So you want to know what I mean when I say I was in a toxic relationship with a sociopath and why it took me so long to leave and why I speak of the need to heal from it?
Okay. Here goes:
Imagine meeting the most charming, independent and interesting fellow who seems to love everything about you. He showers you with love, affection and attention. He likes everything that you like. You share the exact same dreams and hopes for the future. He seems like your perfect match and “too good to be true.”
Within a few short months of meeting (but well after you have become emotionally invested in him), this “great guy” begins to devalue you, seemingly out of the blue.
He tells you that you should dress better, stop drinking so much, be a better parent, look into finding work that suits your skills, consider dropping some of your friends who have no purpose and to stop being so selfish.
These are all things that you recognize could be holding you back and are even some you have seriously considered changing about yourself before, but why does he have to be so cruel and harsh in his assessments and judgments?
You let him know his words hurt. But instead of backing off with the criticisms, he pumps up the volume and frequency of them. He seems to get pleasure in knowing he’s hurting you.
Every attempt at change you make and everything you do or say comes with belittling reactions from him. It hurts. His words hurt. And being hurt sucks away all of your motivation to make any of the changes he proposes you make. And because of the emotional investment you made and the “taste” of the good man you thought he was, you keep holding out hope that his poor opinion of you and his bad behavior is fleeting, and he’ll soon see the error in his heartless ways.
But it continues. Each time you protest to his hateful remarks and threaten to leave, he immediately apologizes and promises never to do it again. The good guy persona appears briefly, always and inevitably replaced by the ugly head of his monster side.
This causes you great confusion and despair.
“What happened to that loving and caring guy I first met? He MUST be in there somewhere. I can’t just walk away even though he’s hurting me. Imagine how much I would hurt him if I left? He just doesn’t understand that he’s really hurting me. Poor thing. I can’t just leave him. He’s so lost.”
But then his despicable nature becomes harder and harder for him to hide. His “good guy” mask is chipping away and disintegrating completely right before your eyes.
And because all of your hope has washed away with his mask, you start letting him know more and more how you feel about what he says and does that hurts you and others.
What’s his reaction? To point a blaming finger back at you. YOU are why he does what he does, and it’s YOUR fault that you can’t handle the truth.
He’s partially right. You are to blame for why he behaves and hurts you. But not for the reasons he proposes.
He claims you’re weak and mentally ill. Wow! You’re floored. After all, you simply tried to explain to him that what he did wasn’t nice or what he’s thinking about another person might not be 100% accurate. You never once said he was sick or mentally ill for behaving and saying those things. Why would he claim you were sick and mentally ill unless you were sick and mentally ill?
So you ponder that idea: “Am I sick and mentally ill? No one would suggest such a thing unless I were, right?”
But because you aren’t sick and mentally ill, you become sick and mentally ill trying to uncover issues to prove you are sick and mentally ill. At the same time, you’re trying to make sense of the actions and behaviors of a man who you have yet to realize lacks empathy and remorse.
You go crazy wondering what you did to cause someone to react to you in such ugly and hateful ways.
And this is where your ability to empathize, be compassionate, and exercise your conscience works against you. You are dealing with a sociopath who lacks all of those things but is able to manipulate and control you because you have them!!!
Do you see the irony and silliness in this toxic situation?
You do see it! You finally do! And you realize it can’t and won’t stop unless you exit the ride. But you might not have the right words to explain what you feel. That’s okay. There is no time to explain. More than likely you’re going on what your gut has been trying to tell you all along, that something is f*cking, stinkin’ rotten in Denmark.
You finally listen and are able to start seeing and accepting him for what he is. You begin to see the reality that he can’t change and that you are absolutely unwilling to give up your freedom and your will in order to please him. You have yourself to make happy. He’s a grown man. Let him deal with himself, alone. You’ve had it!
So you no longer make excuses for him, to yourself or to others. He’s never given you that courtesy, so why give it to him.
You leave him. Who would want this in their lives:
He’s a racist, sexist, misogynistic douche bag to the nth degree. You realize that all of those nasty, derogatory comments he’s made in the past about you and everyone else were because he really believes them to be true. They weren’t comments made by someone who cares if he hurts someone or not.
“Wow! Even the squirrels in Maryland are black.”
“Your boyfriend lost his leg? How can you date someone who is only half a man?”
“Why would you order coffee before I’ve even finished my meal, you selfish whore?”
“I put those Amish framers to work! Good thing they don’t know the real value of their efforts.”
“I told her at the entrance to the theater that she looked like a cream puff in that dress. It’s not my problem she dislikes me. The truth is the truth.”
“So my mom nearly dropped my niece and my brother screamed at my mom calling her a clumsy fat pig! Hehe! Can you believe it? You should have seen my Mother’s face! I don’t know what she was thinking carrying my niece that way.”
“You knew I was like this when you first met me.”
And there’s the rub.
Yes. I knew he was a little on the egotistical side. I thought he was like that because he was young (35) and his mother hadn’t taught him any better. (Sorry moms. It’s always easier to blame you.)
The part I didn’t know, however, is the part about him being without a conscience and lacking the ability to empathize.
It’s our conscience and our empathy that has allowed us, non-sociopaths, to grow and change and become better and more understanding people as we live our lives. We make the false assumption that everyone we meet has both empathy and a conscience. That’s where we fail ourselves and cause ourselves undue suffering when we cross paths with a sociopath.
Mr. and Ms. Sociopath are incapable of growing and changing and evolving into respectable and caring human beings, people we would all be proud to call our partners or friends in life.
Does that make me sad for sociopaths? No. I am detached from feeling anything for them.
What it makes me is incredibly thankful and proud of myself for having the strength and courage to face my own demons in order to wipe away the false demons a sociopath created and tried planting inside of me.
I certainly have my faults. But none that can’t be recognized and fixed with a little hard work and lots of empathy and help from my conscience.
Today, I dictate my own thoughts. No longer does another try to control how I see myself. That’s freedom. And we all deserve it and can reach it.
(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/280208408035377747/)