The following letter, written by a young woman who we’ll call Chloe, is one of the most complete stories of psychological manipulation that I’ve ever seen yet. Chloe wrote this letter secretly while the sociopath she is living with was at the gym.
I met my boyfriend two years ago. I was 18; he was 33. He’s a photographer; we live on an island that is very small. He has lived here forever (10 years) and I had only been here a few months when I met him. Everybody, especially women on the island, adore him, he is THE BIGGEST charmer.
He told me that he had moved here with his fiancÃ©e, that she had said she was going home for a week, and then never came back. He said she’d gone to therapy back home and been “mindf*cked” and never returned, breaking their engagement. I felt for him. He was so normal and sweet. He was living with his parents (because they were taking over his place) and he was moving out. He/we lived with them for a year, he’s still in it to this day, though his parents left a long time ago.
Always telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat. I’m 5’7” and 115 pounds, and I’m size DD and he’s always showing me plastic surgeons that do the best boob jobs so I can make them bigger. He was normal for four months, then told me he didn’t want me hanging out with or speaking to other guys. He even would get annoyed when I’d talk to my mom or dad.
Long story short, when I started moving out, which has happened a million times, he became violent. Touching me, I’d ask him to stop, gently pushing him off me but he wouldn’t and that’s when he started strangling me. I’ve told people about him and they take his side, because he’s such an upstanding member of the community.
He says guilt is a useless emotion and therefore feels none. He’s broken six cell phones, and in turn I’ve broken things of his. He uses this as a way to twist it and say it’s all my fault. He has every symptom on the sociopath checklist; I could go on and on. He got me a dog for my birthday and has started to use her as a tool to keep me home.
I’ve lost all my friends, rarely see family, but I’m so scared of life without him. I hate him, but every time I think about not having HIM in my life my chest hurts and it’s hard to breathe. I’ve gone to the hospital because he choked me too long, and spit in my face and held me down and rubbed it in, and I can’t or won’t leave. Isn’t that sick?
Initially I stayed because of the sex. Now I stay because I’m scared to be without him but also, I don’t want him to be with someone else, although I think he might have cheated on me once. When I tell him all these things, he calls me insane and “such a victim” and that I’m “sandbagging him and that’s all in the past.”
I’ve called Women Helping Women, but your site was the most helpful so far and I don’t know what to do. Everyone loves him; even the cops are his “braddahs.” He’s an SMU graduate; I only have high school (although I’ve gone to private schools my whole life) so he says no one would believe me, and they don’t!
His ex told me he stalked her until she moved back to the mainland, and no one believed her either… I used to be really strong and confident, but now I can’t leave the house without his approval of my outfit. I don’t want him to be with someone else, I don’t want to be with him, but I don’t want to be without him. He’s becoming more and more negative and aggressive towards me, but I’m scared to leave and scared to stay.
I feel dumb, ugly, depressed, anxious, and trapped. He’s drilled into my head for almost the whole two years that no other guys will date me or love me, and that they would only cheat on me. I know that’s not true because I get asked out all the time, but now I’m terrified of being cheated on! What should I do? Oh also he has naked pics and video of me that he’s threatened to release, even make money on.
This guy is a classic sociopath, employing every trick in the sociopath toolbox. He used the pity play to snag Chloe, with the story about his previous fiancÃ© being “mindf*cked” in therapy to leave him. Yeah, right—she probably fled because it was the only way to get rid of him.
Then the guy used sex to get his hooks into Chloe. As Dr. Liane Leedom explains, in normal people, intimate relations creates bonds between them, and it worked with Chloe. These bonds, which are both psychological and hormonal, are Nature’s way of holding the human race together for our own survival.
But it’s possible for the bonds to become pathological. That can happen when someone—such as a sociopath—deliberately tries to bring another person under his or her control. Here’s how this guy did it to Chloe:
- Telling Chloe what she should eat and wear
- Telling Chloe to get breast implants, even though it sounds like she has a fabulous figure
- Isolating Chloe from her family and friends
- Refusing to comply when she asks him not to touch her, then strangling her
- Breaking cell phones—her way of contacting other people
- Telling Chloe she is insane
- Telling Chloe that no other man will have her
- Twisting everything around so that all problems are Chloe’s fault
Cycle of fear, anxiety, intimacy
Make no mistake—this is abuse. So what happens as a result? The guy creates fear and anxiety in Chloe. Fear and anxiety strengthen those attachment bonds, which started out being normal. What usually happens in these situations is that the victim turns to the abuser for relief from the fear and anxiety. The abuser then “forgives” the victim for “making him” act abusively. Then they have sex.
This cycle of fear-anxiety-intimacy keeps strengthening the psychological and hormonal attachment bond, actually rewiring the victim’s brain. So now, even though Chloe knows the guy is bad news, it is almost impossible for her to get out of the relationship. This is apparent in the physical symptoms Chloe is showing just by thinking about leaving—her chest hurts and it’s difficult to breathe.
Off the island
Yet Chloe must leave. She must find the strength to get away from the guy, even if it means voting herself off the island.
Leaving this sociopath will be much like breaking an addiction. This, too, is normal. As Dr. Leedom explains, the bonds created in these relationships use the same pathways in the brain as drug addictions. That’s why Chloe has to go cold turkey with this guy, and why it will feel like withdrawal. The secret, as they say in recovery programs, it to take it one day at a time.
Chloe, do whatever you have to do to get out. Be prepared for the guy to pursue you, perhaps to the point of stalking, as he did with the previous woman. He may plead, beg, and even threaten. It’s not because he loves you. It’s because he doesn’t want to lose his property. Because that’s all you are to him—property.
Thank you for sharing this story Donna.
I am part of a working group that includes psychopathy researchers, clinicians and victims. As shocking as this may sound the professional members of the group would not say that you provided evidence of psychopathy here. Although they would say that PERHAPS this many has “psychopathic traits.”
This is the problem with cut off scores on the PCL-R. By my calculations Bernard Madoff and Denis Rader wouldn’t make the cut-off either.
We have had very heated discussions about this in the group and you can imagine how the line is drawn -victims on one side, clinician/researchers on the other.
The failure to recognize that ones behavior with an intimate partner speaks volumes about the structure of a person’s personality is part of the problem. They would say that psychopathy is pervasive and extends into every relationship and every facet of life.
This opens the door for a separate category “batterer”. Didn’t you know that these are just psychologically normal men under the influence of society? NOT
So the root of the problem is also ignorance of the nature of healthy psychological functioning.
I point all this out to help victims who are told the batterer is not a sociopath/psychopath.
All I can say is “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck”—it is probably a DUCK!
I’m not suprised at the professionals’ and researchers’ (A) lack of understanding and (B) failure to come to some agreement or concensus of “what is a P/S/ASPD?” and even NAME the problem, much less agree on the complete definition.
A bit of it seems like the old question about sound, sound is the vibrations of energy that hit our ear drum and is then interpred as ‘sound” by our brains; so—if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a “sound?”
So if a man consistently beats his women and tries to control them, but can still be charming to those not close to him, and doesn’t punch out the hostess at a dinner party for something he would beat HIS woman senseless for, then he isn’t a psychopath???DUH?
Does that make the BTK killer NON-psychopathic? What would they call him? Neurotic? Oppressed? A victim of society who just acted out because of his mother weaning him too harshly? BULL HOCKEY!
[He was normal for four months ]
I don’t believe this for a moment. But I feel this is a key issue in why some people get snagged and others bolt early on.
Those with family of origin issues are more likely to overlook, excuse, or otherwise downplay unacceptable or just plain weird behaviors and stay.
In retrospect, the “normal” and “nice” really aren’t. It takes some people a very long time to realize this.
“He was normal for four months.”
That statement jumped out at me, too. So many of us on this site have commented that a bell seems to go off in a S’s head at months 3 to 4 and everything changes and the devalue and discard begin.
Chloe, I was a criminal defense attorney and I still got taken by one of these subhuman creatures. By the end of the 15th month I was ready to kill myself. Somehow I found the strength in me to finally drive him off. I think it is a good sign that you are waking up to your reality. In your shoes, I would advise you to walk and don’t look back. Leave your clothes — everything and get out.
In my study of the subject, I find that most of the academic research has been done on psychopaths “in captivity” — on people from the prison population. I don’t see very much that describes the “psychopath in the wild,” and the defining test — the PCL-R — looks at the activity that puts people in prison, but doesn’t adequately describe the other behaviors that we here have come to call “red flags.”
For example, telling Chloe what to wear if she’s going out, or encouraging a 20-yr-old with a generous bra size to get breast augmentation, is not something that would help in a “professional diagnosis” of a psychopath, but it points to pathologically controlling behavior that should strike fear in us — because it hints at his capacity to do damage in many other ways.
This man is danger-danger-danger! Chloe can find help to break her addiction to him if she can get away. But this man sounds like the ultimate “bad news.”
I don’t often recommend a book of fiction, but I recently read “Rose Madder” by Stephen King. The first chapter is an amazing description of a woman in a profoundly abusive marriage who has shut herself down for 14 years so that she could survive. And then she wakes up . . . I compliment Mr. King for his ability to portray the thoughts of a woman in that situation.
I hope that Chloe breaks away as quickly as possible. At her age, she can get free and live a full life with a much wiser point of view. But first she has to “wake up” and get out.
Dear Chloe…You are lucky! Believe it or not. you do not have children so gather up some self esteem if there is any left and i know there is and leave. i have 5 kids…48 years old…this sociopath has put me 500k in debt…all the while blaming me…and I am trying to figure out what to do. I will be moving in his house since I have no choice (YET) but I’ll be working on plan B the whole time. Had I been single…I would have run for the hills! No one u nderstands and forget lawyers and the court system…they dont “get it” because its too $$$ and they dont really want to deal….make a move far away…changing your life can be so refreshing. Get to know who you really are not who someone tells you you are. If this man is telling you no one will want you be happy…it is better than who he is…Screw the sex…there is always someone better out there who will make REAL LOVE to you without the bullsh@.......#t Its funny…I can giva advice but trying to learn how to get out of my situation…but I am finding there are angels here on this website that have lived the hell and actually survived it and actually get it and want to give advice because they truly know what its like to lose EVERYTHING..but they manage to get the strength to end this no matter what it took! I am so proud of the people here that have done that and is taking the time to help others get through their situation…Thank you ANGELS and keep writing here CHLOE…..I know you can get your power back here. Even domestic place really dont get it…You are worth it…you have one life….try to strive for the happiest you can be.When I get through my hell I want to make a difference in people lives like mine. If I win the lottery….I will spend the rest of my life to help people like us. Its hell but you can do it…with love…bopeep
Bopeep: Your experience gives you understanding and wisdom. As hard as your lessons are, you can share from your heart. You know what Chloe faces if she doesn’t GET OUT!
I don’t know your skills and talents, but you’ve said that you were the “engine” in your business. Can you work with that to get yourself established without being around this predator? If you care to brainstorm, I know that people will help.
These are CLASSIC signs of most ANY domestic abuser per virtually any literature written by experts in the field,, whether he is sociopathic/psychopathic or not and I have read extensively on domestic abuse (books, articles), including taking a victims advocacy course.
But per Dr. Leedom’s comments where she seems to indicate that domestic abusers are all either psychopathic or considered by professionals to be psychologically “normal” batterers as I think she put it (as if ANOTHER DISORDER COULD NOT APPLY BESIDES PSYCHOPATHY)—
even Dr. Hare himself says on page 57 in SNAKES IN SUITS, that “as many as one in five persistent domestic abusers are psychopathic”. Note that word PERSISTENT domestic abusers. If one in five are thought to be psychopathic, that means that 4 out of 5 have some other personality disorder or mental or emotional problem or reason. Meloy in Violent Attachements and also in The Psychology of Stalking explores different PD’s or mental disorders that can contribute to this. Not EVERYONE who domestically abuses is a psychopath, but some have OTHER disorders.
IMO tossing everybody who does really bad behavior into the category of sociopathy or psychopathy just weakens the category to such an extent that it makes it almost meaningless, so why not just throw out the DSM and all those other disorders that contribute to people doing abnormal or horrible things and just say everybody who behaves badly is a psychopath. But let me make clear I am NOT weighing in on whether the man in question is or is not a psychopath, but I am simply saying the info provided fits the criteria for generally most domestic abusers regardless of whether he is or is not a sociopath or psychopath.
Bottom line though, a domestic abuser REGARDLESS OF THE REASON/DIAGNOSIS is dangerous and Chloe needs to GET AWAY FROM HIM, realize the period immediately after leaving him (and up to two years) is the MOST DANGEROUS period of time for her so she needs to take precautions.
And for you Chloe, I can so identify with the way you “intellectually” know you need to get away, but seem stuck there regardless. Read up on trauma bonding. Chloe, I tried getting out and no contact while still in the area with my ex, but I could not even turn on my phone without him immediately popping up, couldn’t walk outside my house without him showing up at odd times, endured all sorts of property damage etc. Mine’s goal was not to get me back, but as he put it “I will not rest until I have done everything in my power to destroy you emotionally and financially”. I will tell you the ONLY thing that worked for me and that was to move so far away that he cannot show up in person without great effort on his part. Since your man stalked the former girlfriend, I would “guess” he will be a real problem for you if you remain in the area by probably stalking you, terrorizing you (he has already shown extreme violence by strangling you). My best advice is to make a plan and disappear from his life, leaving no forwarding address. You may not want to do this and may come up with all sorts of reasons not to such as not wanting to leave an area you love, friends, family or whatever you hold dear–including your continuing attraction for him. I made all sorts of excuses and delays and thought I could manage to stay no contact, things would die down and I could remain in the area. But bottom line is that iI had to move so that is what I ended up having to do and I could have saved myself much time, grief, terror etc. if I had just done it immediately. Treat him like a drug addiction, Chloe. You may want him on the one hand, but you KNOW he is extremely bad for your mental and physical health. Go cold turkey and leave him behind. It won’t be easy but you can do it. Good luck Chloe and you will be in my prayers.–Jenn
Dear Rune…you are an angel.I get strength from the understanding and reality sets in that it is not just me ..unfortunatly. So how do you go far away when you can be traced by your bills and your children in school, which involves transferring records ect. My sociopath has a way of getting information out of EVERYONE. I don’t know how he does it. during a time of seperation , he managed to get my payroll info from the company despite I had them put a red flag on my account to not release info to anyone!. He did get copies of all transactions for the 6 months we were apart and brought it to court to use against me. He is the ultimate evil genius. The only reason i went back to him…( I refer to it as making a deal with the devil) was because I had 10 days and I was going to be thrown out of my own life..business, house, other house ect.Of course..the master maipulator had the power to keep it all together(for now) and I still barely have it all…so I am buying time to save for plan B…which involves moving into his house because I can no longer afford the house I am living in. I do have a trusted friend that I will be giving money to hold for me…so I can accomplish plan B but my enormous debt will be there probably forever. my credit is gone..but I still feel I can get some of my life back but it is not going to be easy..I just dont want to end up in a shelter because I had always accomplished everything in my life myself…and that would put me over the edge to have to be in that situation. Its amazing how he blames the financial situation on me and tells me he is in bad shape financially because of ME..I am going to order some books now that some people here recommended to me and once again thank you…Bpeep
This guy is 15 years your senior? My sociopath boyfriend was 11 years older than me. For me, the age difference made me “respect” him even more, because he was so “experienced”. Mine was also the BIGGEST CHARMER and adored by all.
He would HINT about what I should wear and how long my hair should be etc.
Older men are MASTERS at making younger women feel insecure about themselves.
Chloe, you only lost 2 years with this guy.
It took me a HELL of a lot longer than that to figure out mine was bad news!!
THIS IS GOING TO END BADLY, CHLOE.
CUT YOUR LOSSES AND GET OUT NOW!!
(and do NOT telegraph what you are going to do in advance. Just get out.)