Healing from a Pathological Relationship

Red flags

Red flags (Photo credit: rvw)

Unfortunately, being wooed by a person with a Cluster B type personality disorder is such a pleasurable experience that most people do not recognize the red flags during the early part of courtship.

Individuals with Cluster B type personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)Anti Social Personality Disorder (ASPD),  psychopathy (Psychopathy is considered a sub set of ASPD)  turn on the charm in the beginning of the relationship because they need to hide their true selves from you.

The start of the relationship will be fast. It will feel like going from zero to sixty in mere seconds.  Suddenly, the Cluster B-type becomes the center of your life. He will fill that lonely place inside of you perfectly. You and he will declare yourselves soul mates. No one else has ever listened to you the way that he has. He will place  you on a pedestal and tell you that you are the most beautiful woman in the world. He will drop his life to be available to you at every moment. You and he will quickly rearrange your personal and  work schedules to spend hours together, either on the phone, texting, or in bed. It will feel like being a teenager and having your first love all over again.

My recent love affair with a man with traits of both ASPD & NPD was exactly like having my first love all over again because this man was my first love. I met him when I was 18. Not only was he my first love, but he was also my first husband and the father of my eldest child.

When I was 23, I left him because he was using and selling drugs. Although he had a dark and troubled side, there were many positive aspects of his personality and I felt that he and I were very close. Leaving him had been the most difficult decision of my life because I loved him deeply, but I needed to make a better life for me and my child.

Our ‘reunion’ began when he tracked me down and sent me a romantic card on what would have been our twentieth wedding anniversary. (We had not been in contact for eighteen years.)

Once I responded to his card, he  apologized profusely for his poor behavior when we were younger, and swore that he was rehabilitated and living a clean life. He told me how much  he regretted missing out on family life and promised that  he would spend the rest of his life making it up to me because I was the only woman whom he’d ever loved. As I had always missed him and fantasized that maybe he’d get his act together, his reappearance into my life and subsequent devotion was a dream come true.

As  this man was not a stranger to me, but the long-lost love of my life, our ‘new’ relationship proceeded at a breakneck speed. We began communicating with each other in February, and despite living two hours apart, we were lovers by May. The speed felt perfectly natural given our strong attraction to each other and our previous relationship. Instead of red flags which should have been apparent by the quick pace of the relationship, I saw only green lights.

Two of my oldest friends were concerned about the speed of this reunion. One, a woman,  told me that it appeared that both me and my ex had ‘extremely poor boundaries’ as we rushed back into a relationship.( Obviously, this was not what I wanted to hear as I walked on sunshine.) Another friend, a man, said to me, “Listen, if this guy was so irresponsible back when you were in your twenties, what makes you think that you can trust him now? What has he done to earn your trust and forgiveness?’

I didn’t listen to either of them. I was ‘following my heart’- that bit of nonsense which is spoon fed  into us by the ton in our culture. In order to find true love, one had to be willing to trust, forgive and take risks, right? I believed this at the time. I absolutely do not believe it now. Your life, your trust and your love are not things to take risks with. The stakes are too high.

However, I did notice a few red flags during the first few weeks of courtship. The first red flag  was a disconnect between my lover’s description of himself as a reformed, civic-minded individual with strong family values and his lack of volunteer or community service. Based on how eagerly he had described his interest in his hometown and community service with me, it did not make sense that he did not do any volunteer work on the weekends.  When I asked him about this,  he avoided the subject, or alluded to the possibility of doing volunteer work with me in the future.

The reality is that my ex husband, no longer a young man, but a man in his forties,  had learned to lie exceedingly well during our eighteen year separation. He had become a skilled and pathological liar. In addition, he had advanced in the arena of drug sales and was now connected with a wide network of individuals. He had a respectable full-time job and was able to hide his illegal activities under his public facade in order to support his own habit. So, I was right to start to wonder about how he spent his free time. He was only talking about community service to trick me, or because he had heard me say that I valued volunteerism.

Shortly after that first red flag, I spotted a second one. Again, it was related to how he spent his free time. Although he spoke a lot about his family, it quickly became apparent that he had spent very little time with his immediate family over the prior two decades. I found this particularly strange because he’d been living  in the same town as many of his family members. Since we’d started talking, he had taken a sudden interest in his family and began visiting to them. It seemed strange to me that he was ‘all of a sudden’ becoming a family man, but because this matched what he was telling me about wanting to make a fresh start in life, so I let it slide.

Another early red flag waved as I noticed what seemed to be strange relationships with his male friends. As we were spending two or more hour every night on the phone, I could hear when people came over. I could hear many of his friends, some who lived nearby, entering  his apartment without knocking. When I asked my lover about this, he became defensive and changed the subject.

When I pressed him about this and asked why his male friends just seemed to come and go with out calling first, he assured me how tired he was of them, and how he wanted to spend all his time with me and with his family. He said that he didn’t like living there anymore because his friends  bothered him with their presumption of an open door policy. So, I accepted this, but it did seem very strange behavior for men in their forties.

The reality was that my lovers ‘friends’ were all dropping by either to get high or to sell or buy drugs.

With the exception of the high-speed wooing, I did briefly notice these other early red flags. They all appeared before our ‘reunion’ became physically intimate. They did not appear to me as red flags but as slightly discordant notes in an otherwise perfect melody. I chose to either ignore these discordant notes or to accept his explanations.

I did not realize at the time what a huge mistake I was making by not listening to my instinct about something not being right in terms of the types of activities he either did or did not engage in during his free time. My intellect picked up on the disconnect between who he was selling himself to be and who he was, really.

The red flags I have mentioned in this post all occurred within the first twelve weeks of my ‘reunion’ with my ex-husband, which is before we began having sex. It is critical to pick up on these early red flags before the relationship becomes sexual. Once sex enters into a relationship, all the emotions and hormones involved tend to drive critical thinking out of the picture.

During this time, I had no idea that the ‘love of my life’ was actually a skilled and accomplished liar who had succeeded in pulling the wool over my eyes and hiding from the dark side of his life.

I do remember one red flag we first began sleeping together. We were taking a walk together on a Friday evening and I just had this overwhelming sense that this man whose hand I was holding was not connected to me in any way but was quite far away from me.  I thought that he was not my soul mate after all, but a very strange man about whom I knew little about. It had been twenty years, after all. How could I be sure that he hadn’t changed into an entirely different person?

I became paranoid and freaked out that I was actually sleeping with this man.  But soon I felt ashamed to doubt him as he was being so nice and deferential to me  during our walk. Surely I did know this man, I assured myself, he was my true love from long ago. He was the exact same boy whom I had loved when I was eighteen. There was nothing strange about him at all. And I continued to brainwash myself until I believed it. And within a couple more weekends of sleeping together, the hormonal bonding had cemented me to him so that I could only view him through rose-colored glasses for the next two years, until the surface cracks began to appear and spread.

Namaste,

Ixchel

3 thoughts on “Healing from a Pathological Relationship

  1. Do you mean you and your ex narcissist/ASPD husband were NO CONTACT for 18 years after your initial breakup? Narcs in need of narcissistic supply will hit up an old supply source if the well is dry and they need a ‘fix’. But I never imagined that the time span could be that long.
    That is amazing. The fact you shared a child probably made his re-entry after such a long absence that much easier and was precisely the excuse he needed to wiggle his way back into your lives. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you all the best.

  2. Can anyone direct me to who I can get clarification about whether the man I live with who fits the profile of a sociopath. I read an article on FB called “Are you surrounded by sociopaths”?, and the only thing that confuses me is that the two people that the man I live with is very social.( mostly when he’s drinking though) is there a place you could direct me to where I can get some answers? A hot line? My name is Katherine.

    • Katherine, I am sorry to be late in responding to this. You should definitely talk to someone. I am not a trained medical person but I suggest that you contact “Crisis Text Live” and explain your situation. This is a national crisis hotline. TEXT “GO” TO 741741

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