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LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: I no longer attract needy, disordered men

Editor’s note: This is the story of a long-time member of the Lovefraud community, Stargazer.

Spath-proofing my life

I have been a poster on Lovefraud for over five years. It just occurred to me I’ve never written an article. I wanted to tell my story and write about what I have done to spath-proof my life in the last five years. It was never my intention to spath-proof my life. I only wanted to be happy. In taking the steps to make myself happy, I have successfully created a life where disordered people don’t dare to enter. If they do, they don’t stay very long. Why? I’m too happy for them. I don’t buy into their sob stories; I have no need to fix them; and I have no need for their drama or gossip. If I notice someone in my life draining my energy or find myself feeling guilty or obligated around them, I cut them off immediately. I was not always like this. Here is how I used to be when the spath came along ”¦

My Life in 2008

I was 20 pounds heavier because I rarely exercised. My main form of social life was sitting in front of the computer. I was heavily addicted to a reptile internet forum where I was the most frequent and popular poster. I clung to this outlet as it was my only source of joy. Often I’d sit at home and play myself at Scrabble. (Guess who won?) Needless to say, I got very good at Scrabble, but I was very lonely. The worst part is that I didn’t even realize I was lonely. I’d been a loner so much of my life, I didn’t know it could be different. A beautiful woman at 48, I rarely ever dated.

Along comes a sociopath

A new member of my reptile forum reached out to me. He lived about an hour away and wanted to meet me and my snakes. I had met several forum members and so was not expecting anything more than a friendly visit from a like-minded friend. However, he had a different agenda.

He made reference to his picture — did I see it? (Meaning, did I think he was attractive?). I found this odd. When we first met, he gave me a giant hug. This was inappropriate to our level of casual conversation in the previous few weeks. It was very odd. He spent the afternoon at my house, all the time telling me what great taste I have, how beautiful I am, and how much he loves my snakes.

As a middle-aged lonely woman, I thought his attention was refreshing and charming. He hinted how he would some day buy me new snake cages, and how he would love to take care of me. This is all I needed to hear to feed my Cinderella complex. However, he kept standing very close to me trying to touch me. I found it very weird. He wanted to see me again and spend time with me. So I made it very clear that it would be strictly friendship, because he had been coming on a little strong.

The next time I saw him, he toned it down and treated me like a friend. He was also a total gentleman, buying me dinner and driving us around. This was very attractive to me. He and I helped one of my good friends remodel a home, for which my friend paid him for the work. He met several of my friends. They all loved him and thought we were a good pair. I became infatuated with this boy-next-door, clean shaven Iraq vet who was 10 years my junior.

The problems begin

A few weeks after we started seeing each other as friends, I found out his story. He was apparently still married and waiting for his divorce to come through. I don’t date married men, so I decided to keep my distance. The divorce was supposed to come through the following week along with his medical discharge from the Army. At that time, he and I would be free to date. A week was not long to wait. So I waited.

Weeks went by. He complained how the Army was prolonging the discharge and the divorce. They were doing a lot of testing on him because he had a head injury. I could see no outward signs of injury but I had no reason not to believe him. The Army brought him in for routine tests, including brain probes. One of these alleged brain surgeries was the first reason for him to stand me up without a phone call. At least this was his excuse — brain surgery.

When I finally contacted him a day or two later, I was upset and thought this was strange, but a few of my friends explained to me how the Army “owns” you and you have to just do what they say. We had been seeing each other over a month and a half by this point, and we had now been intimate. I broke my own rule about dating a married man, because I truly believed that the divorce was coming through any day.

Caught in a few lies

There were small signs of a disorder I didn’t understand. He told me he would NEVER communicate with one certain forum member because this member had treated me very badly. Then I found out he had friended the other member on another forum. When confronted, he said it was a computer glitch.

Then I found out he was living with his wife (whom he told me he was separated from). He apologized for lying and said the Army required them to live together until the divorce. He had promised to call me on several occasions. But when the calls never came, he always had an excuse — he lost his phone, his “ex” wife was in the room, etc., etc. I became very stressed from all the drama.

I knew something was wrong but he convinced me that it would all be over soon — that the Army was on the verge of giving him his medical discharge and divorce. I didn’t know what to believe. He seemed so sincere.

The last straw

After about 2-1/2 months of the drama, I went camping by myself for four days to clear my head. As much pain as it caused me, I had to admit, things just didn’t add up. His stories did not make sense. There were too many excuses.

When I returned, there were 15 calls from him on my voice mail! He told me his divorce and medical discharge had finally come through, and we were free to be together! I was so relieved. He came up to see me that night, the night of his daughter’s birthday.

It was the 4th of July. We slept together, but as usual, he couldn’t spend the night. He told me he would bring his daughter up to meet me that Saturday. Well, guess what? He never showed up. Never called.

This time I was furious and very confused. I saw him posting on the reptile site as if nothing happened, and I asked him what was up. “Nothing” he said. “I have no excuse. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” I don’t recall the exact verbiage exchanged in our emails. But I remember telling him that was the cruelest way any man ever broken up with me.

“I didn’t break up with you!” he replied. “I just figured you’d never want to see me again!” (Can you spot the gaslighting going on here?) “You’re right,” I replied. “In fact, if I ever see you, hear from you, or even so much as see you posting on the reptile forum, I will call your commanding officer and turn you in for adultery.”

Invincible sociopath

He called my bluff. The next day, I saw him post a picture on the reptile site of one of his new snakes. Seems he had collected ten boa constrictors in two months! This was very irresponsible, especially since he was planning to move. He kept them in his young daughter’s room — again, irresponsible. But the biggest “tell” was that in the picture, taken that day, he was WEARING HIS WEDDING RING! I still believed that he was newly divorced or at least separated. He had never worn a ring with me.

I kept good on my word. I called the Army commander and told him the story.

More to the story

I found out from the commanding officer that they were trying to get him on fraud. They thought he was faking a head injury to get a phony medical discharge. They thought his wife was in on it, too. Apparently, she had divorced him once due to his pathological lying. Then she remarried him.

But they had no evidence. He was faking a limp and a facial tic with the Army. He told them he had no feeling from the waist down and that he couldn’t drive. I considered it my duty as a taxpayer, who paid his salary, to sign a sworn statement that he could drive and do everything a normal person could do. Four of my friends also signed sworn statements, including the guy whose house he helped remodel.

He claimed we were lying, that we were just friends, and insisted he couldn’t walk without a cane. Imagine the Army’s surprise when I sent them pictures of him standing and holding a 75-pound Burmese python at a reptile show, and when I sent them a tape of 25 voice mails he’d left me thanking me for “last night” and telling me he was in love with me.

The sworn statements and the evidence fried him. He ended up getting convicted of fraud and adultery, thanks to my friends and me. I don’t know how he was ever punished. I never saw or heard from him again. He did try to return to the reptile site a year later, but my friends drove him off by exposing him. During his trial, his platoon sergeant who was very sympathetic to me because she’d once been conned by a sociopath called me and told me he was threatening suicide. She asked me if I still wanted to go through with the sworn statements. Darn straight I did. I knew all about the pity ploy by that time. Classic sociopathic behavior.

Post-relationship confusion

Still not fathoming what was happening — and still hoping against hope that he loved me, I had one of my long distance forum friends call him. She introduced herself and asked him why he was wearing a wedding ring in the picture. She 3-wayed me in so I could listen. Without skipping a beat, he said, “Oh that’s not a wedding ring.” Then he proceeded to give her the whole sob story of how he was waiting for his discharge and divorce, how much he cared for me, yada, yada yada. He lied three times in the conversation with my friend. He sounded so sincere that she believed him. That was when I knew there was some sickness deeper than I’d ever seen before. I was crushed and horrified.

The word “sociopath”

Still reeling several weeks later, I told the story to my pet sitter at the end of July. Her eyes got very wide. She told me to google “seductive sociopath.” I did. This brought me to Lovefraud. When I read the description he fit it to a tee. I spent the next several months learning about sociopaths.

Trying to reel me back in

After his discard, for which he never took responsibility, he showed up at a reptile show where he knew I would be. I was there with a male friend. The spath followed me from booth to booth and stood very close to me, trying to smell my hair.

I had bought a snake hook and gave it to my male friend to carry. When the spath sneaked up behind me at one booth, my friend jabbed him in the crotch with the snake hook. He did it twice, and the second time, the hook got caught on spath’s zipper and almost took it down! The spath left shortly thereafter.

I had no idea what had happened. When my friend told me over lunch, I laughed so hard, I spit out my lunch. Of course I wanted to believe that he was following me because he really loved me. But a very wise counselor told me he did it to try to regain power over me. It was a power play. It almost worked. Almost.

A year of depression and recovery

Though I only dated him less than three months, recovery was relatively long and painful. I was suicidal for months. Somehow I found myself at the feet of a traveling Hindu guru who happened to be in town giving blessings one day. I sat before her and sobbed for a long time. She gave me some ashes to put on my tongue every night before I went to bed, which I did. Every time I did, I could feel some of the negativity clearing out of my system. I believe my visit to her saved my life.

5 YEARS LATER

It took a year to break my addiction to the sociopath. But it has taken me close to 5 years to break my relationship addiction. There were a few other men in my life I became very infatuated with, and suffered over greatly when they didn’t return my affection. After going through more pain and more healing, I am finally happy — and happy by myself.

I have had a lot of energy work and done a lot of grieving over my past — distant past as well. Outwardly, I did things for myself, too. First, in 2010, I traveled alone to Costa Rica. This was a life-changing trip in many ways. When I returned, I studied Spanish for a year, then returned to Costa Rica with my new skill. It opened so many doors for me. When in Costa Rica the first time, I watched two salsa dancers and said to myself, “I am going to learn to do that.”

Now, I am a solid intermediate salsa dancer and an assistant teacher in a salsa class. It took two years to get myself into shape. I started doing Zumba (which I still do regularly). Then I got into salsa. I started eating very healthy. I lost 20 lbs. I’m very active now. I finally have the self-confidence and self-knowledge to call myself a healer. I look forward to discovering more ways I can reach out to others in this capacity.

Dating in my 50’s

I am currently dating several men. They are not the best looking, nor the most charismatic. But they all treat me very well, are fun to be around, and have proven to be good friends. I am not in any hurry to get involved with any of them, so I keep it casual and enjoy their friendship. I have not even kissed any of them because this would be serious for me.

It will take a lot to settle me down at this point. I enjoy my freedom and my independence. I no longer feel the need for a man to take care of me. Because I am genuinely happy and do not need anyone to tell me how wonderful I am or take care of me, I no longer attract needy, disordered men. And to come full circle on the topic of this post, this is how I have spath-proofed my life.

I hope my story can help others on this forum. My best regards to all of you.

Stargazer


Comment on this article

12 Comments on "LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: I no longer attract needy, disordered men"

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Thank you, Stargazer, for sharing your story. I think it will help Lovefraud readers who are still on the path to recovery – yes, life can get better, much better, after the experience with a sociopath.

Thanks Stargazer and Donna! It does get better!

In August of 2011 I was an absolute basket case. I was sitting in my doctor’s exam room, sobbing and begging for a referral to see a shrink. I got put on meds that day just so that I could sleep at night and do the bare minimum of functioning during the day. Some days I slept 14 hours, off and on. I had to force myself to bathe and get dressed. The sociopath was always in my thoughts and I was always either angry or in tears. I took a medical leave of absence from work. I spent every day reading about personality disorders in order to understand what had happened to me.

It took me a full year just to start thinking about having a life again. It took another 6 months to start making plans and going forward with them. Eventually I packed up my family and moved 25 miles away. I went back to work. I started living. I started cutting toxic people out of my life, and there was a whole LOT of them. I stopped letting new toxic people in. I gave myself a fresh, new start. I’ve found a great deal of peace and contentment. Finally.

It does get better.

Thank you, Donna, for posting my story. It was meant to be entitled “Spathproofing my Life”, but I hope and trust that I can live up to the title. 🙂

Onmyown, you story sounds like a triumph, too! There IS life after a sociopath.

And while we’re on the topic of healing….I would like to chime in. In November of 2011, I, too, was a basket case. I couldn’t focus, hardly ate, cried a lot…and simply could not understand what had just happened to me. Just over three months later I moved 2000 miles away for a new start. Then, truly then, my healing began. It still took awhile to move through the pain and to make sense of it all. But I am at a point now where I feel so much healthier and so much wiser…and much more in touch spiritually.

As Stargazer pointed out, there IS life after a sociopath…and a good life at that!

Stay strong my friends….

carolann

I’m so glad that some others can relate to my post. I recall a time about 3 months after the break up when every day I would be driving home from work and a sad song would come on the radio. I would just sob and sob. Every day for a long time. I don’t remember how long. I felt like I was in a hole that I would never climb out of.

My journey with men in general has been fascinating, and there have been many twists and turns – some infatuations as I mentioned that were very painful and turned out to be mirrors of my unresolved abandonment by my father. I also had a passionate affair 2 years post-spath that helped me regain my confidence as a woman. It was so positive for me but painful in that I was never able to see that guy again because he stayed in Costa Rica after I left. The most recent and probably most painful heartbreak was with a guy in my salsa class who gave me a lot of mixed messages. I fell really hard for him for a year, and breaking the addiction to him was excruciating. I didn’t think it would be possible. When I got to the bottom of the suffering with him, I realized how many ways he reminded me of my father. He even looks like my father looked at that age. Both had two failed marriages where the wife left. They are both kind of fuddy duddies in certain ways and have a lot of physical and behavioral traits in common. Once I made the connection, I was able to start grieving the loss of my father – my biological father. I am still going through that. Only then did I stop obsessing about the salsa guy.

As a test, I returned to the class where I first met the salsa guy and where our near-romance blossomed for a year. I had left for 6 weeks to get a break from him. He and I were the only ones in the class tonight – just the two of us for two hours!!! I was really nervous at first. But I had a great time and didn’t feel that strong attachment anymore. In fact, I’m kind of wondering what I ever saw in him. I had fun because salsa is fun and I’m a fun person. I have fun no matter who I’m with. The magic came from me. It’s not from him. I don’t have to give him that power any more. Never thought I’d ever see the day.

Stargazer – it’s really important that you made the connection between the salsa guy and your father. It’s given you an opportunity to heal from the pain of the abandonment that you experienced.

Thanks, Donna. I knew I had reached a turning point when that happened. It is a process.

I will blog about my dating updates on the dating thread.

That’s a very inspiring article, Stargazer! I’ve got to say that’s the whole problem with those reptile forums. You never know what kinda SNAKES you might meet on them! 😉

As for that headline—“I no longer attract needy, disordered men”—I liked it myself. There were two reasons for that.

One reason was the headline’s broader scope. This is not just about “sociopaths.” Mind you, that “snake” guy from the Army does sound like a genuine sociopath (psychopath)—a shameless liar and a fraud if ever I heard of one! Yet these psychopaths, as bad as they are, aren’t the only problem. There are plenty of other users, losers and abusers around who are not actually psychopathic but who are guilty of many similarly harmful or exploitative behaviors. Even if they do the same things out of different motives, these emotional vampires still have to be avoided like the plague! So I think “needy and disordered” covers it nicely!

Also, I liked this use of the word “attract.” That’s because too often, forums dealing with abuse seem to discuss “victims”—especially female “victims”—as if they were totally passive and contributed nothing whatsoever to an abuser’s success in targeting them. As if there’s nothing they could possibly have done about it.

Sometimes this is true, but in the majority of cases there are things the target could have done differently—hypothetically at least—to avoid being victimized.

At the very least this starts with learning to recognize (as far as possible) and reject potential abusers. Simply accepting an abuser as a partner may have been the target’s only problem. Yet the act of “accepting,” of “choosing” someone who turns out to be an abuser can be seen from the oppoite viewpoint as the failure to reject an undesirable partner—which other and wiser people have probably been doing all along! Failing to be “choosy” when selecting a partner: that alone makes anyone likely to end up with a higher proportion of other people’s unwanted castoffs!

That’s only the beginning; and this is where the headline is relevant. While I don’t doubt abusers of all kinds will try one target after another until somebody accepts them, the fact is that some people do attract abusers more than others do. And “attracting” is not just a matter of passively “sitting around and looking pretty.” It’s very much an active question of what people do. As you implied, Stargazer, anyone who gets too absorbed in other people’s sob stories, entangled in their dramas and obsessed with a need to “fix” their problems is only going to encourage and attract more of those unhealthy, manipulative people. Whether or not we “attract” certain kinds of people is in many ways a behavior choice, one that people can change—just as you’ve pointed out.

There’s even a further problem. It’s not merely a matter of whether people “attract” abusers or not. It’s often a matter of the converse: whether people, in spite of themselves, are (however unwittingly) attracted to pathological abusers. The reasons this can happen are too complex to examine here, but it is a fact that some people, far from just failing to reject potential abusers, end up actively selecting abusive partners in preference to normal healthy ones! People who do that desperately need to change what they’re doing.

So if I had my own preference, I’d write that “I no longer choose needy, disordered men.” (Or women, as the case may be). But that’s nitpicking on my part, and the statement that “I no longer attract…” is testimony in itself that “attracting” certain kinds of people or not is something everyone can choose to do something about.

Like Donna, I’m glad you got the issue with your father figured out. Good luck, and keep on dancing! 🙂

Thanks for your thoughtful and affirming comments, Redwald. Actually, I named the article “Spathproofing my Life.” It was Donna who renamed it based on a sentence in my story. I’m not sure if I like the new title, but whatever gets people to read the story….

And I always joke around that I started keeping snakes because I got tired of dating them. LOL

You bring up a valid distinction that we don’t always have control over whom we attract. But we can choose how much or little energy we want to give to that person. In my case, however, I can honestly say I don’t attract spaths these days because I’m not susceptible to heavy flattery. This is because I don’t have the need for it. I strive to surround myself with friends who see my worth and remind me of it without the love bombing. I also am starting to see my own worth. but when I forget, my friends are there to remind me. There’s a difference between a person truly seeing who you are and someone just flattering you to manipulate your feelings.

I know how you feel. After a couple of decades with my head pulled into my shell, I find it a challenge to envision the sociopath-free person I would like to be. I still spend most of my time reacting to what is happening around me rather than proactively directing my life, but I have decided that is OK.

For now, I am trying to remember the person I used to be, pre-sociopath. I am reconnecting with old friends that I was forced to abandon and spending time with family that I was forbidden to see for many years.

My goal right now is to make a new friend, someone who doesn’t know my sociopathically-bound self. From the advice on here, I have given myself permission to abandon people who don’t feel like a positive influence in my life. I realize the make-a-new-friend goal may take a while because of this, but I am not working with a deadline and I am willing to stop and smell the dandelions along the way.

Don’t beat yourself up because you found yourself tangled with a sociopath despite your education. There are many, many of us on here with advanced education, including some with a background in psychology. The wisest person I know is a family member that didn’t graduate high school, but she understands human nature very deeply, doesn’t judge, and her advice is always spot-on.

Some days I feel like a gigantic failure too, but the way I see it is that failure is just a way of telling me that I have more to learn. If your background is in social work, then you should be more effective in helping recognize sociopaths and their victims due to your own experience. Your own path to healing should give you better insight in dealing with victims of sociopathic abuse, and your “hard knocks” education could even help you save the life of a victim trying to leave a sociopath when “the system” fails to recognize the subtle and covert destructions sociopaths can inflict on their victims.

Hi, NoMoreWool. Thanks for bringing this article back. I had totally forgotten about it. Reading what you say about getting to know someone without having to present yourself in light of your sociopathic trauma sparked a few thoughts I’ve been having myself lately. I rarely ever talk about my horrific past or my spath relationship, even after I get to know someone well. I am learning to create boundaries around what I share and what I want people to know about me. This is a lifelong process. I don’t think it’s bad to share stories – the stories are part of my life. But when I do, I always feel better if I do it in a way of discussing what I have gained from the experience. That way the person can see my strengths and values, rather than my tragedies. If I can have a sense of humor about something in my life, no matter whether it’s something positive or negative, I feel better about sharing it. Suffering is a human condition (at least in the Buddhist philosophy.) It’s something we all share as a human race. But if we can somehow use it to connect rather than to alienate others, to me, that’s a positive use of story-sharing.

I do want people to know me, and that means I want the ones who care about me and/or who can gain from my experience to know about my past. But I want them to see me as someone who is light-hearted, funny, strong, and wise overall and not someone who is a tragedy. I want to inspire others by the way I handled the hand I was dealt.

I probably went off on a tangent, and I don’t think this is quite what you were talking about, but I just got to thinking about this after reading your post.

If anyone here is a foreign film buff, I really connect with some of the classic Japanese films by Akira Kurosawa. His films usually depict long-suffering characters that do the right thing even in the most adverse predicaments. They often rise to the occasion after great tragedy. I admire his characters and sometimes think of them as role models.

Thanks again for your thoughts and for bringing up my old post!

Actually, Stargazer, someone else brought up this thread and I was replying to their post and addressing some of the issues in it. The post is gone now and I don’t remember the screen name of the person who posted.

Thank you for your response. I am still not totally sociopath-free, and it is difficult for the people in my life right now not to see me as a tragedy. They are well meaning but I do wish for someone who doesn’t know about the spathness.

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