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When the trigger is pulled

Editor’s note: This post was written by M.L. Gallagher, who was romantically involved with, and almost destroyed by, a sociopath. She has written a book about her experience called, The Dandelion Spirit: A True Life Fairytale of Love, Lies and Letting Go. Lovefraud recommends the book for anyone who is trying to understand how sociopaths manipulate their victims. M.L. Gallagher will be posting regularly to Lovefraud.

Jack and I have been friends since high school. Last fall when his marriage of twenty-two years dissolved, he arrived on my doorstep, emotionally drained, bruised and fragile. As he tried to make sense of what had happened to his life, our friendship deepened.

Recently, Jack has been angling towards taking our relationship to a new level. At first I was ambivalent. And then I was intrigued. After three and a half years of avoiding dating altogether (an encounter with a sociopath can sour you on just about anything!), I wondered if perhaps this was a good time to test the relationship waters. Jack is a man I trust, respect and adore. Why not tread a little more deeply into the unknown between us?

We agreed to spend a day together preparing the meal for Canadian Thanksgiving. “We can take the pooch for a walk, go to the market, and spend the day as a couple,” he said.

I took a breath. “Good idea.”

Thanksgiving Day arrived and so did Jack. The sky was clear blue. The autumn leaves beckoned. We headed to a park at the edge of the city and walked and talked as the pooch raced through the long prairie grasses that lined the trail. On the way home, we stopped at the market to pick up last minute goodies.

“I promised a friend I’d go to an auction with her,” Jack informed me as we carried our purchases into the house. “It’ll only take an hour. Would you like to come?”

I pushed down the fissure of anger that seared through my mind. “I don’t think so,” I said, wondering if he could detect the acerbic undertone of my response at his mention of another woman.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” he blithely replied as left me with a quick hug and a wave good-bye.

Seething, I started preparations for dinner as my mind raced into overdrive. How dare he! Not only had he not kept his commitment, he had taken off to spend time with another woman. Three hours later, when he still had not reappeared, I phoned him. Apologetically, he told me that a malingering back pain had turned into a full-blown back attack and he was uncertain whether or not he would even be able to turn up for dinner.

Upon hearing Jack’s excuse, I replied, “Let me know what you decide,” and hung up. Quickly. Abruptly.

The tears spilled from my eyes. I tried to push them back. They kept coming.

I stepped out onto my patio and let the warmth of the afternoon sun fall onto my face. I took a breath.

The tapes were spinning in my head. See. Men are jerks. He’s an ass. Typical. Are you stupid M.L.? Trust a man and see what happens?

I took another breath.

I’m not stupid. And not all men are jerks. But in this instance, Jack’s behaviour was not acceptable. However, my response was not sitting well with me. Hanging up was a knee jerk reaction. I had to turn up and be honest.

I picked up the phone and called him back.

“I need to tell you how I feel right now,” I quickly said as he answered with a cheerful, ‘Hello, this is Jack.’ “I am angry. We discussed spending today together and you took off to spend time with another woman. I appreciate your back is sore but your behaviour is unacceptable.”

Silence.

I waited.

Finally, he spoke. “I apologize,” he said. “You’re right. I’ve been very confused about my relationship with you and I did not think before I acted. I’ll be right there.”

“Your apology is accepted,” I replied. “Your confusion does not give you an excuse to use me as the vehicle through which you bulldoze your way to understanding. I don’t want you to come over right now. I’m angry. I want my anger to dissipate, and spending time with you might help you feel less guilty, but it won’t help me find my peace of mind.”

He didn’t come for Thanksgiving dinner. But I did find my peace of mind.

Now, one of the elements of the sociopath relationship was that he had a continual string of health crises that left me feeling insecure about voicing my own needs. I mean, how could I tell a man who was supposedly dying of a rare heart disease that I was upset with him for constantly not turning up when he said he would? What if the last words he heard from me were angry words of condemnation? So, I held my tongue and lost my way.

In hearing Jack’s excuse of a back pain keeping him from dinner, the trigger was pulled. With the possibility of another woman brought into the mix, memory leapt into action as I felt the pain and horror of that time. Jack’s behaviour was unacceptable. But my tears were not about his behaviour. They were about pain deeply buried within me and the feelings they evoked of being less than, unimportant and unworthy.

I am not ‘less than’ and I am important, to me and those who love me. I am worthy. No one can take that from me, unless I let them.

It was a powerful trigger. In pulling it, I found my voice when I turned up, paid attention and spoke my truth without fear of the outcome.

Do I forgive my friend? Yes. He is acting out his own fears, confusion and needs. Will I step further into a relationship with him? No. Because once the trigger was pulled I saw where my desire to move into closeness with him came from. It did not come from a place of wanting him as more than just a friend. It came from my place of fear.

I have always loved the thrill of being pursued. It was one of the aspects of my personality that left me at risk with the sociopath. For me, the dark side of the pursuit game is the come hither/go away dance it awakens within me. He chased me. I awoke. He withdrew. I took up the chase. Eventually, I was in pursuit of a mirage that led me into the death zone of self-annihilation while he stood dancing on the sidelines watching me self-destruct as my need to stay connected to him drove me deeper into the arms of his abuse.

When Jack and I first discussed dating, he mentioned his interest in another woman. My ‘huntress’ awoke as I circled that sore spot within me where in the yin/yang of male/female relationship, I want to be in control. My response to his desire to have a relationship came not from wanting to be in a relationship with him, but from my fear of his losing interest in me.

The sociopath relationship left many scars. They are healing, but some wounds run deep. Sometimes, I can’t feel a wound rip open until I hear the trigger pulled. When I let the pain flow, when I courageously face memory’s pull, I grow beyond the terror of that time into the beauty of my life today.

Thanksgiving dinner arrived. My home was filled with good friends, good food, wine and laughter. It was a beautiful evening and I was filled with the joy of being surrounded by family and friends I love and whom I know love me.



6 Comments on "When the trigger is pulled"

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  1. anm says:

    I was married to a sociopath for 8 years and now am re-married. Bad habits are hard to break. I have to question my emotions with my new husband when I get angry to see if he is really to blame or is it just my thinking errors from being abused by a sociopath for so long.

    I am convinced my sociopath ex-husband will never leave me alone, currently he is still getting his jabs in from prison. So my only resource is to not respond to him in any way, because that just feeds his sick ways.

  2. Leentje says:

    Hello,

    Is there any other way to obtain the book “Dandelion Spirit” than through the publisher? I have tried to order the book through the channels provided on this website and was unsuccessful. I contacted our local Chapters store but they did not carry the book. I am very interested to read the book and would like to obtain a copy.

  3. Hi — Yes, I’ve had other complaints re the publisher.

    If you’d like to email me directly I’ll provide you the information on how to order the book.

    My email is:

    louise@dandelionspirit.com

    Thank you for your support! And I apologize for the difficulty. I’m re-organizing the ordering process so that it is less difficult — Thanks!

    MLG

  4. nic2005 says:

    I am trying to find a way to contact M.L Gallagher.. i hope this method will reach her personally… please contact me I am the daughter of Conrad’s brother Paul.. as I am sure you are aware he was twice as crazy.. and my mother and i both would like a chance to contact you through email.. my mother feels especially interested in your common bond being involved with these horrific men.. i am also writing a book about the abuse I suffered at my fathers hands and of my whole family and the twisted stories the culminated in the lives of these two men (and the third brother you may or may not have been aware of) I do hope this reaches you.. I have some questions that would not like to air in this forum thank you

  5. Hi nic2005,

    Thank you for your post, and email. I have written back and am glad you contacted me. Please let your mother know I am very interested in contact with her as well.

    Thank you.

  6. will be okay says:

    I am terrified about how I will react to, and deal with men in the future. I currently can’t imagine how I will ever trust another man. I can only hope and pray that I will be able to trust. One good thing I can say…There are many things I have learned from this nightmare… I will not be so quick to believe. I will Never ignore a red flag or gut feeling again, and I will never ‘settle’. I absolutely deserve to be treated with the utmost respect, and if I don’t get it.. I’m better off alone!! Oh yea, one more thing.. The old addage..’if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!!’

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