It’s not simple being involved with a psychopath because you never know where you stand. It’s never on firm ground since the foundation of the entire relationship rests upon lies and illusion. The process of getting over a psychopath, however, is every bit as disorienting and unstable as being with him. Some victims move on with their lives without ever looking back. But most don’t. Most oscillate between being a victim and being a survivor.
These dichotomies mirror the dichotomies of the psychopath himself: between his loving false façade and his true evil self. The memories of the false persona–the romantic dinners, the trips, the gifts, his loving words and the aura of passion–can linger. They’re not always immediately effaced by the revelation of his bad actions and the realization of who the psychopath really is, at core. The women involved with psychopaths often cling to the illusion of the psychopath’s good façade because the sad reality can be shattering.
Below, I sketch some of the oscillations between the victim and the survivor within each person involved with a psychopath. The victim always finds excuses and makes rationalizations for why the psychopath needs to stay in her life. She clings to him and to their good memories together. The survivor accepts reality and finds the strength to move on.
1. The Survivor: He cheated and lied to me. I deserve better than that. I’m over him.
The Victim: It’s not his fault. Besides, many men do that. Those women tempted him. They seduced him, not the other way around. It’s their fault.
2. The Survivor. But ultimately, he’s my partner, not them. I don’t care how those women acted or what they are. He’s responsible for how he acts towards me. I will move on and find a man who loves me and whom I can trust.
The Victim: I hate the other women for doing this to me, to us. If they hadn’t been around, he would be faithful.
3. The Survivor: I can’t love a man who is so unethical. That’s not real love, honest and healthy. It’s my own neediness. I’m clinging to what I wanted him to be. I’m clinging to my own dreams, not to reality. I need to open my eyes and see how much more there is to life than my relationship with him.
The Victim: How can I move on when every place in this town reminds me of our memories together? When I have spent so many years with him? To move on means to erase my past and everything I have invested in our love. I can’t move on. I need to do whatever it takes to make our relationship work. Giving up on him means failing. I can’t fail at what matters to me most: our love.
4. The Survivor: We’ve been through this over and over again. I’ve given him dozens of chances. We started from scratch more times than I can remember only to end up in the same spot. He lies to me. He cheats on me. He humiliates me. He takes me for granted. He trivializes our relationship. I don’t know when we’re together and when he’ll leave me again for a new temporary partner. How many times will I be cast aside and wait for his return?
The Victim: Yes, but you must admit: he always comes back. He gets tired of the other women or they leave him. It doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that he always returns to me, to us. We’re stronger than all the other relationships. They don’t matter. He loves me so much more than he loves the other women. This gives me the strength to hold on.
5. The Survivor: Holding on is my weakness. And what am I holding on to? A dream? If he loved me more, he would show it by treating me with the respect I deserve. Consistently, not just when he gets bored with his newest flings. He wouldn’t toss me aside like an old sock. He wouldn’t play with my feelings and hopes like a yo-yo, back and forth, leaving and returning, as if I were his loyal servant. I deserve better. I must move on.
The Victim: Move on where? And for what? How many decent men are out there? At least he’s a known evil. The unknown ones are scarier. And what about our past? Our house? Our families? Their expectations of our marriage? Our children together? I can run anywhere I want on Earth, but he defines who I was, who I am and who I will be. I’m stuck with him.
6. The Survivor: I have a choice in this matter. I don’t have to remain enslaved to this hollow relationship, which will never fulfill me. I used to be so independent. Other people considered me a pillar of strength. They used to ask me for advice. Now they see the way he treats me and feel sorry for me. They may say encouraging things, but I can tell from how they look at me their real feelings. They see me as weak and dependent on him. I can do better. I can be better. This year I can prove to myself and to all those I love that I can make it on my own. I will become again the person I used to be before meeting him.
I hope that this imaginary internal monologue can help you make the transition from victim to survivor.
Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction
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