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How do I forgive myself for staying in this relationship?

Lovefraud recently received the following email:

I suspected that my ex boyfriend was a sociopath, but your website confirmed it. I always thought that sociopaths were murderers like Ted Bundy or Casey Anthony, but I realize now that the vast majority lead “normal” lives (whatever that means).

I’m a divorced mom with a precious little daughter. My ex boyfriend was the first man I dated after a long and abusive marriage to an alcoholic. I was with my ex boyfriend a little over 2 years, although he exhibited signs of sociopathic (or what I considered narcissistic) behavior, including chronic infidelity, pathological lying, a grandiose sense of self, a total lack of empathy (particularly towards his five children whom he rarely saw), a lack of responsibility, impulsivity, etc. You get the picture.

Fortunately, he didn’t bilk me out of money, but, unfortunately, he completely drained me emotionally to the point where I feel like I will never be able to find or love a truly good, healthy man. I am a strong woman, though, and I know this feeling will subside over time. 

After reading through your website, I’m 100% positive I will never see or speak to my ex boyfriend again.

The last time I saw him, he told me he was going on a secret mission trip and that he could not talk to me for at least two weeks, but that he would spend the holidays with me. I threw him out of my apartment that night, but I continued to email him while he was away on his important, “James Bond” business trip. To make a long story short, I found out that he was with another woman in a foreign country. I was not surprised by this discovery and, perhaps, it is a blessing in disguise that I found out. It strengthened my resolve to have no contact with him, as your website suggests.

My question to you is how do I forgive myself for staying in this relationship so long even though I routinely saw the signs of his sociopathic behavior? Most importantly, how do I forgive myself for putting my daughter in harm’s way by being with this creep? Finally, would it be best if I stayed away from dating for a period of time so that I can clear my brain of this whole ordeal?

I’ll address the reader’s questions one at a time.

How do I forgive myself?

We cannot blame ourselves for what we didn’t know. And all of us who have been targeted didn’t know about sociopaths, about what they really are and how they really behave.

Here’s what we all believed that is not true:

  • Everybody wants to be loved.
  • There is good in everyone.
  • Sociopaths are all deranged serial killers.

Here’s what none of us knew:

  • Some people pursue romantic relationships not for love, but for exploitation.
  • Sociopaths can look us right in the eye, tell us how much they love us, and be lying.
  • Sociopaths listen to us carefully not because they’re interested, but to figure out how to hook us.
  • There are people who have no inner core—they change their personalities to reflect what they perceive we want.
  • Sociopaths are motivated not by love, but by power and control.
  • Sociopaths hijack the human bonding process.

This last point is very important. Sociopaths deceive us into falling in love with them. As we fall in love, all of the biological processes that Nature created in order to ensure the survival of the human race kick in.

When we love someone, we form a psychological bond with the person, so that we feel a compulsion to be with him or her. This bond is linked to chemical and structural changes in the brain that are much like the changes associated with addiction. So we feel an irresistible pull to keep the relationship going. This is why we stay.

Here’s another thing we don’t know: Sociopaths do not form these psychological bonds the way the rest of us do. But they’re good at faking it. So while we are legitimately falling in love, they are pretending to fall in love, and they are fabulous actors.  In reality, they are only using us.

How do I forgive myself for putting my daughter in harm’s way?

You forgive yourself because of all the reasons stated above. But with your daughter, you take the next step. You teach her, in age-appropriate ways, that there are bad people in the world. There are people who lie, who cannot be trusted, and she must stay away from them.

You also teach her to trust her instincts. Our instincts will usually tell us when someone is bad news. But we’ve long been conditioned to override our gut feelings, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to wait for “proof” before ending a relationship.

Nature set up our biology to encourage us to stay with our partners. But Nature also set up our biology to warn us when predators approached. Make no mistake— a sociopath is a predator. So if someone makes us feel cautious, afraid or creeped out, we must honor that and run away.

Would it be best if I stayed away from dating?

Absolutely yes!!! You must give yourself time to heal.

Remember, sociopaths are experts at finding our vulnerabilities. If you are still feeling injured in any way because of your experience with the ex-boyfriend, you are a walking target for another sociopath. Many, many readers have told me that they escaped an abusive relationship, found someone who seemed to be the answer to their prayers, and the new lover turned out to be worse than the previous one.

You must make a decision to recover. Face what happened. Allow yourself to grieve and get the negative emotions out of your system. As you put your emotional and psychological health back together, eventually you’ll find a new relationship without even trying.

The answer is always within. Heal yourself, and the rest will fall into place.



35 Comments on "How do I forgive myself for staying in this relationship?"

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  1. Truthspeak says:

    HurtTerribly, I’m so sorry to read of your painful recovery and experiences. Without identifying my own shame-core, I probably would have ended my own life, at some point, and that is simply NOT an option.

    The shame is something that I’ve chosen to abandon, finally. Did I make bad choices and decisions? Heck, yeah, I did! But, I did NOT “deserve” to be swindled, defrauded, used, and left for dead. Nope, I did not deserve that. Today, I stare Ole Mr. Shame in the face and present my middle finger. That goes for his cousin, Mr. Blame, too. I don’t need anyone else’s approval or acceptance, anymore. If they don’t “get it” about what I experienced, then they can fugoff and be on their merry ways. I don’t (and, WON’T) waste my energy on anyone else’s perceptions. I require my own attention and my recovery is of the utmost priority.

    Yours is too, Terribly – time for a LF ID change, too. “TerrificallyRecovering” seems more appropriate, right? You’re precious and priceless in this vast Universe. Your experiences will not be what defines you. Your strength, reslilence, and courage will be what defines you.

    Brightest and most supportive blessings

  2. karleigh says:

    Great post Donna. You do so much for us people who have encountered a sociopath in our lives. I am 6 years past a 7 year relationship with one. It was a life-changing relationship. I didn’t change until I hurt so much that I had to. Now I never want to go back to that kind of relationship and I think I have the tools (gained through counseling, insight, and your blog,) to spot the wrong kind of person. My problem was I thought the whole world was made up of people who thought like I did. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Beware the exciting, fast-talking, over complimentary types and go for the ones who don’t make you cry and second-guess yourself over and over.

  3. HurtTerribly says:

    Thanks Truthspeak. Im glad you are all here, it does lift each of us up. I think TerrficallyRecovering sounds wonderful and true. Thats a good feeling in itself, I so appreciate the support, and am here to give anyone else a lift that needs it.

    Every day we walk the walk. Its so hard to fathom in the beginning that you are simply stringing one foot in front of the other, and then in time, you begin to see you followed the path to freedom.

    If I have nothing the rest of my life, I have my freedom, I will never be threatened, gaslighted, beaten, stolen from, again – and not on any level. I filed my divorce papers this week. It feels so good to reclaim all of me. But, it took a long, long time. I feel weather beaten, sort of like old rough leather inside, but leather softens and remains supple with proper care: light, love, and positivity.

    Thank you again.

  4. bluemosaic says:

    Hello to Donna Anderson,

    I am a fairly new user to L.F., and I am so grateful for this forum and all the unconditional love and kindness that I have found here. I want to thank you for giving us all a place to become aware of what has happened to us and how to heal. So much of what I have learned here has helped me formulate a plan of going forward…I have found a therapist, have a solid NC rule, I am journaling my angst, stopped talking about it to those I love n love me… but don’t understand, talk only with those that affirm my experience and are supportive of me, will not date and understand now why I am having such a hard time moving on and still missed my spath long past the point where it made sense to want and still love him. I know exactly how the woman above feels. I really felt brainwashed.

    I did not realize that my ex BF was possibly a spath until I found this site and began to read. He has fit the mo of a spath to a letter and I fit the mo of a fairly perfect victim. I was kind, caring, vulnerable, honest and generous with my time and love when I met him. Had the type of background that made me susceptible to his wiles and deceit.

    The period of time during which I made my first attempts to leave him, lasted over a month, and I felt like a pig-pong ball. He convinced me to stay at my first attempt, but the treatment became worse and the certainty that he was involved with other women became even more clear…as did his lack of real love for me.

    The lying never stopped. He told me he still loved me even after he had moved on completely with a new victim. I know that there were soooo many red flags and find it amazing that I stayed in this relationship as long as I did…tolerating so much , ignoring my instincts and allowing direspect on a level that shocks me when I think of it now.

    I know that I played a big part in this, not walking at the first or second flag that came, there were so many….I also know this is due to abuse in my background and a dearly departed Father who was most certainly a spath. I know that this lesson will teach me more about myself than spath’s…in the long run.

    I suspect I am a ways off from forgiving myself completely for what I took into my life and heart, but what I am grateful to you and the users on this site for is the kind way that you lay the responsibility at the Spath’s feet and not mine. I have had well meaning freinds tell me “you did this to yourself”…that made me feel spiritually canniballistic. I totally believed them too b/c I see their point….I opened up my life to a sick person, and said , “come on in !”

    But the truth is that he was sooo manipulative and poured a hypnotic like affection and flattery into me , saturating me with what I thought was love. Thx for helping give me some peace to validate that I am not responsible for a predator seeking me out and systematically decieving me, devalueing me and using me like a toy.

    Love and light to you for what you have given us all …a safe to get concious and to heal.

    Bluemosaic

  5. Truthspeak says:

    Bluemosaic, it takes time to get to specific milestones on our individual Healing Paths. Time, patience, hard work, personal epiphanies, and a great deal of “acceptance.” So, as you move forward on your own Healing Path, be kind to yourself – give yourself the kindness that you are worthy and deserving of.

    Brightest blessings

  6. bluemosaic says:

    Truthspeak, Thx for the reminder to be kind to myself. I do fear the size of the mountain of healing that I now see I face. I so wish I had never met this man…but as I have read here, it will make me wiser…someday, and more whole and in the know of what a spath is so I never do this again. I am also grateful he did not marry me…(turned out to be the only nice thing he ever did for me)….though he withheld marriage only b/c I had nothing left to give him, that he wanted. I thank God for his rejection.

    Bluemosaic

  7. Truthspeak says:

    Bluemosaic, the saying goes like this: if wishes were fishes, nobody would go hungry. My personal belief is that I had to experience what I did in order to address some very serious issues. No…..oh, HELL no……I did not “like” any aspect of the experiences. But, they happened, I am working on recovering, and I’m actually grateful for the lessons, though they were dearly bought.

    The “mountain” of healing can be overwhelming if we view it in its entirety. Sure, it’s a tremendous climb! But, if we set up base camps, we move from one milestone to the next without staring up at the summit and causing ourselves to feel discouraged. Each milestone is its OWN summit.

    So, yes……you are deserving and worthy of self-kindness and self-love. And, “self-love” is NOT the kind that we were led to believe that it was: vanity, arrogance, etc. Self-love is unconditional and each of us is worthy and deserving of this.

    Brightest blessings

  8. strongawoman says:

    One day at a time, Bluemosaic. Small steps, one foot in front of the other to begin with. Healing takes time and patience. You will get there.

    I don’t berate myself any more and although being grateful for the exp would be an exaggeration, I don’t regret it. I have learnt so much about myself. I’m so much happier in my own skin these days. I don’t need a man to complete me.
    I was so desperate for love, I virtually threw myself at him.

    Keep going Blue. Stay strong

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