Editor’s note: Below is an email exchange that I had with a reader whom we’ll call “Vera.” Her ex-husband is a sociopath and a lawyer.
I am co-parenting with a sociopath and I am at my wits end. He is constantly using our son in his ongoing battle to torment me. The boy is still in elementary school and spends time with him alone at his mountain home. I am concerned that besides being emotionally abused as he is, he will be physically harmed. I am in a terrible bind though. Being a lawyer and a sociopath, he conned his way into custody by paying over $100,000 to hire the best divorce lawyer in town. Without a six-figure retainer or his manifest abuse of our son, I cannot amend the custody order. And even if I could, he will violate the order anyway.
He has given me 50/50 with my son for the past 7 months without court approval, and now he is claiming that because he is seeing evidence that I am trying to alienate the boy from him, he is forbidding me to see him. If I say, “let’s go back to the 5-year-old court order,” it means I only get to see my son 20 hours a week, no overnights. If I don’t say anything, he disregards the schedule we had in the past, emails me on occasion to criticize, berate, belittle me, and ask me to drive up 25 miles to have my son for a few hours, or at most 12 hours, after which I have to drive him back (that’s when he goes to court or needs to be rid of the boy). I cannot function not knowing in advance when I can be with him. This chaos is unbearable and is designed to unsettle both our son and I and damage our good relationship.
Please email me a few tips on how to handle this situation, as my family and friends don’t know how to handle pathological sociopathic behavior.
Thank you kindly,
This is the response that I sent to Vera:
I am so sorry for your situation. I think in your case, since you can’t afford to take him to court, you need to be an actress. Do not let him ever get any reaction out of you. Never get upset in your ex’s presence, never let him know that he is upsetting you. You should almost pretend to be disinterested in seeing your son.
Here is the reason: He is doing this to you because he gets a charge out of seeing you upset. Deny him the charge. Pretend that you are moving on with your life. Your response to him about seeing your son should be, “Whatever.”
Secondly, your ex will soon want to be off on his next adventure, and the child will probably “slow him down.” So he may want to “dump” your son off on you more and more—especially if he thinks you are not interested in caring for the boy.
Third, all sociopaths want to “win.” If he thinks he has won, because he is calling the shots, he may tire of the game.
When you are with your son, be as kind and loving to him as you can be. Let him know that you are always there for him. Eventually he will be able to make his own decisions.
In the meantime, keep meticulous records of everything that happens. If you ever see injuries on your son, take him to a doctor or photograph them. Communicate only via email, and save all of them. Eventually you may build enough of a case to make a change in the arrangements.
The information that I provided to Vera comes from what I learned from all of you at Lovefraud. I did not have a child with the sociopath I married, so I did not experience the co-parenting issues first-hand.
Vera wrote back with more questions. I ask Lovefraud readers to respond to her, because many of you have dealt with these situations, whereas I have not.
The classic sociopath behavior would be that sooner or later if there is no fuel he will “dump” the child off on someone who’s not doing him a favor, and I’ve experienced that a few times. However, more frequently he will “dump” the boy off on unreliable babysitters, or whomever, instead of asking me, and he knows that’s how he gets me. If I don’t react, the boy could be harmed as he was in the past, and he will be told that I don’t care. Should I just sit back and play cool? I am certain he badly damaged his first wife by yanking her chain constantly, by keeping their daughter hostage at his house and showing crass indifference to her welfare so much so that the poor mother left for Peru, where she died shortly thereafter. The adult daughter is bipolar and a heroin addict. I was not aware of those facts prior to marrying him.
He spent $3,000 on a University Discovery Summer Program for two months running in order to have the boy away from me the entire summer. It is the first year he’s done that. The reason for it is that he is hoping to get the money back from me by taking me to court to get more child support on allegations of parental alienation. All he wants is for me to become indigent. Please advise.
In closing, he rarely packs lunches for our son, and peanut butter is disallowed at the program; the boy will end up starving every day until early evening when he takes him to McDonalds or Burger King. The boy is 54 pounds at the age of 8 ½, and the sociopath has no regard for his physical growth or emotional well being. This hurts me so keenly because I understand nutrition and I feed our son homemade natural/organic foods. Please advise.
Do you have advice for Vera? If so, please post your comments.