Through therapy, I’m learning more and more about how I got stuck at the bottom of this rabbit hole. For me, accepting the “how” is an unusual mix of feeling both validation and then, sadly and I suppose not surprisingly, violation all over again.
Much of the “how” stems from goodness. A sociopath targets his victim because she is a good person. I’m not trying to inflate my ego by saying that. It’s just the truth. A sociopath relies upon all traits relating to goodness (acceptance, positive energy, humility, validation, empathy and forgiveness being paramount) for their supply. To put it most kindly, they are emotional vampires. To put it more realistically, they are emotional rapists who are addicted to a constant stream of attention and adoration. This supply is a sociopath’s portal to abuse his selected victim.
Supply, however, will either eventually bore the sociopath or enrage him. I think it did both to James. I figured out fairly quickly that there was something off about his behavior. I can distinctly recall a conversation I had with him over dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant where I asked, over many tears, why he was treated me kindly one minute and coldly the next. I also asked if this was something any other woman had asked him about. It was early along enough in the abuse that I could still rationalize that (1) something was wrong and (2) I couldn’t have been the first woman to have experienced this.
James reaction to my questions was not what I was expecting. With any other relationship I have ever had, a discussion like this (although NOT over this kind of behavior) went calmly and with a normal back and forth. Maybe some tears. Maybe a raised voice, definitely no yelling. But not with James. He became immediately defensive and accusatory saying that I was the one acting unpredictably. That I ran hot and cold. And that I am being overly dramatic and didn’t accept him for being occasionally depressed.
Okay…can we pause right here? I do not run hot and cold. I am not dramatic unless I am being silly (which I am excellent at) and I have nothing but love for mental illness. Anyone who knows me casually or intimately knows that his assessment of me in that moment is a pile of complete and utter shit.
My goal in having that conversation with James was to show that I cared about him, about us and to fight for our relationship. I thought that maybe we had just hit a rough patch and we could talk through it. It never, ever occurred to me that I was actually trying to reason with a snake poised to strike and inject me with his venom. So, no, the conversation did not go as planned. It ended, as many more to follow would end, with me apologizing and being so very sorry. I learned quickly that the wrath that would follow any questioning of his behavior would be unbearable.
Today I know to walk away from such nonsense. Today I know not to be sorry. Today, today, today. I’m so glad I am regaining my strength and believing that I have worth, that the goodness James saw was real. But so much damage that he will never acknowledge or be held accountable for in any way remains strong. Even this morning I found myself weeping at the register at Office Depot buying toner for my printer. Why? Because trauma runs deep and is not forgotten, as much as our hearts beg for closure and peace.