By November 13, 2013 13 Comments Read More →

Divorced From a Sociopath: The Imperfect Stranger

by Quinn Pierce

Have you ever looked at someone that you’ve known for much of your life and thought, “Who are you?”

I had that moment today, standing outside my son’s doctor’s office listening to my ex-husband threaten to bring the police to my house to enforce his visitation rights.  I watched his face contort and strain, his eyes hardened to match his tone, and his entire body tense as if for a fight.  I looked to his right to see my younger son frozen in place, thrown into a state of post traumatic stress, and I thought: who is this maniac standing here yelling at me?

A Moment of Clarity

But then, I snapped back into the moment and realized I was about to get sucked into arguing with a sociopath.  Luckily, common sense kicked in.  My other son, the one who didn’t want to go to his father’s house, was right upstairs in the doctor’s office.  All I had to do was get this raving lunatic upstairs where there would be not only witnesses, but my son’s doctor.

And so, mid-rebuttal, I stopped and said, “He’s right upstairs, why don’t we just go up there and talk to him.”

I saw the split second of hesitation before he agreed, and that split second spoke volumes.

It told me he was disappointed because he had actually been looking forward to the drama of claiming I was in contempt of court.  It told me he realized he now had to behave and put his mask back in place since there would be other people around.  And it told me that he didn’t actually want to speak to his son and try to communicate, he just wanted to be angry and say he was being victimized.

Changing Gears

But, he regrouped, readjusted, and walked toward the building, completely unaware that his other son was still paralyzed from fear of another argument and police interaction.  I tried my best to reassure my son that everything would be fine, and we trailed him up the steps.

I knew that once we were in the presence of others, especially the doctor, that my ex-husbands entire demeanor would change.   And it did.  He wouldn’t even bring up the issue of my son staying there tonight.  Eventually, I brought up the threat he made outside so that we could have credible witnesses should anything transpire.  Amazingly, my ex-husband tried to blame the entire situation on my son, whom he was sitting right next to.

At this point, my anger had receded, because what I saw happening was such a textbook example of how the sociopath operates that I could have written the script for my ex-husband.

A Well Known Plot

And so it went”¦

Blame- He blamed my son for causing a rift between me and my ex-husband by not telling us the same information.  Ok, my anger returned for a moment with this one, because the ”˜rift’ my ex-husband spoke of occurred when I realized he was an abusive sociopath and kicked him out; my sons are the only reason I even talk to him.

Denial- He acted as if he never said anything about calling the police.  He even said he didn’t want to force his son to do anything.

Righteous Indignation- He tried to insist that he was being treated unfairly by everyone, and his rights were being violated in the process.

Victimization- Once his son came out and said he did not want to go, the perfectly timed tears ensued.  I had walked my younger son out to give my older son a chance to use his voice, and once he did, my ex-husband flooded him with the river of guilt.  I’m not sure what he hoped to gain, but the emotional roller coaster was, in itself, a form of psychological abuse used on my son.

Difficult Lessons

When my son returned to the car, he was exhausted.  He was emotionally drained and started to cry.  I explained to him why I made him face his dad like that, and how it was much better that he have the support of his doctor and me while he talked to him, rather than the police and the over-heated emotions of the adults in a situation like that.

He is a very strong and courageous young man, and he understood and agreed that it was better than the alternative, especially for his brother’s sake.  We hugged, then drove home in silence.

A Powerful Truth

I tried to figure out why I wasn’t feeling the normal angst and stress of such an encounter with my ex.  It wasn’t until we were nearly home that I realized the simple, yet powerful truth: I was no longer afraid of my ex-husband.

After everything that has happened this fall, I now know how capable and resilient my children are.  I also know what my rights are and the steps required for my ex to follow through on his many threats.  He has forced me to prepare for any situation, and for that he has lost the element of surprise.

In his desperate and failed attempt to discredit me, he has armed me with knowledge, strength, and confidence.  He has empowered his children to find their voices, and he has damaged his own reputation more than mine.

So, in those moments when I look at him and think: Who are you?, I can simply answer: No one who has any importance in my life, what-so-ever.

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13 Comments on "Divorced From a Sociopath: The Imperfect Stranger"

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Oh I LOVE this story of victory! You are SO right. Once they realize they no longer have control over you and your emotions (even if you have to “act” at first), they completely change. After I got my restraining order, my ex has hardly been around at all. He was coming to our church but when he realized it didn’t bother me and he had lost control over most everyone there, he hopefully has stopped that. I feel for you that you have children with this man. Thankfully I do not so it made it somewhat easier. He has moved on to his next “quest”, a much younger vulnerable woman. I wish I could warn her. But I know I can’t. Anyway thanks for sharing your victory. It could help so many people in this situation!

Thank you Quinn for this article. As always I find a lot of hope and strength for me in your writing. How interesting you mentioned that you are not afraid of him anylonger. I feel exactly the same. My soon to be ex cannot intimidate me anymore, he has lost all control over me and my son. And you are so right, has he ever damaged his reputation. Something he wanted to keep intact so badly by portraying me as the “insane” wife. He looks like a complete loser and coward to his family, co workers and bosses. A police officer with absolutely no morale values. My counselor said something interesting “his hatred for you as his wife was greater than his love for his child”. It makes so much sense but he is the one who must live with this guilt for the rest of his life. My son and I we can go on and recover. I don’t know how he could ever forgive himself for such evil actions he put us through. Do I feel sorry for him? Absolutely not. Every choice in life has consequences. I wish you and your children only the best. Thanks for your great writing.

Sad thing is…there is no regret. There are no moral values. Just a sucking vacuum of selfishness. I, too, hoped against hope that even if he couldn’t love me (after all, I was so very unlovable and unworthy!) surely he would love his own children! Nope. He “loves” them in the only way he can and we have come to accept that as the best he can do. We do so with a disappointment that has gelled a bit over time (not hardened, for we don’t want to become hard), but almost pity. It’s not feeling sorry for…it’s more…the way you look at a snake, because a snake will never know the warmth of an embrace or the tenderness of skin. It’s a snake. It is what it is.*shrug* We endure and surmount and leave him behind in his dark lair.


Wow! Just wow! I felt like I was right there with you…I could just feel that shift you experienced (and that I have also experienced).


When we can stop ourselves from falling into the psychodrama, and stay with our reality it makes this much of a difference.

I experienced this one time, when I came face to face with one of the ex-spaths (unfortunately I had a LOOOOONG string of them!).
In this sitation he was telling me how great I looked, and how it was so sad we had split, and why we split. It was a really great story, but it was complete rubbish. It was a really gorgeous story, meant to trigger a deep despair in me.

This guy rarely did rage. He liked to instill humiliation and longing, and eventually despair.

And for a second I went there. Until the shift. Where upon I simply turned around, and walked away. I didn’t even say anything back to him. It just all seemed like an incredible waste of my energy.

Glad you are finding more and more strength and clarity!


Hi….first post ever here. *smile* Wish I’d known about this place 6 years ago.
Isn’t it amazing when we’re finally able to separate ourselves from that swirling vector of insanity and not get sucked in?! lol It’s been 6 years for me and I *still* struggle with the “I swear, this time, I’m going to get him to admit he’s wrong” or “this time he’ll do the right thing if I explain it to him ‘right'” or “finally, someone will see the ‘real’ him!” I’m far wiser to bide my time through the “turn” and look straight into those empty shark eyes and step back and disarm his efforts at smoke and mirrors with factual evidence and a cool demeanor. I don’t miss those days in child therapists’ and attorney’s offices, though. Been there. The good news is that these people usually don’t have the balls or focus to carry this on for long. They’ll stick to their “you poisoned everyone against me” story forever to make their failed attempt at hijacking your life livable for them, but stand strong. Hope is on the way.

What powerful and supportive stories! Unfortunately I’m still living my nightmare – we go to court today for the fourth time six months and we are nowhere. Any advice on this…my ‘not soon enough’ ex has completely turned my 20 and 16 year old against me. The difficult part to believe and accept is they lived here too, walking on eggshells around him. I fear that my oldest suffers from the same psychological problems as him and my 16 year old is a narcissist. They didn’t just drink the kool-ade he gave it to them intravenously (he’s a brilliant MD – just ask him!). My 13 year old lives with me and she knows he has serious control issues, he lies, etc. Do any of you have kids that are spaths too? How do I handle them, what did you do? Mine only yell at me and blame me for all our problems and the horrible things I did to dad…ugh. The therapists say I need to continue to send out positive messages to them and I have been doing that but all I ever get in return, if I get anything at all, is grief. I cannot believe this is my life. I am so grateful for this site though, it helps me tremendously.
V2 (I was a victim when I started now I’m a survivor!)

This is the nightmare of all nightmares. When my daughter graduated from college, her dad targeted her and won. I was devistated that she believed his lies even about him knowing my thoughts and motives and discrediting reality.

I am at the point now that I do not even want her in my life anymore. But she is the mother of my only grandchildren whom I adore. She gets worse by each passing year and my only hope is that her children remember my love and devotion to them. I know they do so far and they want to see me but are rarely allowed.

I would have never believed that I would not want one of my children in my life. Family was my life. But it has happened. I have no idea who she is anymore and I do not like her. I probably still love her somewhere deep inside but it has become inactivated to save myself.

Life is what it is and some of us have very difficult lessons to learn. If I did not believe that I would have given up long ago.

I can hear your desperation and I am so very sorry. All I can offer at this point is that there is always hope. Please take care of yourself. You sound really down and my heart hurts for you. I think deep down, for all of us with children, our deepest hurt from having been married to or involved with a psychopath is the impact it’s had on them. I know no other pain so acute. However, if I had given up, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today, and I wouldn’t be here to encourage others. There is an amazing redemption to be found in the simple hope that somehow, someday, our story will be like an outstretched hand to someone else in the darkness.

I thought about you today. I hope you made some headway. My kids were young (7 & 4), but I already started seeing the signs of problems emotionally in them. My daughter (now 13) has some issues with lying and hiding things, but I try not to freak out and accept some of it as “normal”. My 7 year old son struggles with the push/pull of wanting to please Daddy and “not hurt his feelings” but not wanting to see him and feeling protective of me. It’s a crappy and despicable thing to do this to children, but these people see others (especially their children) as object, possessions to be used as pawns or gun barrels through which they can aim their venom back at the mother. It’s all he has now, victim2. You perceive things as if he has so much control, but the truth is he doesn’t. You’d be surprised what time does. My kids learned SO much when they had to be ALONE with my ex and I was no longer smoothing over his rough edges and making excuses for him and “fixing” things. They saw him for what he was- a black hole completely absent of empathy or conscience. Concentrate on becoming the person you need to be, and not on HIM, and not on whether or not your messages are reaching them. That is not within your control. That’s my best advice, honestly. Feed and nourish yourself. THAT is within your control. Model that behavior, especially for your daughter, because even though teenage girls act like they hate you (remember that phase? lol) and couldn’t care less what you think, I think they actually do. Become your own hero. Don’t give up hope. Please don’t give up hope.

correction: my son is now 10. geez. I need more coffee

Thank you both for your feedback, it really helped me!! Dolores, I empathize with you and I’m so sorry. Enjoy the time you have with your grandchildren because that’s all you can do. Make sure they know you will always be available to them so if the day comes when they need to escape their mother they’ll know they can come to you.
Sunshinejan – so much of what you said made sense and you’re right – he no longer has control. I’m in charge from here on out and I will take care of myself!! My 13 year old is very strong and I am so grateful for her.
Good luck to everyone and thank you! Let’s all be strong together.

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