Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following from a reader who we’ll refer to as “Tanya.”
I was 35 when I met my sociopath — we’ll call him Dave. I was in a top twenty graduate business program — a magnet for narcissists and sociopaths, by the way! A culture that so prizes appearances, financial accumulation, and power must seem irresistible to people with those disorders.
Dave seemed so great at first — attentive, interesting, intelligent, open, honest, fun. My friends warned that he was too flirty but I only took that as a sign that he was desirable and, hey, I won him over when others had failed.
We were off and on for a few months — the usual drama of dating a pure sociopath took its toll right away. He did very scary things early on, like drink and drive, show up at my door in the middle of the night, call a dozen times a night, etc. etc. In the alcoholic daze that is your typical business school culture, his behavior didn’t stand out as much as it might in real life but it really should have at the time.
Finally we broke it off completely. Then one night I got a call from him — he was in Brazil on holiday (he lived there for a few years before coming to Business School) — and he was calling to tell me that he was engaged to a girl he’d met there. He put her on the phone so that she could be reassured that he was no longer involved with me. I thought it was crazy, but in my own attempts to CONTROL the crazy (always the first mistake), I took it upon myself to tell his friends at school about the call. I framed it like “Congratulate Dave! He tells me he’s engaged!” He was furious with me when he came back and his friends no doubt thought I was insane.
Later, his “fiance” called me a few times trying to find him. I “googled” her name on my computer— again in an attempt to control the crazy — and found that he had been emailing her from my computer during the time we were dating. Then I found emails he had sent to a sex tourism site called Club Hombre. Over the previous two or three years, he had posted HUNDREDS of emails to this site, explaining his sexual exploits with prostitutes all over the world. His “fiance” was a prostitute. On the boards, he talked a lot about having unprotected sex with prostitutes in Rio and Turkey (both high HIV areas).
I was so petrified. I went to the school clinic and explained my situation. The nurse told me that I had a one in thirty two chance of having HIV and I had to wait a week for test results to come back (thankfully, negative). During that week I went to my school counselor (a 27 year old kid new on the job) and tried to explain my situation. I brought in print-outs of the postings Dave had made to the sex site, and a note from the clinic explaining the risks he had exposed me to. I wanted to somehow get this guy on record before he put other women in our school at risk, even if it meant humiliating myself. The counselor was skeptical. He asked me if I wanted to file a restraining order and I said “no”. I thought that would only make things worse.
As per procedure, he had to bring Dave in as well. When he asked Dave if HE wanted to file a restraining order, Dave said “yes”! So, as a reward for my efforts to work within the system, I got a restraining order filed against ME for harassing DAVE. One of the worst days of my life.
That was three years ago, and I still definitely bear the scars of the experience. I try to put the details out of my mind and, even as I read this, I can’t believe it happened.
I do my best to not fault myself for getting involved in the first place. As so many others on your site have said, I was behaving normally in an abnormal situation. What I DO fault myself for is trying to CONTROL the crazy. Every time I tried to control it and expose him, I only made things worse for myself. The true trauma wasn’t the stuff that happened between me and him, but the stuff that happened when I tried to expose him to others. It was so awful to see how easily sociopaths can bend the system to their will. Before then, I believed I lived in a just, fair world and that I could trust the system to protect me when I needed it. After Dave, I know now that I have to protect MYSELF.
When I’m philosophical about it, I just think that it’s only human to want to believe that we live in an ordered, just world. We want to believe it so much that we ignore the disorder and unfairness RIGHT IN FRONT OF US, and this blind spot is where the sociopath functions. I’m so thankful that I emerged with much less damage than some others. I only wish that there was a way to constructively deal with this — to raise awareness about sociopathy in the same way that people raise awareness about cancer or drug abuse.
Thank you again for your site — it was cathartic to share my story.