by Quinn Pierce
The other day, in one of my counseling sessions, I was recounting a story about some family members who still interact with my ex-husband, despite my requests that they respect me enough to not have any contact with him.
I was no longer angry or annoyed by their behavior, I had since realized it is much easier if I lower my expectations for some people in my life and distance myself from others. But, I was curious about their inability to stop contact with my ex-husband even after knowing everything he has done to my family.
The Inexplicable Bond
It led me to wonder: Why is it so difficult to detach from a sociopath?
It seems as though it makes no difference if some people know the truth about what damage a sociopath has caused, they are still eager to maintain some kind of connection. At first, this was very hurtful for me, but over time, I’ve come to accept that I can’t be responsible for other people’s decisions, and I cannot take their actions as a personal attack.
For one thing, a sociopath, such as my ex-husband, can form strong bonds with those just outside their inner circle by presenting themselves as a respectable, caring, even adoring and genuine person. This was what people around us believed for many years. When we divorced, it was just too inconceivable for some of my family and friends to accept that the person they knew was actually a monster.
It would mean questioning their own ability to see past someone else’s polished exterior. Not many people are willing to admit they had such a huge lapse in judgment. I actually understand this to an extent, because I know how foolish I felt after learning the truth about the man I had married- and stayed married to for over fifteen years.
Denial: The Easier Choice
Also, it’s easy for sociopaths to ‘shine their light’ on people they don’t see all that often, and that is an addicting quality of a sociopath. If my ex-husband wants to put someone on a pedestal, he will figure out just what that person’s greatest emotional need is and then exploit it in a manipulative way that makes him look like a hero.
For those of us in an intimate relationship with such a person, that trait is what we hold out for as we wade through the sea of negativity that surrounds the remainder of the relationship. It’s like a drug, but only enough to keep you addicted.
My family members may actually prefer to believe he is the person they want him to be, because it is much more comfortable than giving up that praise and having to deal with my much less enjoyable reality.
Responding To Other People’s Pain
The final reason I came up with (and I’m sure there are many more) is that those of us who are not sociopaths have emotions such as compassion and empathy and we are capable of feeling bad for people who appear to be hurting.
My ex-husband still cries regularly when he wants sympathy for not seeing his sons as much as he thinks he should. Others don’t realize it has nothing to do with a father’s love for his children and everything to do with the type of father he wants to portray himself to be to the outside world.
I can honestly say that I am guilty of this, as well. Just after my separation, I agreed to allow my ex-husband to visit my boys every day after work. I pushed aside my anger, fear, and resentment, because I still believed there was an intrinsic love that all fathers must have for their children that was instinctual, if nothing else.
I later learned that he was more interested in checking on me every day, making sure I wasn’t involved with another man, and making sure I wasn’t poisoning my children against him than he was in spending time with his children.
The visits soon tapered off, leaving my children wondering why their dad didn’t come by to see them anymore. I’m sure I made up yet another excuse to soften the blow from his apathy.
Detaching from a sociopath is definitely a complicated, messy, and unnatural process. In a sense, we have to accept that there is a population of humans who lack humanity. It is a frightening realization and an even more frightening reality.
Who wants to walk around knowing there are people walking by them right at that moment who have no empathy, shallow emotions, and use manipulation and abuse as a means of controlling those they proclaim to love?
So, I can understand, to an extent, why some people in my life refuse to accept these facts for what they are. As I said, I cannot be responsible for their decisions. I can, however, be responsible for mine. As difficult as it is, I choose to keep a more superficial and distanced relationship with those I was once close with, simply because I cannot allow myself to be around unsupportive and unhealthy people.
No More Excuses
I spent half of my life making excuses for someone who was going out of his way to be hurtful and deceptive. In order to be healthy, I have to honor myself, and that means not making excuses for anyone else, even if it means grieving the loss of a once close relationship with a friend or relative.
I would rather lose a friend or two than the parts of me that I worked so hard to recover.