Co-parenting with a sociopath

Lovefraud recently received the following e-mail from a reader who we’ll call Carla:

Can you help me with co-parenting with a sociopath? Divorced three months ago, after a two-year fight for my rights. He is not complying as you know.

I am going crazy with the way he only shows his wonderful, smooth qualities to the children. I have three boys. I can’t stand sending them on weekends to a man who never calls them for two weeks and then lavishes them with charm and gifts. It makes me sick that I am struggling because he has not released even one of 26 accounts to me as decreed in the divorce settlement. He pays my bills and deducts them from the alimony. He follows the agreement under his own conditions and it confuses the attorneys. He won’t discuss the children with me or offer any assistance to them as a father. He is 100 percent focused on his new victim, his girlfriend, a new young, widow. Spending all the money he hid on her. But the kids have “buddy” to whisk them from one expensive activity to another while I am struggling to pay the bills.

I have greater anxiety now than when we were married. He openly emotionally abuses me. Before it was more covert and I got immune to the invalidation and blame. NOW I am discarded since I chose not to play by his rules of cheating, drugs, gambling, lying, withholding sex. He isn’t nice to me at all. Cruel. It was easier being married. He did all these things and he kept me blinded by being secretive and giving me a high-income surgeon’s wife lifestyle. I know the secrets now along with my attorney but he looks perfect in the community.

I miss the financial security and vacations. Now someone else shares those things with him and all I did was give him three beautiful children to brag about and add to his narcissism.

I say terrible things about him to the two older children, ages 6 and 13. I tell them how he is not following the agreement, lying and spending money on drugs and women.

Is so frustrating. I see what is real but no one else does. I am afraid my children are going to prefer him (and his girlfriend) because he is so charming and generous and I know he is pathological and I can’t give them the expensive gifts and ultra stimulating activities.

How do you deal with the frustration that you are the only person who knows someone is a sociopath? I had to live 15 years with him to figure it out and go through four therapists until the last one nailed him as anti-social/schizoid personality disordered. Then I validated her “diagnosis” with Lovefraud. He has all the signs with a very high IQ and status of a medical professional to hide behind. Will anyone else ever figure it out? I don’t believe that what comes around goes around when it comes to a sociopath as intellectually clever as my ex-husband. I do have a few very perspective people who picked up on it. I don’t think my kids will ever see it and I think he will destroy me even post-divorce. Why is he so relentless? He has his freedom and his money. Why not leave me alone? Is it because I get one-third of his income in alimony?

After the divorce

Probably the most shocking thing about divorcing a sociopath is that even when it’s over, it’s not over. The attorneys have argued, the court has ruled, this is how it’s going to be—and it’s not. The sociopath doesn’t comply, twists things the way he or she wants them, uses children against the other parent, and no one seems to care.

This leaves the non-sociopathic partner—like Carla—angry with the sociopath, frustrated that he’s getting away with his lies and manipulation, and upset that he won’t do what he’s supposed to do, baffled that no one else sees the truth—all while still mourning the life she thought she had. Carla wants her ex to pay her what he’s supposed to and be a dad to their children. He’s not doing either, so she wants other people to know that behind his charming, successful veneer, he’s vile.

It’s a toxic brew of emotions. But the emotions will never affect the sociopath. They will only affect Carla, and possibly her children.

It seems to me that Carla needs to be able to separate what’s going on into four categories: financial considerations, the children, dealing with the ex and her emotional recovery.

Financial considerations

First of all, Carla needs to get her financial situation straightened out. If her ex is supposed to give her 26 accounts, she needs to get that enforced—soon, before the accounts are empty. I hope her attorneys put a time limit on when these accounts are supposed to be turned over, and specified exactly how much money she is supposed to receive. If not, she is in trouble.

Carla cannot allow her ex-husband to pay her bills. By letting him do this, she is allowing him to control her. He is deducting the money from her alimony? He is probably exaggerating the amount of the bills just to pay her less. Plus, he may decide to stop paying the bills, and she would never know it—until the cable service or electric is turned off. Carla must demand that she receive the full alimony, then get her bills in her own name.

Carla did not mention a house and mortgage. If the sociopath’s name is on the house or mortgage, that is a disaster waiting to happen. He may stop paying the mortgage and allow the house to slip into foreclosure. He wouldn’t care, but Carla would have no place to live.

The children

Carla complained that her ex won’t discuss the children with her and won’t offer any assistance as a father. He doesn’t call them during the week and only wants to play with them on his weekends. I’d recommend that Carla use this to her advantage.

Here is the bottom line: Sociopaths are terrible parents. At best, they view children as prized possession. At worst, they actively try to corrupt the children. Therefore, the less interaction a sociopath has with his or her children, the better.

Carla should actually be grateful that her ex is staying out of their children’s lives as much as he is. She should use her time with the children to shower them with love, nurture them and provide them with healthy guidance. None of that will happen when the boys are with their father. The kids will eventually sense that there is no real bond with the father. As time goes on, they may also witness him moving from girlfriend to girlfriend, and eventually start rolling their eyes at yet another one.

Carla needs to be their rock of stability. She also needs to stop badmouthing the father—even if he deserves it. This is important for two reasons. First is the emotional health of the children—they should not feel in the middle of her issues with the ex. Second, she does not want to give her ex the ammunition to come after her with a parental alienation lawsuit, in which she could lose custody of the boys.

Her best plan of action is the stay neutral about the father. One mother’s standard response whenever her children brought home news of the ex was a noncommittal, “That’s nice.”

Kids are smart. Sooner or later, they will realize that the sociopath cares only about himself.

Dealing with the ex

Carla asks, “Why is he so relentless? Why not leave me alone?”

Divorcing a sociopath is not like divorcing a relatively healthy person that you’ve just grown away from. In a normal divorce, mommy and daddy don’t want to be together anymore, but they can cooperate for the sake of the kids. This is not going to happen with a sociopath.

Sociopaths only want three things: Power, control and sex. Carla and the surgeon have divorced, but that doesn’t mean he has given up his desire for power and control.

Carla says her ex-husband is openly abusing her. She must eliminate his opportunities to do this and go No Contact with this man as much as possible. I don’t know if she is allowing him into her home, but she shouldn’t. The child exchange should be arranged to minimize interaction. Any communications regarding the children should be conducted via e-mail. Phone conversations give him opportunities to abuse her.

The key is for Carla to be strictly business. She must recognize that the sociopath will not play nice. He will do everything possible to avoid paying her. He will continue to manipulate her through the children. She must learn not to react when he baits her. She must learn to be calm and collected, yet make him toe the line on his court-ordered obligations.

Emotional recovery

All of this is pretty raw for Carla right now—the divorce was only three months ago. She is outraged. She is frustrated. Carla misses the status, money, vacations and cozy lifestyle of a surgeon’s wife. She is justifiably angry that he cheated and hid money, and probably still reeling from being devalued and discarded.

Realizing that she’s been in a relationship with a sociopath has probably rocked Carla to the core. Nothing was real. Everything was a lie. And plenty of people in the community still believe the lie. This is a massive shock, and it takes time to come to terms with the magnitude of the deception.

Recovery is a process, and there is a lot of information here on the Lovefraud blog that may help Carla:

  • She must realize that the ex is a sociopath, and this is the way he lives his life. Nothing she did or didn’t do would make any difference.
  • She must realize that she was targeted, probably because of her good qualities.
  • She must allow herself to feel her anger, disappointment, grief and even hatred—and then let it all go.

This will take time, and will probably come in waves—a wave of emotion, followed by a wave of calm. Eventually the emotional periods will be shorter, the calm periods will be longer.

Carla is in for many years of aggravation with this man. She needs to get to a point of equanimity, where his antics no longer affect her. When she gets there, no matter what the guy does, Carla wins.

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Out of There

Carla sounds just like me with the exception of two things: Mine is an executive in a Fortune 500, and he cannot get a second date, as I am told by my daughter.

I am now 6 years out, very happily remarried and yet the ex still finds any way possible to harass me, tried to control me through money, which he legally must continue to pay me. We had to do a wage attachment since he refused to comply. More court appearances even after 6 years.

It is very frustrating to know that I will probably have to deal with the ex for the rest of HIS life.

Wish they would or could just find someone else and move on with their lives.

I, too, miss the financial security and vacations etc. But I am so much happier to have a man that I trust, love, is kind, compassionate and would never raise a hand to me or cheat. No amount of money is worth that.

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