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.
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.
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.
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.
Great advice Donna.
1. Fix the finances. He must turn whatever money she’d entitled to promptly.
2. Be good to the children.
3. Get a life of her own.
The alimony and whatever other money is hers to spend as she sees fit. It is absolutely inappropriate for him to decide how it is spent. That has to stop.
I really don’t understand why the finances aren’t a cut and dried legal issue. Is Carla’s lawyer the village idiot? What’s wrong with this picture?
If I were Carla, I’d be retraining myself for a good career, using the alimony to good advantage while it lasts. It makes no sense for the X husband to control Carla’s finances.
Carla’s lawyer should be on this issue like white on rice. If s/he isn’t, Carla needs a new lawyer.
P.S. In the short haul, most people prefer sociopaths over normals. Third parties almost always prefer sociopaths over their whiny victims.
The more angry, whiny and abrasive you are, the worse you lose the “popularity contest”. (No, it’s not fair. It’s the truth. Knowing the truth is a powerful thing.) In the short run almost everyone will prefer the glib, charming, clever sociopath. The best a victim can do is be firm over boundaries, socially graceful, and self disciplined.
Many, but by no means all, people eventually figure out the Sociopath is bad news. Ironically, trying to speed up this process only derails it. The victim has to let the Sociopath foul up on his own. Never fear, he will. It’s on his “to do list”. He just hasn’t gotten to it yet!
In the meantime, the victim should build a separate life full of good people, financial security and self-actualization.
Great advice, Donna.
The one thing I would add is that Carla is undoubtedly a smart and competent woman. That’s the typical victim of sociopaths and that is what she sounds like.
What she has to fight is not just the aggravation and damage he is continuing to create in her life, but how it affects her view of herself. He is succeeding in making her feel like a victim. The faster she recognizes that he profits from her frustration, confusion, grief, feelings of being out of control, the faster she’ll stop rewarding him.
With a sociopath, it’s all about control. That’s the battle. She challenged his control by divorcing him. The court settlement challenged his control. His behavior with the children is all about control. HIs behavior with the money is all about control.
Eventually, we get clear about this. And we stop fighting any other battle. This is the only one that matters.
Carla, Donna provided a great description of the sociopath and list of things to do. But the underlying message is get clear about what you want and what you deserve, and pull out the stops to go after it. Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t let him or his attorneys gaslight you. Start with the list of what you want and deserve, and use all your intelligence and personal resources to go after it.
You can do this. The whole purpose of his behavior toward you is to wear you down and make you feel helpless. Just reject it. It more of his lies. And the only reason he does these things is to intimidate you and make you feel like he’s more resourceful than you are. He’s not. He’s a big phony who actually has to work very hard at appearing plausible to the outside world. No matter how smart or motivated he is, it takes a lot of energy to maintain that front. You know how shallow and brittle that socially acceptable exterior is. You know it better than anyone.
Consider what you know about how he behaves when his need for control is frustrated and do whatever you have to do to protect yourself. And then go after what you want.
This isn’t about him. It’s about your life, especially your life after him. You’re fighting over what you will have to invest in creating a new life. Focus on what you want, and consider him only in terms of neutralizing whatever obstacles he puts in your way, and go after it.
You can do this.
I was a criminal defense lawyer and I got taken by one of these subhuman creatures.
Donna gives you some good advice. Speaking as a lawyer, your lawyer should never have allowed the divorce decree to go forward without the QDROs in place. That said, now you have to play the game in a way your ex will understand. Or, as I and others have said on this site “to get rid of a sociopath, become a sociopath.”
That means you have to turn off all emotion as far as your ex is concerned. The love. The guilt. The understanding. All of it. You have to treat this as “nothing personal, S, this is just business, strictly business.”
In this case you have to use your leverage over him. Where would be his weak spots? For starters, I”d have your lawyer go into court and ask the judge for a contempt citation. Give him 24 hours to sign the QDROs transferring the assets or ask the judge to hold him in contempt and throw his sorry ass in jail until he complies.
Second, you’ve got great leverage over him in the form of his medical license. If you think his psychiatric diagnosis would put his career in jeopardy, use this as leverage on him and threaten to go to his employer and the state medical board unless he complies.
Third, how about taxes? The IRS is always all over doctors and lawyers and other high-earners. If you think he has been engaging in tax avoidance or tax fraud, tell him you will go to the state tax department and the IRS and expose him. He’ll probably come back and tell you then you won’t see the money. And know what? If he keeps up with not signing the assets over to you and draining the accounts you may NOT see the money. So, take him down.
The point is, forget about exposing him for the sociopathic bastard he is at this moment. That can come later. Right now, you have to look out for you and your financial future. And that means you have to shut off the emotions and go after him with everything you’ve got.
And Carla, to the extent possible, don’t worry about how he appears to other people. Worry about how you appear, and what will be most helpful in getting what you want.
The general wisdom around here is that it’s smarter to keep your emotional trials to yourself and a very small group of people you trust. To the outside world, you want to look calm, focused on your objectives, organized and in control. If you have to respond to anything at all from him or about him, you might start practicing noncommittal phrases like “So he says” and “Really?’ and phrases that redirect the topic back to your wants like “That doesn’t work for me” and “I don’t agree.”
People who are impressed by sociopath’s demeanor are people who are impressed by false fronts. That’s useful for you to remember, because you too can be charming, plausible and, even if you are not in the mood for humor, you can be a good listener and act interested (no matter how ridiculous the opinions of the other person) before you pull out your facts and explain your reality.
Given the nature of your letter, and the obvious distress you feel and the fact that you are trying to recover from a long marriage with a sociopath, I wouldn’t suggest that you pull yourself together and hardball him, except for two things. You were strong enough to get him out of your life and divorce him. And you were strong enough to get a good settlement out of the courts. He may have you flummoxed and frustrated right this minute, but you are no weenie. It’s why I say you can do this.
As far as the children go, and this applies to other people as well, don’t apologize for doing what you think is right. Get the kids out of the middle of this. You don’t need to convince them of anything. You’re their mother and you’re doing what you think is best for you and them. That applies to parenting, as well as what they may see as your fault in escalating bad relations with their father. You can be sure he’ll try to use them as a means to get to you, by badmouthing you to them and playing pity-poor-me. When they’re old enough they’ll understand what you are doing, and in the meantime they’re just going to have to trust you. Your steadiness in all of this is more important to them than anything. Your leaning on them or showing weakness about badmouthing him will just make them more insecure in the wake of the break-up.
No one can be superwoman all the time. Even if he wasn’t being such a jerk, you’d have things to deal with. As you say, you miss the lifestyle and that’s probably the tip of the iceberg in what you’re going to grieve, as you have time to do it. So it’s important that you take care of yourself. Spend time with supportive people. Get a therapist who really understands recovery from abusive relationships. Spend whatever you can afford on what makes you feel good — classes, travel, bodywork, time at the beach. You need to get used to making your own happiness again.
Finally, I want to re-emphasize something Donna said about cutting off contact. Start paying attention to finding where he has inroads into your privacy. Getting the bills changed to your name and delivered to your house is a start. Cutting off relationships with people who could possibly sympathize with him and talk to him in another thing you want to do. Talk to him through your lawyer, or through some other third party. You want to shut every window he has into your life. You can’t avoid the transfer of the kids, but if possible arrange it so that he picks them up and drops them off in a way that doesn’t put you two together. In other words, drop the wall.
You know you’re not going to change him, and any contact with him makes you vulnerable to his provocations. You don’t want your life to be about him. You want a life with maximum insulation from his sickness. This gets added to you lists of things you want and deserve. But you have to take the steps to make it happen. It may seem risky to take your own bills back, but it’s the way you’re going to stop this ridiculous situation where he’s controlling your money.
Good luck. I know it’s hard, but little steps add up. And you can do it.
He still considers you HIS PROPERTY and he continues to CONTROL you. You have some great advice here above from Donna and Matt about how to handle this. It will, I do not doubt, be a FIGHT to wrest financial freedom and your own control from him. His keeping the money and DEFYING the court orders is TYPICAL of a P to CONTINUE CONTROL, and that is what they are all about. CONTROL.
Once you get your control back (and I suggest fighting like a banshee to do so legally) then do not let him dictate anything to you. Just do your own thing and IGNORE his protests, and he will protest and get worse until he SEES FIRMLY that you are NOT GOING TO ALLOW HIM CONTROL. He will resent it, and most likely do as much damage as he can to both you and the kids, but in the long run, it is your own safe and sane route to getting back your life and your kid’s lives. Good luck and my prayers for you.
Carla, I could have written your letter except that I was trapped for more than 15 years, my Ex was an eye doctor, and by the time I escaped all four of our adull children were married and on their own.
The latter did not stop him from smearing me with lies to them — and all live within 5 miles from him and I now safely live 1800 miles away. Only one has “returned” to me in the past year
I have used all my resources to fight the ongoing control of my Ex N/P/S for the past 7 years and am rear poverty level.
The only advice I have for you, in spite of the good advice from Donna, Kathleen, and Elizabeth, is to focus on yourself and your own needs and health. I never did find a way to counteract the control, even legally. He was too cunning and determined to destroy me — for daring to leave him.
You still have underage children and my advice does not exclude continung to be the best mother you can be to them. In fact, caring for them may be your best “defense.” Yet, facing and overcoming your emotional devastation will help you accpet that normal people are no match for a controller.
I’m not sure that this is what you need to hear — but I failed in all attempts to do what the very admired advisors told you above. I lost my phyaical health in the process. It isn’t worth it.
I admit it took the “trying” to reach this point but I have reached the point of KNOWING that “then” was then and “now” is now. All we have is the now.
My sincerest wishes for your continued strength and ability to overcome. — Lily
Matt wrote, “…And that means you have to shut off the emotions and go after him with everything you’ve got.”
Carla, I did that and it didn’t “work.” If it will work for you, then go for it!
Kathy wrote, “Start paying attention to finding where he has inroads into your privacy.”
Carla (and others), this is excellent advice! I learned, almost too late, that EX N/S/P had hacked into my private emails to my LAWYER during two years and used the info against me — twisted to his agenda, of course.
I didn’t know that was possible because I live alone and I naively thought only I had access to my computer. Not true!
My ISP did put some kind of protective device on my account so I’m “safe” now from this shenanagan.
I still haven’t found a way to stop him from checking my credit score. He knows my SS number and my mother’s maiden name.
Just about anyone can check your credit score.
If you can prove you are being harmed by his knowing your social security number, it’s possible to have it changed.
You know his social security number and mother’s maiden name too, don’t you?
The point is, so what?