Editor’s note: The following essay was submitted by Lovefraud reader “Presseject.” This is part one of his story. Part two will be posted tomorrow.
A little over three months ago I had my heart ripped out from me. It happened suddenly and there are few words I can use to describe the pain I felt as dreams, hopes and even what I thought was my own sanity seemed to disappear quickly in a crushing instant that reverberated with off-the-scale emotional aftershocks for weeks into months afterwards. I suffered nearly two months of an awful nerve-wracking traumatic stress reaction, a hypervigilence that has finally recently lessened its grip on me. The Internet, along with my own participation, had provided me with what I have recently learned has many names but all very similar descriptions: a sociopath, a pathological narcissist, a sociopath “parading” as a narcissist, a man with antisocial personality disorder, a bad man, a bad egg, a loser. Many of the words describing this personality disorder I had never known much about, but as I pieced the crime together, these are the words that truly stuck. These were the words and the beginnings of an understanding that began act as tools to help me dig myself out of a very dark and deeply painful pit.
Just as the Internet had been a tool to help me find a perfectly destructive relationship, it was also ironically a perfectly powerful tool to help me recover. I found Lovefraud.com and this is where my mind found the sanity I thought I had lost, and to reconnect to the soul I thought had been nearly taken out of me. It even has helped to restore my heart, the part of me that has always given, that now wishes again to give and to be loved. With this site primarily, with the many caring individuals who have also survived this emotional battlefield and contribute here, my hopes for the possibility for my heart to become strong again has become a tender new reality.
I feel I am somewhat not your typical visitor to Lovefraud. I am a man who fell for another man. An accomplished man who found another successful man. I enjoyed a romance period that seemed like something from a beautiful movie, but in the end, I paid a heavy price to release myself from a strange hypnotic web spun by this man’s narcissistic needs and sexual desire disguised for six months as true love. At the time, it was all spontaneous and carefree. I learned afterwards pure impulsiveness is a defining characteristic of a sociopath (especially in reading Dr. Robert Hare’s excellent writings based on his 30 years of experience). I thought I had found a fun friend from a lost happy childhood perhaps. But these were two grown adults both ready at a second to take a trip, eat ice cream, take a long walk on a secluded beach, tour a museum, watch an intellectual film, make love and talk each night on the phone for over six months. I was hooked as many others have been that write into Lovefraud, but as I came to see, we were all mislead. It is this slow process of “unhooking” now that I am still involved in as I write. It makes sense to me, as part of this healing process, to share with others here the signs of my own progress that point towards a real hope of restoration, of healing that can take place when so little is left to hold onto. Again, without the warm, and at times angelic voices I found here at Lovefraud, I might still be lost in a stormy sea of tears.
I could describe all his shortcomings to you and there were many that came to light after it ended. But there are a few key things that some might find useful. Foremost, this man had been married, has two grown sons, and had once owned a very large corporation. He sold this large company, divorced his wife and built himself a huge mansion in which he was the star innkeeper renting it out on occasion to guests that he could dazzle with the toys on his estate. I fell for these shiny things too when I came to visit. He also gave me what many have described as the “pity play” (Dr. Martha Stout’s book “Sociopath Next Door” contains this important description). Examples of this beautifully constructed (like a glistening web) pity play were that his wife had been “abusive” towards him, self destructive and an alcoholic, he had tried to have a relationship with a man who cheated on him and nearly gave him AIDS, his sons had pulled away from him, no one else “could talk with him the way I could,” etc, etc. (I now wonder about this poor woman that could not possibly have had any life-affirming love from this man, who buckled under alcohol addiction to “escape” the “mental cage” he must have kept her in.) Ultimately, I fell for this (purely self-centered and guiltless) pity play as I have always been a kind man with an extra large heart, filled with compassion and empathy. In the gravest of ironies, I had fallen for a man with quite the exact opposite set of values, or, really a complete lack or black hole void of higher values other than his immediate needs.
His calm, carefree exterior disguised the fact he registered zero on the empathy meter. I was also distracted from this fact by the (impulsive and self serving ) “gifts” (which were also somehow kind of “off” since, without empathy, a gift can oddly miss the mark and not feel personalized) along with the spontaneous trips and what I thought was his sincere interest in the affairs of my life. I learned recently that sociopaths can “mock” listen with words that sound like interest, but that in their mind, I would only have been a source of supply to their narcissistic needs. I was put on a pedestal, the compliments were intense but also in an odd, broken record kind of way, rather repetitive. There were times I had an uneasy feeling, but I often ignored my instinct which told me he wasn’t “quite right.” But that pervasive “charm” that so many describe here was powerful! My initial explanation for this attraction to this kind of deceptive charm is that I have been a worrier a lot of my life and to be around one who never seemed to have any deep worries was very liberating to me. (There is, however, a deeper explanation to be found towards the end of what I am sharing here). And, it seemed only good things were possible with him, that there were no limits to what we could do as a couple. When it ended suddenly, you can see why shattered dreams like this built on the freedom from fears can hurt so much. Yet, through my recovery, I learned some important things about myself that helped me to understand how I had let myself escape into this fantasy land of romance with someone who simply wasn’t capable. Healing this part of myself has taken the most amount of work, it is something I am dedicated to now, as others are here. This site is where I come back for support and quick reminders stay out of the pit and not to wax forlorn.
I have learned to be gentle with myself, letting go of the voices in me that told me I was defective for falling into this. I read many passages here and elsewhere about forgiveness. The key to forgiving I found started with myself first. It just can’t be done the other way around. I wasn’t able to think “I forgive him” for a long time until I found I needed to forgive myself first. In fact, this will be essential to me for finding a better way to live the rest of my life now as it cuts through many layers of pain I have kept with me for so many years. (I learned about my own pattern of connecting to those that are not connected to others, a long seres of toxic relationships sadly, and how these seem to be related to my abusive childhood.) And the only way I got to this point was through prayer, through reaching out for help to a higher power.
This reaching out was a decision I made when I first found out the “impossible innkeeper” had “other guests” he was soliciting about three months ago… (yes, I discovered on his laptop emails from a dating/sex site that led me to question). I played detective and found the site he was on and sure enough saw a very active pattern. It was at this crucial turning point I turned to God to help me to confront and question the very foundation of the tangle I had found myself in. By turning to a higher power, I have been able to walk through this and away from this (I was actually spit out by this predator when I confronted him in the most gentle of questioning then. It was your classic instant “devalue and discard.” Typical, is it not!) And it is to this same higher power that I return each day. Each day is step away from the abuse and each day is a step closer towards love from above that I can take with me and share how I see fit. Yes, it is about finding our self worth this way, of setting boundaries and learning about healthy relationships. Just like the “impossible innkeeper,” I had been, in my own lost way, soliciting visitors to my heart allowing myself to be just an accommodation to them and not much more. I followed this journey into the darkest place of pain to see I finally had some choices other than being a victim, a caretaker, or an “object.”
The darkest secrets that came to a useful light were not his, but my own. About ten years ago I was able to admit my father was/is an alcoholic. In my recent quest for answers, I learned the deeper truths about sociopathy and personality disorders and now better understand, and work on forgiving my father as one who had suffered the addictions and illogical abusive rages associated with borderline personality disorder. I realized his mother may also have been sociopathic, never validating him as a child etc. Sadly, in the midst of all my other despair from this most recent broken relationship, I essentially learned my own father had never been able to break his own prison of narcissism. And, having always sought his love, I began to see I was somehow “programmed” to accept other men into my life that fit his same mold, others that were smart and accomplished like my father but who, inside, also could not love with any depth.
Here I am finding a few tears as I write this last realization to share here with you. But this is how I am going forward. I too can be fearless, not to the point of using others, but when it comes to finding my own healing and loving others in a much more healthier way. Because I can connect to others, share an empathy with others like myself at this site, (thank you again so much to all who build this safe place of healing here). I know I can become a happier, stronger person in this awareness and not some fearless self-centered addicted maniac. There is hope. It is the awareness of healing I have only recently begun achieve for myself. It is powered by my faith in God. It is validated by God’s own supreme example of forgiveness and resurrection. Without this, I (we) would still be at war. I don’t need the weapons anymore. I am free to leave the battlefield and perhaps, by following God’s eternal example of grace, create peace.
I hope the healing power of Lovefraud continues to multiply. I see what kind of destruction is out there, how much we need support to make these kinds of changes in our lives. It can’t be done alone, most of us ARE human after all. Our strength is a shared strength. If any of my words can help another see a possible sign of hope for healing, the way others have shared their words here and have helped me to heal and to grow, then I will count this as a blessing. It is through giving we are seen and find validation, not from taking. I chose to walk this path now, sometimes with my hurt and pain, always in the direction of rising above this. Experiencing a person who couldn’t, can’t, and will never connect ultimately has helped me to connect… to good things I could never have imagined. My healing continues, I hope others are finding this as well.