Psychological Association that screen for the tendencies of Sociopathic and Psychotic behaviors and they are very helpful for ‘pinpointing’ the behaviors! I can submit a copy from the DMV4 that can help you see where your spath is coming from. By understanding these behaviors you can develop a means of counter-acting them, and building a wall of protection around you. When you see one of those behaviors you know what will happen next with them and can behave accordingly.

The most important thing to realize is that YOU ARE NOT THE ONE WITH A PROBLEM, it is the spath, and you are only a means to his/her ends. Whatever THEY are missing in themselves, they will do their best to get from you, and they have no compassion where it comes to how they affect you and yours.

“My” spath will be leaving soon. He’s been with me for 3-1/2 years and during that time he has ‘tried’ to find work, but because he is so used to being able to ‘let others’ take care of his responsibilities he couldn’t bring himself to leave his ‘nest’ where there would always be a soft place to land. Not anymore. I made him sign a lease agreement when I moved into this house and he had ‘no place’ else to go. Well, his lease is up on 4/30, and at the same time the loan on my property will close. HE IS NOT ON ANY OF THE PAPERWORK for my home, and he has NO claim on anything here!

I have let him know that he will not be welcome here once I close on this house. He has a job opportunity 2200 miles away, and I have pushed him to both take the job and move. Since this is ‘what he always wanted’ to begin with, he has no excuse not to go – other than his inability to deal with things like finding a place to live, paying deposits, taking himself and his junk out of my place, and removing himself from my presence!

At first I was very distraught about him leaving, but I went to see my psychologist to weigh with her how I was reacting to his leaving. She helped me realize that my feelings were a secondary reaction to my feelings when my son left home – happy that he’s going to try his wings, and sad to see him off on his own! Well, as soon as I realized that that was my emotional response, I was able to “put them in perspective”. Why was I sad? Because I had spent so much time and energy ‘raising’ him that I would not have someone to ‘take care of’ anymore. Then I realized – I’M FREE OF HIM! No longer will I be manipulated and lied to, no longer would I be thinking of him when I should be thinking of me. No longer would I be stressed out trying to figure out what he was up to. No longer worried about his lies, his cheating, his pretending to care for me, and no longer forced to do/think/be what he wanted me to.

He is still here, but he’s packing his belongings into his car. He’ll be leaving a bunch of crap at my house with a promise to come back for it once he’s settled. While he’s gone, I and my friends will be moving it all into a storage area so I can have the space he’s been taking up back, and can use those rooms for anything I wish! When/IF he comes back for his things, he can pack them out from the place I put it, rather than from my house.

My neighbors are like family to me, they are being very supportive and helpful. (They never have liked him.) Even though I live out in the sticks, I am comfortable knowing that I am safe – there is only one road into or out of the place I live and I have a perfect view of it from both directions. My neighbors live on either side and can see the road as well. We are all armed! I am NOT afraid for my safety because they are all watch-dogs, and I have a pit-bull watchdog too (even though he most likely wouldn’t hurt the spath) he barks at ‘unusual’ noises outside my house.

I have already made plans and enrolled to go back to school (something I tried to do with him here, but he’d never leave me alone when I was trying to study!). I’m making plans for things I want to do to my property, and have already started those plans in motion.

Here is what I do, which helps me put things into perspective: I have a little box, it’s just a plain paper box, and I decorated it with praying hands. Each time I have thoughts that I ‘should or could’ do something FOR him, I write down that thing on a little slip of paper and put it inside the box. Also inside the box is a photo of him with his name on it. When I go to bed at night, as part of my gratitude for being blessed with another day, I take that little box, and I visualize handing it over to Jesus. I ask him to take this box of troubles, and ‘fix it’ for me, as I do not have the power to do it all myself. When I hand it over, I MUST LET GO of it, otherwise Jesus can not help me. If I hold onto the box, then the problems will continue to exist without resolution. Handing it over, and walking away is the only way for Jesus to help me.

Once Jesus has that little box, anything that happens is out of my control. Each time my mind returns to one of those problems, I remind myself that I’ve given it over to Jesus and God. It is no longer in my hands to correct.

I’ve been doing this for years, and it is very surprising when you re-open that little box weeks or months later and read your little notes, that so many of the issues have been corrected and I didn’t even notice they were gone!

This works for ANYTHING! I’ve used it to help me in so many areas of my life it would take an hour to list them all. It works for things I WANT to happen, just as it does to eliminate things I DON’T want to happen! JUST BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR – YOU WILL GET IT!

I am in a ‘good place’ this morning, because I will soon be rid of the spath that has been controlling my life for 3-1/2 years and I will regain the FREEDOM FROM SPATH that I have prayed so hard for!

I wish you all GOD SPEED ladies and gentlemen, I know my road out of ‘spath-dom’ isn’t over, but I’ve made a good number of roads around him to walk on safely! God is with you!

I Love how your Jesus box. The way our minds work, we think in pictures. By DOING, you help your mind see that problems go to the Lord. It’s a two step process, the prayer and the physical DOING. Brilliant. I am going to start doing this too, only b/c I catch myself ruminating during the day, or at low points, I will put some postit notes/pencil with my Jesus box so I can dash off a note and let it go to God immediately, then reinforce as needed. Thank you for your prescription, Dr Uncannie1.


I relate to your ruminating. Do you find that it gets any better with time, or maybe when you digest more info from reading?

I’m going to do the Jesus box too. Great suggestion.

My problem was circular thinking. I had to learn to break the circle. I journaled, getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Then I asked myself why I was stuck on this thought. At the top of a clean sheet of paper, I wrote: “I am thinking about this because…” and then starting listing answers in free form.

Mostly I was stuck in circular thinking because I didn’t like the answer to my problem. The answer was pain. So I’d write a sentence to list the benefits. Here is one of my examples: “If he is out of my life, then…” and as I sit here and look at that journal entry, the last lines are “someone will love me”. “I will have the love of ONE.” “ONE is the start of who will love me.” “I am ONE.”

I don’t know who told me of sentence completion. It worked for me. That and turning what I could not do over to GOD. Which is why @uncannie1’s Jesus box is such a great idea, words + action = strength.

Great suggestion. Listing and then sentence completion. That makes sense. Also, I love the Jesus box idea. 🙂

What beautiful words of direction! Just today, while reading my daily devotion, I realized that while my attitude has been to wait on The Lord for resolution, I’ve been holding on and trying to control. These actions have kept me paralyzed and stuck. It’s impossible to hand things over to God and then still hang on to them. When we let go, He surely provides! And most importantly, there is peace in our soul.

I love your exercise with the box. It sounds so freeing to act out the process and then go back and see how the situations worked out. I’m sure that increases your gratitude and confidence. I m going to start that today.

I’m so sorry for your experience in loving someone who could not love you back. Thank God that you no longer have to “raise” him. Life seems to be looking brighter for you and you sound pumped about it. Letting go of the dream is so hard for me, but with each step, I know I’m closer to the wonderful life God planned for me, as are you. Best wishes as you find your freedom.. Be safe. And thank you for your offering of peace to all of us.

I want to send words of encouragement to you. Getting FREE of a sociopath is a PROCESS.

Everytime I think I have healed, something wonderful happens to let me know that I have healed even more. Yesterday I realized that I got my possibilities back. I had gotten so used to just getting through the day (much improved since I used to have a problem getting out of bed, eating, and taking a shower, THAT was a victory)… that I forgot that I used to think about all the possibilities of good things that I could chose to happen in my life. I forgot what optimism felt like.

We are abused so that we do not feel. We work hard to NOT feel because the pain is so great. That’s logical. We learn as children to not touch the stove! When you are with a sociopath, in HELL with Satan, we are getting burned and we try to stop feeling.

To recover, we have to work to get our feelings back, but in a way that feels safe and with regard and dignity for our humanity.

It’s all part of the process. For those who feel like they are not recovering: Later… when you are further along, you will recognize in hindsight that you were healing all along, that reading, getting educated, getting support, putting your thoughts in order, understanding the animal that is a sociopath, that’s part of the process.

Donna’s words are wise. I was a stubborn one, waiting to feel better in order to heal. Actually time was not helping me at all. I did not heal until I actually DID things that MOVED me. I started listing ANY nurturing thing I did. We NEED nurturing, just as any victim of a fire needs rehab, we need touch, scent, sounds, breathing, the movement of our bodies, a conversation just for pleasure, and getting out into nature because nature is soothing.

And you are right. God does have a wonderful life planned for you. I remember the day I heard a preacher say, “God did not bring you to this earth to be abused.” Now that Satan isn’t infecting my life, it sure has opened up all kinds of Possibilities, and just the idea of Possibilities is empowering.

I am Looking forward to the day when I read about your victories and joy and happiness.

Thank you for the uplifting words Notwhathesaidtome. Your honesty of how difficult the days once were, and how much better they are now, is so helpful. Im so happy to hear that you are coming out of the cloud of pain and beginning to feel and see your possibilities. I am also beginning to see that there are exciting and joyful times ahead. I just have to reach for them. Every little moment of joy is a victory. It’s good not to just survive but to also overcome. One day we will have successes like Donna and be able to say “We made it!”

You do not have to let go of your dream… Just change the actors in your play! I constantly remind myself that this is MY LIFE, that GOD didn’t give it to me so that I could use it to control the life of someone else. The lessons I’ve learned were presented to me as challenges that I could accept or deny. Whenever I have accepted a challenge that has caused me pain (of any kind) then I know that whatever is causing me the pain is the answer to the lesson I accepted. Change the character in your story, auditions can be fun. Give yourself permission to have feelings – they are the facts of your life! Give yourself permission to live your life in ways that bring you peace and contentment. You can give these things to yourself, and once you start ‘pampering’ yourself as you have done for him, you will begin to regain the self-love they have drained from you.

I’ve chosen many difficult challenges in life. I suspect that my spirit is just eager to be graduated from the school of hard knocks and given entrance into peace. But, I’ve also learned that the lessons God gives me don’t have to hurt me, but that when they do, I have more to give others in their own pain. My compassion is greater, my empathy deeper, and my understanding so much clearer.

Jesus takes the pain that I don’t feel capable of enduring without opening my physical body to harm as well. There have been many instances that my life could have ended, yet God keeps me here. I trust that his reasons are good, and strive to see the lessons and learn from them.

I cannot say that I am always ‘grateful’ for the lessons, some of them have been excruciating, but I do feel my heart overflow with compassion granted through His Grace, at the pains of others. If my pains can bring any kind of healing, peace, or understanding, then I believe I am serving my purpose to God.

Sending Blessings and Prayers for your healing.


I love your love story. Very sweet and uplifting and real.

Thanks for sharing.


I am so glad so many of you liked my “Jesus Box”, I actually call it my “God Box” because I know Jesus takes these trials directly to the Father himself. I’ve been sending them love notes for the last two days… since I learned that my particular spath has made arrangements to ‘stay another week’ before leaving for his new job. He actually said to me that “we can have some QUALITY time before he leaves.” I had to repeat that to him with my face trying not to laugh out loud “Quality Time”? What is that? Please define what “Quality Time” is? Of course, the answer was “I don’t Know”.

“Note to Jesus – please help him define what Quality Time is so I will know to what extent I must protect myself from that experience.”

Today, I am cleaning up after fixing lunch and he is standing over me watching. I ask, “is there something you need? am I in your way?” “No,” he says, “I just wanted to sneak up behind you,” at which time his hand is snaking around my behind because I’m bent over the dishwasher. I stood up and said, “what makes you think that I welcome your advances at this point?” He puts on a pouty inquisitive look and says “Well, in the mood I’m in I could give you something nice to remember.”

Note to Jesus: Lord, please save me from more memories of his pretended affections.

So, Jesus directed me to listen to a podcast by Lee Baucom, a very good couples therapist who helps people save marriages (those worth saving). His podcast was on how our minds work, and how they are constantly spitting forth “THOUGHTS”. So long as we can realize that they ARE Thoughts, and not reality, and Not attach emotions to them, then they will remain just ‘thoughts’. His podcast works for us as individuals – even if your relationship with your spouse isn’t worth saving – the one you have with YOURSELF IS! Go listen to his podcast, it will enlighten and teach you!

So I started thinking about ‘my thoughts’ and where they went when his hand was on my behind, the feelings that triggered in my ‘gut’ and the reactions I had as a result of them. And I decided to add the step of “standing outside” my thoughts before I allow them to overtake me, and looking for the behavior that caused them.

The part of me that still cares about this man really wanted to share that intimacy with him. But the logical, remembering part of me just reminded me of the hollow feelings left behind from a lover whose only concern was his performance and whether I was ‘satisfied’ with it. He knows I feel this way about ’empty’ sexual encounters, and he knows that part of me still wishes he’d turned out to be someone else. So, my thoughts naturally direct me to believe he is attempting another ‘manipulation’ of me by pretending intimacy.

Note to Jesus: Please help me to realize when I am being manipulated by my heartache and disappointment. Let me feel your hand guiding me in the correct decisions where this person is concerned.

I only share this because I know so many of you have experienced similar things with your spath. Helping you also helps me, and that is how it should be. I hope we can all support one another through the difficult times, and share what knowledge we have and gain with others in need of it as well.

Oh – you can even put your little notes in a ‘mailbox’ on your phone and send them to yourself. Make a folder in your email called “Jesus” or “God” and send them all there. Just be sure that you send them with the mental vision of them being transmitted at light speed directly to Jesus or God’s email box. Of course they have them… LOL

I do have a funny way of looking at things sometimes, so pardon me if I am insensitive. It’s just that, your husband’s behavior annoys me because it sounds so calloused. “Something nice to remember?” It’s insulting. What… did he think he was giving you something special, offering sex? His compartmentalization, the disconnect from caring about your feelings, the trivializing of your impending separation. What. A. CAD. revealing that to him, sex was an act.. a performance, and not an expression of tenderness and intimacy. That’s how I read it anyways. Am probably remembering my own dear ex husband’s comment about how he remained happy even if my world was falling apart. At the time, that was so calloused. But later, I found out about all the others who kept his home fires burning.

Dear God. Don’t let me go borrowing trouble. I have more than enough of that already on my plate. 🙂

Have a good night uncannie1

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