You may be struggling to break away from your relationship with a sociopath. You know the involvement is bad for you. But even when you’re not forced to interact with the sociopath — you’re not married, don’t share kids and don’t work together — you can’t cut the cord.
Why? Because relationships with sociopaths are highly addictive.
There are several psychological and biological reasons why you feel an addiction to a sociopath.
Psychological bonds and addiction to a sociopath
Any time two human beings enter into a romantic relationship, a psychological love bond forms.
This bond begins early in the relationship because of pleasure. In the beginning, both people are doing their best to attract and impress each other. The new involvement is fun and exciting, which creates the pleasure.
Sociopaths, of course, usually engage in love bombing. They shower you with attention and affection. They’re always calling and texting. They want to be with you all the time. The sociopath makes you feel like the most important and loved person in the world. This intensifies your pleasure.
The relationship with the sociopath seems to be moving ahead at warp speed, and then the sociopath does something to threaten the relationship — disappears, lies, picks a fight. You were once on cloud nine, and now you suddenly feel totally deflated. This creates fear and anxiety.
Now here’s the kicker: Fear and anxiety actually strengthen the psychological love bond.
You want the relationship with the sociopath to go back to how wonderful it was in the beginning. So you ask the sociopath if you can talk. You try to figure out what went wrong. You may even apologize for something you didn’t do.
You get back into your relationship with the sociopath, which brings you relief — and strengthens the psychological love bond again.
This becomes a pattern: Pleasure, followed by fear and anxiety, followed by relief, rinse and repeat. It becomes a vicious circle, and with each turn of the wheel, the psychological love bond gets tighter and tighter.
Here’s the next kicker: Even if you no longer feel pleasure, the psychological love bond is still in place.
Pleasure is required for the bond to form. But the absence of pleasure does not break the bond.
Biological bonds and addiction to a sociopath
There are also biological reasons why you feel such an addiction to a sociopath.
When you experience intimacy, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released in your brain and bloodstream. This happens with any type of intimacy — emotional sharing, hugs and especially sex.
Oxytocin is called the “cuddle chemical.” It makes you feel calm, trusting and content, and alleviates fear and anxiety. Mother Nature created oxytocin to make parents want to stay together to raise children. It is critical for the survival of the human race.
But, oxytocin can encourage you want to stay in a relationship with a sociopath when you really should leave.
Feelings of love also make the brain produce dopamine. Dopamine is associated with energy, motivation and addiction. In fact, that’s why cocaine makes people feel euphoric — it increases the amount of dopamine in the brain.
There’s more. Sex also causes structural changes in the brain. So if you have sex as part of your relationship with a sociopath, your brain changes to adapt to this person. Breaking off the relationship with the sociopath will require undoing all the changes in your brain.
Sociopaths in relationships don’t bond
Human beings are social animals, and we need to be able to trust each other and stay together to survive. That’s why these psychological and biological changes take place.
However, sociopaths in relationships don’t bond like regular, empathic people do. Some researchers theorize that sociopathic brains don’t have the right receptors for oxytocin.
But sociopaths have learned how to pretend to be in a relationship, in order to set you up for exploitation. Sociopaths hijack the normal human bonding process.
Breaking the addiction to a sociopath
Because of these psychological and biological reasons, you feel like you have an addiction to the sociopath. So when you want to break away from your relationship with the sociopath, you need to treat it like breaking an addiction.
Here’s what this means.
First: In most cases, you’ll want to go cold turkey when breaking off the relationship with the sociopath. That means you tell sociopath very clearly that it’s over. Here’s what you can say, which is adapted from The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker:
I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever.
I am certain I never will.
Do not contact me ever again.
Do not give a reason for breaking up, because a reason gives a sociopath an opportunity to argue with you. You do not want to attempt to negotiate with a sociopath, because the sociopath will usually win.
Second: Once you make it clear that the involvement is over, have No Contact with the sociopath.
Third: If you’ve ever had to overcome addiction — smoking, alcohol, drugs — you probably know that the standard advice is to take it one day at a time. That’s exactly what you need to do when breaking your addiction to a sociopath.
Get through today. Then get through tomorrow. Then get through the next day. Do whatever you need to do to distract yourself from any urges to contact the person. The longer you stay away from the sociopath, the more his or her grip on you will dissipate.
If you give in and reach out to the sociopath, or answer when the sociopath contacts you, you’ll be back at square one. You’ll have to start the process all over again.
Fourth: When you’re feeling the urge to contact the sociopath, visit Lovefraud. Many, many people have told me that they do this. They read the posts and comments on Lovefraud to remind them of why they are leaving the relationship with the sociopath.
Like overcoming any addiction, breaking your addiciton to a sociopath takes time and willpower. But your emotions, mind, body, spirit and finances will all be healthier when you are away from this person.
Next: How long does it take to recover from a sociopath?