Last week I did something that I really didn’t want to do. Thursday evening, I went out in the cold and rain to sit through a “customer appreciation” dinner at the dealership where we leased our car. My husband, Terry, wanted to go, but he couldn’t, because he just had knee surgery and was supposed to stay off his feet. So he put on his best smile and cajoled me into going. The event included a drawing for a big, flat-screen TV, and to win, all we had to do was show up. There wouldn’t be many people there, so our chances were good.
I knew I wouldn’t win the TV. I’m not the lucky one—he is. Plus, we don’t need a TV. The one we have is fine. But Terry, like most men, is a gadget guy. He really wanted to try to win the latest in TV technology. So to make him happy, I went to the dinner.
This is what we do when we’re in love—we try to please our beloved. We’re cooperative. We acquiesce to their requests. It is normal behavior in an intimate relationship—behavior that gets perverted when the other person in the relationship is a sociopath.
Giving in to requests
I remember the requests from the sociopath in my life, James Montgomery. They all came after he proclaimed his love to me:
• He needed money to cover expenses until his big business ventures, which would benefit us both, were funded. Could I help out?
• He wanted to take me to Australia to show me off to his family and do some business. Could I put the trip on my credit cards?
• He wanted to get married quickly. We were in love, we were adults, what were we waiting for?
• He really needed a new computer—it was important that he work with the latest technology. Did I believe in him? Would I buy it for him?
Although I had trepidation about many of the requests—especially as my savings diminished and my credit card balances grew—he cajoled. He proclaimed his love. He talked about our future together. I acquiesced. I gave in. I caved.
My behavior was normal for an intimate relationship. When two people are together, we cooperate with our beloved. We try to make him or her happy.
That’s the problem with sociopaths. They appear to be normal, but they are not. Consequently, we respond in normal ways, and get ourselves in trouble.
We weren’t stupid. We were deceived.
Sometimes sociopaths can keep up the façade of normalcy for a long time. In my case, my ex-husband never deviated from the “I love you, we’re in this together” script. That’s what kept me behaving as a normal wife would, accommodating his requests, even to my own financial detriment. It was only after I found outside evidence of his treachery that the whole charade fell apart.
Most people are normal
So now what? How do we keep ourselves from repeating the miserable experience of the sociopath?
First of all, we know they exist. We know there are people who look normal, just like us, but are missing the parts that make us truly human. They have no conscience, no empathy, no emotional connection to others, and no remorse.
Secondly, we must learn to trust our instincts. When someone generates an atypical feeling within us—nervousness in the gut, prickling on the back of the neck, doubt in our minds—we must pay attention. An abnormal reaction to another person may be our only clue that someone who appears to be normal is not.
The good news is that most people are normal. Most people are capable of love, human connection and supportiveness. Yes, we all have our flaws, but when we are with a normal person in a loving relationship, we can safely do as they ask.
So I went to the dinner at the car dealership. I didn’t win the TV. But by going, I made my husband happy, which made me happy. That’s what happens in a normal relationship.