How to Recover from a Relationship With a Sociopath

Two Parts:Moving OnLearning From the Experience

The American Psychiatric Association defines a sociopath as someone with an antisocial personality disorder, who has a disregard for moral and legal cultural standards. Even though they often come across as charming and sociable individuals, sociopaths generally demonstrate a severe lack of empathy for others, and don not feel guilty about their actions. A sociopath may repeatedly lie and manipulate others for their own gain. Recover from a relationship with a sociopath by establishing distance, giving yourself time and seeking therapy.

Part 1
Moving On

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    Acknowledge what you have lived through. One of the first steps to recovering from a relationship with a sociopath is to fully acknowledge what you have been through. It’s important to try and reflect on your experience to help you understand what happened and how you can move on from it.[1] A relationship with somebody who demonstrates symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can be incredibly difficult, as this person will typically feel little or no guilt about their actions or how they have hurt you.
    • A sociopath will also feel no empathy towards you, and will blame you for your situation. He may even appear to take satisfaction in your pain and distress.
    • It’s important to try and recognise these practices and diagnose the behaviour.
    • Doing this will help you understand that you were not at fault or responsible for his behaviour.[2]
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    Validate your emotions. Once you have begun to acknowledge the situation you have been in, you can acknowledge the emotions that you may have been suppressing or your former partner may have undermined or invalidated. If you are frustrated, feel regret, and maybe a bit foolish about having been taken advantage of, accept these emotions and recognise that they are an entirely reasonable response.[3]
    • Acknowledging emotions will help you to come to terms with what has happened, and learn to trust your emotional responses.
    • A sociopath who lacks guilt or empathy can undermine your own emotional awareness and destabilize your sense of self.
    • Understanding that emotional reactions are normal, and your formers partner’s aren’t can help you to recover from the relationship.
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    Get some distance. Getting some real distance between you and your ex is essential. It allows you to recover from the relationship by helping you to extricate yourself and have time to reflect and rebuild. A sociopath may be less likely to make the effort to follow somebody if they move away, so consider getting out of town for a while and staying with a friend or relative.
    • Going to another place can have a transformative effect, and allow you to see things anew.[4]
    • You might find it helpful to delete all contact information and disconnect yourself from social media.
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    Have secure boundaries. A crucial part of recovering from your relationship is having clear and firm boundaries that separate you from your former partner. Your ex may not respect the boundaries that you establish, so create boundaries for yourself that you will not cross. Having a clear understanding of where you won’t go and what you won’t do is essential to maintaining the distance necessary to recover.[5]
    • You could write down things that you will not do, such as answer his calls or contact him in any way.
    • In part, setting boundaries is about helping you unlearn the dysfunctional patterns of your previous relationship.[6]
    • You might find it useful to imagine a physical boundary between yourself and your ex. Build a wall in your head and see all of his hurtful comments and actions rebound off it.[7]
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    Don’t be a victim. Affirm to yourself that you will not be a victim anymore. The relationship has ended and you are moving on. Embrace that, and repeat it to yourself again and again. Repeating positive statements and affirmations helps you to expose negative reactions or beliefs that may have become normal or dominant, and replace them with positive ones.[8]
    • Spend some time thinking about yourself and who you are. Think about what you want to do, where you want to go, and what you want to achieve.
    • Your former partner will not have shown any empathy towards you during your relationship, so now show yourself empathy.
    • Understand the difficulties you have been through, but assign them to the past and create a positive image of your future.[9]
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    Seek support from friends and family. Your relationship will have lacked empathy and understanding, so it’s important that you spend time with people who will show you empathy. This will help you to validate your feelings and come to terms with what you have been through. Friends or family may be the best people to talk to. Be sure you are comfortable talking about your relationship, and completely trust who you are talking to.
    • Try to talk to friends who are not experiencing any relationship problems of their own.
    • Spend time with friends or family that are positive and will help you think about the future as well as reflecting on the past.[10]
    • Consider seeing a counsellor to get some expert help that will be completely independent of your relationships.

Part 2
Learning From the Experience

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    Recognise indicators of antisocial personality disorders. You can learn from the experience and take these lessons on with you through your life. When you reflect on your experiences in the relationship, try to identify and diagnose behaviour that is indicative of an antisocial personality disorder. Sociopaths are generally unashamed of what they do and how they make you feel, and will sometimes happily admit to hurting people emotionally, physically or financially. They often blame the victim of this abuse, saying that he was just naive. If you can recognise these factors it will help you to spot them in the future.[11] Some of the key signs of a sociopath are:
    • The person behaves in hurtful ways and expects you to act as if nothing happened.
    • He manipulates people, directly or indirectly.
    • He treats you very differently at different times for no reason.
    • He is comfortable lying to get off the hook.
    • He externalizes blame, not taking responsibility for his actions and their consequences.
    • He sometimes seems to enjoy manipulating and hurting people.[12]
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    Know that it is not about you. You will at some point ask yourself what you could have done differently and whether what happened is your fault. The more you learn about antisocial personality disorders the more you will understand that sociopaths are likely to feel no remorse about what they do, and may even take pleasure in manipulating you and hurting you.
    • Sociopaths can be very skillful manipulators. The way he acts is down to him, not to you.
    • He may have been very charismatic and effective at faking emotions, such as guilt.
    • While it may be hard for you to tell what he was doing, sociopaths are generally fully aware of the pain they are causing.
    • This awareness separates sociopaths from people with other personality disorders. Narcissists, for example, may cause hurt, but they likely do so while trying to protect themselves.[13]
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    Seek therapy. Consider getting professional help in overcoming your relationship with a sociopath. Find a therapist who understands sociopathic behaviour. You will want to talk to a counsellor who understands the psychiatric disorder and can help you move on. Before you schedule an appointment, ask the therapist if he or she has a background in, or experience with, people who have been involved with sociopaths.
    • Look for groups or support among other victims. The best people to understand what you are going through are those who have gone through it as well.
    • Ask your therapist to refer you to a support group, or check online for forums dedicated to victims.
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    Go slow in new relationships. If you have been in an abusive relationship with a sociopath, it’s important to give yourself time to heal and truly come to terms with it. Be cautious of jumping into any new relationships too soon, and be aware of any warning signs. Think about how you got involved with your former partner and be aware of any similarities with a newly developing relationship. Some warning signs to keep an eye out for include:
    • Does he recognise how his actions impact on others, and take responsibility for this?
    • Does he blame others for their situation?
    • Can he make a genuine and sincere apology?
    • Can he admit to making a mistake?[14]


  • Be careful if you are confronted by the sociopath you have separated from. Sociopaths can sometimes be dangerous. Remove yourself from the situation, and call the police if you feel like you might be in danger.
  • If you are constantly fearful, depressed or unable to manage your daily life, let your therapist or doctor know.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Former Relationships | Antisocial Borderline Histrionic and Narcissistic Disorders