Sociopaths are fueled by our reactions to them—so sociopaths trigger our emotions. What are the signs this is happening?
Looking back on my unwitting marriage to a man I now believe is a sociopath, I realize that some of the warning signs that I was in a relationship with a sociopath were changes in my own behavior. My book, Husband, Liar, Sociopath chronicles that marriage and the painful lessons learned. My book, Narcissists, Sociopaths & Wolves includes a summary of some of the warning signs of being in a relationship with a sociopath.
It took me way too long to understand this, but since sociopaths are fueled by our emotional reactions to them, they trigger our emotions on purpose. Until you understand this, it will send you into a predictable tailspin.
Remember, a sociopath wants to trigger a reaction in you, but will deny doing it. As a result, you may be confused about why he reacted the way he did. You may wonder, for example, how a small request or comment from you seemed to trigger such a negative reaction in him. It creates that “What just happened!?” feeling.
2. You may spend inordinate amounts of time trying to understand an interaction
For example, he may accuse you of doing something inappropriate you would not typically have done and certainly don’t recall doing. But, once accused, how are you likely to respond?
- Perhaps you’ll wonder if you really did flirt with his best friend.
- Could you have said “good morning” in a dismissive way? What could have given him that impression?
- Would someone else have thought you were being arrogant?
- Would someone else have thought you were inconsiderate?
- In other words, you spend a lot of time autopsying the situation and maybe even asking people close to you for their perspective on how you acted.
3. You devote an unusual amount of time to explaining yourself
Since you’ve been accused of doing something you do not think you did, what is the likely result? You may find yourself spending an a lot of time explaining yourself.
Accused of being arrogant?
“I was just trying to explain and be helpful. After all, I know a lot about the topic. I certainly didn’t mean to come across as condescending.”
Accused of flirting?
“I’m so sorry it could have come across that way. I was just trying to be friendly. After all, he’s your best friend, and I was trying to make a good impression.”
Get the idea?
4. More frequently than usual, you may seek confirmation (from your partner or others) that you are really a good person.
Since the sociopath will say that you are the reason he is upset, you will rack your brain trying to understand how this could have happened and seek extra confirmation from friends and family that you really are a nice, kind person (and would not have purposely flirted, acted arrogant, or fill in the blank.) Of course you are, but the sociopath is purposely engaging you in a way to accuse you of being hurtful (or some other unflattering characteristic—forgetful, ignorant, inconsiderate, controlling, dishonest, etc.) and using his anger or contrived hurt as evidence of the truth of your failure.
You are being set up!
It is very confusing and mentally and emotionally exhausting until you realize why it keeps happening. Be careful to whom you talk about this, as many people will say things like:
- “Why would she ever do that?”
- “Why don’t you just help him understand. ”
- “That’s not logical; it doesn’t make sense.”
- “You must have misunderstood.”
- “You’re probably overreacting.”
But, that is bad advice.
Yes, “normal” people do not do this, but sociopaths do it all the time, in fact, daily. You will feel increasingly that you never do anything right in the relationship. Of course you feel like that. No matter what you do, the sociopath will criticize you, because his goal is to erode and unsettle you. You feel like you are being “set up” because you are being “set up.”
Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my books have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.