By | September 6, 2018 11 Comments

Trust after betrayal by the sociopath

For everyone here at Lovefraud, there came a time when we could no longer continue in denial. We were forced to admit that someone we trusted had betrayed us. We felt devastation, anger, humiliation, grief and every other negative emotion on a therapy checklist.

We also berated ourselves for our naiveté, kicked ourselves for our gullibility, and castigated ourselves for trusting someone who shouldn’t have been trusted. Overwhelmed by pain, we may have vowed that we would never trust again.

Hold on. As human beings, we need to trust. Human society is built on trust. The key is to determine who is trustworthy, and who is not.

Trust and human society

I wrote previously about Paul Zak’s book, The Moral Molecule, in which he identified oxytocin, a neurotransmitter, as the key to human moral behavior. Read:

Oxytocin, trust and why we fall for psychopaths

The foundation of Zak’s theory is that human beings are supposed to trust.  We are social animals. We were able to survive for millennia because we lived in groups, we cooperated and we helped each other. Trust is the glue that holds us together.

Zak started out as an economist, and then went on to study moral behavior. Here’s a quote from his book that proves the importance of trust:

The level of trust in a society is the single most powerful determinant of whether that society prospers or remains mired in poverty. Being able to enforce contracts, being able to rely on others to deliver what they promise and not cheat or steal, is a more powerful factor in a country’s economic development than education, access to resources—anything.

Trusting is normal. Trusting is healthy. So how can we make sure we trust appropriately?

Oxytocin and trust

Researchers have long known that oxytocin is released in the brain and bloodstream when we experience intimacy, especially during sex. We also are flooded with oxytocin during emotional intimacy, such as shared feelings, and physical touching, such as a hug.

But Zak found that oxytocin, which he calls the “Moral Molecule,” is responsive to other interactions as well:

All you have to do to trigger this Moral Molecule is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way, the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back, and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more trustworthy.

Zak says that oxytocin inspires caring and generous behavior, at least in most people. It doesn’t work in psychopaths (I explained why in my previous article). But oxytocin doesn’t turn us all into starry-eyed do-gooders who cooperate with anybody. Rather, this neurotransmitter enables us to recognize and respond to the precise nature of human interactions. He says:

The Moral Molecule works like a gyroscope, helping us maintain our balance between behavior based on trust, and behavior based on wariness and distrust. In this way, oxytocin helps us navigate between the social benefits of openness, which are considerable, and the reasonable caution we need to avoid being taken for a ride.

Interfering with oxytocin

So how did we get taken for a ride? Why did we fall for someone who turned out to have no morals at all? Perhaps we weren’t letting oxytocin do its job.

Zak doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about psychopaths in his book. But he does relate the story of a devoutly religious prison guard who took pity on a convicted rapist. The prisoner said he’d found Jesus, and when he was paroled, the guard took him into his home. The prisoner raped and murdered the guard’s daughter.

Here’s the point, according to Zak:

Distorted ideas from religion, just like distorted ideas from economics, or eugenics, can impair the ability of the Moral Molecule to do its job, which is not so much to make us “good” as to keep us in tune with our immediate environment in the most adaptive way.

At some point, the prison guard may have felt misgivings about bringing the convicted rapist into his home. But he was so invested in his religious convictions, and the promise of redemption, that he may have disregarded warnings or fear.


In his book called The Gift of Fear, author Gavin DeBecker writes that the most powerful warning system we have is intuition. He says intuition evolved over millennia specifically to keep us safe from predators.

Usually, we ignore it.

To research my book, Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, I invited Lovefraud readers to complete an Internet survey. One of my questions was, “In the beginning of the involvement, did you have a gut feeling or intuition that something wasn’t right about the person or the relationship?” A whopping 71 percent of respondents answered “yes.”

Why? Why did so many people ignore their intuition? Here were some reasons:

  • 18 percent — Doubted themselves
  • 12 percent — Gave the benefit of the doubt
  • 11 percent — Questioned the sociopath, but accepted the answers
  • 9 percent — Wanted to believe the sociopath

So almost three-quarters of the survey respondents instinctively knew there was something wrong with the person, but stayed anyway. We talked ourselves out of what our intuition told us.

Trusting ourselves

We have the tools to know who is trustworthy and who is not. Whether the source is oxytocin or intuition — or perhaps they’re the same thing — we have internal knowing that can protect us. The key is to pay attention.

In order to trust others, we first must trust ourselves.

It may take us some time to rebuild, or develop, our self-trust. We need to recover from the sociopath. (Many articles on Lovefraud can help you with that.) We may need to release some beliefs, such as “there’s good in everyone,” or “anyone can be saved,” that block our perception of warning signs.

Most people in the world can be trusted, and now we know there are exceptions. When we trust our own perceptions and intuition, we can accurately discern who deserves our trust, and who does not.


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Its been awhile since the psycho ex relationship but I was triggered recently when I found out about a well respected man I know, actually he was 1 of my drs. I found out some horrible stuff about him, he was helping me to learn to trust men again, this was in no way a romantic relationship, strictly patient/dr somewhat friend as I have known him for about 4 year. I didnt realize what affect it would have on me, the ongoing stress has really messed me up mentally and physically, I am trying to get myself back on track but its taking awhile, along with the daily stresses life has been rough!! I keep asking myself what has happened to people? I know and I get it but I am just still shocked that such awful behavior occurs.


“In order to trust others, we must first trust ourselves.”

That’s the problem. After being so wrong about the sociopath, I am finding it very difficult to trust my own judgment. I thought I was a good judge of character, but apparently I was gravely mistaken. Now I have no idea how I can trust anyone when I can’t even trust myself.


For a long, long time; I asked myself “why didn’t my intuition kick in gear and warn me about him? When I left him, my intuition suddenly became much more seen and heard inside of me”..I was curious as to WHY now did I ‘know’ my intuition was talking, when it hadn’t during those awful years?? Since then, I’ve read and read many books, articles about intuition. I know (now) that mine was alive and well, BUT its nudgings, proddings, body sensations WERE coming through; I just didn’t pay attention, act on them, kick back mentally and think things through. Or call him out on some crazy thing he had just done or said. Or just walked away. My intuition comes through so soft, so quiet that I often don’t hear or sense it. But its THERE and it works. And when you’re with a domineering, controlling sociopath, it gets drowned out by literally cant hear your own intuition. That’s why you HAVE to learn to know yourself and to know what, who and how YOUR intuition speaks to you, and it does.


Donna this is another excellent article. Thank you.

Marina pearl & Regretfullymind, I saw who my ex husband was the second (literally) I met him through a mutual friends. Second time same. I had a very very strong gut reaction to people back then without understanding it especially to him!!. Thought I needed to be more open mind with people and give them more of a chance (HUGE mistake)…but I realize now I just had a very strong gut reaction like both of you.

I asked my counselors why I stayed when I saw the things he was doing…ie cheating, lying, manipulating etc etc even thought he was spinning my head with all his abusive tactics.

She put it bluntly & simply….”You were in survivor mode!”

That was a very POWERFUL statement she made to me that day. We were all in survivor mode with the evil sociopath…we were all trying to stay alive!!!! This is why we “ignored” our intuition. But really our brains had kicked into so say…Hey this guy will kill you unless you dont fight with him, let him do what he is doing so you will stay alive etc. So be kind to yourself now. You survived a sociopath or psychopath!!

I too, have a hard time seeing the truth now of people. My gut instinct is not as quick. My ex programmed me to not question him, not to fight with him and to be nice even when being abused etc so some how this now is part of my desensitized gut instinct issue. What I know now, that in the past I had a very quick body language interpretation of people. Without even realizing it. I’m more of an introvert…so this, I think, is a strong trait with introverts (??) and their strong gut instinct. Introverts rely more on interpreting body language to warn them of a dangerous person, then word a person may be saying to them when meeting someone new. Not sure if this is scientific or not…but just how I analyze my past gut reaction vs now my gut reaction to people.

I have been studying some you tube “Expert body language” interpretation videos to see if I can get back to my old gut reaction towards people via their body language. Our bodies give off valuable info in our body language without even realizing we are giving info, while a sociopath may not have these body movements & facial movements which would be a RED flag for us if we dont see them. Most sociopaths are stone cold in their body language even when they are smiling, at least this is the case with my ex h. There are also books on body language interpretation which might help you too get your gut reaction back strong again that your local library may have.

I hate that my gut reaction has changed because of my ex & his abuse. 😒

Read a study when I left my ex, that humans can determine if someone is trust worthy or not with in 3 seconds. So, I try to focus on this. It’s hard sometimes because we meet people, in say business & we have to be “nice” to them if you are doing business or say a good friend’s mate or their family member who you might not particularly like. Not an easy world to navigate thru is it!?!?

We are all a work in progress unraveling what the sociopath programed into our minds. 😒

Hugs to you all. 💜💜💜


Jan7, like you, I had a negative reaction to my ex from the beginning. We had been coworkers in the same department for a couple of years and he was universally seen as a weirdo – I completely shared that opinion. When it came to light that his wife had terminal cancer, my compassion kicked in and I wondered if we were all too hard in our judgement of him, after all, he was trying to raise three teenage girls and work full time during his wife’s illness. When his wife died, I attended the funeral representing our department, and then someone mentioned to him that I had been helpful to her when her mother had passed away since I had just lost my dad recently too…he stopped by to talk to me about that one day and the next thing I knew, we were meeting for lunch on a Saturday. Everything about his behavior at that lunch backed up my initial assessment of him as a weirdo and a socially inept one at that, but…I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt PLUS I felt really sorry for him and got the impression he was lonely and floundering. I had absolutely no romantic interest in him (it had never even crossed my mind once) and rather was trying to be a friend to someone who was clearly in need. Within weeks he had sucked me into a romantic relationship that went on for 7 years until he finally discarded me for the final time and left me (he thought) mentally, emotionally and financially irreparably broken. I am thankful I found a therapist who got my mind straight on what had happened to me and was able to reassure me that there was nothing wrong with ME. It’s been 7 years since that final discard and I’ve worked hard on myself but I am no longer the open, trusting person I was before he came into my life. The biggest lingering wound from that experience is that I don’t trust anyone and I’m always watching for the other shoe to drop. I hope with time, and meeting real, healthy people, this will improve.


HanaleiMoon, my father tells me now “you don’t trust anyone”, if I tell him to be care not to trust so easily. I tell him, “you bet I don’t trust anyone, I was in hell for 12 plus years with a sociopath. If I would have trusted my gut I would not have been in Hell.”

Bottom line. Follow your gut instinct immediately when meeting someone. Yes, someone can have a bad day & not be nice to you. But, I believe the gut intuition we each have can detect if someone is still a good person or not whether they are having a bad day or not.

I found this video after I left my ex h. Google “Oprah Gavin Debecker you tube” to watch their interview in trusting your gut. His book is The gift of fear, your local library may have it.

Wish you the best in meeting nice people in your future. 💜


That was an interesting talk, Donna. Zak is a very engaging speaker.

Mind you, the effects of oxytocin can be more complex than he describes, and not always beneficial. For a counterpoint to this talk, here’s an article by Ed Yong, who thinks “this hype about the ‘love drug’ is ‘dangerous.'” I’m afraid Yong was very much in an Eeyore mood.

But I have to agree wholeheartedly with Paul Zak about the fundamental importance of trust. It’s interesting that he got a Ph.D. in economics before getting into neuroscience and morality—approaching matters the opposite way round from Adam Smith. Economically it’s a key observation that poor countries tend to be “low trust” countries. Of course there are other factors involved in wealth: geography and natural resources, infrastructure, population density and skill levels and so forth. Yet financing, contracts, investment, or long term planning could never exist without trust. And it’s worth noting that poor countries are typically high in corruption—countries that can least afford such a drain on their resources.

The link between psychopathy and lack of trust is also fundamental. I remember reading somewhere (though I can’t remember where) about a test conducted on a number of subjects, some of whom were psychopaths, in which they were asked to define the meanings of words. The psychopaths had no more trouble than normal people defining ordinary words like “book,” “square,” and so on, but they had more difficulty with words having a marked emotional content, and started to slow down. One guy had trouble with the word “love,” but he did manage to come up with some kind of definition. Finally he was asked to define the word “trust.” He struggled with it for a minute or two, and then, astonishingly, he gave up! “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s just a word.”

“Just a word!” Absolutely staggering! But it’s a surefire indication that the concept of “trust” may have no meaning at all to a psychopath.


I am new to this site, after falling for a love bombing married man. I literally feel like I’m stuck in a bad nightmare. This man lured and chased me down with flattery- claiming to be “stuck” in a marriage that he had to stay in for 3 kids. He claimed to be in love with me, that I was his best friend and soulmate. This fling went on for 8 months until the discard happened.

I was randomly talking to a woman I know and she advised me she was talking to this man too ( not knowing me and him did). I was blown away and went to someone I trusted- a mutual friend. And that’s where the nightmare started.

The mutual friend has been harassing me for weeks now. Claiming she is running this now and protecting his wife and kids from finding out. I have no intention to tell his wife I just want to be away from them all. The friend opened a social media page calling me a slut and whore with no mention that HE chases women, not only me. She has said I’m pathetic and my ego is hurt and to go find another boy toy. I’m beyond exhausted mentally I’ve never been in a situation like this had anyone been slandered this way?? It’s awfu


Why we doubt ourselves is also because of our imprints from childhood etc.. When we recognize what they are and why we have them – we begin to heal.. further healing is when we process through them into awareness and release. Checkout the book DADDY THROWS ME IN THE AIR.. memoir/self-help on Amazon and the other usual places. Read the reviews.. This book will assist in your healing and awareness… in Part Four of the book is a process that I created to assist in healing…


Knowing yourself – your genuine self without imprints of others leads to trusting yourself. It’s about trusting self – not the other person. When you are in emotional need is when you trust the wrong people

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