By November 5, 2015 22 Comments Read More →

Married To A Sociopath — How It All Began

My Story

Since ending what turned into a toxic marriage, suffering through a divorce from hell, and enduring severe post-divorce emotional, legal, and financial aftershocks, I have educated myself about sociopaths.

It is clear to me now that my ex-husband and the father of my children is a sociopath.

By sharing my story and painfully gained insights in my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned, and on the lovefraud.com  website, I hope to help others identify some of the markers that indicate someone in their life might be a sociopath as well as to recognize and offset the qualities in oneself—as in all of us—that encourage us to give these all-too-commonly disguised predators a “pass,” giving them access to our trust, our life, and our family until it is too late.

Onward in Disguise

Out of fear for my emotional, personal and financial well-being (and that of my children) I write under a pseudonym and changed names, personal characteristics, places, and specifics but not the dynamics. The essence of everything in my story is true—based on actual events, including conversations and bizarre behavior as best as I remember them or, later on, recorded in my journal.

The Illusion of “Being In It Together”

It all started my first year as an MBA student when “Paul” and I were assigned to the same team in a multi-day simulated business competition. In his bestseller, The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence, fear, danger, and risk expert Gavin de Becker describes how “forced teaming” creates vulnerability, because it manufactures the view that “we’re in this together.”

Forced teaming (acting as if two or more people are part of a team even for the most trivial of reasons, when, in fact, they are not) produces the illusion of common goals where none really exist, weakens interpersonal barriers, and facilitates unwarranted trust.

Conmen and others who would do harm use forced teaming to get potential victims to lower their defenses. If forced teaming is effective, any self-respecting sociopath knows how to take advantage of an actual team that requires shared time, experiences, and objectives, such as the simulated business team to which Paul and I were assigned.

In light of the effectiveness of this tactic, is it any surprise that Alcoholics Anonymous and similar groups designed to help people in challenging life situations report that some individuals join their organizations with the sole purpose of befriending and then preying on vulnerable members?

Appearing “Just Like You”

Once the opportunity arises and personal defenses have been lowered, sociopaths are skilled at fabricating personal qualities and details of their past and present as well as aspirations for their future to lure potential victims by pretending to be “just like them.”

Hence, as I did back then, those targeted by sociopaths often have an immediate and strong attraction to the sociopath and believe they have found their soul mate.

If I was from Vermont, for example, Paul stressed how much he loved Vermont and had always imagined himself living there. If I mentioned that I’d grown up in an academic family, that wasn’t very materialistic and loved rich, intellectual banter, Paul stressed how unimportant material possessions were to him and that his plan was to work hard for 10 years and then try to teach at a university.

I was simply being played, but I did not know it at the time. What I knew was that I felt that Paul and I were so alike.  I felt an instant connection.

Early Warning Signs

What I wish I’d known, but it took me twenty more years to figure out, was that everyone needs to be vigilant for signs that the person with whom one is falling in love might be a sociopath. Paul exhibited many signs that only now do I realize are relevant:

  • a sense of instant compatibility
  • someone interested in being in charge or being in control (he seamlessly became the leader of our business team)
  • a life-story that elicited “pity” (an alleged affair by his young wife, and they divorced soon after)
  • emotional isolation of a partner even, ostensibly, for valid reasons (his first wife’s choice to leave school and her family behind to marry Paul)
  • short relationships (his first marriage did not last very long)
  • lack of fear or strain in situations most others find stressful (a rigorous graduate program that did not faze Paul)
  • selfish behavior camouflaged as something else (allowing his first wife to give up a free education at a prestigious university to marry him, framed by Paul as the two of them being so head-over-heels in love that it seemed the only course of action).

Dream Come True or Dangerous Constellation?

A dangerous constellation was already starting to form, but I didn’t know about sociopaths.

It never occurred to me that a feeling of instant compatibility with an attractive, smart fellow MBA candidate who was comfortable taking the lead, for whom I felt sorry for because of his first wife’s (alleged) infidelity, and who seemed calm when others were stressed could be warning signs of anything dark and malevolent.

It seemed more like a dream come true. I could not have been more wrong. Sociopaths are very real and very good at seamlessly deceiving and manipulating.

22 Comments on "Married To A Sociopath — How It All Began"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. O.N. Ward – Welcome to Lovefraud! So many readers of Lovefraud are like you — smart, professional women who were totally deceived by one of the “successful” psychopaths who climbed to the upper echelons of the business world.

    Dr. Robert Hare says that 1% of the general population are psychopaths, but 3.5% of corporate executives are psychopaths. But because these executives don’t kill anyone and make a lot of money, they get away with abusing their families.

    Thank you for being willing to shed light on what happens with these destructive individuals.

    Report this comment

  2. EricA says:

    I truly believe the numbers are higher. While I thank you for pointing out the red flags of antisocial personality disorder, I strongly advise women who may be a more susceptible target understand why they are and take steps to be a stronger, healthier woman. It is most absolutely not our fault, however, these predators are seeking out a specific victimology. We must prevent this from ever happening to us, as the subsequence is so soul altering.
    I am not one to pose a problem without a solution, so for me, I went and still go to therapy. I came to realize my father is a narcissist which has left me with severe PTSD. Perhaps we can all attempt to ascertain our own behavior and learn if we suffer a personality that a sociopath is drawn to, such as anxiety or a strong desire to be loved. It can only serve to make us stronger.
    We are the empaths, and we want to espouse a healthy personality. Unlike antisocials, we want to change.
    Much has been said of what to look for in regards to sociopathic red flags. We know what they are. Let’s realize what we are so as to protect ourselves from them in the first place.

    Report this comment

  3. mrobins3 says:

    This is an amazing book! After reading about it here, I purchased it on Amazon and read it in less than two days. O.N. Ward describes in accurate detail exactly how it is that an intelligent, educated, once independent woman could get worn down slowly over time by a sociopath/psychopath’s gaslighting and other manipulation tactics. I felt much less alone after reading this book. My heart goes out to the children, and to the victims who have children with a psychopath. I was fortunate that my sociopath Ex and I were not married and my children were from my first marriage. However, I could relate to every one of O.N. Ward’s descriptions of the gradual eroding of her self… culminating in the nauseating discovery of her husband’s infidelities, prostitute habits, and total lack of empathy, even for his own children.

    Thank you for this great book recommendation!

    Report this comment

  4. dragonfire says:

    Thank you O.N.Ward. I saw this yesterday. Bought the book. And just finished it. I cried at the end. For all of us. It helped.

    Report this comment

    • O.N.Ward says:

      Thank you for your kind words.

      To go forward with my life, I had to look back and understand what had happened to me and, more importantly, how it had happened. I wanted to share what I’d learned, hoping it could help others in, or recovering from, a similar situation.

      Sociopaths use our humanness against us—what we value, how we process information, how we naturally resolve conflict, how we are automatically influenced by our environment, etc. By understanding the often subtle techniques sociopaths use to attract, control and erode even strong, independent men and women, perhaps fewer of us will fall under the nefarious influence of these masked vultures.

      Report this comment

      • Bev says:

        That’s right!

        SPs use our HUMANNESS against us.

        They try and stay in your life saying that family is so important to them, but it isn’t. They know that it is important to YOU.

        They veritably TUG on your humanness.

        Thank you for writing this book and for your wonderful posts. I appreciate it!

        Report this comment

      • dragonfire says:

        Thank you again. Your book helped me get past a roadblock in my healing. It helped me move from anger to sadness. So much of my P is identical to your story. Including that analogy of a frog boiling in a pot. He used it about himself but it was really me who was the poor frog. It seemed so strange at the time but now I realize how adept they are at manipulation and how much effort they put into it for the thrills. I’m so glad I stumbled across this. All the best to you.

        Report this comment

        • O.N.Ward says:

          I’m glad the book was helpful. Figuring out what had happened to me was so important in my own healing. I wrote the book not only to get all my thoughts down in one place, but with the hope that my pain and anything I had learned could be helpful to someone else. Hearing that the book helped gives me a fleeting moment of joy, something I did not experience for a very very long time due to those 20 years. Thank you for that.

          I hope you continue to recover from this horrific experience. When I was in the depths of despair, I did not think it possible, but month by month, year by year things have shifted. I notice myself sometimes feeling happy again.

          All the best to you as well.

          Report this comment

  5. lagorgeousmujer says:

    I am a female borderline. I can spot these dudes easily. It may be because I am a misandrist, or because us bpds are able to separate from our empathy for short periods and we also notice subtle behavior that others don’t catch on to. I recently met a client with thom I ended up overstaying by 3 days (I’m an escort). He was instantly talkative, affectionate and over the top nice (watch out for men who are TOO nice). He was so nice, I thought that maybe he was gay. His niceness, however, did not coincide with his critical attitude towards my personality and musical tastes. He also spoke badly of his ex wife and made weird jokes about me killing her for him. On the third day, he was definitely more distant than before and would disappearwith. Excuses. I left and cut things off while he was still playing the nice guy script. But it just did not coincide with other things and I felt a strong urge to leave. Watch out for that combination of perfect kindness and cruelty. Your emotions will want you to stay for the kind part but it is fake. And then me being bpd, I would have def tried to ruin him in retaliation if I had dirt on him but I didn’t. So I simply cut my losses and left.

    Report this comment

    • KOCHKA says:

      I can relate to your comment. “He also spoke badly of his ex wife and made weird jokes about me killing her for him. ” happened to me. Or more likely, he spoke bad about my ex and joked about killing him together if I wanted. I couldn’t utter a word..

      Watch out for that combination of perfect kindness and cruelty.

      is the best advice to follow. There is this weird gut feeling of conscious dissonance that you can feel if you are attentive to your feelings.

      Report this comment

      • lagorgeousmujer says:

        Makes sense. At the time that he made the comment, I thought maybe he was just really hurt over the divorce. Still, its not normal. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else make a joke like that. This morning I texted him, letting him know I’m onto his condition. No asnwer. Later I message him that I will not tell anyone as long as he stays out of my hair. He replied that he won’t mess with me. An admittal?!? Theni told him id actually bought into it for a minute. Boom! He started playing mr nice guy again. I’m realizing that any communication with him will lead to him continuing to try to dupe me. He can’t help it. Oh and another red flag is that he said he’d been institutionalized during his teen years for being violent. But that somehow he’s all sooo nice now. I’m not buying it.

        Report this comment

    • Escapefor1 says:

      Yes I have also seen that mix of kindness and cruelty in someone who told me he is a verified mild P, scoring 14 on the Hare PCL-R. (That is too low to be defined as a psychopath, but higher than “normal”.)

      He did a lot of kind things and talked a lot about helping people in various ways, sometimes making an extra effort to do so. I saw his conscientiousness in action. There were a lot of good things about him.

      His psychopathic traits seemed like maybe they could also be explained by being a high-sensation, high-risk taker type rather than a more callous type. He likes to live a bit on the edge. But most of what he does are minor violations that lots of people do.

      However, he would also often mention physical altercations, physical dominance (not sexual, more size and fighting type). He would look at a crowd in a room in terms of which men could hurt him and how he would get them first. Later, it emerged that he had broken a bone in his wife, though he said she attacked him and he was defending himself. He is unusually strong by objective measures.

      So, I have backed off, perhaps unfairly, but unwilling to take a risk.

      So, yes in this one too, a with proven psychopathic traits, he was both kind and cruel.

      Report this comment

  6. Escapefor1 says:

    I too met my N/P ex-H in a top business school. I missed all the immediate tipoffs I should have seen, starting with his saying that the MBA is only 3 little letters, the degree doesn’t mean anything. I liked that he seemed to have a combination of book smarts and street smarts, as well as obvious ambition and drive. I just did not realize at all how deep his street smarts went or that his ambition and drive would be directed against me. Took me 25 years to get out of that situation. So, don’t feel bad about being fooled.

    And ironically, he was right, but not in the way he meant. In career terms, he was not at all successful. His personality kept blowing up jobs and deals/projects he did. But he was very successful in extracting so much money and other things from me for so long. Pretty good income if you look at it in those terms. He probably would have been one of the more successful grads, seen in those terms.

    I would say you definitely got your arms around how you were captured. I too did a LOT of research into these types and how people get snookered because I do not plan to be a victim of this sort again. Your list of ways he deceived you looks very smart and insightful. So I bought your book and it looks like it is going to be very good and informative.

    Report this comment

    • O.N.Ward says:

      Wow! Lots of similarities.

      Smart sociopaths are so destructive, as they use every bit of their intelligence against you. In addition, they are often well funded AND they don’t play by the rules. Having all that ambition, intelligence and drive directed against me was brutal.

      I have such respect for sociopaths’ manipulative skills that I want to keep learning as much as I can about them so I won’t be a victim again. 20 years was long enough. I’m curious if your personal experience and research revealed additional ways they manipulate and deceive.

      So sorry to hear that you also invested so much of your life with a sociopath. But, at least we got out. There was a time when I feared I didn’t even have the strength to do that.

      Report this comment

  7. AnnettePK says:

    Excellent book! I also read through it over just a couple of days; I wanted to know that Onna got out ok. It brought me to tears; and I skipped over reading some of the contents of the emails from the spath to the victim because it triggered my pain and rage – so similar to the infuriating and crushing twisting BS with which my ex P tormented me. I was particularly moved by the son’s suffering at the hands of his ‘father.’ My son (from my first marriage – I was widowed) was crushed by the sadist ‘step father’ P I was married to during his preteen and early teen years.
    There are so many similarities between the tactics of the spath described in the book and my ex P, it could have been written about my experience.
    One thing that wasn’t brought out in the book, that I keep in mind with respect to my ex P is that whatever horrors the spath committed that we happen to discover is likely only the tip of the iceberg. I know that my ex P could have done anything; given his lack of empathy and lack of conscience, the only restraining factor on his choice of behavior is concern about getting ‘caught.’ He could have murdered people for all I know. I don’t know that he necessarily did, but I know that he is capable of it it if it suited his purpose and if he thinks he won’t get ‘caught.’

    Report this comment

    • O.N.Ward says:

      I am so sorry that you suffered a similar experience and for the treatment of your son. Mother to mother, I know how horrifying it is to have someone hurt your child. How terrible that you and your son had to go through that.

      You make a great point that whatever is discovered or suspected about a sociopath is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Their ability to lie, cheat and manipulate is hard to fathom. That means I’ll never know most of what my ex must have been doing while married to me. At some point, I did not want to know any more. What I knew was enough–it had all been a lie, he was devoid of empathy or ethics, and he delighted in hurting me and would go out of his way to do just that. To inflict maximum pain, he had no qualms about using our own children. Just vile!

      Sadly, as unethical, disgusting behavior does not really matter in divorce or custody situations, at some point, more information would only be more painful to me, and I already felt I was drowning. There were times I wanted to know more, but more knowledge could also have been dangerous for me to have if he felt it made me more of a threat to his “good guy” image. I did worry, at times, that I’d just be reported “missing” one day and that would be that.

      Report this comment

      • AnnettePK says:

        For a long time, every time I discovered another lie, another deception, another horror of some sort, I’d think that was it, that was the rock bottom of it. I eventually came to the realization that he could have done/could be doing/could do in the future ANYTHING.

        I told close friends if anything ever happened to me to look closely at him; and then I let him know I’d told them that. I discern that the situation and circumstances made getting caught a bigger possibility than your situation, so I felt safer. Our ‘marriage’ was relatively short, and I was not geographically isolated, although my ex P tried to isolate me psychologically and socially. I am blessed to have a couple of close life long friends that the P could not ever turn against me.

        Report this comment

    • NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

      In reference to AnnettePK but written to all…

      AnnettePK, you make an excellent point here that I want to emphasize.

      Once my husband’s mask came off and I started discovering all the assaults and betrayals, I wanted to track them ALL down so I wouldn’t be blindsided in the future and I could work on healing ALL of them.

      But that’s not the way it works with sociopaths.
      I discovered, as will everyone, that it was ALLLLLLL a lie, ALLLLLL a betrayal, every moment, every kind word from him was a scam, a set up of things to come or a cover up of deeds done.

      I came to realize that what I had to heal was ME, not what HE did, but to come to a place where I put my well being FIRST. I worked on my WELL BEING, on how I thought and nurtured myself. FOr me, I had to move away and be in a place where he had not “poisoned the well”…so that I could smile at someone and the smile back would be authentic and not have a hidden agenda specific to harming me. That’s part of putting my well being FIRST, to re-build my boundries as appropriate. (not as a wall, which is what I did at first, I became a paranoid recluse). A jewel of a therapist helped me with my self talk.

      Looking for all that my ex husband did to me was just re-wounding myself and those attacked never stopped. It was never going to be a bottom to that. That was NOT the way to go.

      Annette’s point is so true…discovery is ALWAYS going to be the tip of the iceberg. Instead of trying to discover all the pain, Help yourself by declaring “this is enough pain” and look to caring for your WELL BEING.

      Report this comment

      • dragonfire says:

        The P I knew was a friend. He confided a lot. I’m sure there was more but if you are the wife or GF I agree there is no point in knowing all the betrayal and hurt. It’s way worse than anyone can imagine and I made the mistake of thinking he was telling me “the truth”. Even in telling me his secrets he still lied about everything. The only escape I see is to not care. He’s evil. Does it matter how many people someone kills or just that they are a murderer. It took way too long to get to this point though.

        Report this comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.