This week we received the following email. I am sharing it with you because what she reports is very common on a number of levels that I will discuss.
I was married to a sociopath for 25 years. They were horrible years because most of that time I had no idea I was married to a sociopath. I was deeply in love when we met. He told me everything I wanted to hear. Knowing all my weaknesses and fears he fed them, made me totally emotionally dependent on him. He helped me get great jobs, pumped me up so I would keep making more money, while of course he lived off me. But at the same time kept telling me I was ugly, fat, sickly. He had affairs. All of this and I still kept hoping he would change and someday really love me. He even encouraged me to do some illegal stuff – which I did – just to make him happy.
Twenty five years and when I finally couldn’t take it any more I left (8 months ago) Thought that was the end of it – but I actually kept worrying about him. He didn’t have a job or enough food to eat.
Well, he had used my computer one day when he was visiting and his email site was left on. I got curious and started reading his emails. He had been seeing other women, started relationship while he was still with me, telling them the same things he had always told me – but what I found most hurtful was that he was talking to these women about me in derogatory ways. That I was a psycho, unattractive, that I didn’t inspire him to do anything, etc. In many ways, this should have been good. Had I not seen that with my own eyes I would have never believed that my husband of 25 years who told me every day that he loved me more than life itself was bad mouthing me to these other women. I feel such anger and hatred in me that I know is not healthy…but I don’t know how to let it go.
I cut off all communications with him, but I still check into his emails. It’s like watching a soap opera – I’m hooked on this and don’t know how to stop. Every day when I see a new email where he’s dragging my name through the mud, it just makes me feel like crap. Even though I know he’s heartless and I should just not care what he says – I do. This is the man I slept next to for 25 years. I’m 58 years old and I can’t even think of starting a new relationship with all this distrust and hatred in my heart. How in the world would I ever trust another man? The duplicity that men are capable is incredible and every man I meet gives me the creeps.
Is there any hope that I could ever get over this? I just don’t know how to move forward.
First of all 25 years is a long time to spend with another person, might as well be a lifetime. To come to grips with that, a person has to focus his/her attention on all the other things he/she did and accomplished during that time period. Usually the relationship was not the only part of life. Since the outcome was so bad the mind naturally wants to focus the attention on the bad and recovery means fighting this natural tendency.
Second, worrying about the sociopath is extremely common. Again overcoming this means focused attention. Attend to what this says about you. You are a person who cares and naturally worries about those you have loved. Just because you have a feeling does not mean you have to act on it.
The third issue, spying on the sociopath. I have seen that behavior a great deal so don’t feel you are unusual because you do this. I have also observed that the spying is often linked to anger, as is difficulty letting go.
Why would spying, anger and difficulty letting go be linked? I think this relates to a need for power and mastery over the situation. How many times have victims said, “I just didn’t want him/her to win”? I think recovery starts with admitting that we “lost” and the sociopath “won.” In the same breath though we have to question what the “prize” for winning was. If we don’t go on with our lives and recover, we give the sociopath a real prize!
The fourth issue is trusting again. That will come with recovery, but perhaps the trust for others will always be different. I will say that evil people tend to capture our attention. Some studies show that the good has to outweigh the bad 4 times in order for good to capture as much attention as bad. Evil men are much more visible in society, so make it a point to focus your attention on the loving empathetic men you know. This is difficult for many women who are attracted to power because they do not find less powerful men very attractive.
I would rephrase, “The duplicity that men are capable is incredible and every man I meet gives me the creeps.” To the duplicity of every man I focus my attention on… I am working on a book, both discussing love and empathy in men and telling the stories of men who have been victimized by sociopathic women. I am doing this to help both men and women realize that loving behavior is the norm for men. We just attend to evil/powerful men more, the loving man goes unnoticed. He is invisible to us.
That gets me to recovery and some tough advice. Recovery takes a great deal of work and self discipline. In order to have the mental discipline you will need to stop reading the emails and move on, you have to work on your physical health. If you are out of shape, smoking and/or using alcohol, you may have great difficulty recovering. The part of the brain that is responsible for will power and impulse control is easily affected by poor health andxiety and lack of sleep. Start with a total health program. That program will go a long way toward lifting anxiety and depression. Keep a healthy diet and exercise every day. I would really like us to have a virtual exercise club and I put up Fit and Smart for that purpose. On that web site you will find a free program to help structure your exercise routine.
Fill your free time with activities that build you up mentally and spiritually. Build yourself up mentally by reading and perhaps taking a class. Build yourself up spiritually by volunteering or participating in a spiritual community. If you do all these things, you will have the health and strength to focus your attention where it needs to be. The writing of M. Louise Gallagher may be an inspiration to you. Sandra Brown, M.A. also has a recovery program for women.