It’s Not You, It’s Me and My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System

copyl-neurons copy
Neurons as art, by painter and neuroscientist Gregg Dunn

When the psychopath I was involved with discarded me, he was enraged. With a voice full of anger and contempt, he shouted, “You bore me! I’m done with you!”

I was shocked and deeply distraught that my self-professed soulmate would discard me, and with such vitriol, when I had done nothing wrong. I felt as if I’d been violently shoved off the edge and into a dark abyss. I was falling deep into the darkness, when suddenly a thought brought my headlong dive to a screeching halt:

Why would he—or anyone—become enraged because they were bored? Rage might be appropriate if I’d done something terrible, but just because of boredom? Really?

I was perplexed. But that moment passed, and I resumed my freefall.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my former ‘soul mate’ was jonesing for some dopamine.

More neuron art, artist unknown

Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with feelings of euphoria, motivation, desire, craving and addiction. In the last blog post, Rhonda Freeman, PhD, explained how dopamine affects psychopaths when they’re pursuing us. She says that although they are capable of being genuinely excited and stimulated in the beginning, what they’re feeling is an intense dopamine high. While a dopamine high is natural for all of us at the start of a new relationship, people with psychopathy have a dopamine reward system that’s on overdrive. In addition, since they’re natural manipulators they can’t be exposed to someone and not take advantage of them, so they “groom” the object of their desire for future use. When their dopamine crashes because the relationship isn’t new and stimulating anymore, they blame and devalue their partner.

Just how hyper-reactive is a psychopath’s dopamine reward system?

In 2010, researchers at Vanderbilt explored the connection between dopamine and psychopathic behavior. David Zald, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry, said “These individuals appear to have such a strong draw to reward — to the carrot — that it overwhelms the sense of risk or concern about the stick.” Part of the study involved giving amphetamines to both psychopathic and non-psychopathic test subjects, which led to the discovery that in response to the drug, the brains of the psychopathic subjects released FOUR TIMES as much dopamine as the non-psychopathic ones!

Zald went on to say, “It may be that because of these exaggerated dopamine responses, once they focus on the chance to get a reward, psychopaths are unable to alter their attention until they get what they’re after.” He said their anticipation or motivation for reward overwhelms any other concerns.

It sheds some light on the big question of why psychopaths behave the way that they do. Their intense reward-seeking motivation consumes their attention wholly until they have fulfilled their desire.

A vintage neuron doodle

Athough psychopaths have an exaggerated dopamine response when seeking a reward, they  have an abnormally low level of dopamine in general. Without strong stimulation (and the dopamine that goes with it), they feel bored, empty and restless. They’re also low on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of contentment.

“Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom” is one of the items on the PCL-R, a test used to evaluate a person for psychopathy. Psychopaths require intense stimulation to get their dopamine high and when the object of their desire isn’t shiny and new anymore, they’re simply not stimulating enough to give the psychopath the high they need. Since they aren’t capable of attachment, when the intense newness of the relationship wears off there’s no incentive to continue the relationship.

The search for an intense dopamine high—and the relief from the intolerable sense of bored emptiness they feel without it—drives an ever-repeating cycle of idealize, devalue, discard. Their lives are a continual, relentless pursuit of stimulation intense enough to give them the dopamine they need to feel exhilarated and alive.

Tree branches look like neurons, don’t they?

It seems to me that when psychopaths become bored, they also become boring; and it’s no surprise, since their excitement and engagement has ended. They believe we’re the cause of their boredom and blame us for it, but if my psychopathic ex knew what was really going on, he would have said “I’m bored! But it’s not you, it’s me and my hyper-reactive dopaminergic reward system.” 

They got our dopamine flowing, too. Many of us were head-over-heels in love with them, at a soul mate level. That takes a lot of dopamine! When a person falls in love twelve parts of the brain release euphoria-inducing chemicals, including dopamine and adrenaline, that create the same euphoric feeling as cocaine, according to researchers from Syracuse University. 

In neorotypical humans (like us), falling in mad, passionate love often turns into attachment; a bond forms that keeps a couple together long-term. But psychopaths are not capable of attachment (or love), so when their “mad love” takes a nosedive along with their dopamine, there is nothing left for them. We, however, did become attached, and we know all too well how that turned out.

he search for an intense dopamine high—and the relief from the intolerable sense of bored emptiness they feel without it—drives an ever-repeating cycle of idealize, devalue, discard.
(not a neuron)

Now you have a neuroscientific explanation of why psychopaths behave the way they do. Their faulty dopamine reward system is a big part of that. In addition, researchers have said that there are at least 17 different factors that affect the frontal lobes, amygdala, and the associated communication pathways within the brain to produce the neurological pattern of the psychopath. This ever-growing body of scientific evidence should make one thing clear: the crazy, inexplicable and maddening experience you had with a psychopath was not your fault. Understanding how a psychopath’s brain works not only helps to resolve self-blame, but can go a long way in resolving our doubt and confusion.

♥ Thank you for reading

How dopamine affects behavior: The neuromodulator of exploration: A unifying theory of the role of dopamine in personality (2013)

The study featured in this post: Mesolimbic dopamine reward system hypersensitivity in individuals with psychopathic traits

Other studies on dopamine and psychopathic behavior:

Two dopamine receptor genes (DRD2 and DRD4) predict psychopathic personality traits in a sample of American adults (2013) 

New evidence for an association between the CSF HVA:5-HIAA ratio and psychopathic traits <

CSF studies in violent offenders¶I. 5-HIAA as a negative and HVA as a positive predictor of psychopathy(2001) “This seems to link the outward-directed aggression of psychopathy to serotonergic hypofunctioning and high dopamine turnover, which might account for disinhibition of destructive impulses.”

Dissociable Effects of Serotonin and Dopamine on the Valuation of Harm in Moral Decision Making “… suggesting a direct and specific influence of serotonin and dopamine on the valuation of harm… “

Dopaminergic stimulation increases selfish behavior in the absence of punishment threat

Set‐shifting and sensitivity to reward: A possible dopamine mechanism for explaining disinhibitory disorders

Behavioral genetics in antisocial spectrum disorders and psychopathy: A review of the recent literature 


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52 thoughts on “It’s Not You, It’s Me and My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System”

  1. Grazia

    Adelyn Thank u so much for what u are doing! I have read your books, they are all really helpful.

    Hugs from Italy! Keep the hard work please, your articles are helping me a lot

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, I’m happy to know my writing is helping you! Hugs to you, too. Buona fortuna xx

  2. Jenny

    What a fabulously accurate explanation. I used to find myself bewitched by my psychopath and his exaggerated smile as he would tilt his head to one side and tell me I was what he always wanted in a partner. How could he be so lucky to have met me, he would often say…. Then my perfect partner just changed into a most violent manipulator. But as I read this latest article I can recall … Being stood in the kitchen as he shouted and complained about me, saying, each relationship starts so well, but they all go the same way, in time they just become boring. He said exactly what you’ve just described.
    He then said he had been distracted … I didn’t understand …. He had been distracted by another women and I was now discarded. No warning. And for all of us at this stage, our world falls apart. He snow married this women, his fifth wife!
    But we can all recover from our ideal mate but it takes time and No Contact ….

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I think we might have been with the same psychopath! The exaggerated smile, the head tilt, the complaints that all relationships ended in boredom (only he called it a “power imbalance” that causes a loss of interest), all of it. As incomprehensible and confusing as it is we can all overcome it, and an important part of that is to learn how their minds work. Time and No Contact are also key.

  3. connie

    Your Post’s are so insightful! I have been a regular follower of your Post now over two years. I have written responses to some of your Post’s in gratitude for the personal impression’s and uplifted spirit your writings have given me. There is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that the man who came into my life and swept me off my feet, was,and is, a full fledged Psychopath! Your Post today really touched me deep, and your words continue to be the balm that has given my mind and my heart healing from the ‘self-blame’ that, at times, overwhelms me. Often I feel such intense guilt for allowing any person, let alone, this man to lead me down a road of perdition, filled with anguish and despair. You posted today a comment saying that a psychopaths ‘dopamine high’ makes them feel alive. It brought back memories of a comment that my psychopath said to me in the fullness of our relationship….he said, he felt so good around me that he felt ALIVE! He also commented that I was an addiction to him, and he called me his cocaine!….I have never used illegal drugs, and he stated he never had either,—-so, it makes me wonder, how he came up with the connection??-like I care now anyway! Anyway, long story short—my Psychopath had shown his true colors off and on throughout our relationship – however, his truest and darkest side presented itself when I became seriously ill — he wasn’t there for me. I had known for quite sometime that he displayed the presentation of a Psychopath—but one who has ‘fallen deeply in love’ tries to keep the blinders on as long as possible-because the pain of being devalued and rejected is a pain so intense and unimaginable….it feels like as if only death could ease the pain. Thank you for sharing in your Post today exactly what takes place in the brain when one falls in love—12 chemicals in the brain!!! Amazing!!! I had personally held such guilt and shame in my actions in involving myself with the psychopath – but your Post continues to reiterate there is no ‘self-blame’ and I am not guilty of experiencing the ‘chemical’ power of ‘real love’–even though the Psychopath never experienced ‘real love’ doesn’t mean I did not. *Adelyn-keep posting!!!! You have helped many of us to see ‘reality’ as it should be seen. Psychopaths are REAL!!!!-and they do mean to do harm—-it is my hope that many people will be drawn to your Post’s as well as your books and be ‘awakened!’ – if by some chance, they too, have been seduced and charmed by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    Blessings to you Adelyn

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi, Carolyn. Yes, I recall your comments (the one from this past Christmas comes to mind!); thank you for all of them, and for this one. I’m very glad to hear you’ve felt your spirits lift from my posts!

      Interesting that he called you his cocaine! My ex-P used to say, “You light me up!” and he was indeed “lit up.” And then one day his light went out. That must of been when the dopamine stopped.

      Yes, this was yet another post with the motivation of stopping people from blaming themselves. I’ve realized there can never be too many.

      Their love wasn’t real, but ours was—and that’s why we stuck around as long as we did. When you love someone, you give them a lot of slack; you want to believe in them and believe they have your best interest at heart, and when you add their manipulation tactics to that, it can take quite a long time to see the truth. Thanks again, and blessings to you, too xx

  4. Alice

    Another excellent and invaluable post! Thank you Adelyn!!! I really like the way you put your insights into words – that clear, well-structured, in-depth analysis of what’s going on behind the scenes, year always an enjoyable read – you are a great writer!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you so much, Alice! I truly appreciate that!

  5. Teresa

    I think my P started fights with me for a hit.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      That’s an interesting idea; I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Fighting is probably preferable to boredom.

  6. Cat

    My year relationship did not go past platonic tho my reaction in the aftermath of being dropped into nothingness certainly says it all. And the fact that I still read a ton of books and blogs on psycho/narcs! It will be about a year since the discard in June. He would tell me I calmed him. He was a drinker, smoker and seemed to take lots of Tylenol and such. Not big on doctors. Never needed much sleep he claimed. Told all kind of stories to me and coworkers loving the attention. I think the women he still talks to are enablers since he still interacts w them, one who seems to mouth off for him, another talks about her messed up family. They both think I messed w him of course – I hate that victims have no recourse. I read tho that to blow off your psych if you unfortunately see him or he hoovers back to start his games again, will kill him in that you have no reaction to him. You are already in full No Contact mode and then if he shows up or just walks by you act completely oblivious of him and promptly leave the area or go on your way. He is invisible. But whether or not he is disappointed he can’t make u react, no matter, it’s no contact ever again.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      The one I knew didn’t sleep much, either. Tuesday was the only day of the week that he slept a full night; there was just too much to do! He drank gallons of coffee to fuel himself through it all. No contact is the way to go. I’m not sure ignoring them will “kill” them or disappoint them, though. The most it would do is frustrate or irritate them. It’s good that you’re still reading blogs and such; it’s only been a year (and I’m NOT minimizing that; it’s a significant amount of time) and it takes a while to work through all of it. Best wishes, Cat.

      1. Cat

        Thanks for the reply. Yes better to say frustrate and irritate them when completely ignoring them with no contact. And yes a year is just some of the time needed to get it together I realize. I do see gradual improvement which is great. Blessings to all, it will be alright.

  7. Pamela

    Thank You for confirming what I felt all along, this is exactly what was going on in my marriage, for 29 years I was on this roller coaster.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m glad you’re off the roller coaster, Pamela, and glad your hunch was validated. All the best to you.

  8. lola

    My ex used to say, “I want to see what I can make you do” and he told me the best part of a sexual encounter was the prep and anticipation. He said he liked these things almost more than the sex. After reading this post, I think getting a woman to succumb must have been the primary objective, where he got the main “reward” hit. After the conquest, the thrill is gone? This post explains why psychopaths cheat. They have to because they need to get that fix.

    This article also explains why psychopaths move so fast in the beginning of the relationship. Their reward center is on over-drive. They need that hit, fast! I can really see how it’s like a drug addict desperate for that high.

    I too saw an over exaggerated smile and tilted head. I wonder why they do that?

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Anticipation! “Addiction is not about the reward of dopamine but the anticipation of that reward… This is a subtle shift in emphasis. We’re perhaps not addicted to the rewarding feelings of dopamine but to the anticipation of dopamine and thus to anything that sustains dopamine levels through that anticipation whether gambling, drugs, sex, or the pursuit of money, power… ”

      What if it isn’t the burst of dopamine that we get addicted to, but the anticipation of a burst of dopamine? It’s a small distinction. ***But it matters if our reward system is based less on happiness than on the pursuit of happiness.***

      “The act of “liking” something is controlled by the forebrain and brain stem. If you receive a pleasant reward, your reaction is to “like” it. If, however, you are anticipating a reward, and are, in fact, engaging in behaviors motivated by that anticipation, it can be said that you “want” it. The wholly different act of wanting something strongly is a mesolimbic dopamine-serotonin phenomenon. We like to receive gifts, for example, but we want food, sex, and drugs. As Nesse and Berridge put it, “The ‘liking’ system is activated by receiving the reward, while the ‘wanting’ system anticipates reward and motivates instrumental behaviors. When these two systems are exposed to drugs, the “wanting” system motivates persistent pursuit of drugs that no longer give pleasure, thus offering an explanation for a core paradox in addiction.”

      Under the biochemical paradigm, a runaway appetite for non-stop stimulation of the reward pathway is a prescription for disaster.”

      The exaggerated smile and head tilt are simply cues that convey to us that someone has a romantic interest. I read an article recently advising people on dates to tilt their heads in a certain way to convey interest (why they would need to be instructed, unless they’re psychopathic, I don’t know; it happens naturally) but I can’t find the link.

      1. lola

        Thank you for this great information. It’s a wonderful tool when dissecting memories and the past. It certainly helps to clarify and make sense of what did not make sense to me at all!

        1. Adelyn Birch

          There is no way to make sense of it without understanding what goes on between their ears. I’m happy it’s helped you, Lola.

  9. Laurel Wilson

    Love this read! It helps so much to understand the “science” behind the horrific behavior and the lives that get ripped apart in the aftermath. The spath I dated would intentionally create situations to get a fix. I couldn’t understand at the time why he seemed to purposely create chaos which always lead to harmful outcomes. Now I get it.

    Thank you for sharing this. And for the other blogs that have been so helpful in the healing process.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, Laurel. It definitely helps to know the science! I’m so glad to know this site is helping you heal :-)

  10. Brightie

    Yes, great post Adelyn! I was just thinking about the feeling he gave me. He was my drug, lifting me up and throwing me down into the dark abyss… However, I have “been clean” and free from him for 8 months now and only last month he gave up texting me and wanting me back. No contact is now in progress and besides around our baby boy (who is turning 2 now), I don’t see him ever. I have found my routine, gained my strength back and breathing full lungs! :) There are moments I think of our “love hits” but not as much as before. Only now I see how hard he had to act to be normal, because his psychopathic traits came out every now and then. Luckily our marriage and relationship lasted only 2.5 years. I would recommend everyone in a relationship with a P or someone not treating them right to walk, no, run away asap.
    Love from Europe,

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi Brightie! Happy 2nd birthday wishes to your son! I’m so glad both of you are doing well. Congratulations on your eight months of “sobriety”—I know this has not been easy at all, especially since you’ve had to see him on a regular basis. Your strength and your commitment to a healthy life are admirable, to say the least xx

  11. Totallybel

    I love the science bits, thank you Adelyn. Just a comment on Laurels use of the word ‘create’chaos. Always, whenever a birthday, a meal, a trip out, whenever and wherever I would be filled with sub conscious dread at the thought of what he would do, if he decided to come or not. His first ‘hit’ would be when I told him about it, wham he didn’t know if he could go, I’d be upset, spend time pleading with him to go, and all the while him getting high on my distress, if he did come, he’d ruin it for everyone or his targeted child, and he’d blame me, and I blamed me, and he’d be high from it all. And back to the science bit, cos they mess with that reward system, they reverse it, when you are looking forward to any of the above celebrations, and then he causes such upset, that must surely mess with our biochemical responses. And that all has to be relearned in the aftermath. My psycho had to write to me and said he ‘gave me peace of mind’. I use say all they create is chaos and destruction, the word ‘create’ does NOT sit with psychopaths, I now use ’cause’ cos they can create nothing!

    1. Adelyn Birch

      He said he gave you peace of mind?! He knew how much saying that would bother you; it is the complete opposite of the truth. He knows it.

      Some people create, but others can only destroy. It’s a lot easier.

  12. Thankyou, so insightful. I’m afraid a sociopath predated on me four years ago whilst working away from my husband and I was caught hook, line & sinker by him ( a colleague) Thank god it never got physical but he’s haunted me ever since ( combined with post natal depression.) An excellent counsellor has picked up on the real reasons for my sadness e.g my run in with this monster so I’m beginning the long journey of trying to understand what’s happened & how to survive him & heal my marriage & myself. It has been the most devastating experience for me & I know I got off lightly …he bored of me extremely quickly & broke up another marriage. Knowledge is power, Thankyou so much X

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m sorry that happened to you, AM.
      They do haunt us for a long time! We just don’t have a context for them, and we’re left with a lot of conflicting thoughts and confusion. I’m glad to hear you have an astute counselor. It is a devastating experience, but believe that you will survive and heal. It seems impossible at first, but it will happen. All the best to you xx

      I forgot to say, many women have come through here who had their marriages interrupted and threatened in the same way. Many of them were able to save their marriages, and some have even said they became better than they were before. I hope that happens for you.

      1. Enormous thanks, if you could recommend any further reading on being a target when happily married I’d be so grateful? My very best wishes to everyone else; as I say I feel that I was incredibly lucky in a way but the impact this man has had on my mental health ( almost unbeknown to me on a conscious level until I sought help four years on!) is truly shocking.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          You’re welcome! Any involvement with them is devastating. Non-sexual, entirely online, all of it. Spending years or decades with them makes it all the more devastating, but no one gets off easy. I don’t know of anything written specifically about being a target when happily married; if anyone reading this knows of anything, please leave a message here. I know there are plenty of stories out there, though, on websites like this one. You would think that might be one situation where someone would be safe, but unfortunately that isn’t so. I’ve heard from people who left their families and even their children, and that’s truly heartbreaking. Luckily, some of them were able to return home and repair the damage. Thank you, AM, and my very best wishes to you, too.

  13. That’s so helpful Thankyou.
    Again sending huge sympathy and my best to everyone who has met one of these monsters. I can absolutely believe women have left their loved ones for them and thank god I wasnt one if them X

  14. Asheley

    What an interesting read, it really makes sense! Thanks for that. I miss that intense dopamine high every now and then but certainly not enough to find a psychopath to fulfill me. My P is STILL visiting my work and it’s been about 17 months since he’s worked for us. The last time he came he had lunch with the owner. The fact that I haven’t seem him there is almost a miracle. He only worked there for about 9 months and most of the people he was friendly with are gone and I know he has no intentions of coming back to work for us…so what is he doing?

    1. Adelyn Birch

      We can guess, but only he knows what he’s up to. It’s good to hear from you, Asheley.

  15. Asheley

    I have to pop in every now and then! Keep fighting the good fight lady :)

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You keep popping, and I’ll keep fighting! :-)

  16. Nightowl

    This makes perfect sense now. I believe after over 3 months I have turned a corner (on a “relationship” of 8 months) thanks to no contact and a lot of healing, self-care and the support of my loved ones. But yes, he used to say things like “you’re boring”, which he didn’t say at the beginning when he said “I asked the universe for a woman like you”. The tilted head, the “I can see through you” look, the outrageous comments which at the beginning seemed quirky and intriguing but at the end explained a lot… I find comfort in what you say above about them not being able to attach. I found it weird that after such a deep connection and crazy romance, someone has the ability to remain unattached. I mean I practice yoga and meditate daily, but I’m no Echart Tolle. That’s what got me real confused for a while actually. When I went no contact straight after he wanted to shift me to the “friend category” overnight, I read spiritual books in an effort to gain some sort of insight. The books talk about ego and attachment and how enlightenment comes with non-attachment. My psychopath used to talk about this, which confused me. I still have doubts sometimes on whether he is a psychopath or the most enlightened man in the world… and I’m just a mere woman

    1. Adelyn Birch

      It’s not that he has the ability to “remain unattached”–it’s that he doesn’t have the ability to attach at all. Or to be kind, apparently. If you want to learn about psychopaths, books about enlightenment aren’t going to help. Best wishes xx

    2. lola

      Night owl – I used to wonder the same thing when my ex used play the spirituality card. After being caught cheating, he’d say attachment was not love and non attachment meant more love and was actually a sign of advanced spirituality. Yep, my head used to spin with that one.
      However, when Guru’s speak of non attachment they are talking about attachment to Maya, the grand illusion. This grand illusion includes attachment to worldly things that can never bring us peace or ultimate happiness. i.e. money, gluttony, sex, desire, our bodies etc. because these things can never be sustained and will ultimately bring us sadness if we are attached to them.
      Psychopath’s think they’re advanced and superhuman because they don’t attach and while it’s true they’re incapable of forming love attachments, they’re very attached to possessing earthly things. They’re all about submerging themselves in everything Maya. My ex was completely attached to sex. He was a gluten for deviant sex, money, food, fame, attention and people etc.. He lived for controlling and dominating everything and everyone.
      Psychopaths get so bored they have to run through a lot of people for stimulation and that’s nothing but exploitation and there’s nothing spiritual about exploitation. My ex used to say he was “in love” with love and all about the non attachment of “free love.” I used to tell him there was no value in “his free love” because it was free! Psychopaths are the antithesis of spirituality, but they will try to convince you that they’re god themselves.
      Stay strong! : )

      1. Adelyn Birch

        Good point, Lola–psychopaths are VERY attached to possessing (and controlling) things, and they are ALL about Maya. But it has nothing to do with spiritual enlightenment– the Dali Lama’s famous words are “My religion is kindness.” I don’t think there’s a psychopath anywhere who could say that and mean it. But it’s a great tool for manipulation, like your ex used it with you, Lola, to make his lack of attachment seem like something lofty and enlightened when it was anything but that.

        I would like to add that when healing from a trauma, detaching from one’s feelings in order to deal with it is the wrong way to go. Those emotions, and the trauma, just get buried but will continue to run in the background and affect life and relationships. My advice is to heal first, and pursue the path of Buddhist non-attachment after that, if that’s what you’re interested in.

        1. lola

          I agree! To fully heal and grow we must look at what caused us pain and not avoid it.
          Also, another interesting aspect to this attachment issue is that while a psychopath can’t attach to us, he manipulates our emotions so that we attach heavily to him! A psychopath needs us to attach, so he can play with us and use us.
          My ex used to say, “Love is my religion.” In psychopath speak this translates to: “Sex is my religion.” To a psychopath sex = control, domination and exploitation. Some religion, isn’t it? I think my ex was very far from god and perhaps a devil himself.

          1. Adelyn Birch

            As much as we would like to avoid it, it’s not possible. We can face it now and deal with it, or at some point in the future. Facing it is hard and takes a long time, but it can have a surprisingly good outcome. All the best to you and to everyone going through it now xxoo

  17. Brightie

    Hello Adelyn and everyone,
    Yesterday was the first day of spring, the winter is over and so is my marriage. We got officially divorced. Of course, it felt wonderful to be free from the P, but he had to give me that one last shot – he asked for our son to sleep over at his place and spend holidays with him. The justice system in my country is really bad and I had to accept everything – I only fought for the minimum nights to be spent there and yet I feel like a part of me is taken away from me. He hit me right there where it hurts the most – my son. I know it could have been much worse, but still I am shocked and outraged. He will never know that, but I tried to be a lady and at court I said: “As long as the gentleman is happy…” let things be his way, because we all know there is no point fighting against them. We only must be much wiser and lead them to fall for our demands and the way we want things to be and keep no contact as much as possible for those of you with kids out there, and for those of you who are survivors – enjoy the freedom, spring to life!!! :)

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hello, Brightie! The first day of Spring is an auspicious day to finalize your divorce! It brings to mind growth and blooming. I’m glad to hear you’re moving forward. I’m so sorry to hear of his parting shot, right where it hurts most. Having children involved elevates the whole thing to another level. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you and your son wellness, peace and safety, despite your challenges. “Spring to Life” is a wonderful wish for all of us, thank you :-)

  18. PK17

    Hi! I stumbled on this blog from the aspergers site… I started reading up on aspergers because i am now absolutely convinced that my motherinlaw is aspergers. Reading about psychopaths has been an affirmation of what i have always known about my father from my early teen years. The description of their relationship cycles fits rather well to what my mother has always told me about her own marriage. I’ve seen her suffer for so long and she still suffers. I do believe my father’s treatment of my elder brother from a very early age damaged him to such an extent that it eventually led to his suicide at age 24. Surprisingly, he has always had a certain soft corner/fear for /of me. In instances of fights between Mom n dad i would be the final mediator already from age 6. I do find bits of aspergers traits in him too and i cannot figure out if it’s one or the other or both.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m terribly sorry to hear your brother took his own life, and that it was due to of the way his father treated him. It breaks my heart to think of children growing up in homes with disordered parents. It sounds like you’ve always been a strong person. Your brother may have been afraid for you when you got in the middle of your parent’s fights. while maybe being a bit intimidated by that strength at the same time.

      It can be hard to tell psychopathy and Asperger’s apart. One way is to look at how they are in social situations. People with Asperger’s are known for their social awkwardness, while psychopaths are known for their social skill.

      1. PK17

        Thank you so much for your reply. On your last point: it’s so hard to tell sociopaths and aspergers apart. It’s so true. But here is the thing which you know for sure, Aspergers can copy other people’s behaviors so well. Especially if they are imitating movie characters My comment about the fear was unclear,… I meant My father was the one who was always scared of me. My mother said all the time that he loves you truely, so he is scared to disappoint you. Even now when i speak to my mother on skype, n my mother complains about something he did, he will start explaining and unconditionally apologizing to me. OK. Now i am very confused. I think my father could be aspergers or a sociopath. But in the end the impact on the family has been the same. In the end i feel my life has had such interesting characters in it over my 33 yrs of existence (including my mil now) i could write a book. :)
        I have to say your reply genuinely meant a lot to me. My current state of mind from having to deal with my aspergers mother in law is less than ideal. Sorry about the rambling.

        1. Adelyn Birch

          You’re welcome! I’m sure it’s very difficult to deal with an Asperger MIL. They tend to insult and offend, since they’re “brutally honest” due to a lack of social filters. Psychopaths, on the other hand, can deliver insults in more of a veiled way, when it suits them. I hope your husband is supportive of you. You’re right, whether your father is psychopathic or has Aspergers, it will have a serious impact on the family. Anyone lacking in empathy will. I wish you all the best, PK xx

  19. Clarity

    Sorry if I’m over-commenting… I have been reading through every single thing on your page to help me get through my own situation and to remind me to stay away from my P husband…

    I wonder, upon the statement “They get our dopamine flowing too” — would you reckon that it’s “normal” (obviously not the appropriate word, but I don’t know which other word to use here) in a relationship with a P to do things in the beginning you otherwise wouldn’t have?

    For example, in my case, he was ridiculously reckless, drank a lot, would have a bunch of people he didn’t know over, always always had to be doing something and it had to be INTENSE at all times. Normally, however, I am a really cautious person who doesn’t like a lot of noise, big crowds, etc. and even though I was rather overwhelmed by all of the people he would constantly have over, I found myself kind of exhilarated by it all in the beginning. I found myself drinking a lot more than I otherwise would have, staying up really late, and just overall acting and feeling really out of character — but at the time, I thought, “I feel so alive!” In fact, a lot of my friends/co-workers approached me about it and were worried. But I was convinced that I was just having a good time…

    I wonder if others have had a similar experience?

    1. Adelyn Birch

      That was my thought at the time, too. I felt so alive; more alive than ever, it seemed. He always had to be on the go, too, although he didn’t drink. We danced several nights a week, and went out on the lake often. He could not sit down and read a book or watch a TV show; too boring. He only slept for a full night on Tuesdays. And he was worried that he was “slowing down”(he was 65)! I like being at home, and I need a lot of private time. I don’t normally think of Monday nights as a time to go out dancing until 1 AM. So yes, going out nearly every single night, and until the wee hours, was very much out of character for me.

      I think being in love, in general, has the potential to make us do things we wouldn’t normally do. That euphoria we feel that comes from dopamine, etc., (which sounds so terribly unromantic!) really is a state of intoxication, so when you’re with a psychopath it could be trouble. I was in such a state of euphoric bliss with him that it seems unreal now when I look back on it. I’d never felt anything close to that before. But no matter what, there are some things you should never compromise on, like your safety or health. If you ever find yourself considering it, you can see it as a red flag.

      1. Clarity

        Thanks for another reply :) You are so insightful.

        What you said about the psychopath you were involved with sounds a lot like my husband (minus the age) — especially the part about not sleeping.

        I agree with your last two statements of course, but unfortunately, at the time I didn’t consider such things…I ignored every red flag. I noticed them, briefly, then pushed my uneasiness aside. :/

        1. Adelyn Birch

          This whole thing is an enormous learning experience, so don’t beat yourself up for not knowing then what you know now. One of those things is not to push our uneasiness aside. “Life is understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” That may not be fair but it is true, and it’s true for everyone. It only becomes really obvious when something big goes wrong. Have you read the post about the known and the unknown yet? I guess you’ll get there eventually, if you’re reading the whole site. Good luck with it, it’s somehow gotten massive!

    2. Brightie

      It was most definitely the same feeling for me at the beginning as well. They lure you in into their psychotic illusion of life. They create such crazy feeling of rush, boost your ego, you think that the two of you rule the world, hell – the universe – if you will! Your soulmate and yourself :) haha. I still get addicted of that high feeling, but luckily my ratio is stronger. Stories like these helped a lot and in two months I will be 1 year free (although we have a 2 year old son). Things are much better now and I feel the need to help people survive the hardest point of letting go. It helps my healing as well. Thank you all :)

      1. Adelyn Birch

        That describes the feeling perfectly, Brightie.

        Congrats on your impending one year of freedom. I hope you and your son are doing well.

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