Recently, a reporter was inquiring about people who live double lives. Why do they do it? Can they maintain double lives for a long time? What are the dangers?
Like most of us at Lovefraud, I have some experience with this. My ex-husband, James Montgomery, cheated with at least six different women during our 2.5-year marriage. He had a child with one of the women. Ten days after I left him, he married the mother of the child, which was the second time he committed bigamy. And of course, he took a quarter-million dollars from me—spending much of the money entertaining these other women.
Not everyone who lives a double life is a sociopath. Some people, like spies and undercover cops, are doing their jobs. But for all those people who don’t have a legitimate reason for creating an alternate existence—why do they do it?
Sociopaths are social predators who live their lives by exploiting others. When sociopaths live double lives, the prime reason is probably because it enables them to exploit multiple people simultaneously.
This is especially true of the parasites that sponge off of their romantic partners. I’ve heard of many, many cases in which sociopaths, both male and female, are involved with two, three or even more romantic relationships at once, and taking from all of their partners—money, sex, cars, entertainment, whatever. Essentially the sociopaths are looking for supply, and the more sources of supply they have, the better.
Another reason for double lives is the promiscuity of sociopaths. Most sociopaths have a high appetite for sex, amazing stamina, and get bored easily. Consequently, what they really want in their sex lives is variety. So they hook up with a variety of people, in a variety of places, and engage in a variety of sex acts.
Often, however, the sociopaths’ sexual partners do not share these wide-ranging proclivities. But the sociopaths don’t bother to tell the truth about what they’re doing. The sociopaths simply pursue their sexual agendas with multiple people, but keep everyone separate. Sometimes this involves elaborate ruses and manipulation.
Thrill of the game
This leads to another point—many sociopaths simply love the game. They love getting over on people—one expert called this “duping delight.”
For example, one night shortly after we were engaged, my ex-husband came to visit me. He was driving a strange car. When I asked him whose car it was, he told me an elaborate story about it belonging to a military buddy. The truth was that he had another woman staying with him for a week, and he drove her car to my house. I don’t know what reason he gave her for taking her car, but whatever it was, it was unnecessary. He could have driven his own car. I believe Montgomery just wanted to take her car to visit me for the thrill of getting over on both of us.
I’ve heard of other cases like this. A woman brought one man that she was dating to a trade association dinner in which another man she was dating was being presented with an award. Why? For the fun of seeing one guy squirm, and the other guy clueless.
Mask of normalcy
Finally, some sociopaths hold a job, have a family, maintain a house and go to church to provide cover for their true pursuits—sex, drugs, crime and perhaps even murder. This is how some famous serial killers operated, such as Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK killer. He worked, was a church deacon, and killed 10 people. His wife of 34 years never knew of his desire to “bind, torture and kill.”
Even when they aren’t killers, many sociopaths establish “normal” lives to make it easier to pursue their exploitative interests. Some sociopaths are also extremely concerned about their image. They want to keep their places in society, and having a spouse, family, job and a hot car all contribute to their status.
In answer to one of the questions at the beginning of this article, many sociopaths can, indeed, maintain the double lives for many, many years. I’ve heard from plenty of women who were married 10, 20, 25 years—and then were shocked to discover what their husbands were doing throughout their entire marriage.
Dangers of the double lives
Yes, I suppose some sociopaths face danger because of their double lives—but honestly, I’m not overly concerned about them.
But the dangers to unknowing partners are serious. Sociopaths bleed their partners of money to fund their extracurricular activities. As I reported in my new book, Red Flags of Love Fraud—10 signs you’re dating a sociopath, 20 percent of Lovefraud survey respondents said that their sociopathic partners infected them with sexually transmitted diseases. In this blog, I’ve reported at least two cases of men who were convicted of knowingly transmitting HIV to unknowing sex partners.
But even when partners aren’t physically harmed by the double lives of sociopaths, the psychological damage of betrayal is profound. Discovery of the truth leads to two kinds of shock: The shock at the callous actions of the sociopath, and the personal shock that the partner was totally in the dark.
Recovery, for the targets, can be long and difficult. In the meantime, the sociopaths simply move on to another life.