Life after dating a psychopath or a narcissist can either be a nightmare or a relief for an individual but either way there are lots of things that have to be sorted out in order to recover and prevent it happening again.
There are several factors that need to be considered. First, there is the situation where the victim does not realize that they were dealing with a psychopath and have labeled the partner controlling, jealous, manipulative, abusive and so on. Second is the situation where the psychopath breaks off the relationship and third is where the victim ends the relationship.
Life after dating a psychopath can be extremely difficult when a person does not know that their ex-partner was a psychopath. There is typically a lot of confusion, desperation, self blame, frustration and a whole host of other emotions.
How could someone do that? Why would they do that? If I was in that situation I would have done... (something else). I love them, I would never do that to them. He /she loves me, why are they treating me this way? These are common thoughts that the victim has after separating from a psychopath. Even when someone realizes that they have been caught by a psychopath, they may still have difficulty understanding just what went on because the behavior is often so far outside what is normally expected in relationships.
There seems to be no reason or logic to what went on, the behavior of the psychopath often cannot be explained or understood and the victim is unable to make sense of their situation. As humans we like to understand things, we like to have reasons and justifications for why things happen. In the case of a relationship with a psychopath, this understanding is missing.
For this reason, the victim comes up with the idea that the ex-partner is jealous, or controlling, or crazy, or a player, or a predator or manipulative. Whatever term they use may be accurate, but it is not enough. It doesn't cover every aspect of the relationship and so the label functions to some extent but it doesn't allow for a complete understanding of the nature of the relationship.
If you want to find a solution, you first have to define what the problem is. If you make a mistake in this first step, then it's often impossible to resolve the problem. So if the person does not realize that they are dealing with a psychopath, they are at a disadvantage compared to someone who does know what they are dealing with.
When a relationship with a psychopath or narcissist falls apart the victim typically is conflicted in many ways. They often want to get away, but want their partner back. They may feel very angry at the manipulator but sorry for them at the same time. They may realize that the partner's behavior was unacceptable or even abusive, but love them a lot. They may continue to hope for the partner to change with time but realize that the manipulator hasn't changed in the many years during the relationship. They may wish bad luck on their ex-partner but want to look after them at the same time.
These contradictory ideas and feelings can be very distressing. When someone knows that they have been abused by a psychopath and that they have a pseudopersonality then it goes a long way to helping to understand these contradictions. When someone does not realize that they have been dealing with a sociopath, then these internal battles can be devastating.
The victims often believe that there is something wrong with themselves because they cannot easily resolve the situation. This is further confirmed by people around them who think they are being supportive by saying things such as, "You are out of the relationship now, just forget about it and live your own life," or "Just find somebody else and move on." The victims know that it's not that easy, they can't physically or mentally do these things.
One of the big things during life after dating a psychopath or narcissist is that the manipulator is in your head 24/7. Everything revolves around the psychopath. Everything reminds you of them. There are recurring thoughts of things that they said and things that they did to you. There will also be memories of the nice times that you had together. These will often seem in sharp contrast to the abusive moments and further add to the difficulty in understanding what happened to you. The nice times convince you that the person did care for and love you and it makes it hard to cope with the fact that this person was treating you badly at the same time.
You may have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep with all this contradictory information swirling around in your head, unable to sort it all out. There may be nightmares. Being constantly tired makes it difficult to function. There may be anxiety, depression, irritability, problems with memory or concentration, panic attacks, floods of emotions, a sense of isolation and so on. In fact, many people are diagnosed with PTSD after a relationship with a sociopath.
If you know that you were dealing with a sociopath, then you have a reason and a cause for all these things. Not knowing this makes life after dating a psychopath considerably more difficult. Even if the person goes to a therapist they may not attribute blame where it is due and the therapist ends up treating the victim as the problem.
A person in a relationship with a psychopath is changed by the psychopath. Their ideas and beliefs and behaviors are influenced very heavily by the psychopath. The psychopath for all intents and purposes imposes a new personality (the pseudopersonality) on the victim. This pseudopersonality is programmed to be very dependent on the psychopath. (This is not the same as codependency - many people who do not realize they are dealing with psychopaths come to believe that they are codependent personalities. This is simply not true, because when they undo the damage done by the psychopath, the dependency disappears, too. It is not actually part of their own personality.)
This manufactured dependency can be very strong and the person often needs the psychopath or narcissist to know what to do and how to think. They may even need the psychopath to know who they are. The victims may not realize how dependent they actually are on the psychopath.
This dependency kicks in big time when the psychopath leaves, when the psychopath breaks up the relationship. In fact, many psychopaths do this on purpose, or even threaten to leave, knowing that the victim cannot survive without them, so that the victim comes running back to them.
And this is typically the first reaction the victim has when they think the psychopath is leaving. They become almost desperate not to lose the relationship. They try and make up to the psychopath, promising to do whatever it takes and so on.
This dependency also explains why battered wives and others in abusive relationships end up going back to the abuser. They may be so dependent that they often cannot imagine a future without the abuser and they feel that they are nothing or that they cannot survive without the abuser, or that they will have nothing to live for without them, so they end up going back. This dependency is one of the effects of the mind control that has been used against the victims and may have nothing to do with the real personality of the victim at all.
It's common for those outside the situation to blame the victim saying that they must enjoy the abuse, or they cannot make decisions for themselves or they have dependent personalities and that's whey they return. All these things are mistakes in understanding about abusive relationships.
If someone does not realize that they are dealing with a psychopath they may label themselves as the problem and try and deal with their codependency etc. Even if someone does know their ex partner is a psychopath, dealing with this dependency is a big effort and it takes time and work to undo this aspect of the mind control.
As I mentioned, the psychopaths often know that their targets are dependent on them and they use this against them. For example, they may threaten to leave knowing that this reinforces the control because this is often the one thing the victim wants to avoid so the victim changes their behavior to be nicer and more accommodating to the abuser.
If the psychopath leaves and they couple gets back together again for whatever reason, the abuser is often even more abusive. The manipulator will say such things to the victim as, "Well, you wanted to get back with me, so you have to put up with the way I am." This puts the responsibility on the victim for tolerating more bad behavior and allows the manipulator to be even more abusive.
If the psychopath or narcissist disappears suddenly, often called discarding, the victim may be left broken hearted and broke financially. The victim is left wondering what they did wrong, what they could have done differently and how could someone just up and leave suddenly like that. They may never figure out that they were taken advantage of by a psychopath.
All the contradictory feelings and emotions are in play in this scenario as well, on top of the fact that there is no closure of any sort with the psychopath.
This type of complete discard is not actually that common because the psychopath may show up again at a later time. In fact, even when a psychopath breaks off the relationship and does not do a disappearing act, they will often hang around, maintaining some sort of relationship with their victim. This gives the victim hope that things can improve and the psychopath strings the person along, sometimes for years. They continue to abuse and take advantage of the victim often without the formal commitment of a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.
Victims of psychopaths may have been thinking of leaving for years but simply have not been able to do it. (See the section on dependency above!) At some point something happens and the victim decides that they have to get out, it's time to leave.
The psychopath often knows that their victim is changing and that they are losing control so the first thing the psychopath does is to make friends again with the victim. This makes it difficult for the victim to actually leave because they have renewed hope that their partner is changing and maybe now they can make it work. This cycle may last for years.
Eventually the victim leaves but the psychopath is not going to have someone else tell them what they can or can't do so they try all sorts of things to get the victim back. If a person does not realize their partner is a psychopath, these tactics often work. The psychopath or narcissist spends so much time chasing the victim that they literally wear the person down and the person gives in and goes back (and suffers all over again).
If the person does know they are dealing with a psychopath, the early part of life after dating a psychopath can be very difficult. The psychopath may try all sorts of things to get them back, promising the sun, moon and stars, accepting responsibility for the breakup, blaming the victim for the breakup, saying the victim will never find anyone to love them the way the psychopath did, threatening the victim, threatening suicide and so on.
The person knows they have to get out, but all the emotional manipulation by the psychopaths and narcissists still makes it very difficult to stay out. The programming of the pseudopersonality is still very strong and the person may think, "What if I am making a mistake?" The best thing for the person is not to listen to the psychopath or narcissist or read any of their emails or messages. But the programming is very strong and this is easier said than done for the victim.
When they have got some distance from the abuser, things get a bit easier for the victims but still all the difficulties of having the manipulator in their head all the time along with the dependency has to be dealt with.
The relationship has formally finished, the psychopath or narcissist may or may not be still trying to get back into your life but you are clear that you want no more to do with them, you just want to carry on.
Unfortunately that pseudopersonality you have was put in place with such strong influence techniques that it does not disappear on it's own. It persists, often for decades unless something is done about it. Some things may disappear over time but all those ideas, beliefs, behaviors and emotions that were imposed upon you are still in place.
These things may show up as the following problems:
In your life after dating a psychopath, the best thing that you can do is to learn about mind control, psychopaths and narcissists. The more you understand about the details of these things the less the effects of the mind control on you and the more you take back control of your own life.
It's important to learn how you were caught, what techniques were used on you by the psychopath, how these techniques changed your thinking, your emotions and your decisions making, how the manipulator inserted him or herself into your life and how they maintained power and control in the relationship. Only in this way can you hope to get the abuser out of your head and out of your life.
Understanding mind control and influence techniques will mean that you can spot normal, healthy influence situations that are designed with positive benefits in mind and notice when someone is using destructive mind control methods for their own particular selfish ends. In this way you learn how to spot psychopaths and how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships so that the relationships that you have are balanced and nurturing to both you and those you choose to have around you.
All this is best done with an expert in mind control, psychopathy and narcissism. Working with someone experienced in this field will save you a lot of time, money, effort and heartache. Conversely, working with someone who does not understand mind control often causes more problems.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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