Relationships with psychopaths take an unusually long time to recover from. Survivors often find themselves frustrated because they haven’t healed as fast as they’d like. They also end up dealing with friends & therapists who give them judgmental advice about how it’s “time to move on”.
Whether you were in a long-term marriage or a quick summer fling, the recovery process will be the same when it comes to a psychopathic encounter. It takes 12-24 months to get your heart back in a good place, and even after that, you might have tough days. I certainly do!
The important thing here is to stop blaming yourself. Stop wishing it would go faster. Stop thinking that the psychopath somehow “wins” if you’re still hurting. They are out of the picture now. This journey is about you. If you come to peace with the extended timeline, you’ll find this experience a lot more pleasant. You can settle in, make some friends, and get cozy with this whole recovery thing.
So why is it taking so long?
You were in love:
Yes, it was manufactured love. Yes, your personality was mirrored and your dreams manipulated. But you were in love. It’s the strongest human emotion & bond in the world, and you felt it with all your heart. It is always painful to lose someone you loved - someone you planned to be with for the rest of your life.
The human spirit must heal from these love losses. Regardless of your abuser’s intentions, your love was still very real. It will take a great deal of time and hope to pull yourself out of the standard post-breakup depression.
You were in desperate love.
Here’s where we branch off from regular breakups. Psychopaths manufacture desperation & desire. You probably worked harder for this relationship than any other, right? You put more time, energy, and thought into it than ever before. And in turn, you were rewarded with the nastiest, most painful experience of your life.
In the idealization phase, they showered you with attention, gifts, letters, and compliments. Unlike most honeymoon phases, they actually pretended to be exactly like you in every way. Everything you did was perfect to them. This put you on Cloud 9, preparing you for the identity erosion.
You began to pick up on all sorts of hints that you might be replaced at any time. This encouraged your racing thoughts, ensuring that this person was on your mind every second of the day. This unhinged, unpredictable lifestyle is what psychopaths hope to create with their lies, gas-lighting, and triangulation.
By keeping them on your mind at all times, you fall into a state of desperate love. This is unhealthy, and not a sign that the person you feel so strongly about is actually worthy of your love. Your mind convinces you that if you feel so powerfully, then they must be the only person who will ever make you feel that way. And when you lose that person, your world completely falls apart. You enter a state of panic & devastation.
The Chemical Reaction:
Psychopaths have an intense emotional & sexual bond over their victims. This is due to their sexual magnetism, and the way they train your mind to become reliant upon their approval.
By first adoring you in every way, you let down your guard and began to place your self worth in this person. Your happiness started to rely on this person’s opinion on you. Happiness is a chemical reaction going off in your brain - dopamine and receptors firing off to make you feel good.
Like a drug, the psychopath offers you this feeling in full force to begin with. But once you become reliant on it, they begin to pull back. Slowly, you need more and more to feel that same high. You do everything you can to hang onto it, while they are doing everything in their power to keep you just barely starved.
There are thousands of support groups for survivors of infidelity. It leaves long-lasting insecurities and feelings of never being good enough. It leaves you constantly comparing yourself to others. That pain alone takes many people out there years to recover from.
Now compare that to the psychopath’s triangulation. Not only do they cheat on you - they happily wave it in your face. They brag about it, trying to prove how happy they are with your replacement. They carry none of the usual shame & guilt that comes with cheating. They are thrilled to be posting pictures and telling their friends how happy they are.
I cannot even begin to explain how emotionally damaging this is after once being the target of their idealization. The triangulation alone will take so much time to heal from.
You have encountered pure evil.
Everything you once understood about people did not apply to this person. During the relationship, you tried to be compassionate, easy-going, and forgiving. You never could have known that the person you loved was actively using these things against you. It just doesn’t make any sense. No typical person is ready to expect that, and so we spend our time projecting a normal human conscience onto them, trying to explain away their inexplicable behavior.
But once we discover psychopathy, sociopathy, or narcissism, that’s when everything starts to change. We begin to feel disgusted - horrified that we let this darkness into our lives. Everything clicks and falls into place. All of the “accidental” or “insensitive” behavior finally makes sense.
You try to explain this to friends and family members - no one really seems to get it. This is why validation matters. When you come together with others who have experienced the same thing as you, you discover you were not crazy. You were not alone in this inhuman experience.
It takes a great deal of time to come to terms with this personality disorder. You end up having to let go of your past understanding of human nature, and building it back up from scratch. You realize that people are not always inherently good. You begin to feel paranoid, hyper-vigialant, and anxious. The healing process is about learning to balance this new state of awareness with your once trusting spirit.
Your spirit is deeply wounded.
After the eventual abandonment, most survivors end up feeling a kind of emptiness that cannot even be described as depression. It’s like your spirit has completely gone away. You feel numb to everything and everyone around you. The things that once made you happy now make you feel absolutely nothing at all. You worry that your encounter with this monster has destroyed your ability to empathize, feel and care.
I believe this is what takes the longest time to recover from. It feels hopeless at first, but your spirit is always with you. Damaged, for sure, but never gone. As you begin to discover self-respect & boundaries, it slowly starts to find its voice again. It feels safe opening up, peeking out randomly to say hello. You will find yourself grateful to be crying again, happy that your emotions seem to be returning. This is great, and it will start to become more and more consistent.
Ultimately, you will leave this experience with an unexpected wisdom about the people around you. Your spirit will return stronger than ever before, refusing to be treated that way again. You may encounter toxic people throughout your life, but you won’t let them stay for very long. You don’t have time for mind games & manipulation. You seek out kind, honest, and compassionate individuals. You know you deserve nothing less.
This new found strength is the greatest gift of the psychopathic experience. And it is worth every second of the recovery process, because it will serve you for the rest of your life.
If you’re worried that your recovery process is taking too long, please stop worrying. You’ve been through hell and back - there is no quick fix for that. And what’s more, when all is said and done, these few years will be some of the most important years of your life.