Moving Forward Through Pain~ Healing After a Relationship with a Cluster B Personality

English: Om healing circle Polski: Krąg om healing

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Those of us who are recovering from a relationship with a man or woman with a Cluster B Type personality disorder such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Anti Social Personality Disorder/Psychopathy/Sociopathy(ASPD) face a long and challenging healing phase in our lives.

We encounter many troubling aspects of dealing with the aftermath of these relationships. First, the ending of these relationships is nearly always dramatic and often unforeseen. My relationship with a man with Anti Social Personality disorder ended within an hour, when I realized that he was both sleeping with another woman and living a secret life involving addiction and criminal behavior. For women and men escaping relationships with psychopaths, the ending can be not only dramatic but violent. (I watched ‘Fatal Attraction‘ for the first time last night and the final bathtub scene is burned into my retinas this morning.)

Sudden dramatic and possibly violent endings of relationships are traumatic. For anyone with a past history of childhood abuse or spousal abuse, such an event  may trigger past trauma. Many people experience shock after the ending of these relationship. In one hour, you believe yourself to be happily involved with the love of your life and in the next, you discover that he is a pathological liar and that you don’t even know who he really is, inside.

When my relationship ended, it sent me into a state of shock which lasted three days. Being in shock was shocking. My friends wouldn’t let me drive after I made the discoveries. “You’re in shock” they said, “You’re not driving home. Leave your car here.”

For me, being in shock meant that I could not eat, slept fitfully and was terrified of being alone. I kept reliving the memory of my discovery over again, and kept replaying the memory in my mindbecause I was sure that I’d made a mistake and that none of these awful things were true. (They couldn’t be true, because he and I were soul mates!)

My discovery happened eighteen months ago. It’s been an extremely long journey back, and I am still not finished yet. I am fighting to rediscover who i was before I entered into this fatally flawed relationship. Every day is a healing  journey and I am trusting myself to find the right path and to live day by day.

Here are some things which have helped me during this difficult time:

1) Reaching out to friends and family for support

2) Seeking a professional therapists help the very first week it happened, and continuing to receive counseling while processing the shock and  grief

3) Allowing myself to grieve for the person I though I was in love with

4) Familiarizing myself with Elizabeth Kubler RossGrief Stages and the Extended Grief Cycle

5) Throwing away everything related to my ex

6) Cutting off all communication with him completely

7) Making a promise to myself that I never need to see him or talk to him again

8) Writing this blog and keeping a journal of private thoughts and dreams

9) Taking good care of myself by eating well

10) Reading the Blogs of other people who are also on paths of healing and who have experienced these types of relationships



Betrayal: A Life Lesson

Fourteen months into the process this betrayal has become, a journey through brokenheartedness, shame, grief, denial, bargaining, acceptance, pain, and healing, I am recognizing a cycle. I have gone through a similar sequence of emotions before,and it was again, related to this man whom I believed to be my soulmate.

When I took the baby and left him and his druggie lifestyle at the age of twenty-two, I came north, to this same town, to heal. The cycle was different; I had a baby to look after and so instead of processing my grief, I ‘stuffed’ it. Instead of coming to terms with how badly my young husband had treated his family, I made excuses for him and held his friends responsible for his behavior. In this way, I sheltered my heart from the miserable reality that the love of my life was a real selfish scumbag.

However, although I did not go through the emotions of grief consciously, these feelings gnawed at me for a good long time, close to a year and a half, after I’d cut off all contact from him.

I did go through an intensely personal cathartic process of growth which was painful and quite lonely. It was a time for spiritual introspection and for guarding myself closely, keeping myself and my daughter safe, and meditation. I”m going through a similar experience now: I am wondering about the spiritual aspect of this part of my life.

I am convinced that the reason this man came into my life was to betray me; one of my life’s lessons was to be betrayed. Or perhaps, from his perspective, he had a choice. He had a choice at the age of 22 and then again, a chance to change that choice at the age of 42, and both times he chose against us. He chose addiction, lying, betrayal, and low friends over his family.

At any rate, I am now curled up in my den for the winter. My wounds are no longer raw: I have stopped licking them. I am standing up and moving on.



The Holidays are No Time for the Bereaved

Christmas in the post-War United States

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“I would say that the holidays is no time for the bereaved.” A dear friend wrote this in response to my post ‘The Damage Done’ in which I mentioned that Christmastime is no time for the brokenhearted.

Bereavement is perhaps a better term for the type of loss I suffered. Losing those we love, to death, to betrayal, to changes, is always painful.

During the holidays, we exult the family; we worship the love of those close to us.

When we lose loved ones, we grieve them most during the holidays. This is only natural. The cycle of life and grief continues. Now, my friend, who has suffered a great loss, mourns more than I do. We can only witness each others’ lives through these cycles of grief, of mourning.

I remember last winter, when the betrayal wound was fresh, the overwhelming pain and loss which I felt during Christmastime.

This year is better.

Christmas triggers unhappy childhood memories for me and for millions others. My mother was not emotionally well. Wanting to provide me with a perfect Christmas, which she had been denied in her impoverished childhood, she created holidays which were pure overwrought fiascos. She tried. Forty years later, I must give her credit. She did not succeed, but she did try. I forgive her. She has passed on from this life, and I pray for her soul. I wish her well.

Christmas is a time when I grit my teeth and bear it. I buy lots of present for my kids and hope they will be happy. Internally, I wish for the day to pass quickly. I drink too much, the night before and the night of. Let it pass. Christmas reminds me of him; it reminds me of those two years so recent yet so far ago in which I thought that he and I and our daughter were reunited again for the rest of our lives. Those were the only Christmases in which I did not despair.

But he was gone from me now; he was a lie. I mourn him, but I am not sure if he is worth mourning.

It is my illusion which I mourn; it is the dream of him as a whole person, not an addict, for which I grieve.

Is it more painful to grieve for a real person than for an imagined one?





[1] To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
[2] A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
[3] A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
[4] A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
[5] A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
[6] A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
[7] A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
[8] A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Quote~ Grieving for a Lost Love

With what a deep devotedness of woe
I wept thy absence – o’er and o’er again
Thinking of thee, still thee, till thought grew pain,
And memory, like a drop that, night and day,
Falls cold and ceaseless, wore my heart away!

~Thomas Moore

Lalla Rookh–The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan

The Grief Spiral

Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

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I am told that towards the end of her life, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of Death and Dying, revisited her original grief cycle and clarified that the individual phases were not linear, but rather, more a spiral of feelings that one encounters during the grieving process.

One of my employees asked to speak to me this evening because he was going through a stressful time and really just needed someone to listen. He’s a young man, just turned twenty, who has worked for me for almost two years. His father passed away this January after a long cancer related illness and I’ve been impressed by how well this young man has  held up under his grief. Today he seemed to be cracking under the weight of it.

“I thought it would be over by now,” he said, almost pleading with me. “”I’ve been grieving for him all year, its been months. I thought it would be getting better by now.”

I didn’t tell him that it was going to get better. How could I? Grieving the death of a person you love takes a long time. I encouraged him to talk and we talked about things that could help like prayer (he admitted wanting to go to the Catholic Church, where he’d grown up, and light a candle for his father.)  I also asked him about members of his family who could give him support.

All I could tell him was, “Grieving the loss of a person you love takes a long time.”

I have read that it takes on average, two years, to process the grief of a lover’s betrayal. I can accept this. I know that I will never be the same person again. I can’t explain what it feels to discover that the one person whom you love and trust the most in the world has betrayed you. I have written tens of thousands of words in this blog trying to explain the feeling but in the end, feelings can never put into words. We can intellectualize the thought processes related to the feelings and we can tie them to stages others have written about. In this blog, I have also offered my dreams and metaphors to cope with this. But in the end, it is very close to having someone dying. The person whom I thought I was in a relationship with died, because he was no longer actually in that relationship with me, because his feelings about me had changed entirely, because the inner story and feelings and plans and hopes between us which I believed to be sound were actually all rotted through. It is the shock of the betrayal, and then the trauma, followed by the grief process, which makes it so prolonged.

Earlier in the day, I came across the little pink phone he gave me a couple of years ago, which I haven’t used since all this happened. It’s in the top drawer of my desk, and I keep just avoiding it. But today, thinking that I was strong enough, I charged it up and then took a look. There was the record of our last phone conversation, and in the inbox, although we rarely texted, a text he had sent me on a certain day in July, 2009, ‘Love you, darling’.

I told myself that he’d already been sleeping with another woman by this date, but I remembered the joy so sharply of receiving this text, that there was a pinch in my heart. I had spent the weekend with him and was taking the train back to Boston, and I remember waiting for the train with him that day, and the flash of sunlight through the train window and the wooded glades through which the train was passing, jetlike, and where I was sitting and exactly when the text had arrived, and its golden arrow to my heart, and my memories of hundreds of train rides to see him and back, first as a very young girl and now as a grown woman.

I scribbled down the date and time of this text on the back of a check book. For what possible reason?  what can it matter to receive a text like that from a man who’s already cheating on you and will continue to cheat on you for the next fifteen or so months until you find out? I told myself that it was good, I hadn’t cried. I was growing stronger. The grief was lessening. My heart may have shed a drop or two of blood after the pinch, but it did not burst open. ‘You never could have looked at this phone a few weeks ago, ” I told myself. “You are doing better. Time is healing you.

But the pinch in my heart took hold and bruised. It was the bite of a narrow snouted sharp toothed fox. Just a small quick bite- its razor-sharp little teeth just barely breaking the skin.

I wish I had not signed up for grief. I wish that I had always done what my father had wished for me to do in my life, and avoided all the tribulations I have put myself through by loving this one person more than others, for what seems like my whole life.

I pray for my grief and the grief of all other beings to be lessened.



Crawling into a Hole & Dying (or not)

Shame on you

Image by Έλενα Λαγαρία via Flickr

After the shock, after the month of bargaining and denial, shame took over. Shame is not one of Elisabeth Kubler-Rossstages of grief. How could it be? Kubler-Ross was writing about death and dying when she described the stages. Nor is shame in the Extended Grief Cycle.

Shame is where grief from betrayal branches off from other kinds of grief.

Once I could no longer deny what had happened, once I could no longer pretend that the magic fairies were going to swoop in and fix it, or he was going to have some sort of life changing epiphany, enter a residential drug and alcohol treatment program, and turn the screwed up mess he’d made of my life into the ending of a Hallmark made for tv movie, I was deeply, totally ashamed.

I was ashamed to tell others what had happened. I was ashamed to face my two good friends who had told me never to trust this man again when he’d appeared back in our lives.

I was ashamed to face my seventy five year old father, whom I’d convinced that my lover had his act together and was treating me good this time around. I was ashamed to ask my Dad to come and be with me while my world fell apart in those first days of shock.

I was ashamed that I’d ever trusted him again, that I’d let him hurt me again. I was ashamed that I’d become so intimately involved with him and that he’d hurt me like this. I was ashamed that he’d thought so little of me that he’d just started sleeping with another woman, started dating her, and not even had the kindness, the decency, to let me know in advance, so that I could have saved my pride, at least.

I was ashamed that I’d believed any of his lies.

I was ashamed to tell my teenage sons what had happened. I still haven’t told them. As far as they know, this man I had been dating for two and a half years, their sister’s long lost father, and about whom I had told them so much about why he was so important to me, just dropped off the face of the earth.

I was ashamed, I was mortified, that I’d had a sexual relationship with this liar, with this cheater! I was ashamed that I’d given my entire emotional and sexual self to him, in complete trust.

I was ashamed that I’d been tricked, not only by him, but by this other woman, who apparently knew all about me. They’d both tricked me, they’d both lied to me.

I was ashamed to have my life fall apart, to be that person with her life falling apart, once again.

I was ashamed to find myself ,forty three years old, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of my dining room, because being in my own bedroom triggered too many memories.

I was ashamed to weep myself to sleep every night on this mattress on the floor.

I was ashamed that my sadness would not go away.

I was just so very ashamed, at all the things that must be wrong with me, to be treated like this, with such callous disregard, with such disrespect.

When I was alone at the house last December, I could visualize digging a hole in the back yard and crawling into it and dying. Yes, just like that Marshall Tucker Band song.

I have never been so ashamed in my whole life, and the shame colored me darkly with a purple black hue that I cannot wash off. It filled up my entire being, inside.

I am stained with shame.



Bargaining with the Patron Saint of Lost Causes

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

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In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of grief which a person facing death encounters as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kubler-Ross’ model of grief has been expanded over the decades to include general loss and bereavement and additional  stages of shock and testing. This more comprehensive model of grief is referred to as the Extended Grief Cycle.

In this blog, I am chronicling my own journey through an Extended Grief Cycle during the past five months.

In my recent post, A Month of Denial, I wrote about last November and the first month of processing my discovery at the end of October that my lover had betrayed me with a long-term involvement with another woman.

Last November was both a month of denial and a month of bargaining. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve chosen to write about each process individually, although they were experienced concurrently.

The denial came first; the bargaining began immediately after. Because I could not believe that my lover had betrayed me in such a callous way, and because his betrayal, deception and lies challenged my belief in what kind of person he was inside, I began to immediately bargain my way out of the situation.

“This can’t be true, there has to be a way out of this.” Whispered the spirit of bargaining to me as I drifted off to sleep, weeping, when I woke up every morning, half expecting his morning phone call.

Of course, my first action was to pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed. This relationship, this man coming back into my life after and absence of eighteen years, had fit perfectly into my understanding of my journey on this earth. With our reunion, I came full cycle. Back to him, the love of my life, my daughter’s father, my soul mate, our ocean town, my longed for beaches, even, spiritually, my relationship with my deceased mother, which somehow became elevated as I developed a close relationship with his mother.

Our reunion had been fated; how could it be undone by something as sordid as another woman? If everything he had told me in the past two and a half years had been a lie, that I was the love of his life, that we were soul mates, that there was a place in his heart empty without me for two decades, that he’d never looked at another woman all this time (unbelievable but apparently true)- if all this were true, then how could he have done this to me? How COULD he?

I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC in late November on the anniversary of our wedding. I lit candles for my mother’s soul at various altars of St. Mary‘s and circled around the perimeter of the back of the church until I came to the altar of St. Jude. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. This was our saint. He and I had always been a lost cause. How then, could we have been so close? Surely our reunion was part of something divine? At that point, I lost it and began weeping. I tucked ten dollars into the collection slot and began lighting candles. Another candle-lighter saw the amount I had donated and saw the tears streaming down my face and said, “God Bless You.” She then touched my arm and repeated, “God BLESS you.”

Her kindness at this point in my life produced a wealth of gratitude inside my heart. I will never forget her face. Where would any of us be in this world without the kindness of strangers?

Another piece of my bargaining process was through my blogging. In swimming through the details and feelings I was experiencing via written language, what I was really saying to myself was, “But this can’t be happening, there must be some way out of this.”

When I was searching for “some way out of this,” I half expected a deux ex machina event. The gods would come down to earth and create a miracle. This was easier to believe than what I really wanted, which was for him to step forward and make it better.

Appealing to him with a written account of our entire relationship, I wrote him two long letters urging him to take the steps necessary to become an honest person and to change his life for the better. Of course, this was never something he was interested in. It was enough for him to hide who he really was from me in the beginning (still, twenty years later, an addict)- and as soon as started figuring out that he’d lied to me and began confronting him about his addictions, he’d simply gone off and started a new relationship with a woman who didn’t mind his habits. (Or so I presume from what he’d told me about her, whenever they were together socially, alcohol was involved.)

The long bargaining process, in retrospect, seems ridiculous. I’d caught him red-handed and confronted him and he didn’t bother to communicate with me in any way about it for over a month.

The reality is that he was glad to be done with me. I’d become the bitch and the nag, just like I’d been twenty years ago, because of his substance abuse issues. I’d even tried drinking with him in the last year of the new relationship, in moderation, to show that I was flexible, but he’d just get mad at me for wanting him to limit his nighttime drinking to two drinks.

At any rate, the bargaining now seems pathetic and childish. But when my heart was broken and hurting so badly, it was natural for me to want to figure out a way to fix it. I imagined far-flung fantasies; he’d borrow or rent a car and  show up at my house with flowers begging my forgiveness. Poor, pitiful me, crying myself to sleep wishing for the impossible. I’d gone so far out on a limb to believe in this reunion, to trust him and forgive him and move into the future. I’d rearranged my whole life, my work schedule, time with my children, used my vacation time, only to be with him, and I just could not comprehend that he could be so low as to deceive me for so long and allow me to continue to put so much effort and time into the relationship.

Part of the purpose of the bargaining stage, for me, was a reaction to my inability to do anything to fix the situation. I’d spent my life fixing impossible situations through working harder. All my life, I’d worked two or three jobs to pay the rent, to send my son to summer camp, to replace windows on my falling apart house. I’d stayed up all night with a fussy child, one who did not sleep for years. I’d pushed myself and pushed myself to finish college at 32, get through graduate school, create a department at my new job. But this wasn’t a situation which could be fixed through my effort.

Again, twenty years later, he had chosen his addictions over me. There was nothing that I could do about it then, and there is nothing that I could do about it last November.

I think the bargaining stage helped me to come to terms with the denial because the longer I spent trying to figure out how to fix the situation, through prayer, through writing in my blog, through letters to him, the more apparent it was that I was banging my head against a concrete wall.

“No exit.” Quoth the end of the bargaining to the denial. “No way out.”