The toxic relationship is over and you’re finally free. The weight of his anger crushed your spirit. Her jealousy left you questioning your every move. Trying to love a sociopath — or one who seems to be in training — is a soul-sucking, joy-erasing trap. If it wasn’t the negativity, it was the lying, or one of hundreds of other small actions that added up to a big relationship problem.
Now that you’re out, you probably want to run and never look back. There’s more to it than running away, as far and as fast as possible, though. The weight of anger and jealousy is gone — but in its place is the weight of low self-esteem and self-doubt, brought on by the roughest times in that relationship. If you want to truly feel free, you need to travel back to that relationship with a pen and paper. Writing about your ex can change your life. Trust me. It will be worth it.
I Was a Sociopath’s Wife
I don’t promise a better future lightly, because I’ve been where you were. I wanted to get in my car, start driving, and never turn around. But, like the old saying goes, you need to glance in the rearview mirror every once in a while, if for no other reason than to see how far you’ve come. When I did that, I realized two things:
- I was physically free, but still feeling the burden of the relationship
- I was emotionally trapped and didn’t know who I was or how to find her again
I got away from my ex, just like you may have. But I was still feeling the aftereffects of spending so much time with a sociopath. So I took an age-old lesson and brought it to life: let it go. The past is in the past.
The breakup felt like the last step, but it wasn’t. The last step to really being free comes when you drop the baggage of self-doubt and a low self-esteem and every other emotion your ex left you feeling and discover a new personal theme. You have the power to write your own future — figuratively and literally. Writing is a cathartic and healthy practice that people incorporate into their daily healing processes. Now that you’re far away and free from him or her, you’re also free to heal.
Why You Need to Hit the Brakes if You Want to Heal
When my relationship with my ex ended, I couldn’t peel away from the curb fast enough. Very quickly, though, I realized that if I wanted a clean break for myself, I needed to stop and think. I needed some time to reflect on me. I cautiously pulled over and parked my life for a minute in a safe spot: with a pen and paper.
You see, writing is more than just cathartic. Opening the floodgates to the let the words spill out onto paper also opens the doors for a whole host of other emotions and feelings that were hidden in there with the actual incidents. When you let one out, you let them all out. You give each of them a place, space, and time. That’s more than just a release. That’s the first step in the healing process — identifying what you’re feeling.
Writing forces you to name each emotion you’re feeling. It requires you to call it out and stare it down. It makes you think about the reason the emotion showed up in the first place and you can then use its backstory against it. You can pinpoint it, target it, and, by writing, break it down into pieces that you can work to wipe out of your life for good, just like your ex.
You’re in Charge of Your Own Story
Before we go any further, repeat that back to yourself a few times. You are in charge of your own story. Feels strange, doesn’t it? When you spend time with a sociopath, you lose that power. You lose the control you have over your life and your story because your ex took that role away from you. Your ex was the one to decide what your life would be all about (usually, making life about him or herself). Your ex told you what you could and couldn’t do. Your ex usurped every part of your life.
Guess what? That’s all over now. YOU are the author of your story and the one who gets to write the narrative of your life. You can guide your own life. That’s the biggest freedom that comes from leaving a relationship with a sociopath. You not only heal, but you come out stronger, with a greater will to get more out of life. You can make up for lost time and control by creating a brighter future for yourself.
Deciding What to Write
You’re ready to look in the rearview mirror and really understand what you see — but you don’t know what to write. Where should you start?
The beauty of writing your own story is that you can start wherever you want. Maybe you want to start at the beginning of the relationship. Maybe you want to start at the moment when you realized there might be a problem. Maybe you want to start at the end. They’re all fine. This is your story about your life. Don’t ever forget that. In fact, go back up a few paragraphs. Tell yourself again — You’re in charge of your own story. Keep telling yourself those words. Repeat them in the mirror in the morning. Set alarms on your phone. Put up sticky notes.
Once you’ve spent some time writing, search for the common themes in your stories. These themes will be the key components in help you find and embrace your new identity. That’s the beauty in writing about your ex in your life story — you find out who you really are and what you’re truly capable of overcoming. You don’t even have to go back to who you were before the relationship began. You’re not just a prisoner to your ex anymore; you’re no longer a prisoner to anyone or anything that tries to write your life story for you.
Now that you’ve gained the courage to end the relationship, you’re seeing that you’re a strong and independent person. When you shift out of park, ready to get moving again, you’re not turning back onto the same road you were when you left your ex. You’re taking a new road, one that you get to pave yourself on the bricks and foundation of your life stories.
Before you start, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Be mindful about what you’re writing. When people start writing after a difficult period in their lives, they have one tendency: to focus on the saddest, angriest, and most negative feelings. Those are the feelings they usually pour into their stories. Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely acknowledge these feelings when you’re freewriting. They need to be addressed if you’re going to find true healing. The experience of writing, though, is so much more rewarding when you take that sadness and build out from there to transform today’s hardships into tomorrow’s hope.
- Negativity can be all-consuming. Those hard feelings can overwhelm you. Don’t let them. When you go back to visit those emotions, remember, you’re just dropping by for a final farewell. You’re not moving in. You have a new home now, filled with the promise of a happier, stronger you.
- Forgiveness is key. Start by forgiving yourself. When you truly break it down, you’ll most likely find that some of the hurt and negativity you’re feeling comes from feelings of guilt. Leftover guilt from the way your ex blamed you for each and every argument, shortcoming, and every other nonsensical notion that filled his or her head. Remnants of guilt from the fact that you knew something was wrong, that you knew better than the way you were being treated, but that you still held out hope for lasting love. Getting rid of this guilt is like taking the chains off your tires. Even with the other feelings and burdens you’re carrying, the guilt is the one truly holding you back.
It doesn’t matter whether you left your ex this morning or 30 years ago, whether you hopped in your car today, or have been driving the same lonely and hurt-filled roads for decades. Today’s the day to pull over, park yourself in front of a pen and paper, and start the healing process that will pave the way for a new and brighter future. Within a few words, you’ll feel the baggage start to get lighter and your outlook on life improve. Pick up your pen and restore your confidence, renew your hope, and put your life back together. Write about your ex. It will change your life.
Also published on Medium.