Lovefraud received the following e-mail recently from a reader, who we’ll call “Iris.” She was married for 20 years to a man who she now realizes is a sociopath.
I avoid talking to my ex-husband as much as possible, but he is 4 months behind on court ordered spousal support as I am in school getting my business degree and working. He has to pay $600 a month for 3 years. The court also ordered the support to pay me back for $11,000 I had to put into our house and property to make it “sellable” after he left me in the dust and moved to another state. He left me with 5 acres, a house falling apart, a barn with code violations, and our 3 family dogs. I went into survival mode and got it all fixed and sold and re-homed all of my dogs (who I love and miss very much) through a wonderful adoption agency. He also owes me for a mortgage reimbursement check he forged my signature on and cashed after he talked the mortgage co. into sending it to him in Calif. I filed a police report.
I was hoping you could help me. I e-mailed him with the threat of taking him to court and he called several times before I answered. I try to avoid talking to him because I always feel I am being manipulated. Within our conversation, he was mean, evil, nice, ugly and caring and same old guy. I brought up that I know how he operates and that it took distance for a lengthy period of time to see that he was a sociopath and smooth talker and that his agenda is to “win” and manipulate. I said many other things also. HE ADMITTED THAT HE OPERATES DIFFERENTLY AND DOESNT FEEL THE SAME AS OTHERS. I was blown away. The only other time that he ever came close to this was when I was about to leave him several years ago when I found out he was cheating on me again. His exact words were, “I can’t help it; I’ve always gotten a RUSH out of getting away with stuff. It’s been like that since I was a kid.”
I guess what I “need” to know is, why did that hit me so hard? Why did it make me so emotional when he said he operates differently? Why did it make me feel sorry for him? Why do I feel so exhausted and why can’t I stop crying now? Does his admission make it that much more real? Did the reality that he really is a sociopath and my whole marriage was meaningless overwhelm me? I have been divorced for a year and a half and apart from him since Nov. 2008. We have a 21-year-old son. We have not even had to communicate much.
All I know is, I am still affected in a very dark way because of being with him for so long. I’ve been to a psychologist once a week for quite a while. It helps, but she doesn’t KNOW what it actually feels like. Do you have any words of wisdom to help me move on? I am ok most of the time, but I don’t trust anyone and can’t even think about dating. I feel paralyzed sometimes and felt that way throughout my long marriage. I still find myself resorting back to thinking, “maybe it was me.” Am I damaged for life? I am usually pretty busy, but when I have time on my hands, things still get dark and I am tired of feeling like this.
One of the hardest things to wrap our brains around is the extreme degree to which sociopaths are different from us.
On the home page of Lovefraud.com, I state that sociopaths have no heart, no conscience and no remorse. Think about it. Sociopaths are missing all the qualities that make up the core of our humanity.
This is why coming to terms with the idea that sociopaths exist is so difficult. In order to grasp the concept of sociopaths, we have to give up some of our most cherished beliefs about what it means to be a human being living in our society.
In our society, we may have differing points of views as old or young, men or women, liberals or conservatives, religious or secular, management or labor, or any other polarity. Still, some cultural ideas are so widespread, and so entrenched, that they are regarded as axioms.
When sociopaths are factored in, however, these axioms are nothing but exploding myths. Here are a few:
1. We all want to be loved. Sociopaths don’t care about love. They don’t even feel love. They certainly do not feel empathy for fellow human beings. When they appear to be acting out of love, it is probably nothing but manipulation, a tactic to advance their agenda. Sociopaths only want three things: power, control and sex.
2. There’s good in everyone. This, unfortunately, is not true. There are people in the world who are rotten to the core, and they’re the sociopaths. But unaware of the inherent evil of these predators, we believe that everyone deserves a chance, a second chance, and even more chances. Sociopaths milk this belief by promising to reform, but they never do.
3. Parents love their children. Most of us probably believe that, even if our childhoods were imperfect, our parents loved us and did the best they could. We don’t want to consider the idea that some parents simply don’t care about their kids. But if sociopaths have any concern about their children, it’s roughly equivalent to the concern they feel for an inanimate possession, like a flat screen TV. There is no real love.
4. Truth and justice will prevail. Many of us end up in legal battles with sociopaths, such as filing for divorce or claiming fraud. We approach the legal system assuming that we’ll get a fair hearing and justice will be served. But for sociopaths, court is show time. They lie to suit their agendas, and judges either don’t see it, or don’t care. Court isn’t about truth, it’s about winning, and sociopaths are wired to win.
5. We should live according to the Golden Rule. “Do to others what you would like them to do to you”—this rule of ethics is at the center of every major religious tradition. But if the “others” are sociopaths, living by the Golden Rule sets us up to be exploited. Treating them as we want to be treated, we’ll eventually find ourselves drained, and the sociopath on to a new source of supply.
So how do we deal with the loss of what we thought were unshakeable truths? I think recovery has three aspects to it.
1. We accept that they are what they are. It is extremely unlikely that any sociopath, by the time he or she is an adult, is going to change. We must give up feeling guilty, or responsible, or even concerned. We may need to release grief or anger over what happened to us, but we must realize that there is nothing we can do about them.
2. We are grateful that we are not them. Although sociopaths probably don’t realize it, theirs is an empty, barren existence. They do not feel love, they do not feel human connection, they do not feel the warmth of belonging to anything. We may be in pain, and temporarily feel paralyzed, but we can recover our humanity. They don’t have a chance.
3. We resolve never to be exploited again. Now we know that sociopaths exist. We know how they think. We know how they act. We will never lose this knowledge, and knowledge is power. We take back our power, establish our boundaries and move forward.
Yes, the experience of a sociopath rattles us to the core. But it is possible to learn from it, gather ourselves and live again, with much more wisdom than we had before the nasty encounter.