Why is it so difficult to detach from a sociopath?

by Quinn Pierce

The other day, in one of my counseling sessions, I was recounting a story about some family members who still interact with my ex-husband, despite my requests that they respect me enough to not have any contact with him.

I was no longer angry or annoyed by their behavior, I had since realized it is much easier if I lower my expectations for some people in my life and distance myself from others.  But, I was curious about their inability to stop contact with my ex-husband even after knowing everything he has done to my family.

The Inexplicable Bond

It led me to wonder: Why is it so difficult to detach from a sociopath?

It seems as though it makes no difference if some people know the truth about what damage a sociopath has caused, they are still eager to maintain some kind of connection.  At first, this was very hurtful for me, but over time, I’ve come to accept that I can’t be responsible for other people’s decisions, and I cannot take their actions as a personal attack.

For one thing, a sociopath, such as my ex-husband, can form strong bonds with those just outside their inner circle by presenting themselves as a respectable, caring, even adoring and genuine person.  This was what people around us believed for many years.  When we divorced, it was just too inconceivable for some of my family and friends to accept that the person they knew was actually a monster.

It would mean questioning their own ability to see past someone else’s polished exterior.  Not many people are willing to admit they had such a huge lapse in judgment. I actually understand this to an extent, because I know how foolish I felt after learning the truth about the man I had married- and stayed married to for over fifteen years.

Denial: The Easier Choice

Also, it’s easy for sociopaths to ”˜shine their light’ on people they don’t see all that often, and that is an addicting quality of a sociopath.  If my ex-husband wants to put someone on a pedestal, he will figure out just what that person’s greatest emotional need is and then exploit it in a manipulative way that makes him look like a hero.

For those of us in an intimate relationship with such a person, that trait is what we hold out for as we wade through the sea of negativity that surrounds the remainder of the relationship.  It’s like a drug, but only enough to keep you addicted.

My family members may actually prefer to believe he is the person they want him to be, because it is much more comfortable than giving up that praise and having to deal with my much less enjoyable reality.

Responding To Other People’s Pain

The final reason I came up with (and I’m sure there are many more) is that those of us who are not sociopaths have emotions such as compassion and empathy and we are capable of feeling bad for people who appear to be hurting.

My ex-husband still cries regularly when he wants sympathy for not seeing his sons as much as he thinks he should.  Others don’t realize it has nothing to do with a father’s love for his children and everything to do with the type of father he wants to portray himself to be to the outside world.

I can honestly say that I am guilty of this, as well.  Just after my separation, I agreed to allow my ex-husband to visit my boys every day after work.  I pushed aside my anger, fear, and resentment, because I still believed there was an intrinsic love that all fathers must have for their children that was instinctual, if nothing else.

Reality Check

I later learned that he was more interested in checking on me every day, making sure I wasn’t involved with another man, and making sure I wasn’t poisoning my children against him than he was in spending time with his children.

The visits soon tapered off, leaving my children wondering why their dad didn’t come by to see them anymore.  I’m sure I made up yet another excuse to soften the blow from his apathy.

Redefining Relationships

Detaching from a sociopath is definitely a complicated, messy, and unnatural process.  In a sense, we have to accept that there is a population of humans who lack humanity.  It is a frightening realization and an even more frightening reality.

Who wants to walk around knowing there are people walking by them right at that moment who have no empathy, shallow emotions, and use manipulation and abuse as a means of controlling those they proclaim to love?

So, I can understand, to an extent, why some people in my life refuse to accept these facts for what they are.  As I said, I cannot be responsible for their decisions.  I can, however, be responsible for mine.  As difficult as it is, I choose to keep a more superficial and distanced relationship with those I was once close with, simply because I cannot allow myself to be around unsupportive and unhealthy people.

No More Excuses

I spent half of my life making excuses for someone who was going out of his way to be hurtful and deceptive.  In order to be healthy, I have to honor myself, and that means not making excuses for anyone else, even if it means grieving the loss of a once close relationship with a friend or relative.

I would rather lose a friend or two than the parts of me that I worked so hard to recover.


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83 Comments on "Why is it so difficult to detach from a sociopath?"

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aintgonna, how right you are. “an innocent (meaning, never dealt with a disordered person b4) basically commented how it was my fault i gave the fool that power to take away my joy.”
There are times when I feel this way about myself, it’s my fault, and I am to blame. I did know I was doing the wrong thing by becoming friends w/this weird-o but I was attracted and he was my boss. I was very heady over it after years of misery from management at previous jobs and things not the best at home either.
I am still trying to stop wanting to figure out what happened. I still focus on him when I don’t want to face real issues and that is a bad thing for every reason imagineable. Thanks for your helpful input, aint.

Joyce, were you there?? It seems so! I so appreciate the generous comments. I know all that you say is true. I was played and I was not a favorite toy. He did not try very hard as we never ventured out of the office. But each time I thought I could untangle from the web, he would say or do something that pulled me back in. This guy was so good, most all of his comments were ambiguous or could be interpreted as just friendly, such as after I was away for 2 days and he stood there at my desk and said, “You’ll never know how much you were missed.” Since he was the only person there I really spoke or related to, he had to be talking about himself. There were other times he blurted things out that were personal but never any “I” statements.

I appreciate your kind comments as to why he chose me, and it helps. I just wish I could find out something about him that would turn me completely off. I can’t stand the guy, and had he pressed me very hard, it would have completely scared me away. He just wasn’t that into me. I sure wish he would have pushed harder. I would have fled mentally and emotionally, probably physically too. I was looking for another job and interviewing, wanted so badly to get out of there but he was dumped before me and that was what I was trying to avoid. Somehow I felt if I left first, I would feel like I had made the choice to leave him behind and that would make me feel empowered and more able to cast his memories behind me. With his leaving first, I felt each and every person there knew things I didn’t know, as most were there longer than I and it drove me crazy. The few people I asked said they had no idea why he was walked out. I knew he was in big trouble because he intimated that to me for months but never the particulars. Such a mind f. Sorry, but that is exactly what it was. That’s why I wanted to leave first instead of being immersed in more confusion. I would not be surprised if he told people I was hitting on and bothering him. OMG….geez.

Again, many thanks for words that soothe and help. Take care, Joyce, and hope you are doing well.

Hi Still-

Those of us that have researched these issues and come out from under the “spell” have an easier time seeing clearly. We’re no longer affected by the withdrawal from the positive feelings created by manipulative behavior. Keeping your distance will help you analyze it more clearly as well.

Their patterns are not unique. They perform their grooming, evoking a connection, and then spring their trap. Blaming the victim is a common occurrence and you need to go easy on yourself. They are very cunning. You wanted a connection, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in finding someone attractive and interesting. The problem is that some people that appear attractive on the surface, are simply wolves in sheep’s clothing.

It was his fault for being harmful. Not yours for desiring social contact.


Thanks Joyce. Very sensible,and you are living proof that one can wrest themselves from the horror caused by a connection that never really existed but still wreaked so much internal and external havoc. I liken it to a brain parasite or worm that you have to find a way to kill or it just hangs there. For me, my job, working out and seeing friends are the best way to keep my mind off it. The minute I get into the car or by myself, I am back on analysis of a dreadful and sinister experience I am not able to embrace. It’s my nature unfortunately to obsess. Therapy over many decades helps keep my thoughts in perspective but I’ve been told by excellent therapists that treatment for obsessive thoughts or even behaviors is not very helpful. I’ve tried many things. Other relationships in my life that triggered obsessing finally melted and disappeared from my thoughts after a time, but this parasite has not yet died. I think there is still a part of me that finds comfort in the absolute detachment from the world that I find when I think about my experience. It’s not about being with him or thinking he’s great or anything at all positive about him. It’s the obsessive analysis of what happened and my reaction which I fully do understand but was so shamefully pathetic on my part. I absolutely allowed my psyche to make room for another personality, one that allowed all kinds of craziness and made excuses for it. I felt it was a sign of growth on my part to understand this “person” and not expect much of him. I know what I have to do and why I’m not doing it but your knowledgeable responses help so much.
Take care, Joyce.

Dear still, even when a guy is not a sociopath, I have a hard time getting over him – seems harder than the average woman I know. I’ve had a few men in my life last year that I still think about and sometimes obsess about. It has more to do with the bonding thing for me. I have come to dislike the way I am made – the way I bond with men from physical connection. This is not necessarily sex. I didn’t have sex with the last two. But there was sensual dancing – a lot of it – with one. And with the other, a weekend of cuddling and kissing and sleeping in the same bed together when I very spontaneously agreed to go on a cruise with him. I am amazed at the power of the bonding hormone. I am a touchy feely person by nature. Touch is my number one love language (per the book The Five Love Languages). This is one of the reasons salsa dancing appeals to me so much. I love all the touching and eye contact. But I constantly have to guard myself to keep from falling in love. It really sucks and I’m not really sure what to do about it. I know it’s different and 1000 times worse with a sociopath because of their all-out deception. But for me, it feels the same. Maybe it’s because I only dated the sociopath for 3 months total. With these other two guys, I knew one for about 8 months and the other for over a year.

Physical activity like working out and dancing seem to help with obsessing and keep me in my body. And just arranging my life so I have things to look forward to and get excited about. I think living your passion, whatever it is, helps with all things negative. I have been salsa dancing for a year and a half now. And recently, I’m starting to teach. This has brought so much joy into my life, there’s almost no room for the negative anymore. I just have to watch myself with these salsa guys. I fell in love with one last year, and we got close, but he didn’t want to get involved with anyone. It was a real awakening for me. I no longer date any of the guys I dance with. Even with some of my students, as they build more confidence, they become flirtatious with me, and a sensual connection can happen. It is my job as the teacher to keep it on a professional level. So far, I’ve been able to do this. But in salsa, the lines become blurred. The reason I dance so well is that I’m not afraid to pull out all the stops when I dance – sexy styling and flirtation, and of course, lots of touching, is all part of the dance. The dangers are ever present. It’s both a joy for a romantic person like me, and also a curse.

Still and Star-

I didn’t make my exit without help. At first I resisted because I felt that I wasn’t going to allow the CADs in my life to control my behavior in any way. But I’d ruminate, and couldn’t stop, particularly, when the heartbreak came from my son who has a character disorder similar to his father. As much as the loss of a lover can undermine you, there are no words that can express the heartache of losing a child, (even when they’re an adult.)

So if you can’t get the thoughts out of your brain, a mild anti-depressant can be just what you need to help you over that hurdle. It will give you power to manage your thoughts instead of your thoughts managing you.

Be sure not to self medicate. There are all kinds. A psychiatrist can prescribe the right medication for you, and so can a medical doctor. Having a therapist to help you focus your thoughts is a good idea as well. Try to locate one who has experience with sociopathic relationships.

Wishing you all the best-

LF hearts,

Why? Why? Why?!!!

IMO, it’s those things called “Feelings”.

This is why it has been so hard for me to stay away or not let him back in after many break-ups.

Albeit, detachment is difficult due to sociopathic manipulation of us, and not because of some great love that is about to be lost.

(please read about how his personality can make your feelings for him like the equivalent of having an addiction)

There were times during the 3 1/2 years with “M”, that I wanted to be able to just turn my feelings ‘off’ at whim.

It hurt being with him. He was so sneaky and evasive, coupled with all the lies and OW+.

I wasn’t able to turn my feelings off no matter how much I wanted to. I cried and begged on too many occasions for him to do ‘something, ANYTHING’ with me to make things better….. ha! futile, just plain futile each time. sick.

The last fight was ‘it’ for me. I’m done wishing and lying to myself.

He is disorderd and it hurt’s my feelings. He knows it does. He does nothing about it, but, I CAN.

I haven’t seen him in 12 days now. I am 12 days of no physical contact, I should say.

Apparently he might have thought that I may still have some supply for him, because 6 days ago he called me from the hospital to tell me he had had a heart attack the day before.

I asked if he was able to get a hold of his mother and told him to take care, then I hung up the phone and haven’t heard from him or seen him since.

Surprisingly, I had no urge to run to his side when he called this time.

So, now…..if I want to feel better…. ironically……. in the end….. I actually DO get to turn my feelings regarding ‘M’ all the way “OFF!!”

Ya hear that “M”? my feelings for you are now in the “OFF!!” position.

Goodbye “M”.

But, Hello Jenni! Where have I been? It’s good to see ME again.

Time, Peace,
Jenni Marie

ps: NO CONTACT really is the only way for YOU to get back to being YOU, the YOU before the pain and heartache of being with a spath caused you to have. NO CONTACT- One Day at A Time and sometimes 5 minutes at a time. Do it for YOU.

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