Never before in my 25 plus-year career have I seen more relapsing back into Pathological Love Relationships than I have lately.
“What’s wrong with me? Why do I do this?” they ask. My answer is—I don’t know… why DO you do it?
“I didn’t know what I was doing…” Yes you did. Contact is a choice.
“I just thought he changed this time.” No, you didn’t—you know pathology is permanent.
“I was lonely.” Ok, loneliness is not fatal—but these relationships often are. Your loneliness and need does not change his permanent disorder.
Nothing has changed except your thoughts about him and the relationship. That’s the only change. Since pathology is marked by an inability to change and sustain positive change, your thoughts are the only change that there is in the relationship. And maybe your desire or need.
Relapsing begins FIRST in the mind long before it becomes a behavior-seeking missile that is fired off to destroy yourself and your recovery. This is why being in a Pathological Love Relationship support group is so important—whether it’s in a chat forum, an in-person support group you attend, social media group, or an online teleconferencing group. You need support that keeps your THINKING outside of the fantasy zone. Without support, you are likely to sink right back into the old fantasy hopefulness that keeps you glued to a go-nowhere and dangerous relationship.
Relapse thinking goes like this:
You take all the material you’ve learned from books or online back to the pathological and try to convince him he is pathological and needs help.
You tell him what your counselor has said about him, you, or the relationship—hoping the impact from a professional will change his mind about his condition.
You say, “Now that I think I know what might be wrong with him, I’ll wait and watch for him to do these behaviors.”
“Then I’ll have evidence for why I’m leaving.”
When he, in fact does one of the behaviors, you either point it out to him as proof you were right, or, you find reasons why the behavior isn’t exactly what you read and therefore, he may not be pathological after all.
You read the materials and literature looking to find all the traits he doesn’t have. You reread the literature on good days so you can cross off behaviors he isn’t doing today.
You find reasons to disbelieve the literature about the disorder.
You avoid your counselor, the Institute’s website, or anywhere there are others who know about the disorder.
You become ‘spiritually hopeful’ so you can stay in the relationship because God is going to heal him.
You begin reading Positive Psychology materials so you can hope he can change even though pathology is all about the inability to change.
You call his girlfriends or exes to get them to confirm or deny he’s pathological.
You hire a private investigator to follow him, ask friends to report back on his social media activity, break into his phone or computer, for ‘just a little more info’ on why you should leave him (but then you don’t leave).
You feel sorry for him more than you feel anger for your own pain.
You focus on the few good times and stuff your own feelings about the deceitful behavior.
You encourage him to carrot-dangle some future hope or potential to you, so you can say, “We’ll try it ONE MORE time.”
You think you are confronting him because you stand up to him, and so you are not being victimized by him if you are voicing your thoughts.
You minimize his previous deceitful, manipulative, dangerous, exploitative or lethal behavior by saying, “I was probably over-exaggerating it.”
You label yourself, “just as sick as he is” so you might as well stay with him. No one healthy would want you.
You envy his lack of conscience and remorse and see it as a ‘good life’ feature, and wish you were like that and cared less about what happened to you. Everything seems to go his way when he lacks conscience.
You hyper-focus on his behavior and avoid taking care of yourself. The relationship/he becomes the reason for your unhappiness, health, financial, and/or other problems.
You study to death all the traits of every kind of disorder you think he might have and don’t leave because you “want to totally understand it before you leave” and need just a little bit more understanding or validation from others—his family, his therapist, your therapist, your friends, etc.
You start softening, missing him, minimizing his behavior, focusing on your own loneliness, panic about who or what he is doing, make excuses to have contact with him. And ~VOILÀ~ you’re back in.
The ‘emergency therapy session’ call that everyone wants to have is AFTER they have done one of these behaviors and feel awful about relapsing. The emergency session needs to be WHILE you are having these thoughts and BEFORE you act on them. Every time you go through one of these cycles of relapses, it just numbs you more to why you should be out. It makes it easier and easier to relapse. And easier for the thinking to start back up in your head and be totally unrecognized by you.
Damage is done to YOU each time you are in and out of the Pathological Love Relationship, damaging your sense of reality even further—training yourself how to hypnotize your belief system with one of the thinking phrases listed above. You are also teaching the pathological how to get you back in the relationship. They aren’t stupid! They are master behavior analysts that study what works with you. Stop teaching them!
There is so much that the Pathological Love Relationship has legitimately done and damaged in you. But there is so much you DO TO YOURSELF in your relapsing. Relapse prevention requires work. It doesn’t just ‘happen’ that you declare you are ‘done’ and you stay gone. If “it takes a whole village to raise a child,” it takes a whole community to help you get out and stay out until MUCH TIME down the road and you are strong enough on your own. I said, MUCH TIME.
Day one of healing does not happen until you are out, and have been out and have been emotionally disconnected, for several months. I don’t consider people who say they are recovering but are in and out and having constant relapse contact, to have even day one under their belt. For those of you who are truly ready to start a new life, we are here to help you. Unwedge yourself!
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)