5 Therapist Tips For Healing After A Relationship With Someone Who Has Sociopathic Tendencies

All relationships take work, but a relationship with someone who has sociopathic tendencies can take blood, sweat, and tears. The Mayo Clinic defines sociopathic tendencies — or antisocial personality disorder — as "a mental health condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others." People with sociopathic tendencies (or sociopathy) tend to act impulsively and disregard social norms, lawful behaviors, and other people's well-being. Life with someone like this is draining at best.

However, it's often impossible to know if someone has sociopathic tendencies until you're dating them. Their knack for covert abuse tactics (i.e. emotional withdrawal or guilt induction) makes it even harder for you to realize that you're being played. They typically don't accept responsibility, either, so exiting a relationship with them means you have to navigate through your emotional wreckage on your own (via the Cleveland Clinic). This means no apologies and no closure. When a relationship with a person who has sociopathic traits ends, you're often left with an overwhelming sense of failure, confusion, pessimism, and unresolved questions. You may be unwilling to move on, but you're unable to stay.

To help you make progress in your healing journey, Glam spoke exclusively to therapist Jennifer Lytle, LMFT, clinical director of Joyful Journeys Counseling, for more insights.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Get counseling

While many people can bounce back from a breakup on their own, this isn't the case with everyone. If you're having trouble getting back on your feet, finding a safe place in a therapist's office or joining a support group for people going through similar experiences might help. You might feel embarrassed to talk about your unpleasant memories with other people, but you'll be surprised how many people have unfortunately experienced sociopathic abuse.

When it comes to finding quality care, Jennifer Lytle, as a private practice counselor, recommends considering a private practice clinician because they're able to offer you the finest care. "It's okay if you can only do this for a short period of time. Commit to 10 weekly sessions, communicate this with your chosen counselor, and do the hard work, showing up every week for your committed number of sessions," Lytle exclusively tells Glam.

Everyone has their own way of coping with the trauma of a breakup. However, if you find yourself engaging in problematic coping mechanisms, such as alcohol abuse, excessive smoking, overeating, or emotional outbursts, it's a sign your breakup is wreaking havoc on your quality of life — and you should seek professional mental health support before it gets worse.

Reach out to friends and family

After a breakup, you'll want to surround yourself with people who support you and help you feel better about yourself. No one is an island. We all need a support system from people who don't have sociopathic tendencies and who stand by us during trials and choices. Spending time with your family and affirming friends will make you feel empowered and keep you from thinking about your ex. Their unconditional support will help you stay grounded during uncertain times.

It's normal, however, to have fallen out of touch with your family and friends because of your former romance. Many of us have a tendency to move our friends and family to the back burner when preoccupied with romantic relationships. Still, it's necessary to make an effort to reconnect and meet up with them, Jennifer Lytle tells Glam. "If necessary, let your friend(s) know you are sorry for any pain you caused through being absent," adds Lytle.

You can use some help in reassembling certain aspects of your life that have been damaged by your sociopathic ex. And your friends and family, whom you know have always been with you and for you, can help you adapt to singlehood and restore your faith in love in a practical way. For instance, they might offer you a temporary place to stay after moving out of your ex's, help you plan for your future, or join you in mind-rejuvenating activities.

Reclaim your personal space

A breakup is a daunting transition into a new beginning. Reclaiming your own space, such as your house and car, by getting rid of things that trigger memories of your previous relationship and replacing them with cheery décor is a terrific approach to usher in your new chapter. "Rearrange furniture if needed. Throw out bedsheets if you need to. Find a new scent for your spaces through scented satchels, quality air freshener, and a new candle or aromatherapy," Jennifer Lytle tells Glam. "If possible, consider a new color pop on the wall or as an accessory." If you don't have a knack for interior design, you can get help from a personal cleaning coach or fantastic planning tips from FlyLady.

Spring cleaning and reorganizing your house as a form of self-care can have a cathartic effect on your broken heart. The connection between cleaning and breakups is such that HGTV airs a program called "Unspouse My House" where designer and self-proclaimed breakup specialist Orlando Soria helps single customers renovate their houses as they navigate the transition period after a breakup or loss.

Set aside time for community work

Volunteering and giving back to your community is an effective way to feel better after a breakup. "Find a place to do good, without any reward other than the smile of those you are momentarily serving or the smile of the volunteers in your vicinity," Jennifer Lytle tells Glam. Doing good can do wonders for your health. It triggers a release of "happy chemicals" including serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine, resulting in the good mood known as the "helper's high," according to Rochester Regional Health. In addition, a relationship with someone who has sociopathic tendencies must have taken a toll on your self-esteem and confidence. Volunteer work, on the other hand, can compensate for that because it gives you a sense of self-worth, purpose, and camaraderie.

Collecting trash along the river bank or providing companionship in a hospice doesn't make you see "la vie en rose" right away, but it entails enough time and energy to keep you from recycling your grief. It's also a fantastic way to meet new friends and establish meaningful connections with like-minded people. New connections offer a fresh perspective. If your romance with a sociopathic ex has left you feeling entirely incapable of trusting again because you don't want to get hurt, being in the constant company of new people might help you realize that there are still good people out there and can give you hope for finding a love worthy of you. 

Stay focused at work

One terrible thing about breakups is that they can cause you to lose focus on your work and neglect your professional connections for an indeterminable amount of time, and you don't get an office hall pass for romantic heartbreaks. The stress of getting a negative performance review on top of a nasty split can be a big blow to your mental well-being.

Therefore, the period following a breakup should be spent putting extra effort into your work and your relationships with your co-workers to avoid looking as if you're letting your personal life get intertwined with your work. "Whether it's connecting directly with a member of upper management or re-establishing a connection with a colleague, it's important to ensure things are on the up-and-up at work," Jennifer Lytle tells Glam. Committing to your work is also a meaningful way to resume normalcy and stave off negative thoughts. Nonetheless, if you're not fond of keeping yourself busy while still processing your pain, take some time off work to recharge mentally and return when you're ready.

Everyone's approach to dealing with heartbreak is unique. Some people regain their sense of control from work. Those who see love as the be-all and end-all might find it difficult to deal with job-related stress after a breakup and can easily have a meltdown at work. At the end of the day, you should opt for a coping strategy that helps you heal from your heartbreak without affecting your rice bowl.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.