Editor’s note: The Lovefraud reader who writes as “Glinda” sent the following letter. I’ll provide my thoughts at the end of her letter.
“NEVER Dating Again” — Punishment or Prudence?
I have most of my life back in order, post sociopath. Work is good; I have friends; I have hobbies; and my kids are well cared for and seem to be well-adjusted to our family routine. I also don’t worry and think about getting asked out much. I’m pretty sure I put a “nuh uh” sign out, in neon. I haven’t had any interest in dating—in fact, I’ve sworn off relationships in general. I’m not lonely. I’ve filled my life and don’t feel empty or sad. I have a terrible track record in picking men…and a worse record in the ones who have chosen me.
On the occasion I do go out, it’s the resident bar fly loser that comes to talk to me. I don’t even have to dress suggestively—I can wear a blouse I wore to the office and dress pants and be among women who are dressed “out on the prowl” and loser-boy finds ME. It seems safer not to date, obviously. Admittedly, ONCE in awhile, I think, “it would be nice to have someone in my life.” The feeling hasn’t been strong enough to act on it. The other day, I ordered a cheap wedding band looking ring to wear when I go out, in hopes that it will be a deterrent.
Recently I joined a hallway conversation at work with a couple of people I’ve known and worked with for years, and another guy I had seen around, but didn’t know. I interjected funny things into the conversation—my MO really—humor. I have a dry and sarcastic sense of humor without much fear of looking silly. I’m not terribly self-conscious these days. I don’t worry about men at the office being interested in me—I’m not looking and decent guys never ask. For the most part, it never crosses my mind. At home, I joke about now being A-sexual. “New” guy is laughing at my jokes and sending furtive glances my way. I notice, but don’t think much of it. I recently dropped some weight and I’m getting noticed again. I still have a ways to go, but he isn’t the first guy to give me a second look lately.
A day or so goes by, and I have a Facebook friend request from him. Hmm. I am friends with several folks from work. I think about it for a couple of days… I don’t know him that well. But, we don’t work on a project together and we’re not under the same leadership tree. I don’t do stupid, drunken antics and then also post the pics on FB. I don’t complain about work or other coworkers on FB either, decide it is “safe enough” to friend him.
Next day, he comments on something of mine. Hmm. That feeling that he liked what he saw/heard gets a little stronger … Maybe he just thinks I’m funny. I pawn it off on that.
Later, I get a FB msg. Hmm. Not entirely odd—I get frequent msgs on FB…but…? We chat on FB, back and forth, 2 or 3 msgs a day. Nothing overwhelming, very banal conversation. But the fact that it’s starting to build up makes me think. Makes me think what? I don’t know exactly. I respond to msgs, at my leisure, waiting and watching to see where this is headed — I‘m being “hit on!“ Ha ha! I’m not getting a creep vibe off of him— but I really don’t know him. I’m nervous, but also pleased.
A few more days of FB msgs, and him hinting around but not directly asking, he asks if I’ll go to lunch with him. RED ALERT!!! RED ALERT!!!! I am officially freaked out! WHY would he ask me out? Do I still have, “Easy Pickin’s” stamped on my forehead? Or is he genuinely interested…and HOW THE HECK DO *I* TELL THE DIFFERENCE?????????
I should probably state here that I don’t NOT want to go. I want to. That scares me as much as his asking. What happened to “no dating, ever?” It HAS been 4+ years, after all. Is it possible that I’m done “licking my wounds” and AM ready to move on … I just needed some sort of prompting? Or am I NUTS? I honestly do not know. Sigh.
I decide to accept the lunch invitation. What’s the worst that can happen, right? Hahahah—I know EXACTLY what the worst that can happen includes. I fret over my decision for a couple of days—trying to separate if I’m getting a bad vibe from him or if one of my baggage U-hauls has dumped the contents on my front lawn.
I have refreshed myself on the red flags on LoveFraud. I’ve reread Martha Stout’s “Rule of Threes.” So far, in our FB and emails, he doesn’t match up with any of those. He appears to have some qualities I prefer. Also, he’s employed, just bought a new car — so he should have some credit— and the car isn’t over the top. It’s in the range of what most of us buy in our salary range.
We’ve talked a few times at work and I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary—and believe me, I’m LOOKING for it. I’ve been looking for ANY indication that my bad man magnet is still operational…any excuse to nip this in the bud and go back to my comfort zone. I ask LOTS of questions…how else do you get to know someone but asking, right? I’ve asked him about things he likes and doesn’t like…without already having my likes and dislikes as ready answers. (I’m a little smarter than I used to be.) He gets a little tongue-tied when talking to me (a good sociopath never gets tongue tied). It’s kinda cute, really…as long as it’s sincere and not some new “game” he figured out.
SLOW SLOW SLOW. I’m in no hurry as this plays out. I’ve spent some time on the internet—yes, I Googled him. The alma mater he lists on his profile actual matches the hit I got for his graduation (with honors). He hasn’t mentioned it … it’s the only “hit” I got. We’ve talked on the phone a couple of times; it was nice. The more we talk, the more I feel a bit more at ease. Not glib. Not a braggart. Not pushy. (I HATE PUSHY!) Not exciting, and you know what I mean… just normal-ish.
I’m still suspicious… well, let’s call it cautious and reserved, shall we? I went to a male coworker (and friend) that I trust. We’ve worked together a long, long time—I could trust him with any secret. He also knows what I went through with the spath. I pulled him aside and asked him if I still had “Victim Here” written all over me, or if I was “dateable”? Seriously. *I* think I’ve changed. *I* think I’ve grown wiser. I LIKE to think that… but do we really know until we test that theory? After he rolled his eyes and I reminded him of where I’ve been, I got the “dateable” answer. Ha ha!
In addition to Googling him, I’ve tried to gain some insight on my conflicting thoughts. I’ve tried searching “Dating After Sociopath.” I got a whole lot of nothing. There are tons of sites that discuss escaping and recovering from a spath (which is good and unfortunately necessary)… but what about the next step? HOW does one take the next step without feeling crazy again?
It’s not just “Dating After Divorce.” I didn’t just “lose interest” or “grow apart” from my spouse…or even “just“ get dumped — I all but got my soul sucked out. In a couple of weeks, I lost my husband, my imaginary life, my home, and everything, EVERYTHING I thought I knew. He’d also been sexually abusing my child. For years…while every day telling me how much he loved me. For months, I kept discovering more and more betrayals and lies. How on God’s green earth do you EVER believe a SINGLE word again? How do you trust another’s motivation again? HOW? The vast majority of people in my life are those whom I’ve known for a decade…or 2 or 3. How do you “vet” a new person? And do I, or my kids, deserve my taking that risk? After everything that happened, everything I allowed to happen, by putting up with nonsense, shouldn’t I stay single/solo? Shouldn’t that be my punishment?
I’m still talking to “new” guy. If he is sincere…he’s probably feeling a bit perplexed. I answer many questions with a question and frequently give vague answers—I’m not drawing anyone a freaking roadmap to destroy my soul again. What he sees is probably my blowing hot and cold. A more accurate description would be just guarded and REALLY guarded.
Our lunch out is Tuesday. I’m not sure whether to say good luck to me…or him.
Donna Andersen replies
We are allowed to recover from the trauma of the sociopathic relationship. We are allowed to move on. In fact, if we don’t move on, if we don’t take our lives back, we are still in the trauma. It is healthy to put an end to it.
Recently a reporter was writing an article and sent out a query: “How do you know when to trust “your man”? I believe the answer is you can trust your man (or woman) when you can trust yourself.
Of course, that is exactly what Glinda is struggling with—as are many of us who had multiple run-ins with sociopaths and other bad actors. How do you know that you’re no longer sending out the “I’m a victim” vibes?
For Glinda, I believe the answer is in the beginning of her letter. She is basically at peace. Work, friends, hobbies and kids are all good. She’s not lonely, empty or sad. All of this means that she is not looking for fulfillment from outside of herself. She is balanced and centered, and this is the best place from which to start dating.
We get in trouble when we feel that we are not enough on our own, and we need another person in order for us to feel successful, validated or complete. It’s the desperation vibe, the neediness vibe, the incompleteness vibe, which attracts the predators. If we’re in a place where companionship would be a pleasant addition to our already reasonably okay lives, then we’re in a place where we can invite someone to join us.
This is really the biggest sign that we’re ready to move on. But here are a few other tips to keep in mind.
1. Know the warning signs of sociopathic behavior in dating situations. Keep in mind, however, that you may not see these behaviors right away. Sociopaths can successfully put on an act for quite a long time.
2. If you ever see a behavior that makes you respond, “Huh? What was that about?,” pay attention. It may be a sign that the mask has slipped, just enough for you to catch a glimpse of what is really there.
3. Check the person out. It is now commonplace for people to Google potential partners right away, so don’t feel like you’re out of line by doing it. In fact, Google creatively. Check out the person’s name, employment, and any background information that he or she offers you.
4. Do not allow most of your relationship to be email, text or even phone. Experts estimate that 65% to 90% of the meaning in communication comes from nonverbal cues. With email, text and phone, these cues are missing, so we don’t get the full range of human communications. So what do we do? We fill in the gaps with what we want to believe. We fall in love with our own fantasies.
5. Avoid long-distance relationships. You want to be able to get together with this person easily, and, if it works out, frequently. You want to be able to meet friends and family, see his or her workplace, and spend time together in a variety of environments. If you can’t conveniently drive to get together, the relationship is probably a bad idea.
6. Do not throw away a perception. If some behavior or statement strikes you as odd or troublesome, do not let the person talk you out of it or explain it away. Do not let the person gaslight you into believing it never happened.
7. Consider what your friends and family say. If people are telling you that the guy or gal is bad news, they have a bad feeling, or any other negative feedback, at least listen. You may even have to solicit their opinions. Often people have reservations, but they don’t want to spoil your happiness, so they don’t say anything. Give people an opportunity to speak. However, if you have bad vibes, and your friends and family say you should give the person a chance, trust yourself.
8. Go slow.
9. Trust your instincts. We all have an internal warning system. If your stomach goes in knots, the hair on the back of your neck rises, or you feel fear, listen to yourself. Many of us felt the warnings before we became involved with sociopaths—the feeling that something wasn’t right—but we didn’t pay attention. Your body will tell you when someone should be avoided.
10. The first person you go out with may not be the love of your life, and that’s okay. Sometimes people come into our lives to help us continue to heal. You may have a few interim involvements before you find a person who has the potential to be a permanent partner.
It is possible to recover, to heal, to fall in love again. And I can tell you, the love I have with my husband now is richer and more fulfilling than anything I experienced before the sociopath.
Glinda, it sounds to me like you’re in a good place and you can trust yourself. There are plenty of good, empathetic and loving people out there. Don’t feel like you need to know how it will all turn out before you start. Let everything evolve, and pay attention to what you experience, and what you feel, all along the way.