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LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: My sociopathic ex left me with only a bare grasp on reality

Editor’s Note: This letter was submitted to Lovefraud by a reader whom we’ll call “Dolina.”

The best way to deal with a sociopath is to avoid them altogether but that isn’t always possible and of course, you have to realise that is what he is before he takes your brain and turns it into a bouncy-ball. And that they’re not really as fun as the TV makes them look.

It might be you. It could be even now, you realise something is horribly wrong with your relationship but you can’t exactly think what it is. That even though he never outright says anything concrete, he has a way of showing you how useless, helpless, stupid and ugly you are. You’re lucky to have him, he knows that and makes sure that you do to. Even though there is nothing there that you can grasp and point and say… “But this.”

You could be looking for any reason to leave the relationship, hoping against hope that you catch him cheating so you have a legitimate reason to walk out on him and it will never cross your mind that you don’t need a reason. If you’re not happy you can leave him, and you don’t owe him any explanation even though he will insist you do. That person could be you. Once upon a time it was me.

He was all charm

At first, he was everything I could want. Polite, helped with the housework, didn’t have a job but was looking so hard I couldn’t fault him. He designed himself to be the man he thought I wanted and got it very right. The change was so gradual I couldn’t see it.

Slowly, less and less of the housework was done while I was at work. I would come home to: “I’m so tired from all the cleaning I’ve done today, do you think you could make dinner?” Even while I had been working all day, it wasn’t an unreasonable request. Soon it was “Do you mind doing the dishes, too?” and “I didn’t get to the hoovering today, what with there being so much else to do. Could you…?”

The sad thing is the person that drew me in wasn’t real. It was someone he pretended to be and I had to mourn the loss of someone who never existed.

Friends disappear

One of the first things he did was spread rumours about me to my friends and about my friends to me. So-and-so made a pass at him. Miss what’s-her-face was telling people I had herpes. Who’s-she-called laughed behind my back. And so on. All the while he was telling my friends similar things about me. It didn’t stop with friends, either.

My mother hated him and was trying to break us up, my sister also tried it on. It was awful that my family could treat me like that and maybe I should reduce contact with them, just to protect myself from their evil ways (that was actual wording… seriously). He went to great lengths to make sure I was completely alone. And now I have ‘ronery, I am so ronery’ stuck in my head. Thanks, brain.

Sometimes friends aren’t as good friends as you thought they were and sometimes a friend can be pushed too far. Mine got sick of telling me what he was doing and getting nothing but “He wouldn’t…” from me.

Is your friend really so jealous of you and him that she would make it up? Has she always been that poor a friend or has she always looked out for you? If your friend has been around longer than he has, for goodness sake listen to her. Don’t put love and lust above friendship. That is a good way to drive away the people who could have rescued you ’cause knights in shining armour are in short supply.

Manipulation

When he was young his family died and he was adopted. That I know to be true, his adopted parents confirmed it and I saw the paperwork. What I have come to doubt is that his adoptive parents abused him in horrible ways. I never questioned his allegations at the time, I mean, why would I? Who would make up something like that? He would. I had to make allowances for him. Sometimes he got angry and it was because of the abuse. The foul language that came my way would make a sailor wince. There were always apologies afterwards and promises that he loved me. So sincere that I knew without a shadow of doubt that he was trying hard to be better, that he truly regretted saying and doing those things. Every, Single, Time.

Every time a new apology with compliments on how amazing I was for putting up with it. The old charmer who caught my attention came back out to play as he applauded how well I dealt with his insanity in a way that no one else could. He told me over and over that I was special because I knew that those awful moments were not the ‘real him’ and I wasn’t easily scared off by them.

But I also needed to be more understanding of how he felt. I needed to show compassion. When he felt tired and couldn’t do his share of the housework I needed to step up and take care of him because he was depressed over his childhood and couldn’t help it. When we had a disagreement I needed to step back and stop making reasoned debate that he couldn’t counter. When I pointed out that we couldn’t spend seven times what I brought in I needed to realise he was damaged and needed me to make an exception for his behaviour and spending habits.

Another manipulator was the what I’ve come to think of as Topping. One time I dislocated a finger, which is more painful and a bit funnier than it sounds. It was nothing compared to the arm he broke in four places as a child. My father was a rather unpleasant fellow, which is when his abuse story was first told. I was bullied at school but he was bullied so badly he was hospitalised several times. You get the idea. I was never allowed to complain because compared to him, I had it easy. I couldn’t be allowed a day off to feel sorry for myself (we all do it, don’t lie) because he needed me to be strong so that he could take part in the pity-party.

Lastly was his unshakeable belief that he had a super-brain. It was quite frequent that he made claims to intelligence, with no proof of this, and that he was better than me because of that. While it wasn’t a manipulator on its own, coupled with manipulators and Gaslighting, it turned out to be fairly effective in decimating my confidence in my braining abilities.

Gaslighting

“You remember it wrong. You’re too sensitive. You’re too emotional. You’re overreacting. Stop being so defensive. It was a joke. I thought you had a sense of humour. Are you just trying to get me in trouble? You’re a drama queen, just chill out.” The implication with different varieties of the above is that ‘normal’ people would find his abnormal behaviour…. normal. That I was the one at fault, not he. It’s hard to explain how it can come about that anyone would fall for that.

Imagine living where friends were no longer around so there was no one who could say ‘that is wrong.’ That it had been happening for months and at some point you have to wonder why he would be so insistent that I was being too sensitive if there wasn’t at least a small grain of truth in there. Imagine being told that everything you remember, you’ve remembered wrong. And that he loves you, so he wouldn’t lie.

When he hit me hard enough to leave bruises and told me I was just too sensitive and was overreacting, I believed him. He made it seem as though other people wouldn’t worry about “Just a tiny bruise (the size of a tennis ball) that happened by accident while we were messing around.” Then he would get angry, accuse me of trying to call him an abuser and forbid any mention of said hitting again. “You promised you would let that go. Why do you always bring up the past like this?”

To this day I can’t find an answer on how to deal with Gaslighting. If it’s something that happens again, I don’t know how to protect myself from it. Probably with a less polite “Go forth and multiply.”

Financial Abuse 

He forged my signature, which can be proved so I am quite lucky there. But other times he just plain bullied me into signing loans I couldn’t repay or taking credit on items he would sell when he got bored with, but left me stressing over being taken to court when I couldn’t make repayments.

Because even though I worked, he kept hold of my bank card and he kept hold of any cash. According to him it was for my own good. He pointed out that I’m just a small girl and if I were to get mugged, we would have lost everything. No one would mug him, he was a big lad.

What with the Gaslighting, manipulators and his ample charm, I couldn’t argue and at first didn’t think anything of it until it came to paying for things.

It was humiliating asking him for money, never mind money that I had earned. Every time I wanted to pay a bill, buy some make-up (which later I stopped wearing because why would I wear make-up when I already had him, was I trying to attract other men?) or get some food, I had to ask him. And if he didn’t want, the answer was no.

I found out from my landlord he hadn’t paid the rent, the electric was cut off before I realised he hadn’t been paying them either and guess whose name they were in? He made sure that as much of the debt as possible was in my name, destroyed my credit rating, stole my pay and stole my savings. When it came to leaving him, I was in a very bad position. I’d lost my job, I had no savings and a mountain of debt I had no hope of repaying. It seemed my only chance was to stay with him and of course, that was the idea. I was dependent on him for money, even when the money was mine.

I was ready to leave the relationship a long time before I did. Money worries were a large factor in keeping me there.

No one understands and it wasn’t my fault

The self-doubts will never fade and the emotional scars are here to stay, though these days I have a clear head and I am now in a position to lead a happy life.

But to explain to my current partner why I let him get away with doing the things he did is impossible. I cannot get the concept across in a meaningful way. Even now, many people are likely wondering why I and others like me put up with it. The answer, however unsatisfying, is this:

He had me so twisted round, so upside-down and arse-backward, that I was incapable of thinking for myself. He had done so much damage to my head that I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t tell my elbow from Tuesday. Leaving him was miraculous because I was in no position to even think leaving him was something I had the option of doing.

That answer just doesn’t quite say what I mean. It doesn’t get across the sheer conflict of emotion, all bad, going through my warped brain. No answer will ever be enough to explain exactly what kind of state I was in, how I got there and why I didn’t know anything was wrong until it was too late.

I was lucky. I had friends who were patient and a family who understood. When I left him it was because of a friend, who though I don’t speak to these days, I am certain I owe my life to. It was him telling me “When you leave your partner, we should go get a drink,” that got me thinking about what kind of life I would have without the sociopath. This led me to thinking about the life I was presenting my child and THAT is what got me out of there. Leaving was only the start of the battle though. He didn’t take well to me clearing out and hounded me for months. I had to get the police involved. I was so badly damaged that if my mother hadn’t been there to pick up the pieces and forgive my sins, I shudder to think where I would be now.

It took a cancer diagnosis to clear out the cobwebs and pain that he caused, because there is nothing like “You have a disease that kills people” to put things in perspective. It emptied my head of everything but the cancer for a while, putting my broken brain in a position to start fresh and fix itself. Even so, six years later, I have only in the last few weeks come to the realisation that none of it was my fault. I was duped.

In retrospect

I used to look back and think “I could have done things differently.” I wondered why I had been so easy to lead down that dangerous path given that I had grown up with parents who had the exact same relationship. Everything he did to me, my father did to my mother. I had experience, I had seen it all before and I was convinced I should have known better.

There was no way I could know better, though. He wasn’t like that when I met him or I would never have stayed with him. He changed over a long time, a little at a time, twisted everything round and left me with nothing to hold on to and only a bare grasp on reality. I couldn’t have done anything differently because if I could have, I would have. I couldn’t have seen it coming because it was me he was fooling. I wasn’t watching it from the outside this time. It was never me, and it was never my fault.

 



3 Comments on "LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: My sociopathic ex left me with only a bare grasp on reality"

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  1. OpalRose says:

    Dear Dolina – what a great article – thank you so much. Your story is my story – right down to the details of how he manipulated me, talked to me, gaslighted me, isolated me from friends and family, never worked much, abused my finances and minimized his aberrant behavior. The brainwashing is just amazing and it happens exactly like you say – over time and not recognizable for what it is.

    I was treated the same way by my mother so it was all familiar to me. I had no idea I had a right to my own life. I am so glad you had anchors – your child and your mother to help you think straight enough to get away. I have a job which is my anchor. He has been so angry with me over the years for not quitting my job – I am lucky that my job requires a time-consuming out-processing to leave so I made it past all those impulsive days when he put the pressure on me and insulted my working life.

    I especially identify with his insisting that you minimize the physical abuse and his praising you for “forgiving so much” and “hanging tough.” My husband is the same say – I get big points for “overlooking” the shoving and shouting and shaking when that happens.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for saying you were duped and that there was nothing you really could have done differently given the reality and the brainwashing. Thank you for not blaming yourself. It validates my experiences and helps me to focus forward. Bless you !!



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  2. downwitfakerastas says:

    Im very interested in how they try to separate you from your friends and family. My recent break up with my spath, he was known for doing this to his other relationships. Thank God, it never got past a year relationship with us and my family lives in Ohio whom he never met. So my spath is Jamaican and met this older women at a resort. They got married and divorced 5 years later. He became friends with her older aunt and uncle who are retired and never had kids. He found a way to act like their son and to pin the aunt and uncle against his ex wife(their niece). He made it look like she was crazy, all the while he was cheating on her and the aunt and uncle took his side and to this day still don’t talk to their own niece. I tried very hard the other day to warn them of him, they are planning on giving him money for a down payment on a house. They also just bought him little comforts like gift cards and housewares, they live by a beach so when he visits he has a nice vacation place free of charge and they pay for dinners when he comes. The aunt, who I came to know a little, was very angry with what I was telling her(his multiple women and fiance of 3yrs that they never met), but I came to the realization that they were so manipulated that they were in denial. I told them about how his fiance of 3 years just called me. The aunt went on about not believing this other women, who is she, don’t trust everything she says, how could we stay with him with all these stories I was telling her-the lying, the aggressiveness, the verbal abuses, etc…I told her he had us manipulated too. I thank God for the fiance and that she called me. I had so much proof for the aunt but she still wanted to get his side of the story. I told her that it would all be lies.

    Even the fiance (she was able to get my phone # because she bought his phone and paid for everything, she of course took her stuff back from him)told me that our spath tried to pin her against her own mother. She called it the divide and conquer method. This is a great comparison, because he was great at doing this his lovers. He even did it with the fiances best friend, she found pictures of her best friend in the phone she took back and now she can’t reach her. Her best friend is probably still involved with him unfortunately and so are the aunt and uncle. I was so disappointed in the aunt, but I also know this is very popular for Jamaican’s to take advantage of AMerican tourists in this manner. The spath had so many ways of seeking money and me and the ex fiance even think his family back in Jamaica was in on it. The aunt and uncle also sent money to his family back in Jamaica and the ex fiance said he used to try to get money from her for his family back home. It is so convoluted and I just hope the aunt and uncle see how he divided and conquer method, but I don’t think they are unless they get their own 100% proof. I really tried and as someone who genuinely looks out for people, I am so sad by this cause I know they are getting taken advantage of.

    I had to tell the aunt many other things he did to me. She just kept saying why did you stay with him, this doesn’t make sense, he would never get violent. I had to tell her, I always felt something was off with your relationship with him and whenever we stayed at their vacation house, I always felt I was trying to show them his true colors and “out him” to them-I like subconsciously did this. But some stuff was personal and at first I didn’t try to get them involved. I told her to wait to confront him until I leave town for the summer because I don’t know what he will do, he already sent a threatening vm that I should not get them involved with his extra women affairs. The aunt was compliant with my wishes, but I just hope he doesn’t lie but we all know he will.

    It just goes to show that this divide and conquer method really helps the spath get what he wants. All my friends keep telling me to let the aunt and uncle go, let them deal with it, at this point I have to because it has only been a week and who knows when they confront him about him having a fiance they never met, and thought I was the only girl with him, how he will react. I think if they find the truth they will then realize that their niece was right all along about him cheating on her when they were married and that she wasn’t crazy. I pray for them



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  3. marygrace says:

    I could have written this letter, it sounds so much like my ex. The blaming his violent outbursts on his own childhood abuse, the praising me for being so kind and understanding. The parasitic lifestyle and financial abuse, leaving me $30k in debt. The gaslighting – you’re too sensitive, you’re the lazy one, why do you keep bringing up stuff that happened in the past.

    He also tried his hardest to isolate me from friends and family. He would get angry if I spent time with them and pick fights, so I just quit going to avoid the fights. He would take things people said or did and twist them into something else, and then get mad at me when I wouldn’t understand why he was so angry. I’m still ashamed that he all but flat out accused my uncle of having the potential to sexually abuse my child, and I didn’t stand up for my uncle because I was too afraid to speak up against him. That same uncle still was there for me when I finally got the courage to leave my ex, and has never held it against me, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shame of not speaking up for him.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I too don’t talk about the relationship with anybody because I have no idea how to explain it so they’ll understand. I feel like it’s my dirty little secret.



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