The following letter, written by a young woman who we’ll call Chloe, is one of the most complete stories of psychological manipulation that I’ve ever seen yet. Chloe wrote this letter secretly while the sociopath she is living with was at the gym.
I met my boyfriend two years ago. I was 18; he was 33. He’s a photographer; we live on an island that is very small. He has lived here forever (10 years) and I had only been here a few months when I met him. Everybody, especially women on the island, adore him, he is THE BIGGEST charmer.
He told me that he had moved here with his fiancée, that she had said she was going home for a week, and then never came back. He said she’d gone to therapy back home and been “mindf*cked” and never returned, breaking their engagement. I felt for him. He was so normal and sweet. He was living with his parents (because they were taking over his place) and he was moving out. He/we lived with them for a year, he’s still in it to this day, though his parents left a long time ago.
Always telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat. I’m 5’7” and 115 pounds, and I’m size DD and he’s always showing me plastic surgeons that do the best boob jobs so I can make them bigger. He was normal for four months, then told me he didn’t want me hanging out with or speaking to other guys. He even would get annoyed when I’d talk to my mom or dad.
Long story short, when I started moving out, which has happened a million times, he became violent. Touching me, I’d ask him to stop, gently pushing him off me but he wouldn’t and that’s when he started strangling me. I’ve told people about him and they take his side, because he’s such an upstanding member of the community.
He says guilt is a useless emotion and therefore feels none. He’s broken six cell phones, and in turn I’ve broken things of his. He uses this as a way to twist it and say it’s all my fault. He has every symptom on the sociopath checklist; I could go on and on. He got me a dog for my birthday and has started to use her as a tool to keep me home.
I’ve lost all my friends, rarely see family, but I’m so scared of life without him. I hate him, but every time I think about not having HIM in my life my chest hurts and it’s hard to breathe. I’ve gone to the hospital because he choked me too long, and spit in my face and held me down and rubbed it in, and I can’t or won’t leave. Isn’t that sick?
Initially I stayed because of the sex. Now I stay because I’m scared to be without him but also, I don’t want him to be with someone else, although I think he might have cheated on me once. When I tell him all these things, he calls me insane and “such a victim” and that I’m “sandbagging him and that’s all in the past.”
I’ve called Women Helping Women, but your site was the most helpful so far and I don’t know what to do. Everyone loves him; even the cops are his “braddahs.” He’s an SMU graduate; I only have high school (although I’ve gone to private schools my whole life) so he says no one would believe me, and they don’t!
His ex told me he stalked her until she moved back to the mainland, and no one believed her either… I used to be really strong and confident, but now I can’t leave the house without his approval of my outfit. I don’t want him to be with someone else, I don’t want to be with him, but I don’t want to be without him. He’s becoming more and more negative and aggressive towards me, but I’m scared to leave and scared to stay.
I feel dumb, ugly, depressed, anxious, and trapped. He’s drilled into my head for almost the whole two years that no other guys will date me or love me, and that they would only cheat on me. I know that’s not true because I get asked out all the time, but now I’m terrified of being cheated on! What should I do? Oh also he has naked pics and video of me that he’s threatened to release, even make money on.
This guy is a classic sociopath, employing every trick in the sociopath toolbox. He used the pity play to snag Chloe, with the story about his previous fiancé being “mindf*cked” in therapy to leave him. Yeah, right—she probably fled because it was the only way to get rid of him.
Then the guy used sex to get his hooks into Chloe. As Dr. Liane Leedom explains, in normal people, intimate relations creates bonds between them, and it worked with Chloe. These bonds, which are both psychological and hormonal, are Nature’s way of holding the human race together for our own survival.
But it’s possible for the bonds to become pathological. That can happen when someone—such as a sociopath—deliberately tries to bring another person under his or her control. Here’s how this guy did it to Chloe:
- Telling Chloe what she should eat and wear
- Telling Chloe to get breast implants, even though it sounds like she has a fabulous figure
- Isolating Chloe from her family and friends
- Refusing to comply when she asks him not to touch her, then strangling her
- Breaking cell phones—her way of contacting other people
- Telling Chloe she is insane
- Telling Chloe that no other man will have her
- Twisting everything around so that all problems are Chloe’s fault
Cycle of fear, anxiety, intimacy
Make no mistake—this is abuse. So what happens as a result? The guy creates fear and anxiety in Chloe. Fear and anxiety strengthen those attachment bonds, which started out being normal. What usually happens in these situations is that the victim turns to the abuser for relief from the fear and anxiety. The abuser then “forgives” the victim for “making him” act abusively. Then they have sex.
This cycle of fear-anxiety-intimacy keeps strengthening the psychological and hormonal attachment bond, actually rewiring the victim’s brain. So now, even though Chloe knows the guy is bad news, it is almost impossible for her to get out of the relationship. This is apparent in the physical symptoms Chloe is showing just by thinking about leaving—her chest hurts and it’s difficult to breathe.
Off the island
Yet Chloe must leave. She must find the strength to get away from the guy, even if it means voting herself off the island.
Leaving this sociopath will be much like breaking an addiction. This, too, is normal. As Dr. Leedom explains, the bonds created in these relationships use the same pathways in the brain as drug addictions. That’s why Chloe has to go cold turkey with this guy, and why it will feel like withdrawal. The secret, as they say in recovery programs, it to take it one day at a time.
Chloe, do whatever you have to do to get out. Be prepared for the guy to pursue you, perhaps to the point of stalking, as he did with the previous woman. He may plead, beg, and even threaten. It’s not because he loves you. It’s because he doesn’t want to lose his property. Because that’s all you are to him—property.