by Quinn Pierce
It’s like a switch, really, the way he turns his charm on and off. I watch the tell-tale facial expressions change in a split second as someone enters or exits the room. I often want to look around and yell, “Didn’t you see that?”
But he is too careful not to reveal the wrong mask to the intended person. It’s another one of those moments when you think, “Am I really the only one who can see this? Doesn’t anyone else realize this is all an act?”
The Mask Slips
And for so long, no one saw. He practiced and planned his timing like a seasoned actor on stage: perfect performance every time….until recently.
It may have taken twenty years, but it was worth the wait. He finally stretched his characters too far, with too much arrogance, with too many contradictions. He wanted to ruin every aspect of my life at once, and he didn’t care who he hurt along the way. This time, there were too many people, too many factors, too many lies, and he eventually got tangled in his own web of deceit.
True to form, he is quickly trying to change his role, deflect negativity, and distance himself from those he used to create the drama. And he may succeed, to some extent. After all, this is his life’s work, he has no other goals.
An Alternative Career Path
Sociopaths are excellent at disrupting our daily lives and wreaking havoc every step of the way. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, if you think about it; anyone who puts that much time and energy into a career is going to become an expert in their field. It’s just that a sociopath’s field happens to be trying to destroy other people’s lives for their own amusement, personal gain, inflating their egos, or just because they run out of shiny toys to play with.
Being in a relationship of any kind with a sociopath is almost like a parent trying to have a conversation on the phone while a toddler is running around the house chasing the dog with scissors and hairspray. It doesn’t take long for a mother to realize there is no chance of productivity unless the child is asleep. Unfortunately, sleep is the toddler’s way of gearing up for the next hurricane-like scenario. Similarly, the ‘periods of quiet’ seem to be when a sociopath is plotting and planning the next inexplicable surprise attack.
But, having the emotional regulation and egocentric qualities of a two year-old can only take you so far before you earn a time-out. And right now, my ex-husband has been placed in a time-out by the very group of people he had hoped to dupe in every way possible.
Caught Off Guard
It’s amazing to me that he didn’t think there would be anyone in the field of pediatric medicine that would actually put my son’s needs before his. For the first time since the ordeal started with my ex-husband and a medical provider calling child services to site me for child neglect, I sat in a doctor’s office and watched my son’s new psychiatrist ask my ex-husband questions that he never thought he’d have to answer, especially in front of me.
His answers were not well rehearsed. I almost felt sorry for him as he stammered out nonsensical phrases and convoluted answers. Almost. I watched his face turn bright red with anger and frustration, and probably some indignation that he was being subjected to this treatment at all, let alone in front of me.
What he did manage to reply by way of explanation for recent events was enough to make my skin crawl as he continued to imply I was an unfit mother. But I sat quietly, not wanting to throw him a lifeline by engaging in his ridiculous soliloquy. Instead, and this made the veins on his head stand out even more, I took out my small notebook that I take everywhere, and I began taking notes of everything he said.
I also made a note to myself that said: Pretending he’s not in the room is more effective than arguing.
When I returned home later that day, I decided I should write a list of everything that has, ultimately, benefited my situation. It’s a ‘How To’ list of sorts, and I’d like to share it now.
Guidelines for Dealing With a Sociopathic Ex-spouse
- Do Not Engage: A sociopath cannot survive without drama. They will accuse, blame, slander, rant, cry, yell, threaten, lie and intimidate in order to get their opponent to engage in the verbal boxing match. The truth is there is no ‘winning’ an argument with a sociopath, just as there is no winning an argument with a two year old. The only way to really win is to ignore everything they say and do and focus on your own healthy path.
- Keep Records: My ex-husband hates to put anything in writing. It is an automatic deterrent of his verbal abuse and lies. He knows I will keep a record of everything, and if he puts it in writing, he cannot pretend he didn’t say it. Also, I have noticed there is a tremendous lag time between responses when he has to write a response. It’s as if it takes him hours to filter his responses so that he can write everything just right. I won’t deny that I enjoy knowing he spends so much time and energy on something that is mentally challenging and emotionally painful for him- he’d much rather just say something mean and hope to ruin my day.
- Believe in Yourself and Trust Your Instincts: Don’t let a sociopathic partner or ex make you question yourself when you know in your heart what you are doing is the right thing. Remember that these ‘people’ have no regard for other people, including children, and are only concerned with their own childish needs.
- Don’t Give Up: It may seem that sociopaths come out strong right at the start, but they do not think things through all the way. If you are consistent and persistent, eventually, their lies will start to reveal themselves, and by not engaging and pursuing what you believe is right, it will be even more difficult for him/her to accuse you of being –as they so often like to accuse- ‘crazy’.
- Don’t Respond To Anything Right Away: it is much easier to not engage when you give yourself time to let emotions settle, sort through the provoking vs necessary information, and decide if it’s even worth responding to.
- Be Informed: If you know your rights, it is much more difficult for anyone to threaten or intimidate you. Just because someone has a position of authority in a particular field, does not mean you have to take their word at face-value, information is your greatest weapon.
This last one is, I think, vital to success in any situation:
7. Be Comfortable With Who You Are: Your past and your experiences have given you wisdom and healing. If you accept your flaws and are proud of what you have overcome, no one can use your past to threaten you or blackmail you in any way. The one thing my ex-husband and his sidekick were relying on was me being too embarrassed to bring their false accusations to light. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worse the accusations, the louder I have become. I took away their ability to bully me. Shame and guilt are the staples of the sociopathic personality; they expect everyone around them to have the same feelings. They don’t know how to respond when shame and guilt are not present.
Finding Strength in Healthy Boundaries
It’s taken me a long time to learn these very difficult lessons. It is so easy to be baited and manipulated by people who know your weaknesses and worries. The trick is to turn your weaknesses into strengths, and use that worry to become vigilant in protecting yourself- it’s amazing how arming yourself with information and precautions can allow you to relax.
My greatest achievement in divorcing a sociopath is not wasting any of my energy on his life. I have put up the boundaries I need to interact with him only when necessary for the sake of my children. But when it comes to his child-like behavior, two year-old antics, constant need for attention, and egotistical demands, I give his new wife sole custody.