This is the third of 4 pieces about an encounter I had with a sociopath. The rest are here:
What did I miss? What did I not see that allowed me to engage so fully with a sociopath?
These are the questions that have rumbled around deep inside me in the aftermath.
After the man I was infatuated with tried to ghost me and I subsequently discovered he was married with children, a couple of friends told me that they’d had their suspicions. Being told that after the shit hits the fan felt bad. I felt like there were signs I missed because I was too infatuated, too excited, or too hopeful.
Partly it felt bad because, well, it was true. I was. I suspect that even if those friends had taken the time to tell me their concerns, I would have dismissed them. Of course I wanted to believe that the man I was infatuated with was telling the truth.
There is nothing inherently wrong with believing someone. I call that being trusting. I trusted him. I trusted that what he told me was real. But there were lines I had to cross to keep believing and keep trusting. They were small lines, and each of them felt like no big deal. I crossed them because I was emotionally invested to the point of making allowances for him. I wrote things off to support the story he told. Looking back, when I put together all the small lines I crossed, they were certainly indicative of a larger problem. At the time, I just didn’t see that, mostly because I didn’t want to.
Okay. So, in hindsight, what did I miss? What could I have done differently? How could I have seen it coming sooner, or even at the very beginning?
Please keep in mind that this is my experience and mine alone. Other people who have engaged with a sociopath have very different stories, because there is no single identifiable trait that allows you to spot their deception. Otherwise we could see them coming a mile away, right? Yet I hope that if someone reads this and is involved in a similar situation, it will help them to recognize the patterns, to avoid getting in so deep, or even better, to avoid engaging with a sociopath at all. It’s a really good experience to miss.
So, here’s my list.
♥ I’ve never been one for web cams, especially for sexual encounters. But beyond the sexual purpose, I don’t use web cams or face time with friends for just keeping in touch, either. And I’ve never used it for getting to know a potential long distance partner, as a way to spend time together, as logical as that seems. I didn’t do that with the sociopath, and I wish I had.
I wish I’d visually connected with him, asked him to show me where he lived, to take me on a tour of his home. Show me you in bed! Show me you in your world. I want some visuals so when I think of you, I have a sense of where you are and what your world looks like.
♥ I never asked for his address to send something to his home, like a card or a small gift. Or to look it up on Google Earth, so that I could see where the man lived who I’d been so intimate with, in conversations and hotel rooms. Seems reasonable, right? But I never even asked.
♥ I didn’t ask normal curious questions about him and his life. I could have asked so many things. Tell me about where you live, in an apartment or a house? What does it look like? City? Suburb? Do you enjoy living there? Tell me about your office, what does it look like? Do you have a secretary? How far is it from your home? My normal curiosities were thwarted by the ever-present lack of time. Those questions always seemed unimportant because the little time we had, I wanted to spend talking about other things. Big mistake. The restriction of time resulted in a lack of knowing details about each other. How convenient for the sociopath.
♥ He could never set a time to connect and keep it. He was always changing the times we set, with a myriad of excuses of why he couldn’t or didn’t connect with me. The thing is that no one is that busy. No one is so busy into the late hours of the night that it precludes a simple phone call for a few minutes. And equally important, if they are that busy, they are not prioritizing having a relationship on any level that would be satisfying to me.
♥ Texting instead of calling was his modus operandi. When I asked for more calling because texts were unsatisfying and surface-y, he gave great lip service to acknowledging that request, and then nothing really changed past one or two extra calls, during which he pointed out that he heard my request and was trying to satisfy it. Even late at night, texts were offered, not phone calls. He told me I could call whenever I wanted and he would answer if he could. He picked up once.
♥ He never talked with me or picked up the phone when he was with other people. We shared conversations when he was in restaurants or driving or getting gas. But he never once picked up the phone when he was with friends and said something along the lines of, Hey Honey, I can’t talk right now, I’m out with friends, who all say hi, by the way. They can’t wait to meet you…because I can’t stop talking about you. Not once.
♥ There was a way in which, despite his passion and intensity, the sociopath wouldn’t connect with me. I remember a particular moment during the first time he came out to California to see me. I was relating a story about an important life experience I’d had. It was after some great sex, and we were naked, just sitting with each other and talking. I was revealing a deeper layer of myself. He listened for a while and then I could see the moment when I lost him. He fidgeted and actually began to bite his nails, catching himself quickly. He didn’t want to be there in that moment. A small part of me was sad. I think that part of me knew he didn’t have any interest in knowing me that deeply. Of course he didn’t – I was just someone he was using. Just one in a long line of used and ghosted women.
♥ He offered so little time, and I put up with it. Why? Why did I settle for that? I’ll tell you why. Because every time we shared a phone call, I hung up feeling so good. That’s a powerful motivator. Part of the reason I felt so good was real, I believe. Our kinks did overlap quite nicely. We had an intellectual connection, were mutually supportive of each other’s endeavors, and we just clicked. But part of what I saw as a good connection may have been him simply repeating back to me what I said, so that I felt heard, cared about and understood. I hear that you’re concerned about that…I’m glad you had such a good time…I miss you, too…that does sound like a good idea.
Another factor affecting my acceptance of time constraints was that he complimented me, he praised me, and he fucking worked me like a master. He regularly made it clear he thought the world of me, I was amazing, I was incredible, and he was enthralled. This brings me to…
♥ He was too effusive with his compliments. I suppose in the back of my mind, in a hushed place I wasn’t paying much attention to, was the realization that his words were inappropriate for how well he actually knew me. Like the person who dates you for a month and says I love you. Yikes! Too soon. He waited 6 months to say I love you, but during those 6 months he spoke of me and his feelings for me in superlatives. I really wanted to believe him, and that made me vulnerable. Who doesn’t love hearing that stuff? He used hyperbole to ameliorate my frustration regarding the lack of time. That’s why I hung up feeling good every time.
♥ He rarely told me specific names of people. “This guy I’ve been friends with my whole life…”, “a guy I work with…”, “my brother…”, “the head of a company who wants to hire me…’, “a good friend of mine…”. And I didn’t ask.
The sociopath used these techniques with me for about 5 months. At that point, I was just beginning to notice things. He spoke of having dates with other women, but never seemed to have more than 15 minutes to spend on the phone with me except on rare occasions. He spoke in terms of building a serious long term relationship, but the reality was that we really didn’t know each other that well; we’d never had the chance to get to know each other because we hadn’t shared enough time.
Even at that point, I did not suspect he was married with children. It was quite clear that I wasn’t his priority, though, so I took a step back to reevaluate things, to decide if there was a place for him in my life. That was when he used his last and most powerful manipulation, he said, “I love you.” I’m glad it didn’t work. I’m glad I was already holding him at arm’s length when a month later, I discovered the truth. What went through my head when he told me he loved me was – well, nice words, but that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t really know each other, or that your actions don’t reflect your stated intentions. Things were beginning to unravel. Since then, they have unraveled completely, and I’ve shared the story with you.
Now I have tied up the loose ends of this adventure and I’m done, finished, complete, fini. This is the last piece I will write about the sociopath. I feel happy about that.
What are my plans moving forward?
In the future, when I jump back into the dating game, I intend to keep a few things in mind.
Dating is a balancing act. I want to believe the person I’m dating, and I will still extend trust as my default. I will engage with an open heart. I will believe them, allow them in, and if they are a good match for me, allow myself to fall for them.
At the same time, I will stay alert and aware of their behavior, not only because they might be a sociopath (though the chances are slim), but because that’s the logical and smart thing to do when dating with the intention of creating something more than a casual connection; be curious and pay attention.
I will watch for signs of incompatibility, signs that our desires, goals and intentions are not aligned. I will be curious to see if their words match their actions. I will try to stay aware of every small line that I cross next time. Those lines might be simply a compromise of the sort necessary when two people come together, but they also might be red flags. Last but far from least, I will ask my friends what they think. Seeing a situation with clarity is difficult when one is in the middle of it. I will seek objective opinions.
The balance I intend to strike between trusting and believing on one side, and staying alert and paying attention on the other, will be a challenge, but I feel up to the task. I will not submit to the impulse to be suspicious and fearful, as an attempt to avoid getting hurt again. That closes me off from the deliciousness that is life. I have always believed, and still do, that life contains so very much deliciousness, and to enjoy the most of it, one must be willing to experience the good times as well as the bad.
In short order, the sociopath will register as nothing more than a small bump in the road for me. A very small one. The lessons I learned will be the big thing that will stay with me.
To those who have had the misfortune to be the victim of a sociopath, my heart goes out to you, and I have a few things to offer:
- Don’t blame yourself. Sociopaths are usually brilliant, skilled at their game and hard to catch.
- Don’t let the question of, “was any of it real?” fuck with your head. It was real for you. That’s all that matters.
- Keep your heart open. Work through the pain, cry as long as it takes, and make every effort to stay open and trusting. The effort will be worth it.
- In future relationships, follow your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, investigate.
- In future relationships, stay alert. Not suspicious or accusatory, just aware. Listen to words and notice if they match actions.
- Be very good to yourself. You deserve it. Sociopaths are a difficult lesson.
Please feel free to share this piece of writing anywhere and everywhere you are moved to (with me as the author). You don’t need my permission. The more eyes this gets in front of, the fewer people will fall prey to this particular kind of sociopath.
Be excellent to each other.