This is a scary post to write. Scary because I am about to share a lot of the “inner work” I had to do (and am still doing every day) after my relationship with my ex-psychopath. I want to preface this by saying that under no circumstances are you to “blame” for getting involved with a psychopath/sociopath or narcissist (these people are extremely good at conning and extremely manipulative and often prey on highly empathetic individuals), but I still believe that building boundaries and self-esteem is a necessary component in making sure these people are never allowed in again.
I’ve written previously that the year I spent really deep in grief and despair and darkness ended up being extremely transformative. It forced me to shred everything I thought I knew and rebuild a new self piece by piece. It was like being reborn…but as a 30-year-old woman.
But I also think it’s important to say that it wasn’t like an “Aha!” moment. I didn’t wake up one morning flooded with self-confidence and yell out, “I’m never looking back!” I am still learning and rebuilding every day and I still have really, really dark moments.
I stumbled quite a bit. Specifically, when I decided to start dating about a year post-psychopath. I was not ready to actually be dating in any real way but I was desperate to feel like a human being again. I even remember fretting to my therapist, “I used to feel pretty good about what I brought to the table, but who is going to want a single mom living at home with her parents?” I was so surprised at her response. She broke out in a huge smile and said, “I am looking at a beautiful, smart young woman sitting across from me. When it clicks for you, when you see what I see, you won’t have to do a thing and you will have your choice of anyone you want.”
I heard her words at the time but I did not believe her. Now I understand what she meant. She didn’t mean I can now snap my fingers and have Jon Snow appear at my doorstep. She meant that when you have firm boundaries for how you will and will not be treated and you genuinely like yourself, you immediately delete a huge portion of people from your dating pool. Seems counterintuitive, right? Isn’t deleting people the opposite of what you want to do?! Let me explain by example.
A year post-psychopath, I downloaded a dating app and starting going on dates. It was fun, it was a distraction and it was the first time I’d been single in the age of dating apps (which makes dating into a video game basically). But I wasn’t really ready to be dating. I had grown, I had changed, I had done a ton of research on psychopathy, but I didn’t truly see that woman yet that my therapist saw. I was getting there, but I wasn’t there yet.
I wasn’t looking for anything serious, obviously, but I still found myself drawn to the jerks, the emotionally unavailable, the players. The person I ended up dating for the “longest” was not a psychopath, but a completely emotionally blocked Mr. Big type. He fed me crumbs and I gobbled them up, hungry for validation from someone who could not give it.
When I first threw myself back into the dating game, I was still on shaky ground, looking for validation from someone else, convinced that if I got it from an “unavailable” man, it meant I was special. I did not truly love myself and so could not allow genuine, kind men in because I was looking for someone who couldn’t love me in the way I deserved.
Even with all the power I had found and all the writing I had done, it wasn’t until very recently that my actions actually started lining up with everything I knew intellectually. Once you have clear boundaries and genuine love and respect for yourself, you naturally will weed out the scum and start to attract what you truly deserve.
When you get to the point that you don’t need another person, you will feel it and you will know it, and it is only then (ironically) that you are ready.