by Quinn Pierce
Some days, the sunlight seems just a little brighter than usual as I let its comforting rays blanket my skin with warmth. And for that moment, I can taste the precious peace I so desperately want to give permanent residence in my life.
Until, like a sudden rain cloud, a shadow creeps across my heart as a memory sparks to life. And, in an instant, I’m shifted off balance, struggling to maintain my footing, refusing to fall down.
Another day, it seems, on the path to recovery after sharing my life for so long with someone whose every emotion was a lie.
It’s an exhausting paradox for me. I would love nothing more than to erase him from my life entirely, but the reason he is still an invading presence coincides with my two greatest treasures in this world- both a result of this toxic relationship.
I’ve long since stopped berating myself for my choices, because I would not change any decision that gave me my children. However, this complicated connection often wreaks havoc on everyone I love the most.
I’ve spent years trying to create and maintain healthy boundaries with my ex-husband. It’s a daily task requiring me to stay on guard at all times. I have to carefully edit and dissect every email or text that I send him to make sure that I am not being too friendly, engaging him in any way, or inviting further interaction. I avoid all face-to-face interaction in order to prevent him from trying to intimidate or manipulate me.
This is quite draining, since it is an unnatural way of communicating with another human being. But, communication with a sociopath is not anything like communication with a normal person.
He will look for ‘hidden meanings’ that are not there, he will use words and phrases that push my emotional buttons, or he will talk in riddles that imply a message that he won’t ever say explicitly. This is his way of setting up a possible scenario where he can twist the truth, change his meaning, accuse, blame, ridicule, you name it.
This is a favorite game of his, and I sense the trap so often that I actually begin to feel paranoid, until I talk to a ‘normal’ person. It doesn’t take long to reinforce what a healthy relationship sounds and feels like. But, a sociopath has the uncanny ability to manipulate us into questioning the one thing that is the very essence of our survival: instinct.
For years, I ignored that little voice of reason that waved red flags in my face over and over. When I started to look back over certain events in my life, I realized that I hardly ever made a bad decision when I trusted my instinct. So, what is it about these individuals that we are willing to ignore our most basic component of being human, the one thing that has kept us alive and helped us survive as a species for thousands of years?
I can only speak from my own experience, but I tend to think my need for and belief in love’s strength overpowered everything else. I didn’t understand that love could be so easily professed by someone who had no ability to actually feel the emotion.
Learning To Heal Together
But, knowing and accepting the truth does not come without consequences. After my separation, I wasn’t sure if I was grieving over a love that never existed or the part of me that I misplaced along the way. And while I was trying to recover from these devastating effects, I had no idea how I was going to help my children do the same. For them, learning the truth about their father was a shattering of their very foundation. There are moments I wish I could just lie to them and say he can change and that his love is real. But, they have endured enough harm, and pretending he is something that he isn’t will only cause more trauma in their lives.
So, instead, I just hold them while they cry. I help them navigate around his lies and manipulation. I empower them with real love. I give them knowledge. I find them resources to help them on their journey of healing. And most important, I show them that it doesn’t count as falling if you get back up.