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A mother asks: ‘What is my responsibility toward my sociopathic adult son?’

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Lovefraud received the following letter from a reader whom we’ll call, “Margaret Louise.”

Please point me in the direction for good advice about recovering from heartache caused by my adult son, who is a sociopath. And, help me realize my responsibilities as his parent.

Joshua is 33 years old. He has 3 children by 3 different women. While he is in the relationship with the women, I am blacklisted from contact with my grandchildren. As the relationships fall apart, and the mothers realize they’ve been duped, I can begin to have that cherished relationship with my grandchildren and fortunately with the mothers. 

Because I have developed a wonderful relationship with Joshua’s most recent ex-wife and their 3-year old son, I was seeing more of Joshua and we were able to tolerate each other, even be cordial. However, as he has entered into another new relationship, he has reverted to being cruel and verbally abusive.

 It is my opinion that he is trying to wipe his slate and present himself to her as a victim.

I have decided that this is the very last time that I will put myself in this situation with Joshua. My heart aches for giving up on him but I don’t think I can take any more rejection and cruelty from him. Also, there is great concern about my role in protecting others that may have to deal with him.

Every time there is a school shooting, mass murder, or other events caused by emotionally sick or mentally ill persons, the public seems to always ask, “Why didn’t those in his life do something?”

If this is my responsibility, how do I best go about it? If it is not my responsibility, how do I let go of the guilt?

Of course, I know there are always repercussions from Joshua if I get involved. But, the lives of the others are important. Especially, the children.

And, how likely is Joshua’s behavior to become physically dangerous to any of us in his life?

Donna Andersen responds

Margaret Louise,

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I’ve heard from other parents in your situation, and it is extremely painful.

First I want to address your question about violence. Although the public perceives sociopaths as deranged serial killers, most of them never kill anyone. In fact, plenty of sociopaths are not violent at all — they wreak their havoc psychologically and emotionally.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Has Joshua been violent in the past? I am referring to any kind of violence — towards people, animals or property. If the answer is yes, there may be reason for concern. If he does not have any history of violence, he is less likely to be violent in the future, although, of course, anything is possible — especially if he gets involved with drugs.

You asked about your responsibilities. Here’s how I see it:

1 . When you have the opportunity, tell the truth about his behavior.

Many parents cover for their disordered adult children. This is one reason why sociopaths who still see their families continue to get away with manipulation and exploitation. Parents and other relatives stay quiet about their disordered children’s bad behavior.

This sometimes happens when the sociopath brings home a new love interest. Parents hope the new partner will be the person who finally gets their offspring turned around. Or, parents want the new partner to take the disordered individual off their hands. One Lovefraud reader told me that on the day of her wedding to a man who turned out to be a sociopath, the mother of the groom said to her, “He’s your problem now.”

It sounds like your eyes are open about your son’s behavior. Perhaps you did try to warn some of the women he snagged, and they didn’t believe you. This is common — sociopaths are great at impression management and seduction, so it is often difficult for victims to hear warnings from others. All you can do is try.

2. Do not enable him.

Some parents of sociopaths keep cleaning up the messes these ruthless manipulators make. I’ve heard of parents who continuously give their disordered kids money and bail them out of jail.

Sociopaths will exploit anyone, including their parents. They will keep taking as long as you keep giving. If he gets himself in trouble, let him deal with the consequences.

3. Do what you can for your grandchildren.

Your son will likely cause upheaval in their lives, and it may be very important for them to know that their grandmother loves them.

However, recognize that your own health and safety come first. If being involved with your grandchildren jeopardizes you, your safety or your peace of mind in any way, you may have to stop contact with them.

Your recovery

As far as your own recovery — please recognize that you have done your best. If you are concerned now about your grandchildren, I am sure that you were concerned about Joshua when he was young, even when he was difficult, as he probably was.

But the time does come when you have to let go. As sad as it is, you have reached that decision.

Joshua is an adult now, and he is making his own choices.

This is a bitter loss — perhaps more difficult than death, because he wasn’t taken from you; you had to decide to remove him from your life.

You are justifiably heartbroken. So I suggest that you allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, the betrayal, the pain. It is by feeling the pain that we can move through it, and reach the other side.

Take care of yourself first. If you can safely offer assistance to your grandchildren and their mothers, do that. Then turn your son over to God or whatever higher power is meaningful to you.



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6 Comments on "A mother asks: ‘What is my responsibility toward my sociopathic adult son?’"

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my life was still reeling from a divorce from a psychopath marriage of many years, only to painfully realize that our 3 grown sons were like their father in many ways..all 3 blame ME for the chaos, the drama, the upsets, the rages in our lives..HE gets a pass..’oh that’s just dad’..I had to give up trying to explain MY side..all they ever heard was HIS side..how HE was victimized, mistreated, abandoned, misunderstood, financially ripped off by a wife (ME) who then abandoned HIM and the boys. If a man had shown any interest in me, I would have been accused of an affair, as well. I dont drink, so booze couldnt be blamed either. I had to give up trying to reach out to them, and let them go. Yes, I am still the ‘bad’ mother for NOT attending grandkid events (they only invite me, when their dad is also invited), because HE is always there, with checkbook, wallet open.

May I please inquire as to whether ‘Joshua’ is diagnosed as having a personality disorder?

My 35 year old son is a diagnosed s-path and your story is almost a mirror image of my own, save for my son having two children with only ONE woman. They are no longer together and the break up was, of course, filled with over the top discord.

I no longer have any contact with any of them including their children, although my daughter in law was a lovely person. It is simply not possible to have any contact, lest everything go to hell. I would only want to see the children in the company of their mother, anyway (as I do not see or feel any genuine ‘fatherness’ from my son). I want no contact at all with my son. He is also a pathological liar who I neither trust, nor believe in. If his mouth is open, he is lying. That is just the reality of it.

They all live in the same town, 3 hours away from me, so it poses a very big problem.The daughter in law would never come here with them in case son got wind of it and retaliated in whatever way.

So, my advice is this. The same advice as what Donna put forward. NO CONTACT. Sorry, but that is the only way.

By the way, my son too, is once again attempting to wipe the slate as he has now convinced another woman (with her own two children) to move in with him. He has not tried to contact us since. Her and her poor two children. It can only end up one way and that is, bad.

I believe that because of the ongoing and probably never ending custody fight with his ex (which he possibly either lost or didn’t get enough of in his mind…it is so evident that it is all about winning and not about the children), that he needed a ‘cleaner’ place to live so that he can get more custody. His old place was a disgusting dirty shack with no bath tub and only one bedroom with a dirty old mattress on the floor. He found an empathetic woman and charmed her into moving in with him and renting a bigger better place so that he can look good once again. I am also sure that he is now presenting himself as a victim of child abuse, spousal abuse, or some other sob story that will garner the new girl’s sympathy. She is in for so much hurt. He cannot love anyone. It is all so sad.

A good tool for assessing the danger of violence is this free risk assessment. Besides the conclusions drawn from the information you provide, answering the questions can help organize one’s thoughts about potential risk. https://www.mosaicmethod.com/

Your intuition is a very good indicator of whether he may become violent. If you are concerned about it, it’s worth looking into. The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker may be helpful to you in considering his dangerousness. With respect to physical violence, people who have never been violent, or have never been caught for a violent act, can act violently at any time. If a person does not care about harm to a potential victim, if his conscience is not a factor, if he believes violence will get him what he wants and he believes he will not get caught, he may choose violence.

Letting go of guilt can be so difficult. I have had success in some situations by continuing to remind myself that I have done everything I can, that there is nothing further helpful that I can do, and if something changes and I believe I could do something to effect positive change then I would do it. The logic doesn’t leave any room for guilt. I still have to remind myself of the facts often. I also find that allowing myself to grieve a loss fully helps me let go of guilt.

You often hear, “The best predictor is their past behavior.” BUT… I experienced zero physical abuse from my SP Ex, but after I caught him with an appt with a prostitute, after 26 years together (24 married, very happily) he began this ‘seething rage boil.’ He was growing in rage. It didn’t really appear until the 6th month after I caught him. We were in frequent counseling. I didn’t realize he was a SP at that point.

In the 6th – 10th months, I saw rage growing. He kicked a giant dent in my car door, and grabbed me away from my computer, tearing my t-shirt. (He thought I was emailing other men. Of course I never had.)

On the final day, shortly after this, he threw my computer in the waterway behind our house, smashed my cell phone to concrete, and ripped apart a pair of lace panties from my lingerie drawer. I was not at home. Came home, found the computer gone, ended the marriage.

Days later, I discovered my smashed phone and panties in the trash. Months later, I found 8 more pairs of ripped lace panties, hidden in a storage room, stuffed in places. (I realized he was a SP a day after I ended the marriage.)

In the first 4 months after I ended the marriage, he broke in on me, discussed killing me (with people who called me), then tried to hire a hit man to have me (and probably our 2 kids) killed. This was called in to police, who barely investigated. I hired a PI who uncovered more details. He was not charged (insufficient evidence).

I have carried a gun ever since. He is actually highly averse to conflict, so him hiring someone is most likely. I will never consider myself safe from him, as long as he lives. I don’t think my kids are safe, either, but I doubt they really understand that.

Two psychologists diagnosed him with Axis II Pers Disorder.

Here’s something interesting. Have many of you seen the SP “Tell On Himself” frequently? Friends and I have seen this very consistently. It’s like God created them that way, with a drive to HAVE to tell on himself.

Well, last month in court, as he was boiling into a rage, while on the stand testifying, sitting right by the judge (bailiff had to restrain him), he began yelling about how I’d “been doing this to him for 5 years.” (HE of course has tortured me in court/legal battle for 5 years.)

One sentence he blurted out was, “I’ve been called a serial killer!”

?!?!?!? By WHOM? Who has called him a serial killer?? (Not me) I think he told on himself. Who DOES that, esp sitting beside your Judge? Time may tell.

Boy. Incredible.

That someone can seemingly ‘simmer’ for so many years really does depict why we either cannot nor do not see what is often right in front of us. This is beyond disturbing.

You said that the first 24 years of your marriage were ‘happy’. When you think back, do you still believe that, or was he ‘off’ at times?

I would be very interested in hearing more details. Anything you can remember.

Thank you for telling this story. It seems like a bad movie. I am so sorry that you went through it all. I hope that you will be able to feel totally safe someday.

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