By | February 12, 2014 25 Comments

Co-Parenting with a Sociopath Should Make the List of the Most Difficult Jobs in the World

by Quinn Pierce quinn pierce blog

Recently, I came across a list of the most difficult jobs in the world.  The top contenders included: U. S. President, UN Negotiator, Prison Warden, and Air Traffic Controller, to name a few.  I don’t argue that these are extremely stressful and challenging career choices, but I believe there is one that should have made the list, even if it isn’t officially considered a career, and requires financial, emotional, and psychological debt rather than income: Co-Parenting with a Sociopath.

A Daily Challenge

As if parenting isn’t challenging enough, trying to navigate the crazy-making, drama-filled world of a sociopath who has the ability to influence and harm your children requires skills rivaling the credentials of world leaders.

What’s more, the healthy parent is rarely able to take any vacation time.  In fact, that is usually when the sociopathic parent goes into overdrive trying to sabotage any plans that their ex-spouse may try to put in place.  Ironically, the sociopathic ex will enjoy disrupting schedules and making last minute trips that inconvenience everyone, including their children, as often as possible.

However, it’s really the day-to-day interactions that take the most expertise.  Learning how to negotiate without giving up control, diffuse situations that could escalate into additional court hearings, for example, and undo the negative effects of visitation on our children are just some of the common daily tasks we face.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The last item is the most frustrating.  Every time my children come home from a visit with their father, they are out of sorts, emotionally drained, and have regressed in many ways.  It’s as if all the progress my boys make while they are home is erased after one day with their father.

I’ve learned, though, that it helps to address this as soon as they come home so they can be aware of their behavior and give themselves time to release all the pent-up emotions that build during their visit.  It takes practice for the children and patience for the parent, but in my experience, it’s worth the effort and it does get easier.

Impressive Qualifications

I may not be a United Nations negotiator, but if the UN ever needed someone to fill-in for a day, I’d be ready.  I would imagine that the training I have had negotiating with a narcissistic sociopath more than qualifies me for the job.

Honestly, who else has years of experience being provoked, attacked, accused, blamed, manipulated, and cheated by someone with no remorse, guilt, or conscience- all the while keeping the best interest of the children in the forefront which means: not responding on emotion, getting rid of ego, turning the other cheek, and taking the high road at all times”¦well, at most times, anyway.

His Accusations are a Mirror

That is the only way to have any peace in our home.  I have to keep the drama on the outside by not engaging with my ex when he tries his best to push every button he can and use his own children as pawns to get his way.  Sometimes, he may instigate conflict out of boredom, but usually, his actions are a good indicator of how his life is going at the time.  The more argumentative and provoking he is, the more out of control and unhappy he feels in his own life.

His actions are a mirror to his reality.  Just like his accusations are a mirror to his own behaviors.  My ex-husband is constantly accusing me of doing things that he is actually doing.  According to him, I am controlling, greedy, selfish, cold-hearted, and manipulative.  It’s interesting to look back and think about all the name calling and accusations that took place during my marriage.  I guess it’s his confession, of sorts. I have no doubt that he was cheating, stealing, and lying — all the things he was convinced I was doing, but none of which was true.

For the Sake of the Children

I often hear people give the well-meaning advice of ”˜putting our differences aside’ for the sake of the children.  I would argue that putting our differences aside was something I did for much too long and resulted in prolonged emotional and psychological abuse by my ex-husband.  If I want to honor my children, I can do so by differentiating between someone’s behaviors as being a choice or the result of an illness.

I do not consider a lack of conscience and empathy as a legitimate illness that requires sympathy or support.  Some may disagree as to how these disorders are classified, but I have seen my ex-husband change his behavior for the sake of his reputation, which tells me that he knows what is right and wrong, or at least acceptable, but that his children are not worth the same consideration as the strangers he tries so desperately to impress.

A Mother’s Advice

What I tell my children is that I did love their father; unfortunately, he is not capable of returning the love that we deserve.  I do not regret marrying him; I would not change that, because I would not change anything that gave me my boys.

I am not a religious person, but I do believe that there is a higher plan that we cannot comprehend sometimes, and for whatever reason, a sociopath was part of the plan in creating my children.  But they are not ”˜half of me and half of him’ as people have suggested, they are unique of themselves.

Furthermore, they do not have to be taught to forgive someone because of their relationship to that person; forgiveness needs to be asked for with sincerity and remorse.  Those are two qualities their father does not possess.  If my boys choose to forgive their father in order to find peace for themselves, then I support that decision.  I, personally, have no such need.

Drawing on Experience 

I do believe that my experiences have made me a stronger, healthier person.  That makes me a better parent, as well.  I have learned to stand up for myself, trust my instincts, and I have worked hard to heal after my marriage.

I may continue to stumble on my journey toward healing, but I also continue to get back up.  My greatest challenge as a parent is to lead by example; it is also my greatest accomplishment.

I may not have a corner office and a fancy title, but I bet there are not many on the list I read who would last even a week in this job.


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Quinn – Yes! You are absolutely right! You and all men and women who are attempting to co-parent with a sociopath should receive gold medals!


Quinn, I am asking you for advise because of the nature of your involvement …..having children with a sociopath.
Do you or anyone have advise on how to prove dad is using sedatives to attain a calm sleeping baby during his 4 hour visits. He has his 4 month old son (exclusively breastfed) 3 days a week 4 hours each visit. The baby is picked up by my daughter, baby’s mom, smelling like grape on his breath. He is often sleeping, groggy and spacy looking. Has anyone ever dealt with this? It is very hard to prove he is doing this. The poor baby is being drugged to sleep 3 x’s a week.
thank you for reading.


i would not tell the dad i suspected anything and talk to my pediatrician about it. then take the baby to the dr ASAP after picking him up next time and have its blood or urine or whatever, tested. then PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS and let that horrible excuse for a father have it–get him arrested for his heinous acts. that practice of drugging an infant can have devastating consequences.

That is an excellent suggestion for missbarb.


Thank you for your reply. We brought the baby to the ER only to be told that there are no blood tests to prove otc drugs were given…unless Tylenol overdose. They saw the pediatrician today and he was not much help. He did a follow up on the ER visit and told my daughter that he could use Tylenol since it is often suggested to be used to calm a fussy, teething baby!! We think he should be telling my daughter if he is using this or benedryl so she is aware of what the baby has had. Everyone we talked to tells her to ask him if and what he has given him. OMG….let’s open a new angry can of worms. This would make him get even and do more harm. Anybody out there with experience with this problem?


Thank you for acknowledging the struggles we face when trying to co-parent with these people. I can’t tell you how many times my ex throws the word”co-parent” into my face, usually as an attempt to blame me for not doing my part or lacking in my ability to co-parent with him. He also likes to repeatedly say not giving him his way is not in the best interest of our son. I couldn’t disagree more, and it is a tight line to walk when trying to protect my son and stay strong in my convictions, yet to allow them the time together that is required for the sake of co-parenting. I also deal with the behavioral changes when my son returns; even his teachers notice this regression in behavior and maturity. There is no discipline when my son is with his father, he allows him to do what he wants and shrugs off bad behavior. I have watched my son yell at his dad and throw things around, and my ex will just laugh or tell my son “that’s ok, Daddy loves you and you are the most awesome boy.” I guess he thinks he is winning my son over by allowing him to behave this way, with the knowledge that I will not accept intentionally disrespectful behavior. He thinks he is making me out to be the mean parent in my son’s eyes. I find all of this rather odd and out of character for my ex, because he is usually the first one to fly off the handle or yell and carry on when someone doesn’t do what he wants them too. I have been threatened with court and had countless motions filed against me, and often dropped before getting to court. Nothing ever comes out of this, the judges always see what is going on, but it is such a waste of money, time, energy and such a drain on my peace of mind. He knows this and enjoys making me spend money, lose time from work and suffer emotionally. Never mind that I am the parent financially supporting our son and that he is with me the majority of time. If he could bankrupt me and put my son in a position of poverty, he wouldn’t care less or step up. He would blame me for getting into this situation.
Thank you for sharing!

I’m absolutely sure they made the expression, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” about raising a child with a character disordered parent! And folks who think that the disappearance of that parent from the child’s life makes the problem go away are sadly mistaken.

What’s left in their wake is a cavernous emptiness that no one can fill. The backlash may not be visible at the outset, but leaves its mark on the child’s development and maturity for a lifetime. Particularly for at-risk kids who have character disordered parents, abandonment can cause Borderline Personality Disorder.

The problems of non-support and lack of family structure are just the tip of the iceberg. The real damage, the child’s inability to comprehend the meaning of family, and their deep rooted fear of abandonment is the greater loss.

So when you’re wishing your ex would stumble into traffic and get hit by a truck, or fall down an elevator chute, find strength in knowing your child will be an adult one day and the love you pass on today will be better absorbed by them simply because their other parent, no matter how difficult, is still in the picture.

By all means, children need protection from abuse. But absence can be the biggest abuse of all. There are no clear answers.

My Borderline, adult son has been gone for over 5 years.



i will take fear of abandonment over the other SICK things he will model and teach them if he were to be in their lives.
i will take it in a heartbeat.
i dont think anyone needs to be involved in bank robbing for a season to realize how bad it is, either. being involved in that mindset will traumatize them far worse than simply not being involved with those ppl and not modelling their sick thots and actions.
especially if it’s their other parent who’s the ringmaster.
no, i will take the repercussions of possible abandonment issues over — just about anything else.

I wish there were any easy way! Some emotional armor that could distance us from the fray of dealing with manipulative ex’s!

I know that ultimately, my only consolation was that I did the best I could do with what I knew at the time.

Wishing you strength and peace!



For all of “us” who are going thru hell, or have been in hell, trying to “co parent” with a sociopath!
My husbands ex wife is a sociopath and he is like a “deer in the headlights” when he has to deal with her and her manipulation of him, lies and control, not to toot my own horn, but…then came me!
I had never experienced a sociopath relationship before her, and hope to never again. It has been 10 years and we are entering the last year of child support and financial control. My husbands 23 and 18 year old children that he has with her don’t speak to him( maybe once every 2-3 years if they want something significant). Their “mother” has ruined their lives and minds, she has used them as pawns and continues to do so. My husband takes what shit they throw his way, and they treat him like gum on the bottom of their shoes! Their relationship has never been “normal” from what I have seen? It has taken every ounce of perseverance and strength to hang on these past 10 years. Being and adult child of an Alcoholic, I have always gotten into relationships with people who need rescuing, boy, did I pick a prime example in my husband. I have always had to stay 2 steps ahead of her so that we could survive, the kids are just her carnage. The laws where we live like most places don”t protect the children, the innocent victims. The only people that really make out is the sociopath and the lawyers. Truth is never an option, because either you can’t tell the children the hard, cold facts about their “mother” or if you do tell them, you are the monster! Courts don’t care, society has no clue what it’s like, and I know from experience that it is one of the most emotionally, physically,and mentally draining experiences that can happen to someone. I don’t know how my husband and I have stayed together thru all of this, ten years of drama and chaos. He is very passive and has me to play “bad cop” for him, I had to take a crash course in step -parenting 2 children that were conditioned to hate me even before we met.I have had to repair walls, chance locks, change phone numbers, answer to “well being checks” in my home when their “mother” called the police for no reason! ( and that is 3 things out of hundreds) We have spent over 74,000 just to keep her at bay! My advice to anyone thinking about getting involved in this situation is…! I love my husband and he is a good man, but so much of my best years have been and still are being taken up just merely trying to survive her next plot, and rein of terror! The sad part of all of this is that the children have been conditioned to believe this life is normal….and they will raise their children in her path of lies, manipulation,deceit and selfishness, and we as society will ALL Suffer! I am 52 and have never had a vacation, and won’t take one until we are no longer financially tied to her, all our money has to go to a fund to survive her next move. When you love someone it is very difficult to sit back and watch them get devoured! The fine line between helping and enabling my husband always present. It seems as if he looks to me to counteract anything she comes up with as I do. The good thing about children are they are resilient, and they may never realize what a sick, monster their “mother” is! I pray they do realize it before they have their own children, for all of our sakes!


I stayed with my ex so the kids would not be from a broken family.I can tell you it was the worst mistake of my life.I have two steps who are 36 and 34 and mine is 24. All male and not one female on the scene. They do not speak to me for six years now.I lost my son in that marraige and there’s nothing I can do but share the experience with you.NEVER stay with a Spath.They undermine everything we do we say or are.No good will come of it.They will lie going their grave. There is no genuine feelings of any kind with them other than hate and revenge.Sad but true.Stay strong and peace to you.


I agree with you totally even when you have custody and the system is behind you. It’s even more difficult when the sociopathic parent has custody and the system and the children believes their lies.

How do you co-parent then?


I pray to the Almighty that your conclusions are correct. I divorced my spath in ’82, he never paid a dime for our support, worked 2 minimum paying jobs to raise the 5 who never asked to be born. Now, in their 40’s and 50’s they have all inherited the same traits and I have had to go NC for 5 yrs. after the youngest said “we are all going to have you committed”. So, after a lifetime of trying my best, the spath has won out all my children and grandchildren. Hope your fate is better in the decades to come!


Flicka, I am so sorry for your pain. There are some “happy” endings after the experience of living with a spath, but some are more troubling.

Since brain disorders are both “nature” and “nurture” many of us will have the deck stacked against us.

Thankfully, I divorced my first spath – yes, I married TWO! – when my children were 1 and 6 years old. This saved their lives. If I had stayed with him they would have turned out with so many emotional issues and their lives might have suffered greatly.

My son has some of his father’s genetic make up and I see faint signs of some of the behaviors at times. He is now almost 30 years old and much of his demeanor has improved. He just bought his first home and has a lovely girlfriend.

My ex husband just divorced his third wife last summer. He lives in a 6000 square foot house, takes nice vacations and has a wine cellar full of wine. His life is miserable. Most of them will end up alone and bitter.

Despite all of the court battles over the years with their father, my children now see their father for the cold and soulless man he truly is beneath the surface.

I pray for their ability to accept and understand the person that this man is and always has been. He is a soulless individual who will spend his final days alone.

Stay the course. Show your children what dignity and integrity looks like and someday hopefully, you will see healthy adults.

Dear Aint-

Fear of abandonment, coupled with a genetic pre-disposition is what can become Borderline Personality Disorder. That’s an over simplification, but it’s the most basic components.

Ultimately, Borderlines have very tenuous connections with people. They’re prone to “splitting,” that’s the psychological term for abandonment. They often become oppositional/defiant in their teenage years and eventually “rift” with people who love them, even their supporting parent, as they become independent.

I’m by no means saying that I have a better alternative, but BPD is a very painful outcome for a parent as well as the child.



Yes BPD is painful. But it’s the lesser of 2 evils IMO. My older children have this somewhat due to their father dying when they were very young. It’s part of their rift with me. They needed a father and didn’t get one. My fault? No. The fact still remains tho.
I have thot about even telling my 2 younger ones that daddy’s dead. I dont think the older ones have true BPD and millions of children thruout history have suffered a parent’s death at a young age yet still were, if not “fine” then this side of disordered.
At this point that is my goal…getting them this side of normal. So they can learn at least how to relate to ppl and be productive and happy. I’ll take potential over subhuman any day, any way.

I know I’ll likely get some flack for saying this, but when children are abandoned, that insult is what they wake up to, and what they go to bed with, every day of their lives and every night. While the absence of a parent by death can be devastating, the ongoing, deliberate and intentional negligence of that parent is a daily occurrence that they are unable to resolve and it begins to define their character.

And yes, many kids get over it, get angry at it, get determined to be a better parent because of it, but some kids, particularly those with the pre-disposition through genetics, are less likely to fare as well.

BPD kids, (a mis-statement because they can’t be diagnosed as such ’til they’re 18,) will often harm themselves deliberately. There’s a high suicide rate. They could become “cutters” and are inclined to misuse drugs and alcohol. They do risky things, and they become oppositional/defiant and “impossible” to live with. They might injure a parent or siblings, property, or all of the above.

I’m not telling you there’s a clear cut solution. I’m just explaining the down side of children having no-contact with a parent. And for those reasons, my thoughts are, if they are not in imminent risk of physical harm, perhaps seeking on-going family therapy from a competent specialist who is familiar with the issue of parenting with a sociopath may be in order before cutting the cord altogether.



Oh crap, i hit the report button, Donna, and didnt even know it till submitted my thot-to-be-comment. That report was my reply!!


In my case, though I tried my darndest to raise 5 wonderful children, their psychotic traits didn’t fully appear until they reached their 40’s and 50’s when they thretened to commit me (for remaining friendly with my son’s “ex” and my granddaughter.) That’s when my attorney and Mary Ellen O’Toole all recommended I go NC with them. They “abandoned” me through the years when I became disabled and aged. They can never loo theselves in the mirror, in my opinion!


So sorry to hear of your painful separation. To kids with these traits, having parents is all about what they can get. If having to give looms before them as a possibility, they’re history. Theirs is a very self-absorbed world.

Unfortunately, your comment about never being able to look themselves in the mirror reflects,(pun intended), your own sense of conscience. They have none. It’s called “transference.” We read characteristics into others that we possess and relate as we would feel.

I hope that your relationship with your daughter-in-law and your grandchild gives you joy, and something to hold close to your heart.

All the best-


Thanks for understanding Joyce. However, in the past year my ex daughter-in-law has been so threatened by her ex that he has forbidden my little “sunshine” grand daughter (age 6) from ever seeing her own grandma again despite her pleas. Such is the power of the psychotics intimidation!Yes, the Serenity Prayer has become my solace as is the poem “The Man In The Glass” but as a devoted mother, I keep thinking that some of my compassion and morality lies hidden in some of my children…but I guess not. Thanks for understanding.

What a terrible heartbreak. My heart goes out to you!

In some states, grandparents are awarded visitation. May be worth looking into.

My prayers are with you.



Thanks but after 76 years, it’s not worth it.

All we can do is the best we can do. There is no straightforward path in co-parenting with someone who is morally disordered. There are so many ins and outs with multiple effects. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

There are simply things that are beyond our control, no matter how hard we try or how well intended we are. The pain of losing a child to a morality disorder is excruciating. I’ve learned the serenity prayer backwards and forwards, and looked for joy in ways that are beyond having my family.

The cruelest blow is the impact disordered moral reasoning has on our children.

Wishing all of you abundant strength and serenity.


Vicki Kuper


I agree with you 100%. Co-parenting with a psychopath has got to be the most difficult experience. It makes me sick to think of their constant putting the children in the middle and using them to cause problems in your life.

I’ve thought many times how lucky I am that I am not in that situation with the psychopath I dated. I also have much empathy for those of you who are in the situation. To have to send your children for visits and have ongoing dealings with them has to be excruciating.


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