Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via Amazon.com, just click on the title or book cover) will be published here on Lovefraud. To read prior chapters, please see the links at the bottom of the post.
Chapter 24: Paul’s Dream
Sociopaths generally have a high need for stimulation, which experts believe stems from the shallowness of their emotional life. They cannot and do not experience the love, affection, attachment, and happiness that create the rich tapestry of a normal individual’s interpersonal and emotional life. Sociopaths fill the resulting void with action and distraction. They loathe boredom and downtime, so they are prone to making quick, risky decisions and pressing for immediate action. For sociopaths, it is as if the downside of any decision they make simply does not exist.
I am somewhat the opposite. I make decisions by gathering data and considering my options, often overthinking the negative consequences of a decision and wondering about the road not taken. As a result, I admired Paul’s propensity for and comfort with quick decisions, taking risks, and never second-guessing himself.
There are several reasons why sociopaths have unshakable confidence in their quick, risk-laden choices. Unlike mere mortals, they lack fear, including fear of failure. They have no concern for the impact of their choices on other people. Sociopaths also have such a grandiose sense of themselves; they feel superior to others and are certain they will succeed.
This constellation of characteristics—quick decision-making, risk-taking, action-oriented, lack of fear, and complete confidence in oneself in the face of uncertainty—does not scream sociopath to most of us. Instead, it suggests something we admire—leadership. Unfortunately, instead of seeing these characteristics and running in the opposite direction, we are drawn in as if to a gravitational force. This is particularly true with sociopaths, because they are often charismatic and charming, highly skilled at telling people what they want to hear and excellent at getting even the most intelligent, experienced, and capable people to march to the beat of their drum. Is it any wonder that there are countless examples of individuals and groups who have had their lives derailed by a charismatic sociopath?
At first, a genuine leader and a sociopath may look identical—just as one’s true soul mate and a sociopath may also look identical. And for all the reasons noted, since you assume the person who is influencing you is a well-intentioned, talented, dynamic leader—as I did when I first worked with Paul and for almost two decades afterwards—you can often be emotionally and financially past the point of no easy return before you realize the bitter truth. Then, because sociopaths do not play by the rules and are often vindictive and vengeful toward anyone who has seen them for who they really are, getting away from the sociopath and getting on with your life can be a nightmare.
Another consequence of sociopaths’ unique hardwiring to being stimulation-seeking, able to experience pleasure (but not happiness), risk-prone, devoid of empathy, and having no conscience is that they do not constrain their sexual appetite. As a result, they can be sexually promiscuous and adventurous. Not only do they seek sex for the sake of pleasure, they use the illusion of love and physical intimacy to manipulate others.
Those primal feelings when I met Anne-Marie were triggered for a reason, but I suppressed them. Men and women could have mentor-mentee relationships without sleeping with each other, right? Paul was a man of great honor and integrity, right? Back in business school he refused to help me with a class for fear of appearing unethical. An affair would have been far, far worse. There was no way Paul would do that.
The perfect sociopath storm was forming. Not only did Paul want to invest our money in this new company, take on the professional risk inherent in any startup, and take a huge pay cut—all with Anne-Marie at his side, squirreling away an obscene amount of money for someone with her nascent credentials—he insisted that the company be based in Connecticut. It would be less expensive than New York, he argued. This would require us to move as soon as possible. In fact, he had already scoped out office space and put a hold on the first floor of a building.
Paul and I had moved three times since receiving our MBAs several years earlier—our apartment in Minnesota, our house in Minnesota, and our house in the New York suburbs. I did not want to move again. With Paul’s work demands getting the company off the ground, I knew the entire move would fall on me and put my life, my work, and my clients at risk. Yet, relocating to Connecticut would put us closer to my family. And with two young children, being closer to grandparents was something I valued, even if it meant leaving behind my newfound friends and happy life in the New York suburbs. If this were the move, the final move to put us where we really wanted to be, then maybe it was worth it. Reluctantly, I agreed to relocate.
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Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.