Freedom: The Ultimate Relationship Litmus Test

The very first thing I felt after the psychopath discarded me was absolute and utter relief.

I remember the long, deep breath I took, and the feeling of my entire body relaxing. This feeling of relief was quickly overpowered by other emotions, but I will never forget that moment.

I was free again.

That means that I hadn’t been free… and I didn’t even realize it.

That’s why Freedom will be the litmus test of all my future relationships.

I will ask myself:

Am I free from fear? Free from shame? Free from uncertainty? Free from feelings of inadequacy that I didn’t have before? Am I free to express my emotions? Am I free to share my thoughts and opinions? Am I free to be myself?

Perhaps the loss of freedom is the biggest sign of involvement with a psychopath, or with any kind of abuser.

We couldn’t see our loss of freedom at the time, but we can see it now and we will be able to see it in the future.

When the relationship began, we felt very free. We were loved and appreciated for who we were (or so we thought), so we were free to be ourselves. We took the risk to be vulnerable — one we were invited to take — but as we let ourselves be seen, something terrible began to happen. Instead of being accepted for who we were, inevitable flaws and all, we were Squashed. Crushed. Pummeled. Shamed. Silenced.


We began to hide ourselves out of fear of being rejected by our beloved. We hid our emotions, our intuitions and our doubts. Our joy at finding love turned into the fear of losing it (known as the ‘manipulative shift’), and from that moment on we were imprisoned, slowly but surely, as our lover turned into our captor. We didn’t see our prison cell being stealthily built, one bar at a time, as we lost our freedom bit by bit.

It’s awful to go through the day motivated by the avoidance of rejection, hurt, and humiliation. It’s like living in a pressure-cooker with the lid on tight. There is no freedom in living like that.

When it was over, we were safe and free to be ourselves — how wonderful! Except for one thing…

Our captivity didn’t end when the relationship (victimization) ended.

We got stuck in a Betrayal Bond — an intense bond with the perpetrator — which happens when an egregious betrayal of trust takes place. We were still not free. And we were still at risk of  reuniting with the abuser if he or she wanted to continue the abuse.

Shame and blame are large parts of a betrayal bond. Instead of clearly seeing what transpired, we blame ourselves and feel shame for what happened.


To become free, we must take the antidotes to the poison: No Contact. Learn the truth about psychopaths. Learn about betrayal bonds. Accept that we have been betrayed (and this is not easy — betrayal, especially by the one we loved most, is shocking and devastating). Develop boundaries. Create healthy bonds with trustworthy friends, family members, a therapist, and a support group. Breaking a trauma bond is much different from “getting over someone.”  It takes understanding, work, determination, and self-compassion.

“In many ways,

betrayal and exploitation are like being in the fun house. It makes the abnormal and the grotesque appear normal. Trauma distorts our perceptions just as sure as the mirrors in the fun house. Your task is to leave the fun house and face the reality without the distortion. This risk is the price of admission to recovery. You simply have to be willing to do it…”

“Saying good-bye is wrenching for survivors, who already grieve their many losses. Here the survivor must confront the deep desire for the seduction story to be true. There is more than exploitation or abuse at stake here. There is the loss of some dream or core hope that made the seduction story so irresistible. Usually that dream or hope has roots in some original wound for which the survivor has not yet fully grieved. So when it is time for good-bye, the grief will be overwhelming. The only choice you have to survive is to embrace the pain and experience the loss. In many ways the betrayal bond protected you against that pain…”

“You may not have to say good-bye, but you must be willing to do so. In fact, life as you know it may require a complete transformation for you to survive these relationships. Work, values, homes, friends, and even family relationships may have to substantively change for a successful recovery. What lengths are you willing to go to in order to be free? When you answer that question, you may have to face another risk; to be alone and be okay.”

From ‘The Betrayal Bond,’ by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D

We forget that freedom is our right and our natural state, but when we get it back we remember. It feels good, and we will never give it up again.

♥ The journey back to freedom is a rocky one, but well worth making.


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26 thoughts on “Freedom: The Ultimate Relationship Litmus Test”

  1. Grace

    Once again, your telling my story, and all these blog posts, books, amazing illustrations, describe this unique situation so clearly. I’m ‘ in the process’ of untangling myself from the
    web and finding my divine right to live a free life. I hope and pray my intuition continues to guide me to make healthy decisions and choices for myself. So far intuition has been an accurate guide for me. I wouldn’t be this far along without all those ahead pointing me in
    the right direction. Thank you for this wealth of knowledge and information, it’s truly saving my life.

    1. Admin

      You’re welcome, Grace, and thank you for your kind words! We certainly do have the right to live a free life, and from now on I’m making sure to protect it.

  2. AnnettePK

    I can relate to the feeling of relaxation when the stress and tension and much of the anxiety left me. I would get stressed again, usually because of a reminder from someone or something (seeing a photo or hearing something about him) or some other unwanted contact, and it usually takes me 2-3 days to get over some reminder of him. Still finding things around the house (we lived together in what he deceived me into thinking was a marriage), or hearing something at church (same denomination – he attends a different congregations in another part of the state).
    Even without the reminders, the stress/anxiety/fear would come over me followed by the release kind of cyclically for the first couple of years out.
    I really enjoy your posts and your illustrations. I have found blogs, particularly this one, to be on a higher plane than forums. Much more helpful, as you have pointed out.

    1. Admin

      Thank you, Annette. So glad you find it helpful.

      My initial feelings of relief and freedom were buried for a long time under an avalanche of emotion and trauma. I didn’t realize what it was telling me and how important it was. Eventually it came back to the top and I realized what it was all about (which is what I wrote about in this post). I hope everyone will find their freedom again soon.

  3. Ann

    You may have to face another risk. To be alone and be ok. THAT is the litmus test. But i have found that when we pass the test life takes a turn for the better. Another great post admin.!

    1. Admin

      Thank you, Ann. Life definitely takes a turn for the better when we pass the test!

  4. JGB

    I can relate to the feeling of freedom when I left an abusive relationship, I felt an immense weight lifted from me. I don’t know that the guy was a psychopath though. The guy I got involved with was definitely a sociopath, though more quiet and refined in ways. But the brief time between the two? Sometimes I felt such a lightness to be done with it I almost felt like I would levitate.

    1. Admin

      That’s a great way to describe it! I think I may have actually levitated, although it only lasted a moment, unfortunately.

  5. Depressedempath

    Thanks for another very enlightening and true post. When I finally got away from my psycho with no contact, I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom. So much so, that I wake up everyday with enthusiasm for life, I appreciate and cherish everyday of my life. I just feel so lucky to have my friends and family who care so much about me. I can come and go as I please, do what I want with no one criticizing me. I knew that the psycho had controlled me but I never realised the extent of it until I got free.
    It’s so exhilarating and life changing. I learnt so much from a bad relationship. I choose to learn from that, not regret it. Because if I regret it and it never happened, I would not have this amazing sense of freedom and enthusiasm for life. Thank you psycho, you made me see what is important in life and it’s not you!

    1. Admin

      WONDERFUL! I’m happy to hear that. There is so much good we can gain from our experience. Not from what they did, per se, but from what we make of it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. If someone said they could wave a magic wand and make it so it never happened, I wouldn’t let them do it. Someone said the other day that if it hadn’t happened, she wouldn’t have her daughter and she wouldn’t be the person she is today. This is very different from what the Ps had in mind for us! They underestimate us terribly. They tried to crush our spirit, but they had no idea of the spirit’s resilience. They had no idea of the power of love, no idea of the power of compassion, and no idea of our capacity for post-traumatic growth. People who experience post-traumatic growth after all kinds of trauma say this:

      “My priorities have changed. I’m not afraid to do what makes me happy. I feel closer to my friends and family. I understand myself better. I know who I really am now. I have a new sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I’m better able to focus on my goals and dreams.”

      Living well truly is the best revenge, and freedom is a big part of it.

      “Thank you psycho, you made me see what is important in life and it’s not you!” :-)

  6. janes

    based on your article & all the other things i have been reading about Ps (insessantly lately) getting involved with one of them in any way form or shape is perfect inviroment of slavery which starts with bait & switch then turns into slavery.
    the relieve that we all feel after they are no longer in our lives is the perfect reaction ending of Slavery. they can only keep us there by our insecurities. i think it is their life blood. as they push us lower they go higher in life.
    Thanks for the great links !!! Grand Central of P AWARENES
    also from your Pschopaths & Love book. i am working on, starting new people with 1 instead of 10 like that teacher in your book starts students with 10. Ps M.O. IS EVERYONE CAN BE DUPED & NOW MY M.O. IS EVERYONE CAN BE P! :))
    i have failed a recent experience a new P at work :(( i will share more details later.

    1. Admin

      It is slavery — they enslave us to fulfill their needs. Now we know. We learned the hard way (and I’m not sure there is any other way), but we’ll be keeping a close eye on our freedom in the future.

      I’m sorry to hear about your recent experience. The good thing is you that realized what happened, whatever it was. Don’t forget that without failure, their is no success! There’s always more to learn.

      Janes, that’s a great point — start everyone at a “1.” I’ll write the story of the teacher in a blog post. The caveat is that once someone earns a “10” or an “A,” it gets more difficult to see when they’re doing things that deserve an “F.” That’s why it’s not enough for someone to earn our trust — they must keep earning it (with ongoing trustworthiness). People who are trustworthy will do that naturally, so a change in behavior is definitely a red flag.

  7. janes

    thanks for the reminder of an extremely important point in your last paragraph.
    basically, it says; PROVE IT & KEEP ON PROVING IT !

    1. Admin

      That’s right, prove it and keep on proving it!

      Of course we don’t have to tell them that…we just have to watch them.

  8. janes

    Happy TG !
    Congrats for your new book !
    i love the title & i ve just bought it. i am excited about the content.
    Btw, i am starting my own blog & the name will be Evil Clowns. LOL
    (just kidding, no way! there are more talented :) & experienced people :(( already)

    1. Admin

      Happy TG to you too, Janes, and everyone else! I hope everyone has something to be thankful for, even in the wake of a psychopath.

      Evil Clowns…that’s great! You should do it! I started this website just two months after the debacle ended. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it, but I did it anyway. If you feel that calling, go with it! I’ll help you in any way I can.

      It’s said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with when people are counting on you. I am every day :-0

      Thanks for getting the new book! I’m in the midst of *trying* to publish it as a paperback. All that technical formatting is something I’m not too good at. Been knee-deep in it for two days…pulling my hair out

      1. janes

        thanks for the encourgement & support offer. it is a great thing for a newbie!
        i have a diffrent calling & i am working in it.
        i admire what you & others do, i rather learn from experts( i feel sad when i call anyone an expert since this is one of the heaviest expriences people go through in life, some times over & over).
        Good Luck with your paparback stuff.

        1. Admin

          Follow whatever your calling is, Janes! Your enthusiasm will make it great! Thanks, I’m getting through the paperback stuff…just submitted it for the fourth time…thank goodness for editors! Wish I had one here.

  9. Elsie

    Oh an add on to my just sent message I am a severely disabled wheelchair bound elderly lady who had polio age 2 and my parents split up at the same time I got polio I was in an iron lung and they put me up for adoption my whole life has been one long struggle after another I am now 66 years of age and still battling on I am only telling you all this so that you know where I am coming from so as to speak. Thank you again. elsie xx

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m sorry you’ve had such challenges in your life, Elsie. The disabilities can’t be changed, but keeping pathological people out of your life will go a long way toward increasing your happiness and peace of mind.

  10. Marimar

    Thank you for all this information. I just got out of a 30 year psycho-marriage and I feel free but I have a lot of doubts and questions. I feel happy but confused as to how I should be feeling. HELP!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi, Marimar. Congratulations on your new-found freedom, and your happiness!

      After 30 years with a psychopathic person, it’s no wonder you’re confused about how you should be feeling; I’m sure there was plenty of invalidation and denial of your perceptions and reality.

      How should you be feeling? How ARE you feeling? That’s what you feel, and it’s exactly right, whatever it is xx

  11. Billy Hamilton

    I just got out of yet another relationship with yet another female psychopath. I have been aware of their existence for quite some time but seem time and again to fall prey. I am left doubting the chance that I will ever meet a normal girl. I feel that freedom talked about for the first time in this short yet tumultuous relationship. each time she and I had problems before I was deeply saddened and would agree to forgive and resume the relationship. I think and certainly hope that I have reached that point where I have had enough. This relationship was bad for me and my business.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Billy, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with psychopathic females. You will meet a normal girl, but not while you’re with an abnormal one. Break off contact with her, and then give yourself plenty of time and space to get clear and to heal. Work on building strong boundaries and on becoming clear about what you want from a partner and a relationship, and don’t date again until you’ve done those things. Look up the post, “Intensity vs Intimacy.” Best wishes to you!

  12. Megan

    This entire site has been saving my life the past few days. Which I can see is something that many, many people have already said in their comments. What a beautiful gift it is.

    I just ended things – at long last – with the psychopath who has been a part of my life, on and off, for nearly eight years. We weren’t together for all that time, but as I say, it was on and off. Suffice it to say, the final 12 months were sheer terror, the final six months were devastating, and the past month I’ve damn near thought my heart would explode from all the panic attacks and anxiety he was causing me to feel. I had been driven so insane I was acting erratically; telling him more and more lies to keep him appeased and keep him from getting angry. And then finally it all came crashing down, but instead of breaking up with me (almost the way I was secretly hoping he would) he was insisting I had to stay with him, that I’d made a fool out of him, and now I had to pay for it. That we’d make it work, no matter what.

    I have a business that is rapidly growing, and is projected to become worth a lot – LOT – of money. I know that’s why he has wanted to hold onto me, even though the honeymoon phase wore off a long, long time ago.

    Infidelities, rampant infidelities everywhere, have come to light, including with minors; perverse behaviors. And he had so totally ripped me down to my roots I’d lost all sense of self. He literally had me thinking I’M the one with an anti-social personality disorder. Threatened to kill me. Threatened to kill my family. But at the same time managed to convince all of his friends and his family that I’M crazy. Psychotic. Ruined his life. So now they all hate me.

    I finally ended it on Monday. And I felt in those first few moments the sense of freedom you’re describing. Such freedom. I ended it……and then when he called me multiple times, I blocked the number. When he had others text me saying he was crying, could “never hurt me”, and that he still loved me and if I loved him I’d just call him…I refused. Told them all he’d threatened to kill me and kill my loved ones. And in return they told me I’m a liar, that he’s a great man, could never harm me, etc. (Never mind the fact that some of them had witnessed his temper; seen him punch holes in walls, heard him yell and publicly shame me, seen him even once throw a drink on me. Suddenly he was this “great guy”. Because apparently he’s THAT good of a manipulator, or at least he is with the people he targets. My family weren’t fooled. They couldn’t stand him for years. Or my friends or my business partner. They’d been praying for this day for a long, long time.)

    I’ve vowed to myself that Monday was the last time he would EVER speak to me. He sent me an email (the one mode I didn’t immediately block), telling me to contact him when I’m ready to be in a real relationship and not ruin his life. I didn’t respond. He sent another email telling me he didn’t know where I was getting these “fabrications” about him harming me. I felt initially the self-doubt kick in, BUT this time I had a witness; my mother had heard him screaming his threats and screaming every last cruel/derogatory name in the book at me on the phone. So she confirmed I wasn’t crazy. For once I didn’t feel alone. For the first time in a LONG time I felt like I had an ally.

    Freedom. As you say.

    I feel the other feelings too; I’m missing him at times, and I hate that. But at the same time I’m at least having no regrets at this point. Not actually wanting him back. I’m hoping I can keep my resolve. And just keep moving forward.

    I’m going to keep coming back to this website, each time I start to question whether or not he was really “that bad”.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, Megan. Your words are a gift to me as well. I can’t even express how happy I feel that this website has helped you.

      I’m sorry you’ve been through such a long and difficult ordeal with this person. I have confidence that you will keep your vow not to speak to him again. You’ve passed the point of no return. You’re seeing things more clearly than ever now, and returning isn’t an option anymore—at least not one that you’ll choose.

      It’s wonderful that your family and friends are on your side. That’s the important thing; don’t worry about his friends. They’ve been manipulated, too, and they’re explaining away the things they’ve seen him do and say to you in order to uphold their image of him as a friend and a “great guy.” That’s what we do, too, when we stay with them despite everything that’s gone wrong. That image we form of them in the beginning—that they’re trustworthy and loving—is a powerful one. There’s more to it than that, but that (false) image we have of them is what makes the whole thing possible.

      Congratulations on your very successful business! I wish you the best of luck with it. That’s quite an achievement.

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