Lovefraud recently received the following email from a reader asking why it hurt to leave the sociopath:
Why would a person become distraught when the narc/sociopath that has wronged them gives them the silent treatment?
I have ridden the merry go round for 10 years with a guy that has cheated and not told the truth. We break up (usually me pushing him away and him acting the victim and then we never can stay away.) He begs, I reject and then he retreats and I feel overwrought. Horrible. I feel heartbroken every single time. So hard to understand and get out of this cycle.
Actually, there are two explanations, rooted in human psychology, for why it hurts to leave the sociopath. We’ll take a look at them now.
According to Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, all romantic love is an addiction. Here are behaviors associated with addiction:
- Distortion of reality
- Personality changes
- Emotional and physical attendance
- Inappropriate (even dangerous) behaviors
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Loss of self-control
Guess what? People who are head-over-heels in love exhibit the same behaviors.
Dr. Fisher also characterized romantic love as more than an emotion — it is actually a drive. Romantic love does more than an emotion; it energizes people to fulfill a need. In this case, the need is securing a connection with the desired person.
You’ve probably heard that breaking addictions is difficult. If you’ve overcome an addicition yourself — like smoking, alcohol or drugs — you know it’s difficult. You experience physical cravings. You feel compelled to engage in behaviors associated with the addiction. The same thing happens when you’re trying to break an addiction to a sociopath, which is one reason why you feel so badly.
There’s another important explanation for why it hurts to leave a sociopath — you’re feeling a betrayal bond.
Exploitative relationships create betrayal bonds, says Dr. Patrick Carnes, who wrote a book about the phenomenon, called The Betrayal Bond. He describes a “mind-numbing, highly addictive attachment to the people who have hurt you.”
As relationship partners, sociopaths betray us all the time, in ways small and large. They may start by not showing up when promised, or making disparaging comments about us — yes, these are betrayals. Many sociopaths eventually cheat on us, take our money or engage in physical violence. What happens to you in these situations?
Dr. Carnes writes:
You may even try to explain and help them understand what they are doing — convert them into non-abusers. You may even blame yourself, your defects, your failed efforts. You strive to do better as your life slips away in the swirl of intensity. These attachments cause you to distrust your own judgment, distort your own realities and place yourself at even greater risk. The great irony? You are bracing yourself against further hurt. The result? A guarantee of more pain.
Escaping the sociopath part one: No Contact
Recognizing that you’re involved with a sociopath is an important initial step for your escape. But this empirical knowledge is only the beginning. True escape and recovery requires physical and emotional recovery.
Addictions are physical sensations. Breaking your addiction to a sociopath is just like breaking any other addiction — you’re going to feel pain and cravings. You need a plan to deal with them.
The first step is No Contact:
- Break off the relationship.
- Block all means for the sociopath to contact you.
- Commit to yourself that you will not reach out to the sociopath.
Because you’re dealing with an addiction, No Contact is difficult. You’ve been emotionally attached to your partner, so contemplating cutting him or her out of your life forever may feel overwhelming. What do you do?
Follow the advice of 12-step programs — take it one day at a time. Commit to yourself that you will not reach out to your ex today. Do the same thing tomorrow. Then the next day. The longer you maintain No Contact, the more his or her grip on you dissipates. Lovefraud has resources that can help, like this webinar:
Escaping the sociopath part two: Dealing with the betrayal bond
In his book, Dr. Carnes makes the following statement about recovering from someone who has betrayed you:
You will never mend the wound without dealing with the betrayal bond.
This can be messy. Sociopaths usually betray their partners multiple times in multiple ways. Plus, they target our vulnerabilities. Your partner may have sniffed out a vulnerability from previous betrayals, which also need to be healed.
Your recovery, therefore, may be like a tangled ball of string that needs to be slowly unraveled. The rest of Dr. Carnes’ book helps you do it with checklists, charts and questions.
Because of the addiction and betrayal bonds, breaking up with a sociopath is much more difficult than ending a normal relationship. This is why it hurts to leave the sociopath. Still, he or she can never be the partner you want and deserve, so you must find a way to do it.
Yes, it is hard work, but absolutely worth the effort. When you break the addiction and betrayal bond, you are free to attract the love you truly want.