by Quinn Pierce
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of learning from our mistakes. It sounds simple enough. After all, it’s easy to look in the rear-view mirror and see exactly where we went wrong. Events always look so clear and uncomplicated when looking at them from a safe distance.
So, with a little self-reflection, we can identify those decisions that led us into unsafe territory and vow never to make them again.
But, this is where I run into a problem. I know which experiences I do not want to repeat, but the choices I made that led to those experiences are not as black and white as the experiences themselves.
For example, I chose to love someone and trust them to love me back. The problems arose because I chose someone who was incapable of love or trust, but, at the same time, that person was very good at pretending he could. I had no prior experiences to tell me that such people existed. Essentially, I was trusting in the goodness most people are born with, unaware my soon-to-be husband either wasn’t born with it, or lost it somewhere along the way.
I think this is why recovery from a sociopath is such a complicated road. Most of us did not make choices that need to be avoided throughout life, in fact, just the opposite. Love and trust are essential components of healthy relationships; we just chose people who are innately incapable of healthy relationships. That’s the part of the experience that needs to be avoided in the future, but it’s not quite so easy to detach those things from each other.
Discovering and Accepting the Truth
Once I knew my husband’s emotions were all a matter of convenience for him, I was angry, confused, frustrated, and sad. It’s taken me a long time to actually accept this as fact. I constantly held out a glimmer of hope that he was capable of, at least, compassion and understanding. If not for me, I wanted to believe this for my sons’ sake. But, it isn’t so. And the sooner I could accept this, the sooner I could move past all those emotions that were keeping me stuck and unable to break free of the relationship completely.
This was the most difficult step for me. I just couldn’t believe, despite what I had experienced, that another human being was incapable of loving his children. At least, not the way I understand love to be. He may feel obligation and some type of responsibility, but it’s only as much as he has figured out that society requires from him in order for him to be regarded as a ‘good father’. The reality is he sees them much more as objects that belong to him than the beautiful, loving, amazing boys that they are. And, again, that is reality, and pretending otherwise does not help any of us heal, it just prohibits any chance of moving forward.
Today, I’m much more aware of the dangers hiding within some people in this world. So much so that I wouldn’t even consider myself to be an overly cautious person, just more alert to the signs I now know to be the red flags of behaviors and personalities. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts and stand up for myself.
But as far as the choices I made so many years ago that led to a disastrous and regrettable relationship, I’m not so sure those are things I need to change. I would say, instead, that my healing requires that I continue to make those same choices again, but only with those who deserve such important parts of me.
If I were to never to love or trust anyone again because of my experience with a sociopath, that would be my most regrettable choice.