A Letter to the Next Target:
In nearly every toxic relationship, there is another partner: the replacement. At first, this person is the main source of contention and hatred in your recovery journey. They are presumed to be the home-wrecker. They ran off happily with your soul mate, flaunting themselves all over Facebook for the world to see. You became the crazy, jealous ex. This person stole your dream.
But with time, you come to see that this person actually saved your life.
This is a letter for every “next target.” I’m not suggesting you send it to anyone. That wouldn’t accomplish a thing and would only serve to hurt you, pull you back in. But we all want to get to the point where we can write this letter, and I suspect we would all wish, in retrospect, that it was a letter we were sent.
I cannot reach you directly, for it would only send me back into a world of insanity that I have no desire to revisit. But I can hope that you might come across this letter and learn that there are always two sides to every story. You have already been told one. Here is the other.
I hated you. I watched you run off with the love of my life, happily and shamelessly showing the world what you had done. It took me weeks to realize that the infidelity had been going on long before our relationship ended. It took me months to realize that my pain and tears were used as a device to manufacture your sympathy. And now it will take me years to recover from the insecurity that comes from being triangulated with another person.
But I do not hate you anymore. I fear for you.
Although we have different personalities, bodies, and spirits—when it comes to this relationship, we are no different.
You see, I once rode the high that you’re currently riding. I was the special one. The most beautiful, perfect, flawless partner in the world. I saved them from the pain inflicted by their last, crazy ex. I sympathized with them about how horribly they were treated. I was elated to be the one who finally made them happy after all of their alleged suffering. They were fascinated by me. They spent every waking moment texting me and showering me with attention.
Does this sound familiar?
One must wonder, in this short span of time, how I suddenly became crazy. Bipolar. Jealous. Needy. Clingy. Abusive. How did that happen? Is it really possible for a person to go from flawless to horrible in the blink of an eye? And furthermore, is it really possible that their previous ex was all of these things as well? And what about the ex before that?
The common denominator has become startlingly clear.
For so long, I punished myself. I truly believed that I deserved my pain. Something must be wrong with me, I thought, in order for them to run off into the sunset with another person. But then I realized, I was once that person. I was you.
And because of that, I understand that I can never save you from this nightmare. Victims of psychopaths cannot escape once they have been groomed. For the rest of your relationship, you will deny reality and invent reasons that you might be the exception. You will lie to yourself, desperately trying to re-create your perfect dream. But ever so slowly, your identity will begin to fall apart. They will push your boundaries until you don’t even know who you are anymore.
Another person will enter the scene. It is inevitable in relationships with narcissistic predators. You will be strung along for as long as possible, as I once was. Your increasingly volatile reactions will be used against you, to evoke sympathy from the new target.
And eventually, you will be me.
This is why I fear for you. I would not wish the pain and suffering I’ve experienced on anyone. I know that your intentions were not malicious. I know that you were being spoon-fed the exact same lies I believed a long time ago.
The story you’ve been told is false. It was a pity ploy, designed to enhance your fairy tale and consume your heart. You will not believe that today, but someday this letter will make sense. Brutal, heartbreaking sense.
I can only hope that the aftermath of your abuse might be guided by this letter. I can only hope that this might provide you with the tools that I was never given. A puzzle piece, to jump-start your journey.
I do not hate you. That is what they would want.
I will not carry on their legacy by taking part in these triangles anymore, injecting jealousy and hatred to fill the void of their soul.
I’ve made it through to the other side, and I know you can, too. Please have the same empathy for the person who replaces you. We can only ever stop this cycle of abuse with compassion for one another, by recognizing that all human beings deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and honesty.
Wishing you love, hope, and above all: freedom.
Jackson MacKenzie is the author of Psychopath Free & Whole Again: