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By November 6, 2013 27 Comments Read More →

Divorced From a Sociopath: Tools For Success

by Quinn Pierce

It’s like a switch, really, the way he turns his charm on and off.  I watch the tell-tale facial expressions change in a split second as someone enters or exits the room.  I often want to look around and yell, “Didn’t you see that?”

But he is too careful not to reveal the wrong mask to the intended person.  It’s another one of those moments when you think, “Am I really the only one who can see this?  Doesn’t anyone else realize this is all an act?”

The Mask Slips

And for so long, no one saw.  He practiced and planned his timing like a seasoned actor on stage: perfect performance every time”¦.until recently.

It may have taken twenty years, but it was worth the wait.  He finally stretched his characters too far, with too much arrogance, with too many contradictions.  He wanted to ruin every aspect of my life at once, and he didn’t care who he hurt along the way.  This time, there were too many people, too many factors, too many lies, and he eventually got tangled in his own web of deceit.

True to form, he is quickly trying to change his role, deflect negativity, and distance himself from those he used to create the drama.  And he may succeed, to some extent.  After all, this is his life’s work, he has no other goals.

An Alternative Career Path

Sociopaths are excellent at disrupting our daily lives and wreaking havoc every step of the way. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, if you think about it; anyone who puts that much time and energy into a career is going to become an expert in their field.  It’s just that a sociopath’s field happens to be trying to destroy other people’s lives for their own amusement, personal gain, inflating their egos, or just because they run out of shiny toys to play with.

Being in a relationship of any kind with a sociopath is almost like a parent trying to have a conversation on the phone while a toddler is running around the house chasing the dog with scissors and hairspray.  It doesn’t take long for a mother to realize there is no chance of productivity unless the child is asleep.  Unfortunately, sleep is the toddler’s way of gearing up for the next hurricane-like scenario.  Similarly, the ”˜periods of quiet’ seem to be when a sociopath is plotting and planning the next inexplicable surprise attack.

But, having the emotional regulation and egocentric qualities of a two year-old can only take you so far before you earn a time-out.  And right now, my ex-husband has been placed in a time-out by the very group of people he had hoped to dupe in every way possible.

Caught Off Guard

It’s amazing to me that he didn’t think there would be anyone in the field of pediatric medicine that would actually put my son’s needs before his.  For the first time since the ordeal started with my ex-husband and a medical provider calling child services to site me for child neglect, I sat in a doctor’s office and watched my son’s new psychiatrist ask my ex-husband questions that he never thought he’d have to answer, especially in front of me.

His answers were not well rehearsed.  I almost felt sorry for him as he stammered out nonsensical phrases and convoluted answers.  Almost.  I watched his face turn bright red with anger and frustration, and probably some indignation that he was being subjected to this treatment at all, let alone in front of me.

What he did manage to reply by way of explanation for recent events was enough to make my skin crawl as he continued to imply I was an unfit mother.  But I sat quietly, not wanting to throw him a lifeline by engaging in his ridiculous soliloquy.  Instead, and this made the veins on his head stand out even more, I took out my small notebook that I take everywhere, and I began taking notes of everything he said.

I also made a note to myself that said: Pretending he’s not in the room is more effective than arguing.

When I returned home later that day, I decided I should write a list of everything that has, ultimately, benefited my situation.  It’s a ”˜How To’ list of sorts, and I’d like to share it now.

Guidelines for Dealing With a Sociopathic Ex-spouse

  1. Do Not Engage: A sociopath cannot survive without drama.  They will accuse, blame, slander, rant, cry, yell, threaten, lie and intimidate in order to get their opponent to engage in the verbal boxing match.  The truth is there is no ”˜winning’ an argument with a sociopath, just as there is no winning an argument with a two year old.  The only way to really win is to ignore everything they say and do and focus on your own healthy path.
  2. Keep Records: My ex-husband hates to put anything in writing.  It is an automatic deterrent of his verbal abuse and lies.  He knows I will keep a record of everything, and if he puts it in writing, he cannot pretend he didn’t say it.  Also, I have noticed there is a tremendous lag time between responses when he has to write a response.  It’s as if it takes him hours to filter his responses so that he can write everything just right.  I won’t deny that I enjoy knowing he spends so much time and energy on something that is mentally challenging and emotionally painful for him- he’d much rather just say something mean and hope to ruin my day.
  3. Believe in Yourself and Trust Your Instincts: Don’t let a sociopathic partner or ex make you question yourself when you know in your heart what you are doing is the right thing.  Remember that these ”˜people’ have no regard for other people, including children, and are only concerned with their own childish needs.
  4. Don’t Give Up: It may seem that sociopaths come out strong right at the start, but they do not think things through all the way.  If you are consistent and persistent, eventually, their lies will start to reveal themselves, and by not engaging and pursuing what you believe is right, it will be even more difficult for him/her to accuse you of being —as they so often like to accuse- ”˜crazy’.
  5. Don’t Respond To Anything Right Away: it is much easier to not engage when you give yourself time to let emotions settle, sort through the provoking vs necessary information, and decide if it’s even worth responding to.
  6. Be Informed: If you know your rights, it is much more difficult for anyone to threaten or intimidate you.  Just because someone has a position of authority in a particular field, does not mean you have to take their word at face-value, information is your greatest weapon.

This last one is, I think, vital to success in any situation:

7. Be Comfortable With Who You Are: Your past and your experiences have given you wisdom and healing.  If you accept your flaws and are proud of what you have overcome, no one can use your past to threaten you or blackmail you in any way.  The one thing my ex-husband and his sidekick were relying on was me being too embarrassed to bring their false accusations to light.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The worse the accusations, the louder I have become.  I took away their ability to bully me.  Shame and guilt are the staples of the sociopathic personality; they expect everyone around them to have the same feelings.  They don’t know how to respond when shame and guilt are not present.

Finding Strength in Healthy Boundaries

It’s taken me a long time to learn these very difficult lessons.  It is so easy to be baited and manipulated by people who know your weaknesses and worries.  The trick is to turn your weaknesses into strengths, and use that worry to become vigilant in protecting yourself- it’s amazing how arming yourself with information and precautions can allow you to relax.

My greatest achievement in divorcing a sociopath is not wasting any of my energy on his life.  I have put up the boundaries I need to interact with him only when necessary for the sake of my children.  But when it comes to his child-like behavior,  two year-old antics, constant need for attention, and egotistical demands, I give his new wife sole custody.


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27 Comments on "Divorced From a Sociopath: Tools For Success"

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I love your guidelines and try to follow them myself but sometimes I struggle with #3. I don’t give myself enough credit sometimes. I’m working on that. 🙂 as always, thanks Quinn.

There is a great book called “Gift of Fear” By Gavin Debecker that will help you to follow our gut….if you google “oprah gavin debecker you tube”…you can watch oprah’s interview with Gavin…it’s powerful and I think might help you…it the one where she is wearing an orange sweater labled Life class.

Quinn! Magnificent! Thank you so much for these valuable guidelines. And congratulations on making his veins pop!

I am new to this, and just found this site. I was in a 25 year relationship with crazy, I just didn’t know it. Now its been 4 months since we have spokien, and the only way to comunicate is email. He hates it. But I have a record of all he has said. All of the advice is on the mark Thank you for sharing advice on how to recover. My only decsion now is to decide what course of action to take. None? or go for broke (literally).He has stolen so much, I don’t know if its worth it. Looking back is 20/20. I was so fooled by him. Or should I figure I had a very expensive life lesson to learn?

Anewlife: 26 years before separating for 4 and divorce finalized at 30 years. He worked out of town is the only way I survived that long. NC is definitely the way to maintain our sanity. E-mail is so perfect. I walked away with pretty much nothing from two homes and a highly successful business we both worked in building. I came to realize he would never pay alimony anyway and my sanity was not worth a continued battle – I could have pursued it before the courts but they do nothing to enforce anyway. It is hard starting over at this age but I’d rather walk this road than the one with the crazymaker. Came so close to the edge. So close. “So fooled by him.” We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. Give yourself some grace.

Hi Anewlife, welcome, Lovefraud is such a blessing and is packful of excellent info!

I would suggest that you go to your big box Book store and look in the “divorce” section and read some books on financial divorcing. One of the books i found on the subject which is excellent is “Divorce & Money, how to make the best financial decisions during divorce” by NOLE. The book gives good advise especially explaining that your lawyer is not a financial advisor he is a law advisor.

You may want to interview a few financial advisors and select one who understands divorce and your situation best plus a discovery accountant (someone who deals with divorce) follow your gut if you choose to go this route since you are venerable due to stress people may take advantage of your situation financially and charge too much.

You have to be prepare and 10 steps ahead of these guys for court because they will tell the judge their poor me story i.e. Im broke etc even the wealth guys tell the judge this bs.

Wishing you all the best!

Anewlife – that was my user name for many things right after I finally got away from ex-spath. And so it is. Please don’t do “nothing”. Go for broke. Broke and sane is better than rich and crazy (life, not yourself) I figured out that spath cost me about $10 million over 15 yrs, yes that 1-0 million. His drug habit was 30-40k a month. “His habit” was not just taking drugs but dispensing them for free to anyone who would take them, then he owned them. Didn’t matter if you were a doctor, lawyer, cop or school teacher. When I left I had nothing in the bank because I made sure to clean up all my debts and all the debt he charged to company before I moved on. I had to borrow money 3 times from a good friend to make payroll because I was emotionally unable to perform my duties at work so money stopped coming despite being owed and tend of thousands of dollars in check customers sent disappeared from the mailbox. It took me over a year to clear up the mess with my clients – but I did. The lesson was expensive and painful and I survived and learned my own worth as a result – in the end, an invaluable lesson. The biggest and only lingering regret is what he did to my children, their scars will fade but never heal. He stole their innocence through horrendous sexual abuse. I can not un-do that. I can only forgive myself for my incredible blindness and hope that they forgive me too.

So when is the best time to leave a spath?

Yesterday!

When you mentioned how much he stole, it reminded me of an incident with my ex. One day a group of girls who it didn’t even know came to my house. Turns out my ex and his Jr. spath son were at the local quik-chek discussing how they should burn down my house with me in it. They didn’t know me but felt I should know. They also asked if I know that he had told his friends that they could have anything on the property (a 50 acre farm) and that the were disassembling a barn and sneaking it off the property when I wasn’t home. I didn’t believe it – BUT – I had noticed that the electric bill for the barn had gone from $20/ month to $130 for the last 2 months. So we all drove to the back of property and sure enough the barn was in the process of being dismantled. I called him and asked him why the barn was empty- he claimed no knowledge. I asked why the loft was taken down, he claimed no knowledge. I said I had a nice visit with a bunch of young 18-20 girls that hang out where he does (or more correctly, he hangs out where they do) and they told me he gave permission to a group of their buddies to take the barn. CAUGHT! He then said that since I was selling the property, he felt WE should try and sell the outbuildings for extra cash. I told him if they returned to the property they would be arrested and they stayed away. But over those few months, tractors and tools and furniture and tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment disappeared. All of that stuff is gone, stolen or sold off by drug addict friends. Even the new condo I bought him was sold to get quick cash. Nothing lasts. He will never change, he will never get better. For me, now, Life is Good.

Anewlife – depends on what he has “stolen”.

Most of us lost “ourselves” during the relationship. Once I had that back not too much was needed.

However, I did walk away with EVERYTHING in the house and him paying off most of the debt. Debt that HE incurred.

So, I would suggest you ask yourself what you truly “need” and then go from there.

The best part is you have a NEW life and the sky is the limit baby!

Congratulations – you won. He lost.

Awesome advice – thank you!
I’m struggling because my 20 and 16 year old kids have sided with my spath (he was served 6/14/13) and they think I am the liar! They live with him in a different state and they don’t talk to me at all. My 13 year old is with me and she’s the only “normal” one besides me. It is soooo difficult not having a relationship with my older kids and accepting the fact that they think I am the one who is lying and caused all the problems. My kids have no idea about his lies – I don’t have to list them – you all know what they are. My concern is he will make it look like I don’t care about my kids to the court.
It is so hard to believe that so many of us ended up in these situations. I am incredibly grateful for this site and for everyone who shares their stories and advice. We have to stay strong and support each other!!

Victim2: I wanted to share my journey as my 2 adult children lived with him at some point and it was so painful for me. My daughter is now estranged from him as he put a choke hold on her and “it is all her fault and he’ll talk to her when she pays the hospital bill (as he was taken in but no 5150) and admits she set him up”.
My son finally packed his possessions up while he was in Spain (though to the courts he was unable to work) and moved his dad out of that house because he was not working nor paying portion of rent but just laying around drinking and being his obnoxious self. Though my son still stays in communication with his dad. I had to trust in a higher purpose for that time they were with him and silently and patiently wait for my kids to see the real him….as sad as that is. My heart aches for my daughter as she never had a father figure and I see the stress fractures of that in her life and sadly I see my son following to closely in his dad’s footsteps. Breaks my heart. I have lamented not leaving years ago for the sake of my kids but then realized how he would’ve used the kids as his pawns as so many have shared on this and other Narcissistic/Psychopath sites. One day at a time. One step at a time.

Quinn,
As always,I found your article to be excellent and timely.I really like the way you compare the sociopath to a toddler…the only time a mother can relax is when said toddler is asleep!Except,as you brought out,the sociopath uses this quiet time,not to sleep,but rather to plan,their next drama play.That part is a little bit unsettling.

I also liked the way you pretended he wasn’t in the room!I’ve had to do that too.It goes along with No Contact.BTW,tomorrow will be 1 year of having No Contact!

I saw him a few weeks ago.He didn’t look a bit happy.

Hi Quinn,

I am sorry that you are dealing with your ex’s manipulation and smear campaign…I hate hearing these stories over and over at how manipulative these men are at using the kids and lying to the court to control their ex’s.

On a lighter side, I almost fell of my chair laughing reading your statement:

“Being in a relationship of any kind with a sociopath is almost like a parent trying to have a conversation on the phone while a toddler is running around the house chasing the dog with scissors and hairspray.”

So so true!!

I was flipping channels tonight and saw a segment on Charlie Sheen (perfect example of a sociopath) on Jane Veles Michelle (HLN)…normally I wouldn’t watch such a report but since it was dealing with a sociopath I listened….Charlie is a classic example of how sociopaths twist everything away from him on to someone else, he takes no responsibility for not being a good father, for his drug use and for pushing his second wife over the emotional deep end and into drugs….

of course he is not getting away from with that any more from Jane’s show she was on to him…sadly his first ex wife is once again unknowingly trapped back into sociopath charlies web of lies/deceptions and is taking care of charlies and his newest ex wife’s kids. YES Dense Richard charlies first wive is taking care of Charlie’s kids which he had with his second wife Brooks something. Talk about a masterful manipulator.

What I think people do not realize is Brooks has a drug problem that is most likely fueled by having to deal with Charlie’s abuse and may have started because charlie was doing drugs and wanted her to do drugs with him, not sure, she no doubt has high anxiety as it is indicative with dealing with a sociopath….he is causing Brooks major anxiety with his chaos, lies, head games but sadly what the general public and courts dont realize is if Brooks did not have any contact with Charlie and she had a good counselor who knew about sociopathic abuse she would most likely be able to kick her drug addiction.

What I have noticed too with this story is Charlie had a nasty divorce with Denise Richard too…he started a ruthless smear campaign against her as well as now with Brooks….now he is on better terms with Denise and he has triangulated Denise against Brooks now…instead these two women should join forces against Charlie. Charlie only wants his kids to get back at his ex Brooks and to save face (hide his mask). Anyway I dont know if anyone has listened to this story or not, if just caught my attention.

To those struggling with having children who are being manipulated by a sociopath–maybe buy them one of the books by Dr. Hare, or Martha Stout, etc. (Or “Lovefraud!”) They may read and recognize the behavior. Information is so important. You know the biggest threat to an spath is exposure–they can’t operate in secret–or manipulate!

Quinn, you and others on this site, are my heroes. I see that you succeeded in your recoveries and so can I. Once this divorce is final then I truly begin to heal. My first steps filing and the no contact has done me such good. The other day my son said “mom we realty didn’t lose him, he was never ours to begin with.” That is so true. In all those years emotionally he was never with us. His first priority was himself and himself only. I still remember the names he called my son just for nothing. My son not once gave us any problems but my soon to be ex called him dumb a…., lazy a….., fat a…… This is my child who carries a 4.0 gpa as a sophomore in college, who graduated top 10 percent of his high-school class. , but my ex found so much pleasure in inflicting pain on the ones closest to him. So do we miss him? Absolutely not. He just is nothing to us and will never be. Just what we were to him for the past 20 years.

Kaya48 – you don’t have to wait for the divorce to be final in order to heal. Your healing can start – in fact, it has already started!

Hello LF community!! I’m catching up with my reading and have to say there have been some really great articles in the past three weeks!! This one really touched me mainly because I have not been who I really am since I was discarded and since my recovery from the aftermath really started…
WELL I am here to say I’m feeling more of who I am now than I was in the 28 years I was married!!!
I just finished a three week service trip to Palestine….did good old fashioned social work 101 while I was there, and just was able to experience myself again. I laughed more on this trip than I have in years and was able to really ENJOY my empathetic self.
Our excruciating pain sometimes robs us of our need to give and for me that in and of itself was painful. Service for me is healing and owning ALL parts of who I really am has liberated me in very real ways to continue to grow as an individual.
Thanks for the great articles Quinn, Donna and all the others… I looked forward to reading my LF once I got home and I was surely not disappointed!! Your eloquence gives all of us a voice.

Amen Sister! I love your post. I gives so much reassurance and confirmation. I am still battling the S/P in court…although, I have removed myself emotionally and am allowing my attorney to deal with the drama (that is what I pay him for). It is amazing how their lies and manipulations can muck up the waters, I don’t even think my attorney was prepared for it. When you have a GAL appointed that is risking her own reputation to lie and purger herself to protect an abusive father, then there is a problem. And there is documented proof. Court transcripts have her recorded and lying to protect this S/P and she as appointed to represent the children… my son says ” may God have mercy on her soul” these kids know the system is as corrupt as their abusive father is, who buy the way threw them out of his house 2 years ago and is now cry babying that “mom is alienating them from me, whaa” Not to mention that when our daughter was in the hospital, anorexic and 76 lbs at 13 years old, he went there and took her food from her…I am just waiting for kharma!!!

Quinn – great advice!

I followed this to the “t”. After my ex husband found his next “target” I was demoted to the level of dog shit.

I became the obstacle to his happiness and success in this life. I was threatened, called names, ALL of my flaws identified indicating to me that I was not “worthy” of such a fine man.

In the end I got exactly what I wanted from him. Finally, all of his lies and deceitful behaviors were on the table in front of me. He is lucky that I didn’t press harder in the divorce. I had visions of him breaking into a cold sweat after each email I sent. I also stood up to his attorney and advised them what “I” would consider in the divorce. Since I had been down the road before with “pathology” I learned that intimidation is their game. I won. He lost.

It’s sad for me to realize how much of myself I lost in my pathological relationships. It’s pure evil.

I am back baby. Stronger and more confident than ever.

Karma is a bitch.

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