From “Soul Mate” to Soul Sucker: My Relationship with a Sociopath

T swept me off my feet, years before l learned that great partners don’t sweep you anywhere. Rather, they want you to stand strong on your own.

couple feet water

We met in an acting class, of which he was the star. While other women in the class pined over him, I only had eyes for acting. I was there to study—not flirt. And I certainly didn’t need to leap into another relationship so soon after my last.

The entire class knew about my goals and the breakup, just as I knew about their lives and dreams; it was that kind of class, and hello: we were actors. Open, sensitive and overflowing. It didn’t strike me until later that T was an exception. He shared very little about himself. He performed, charmed us with his wit and charisma and drove students in need of rides home in his luxury car. I, being one of the car-less, was content taking the bus home.

One night the teacher prompted us to sit face-to-face with a partner, look them straight in the eyes and say whatever came to mind. When I turned to seek a partner, T was right there.

Peering in his magnetic eyes, I felt naked and vulnerable.

“You don’t know how beautiful you are,” he said. “Or that you’re the most talented actor in this class, probably in this city. You could be a star.”

My cheeks flushed burgundy. My ex never said such things; on the contrary, he’d felt threatened by my modeling and acting. The wounds echoed.

That night, I accepted T’s offer to drive me home. I sat in the car with other students, including a single mom, an elderly woman and a man who’d fled his homeland in seek of the American Dream.

T opened the sun roof, asked if we’d like to watch TV and told us we could turn our seat heaters or personal ACs on or off as we wished. It all seemed pretentious, until I observed my fellow passengers beaming. T was treating people who never received such treatment like superstars.

After dropping the others off, he stopped for gas.

“Thirsty?”

“I’d love a water.”

“I got it,” he said, declining my $5 bill.

He returned with  20-plus bottles, one of each available brand, some chilled, some room temperature.

“I wasn’t sure which you liked,” he said, half-winking.

I couldn’t stop smiling as he drove on, chatting. He seemed fascinated by me and my life—my upbringing, family and goals. We seemed to share much in common, from world views to favorite past-times.

Within days, we were dating. Make that dating on steroids. Every moment was intensely romantic and adventure-filled. People routinely gushed over how “perfect” we were together, some guessing we were newlyweds, versus newly paired.

While his over-the-top adoration felt foreign (in anything but cheesy movies), I began to rely his perpetual loves notes, bold exclamations and gifts. It was as though he filled voids I hadn’t known I had.

Sociopath

By the time T’s true colors emerged, I felt trapped.

We’d been dating two months when T told me that Kyle, a mutual friend, desperately needed a place to rent for a month—but was too embarrassed to discuss it.

“You should offer to sublet your place,” T said. “Stay with me for a while.”

I later learned that he told Kyle a similar story, only flip-turned—claiming I was in dire financial straits, but too ashamed to mention it. (“So could you please rent her place? I know you hate your roommate anyway.”) Kyle and I fell for his plot, and that month sublet became permanent.

Looking back, it’s obvious that while I had been studying acting, T had been studying me. Each bit of knowledge became a tool in his toolbox of seduction, ways to lure and keep me.

He knew I cherished my place and independence, so rather than ask me to move in with him, he had strategized. And probably relished the game, especially when he won. And won. And…won.

He wooed everyone I cared about and dropped out of class to give me creative space (“It’s just my hobby, but it’s your dream, baby. I believe in you.”) After I’d saved up enough to buy a clunky car, he gave me his. (“You deserve better. I treasure your safety.”) I sobbed, as I drove it for the first time, wondering if I should feel guilty or just grateful, whether I deserved it.

The truth was, I didn’t deserve it—but my understanding of “it” wasn’t reality, not by a long shot.

One day, everything changed.

I received the career news I’d been longing for: I’d booked a lead role in an indie film, and couldn’t wait to tell T; surely we’d celebrate.

Instead, his face morphed from human to animal. He trembled, his face pale, nostrils flared, teeth gritted. Saying nothing, he began pacing and heaving while I stood there, paralyzed and perplexed.

“T, talk to me. What’s wrong?”

He shot me a steely glare, then raced to the kitchen. With both hands, he grabbed the heavy, chrome paper towel holster that was bolted to the counter top and pulled, shaking maniacally, until it snapped off.

I dropped to the ground, sobbing and cradling myself. Please don’t hit me!

He didn’t. But he did use the heavy bar to bash a hole in the wall, mumbling something about the “hot actor guy” who’d play opposite me.

That was the first of countless outbursts, which surfaced any time T thought he might lose me or my attention, the shiny prizes he’d worked hard to win.

After he chased a man around a parking lot with a knife for “looking at me the wrong way,” I packed my bags and left. But we didn’t stay broken up.

He came crawling, pleading for forgiveness: “It’s just that I love you so much! Help me be a better man. I will do anything to make this work.” 

He provided endless excuses for his behaviors—his troubled childhood being the biggie—promising he would work through it all. He started therapy, said he found God, sent a letter of apology to my parents. I was his reason to go on, he said. Without me, what was the point?

I wanted to help T. I loved him. But I also wanted to be happy, to live free of terror and tumult and to move forward in my life. Finally, I realized that the latter was only possible without him. The blissful times we’d shared early on were a farce, and his sociopathic nature, reality.

For any chance at happiness, I had to leave him for good.

Doing so was one of the most difficult and important decisions of my life. I sobbed until I vomited post-breakup, stayed in bed for days. But as healing crept in, my acting career began to flourish (and that later led to writing and Girl Boner). I began feeling strong and whole on my own. A few years later, I met a man who loves me sincerely, with whom I feel more like myself than ever. In the right relationship, we only grow.

If you relate to this story, you’ve probably dated someone on the sociopath spectrum: people who lack empathy and remorse, who thrive on power and control. 

There’s so much to say about all of this, which is why I’m launching a series here and on Girl Boner Radio. I’ll be chatting with two inspiring women who’ve found healing after their own relationships with sociopathic men, a bold woman who is in a such a relationship now and two psychologists. We’ll cover the basics, such as sociopaths defined, common traits and related myths, and ways to move on and heal once you’ve fallen prey to one, and more. I really hope you’ll tune in!

And if you’re feeling lost within and controlled by a relationship, I hope you’ll start believing in the healthier, happier future you deserve. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is recognize that the little voice deep within whispering this isn’t right is brilliant, and worth listening to—even if our hearts can’t catch up with it just yet.

Do you relate to my story? How have you healed from a hurtful relationship? Any questions you’d like to ask my guests? I love hearing from you. ♥

Leave a comment

58 Comments

  1. I only had one such relationship, thank the good Lord. And it was short-lived. There was a big warning sign–he’d just gotten out of prison! That reality helped me believe the little “this ain’t right” voice.

    What you describe I know to be so on target in abusive relationships. These guys charm the socks off of you, offer the idyllic relationship you crave, and then once they’re sure that you’re hooked, their true nature comes out.

    Glad you got away with lessons learned and not too much scar tissue, August!

    Reply
    • Oh wow, Kassandra. So glad you yours wasn’t long-term either!

      That pattern you mentioned holds true for every woman and the two men who’ve shared their stories with me recently. In hindsight, the signs are in neon. As for the scar tissue, having passion in my life was the biggest help. 🙂 Whew! So grateful.

      Reply
      • I feel compelled to point out that not all abusive men/women are sociopaths. Almost always they have witnessed emotional and/or physical abuse between their parents growing up. Often there is a needy kid stuck inside of them who thinks this is the way to get and keep love–sweep the partner off their feet, then keep them insecure and scared so they’re not sure what reality is and are afraid to leave.

        The level of cunning involved in your story, August, does kind of scream psychopath, or at least extreme narcissism (the line between the two personality disorders is a thin one).

        But regardless of whether the person is a true socio/psychopath, this is a very tough pattern to break out of.

  2. Thankfully, you figured it out and moved on. That kind of person can do a lot more than suck the soul from you. He can make your life meaningless.

    Reply
    • Indeed, Russell! Even shorter relationships can cause major damage, but I know of folks who’ve endured the tumult for decades — and not all survive. Very sad.

      Having a passion worth fighting for really saved me, along with emotional support from loved ones I finally confided in.

      Reply
  3. What a powerful and inspirational story, August. Though I’ve never experienced a relationship like that, Mathair has and has spent a great deal of time in the raising of her two children (one boy, one girl) in showing them how to love and be loved in return. Toxic relationships are easy to fall prey to and not easy to break free from. I only pray that should I ever fall into that trap I’m as strong as you and Mathair. Thank you for sharing this with all of your blogging followers.

    Reply
    • Really touched that you thought so, Inion! And what a beautiful role model and teacher you have in Mathair. Seems to me you’d catch the red flags sooner than most. 🙂 Much love!

      Reply
  4. Though my ex didn’t get as violent, he did have a temper. Most of all, he lied from the beginning of our 10-year long relationship. But he, too, swept me off my feet and I think because the relationship started that way, I often questioned whether his shift in personality was because of something I did. Thank goodness we both got out. Thanks for bringing this topic to light!

    Reply
    • That is such an excellent point, Jan. The self-blame can be brutal. I started to feel crazy and way too sensitive, until I was more sure he’d crossed the line. Even then, it was difficult to break free. I kept believing that the early bliss could be reclaimed, but wasn’t authentic.

      So sorry you relate to the hardship, but I’m so grateful you got out, too! The emotional bullying can be the worst kind — and you deserve every joy.

      Reply
  5. I’ve had a couple of so-called male friends from my college days. Both were sociopathic in many ways. However, I’m sure in all the time I knew them violence was not one of their tools. I don’t know the stats, nor care to, but I suspect that the majority of sociopaths are not violent, which make it harder to detect…a point to ponder in your show?

    The other thing is that neither of these men were poor, affluent but not exactly wealthy, though by now I’m sure the wealth has accumulated…no business ethics at all…win at all costs, even taking pride in the deceptions in their “deals”.

    Reply
    • Excellent points, Lawrence, and you’re right! Many sociopaths aren’t violent at all, yet we tend to think of them as psycho-killers. I’ll definitely explore that misperception.

      And, some sociopaths lure partners in with hopes of financial gain, or present themselves as wealthy when they’re far from it. It can all get really tricky! But knowledge is power. So glad to know that there’s hope.

      Thanks so much for weighing in!

      Reply
      • Glad to be of some help…I hope some day you do the opposite kind of show, “What about love?” Ain’t nothing like the real thing. 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for writing about this, even though I haven’t had a relationship with a sociopath, I was married to, if not a narcissist, someone with narcissistic tendencies for 14 years.
    But your story is so important! Red flags are meant to be seen, but when we’re knee deep in “romance” they’re easily ignored or poo-pooed. Your courage to finally leave and then not give in even while you were grieving the end of the relationship was huge. People need to read your post!

    Reply
    • So sorry you went through that, Amy. No one deserves that, especially someone as sweet as you! Indeed, red flags are crucial. And you’re so right about our inability to take them seriously when we’re punch-drunk in love.

      The grief and hurt end, but only if we move forward, and let ourselves feel along the way. It isn’t fun, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative. 🙂 Thanks for the support!

      Reply
  7. Been there and got the “I Dated a Sociopath” T-Shirt. This could almost be my story. But, I was with Psycho for four years and he stalked me another two. To this day I don’t think I am completely over the damage. That was why 50 Shades sent me into PTSD. People criticized me for not reading the entire book (series) before formulating an opinion, but Christian Grey exhibits every red flag for a sociopath in 15 pages. NOT ROMANCE. At least, not to me. Great post and SUPER proud of you ((HUGS))

    Reply
    • The very premise of that book/series made me cringe, Kristen! I knew it would trigger me all over the place. Glad you stopped reading when you realized what it was setting off for you.

      Reply
    • Thanks so much, Kristen. I’m truly sorry you can relate.

      I moved far away shortly after we broke up—not because of him, but I know that helped hugely. I even left a bunch of my stuff at his place (some precious), knowing that if I went back for anything, ever, I was putting myself at risk for all kinds of hurt. I can only imagine how terrifying it was, being stalked. *HUGS*

      And no, Shades was not a romance! I only saw the movie, but it read 1000% as a psycho/stalker thriller. Smart move, not to read on.

      Reply
  8. Kudos for having the courage to share your story, August. I’m excited for your series on this subject. Teaching about sociopathic personalities should be required for every teen girl. Sociopath men (and women, too, but less common) relish the hunt, the game, the control, and have a special radar for women vulnerable to their toolbox of charm that turns ugly when they sense their tricks don’t work anymore. I recognize my own story in yours. It took 7 years, a punch in the face, and his threats to kill me because I wouldn’t kill his child inside me to shake me into reality. Mind games can be strong juju to break free from. Please, please keep talking about this subject, because I know you will help a lot of young girls and women stay safe. A big hug to you!

    Reply
    • Oh, Kristin. I’m so sorry you endured all of that. What you said about mind games is so true! It’s easy for someone who has not experienced such a relationship to ask, “Why didn’t you just leave?” It’s far more complex than that.

      Thanks so much for the beautiful encouragement – and also for mentioning the fact that women can be sociopathic, too. The most violent and horrific story I heard, after putting word out that I’m working on this series, involved a female sociopath. Hugs right back!

      Reply
  9. August, thank you so much for sharing your story. ❤

    Oh man, did I ever date this guy. (TW for abuse, sexual assault, and general terribleness)

    He was charming and reasonable and a southern gentleman, and a cop. He said he saw something special in me, that he saw a future with me even three weeks into dating. He wanted openness and honesty. It wasn't for several weeks until I saw that the honesty he wanted was one sided — he was just gathering fodder.

    There were big red flags that started. He got suspended from duty and then fired for allegations (repeated) of racial profiling. He made comments about how he would expect a future wife to not bring GLBTQ friends around his children, but seemed to listen when I told him I had two moms. He had this bizarre way of talking around things and gaslighting to the point where I had no idea if I'd even heard him say the crazy shit or thought his interpretation of things was somehow reasonable. He didn't believe in premarital sex, but was fine with receiving oral (not giving) and wanted to try anal. (lol to that not counting as sex — oh, the evangelical bubble "loophole" semantics) I said I'd try, and changed my mind almost immediately — and I had to say no several times and actually scamper away before he stopped. One day I mentioned I'd run into an ex-fling who I'd split with months before meeting R. He started screaming at me and calling me a liar and a whore. Blamed it all on me for not having divulged that this fling lived in the same city.

    I still thought I must be somehow in the wrong. I was terrified of him. He had a concealed carry permit and literal BOXES full of guns and ammo. I thought I somehow owed him an in person break up. The day I saw him to tell him it was over, he raped me.

    When I told him I hadn't wanted him to touch me (I'd said no several times and pushed his hands away), he said, "Then you should have stopped me."

    He had 150 pounds on me and carried a firearm.

    I never reported it because…well. Anyone familiar with our legal system's track record on sexual assaults with even DNA evidence should know why. I knew I had no chance.

    It took me months to put a name to what he'd done. I even saw him a couple more times because I was so confused and desperately trying to regain some sense of power. But his behaviour veered into outright stalking (he'd IM me and ask me if I was fucking some guy who'd commented on FB, call and hang up, etc.), and I finally told him never to contact me again. I blocked him on FB. A few months later he called me at work right after I made a work profile. I blocked him again. A few months after that, I thought it might be safe to unblock him since I was leaving the state. Within hours he messaged me. I blocked him again and haven't heard from him again, though I googled him a while back.

    He now owns a gun store.

    I now have serious spider sense for spotting these guys and will never, ever think I "owe" someone an in-person anything ever again.

    Reply
    • Oh wow, Emmie. I’m so sorry you went through all of that. Isn’t it interesting how we can hear someone else’s story, and think, “OMG, that’s awful! How could that possibly happen?!?” and then go, “Oh wait. Something similar happened to me.” I had that sense reading your (super thoughtful and appreciated) comment. I can only imagine how much more intense and complex his weaponry made things. *big hugs*

      So many sociopaths use sex as a means of control and degradation. Some withhold, others use force. Mine was “grossed out” by all sorts of sexual things—missionary only, which I now realize was probably namely about control. I’m exploring these issues a bit on my show on Wednesday. Nothing about relationships–not sex, emotional intimacy or anything–should be currency.

      Reply
      • Amen to that. I’m thankful now to be in a relationship with someone who isn’t intent on controlling me and who not only accepts my power, but celebrates it.

    • Jesus Christ, Emmie! No words…

      Reply
  10. I admire your openness and courage. People should never have to feel that kind of fear or live with that sort of emotional blackmail and manipulation. So very glad you got out.

    Reply
  11. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  May 18, 2015

    I haven’t been in a relationship like that, thank God. I met my hubby at 17 and married at 20, so I wasn’t into dating for very long at all, but watching first hand the abusive relationship of a loved one and trying to help her leave her abuser was a nightmare every time she believed his lies and returned to him. Finally, when she sought shelter at a home for abused women, she learned it takes a woman 7 to 10 attempts to leave her abuser. That was her eighth attempt, I believe, and she succeeded and left him for good. Some women never leave their abusers. Many lose their lives. It’s a vicious cycle.

    I’m so glad you and Kassandra and the others were strong enough to get out of those relationships. I’ve known so many intelligent women who have been in such a relationship. You’re doing a wonderful thing with this series, August. You just might help save some lives by helping to empower abused women to take that bold step and leave. For good.

    Reply
    • The cycle really is vicious, Lynn – that’s the perfect word. The relationships are mighty complex, as is the love/hate/fear feelings, mixed with shame and, often, addiction. You’re such a good person to support your friend through her trials. That’s not easy!

      Thanks so much for the encouraging words. As one of my guests told me the other day, if we can help even one person, it’ll be worth it. ❤

      Reply
  12. Oh August, I am sorry you had such a horrible experience. I feel for you AND I am happy you found someone who loves you for you and doesn’t play games

    I had something similar and there were so many red flags. I knew him from high school and we broke twice. Then out of the blue 26 yrs later he contacted me. We talked on the phone for a few weeks before I agreed to see him. He told me he was twice divorced with kids (BIG RED FLAGS), but he claimed all this time he had loved me (again, the flags). I was lonely having moved home to get numerous surgeries. He became my friend and lover again – but he was hiding an angry & manipulative part of himself. He moved to my city & got a townhouse for us. I agreed to move in. For a week things were ok. Did I forget to mention he had started borrowing money from me? He became angry a lot and at me after juse 10 das or so. I had to pay the bills because he wasn’t making enough money. My money was from a small savings & then credit cards because I was on disability. Finally, I called my Mom because I felt trapped. My health was declining and he would not help me, which he promised my Mom he would. By then he owed me close to $10,000 and he yelled at me when I brought up the issue of money. I felt scared because I dealt with being sick by myself and was weak when I tried to talk to him. I did not know what to do so I called my Mom. She ordered some movers & within 3 days my stuff & I were gone. I later had to file for bankruptcy because of the debt I was in. It took a lot of therapy to feel like a strong woman again.
    Was S. a sociopath? I don’t know. He was good at manipulating and he didn’t care who he hurt. I still wish I never knew him and I wish I saw all those red flags. But I am familiar with them now.

    Thank you August for such a helpful post and to the other commenters who shared their stories. This is another step in my healing process (this occurred 10 yrs ago) to know that other people had similar experiences. – Monique

    Reply
    • How I wish you couldn’t relate, Monique! So glad to hear that you, too, found your way out. Money is another common tool abusers use for power and manipulation. Many victims end up broke, or worse. What a strong woman you are, to have gone on to thrive in so many ways. You deserve every ounce of healing that comes your way. Sending much love!

      Reply
  13. I am still healing from mine, in my case a series of events, changed the person I loved from a fun loving supportive partner into a clingy demanding selfish person who ultimately kept choosing alcohol over his desire to be part of a family, He always said he loved me to pieces and that was basically what he left my heart in. In my head I know I am a stronger person than he will ever be but I still feel a mixture of emotions over the 18 years we spent together

    Reply
    • I meant to add that external factors such as alcohol and loss can turn someone from being normal into a paranoid control freak, The last few years of the relationship he was constantly checking up on me, going through my phone and computer searching for ‘evidence’ at one point he timed how long it took me to get home from work and if the bus was late would accuse me of meeting someone else. I think in some ways it is harder when it is someone who flips because you hang on longer hoping the person you fell in love with will come back if you can just do the right thing, which of course is the wrong thing to do because the more you give in the more control they want.

      Reply
      • Oh, Paula. I’m so sorry to hear about this — but I’m so grateful you shared. Alcohol is another common factor, which adds, as you know, so many complexities and amplifies hardship.

        Your point on flipping is spot on. That’s why sociopaths are so difficult to leave. They seem to snap from a loving, incredible person you’re convinced is “the one,” to a monster. Clinging to the hope for the good you once experienced is what keeps so many of us in toxic partnerships. Wishing you all of the healing you deserve, and then some. ❤

  14. This is an extremely tough topic to talk about, so kudos to you August for having the strength to start a conversation about it. I witnessed my mom be in an abusive relationship with my father for 35 years and had to stay on the sidelines until recently my mom got the courage to divorce him. It’s been a very emotional and long journey but I’m so happy she is finally free. There’s a great book that helped me understand the mindset of a sociopath and how to spot them. I’d highly recommend it. It’s called “Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.

    Reply
    • Wow, Steph. Thirty-five years, and your mother? I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you to see. Thank goodness she’s in a healthier place now. I hope you’ve gained all of the healing you deserve, too!

      I really appreciate the book recommendation. I’ll take a look!

      Reply
  15. *hugs* I am so glad you got away for him, and thank you for sharing you story and finding other women to share their stories! I know you will help others fins the courage to escape their dangerous relationships.
    Most of my relationships were when I was a teen, so no sociopaths, or at least not skilled ones.

    Reply
  16. I absolutely relate! I highly suspect my ex was a sociopath. The weird thing is, he seemed to sort of “evolve” into one. We were together on and off for four years, when I was 16-20. The first break up came after a year together. I actually broke up with him, because I just wasn’t sure I still had “that loving feeling.” When we got back together, about a month later, he had been hanging with some of his friends and gotten into drugs some. SO naturally when we got back together, I wasn’t comfortable with them, but I told him, “If you wanna hang out with them, just don’t lie to me about it…” Until then, he’d been an attentive, normal boyfriend…it seemed. And maybe he was. I know I hurt him when I broke up with him, but maybe he also underwent some changes that had nothing to do with me, but more with hormones or his friends or the drugs…
    And the lying essentially never stopped from that day. RIDICULOUS lies. He’d leave my house at 9:30 or so and not get home til midnight or whatever, and then he’d tell me he was tired and fell asleep on the side of the road. And I believed it. Well, no I didn’t, but I couldn’t prove otherwise so I regularly gave him the benefit of the doubt.
    I won’t say I didn’t make mistakes with him, but I attribute them to immaturity. We got jealous and possessive of one another. He got mad if I drank (I did not drink to excess, he just didn’t want me drinking at all….) But then at a later time, he essentially WAS a drunk, routinely disregarded my feelings. He threatened me, he threatened to kill himself in front of me after I tried to leave his house when he shoved me. (I had laid hands on him before, one of my mistakes, when I caught him in a repeated lie…) Towards the end, he was downright abusive emotionally. “No one will put up with you. You’re a psycho…” Tormenting me on the phone until I cried and then hanging up on me. One day he slept with me, and that night had a party at his house to which I was not invited.
    I finally broke free from him in December of my Freshman year at college. Since then I use that relationship as a ruler for all the things I will NEVER put up with again,
    Anyway, sorry to blow up your comment section with a whole post, but I definitely relate to how they can lie, charm, and then turn into vicious “animals” in the next moment. To this day I have not received an apology or any acknowledgement of how he treated me. Once I reached out to him when I found out he had a child. Frankly, it scared me. Who would want a child to grow up around that? But I guess it happens all the time.

    Reply
    • Good for you for getting out! That’s not easy. I’ve heard from numerous women who didn’t notice any real signs until years, or even decades, in. Many sociopaths are extremely skilled at hiding their true colors. Whenever we learn the truth, that’s a blessing. I just wish more people learned sooner — like, before any of the tumult happened! 😉 Truly, though, the lessons learned and growth that can follow are beautiful. Wishing you much happiness.

      Reply
      • You too, August. It’s amazing how many women have stories, (and how many don’t even realize they have been abused.) I hate that I let myself get done over for four years, but I also realize if things had happened differently, I may never have met my husband and had a beautiful daughter. I won’t say “everything happens for a reason,” but I will say, sometimes good things come out of bad things! Best wishes!

  17. Nicole D

     /  May 19, 2015

    I unfortunately dated someone very similar. He wasn’t a sociopath but he was extremely controlling and manipulative. People always ask how you can be with someone like that or not notice beforehand and the truth is they go about showing their true colors so slowly you don’t notice until it’s changed you to the point you no longer can recognize yourself. I’m glad you got out and found a healthy love with someone that loves you for you, I did too.

    Reply
    • Exactly! Why would we leave someone who seems the opposite of harmful? One of my guests yesterday talked about not recognizing herself as well — I can relate there, too. When you’re sucked in, it’s tough to know up from down. So glad you found your way out, too.

      Reply
  18. karenmcfarland

     /  May 19, 2015

    Ack! What an emotional nightmare! I cannot fathom what you went through. What misery. Yet, look at how your life has turned out? So glad you were able to step/run away from that relationship and move forward to meet your successful future. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Karen. Indeed, I feel very blessed now. I appreciate life even more, knowing how dark and scary it can be (and was).

      Reply
  19. Although I was involved in a romantic relationship that could qualify, this resonates most strongly of relationships within my family of origin, where manipulation (and raging, often physically violent outbursts) were the order of the day during childhood.

    I live only a few hundred feet from my parents, and we currently have no relationship. I was almost 41 when an interaction proved to me that neither saw enough wrong with their attitudes and behaviors to change them, and, in one gesture, I had the flash of certainty;

    “I can’t – I WON’T do this anymore. I’m looking for a kind of love I can’t find here, and I can’t have peace in my own life while attempting to maintain it in relationships with people who aren’t, and don’t want to become peaceful.”

    Honestly, I still get a little sick and sad about it at times. They’re my parents, and I love them. I have nearly no interaction with the sibling I was once closest to, and strained relations with another, because, in their words, “I can’t see why you won’t forgive Mom and Dad for not being perfect parents.”

    Which, of course, isn’t the issue, only another kind of manipulation through minimization. There aren’t any perfect parents, nor perfect offspring – but there’s a whole lot of room for peaceful, non-abusive imperfection…and healthy forgiveness doesn’t mean that I need to leave myself open for future versions of the same.

    I’ve been circling around this theme for a few weeks now, feeling a post or several trying to get born…I think you’ve just helped me to clarify some things…

    I’m glad you found your way to a true partner! ❤

    Reply
    • I have chills, Shan. Those self-proclaimations are what I call “mirror moments,” when we look ourselves in the eyes (figuratively or literally) and say NO MORE. We deserve more and better, and then go claim it.

      I’ve heard from a few other women who had parents who were manipulative, narcissistic, etc. Abuse is abuse, no matter where/from whom it drives from. I admire your strength and courage so much.

      I LOVE this: “healthy forgiveness doesn’t mean that I need to leave myself open for future versions of the same.” AMEN!

      Reply
  20. Michelle

     /  May 21, 2015

    I could use some help. I keep thinking that I’m not doing enough that I am falling short but I’m breaking my back to keep my head above water and it’d still not enough. Always walk g in egg shells to not git his temper .he’s not physical but very verbal with extensive body language of rage. How do I decipher the manipulation and Con troll behavior from normal? I can neve get even 5 minutes for myself always questioned and when I ly down exhausted he starts in on what else he wants /needs disregardin my exhaustion totally. So many sailed promises . We divorced once 3 years ago..got back together and similar to the above story I am now back home . Sold my own place and remarried back to all of the same horrors as before

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling in these ways, Michelle. I don’t need to know you to know you don’t deserve that.

      Here’s my opinion: Manipulation is never normal or healthy within a relationship—nor is feeling like you’re constantly on egg shells, due to his temper and hurtful body language. Verbal and emotional abuse is just as serious and worth addressing as physical violence. If I were you, I’d seek support from a loved one or therapist. You’ll know what the next best steps are; I bet you already do. You just need to relearn to trust yourself.

      We talked a lot about these issues on my show yesterday—and will continue next week. I bet you’ll relate and, hopefully, gain some useful insight. The episode will be at these links later today: iTunes and augustmclaughlin.com. *HUGS*

      Reply
  21. I can think of three seriously damaging relationships of this type I’d been in… I think being insecure and needy after the first one (and the first one was my first ever “boyfriend”) opened me up to being drawn in by the second two. I know too well how some high school/college girls can get labeled because they’re so desperate to recover a few moments of that sweetness they’d thought they’d felt when the lures were being laid out. I know how it can hurt to realize that the “new he” isn’t any better (is sometimes worse) than the “old he”. But his parents loved me… I was “accepted”. And how could I want to leave when we were so perfect together and he gave and did so many terribly wonderful things to me.

    So glad you’re in a better place, August, that that other one we’re clearly shared before… with too many other women. It’s a dark place, and… I don’t feel good there.

    Reply
  22. Worthy of a NYT Modern Love.

    Reply
  23. Didn’t read all the comments, but it is not just so for women…men can date, marry, whatever, people who are sociopaths or have sociopathic tendencies. I won’t go into details. Just know the story rings true in many ways. Even if the other person is not a full-on sociopath, the tendencies, when strong, can wear, tear, and rip the live out of you. “If it sounds too good…” well, at least, think on it hard.
    Scott

    Reply
    • Very true, Scott. Women can be narcissists and sociopaths as well.

      I’m so sorry you can relate to this story – though I’m glad to hear the past tense!

      Reply
      • There’s no one right now and won’t be until I am pretty certain I am not repeating old mistakes!

  1. Dating a Sociopath: True Stories of Hurt and Healing – Part I | August McLaughlin
  2. Personal Harmonics? | A Garden of Delights
  3. In “Love” with a Narcissist/Sociopath: Althea’s Story | August McLaughlin's Blog
  4. 6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Predators | August McLaughlin's Blog
  5. 6 Empowering Ways to Protect Yourself From Predators -

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