If you’ve been romanced by a sociopath, you know how remarkable it can be. In the first moments—the courting phase. In the time when you felt more desirable and more perfectly matched than ever before in your life.
The time you fell in love.
I wrote about my own sociopathic romance in The Other Side of Charm. And it was really hard for me after fifteen years of bad to go back to the good. It was more than hard. I cried a lot while writing about my early days with my ex, holing myself up in my house during any spare moment to write and to cry into the loneliness.
And even though I’ve written it all out by now, I still cry if I talk about it. If someone asks what it was like. I cry because it was a captivating experience.
It was my biggest young experience of love.
And it was meaningless.
Yes, that makes me cry.
Because my heart was captivated by a disguise. Everything I was wholeheartedly believing and investing myself in was a big, empty sham. My experience of feeling loved didn’t come from someone who felt it. And long after he took off his mask, I kept myself believing that it was who he truly was.
That need to believe did a lot of damage.
But it still happens to me today.
It happens by accident. It happens all the time. Because I still have to see him regularly—we have children together. And even though he’s trying hard behind the scenes to devastate me for going on two decades now, he’s smart enough to behave well in public. Which sometimes makes me question myself.
Today, for example. I’m standing at a track meet, filming and shooting photos of my son’s jumps. My ex walks up beside me and asks how he’s doing. He comes in close beside me to look at my phone. I respond pleasantly and show him the video because I can see our son watching us and he really wants us to get along. So I smile and share photos and then find myself instantly jumping to the idea that maybe we actually could get along. Because in that moment, we’re getting along. And I make it bigger than it really is because I need to believe that there’s hope for peace.
Back to reality.
The reality is that I received multiple angry emails from Mr. Getalong earlier in the day that were both degrading and untrue, and I also had a call from my attorney this afternoon about an email he received from my ex. In it, my ex claimed that I was interfering with his custody case because I wouldn’t communicate with the psychologist who’s doing our assessments. Truth be told, I’ve called the psychologist six times and can trace it on my records. And he’s the one who hasn’t called—the psychologist complained about it himself.
Back to reality, again.
This game of “I’ll accuse you of what I’m doing” is common among sociopaths, but it still catches me off guard at times. I have to remind myself not to get caught up in his stories even more often than I have to remind myself not to believe that he can be decent to me just because he’s acting like it for a moment.
Someone recently described it to me as being like a cobweb. That when you’re regularly dealing with another person’s mental illness or personality disorder, their condition can be webby. It can stick to you. Imagine walking through a cobweb and then trying to get it all off, right down to the last strand.
It’s hard to do.
It’s hard to get the cobwebs off.
It’s hard to stay on the outside of their chaos.
It’s hard to give up the dream.
It’s hard to believe that a person is dangerous if they’re talking about family life while hugging people and laughing a good, deep laugh.
It’s hard to understand how a person could be warm and nice to you while taking everything you have.
It’s hard to admit that it feels shameful and lonely to realize you weren’t actually loved when you thought you felt it.
Because we want to be loved, not duped.
We want to be wanted for who we are.
Or at the very least, we want to get along. To believe that tomorrow can be better.
That the attacks can and will end. We want to believe they’ll end.
And that’s a beautifully human thing—a critical survival skill.
But on the flip side, it can make it hard to let go of the dream.
To think about how all this may fit into your own life, I challenge you to consider how believing in goodness (sometimes against all evidence) can be both a positive strength and a self-defeating weakness. When is it a strength for you? When does it hold you back? And do you see any patterns?
If you’re dealing with a sociopath, clear vision can easily be clouded. How to you keep things in focus? Do you have strong skills in this area, or do you need more support?
More than anything, I challenge you to live your own safe life. Free from sociopathy and filled with your own real dreams.