I recently read an excellent article which gives tips on how to prevent yourself from falling into the same trap again with regards to having a romantic relationship with a sociopath or narcissist. It’s something which worries each and every one of us. I’ve had many questions since the book was published regarding this very matter, and believe me, it’s something I’ve also pondered long and hard myself.
There is no fixed time-scale for recovery, but I believe you must be a good way down the recovery path before you can consider getting involved in any sort of romantic relationship.
Most of the women who contact me ask “will I ever be able to trust a partner again?” I would say the answer to that question should be an emphatic ‘yes’. What’s harder to answer is “can I ever trust my own judgement again?” That (to me at least) is the tougher of the two questions.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering how it was you could have got it so wrong. How could I not notice the warning signs in the beginning? Why was I so blind? And why on earth did it take me so long before I finally woke up and pulled the plug?
Don’t beat yourself up about these things. NPD/APD’s are masters of disguise. It’s almost impossible not to be taken in by their lies. Remind yourself how many others were also fooled at the same time. Your friends, family, business people, bank managers etc. How many others were taken in during the time that you knew him? I bet there were a good few, right? So don’t be too hard on yourself for falling for his charms. You won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last either. So the best thing to do is ACCEPT it, and move on.
What are the chances of it happening again?
Well, that again depends on how quickly you can facilitate recovery, and how much you have learned to accept about what happened. In my opinion, it cannot happen quickly. If you find yourself getting involved with somebody again almost immediately, then my advice would be to take a step back. Give yourself time. It's a knee-jerk reaction and totally normal to want to 'replace' the relationship as quickly as possible. But, unless you head is in the right place, you risk either getting involved with somebody who isn’t right for you, or once again getting sucked in by the same characteristics you were attracted to the last time.
The article gives excellent advice with regards to waiting. You need to re-discover yourself and what drives you emotionally. This can only be done over time, and by finding ways to enrich your life in other ways which don’t include romance, at least not for now. There's much more to life than being somebody's 'significant other', so enjoy the time you have to concentrate on your own emotions, without having to worry about somebody else's.
If you have kids, take the time to focus solely on them. The chances are, you’ve been deprived of quality time with one another because of all the stress caused by the relationship breakdown and the subsequent fallout. Spend time with them, and you’ll find that for the time being at least, you don’t need anything or anybody else in your life.
Apart from kids (or if there aren’t any kids),surround yourself with good, reliable people. Become a good, reliable person yourself. Cultivate friendships, and step back from shallow people who drain your energy. The people who stand by you during the difficult times are worth their weight in gold. Hang on to them, and you’ll never be lonely again.
One of the most difficult things to do after the break down of a toxic relationship is to rebuild self-esteem. Again, time is the key. You need to actually get used to being on your own again and being happy in your own skin. It takes time to regain confidence and repair the damage. Don't rush it, you'll recover at your own pace. You'll know when you're ready to move on, and into another relationship.
Be assured though, you are better equipped now than you were when you met your ex. You will know the signs to watch out for, and you’ll trust your inner voice more this time too! You'll instinctively be on your guard, and therefore less vulnerable than last time. Once you've understood what it was about you that attracted him/her in the first place, you'll know what needs to be changed the next time you venture into 'dating' territory. And when you do, just try to relax and enjoy the experience of getting to know somebody new, but go at YOUR pace and make sure you have clear boundaries set from the start.
If it feels wrong, then it probably is.
The experience you had with your ex will arm you for the future. Believe that you will find happiness again, and you will, in time.
So, to answer the question "When will I love again?" I can only say "When you're ready, and not a moment before."
"If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius."