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With the sociopath – is it love or addiction?

Terry Kelly and Donna Andersen

Yes, you can recover from the sociopath and find true love. Donna Andersen with her husband, Terry Kelly, on July 19, 2015.

Editor’s Note: Lovefraud received the following email from a reader whom we’ll call “Gianna.”

After extensive searches for the article already written, I’ve come to think I should just ask the question.

Will I ever be able to love someone the way I loved the sociopath?

I am 3 years out of my relationship with the man who almost destroyed me. It’s taken therapy, countless books, overcoming obsession, and rebuilding myself from the ground up. I’ve come a long way but there is still one piece of me that is missing: My ability to love as strongly as I did before, to feel that overwhelming warmth and elation I once had when I fell in love.

I’m in a new relationship with a wonderful man. But he’s not superman.

As much as I know the person I used to be in the relationship with was a fallacy, I loved him like no other. The sociopath made me high as a kite on love… in the beginning. He made me perfect. He was so cool! I had so much pride in my identity as, “his girlfriend.” Then everything went wrong, years were lost in the haze of this maze. I see now what happened and what it really was but I can’t forget those wonderful first feelings. I’m sad that I may never have them again. I’m resentful of that memory and wonder if I popped my cork on love.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my boyfriend. He’s my best friend. He’s genuine, full of integrity, and I respect him. When we have miscommunications we talk about them in a healthy way. We are always seeking to understand the other’s point of view. He’s loving and affectionate and even good looking! I trust him completely. He’s human.

So what’s wrong with me? Why am I always comparing him to the impossibly perfect man from the past? A man I want nothing to do with! Why can’t I love him as completely as I loved a myth? Why can’t my healthy partner measure up to the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Did that situation kill something inside me that I will never get back? A feeling I want so much with the man I’m with now.

If you have any advice, I’d appreciate it. I don’t want the great love of my life to have been a fraud.

Donna Andersen responds

Gianna,

I’m glad you’ve escaped the sociopath, glad you’ve recovered, and glad you’ve found a real, authentic love.

Other people have asked similar questions: Will I ever love again? Will I ever feel the same love that I felt with with sociopath?

Here’s what I think is the question that really needs to be asked: Was it really love that you felt for the sociopath or was it addiction?

The romantic love addiction

Let’s start by stating this: All romantic love is addictive.

Helen Fisher, a researcher who specializes in the biology of romantic love, says that romantic love involves three distinct brain systems. These brain systems evolved over millennia to make us want to stay with one partner, so that we could raise children together, so that the human race could survive. The brain systems are activated when we fall in love, and when we lose love.

Fisher published a study in 2010 that investigated what happens to the brain after a break-up. Her team conducted an experiment with students who had recently broken up with a partner, but were still in love. The subjects looked at photos of their former partners while the researchers studied images of their brains.

According to LiveScience.com:

The researchers found that, for heartbroken men and women, looking at photographs of former partners activated regions in the brain associated with rewards, addiction cravings, control of emotions, feelings of attachment and physical pain and distress.

Furthermore, Fisher and her colleagues found that with unrequited love, these brain systems go into overdrive. In a TED talk, she explained:

When you’ve been dumped, the one thing you love to do is just forget about this human being, and then go on with your life — but no, you just love them harder. As the poet Terence, the Roman poet once said, he said, “The less my hope, the hotter my love.” And indeed, we now know why. Two thousand years later, we can explain this in the brain. That brain system — the reward system for wanting, for motivation, for craving, for focus — becomes more active when you can’t get what you want. In this case, life’s greatest prize: an appropriate mate.

So that’s the background. We are biologically programmed to feel profound desire and craving for our beloved, and this desire and craving gets even more intense when we lose our beloved.

Seduced by a sociopath

Now, let’s look at what happens when our beloved is, in reality, a sociopath.

Think about the sociopathic seduction. In the beginning of the relationship, this individual:

  • Love bombed you showered you with attention and affection.
  • Mirrored you seemed to share all of your interests and values.
  • Seemed perfect for you that’s because he or she figured out what you were looking for and became that person.
  • Rushed the relationship quickly proclaimed his or her love and started planning a future together.
  • Promised to make your dreams come true you would live happily ever after.

Plus, most Lovefraud readers experienced all of this very quickly as an intense, whirlwind romance. This is the beginning of the psychopathic love bond.

Although I don’t know of any research to back this up, I suspect that all of those desires and cravings that are natural in any romantic relationship are even more intense with the psychopathic love bond.

The trauma bond

Then what happened in your relationship? The sociopath did something to create fear and anxiety in the relationship. He or she disappeared with no explanation, or took your money, or suddenly raged at you, or you caught the individual lying.

Whatever. Your sweet, adoring love interest disappeared, and you wanted that person, and your storybook romance, back.

So you tried to talk it out. You wanted to solve the problem. You may have even apologized for something you didn’t do, just to reclaim your special lover. Eventually the two of you kissed and made up.

But the fear of losing your love, and then the relief of regaining your love, had the effect of intensifying the psychopathic love bond that you felt even more.

When you’re involved with a sociopath, this cycle tends to repeat itself intense love and attraction, followed by intense fear and anxiety, followed by reconciliation. But with each turn of the wheel, the psychopathic love bond gets stronger and stronger.

Eventually it turns into a trauma bond.

So here is my question to Gianna, and all who have loved the sociopath with more intensity than anyone else: Are you sure it was love? Or was it an addiction that morphed into a trauma bond?

Real love after the sociopath

Here’s what I know to be true: Real love, authentic love, satisfying love, is possible after the sociopath.

When I divorced the sociopath, the court awarded me all the money that he took from me, plus $1 million in punitive damages.

I spent about a year trying to collect my judgment. Eventually, I had to accept failure I was not going to get my money back from him.

A week after I came to terms with that believe me, it was painful I met the man who would become my husband, Terry Kelly.

We’ve been together 14 years 10 of them as a married couple. And I can honestly say I love Terry far more than I ever loved James Montgomery.

And the best part is, this love is real.


Comment on this article

14 Comments on "With the sociopath – is it love or addiction?"

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the thing you may be missing is healing whatever wounds/vunerabilities the psychopath was able to exploit. the intense hunger we feel towards people who play on these wound is really a hunger to heal. our psyche is always searching for ways to heal our deepest wounds. because of the way we are manipulated by the psychopath, our hearts believe our relationship with this person will heal us. but, the truth is, nothing outside of us will heal us. only we can heal our deepest wounds. mostly by giving ourselves the things we seek from others… look for a good therapist who can help. and tell yourself over and over that your longing for what you felt with your ex is actually a longing to heal.. which only you can do for yourself any way. no one can give that to you.

I think true healing begins/began for me, when I accepted that I will never have closure or validation of what happened from him. Love yourself, be kind to yourself and know that healing takes as long as it takes. Don’t rush. Do the internal work.

The closure for me on ending my marriage was accepting the fact that he was a sociopath and no matter what I did or did not do in the marriage it would never have worked out or for any of his future relationships. The closure for you is finding out your ex is a sociopath. That is your answer to all the times you have prayed for an answer.

I am grateful that a friend guided me to a hormonal doctor specialist after i escaped my ex..the doctor balanced by body from all the continuous stress that I had been under by my ex for years. A toxic relationship IS extremely hard not only on the body by releasing large amounts of cortisol & adrenaline & other stress hormones…these hormonal cause changes in our brains causes issues such as brain fog, anxiety, depression, mood swings, sleep issues etc which are hard on the brain. All of these symptoms prevent you from finding the door out of your abusive relationship or from truly healing because you are mentally, emotional & physically exhausted from the sociopaths constant chaos & drama. Within days of the correct hormones & vitamins/minerals you can think clearly. It’s quite shocking once your body is balanced & you keep the no contact rule intact.

Donna you and your husband looks so great in this photo…love the bright colors you are both wearing with your bright smiles. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your personal photos with all of us including the one of you & your brother when you were both younger. I am so joyful for you that you found a strong lasting love with your husband Terry. A true blessing!

Gianna,

I hear you about your ability to ‘love’ again. I think that Umami_mommy is onto something, because I experienced something similar. After the abusive relationship ended I spent about a year doing nothing but being miserable and licking my wounds. Then I went out looking for that exciting, one-in-a-million thrilling relationship, that would blow the top of my head off, and make my heart sing.

Play sad-trombone sound here…..Wah, wah…

Didn’t happen. What I found is that it just wasn’t like that anymore. I don’t mean to sound preachy or judgmental, but once I was clear about what the psychopath was, and what he did, and how it wasn’t real, I let go of those notions of love as drama and excitement. Instead it became about trust, mutual attraction, respectful and mutual sex, security, friendship, and life building.

When I found my husband (about 5 years out) he didn’t ring my ‘chimes’ and make me feel total elation. Not at first. But I really really liked and respected him. The deep deep love, the absolute cherishment I feel for him developed over time, and continues to deepen and take on more meaning as we get to know each other, leap hurdles together, and bring out the best in each of us.

This kind of love and security is unmatched by the feelings I had with the psychopath. In fact there really isn’t grounds for comparison. They are completely different things. One is fantasy, and is perpetuated in Disney movies, teenage angst, and popular love songs. The other is true and grounded in experience. Psychopaths LOVE the fantasy version, and the fact that so many of us believe in it.

I am not sure how or why I shifted. But I am glad I stopped wanting the whirlwind, heart beating, dramatic love I associated with ‘real love’. My life is 1000% better for it.

When my ex sociopath up and just disappeared in 2006, I missed him for many years and always wondered what happened.
After he appeared again in 2013, I now know.
He is a disordered person and nothing actually happened other than him being who he is.
Now that I know, I am beginning to heal and accept.
It is what is is.
I do not have to waste one more minute of one more day wondering.
Thank goodness for this website and Donna picking herself up and sharing her knowledge and wisdom for 10 years!
Thank you Donna and all that have posted to guide me through a living nightmare.
I pray that someday I will find real love and not an addiction.
Stronginthecity

Our brain chemistry bonds us to our mate so that our offspring can have two parents to nurture and protect them. Our ability to preserve our species is the strongest calling in our lives.

The hormones, neuropeptides and infrastructure of our brains cause us to grasp our mate even more acutely when something threatens to pull us apart. It’s why the push-pull of life with a sociopathic mate creates toxic cement. Many of us feel this glue as intense “love.”

Once we recognize what we actually felt, we can see love more realistically. We felt a hormonal pull, a type of “love potion #9.” The “chemistry” may feel less compelling when someone is not deliberately fanning our flame. We need to learn to appreciate stability rather than expecting the erroneous, intense magnetism that held us fast.

Gianna, TAKE YOUR POWER BACK, and know that you deserve too! God Bless You, Winifred!

I too found new love after divorcing my NPD/P husband. Three years after my divorce was final, and two years after transitioning away from daily involvement co-parenting with my ex-H, I found real love with a really fine man.

In the interim, I had less than zero interest in dating. I was traumatized, withdrawn from life, numb to emotions, with PTSD. I did a LOT of hard therapeutic work, including talk therapy, somatic experiencing (SE), and reading tons of books and articles on sociopaths. Once I really understood, I was able to let go of the past. My emotional relationship with my ex had burned out years before, but I had not realized what he was until 3 years before my divorce was final. The whole realization to freedom process probably took about 6 years.

My new man is intense, which I am drawn to, but also genuinely caring and loving toward me. What a difference! We both came into the relationship with our own involved histories and baggage, but we worked through it nicely over time, with pleasant and productive discussions that actually reached resolution, and always with love and consideration for the other person. I have since learned the meaning of real love. I feel a deep peace which I never had with my ex-H.

Sometimes I do miss the adventurous fun with my ex. But then a moment later, I remember all the incredibly horrible things he put me through. So that ember never really flares up. The bad contaminated the good, and I really can not look back fondly on my marriage. Sometimes my new love seems less exciting, but that is fine with me. I could use a little “boredom” — which is really reliable stability and a foundation to really count on — in my life for a while after the roller coaster I was on. When you encounter such loving and caring stability, deep peace and joy is possible. That is where I am with my new love — an abiding love with deep peace and moments of joy. I thought joy would never again be possible, but it is. I thought love would never again be possible, but it is.

So take hope. Your future relationships will be different. And that’s a good thing.

Escapefor1,
Yeah for you!
You make it all sound so easy(we know it’s horrible).
I am so happy that you found someone and understand the difference between the 2 men.
I have one question.
How did you get to the point where you trusted again?
I am been in so many relationships with sociopaths, narcissists, con men…whatever you want to call them they are all the same.
How did you know this guy was not going to do the same thing?
Yup, I’m paranoid!
I am still working on my self esteem, boundaries and deal breakers.
It seems like I had none of that going on before.
Stroninthecity

I now know this was an addiction.
An addiction that I am still battling.
I have been no contact and have absolutely no desire to see him but I totally get what the writer describes.
That feeling of all was perfect in the beginning.
Of coarse I thought it was love.
In my mind at the time he was the perfect man.
He was the best lover, friend and all around cool guy.
Like the writer, I too felt so proud to be his girlfriend.
Now that I am delving into why ALL of my relationships have been with narcissists, I have to face the reality that my childhood played a large role here.(DUH)
I’m going to write a book called “I Think My Mommy Is A Narcissist and How It Ruined My Life”.
I’m successfully dealing with this piece by piece.
It’s like peeling the layers of an onion.
To answer Donna’s question.
Was it love or addiction…no doubt it has to be addiction because what he did was not love.
Stronginthecity

Hi, Strong – you write that book, and I’ll come to your first book signing!!

The other day, I made a list of all my past relationships and put them into 3 buckets….Definitely a narcissist, Maybe a narcissist, Not a narcissist. Of course, all but 3 were in the “maybe” or “not” categories, and, they of course we’re guys I dumped because they seemed to boring. “Definitely”s won by a huge margin. However, have vowed to make my ex the last in a long line of them. He definitely led me to a new low I never want to experience again.

I’ve finally got to the point I can’t be around my mother for more than five minutes. I told someone that I feel as though she steals my identity whenever I’m with her. She constantly roadblocks my ability to choose for myself and controls the actions of everyone around her, she treats my father like he is a total idiot, and she constantly talks about how she “trains” him to do things (load the dishwasher, mow the lawn correctly, etc.) This is the same man who worked his butt off for 45 years while she never worked a day outside the home.

I live in a different state, so that helps limit my exposure to her toxicity. However, it also means I’m alone in a big city. Luckily, I didn’t listen to my ex who wanted me to sell my house. My neighbors are my family now.

Yes, if you are like me, this pursuit of narcissists is an addiction. Acknowledging it is our first step in breaking the cycle.

Hugs to you!

Strong-

ALL love is addiction, not just the love you feel with a sociopath.

The problem is that love with a sociopath is painful, so we are constantly at odds with the intense tug of Mother Nature compelling us to remain together with someone who is toxic. That’s the job of the brain chemistry you were given, whether your mother was a Narcissist or not.

Recovering victims often spend thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to untangle ourselves from what we see as the influences of the past, when recognizing our brain chemistry and its role in attraction and connection would suffice to free ourselves and move on with our lives.

Joyce

Joyce,
Well said.
Thank you.
I have only just started receiving relief since implementing full no contact.
Him moving out of town was the best thing that could have happened to me!
Thanks again,
SITC

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