Editor’s Note: This article was written by the Lovefraud reader who posts as “Snow White.” She previously wrote “He is not Prince Charming, and you are not Snow White.“
After months of pursuit and ultimate seduction by a psychopath, which eventually lead to an affair with this man, I can now honestly see that I am making my way down the road to recovery. When I first started to open my eyes and began noticing red flags in the psychopath’s behavior, coupled with the deep sadness I was experiencing about ending my marriage, I took the first gigantic step of actually listening to MY feelings. Even though the love bombing was so intense and the psychopathic bond well established to the point that I completely believed his declarations: “We are destined to be together. You are my future wife. We are soul mates. You must leave your husband”…well you all know the routine…. my gut instincts persisted, increasingly telling me to get out.
Although I didn’t know if our marriage could be saved at that point, I did know that I could not end my marriage because someone was telling me to do it. If my marriage is to end, it will be because he and/or I decide we cannot be married, not because someone else is pressuring me to do it. The control he had over me was so powerful that it rendered me helpless in thinking for myself—that is until I woke up and saw through his hollow eyes, the soulless person he is, the strange behavior, manipulation, and lies. Reflecting on the last five months of recovery, a pattern in the healing process has emerged, which I’d like to share.
First few weeks
The best way I can describe the recovery process so far is to separate it into months. During the first few weeks, I was in emotional turmoil. My weight was at an all-time low. I was so confused as to “what” he is, what had happened to me, who I had become, and if my marriage would survive. After much prayer, the first step I took was to refuse to see him and ended the relationship. But I needed answers. I contacted the psychopath’s ex-girlfriend. She was the one who educated me on his personality disorder. I had no idea what psychopathy was and began researching it. Over the next month, I read everything I could get my hands on such as the Love Fraud site and books. Claudia Moscovici’s work, Dangerous Liaisons, profoundly described what I experienced. Additionally, Red Flags of Love Fraud precisely delineated the process of the relationship and his characteristics. He exhibited all the traits except for defrauding me out of money.
I started simultaneously educating myself and working with a marriage counselor. Although I sought help from a counselor before my affair became physical, I was too far gone to stop it. In retrospect, I can see how the luring and honeymoon phases played out. He innately moved me through the process. While in the midst of it, I did see that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal and continued to see a counselor. However, either I wasn’t accurately articulating what was happening, or the counselor wasn’t schooled in psychopathy, or I was already too emotionally controlled to really hear her advice. When I learned I had been involved with a psychopath, I told her about the books I read, but she was not interested in reading them. Even though she wasn’t able to point out the possibility that I was dealing with an emotional predator, I do credit this counselor with helping to save my marriage. Fortunately, the marriage counselor we are working with was open to reading the books and resources I listed above to better understand what I had experienced. Never having sought therapy before, I now know that it is a process, and there isn’t a quick fix. It simply takes time.
Month 2 — cognitive dissonance
During the second month, I continued reading and posting on blogs. On one site, I met a woman from the UK who experienced exactly what I did and was much further along in the recovery process. She spoke with me about her experience and provided so much support. I also began phone counseling sessions. Within the first five minutes of our session, I realized I had finally found someone who could explain what I was experiencing psychologically. There was a name for it—Cognitive Dissonance—and it doesn’t happen when normal relationships end. There would be no closure from him. He is simply not capable. I have to come to terms with it and create my own closure. Most importantly, I must know and feel that what we had and who he presented himself to be is not real.
Month 3 — learning about me
While the first two months were spent on learning about psychopathy, by the third month my focus shifted to healing. I continued to read, but whereas before I gravitated toward reading about HIM, now I started reading about ME. Some might say it is unhealthy to continue researching, but I find that the more I educate myself, the more empowered I become. I also continued working with my counselor. Her goal for me is to eliminate any doubts about whom I was dealing with so that I could develop a clear picture of the dangerousness of this man. She had me complete a checklist of his behaviors. One would think that even after seeing it all in black and white and living it, there would be no doubt—not so simple. Cognitive dissonance is a tricky thing.
Month 4 — feeling peace
By the end of month four, moments of feeling at peace within myself and my marriage are more frequent. I learned that I must practice mindfulness, or living in the moment. Focusing on the past leads to depression. Focusing on the future generates anxiety. Being present is the path to peacefulness. Learning to live in the present is a gradual process for me. Like learning to play a sport or an instrument, I must practice it. The moments of mindfulness are becoming more frequent. This is what it looks like: When I’m out with friends and it hits me, I look around and say to myself, “Wow! Look at me. I’m actually having fun surrounded by people who really care about me. I am not tied to my phone having to answer his incessant texts anymore.“ I started noticing myself enjoying the moment. For me, the moments of “noticing” my enjoyment with my husband, children, and friends is practicing mindfulness.
The intrusive thoughts have not entirely ended. I still have nightmares about how I drank the Kool Aid and was so brainwashed and manipulated by some manufactured, fraudulent fairy tale. However, they are lessening. While watching July 4th fireworks on the dock overlooking the lake near our home I felt at peace, truly living in the moment. Last year on the fourth, the love bombs were exploding, I was being held captive by his texts, and the emotional control was well underway. This fourth, I said to myself, “Look at me. I actually feel peaceful and am enjoying the evening with my husband. I am at a good place. I’m free!” I don’t know why I have these internal conversations with myself, but they help.
The night before the fourth as I was lying in bed, I actually said to myself as I felt the breeze blew across the room, I’m ready to let this go. I asked the wind to take the intrusive thoughts of him and our relationship and blow them out of my mind and life. They say that psychopaths intuitively know when you are letting go. If that’s true, I’ll never know for sure, but that fourth of July, just as the fireworks were about to start, I received a friend request on my phone. It was from a man I do not know. I hit ignore. Half an hour later, I receive another request. The next day, I received a third friend request. The first two may have been a coincidence, but the third??? So I looked at his page, which was public. I know that looking at the page could be considered breaking No Contact. I got weak. I looked.
It was a fake page. The photo of the man was taken off the Internet. There is a website where you can match photos to photos posted on the internet, called Tineye.com I was able to identify that a fake persona was created using someone else’s photo. Other signs of a fake page I noticed were that he only had one friend, a Russian woman, sketchy biographical information, and the time of the postings corresponded within minutes of the time the friend requests were sent to me. The most disturbing parts of the page were the postings that directly related to our relationship. Two that smacked of misogyny and the other two were pity play tactics.
Fright was my first reaction to the FB postings, and I thought about deleting my Facebook page. Doing that would disconnect me from my family and friends. I refuse to live in fear. I learned how to lock down my page further so it is not searchable to strangers. I blocked him and will block any strangers who send friend requests. Should it happen again, I must simply click ignore and NOT look at the page or risk staying embroiled in his sick mind games. This was a minor setback for me, bringing more intrusive thoughts and nightmares. When the experts say maintain No Contac … they say it because they know that it is essential to our recovery.
Process of recovery
While I am not proud that I allowed myself to succumb to his pressure, cross boundaries I never imagined I would, and hurt the person who has always been there for me, my husband, I am committed to doing to the hard work necessary to getting back to the person I was before my involvement with the psychopath. The process of recovery involves:
- Awakening to the dangerousness of the person and his pathology and ending the relationship
- Educating yourself on psychopathy
- Leaving no stone unturned in your quest for knowledge
- Reaching out and seeking help from people who “know”
- Working with a trained counselor to learn the strategies to break free of the memories of the idealization phase
- Rebuilding the relationships in your life that matter, and
- Living an honest, healthy lifestyle.
Most importantly, it is not enough to just “know” what he is. The knowledge I’ve obtained about psychopathy and my feelings must be in synch, and therein lies the work to be done. Periodically, the cognitive dissonance surfaces, and when it does, I take some time to keep myself in check by reading from the Love Fraud articles or Claudia’s blog. Slowly my outgoing, energetic spirit is returning, and I am rebuilding the bond with my husband. Thanks to the work of Donna, Claudia and others, my questions have been answered. I must now use the strategies I’ve learned to continue moving forward.