The traditional 5 stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.
You will undoubtedly feel all of those at some point while recovering from the psychopathic relationship. But losing a psychopath is not like losing a friend/family member; it’s not like losing a regular, loving partner. Here are the modified stages of grief from a psychopathic relationship:
All-consuming devastation. Absolute shock and disbelief. Feelings of total emptiness, thoughts of suicide and extreme difficulty performing trivial tasks. Your hormones are going cold-turkey from a chemical addiction. You will feel ugly and drained — your body will physically deteriorate (before/after pictures of D&D victims are horrifying). Your sex drive will oscillate between desire for him and the misery of thinking about what you no longer have. Psychologically, you are extremely raw and vulnerable from the D&D, but at this point you aren’t even aware what a D&D is — you are just a victim of it, and therefore feel it instead of understand it (like you do now). You genuinely believe you deserve this. That you are worthless. You are nobody without him. You are jealous, crazy, needy, clingy, everything is your fault.
Typically begins when the psychopath starts waving his “happy” life in your face. You see him running off with OW, or telling the world how flawless his life is (commonly done through social media). You aren’t even angry about the OW, because you likely have no idea how long the infidelity was going on. You just feel the need to prove that you are fine and dandy like the psychopath, because then maybe he’ll want you back. You change jobs, friends, lash out at everyone and everything except the psychopath. You go out drinking, partying, having mindless sex, in huge efforts to convince yourself and him that you are fine. You will become very impulsive, blowing money and harboring delusional thoughts of returning to your idealizer. You may try to replicate the exact dynamic you had with the psychopath with another man, only to get very frustrated that your sex life isn’t as good or that he doesn’t love-bomb you with attention.
Education & Self-doubt
Somehow, you come across psychopathy (or narcissism, sociopathy, etc). Whether it be through an internet search or a therapist, you know deep down that something within you is deeply broken. Even though you want to prove you’re happy, you also want to figure out what the hell just happened. When you read all of the red flags of psychopathy, you will experience extreme self-doubt. You will continue to blame yourself and wonder if you’re just labeling him a psychopath because you can’t handle the “truth” (his truth) of how you ruined the relationship. You oscillate back and forth between your idealizer and devaluer. How could someone who claimed to be so amazed by you also hate your guts? How could he go from obsession to contempt in the blink of an eye? It isn’t possible. There’s no way you dated a psychopath. He loved you. Right?
Understanding the Psychopath
This stage doesn’t exist in any way with the normal stages, but it’s one of the most important in your recovery process. Education can only take you so far. You need to feel what they feel. Most victims live by compassion and love, so it is nearly impossible to empathize with a psychopath. In fact, this is why they’re able to get away with so much. Because normal human beings automatically project their conscience onto everyone else. But sooner or later, you will be so consumed by psychopathy that you finally understand how their minds work. You can actually put all of his behavior into the perspective of a psychopath and suddenly everything clicks. It all makes sense, when it never did before. From the mirroring to the love-bombing to the delayed criticism to the eventual D&D. You feel disgusted. You realize you were never loved; just another target a never-ending cycle. You realize you’ve never behaved like this in any other relationship. You can look back at all of the things that made you feel paranoid, and see that they were all calculated and intentional. You come to the horrifying realization that the person you trusted was actively working against you.
Once you understand the psychopath, you’re absolutely disgusted. Your self-doubt is being replaced by anger. You know the truth. You see how you were used, manipulated, and brainwashed. You’re beyond angry. You want to murder him. You want to contact everyone in his life and tell them what he did. You want to write him a letter and tell him to burn in hell (don’t, by the way. NCEA). You obsessively talk about it with your friends and family, you need to get your story out there. You’ve been shut up and minimized for so long, your voice is finally free. You begin to feel all of the things you weren’t allowed to feel in the relationship. Whenever you accused him of cheating or lying, he would turn it around and blame it on you so you felt bad instead of mad. This cognitive dissonance has caused a huge displacement of anger. You feel delayed emotions of jealousy as you realize how long the cheating was going on, as you realize he was telling her you were abusive in order to gain her sympathy. The smear campaign makes you feel the need to prove yourself. This delayed rage is totally expected after a psychopathic relationship. It can take months, even years to feel. Please, if possible, do not act on it. You will only prove the psychopath’s point. The greatest thing you can do is remain calm and composed. It will drive him insane. He wants you to feel rage so he can show everyone how crazy you are and how much you still love him.
You will go back and forth between depression and rage for a very long time. You will have good days and bad. One day, you will think you can move on — the next, you wake up angry and screaming. You don’t want to be mad. You don’t deserve to be mad. All you did was fall in love. You isolate yourself, you surround yourself with people who understand you on discussion forums. You have obsessive, racing thoughts. The tiniest things set you off. Your boundaries are returning (or perhaps being formed for the very first time) and you can’t believe you let yourself sink so low. You realize how much you lost. Not just friends, money, life experience, etc, but also your innocence. Your kind understanding of the world has been shattered. Instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt, you suddenly have trouble trusting. You will experience constant feeling of dread and tightness in your heart.
You start asking questions. Why did this happen? What are my vulnerabilities? Of course these vulnerabilities aren’t your fault, but it is important to understand how you were able to be exploited. You’re spending time with others who have gone through something similar, so you have hope and little bursts of joy. You have validation beyond belief, often triggering you back to rage & depression, but these feelings are healthy. You are finally feeling what you were supposed to feel during the entire relationship. Everything falls into place and you can calmly & coherently describe what you went through and what happened. Instead of feeling the D&D, you can talk about it like a scientific term. You’ve made new friends, and you’re starting to realize that you’ve almost made it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s taking a while to get there.
You begin to discover your strengths. Many of these were strengths you always possessed but never valued. You realize your compassion, empathy, and love are not weaknesses. They are the most incredible gifts in the world, when applied to the right people. Your self-respect comes from within, not other people validating your insecurities. You start to understand who you are and who you’re truly meant to be. It took the psychopath’s nastiness to make you see exactly who you never want to be. You laugh at his old notions that “you were the same person”, because you realize you are exactly the opposite. You begin to explore your creative side, and you stop caring what others think of you. Old friendships may change as you change and become more confident. Embrace the new you, and open your heart to love again. You are free now. You should be so, incredibly proud of yourself. You made it, and your life path has forever changed for the better
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