Recovering from Relationship with Sociopath


It's coming up on a year since my ex-fiancé dropped an emotional bomb on me and left me out of the blue. No arguments, no issues that I was aware of. One day he calmly approached me and basically told me that he's been unhappy for months, it's been fun, he doesn't want to be in a monogamous relationship anymore, he wants a poly, he doesn't want to share his space with anyone,, I'm not his type, and he wants to be in a different type of relationship (bdsm-type. it turns out he was a Dom before we met). Then he took some clothes and left. This was after knowing each other for over ten years, living together for around six years, and engaged for two years. He's in his early 50s with failing health. I'm in my late 40s, divorced from a covert narcissist/borderline, single mom of 2. I was diagnosed with PTSD around eight years ago now and have been seeing a trauma therapist on a regular basis. What he did caused the worst trigger of my life and it almost killed me. The flashbacks and nightmares have been horrendous ever since. I'm basically reliving trauma from my entire life and it hasn't been easy by any means. I'm now seeing a psychiatrist for additional help, increased my trauma therapy appointments, and am going to group therapy twice a week. All in addition to raising two kids by myself (ex husband lives out of state), helping my aging mother nearby, working full time, and regular adulting. Late last year, he ended up triggering me on purpose one day (it's a long story) and I'm certain it was on purpose. I asked a mutual friend whom I've known for over ten years and she agreed he did it on purpose. He knew about all of my trauma from my life and all of my triggers that I knew about. I had trusted him with this about me for ten years. He never gave me reason to not trust him. When he did that, it caused one of the other worst triggers of my life. I went into a rage that I've never felt in my entire life. What happened and what I said is still a blur and fuzzy but I'm sure it wasn't good. It set off a chain reaction of events that were well, horrendous. No one got hurt except for me psychologically and emotionally. I'm still dealing with the fallout from it. Normally when I get triggered, I cry and sob and end up doing self harm. I've never flown into a rage especially like this. It was horrific. It's why I started seeing a psychiatrist for more help.

My therapist believes he's a sociopath after talking about the red flags I am now seeing. After reading "The Sociopath Next Door", I agree with her. It's very disturbing and eerie just how fitting it is with him. What it comes down to, is that even after knowing me all those years, he calmly and ruthlessly used my trauma against me. I've seen him treat other people basically like animals. I remember him even telling me that for him it's like smacking a dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper to get them to do what he wants them to do. I never thought he would do that to me and was I so very wrong. After I flew into that rage, he got a temp restraining order against me which is another huge trigger for me (fear of authority figures anyone?). I ended up hiring a fantastic attorney who helped tremendously. It was extended for a year temporarily and will be dismissed after that as long as nothing happens. Knowing what I know now about sociopaths and what he did to me, I have no problem cutting him completely from my life. 100% no contact in any way, shape or form. I never want to see or hear from him again. I felt and still feel betrayed and abandoned. I know that's also from my past trauma and am still working on all of that. It's really hard to distinguish it all as it seems to blur together most days.

Having said all of that, I'm still struggling with occasional bouts of anger that I am working on so it doesn't turn into rage again. It's been really difficult. It's like the "last straw" in a lifetime of abuse. It's like they all got away with abusing me and so did he. What he did, almost killed me and I don't know if I can ever "forgive" him for any of it. There is no legal recourse. There is nothing that can change what happened. I know I'm supposed to let go and move on but it's so very difficult. I know sociopaths have no conscience, remorse, guilt, are good actors/manipulators, and so on. I can see the examples over the years so much more clearly now with all the distance. The way he treated people was so cold and ruthless. I think I just didn't want to see it because he was so "good" to me. Considering all the abuse I endured over my life, I was starved for affection and was pretty vulnerable. He knew how to create a "soul mate" connection that wasn't real. I can see it now. He didn't have any close friends. He didn't do anything outside of work or the house. He drove fast and recklessly. He was (and probably still is) in serious debt. He's told me that the only thing keeping him from "taking out" certain people were the legal consequences. Otherwise, he wouldn't hesitate. I believe him. He's been married twice before. He left both of them the same way, suddenly and with no warning. He made it sound like he was a victim and I had felt so sorry for him. But now I know better. As soon as he stopped paying support to his last ex wife, he was gone. It was like he didn't understand why I was so upset. He said he "imagined it was difficult not seeing or talking to someone I had lived with and shared my life with for the last six years or so". He felt so cold and callous. Nothing like the person I thought I fell in love with. It's also like he's been self destructing. His health is so bad, it's likely he won't live much longer. He may have a few years left. I was there when he had his last heart attack. I spoke with the cardiologist who told me 2/3 of his heart is dead. That if I hadn't taken him to the hospital, he would have died. His organs were even failing. He has more health issues and it's not helping that he started smoking again once he left me. He's also "shacking up" with some female (I don't have any nice words for her) that seems to be at least 20 years older than him and she is really mean and nasty. So I'm guessing she's easily controlled and manipulated, like what he did to me when we first got together.

I don't feel any shame or embarrassment for being played like that. My therapist didn't even see it all these years and she's met him several times. No one else saw it and were completely shocked when I told them. Thankfully they believe me and have been tremendously supportive except for one person. That's a long story and she's no longer in my life. She was not a friend. Friends don't threaten legal action on you out of the blue when you've tried to contact them. Decent people don't write that "this is your final warning" when that's the only time you heard from them. There was no other messages or "warnings". I didn't see that one coming either. Nothing like feeling betrayed by a so-called friend on top of everything else.

I guess it will just take time, therapy, and more hard work to move past all of this. I can't find the right words to describe just how difficult all of this has been and how angry I feel at times. For awhile there, I started to wonder if I was turning into something like him or worse (per my therapist). I had many horrific thoughts around how I would physically hurt him and kill him in the worst ways I could imagine. I know I won't do any of that and I have to be careful to redirect my thoughts when it happens. I'm having to deal with a life time of trauma blurred together which can mess with my reality at times. Hence the increased therapy sessions, psychiatrist sessions, support group, people I can call when I need to. Even with all of that, I'm still struggling and I hate it. I hate that he did this to me and for what? Because he could? Because he was bored? It feels infuriating at times. One moment at a time perhaps. Trying to process the emotions without becoming them. Working on acceptance and letting go (it happened, there's nothing that can change it), and not ruminating. Lots of reading, journaling, talking, walking, self care, and so on. It's so hard to find or make time for this when I have a full time job and kids to raise. There are days when I feel so strongly that I "need" to find him and "destroy" him for what he did. That's when I usually call someone and it helps quite a bit. So far so good. Maybe I just needed to vent some. I don't know anymore. Sometimes it feels hopeless and that I'll never get past this mess. He left me with a huge mess to clean up emotionally, psychologically, and with normal every day type of stuff, like the pipes backing up and the toilets over flowing and the yard work and shoveling snow and so on. I'm the one who has to deal with the large house we rented and all the paperwork and such that I need to do to move out because living here keeps triggering me. He has a tiny apartment and no other commitments other than work and whoever he's "living" with. At least he's not my problem anymore. It still feels aggravating that I'm the one left behind with the mess and he gets away with it all.
It feels like he got away with unleashing all this trauma on me at once. I was slowly and safely working on my past trauma with my therapist and then "boom" it (all of my trauma) seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. The flashbacks felt so intense and excruciating at times that I almost killed myself a few times. I'm not angry that he left. It was the way he left. I know our triggers are our responsibility. It's all really hard sometimes trying to get to a place where I don't react when someone (like him) triggers me whether on purpose or not. Back then I never thought he would trigger me on purpose and use my trauma against me. I was so very wrong and I get angry about it all at times. I guess under that anger and rage is probably a lot of underlying pain, grief, and such the he did such a thing and I couldn't stop myself from reacting so badly. Probably related to my feeling abandoned when my father killed himself when I was a teenager. I've been reliving a lot of grief and pain from that period of my life. It was one of the worst experiences for me and I feel that I'm being forced to relive it and it makes me angry. I get angry that I didn't get any warning. Everything seemed fine. Maybe that's part of my hypervigilance. I'm not sure anymore. I noticed he had been becoming more distant. So I would occasionally ask him if everything was fine and he told me it was. He said he had a friend going through some stuff and he was helping them with it. I believed him and left it alone. I second guessed my gut instinct that something wasn't right which makes me feel angry now at times too.
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I also feel angry at times that I'm the one dealing with all of the house stuff and expenses. He is on the lease as well and doesn't have to pay for any house expenses or maintenance. He doesn't have to deal with the paperwork from not renewing the lease or making sure the place is clean when I move or mowing the lawn and stuff like that. I'm the one who had to deal with the pipes backing up and stuff like that. The responsibility of it all falls on me and not him. There are no tangible consequences for him leaving like he did. I'm in the process of trying to remove him from the lease and it's a pain. I've had to get my attorney involved. I'm trying to deal with the stress as best as I can and sometimes I just get angry about it all. He was my rock, my support and he just left it all to me with no warning.

It's not like I trusted him over night either. It took a few years for me to let him in and for me to actually trust him. I felt I could tell him things I had never told anyone before and he didn't seem to judge me for any of it. I felt heard and seen for the first time in my life. He became my best friend whom I could talk to about anything. I felt safe. And then to learn that it was all very likely a lie? I don't have words for that.
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After my father killed himself, I ended up working two jobs while going to high school and taking care of my mother and older brother. I'm the one who had to call and tell my older sister what happened. Months later I ended up dating for the first time which was really bad, in hindsight. That person was only a couple of years older than me. He ended up forcing me into a bdsm-type of thing for a couple of years. It really messed me up. In talking to my therapist about it, I now know what he did to me was abuse and assault. It wasn't consensual by any means. He used fear and manipulation to control me at a time when I was vulnerable.

Fast forward to last year. I went over to my ex fiancé's place to exchange spare car keys. It seemed like a good idea at the time. That's when she answered the door wearing nothing but the bathrobe I bought him and a collar. She was the same height as the person from my teen years with the same hair color and same eye color. What are the odds? I never saw that coming at that time. It never occurred to me which now I know is because I wasn't in my right mind at all. And it didn't go well (understatement of the century). He knew the story of what had happened to me back when I was a teen. I remember talking about it quite a bit some time ago with him because I was trying to make sense of it. So for him to do that on purpose knowing that story. The anger and rage I've had since that day have been hard to deal with at times. It's another huge trigger with intense and horrible flashbacks that I'm still dealing with. Sometimes it feels like I'm being kicked and beaten with a sledgehammer when I'm already down and bleeding out from the last ones. And then to be served with a temporary restraining order as a result. That made me even more angry and I'm not sure why. I know logically it's a consequence from what I did when triggered so badly. I'm not condoning what I did as a result. It feels like insult to injury on top of more and more trauma. I'm not even sure what to call it. Is that what it's like when you've reached your limit and snap? Stalking and making death threats was so very unlike me, to say the least. I'm usually the calm and responsible level headed one, the voice of reason, the "are you really sure that's a good idea?" person. I've never lost it especially to that extreme.
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It feels like he got away with unleashing all this trauma on me at once. I was slowly and safely working on my past trauma with my therapist and then "boom" it (all of my trauma) seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. The flashbacks felt so intense and excruciating at times that I almost killed myself a few times. I'm not angry that he left. It was the way he left. I know our triggers are our responsibility.
That avoidance symptom is a sonnuvabitch, ain’t it?

It’s sooooo easy to focus all the rage and …everything… years & years of trauma exploding outward, neatly sidestepped (not really) by hyperfocusing on the thing that’s easy to think at, rage at, lock onto.

Over the time that you’ve been processing Pandora’s box getting kicked wide open, again? It seems like every few months or so your brain is desperately attempting to find a new “handle” / way to hold onto him as the target.

That’s potentially very good news, in a few of ways, as

  • It speaks to your continuing to shift focus back to your trauma (so your brain has to keep finding new ways to keep him forefront)
  • That’s a pattern you can exploit (looking for both what is creating the “need” to snap him back into focus, what’s triggering that/ driving that; and bypassing weeks/months of shredding yourself in pain, by recognizing the pattern happening.
  • There’s a very clear delineation between your relationship right up until he breaks your heart and leaves (that story never changes, it’s very clear, very real; even as you second guess yourself going over everything with a microscope looking for red flags, flaws, things you shoulda/coulda/woulda)… and the maelstrom that follows …a perfect storm of triggers/ stressors/ stress/ change/ loss of coping mechanisms all BOOMING out as your PTSD kicks into being highly symptomatic.
((And then there’s this little bobbing life raft of “him” in the maelstrom, and all the …if he hadn’t then this wouldn’t … no matter how untrue that is. Because the truth is that if the trauma hadn’t, this wouldn’t, but it did, so it is…And it makes double sense, after a lifetime of abusive relationships, that he’s still the “safe” person to direct all the rage/despair/fury/pain at. The person you trusted, when you don’t trust. The dad to your kids. ALL the pain/heartbreak/betrayal +coupled with+ the knowledge that no matter how angry YOU get at him? Or lash out at him? He’s gonna do something picket-fences-normal, like file a restraining order. Not abusive-asshole-normal like break in, tie you up, and force you to watch as he rapes your kids and sets them on fire. Or any other version of the things one learns to expect/fear/guard against when living in abuse and violence; that teaches one to become a sineater, to swallow rage, to beg forgiveness.))

Just to be clear, I’m not attempting to paint a halo on the man. Even if right up until the moment he broke your heart, he hung the moon? In retrospect, as love fades, we’re faaaaaar more able to see the faults that make us up as individuals. Able to see reasons we, ourselves, might shoulda left ages ago, if our bar for bad behavior hadn’t been set so durn high by abusive assholes. But without trauma desperately attempting to slither out of sight? Removing rose colored glasses doesn’t replace them with demon colored glass, ya know? Doesn’t magically make him responsible for everything that happened before he came, or after he left.

So in addition to the 3 points of good above? (And it took me yeeeeears to learn to do this!!! >.< ) One of my best most hard won tricks is to USE my brainz against itself.
  • Recognizing that when my noggin is desperate enough to throw chaff / misdirection / blameshifting? Delete that person/situation from the equation, and look very closely at WHAT still has its claws in me, that deeply.
I very strongly recommend doing this with another person who can reality check me away from “He/She/They KNOWS about abcdefghijklm…nope! It doesn’t matter if they know, what they know, anything they do or don’t know or do or say. They don’t matter in this equation. …But!! (Yes they do!….)Dammit. No they don’t. Target. Back on target. (I dooooont want toooooo. Grrrrrrr.) <<< Fighting with myself? Is easier with an ally, who knows which wolf to feed.

Because, quite frankly, no one can walk through life, without f*cking up. My brain isn’t stupid. It’s not choosing this person at random. There will be very real current pain & old history that allows me to use them as misdirection in the first place. (Like the heartbreak and broken trust with your ex). Otherwise there would be too much cognitive dissonance. It needs to “feel” real, for me to even believe it for a short time. So I need to choose an ally who isn’t going to ‘You go girl! Men are dogs!’ When I’m not dealing with normal-breakup-stuff, but trauma history exploding outward.

Ditto, because that very real current pain & old history? Is valid, in and of itself. And deserves to be looked at, as such, and dealt with, as such. Rather than just being used as a beard/scapegoat my trauma history is using to wiggle out of being seen.

So choosing an ally who helps me seperate then from now, trauma from pain, etc.? Let’s me actually do BOTH. Deal with the Pandora’s Box f*cking my life sideways AND the very real pain it’s leeching itself onto and attempting to hide behind.

Sorry this got so long. I could concise it up better, if I were having a better day.
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Thank you. That helps a lot actually. Nothing to apologize for. Having thought about what you wrote for a bit and talking to someone about how I was feeling about it, I think it's "easier" for me to feel angry and redirect it all to my ex than to deal with a lifetime of pain and grief and what "should" or could have been of my life. I have a lifetime of pain and sadness to process and heal from. At times, it's easier to be angry and lash out at someone who is "convenient" and "safe" (but not safe) in a weird way. It makes sense to me. It does feel like fighting myself in a way. "Be angry at him! It's his fault!" <> "No! It doesn't matter what he did or why! We have a lifetime of pain and sadness to process and deal with so we can finally live the life we've always wanted!" Being angry with him keeps me stuck in the past. I can't move forward and on with my life if I keep redirecting it all back to him because it's "easier". The feelings are all valid and understandable. I need to keep working on where it's coming from and the why I feel the way I do. It's like the anger is the tip of the iceberg and is hiding things like grief, pain, sadness below it.

Thank you. I hope you have a better day.