Editor’s note: This story was received from a reader who goes by the name of “Elegy.”
I married a sociopath. Like most of them, he came off charming and wonderful at first. We met at church. Looking back, I realize there were many red flags … but what I told myself was that you can’t dismiss someone just because they’re not perfect. Everyone has flaws, and he was only twenty-five. Hey, young guys (and girls) can sometimes do stupid things. Let them know what’s bothering you about it and hope things change.
And things did change. He would apologize. He gave me the “I had no idea” line, or the “I’m so sorry, it will never happen again” line, and it actually seemed as if it wouldn’t.
So we got married. Too fast, obviously, or I would have found him out eventually… but we had a deployment hanging over our heads. Both of us. Would we come back alive? Would only one of us? It makes me sick to think so now, but I guess I loved the person he was pretending to be, and I didn’t want to lose him.
So we rushed. We got married.
Deployment was postponed.
He started to be himself more often, and I got worried. It was still nothing all that major, so I thought, you know … I don’t want to be one of those people who gives up on a marriage because it gets a little rocky. And that’s a good way to be … unless you’re married to a sociopath.
I got pregnant. He decided I was satisfactorily trapped.
He dropped all his masks, and life turned into a living hell.
For a long time I was determined to stay. I was afraid that, if we divorced, he would get either full or joint custody. If we stayed married, he had no excuse to be alone with our daughter. I could protect her.
But just when I thought it was as bad as it was going to get, he would get worse. I went to a marriage counselor who opened my eyes to (Strunk and White forgive me) the fact that my husband was abusive. She did not diagnose him as a sociopath, unfortunately, but I’m positive he is one. There’s no other explanation. He fits the profile exactly.
Out on leave
When I left the Army to have and take care of my baby, I went home. The distance gave me perspective. I realized just how horrible a person he had been, and when he came out on leave, he was still less than endearing. I would ask him to buy diapers, and he would tell my father the ATM was out of order to con him into buying them. He would then buy things for himself. He was avoiding buying things for the baby in order to have more money for himself.
I kept the bedroom door locked because I was afraid of what he might do if I didn’t. I didn’t want the constant pouting, the arguments … the threats. Back home, he regularly told me he was going to use these knives I bought him (when I thought he was sane) to skin me. During the visit, he told me I’d better be nice to him or he’d shank me with the spade in the back yard. Thank God my mother heard that one through the window.
When I nursed the baby on the couch, he would hang over my shoulder and do things to keep her awake. When my mother told him to quit, to give me some space, he flung himself across the couch like a four-year-old having a temper tantrum and became silent. When she left the room, he stood up and dropped a pillow onto the couch next to the now sleeping baby to wake her up. When she woke up, he smiled at me, and said, “Well that sucks, doesn’t it?”
Checking for power
He left. He called only when he wanted money, but what he said was he was getting depressed, he wanted to see the baby, he didn’t know if I still loved him — he was checking to see if he still had any power over me. Then he would drop his hints: how much bonus money do you still have from the Army? The car is breaking down.
Well, he had recently opened a new bank account so he could funnel everything from our joint account into it (thank God I still had my separate account, or I’d have had nothing).
So I told him:
“I don’t have any money. I’ve had to use it all buying diapers, diaper ointment, clothes, toys, teething rings. Paying bills.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” was his only response.
“What else could I do? Someone was taking all the money and putting it where I couldn’t get to it.”
Silence from the sociopath.
I checked his phone records and bank records (for the account I still had access to) after the call. His mention of bills had troubled me for some reason. Turned out he had two phones now, and he was using one of them to call divorce attorneys.
Filed for divorce
I called the state he was in to check if any divorces had been filed under our names. They hadn’t.
Next time he called, I played it sweet and innocent, determined not to let him get wind of what I was doing — for my own protection.
Then I filed for divorce.
He forced my hand, but in the end, I suppose it was for the best. I could stay with him, but as financially abusive as he is, I would have ended up getting a job and leaving the baby, and he would have either abused, kidnapped or killed her. Then I would get to go to jail for not divorcing him.
Still, I am terrified he will get partial custody. I’m asking that the court make him undergo psychiatric testing, but he is, like the others, a good actor. The counselor who saw us originally actually said he seemed “highly intelligent, willing to change,” and that “he genuinely seemed to care for me.”
And that was after I had told her about the threats to skin me, which, the sociopath said, were a joke I was too uptight to understand.
I don’t know what I’ll do if he gets custody of any kind, unless I am there to supervise … and I don’t even know if one parent is allowed to supervise the others visitation, or if it has to be some stranger — in which case I will go out of my mind with worry anyway.
I’m praying that all will go well, because that’s all I can do.
Even my attorney seems to be on his side. He cuts me down and cuts me off when we speak. You don’t need a protective order, he says. The man is still states away, he says. You’re going to have to prove he’s dangerous to the child to take away his custody rights, he says, and when I asked him how I’m supposed to prove that when abusers are never abusive around witnesses, he shrugs. When I asked him what exactly I had to prove to get what I needed, he says, you’re a paralegal, look it up.
Yes, he’s been very helpful. Very understanding. Worse still, his paralegals are all students, and seem to have no idea what they’re doing. I can never get the same one twice, and when one calls me, she never leaves her name.
I’ve written a poem about my dilemma, about how someone always has to fall down the well (or be abused by their sociopath mother or father) before the well is sealed (or thrown in jail). I’d like to share it with you:
That well is always there
In the corner of her mind
Where the shades are halfway drawn
And her memories wander
It had hurt her
Broke an arm
There was no laying blame on wells
The well to this day stands
And she knows one day
Will take a slip and fall
But the man who holds the hammer
To her call
He tells her not to worry
Not to worry
Not at all
“My judgment, my dear lady
Is infallible as God
I know just what I’m doing
So don’t spare
And although her bones still ache
Along fault lines from days of old
And although that well is hateful
She can only do as told
And it happened
While she worked
That the baby slipped and fell
Down the mouth-like deep dark tunnel
Of that hateful back yard well
And the man who held the hammer
Takes the woman off to jail
“If that well had been so hateful
Was there no one you could tell?”