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By September 11, 2013 38 Comments Read More →

Divorcing a Sociopath: A Healing Journey

by Quinn Pierce

 

Some days, the sunlight seems just a little brighter than usual as I let its comforting rays blanket my skin with warmth.  And for that moment, I can taste the precious peace I so desperately want to give permanent residence in my life.

Until, like a sudden rain cloud, a shadow creeps across my heart as a memory sparks to life.  And, in an instant, I’m shifted off balance, struggling to maintain my footing, refusing to fall down.

Another day, it seems, on the path to recovery after sharing my life for so long with someone whose every emotion was a lie.

Necessary Interaction

It’s an exhausting paradox for me.  I would love nothing more than to erase him from my life entirely, but the reason he is still an invading presence coincides with my two greatest treasures in this world- both a result of this toxic relationship.

I’ve long since stopped berating myself for my choices, because I would not change any decision that gave me my children.  However, this complicated connection often wreaks havoc on everyone I love the most.

Communication Games

I’ve spent years trying to create and maintain healthy boundaries with my ex-husband.   It’s a daily task requiring me to stay on guard at all times. I have to carefully edit and dissect every email or text that I send him to make sure that I am not being too friendly, engaging him in any way, or inviting further interaction. I avoid all face-to-face interaction in order to prevent him from trying to intimidate or manipulate me.

This is quite draining, since it is an unnatural way of communicating with another human being.  But, communication with a sociopath is not anything like communication with a normal person.

He will look for ”˜hidden meanings’ that are not there, he will use words and phrases that push my emotional buttons, or he will talk in riddles that imply a message that he won’t ever say explicitly.  This is his way of setting up a possible scenario where he can twist the truth, change his meaning, accuse, blame, ridicule, you name it.

This is a favorite game of his, and I sense the trap so often that I actually begin to feel paranoid, until I talk to a ”˜normal’ person.  It doesn’t take long to reinforce what a healthy relationship sounds and feels like.  But, a sociopath has the uncanny ability to manipulate us into questioning the one thing that is the very essence of our survival: instinct.

Ignoring Instinct

For years, I ignored that little voice of reason that waved red flags in my face over and over.  When I started to look back over certain events in my life, I realized that I hardly ever made a bad decision when I trusted my instinct.  So, what is it about these individuals that we are willing to ignore our most basic component of being human, the one thing that has kept us alive and helped us survive as a species for thousands of years?

I can only speak from my own experience, but I tend to think my need for and belief in love’s strength overpowered everything else.  I didn’t understand that love could be so easily professed by someone who had no ability to actually feel the emotion.

Learning To Heal Together

But, knowing and accepting the truth does not come without consequences.  After my separation, I wasn’t sure if I was grieving over a love that never existed or the part of me that I misplaced along the way.  And while I was trying to recover from these devastating effects, I had no idea how I was going to help my children do the same.  For them, learning the truth about their father was a shattering of their very foundation.  There are moments I wish I could just lie to them and say he can change and that his love is real.  But, they have endured enough harm, and pretending he is something that he isn’t will only cause more trauma in their lives.

So, instead, I just hold them while they cry.  I help them navigate around his lies and manipulation.  I empower them with real love. I give them knowledge.  I find them resources to help them on their journey of healing.  And most important, I show them that it doesn’t count as falling if you get back up.


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38 Comments on "Divorcing a Sociopath: A Healing Journey"

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What a true and powerful statement. They are so selfish and ignorant about the pain they inflict on the families. I now know that he was not capable of any love not even love for his only child. He needed to portray the perfect father but he never truly, deeply loved his son. They are deceitful and deceptive. The children will see the truth in them as my son has. I think it’s healthier to provide the children with one loving parent than keeping a so called father figure around. The abuse overpowered any “love” he showed my son. I want to go on with my life just like you, Quinn, and put the past where if belongs. You are absolutely right one good thing that came out of this misery is my wonderful, smart, loving son who is nothing like his father. I remain strong and I know the next 20 years will be the best of my life. He cannot take my self esteem away anymore or put me down as a worthless wife. Because after the divorce is final I will be nothing to him, just like the past 20 years. The only difference is that I will not be his victim anylonger. I am free and I am at peace. I thank God every day for taking him out of my life.

Quinn…

Despite the fact that I was not married to my former sociopath or had children with him, the words you so eloquently expressed could have been my own. You’re feelings are so much like mine, even after being out of the relationship for over 1 1/2 years. I have moments where my thoughts go back to something that was said and done by him, and the feelings of total loss and devastation flood back him. Fortunately, though, they don’t last long now.

Your words, “I can only speak from my own experience, but I tend to think my need for and belief in love’s strength overpowered everything else. I didn’t understand that love could be so easily professed by someone who had no ability to actually feel the emotion.”…..resonate loudly with me. You said it so well. I loved this man deeply for who I thought he was….sadly he wasn’t that man at all. And that’s where my loss comes in.

Our journey to healing sometimes seems to take so long…..but I have learned so much over this past year and a half…and continue to learn and grow stronger and wiser as time goes on.

Thank you again for sharing your story. And our journey continues. Stay strong my friend….

carolann

Quinn,
That was so well thought out and eloquently written;thank you for expressing my exact thoughts!Right now,I’m feeling shattered;back to START.I found peace in being separated and having No Contact.But,now that I’ve started pursuing for divorce,I find myself feeling emotionally and mentally shaky and shattered.Yesterday,I went to Legal Aid and found out that I won’t even have an attorney representing me.That was a scary thought.I was told that the counselors at the DV shelter are good about accompanying victims to court hearings.It was suggested that before I file for the divorce,I might want to petition for a Protective Order (only a suggestion).So today I went to the DV shelter and filled out the mountain of paperwork.I was told the Judge may not grant it since there hadn’t been physical abuse in a long time and No Contact for almost a year.I filled it out anyway and took it to the clerk’s office.It hasn’t exactly been denied…next month my husband and I both have to be present for a court hearing the Judge has ordered.I’m not sure why he ordered the hearing,but I’ll be getting a letter in the mail.

Blossom
I know exactly how you feel. From being seperated and no contact to filing for divorce is a huge step. When I first filed and I left my attorneys office I started questioning myself if I made the right decision. Emotionally it was almost overwhelming. It took me about 3 weeks until I really, deeply felt proud of myself that I took this step. Now 2 months into divorce proceedings I do not regret this decision. My 18 year old son told me that he is happy that its just me and him now. Also the fact that my soon to be ex husband keeps putting all blame on me and even went as far as saying I filed for divorce in order to get him back home, assures me I did the right thing. You will get this feeling eventually. At the end we will be the ones to finally had the courage to say NO MORE CRAZY MAKING.

Hi Blossom,

I just wanted to say that I was in your shoes…taking an spath to court without a lawyer and I was SCARED. I don’t know about there but here the judges are used to people representing themselves and they are usually very helpful. Try not to be intimidated…you will get through it. Just be calm and respectful of the judge and ignore your ex and let him make an A$$ of himself. Once you’ve gone a couple of times, it’s much easier. and it’s a good idea to take someone with you so you’re not alone with him and he’ll see you have support. Mine was very threatened by the fact that I wasn’t at court alone like he was.

SociopathsSuck,
Thank you so much for your support-I need all that I can get! I got the letter for the hearing-it’s Oct 15th @ 3:00.
The letter says to bring documents.I guess that would be documents that I would use as evidence of his actions/conduct.The only thing I have is the eviction notice.Maybe I could also get written evidence from the management of the apt complex we lived in before.And from family members.My sister asked if our daughters would be there.I haven’t even told them about it yet.

Blossom – have you done an affidavit yet? If not you should and list why you’re scared for your safety. Having evidence from others is also a great idea…make sure they have given you affidavits also….notarized is best or the judge may not consider it. Be aware that anyone who does an affidavit for you might be called as a witness if you go to trial. I’m in Canada but I would imagine things work kind of the same everywhere. 🙂

SociopathsSuck,
Thank you for the information.No,I haven’t done any affidavits yet.

Blossom,
I’ve been in your shoes and actually still wearing them. Every towns court structure is different and so are the judges. My advice is that if you can go and sit in on a couple of court sessions to get a feel for the judges that will help you feel more comfortable. Also, take some time and think back to all of the things that he has done to you. Be factual and write them down. Does he have a drug or alcohol problem- if so bring it up.Just because he hasn’t done anything in a while doesn’t mean he wont. These aliens have a pattern of behavior that can not be changed and studies have shown that when divorcing they can escalate. Will your ex have a lawyer? If he does- be aware that they will malign you every which way they can. Do not get angry in court. Speak calmly but you can show fear. If you are scared for your life- speak up. Has he had any point physically threatened to harm you or your children? If you have been seeing a therapist they may also write a letter to the courts on your behalf- especially for physical or emotional abuse. Do not be surprised if your ex will cross examine and challenge you- a protective order means that he will not be able to come near you, your home, family, job etc. He will not be able to have a firearm. He will not be allowed to be in the same grocery store while you are there- socio’s do not like being controlled! Be safe and let us know how it goes.

Mislead,
Thank you for your advice.I do not know if my husband will get any kind of legal advice.Both of us only get SSI.I won’t have an atty.representing me.It’s a little scary,but I know it’s possible.Physical abuse only happened yrs ago.For yrs,he abused me emotionally and psychologically.It was easier since he is morbidly obese and has mobility issues.Also it didn’t leave any marks to be seen!And nothing has happened for almost a yr (10 more days!) because he was in a nursing home until this month.And as far as I know,he doesn’t have either of my phone # so he can’t harass me.He lives 20 mi away and doesn’t have his own transportation.But his intention is to get a van.He hasn’t “moved on” because he lives to find out if family and friends have heard any news from me;and he counts the number of comments I make at religious meetings(he listens in by phone line).Creepy!The service coordinator where I live said it would be good to approach it by telling the judge I cannot afford to lose my home again because of this man’s conduct.Our lease was terminated in the last apt where we lived,due to his conduct.The coordinator did say the judge may deny the PO this time because there haven’t been any incidents of physical violence or threats recently.
To be honest,it’s AFTER I file for the divorce that I fear he may SNAP.Because he’s possessive!He figures all he has to do is pretend he has changed and we’ll get back together!
For what?POWER and CONTROL!He doesn’t know how to show love!

Blossom,
Control is control- these individuals thrive on it and it makes them stronger. FYI not having a phone number he is still able to track you. Tell the court that for the past year you felt safer when he was in the nursing home. Be honest about what occurred and your fear for the future- which is real.I don’t have to tell you that socio’s will lie- they do it to us and they love the courts- it’s a platform for them. They know how to work the system better than we will ever do because this is their focus. It’s sick, but this is what they do so with this knowledge you will be better prepared. Court sucks- I’m not going to lie to you. My situation with the socio has cost thousands of dollars and constant continuances- they know how to play the game. Court is tiresome and exhausting- figure out what it is that you want and what is worth fighting for. If you do not have property or children together- simple. For many of us we gave so much financially and that is going to be a fight- because the socio has hidden so much, recovering any money will be an up hill battle- but it can be won. If neither of you have attorneys for the divorce then you will have to figure out how you will go through this process. My socio has gone through 5 attorneys- it took them that long to figure out that he is a pathological liar. If you are going it alone, know that he will lie- and it will be up to you to prove the lies- and hate to say it, even after you prove the lies, it will be up to the judge to figure out all of the lies- some judges are better than others. Document everything- no matter how small or in the past. I’m going to say it again- they are good at lieing and are believable. I know that it will be hard- put all of your documents and paperwork together. It’s messed up but paperwork (if you can find it) doesn’t lie. If he’s been out of your home but he was responsible for payment- tell the court. I too went through the local domestic violence center for my DV order. They can not offer legal advise but their presence in court is helpful (although they can not represent you). You can do this. My heart is with you.

Mislead,
Happily our children are grown and living on their own.And we have no property.So that makes things alot simpler!There are two unpaid bills…in his name.

I haven’t actually filed for divorce yet.I didn’t know know if I should wait until this hearing is over or what.

Hi Blossom,

Every state is different when it comes to distribution of debt- you will need to find out if you live in an eqitable distribution or community property state. Also, states vary how long you need to be separated before you can divorce so start times will vary and if you establish the date of separation as when he went into the nursing home (or if before), that would be a good start. This is important because if he takes out any more debt- you may be responsible- no matter whose name it’s in- especially if it was a long term marriage. Socio’s are smart. They can add names and forge signatures quicker than the mid night repo man taking away the car. You should do a credit check- it’s free once a year to make sure that he has not put anything in your name or put you down as a co signer. Also, have your kids check their credit- I have a friend who her husband took out loans in the kids names (another total socio). If you both are on the rental lease than without a DV order he may be able to return to the home. If your lease is almost up- did you renew with just your name or was his on it to? As for starting the divorce- you should get professional advice. I’d start with legal aide or if you have a university with a law school nearby they typically have a pro bono legal aide clinic. Also, find out from SSI what your benefits will be when your single. After 10 years of marriage if you are over 62 you may qualify to attach to his social security payments- so check this out.Don’t forget to check out pensions or other benefits that he may have (military, disability, 401k, life insurance) etc. Socio’s are amazing at hiding/lying about everything and he may have benefits that you never knew about. In a long term marriage you are entitled to attach to these. I know that this is a lot to handle right now, but your long term financial life depends on this knowledge. Prayers to you and know that you are never alone.

kaya48,
It did make me feel good when my dad called today and told me that I’m doing the right thing! And I have support from other family members and friends.But like you,I started questioning myself today,thinking “what if the Judge doesn’t think I was really abused?!” There aren’t police reports due to DV.They rely upon legal documentation.Yeah…I’d say I feel a bit overwhelmed!
Still-I know this is a step I need to take! i do not want to be associated with the man,do not want that chaotic life…I haven’t loved the man in years.I finally realize why…he never loved me!

Quinn,
Yes,I must remember…Take a DEEP BREATH when shaky and yell for HELP! lol!

Quinn
Your words are incredibly true and I’m grateful to have found a place full of supportive, kind, and understanding people. I was with a sociopath for a little over 5 years. I saw the signs but ignored them, I didn’t want to believe the man I had made a commitment I take incredibly seriously and the man I had chose to be the father of my wonderful baby girl could be so horrible. I have not filed for divorce yet. I am incredibly nervous about taking this step, I am enjoying the no contact I have with him. I don’t want to invite that drama back in my life. I also have no idea what to tell my daughter. Shes only 4, she isn’t old enough to understand any of this. All she knows is that Daddy loved her and now she doesn’t see him. I’m at a bit of a loss for what to tell her.

tigress7565….

I, too, am sorry for what you must be going through. These situations can be so incredibly difficult and suck the life right out of you. But please know you have the support you need on this site.

While I was involved for about four years with a sociopath, I was not married to him, nor did we have children together. I had been married for 20 years prior to the spath and have two children with my ex-husband.

Until someone has been involved with a sociopath, it can be so hard to understand. I am sorry for what you’re experiencing right now, but I wish you well as you move forward. Please know that you can do this….we’re here to support you in any way we can.

carolann

Thank you for writing this. It’s very comforting to know that others deal with the same things I do. I have been divorced from my sociopath for over 2 years now. I have significantly fewer memories or PTSD reactions to normal life, but I am still forced to “communicate” with this man because of our 2 children and it is absolutely exhausting.

What’s interesting is that where I struggle the most now is dealing with the normal people in my life who haven’t been through what I have and assume that I’m exaggerating. They see his actions as those of a slightly more than typical angry ex-husband. I keep telling myself that the opinions of others is none of my business… and it’s easy for me to let go of his opinions, but it hurts that the people I love and respect still don’t understand.

I know exactly what you mean, C2C. It is really hurtful when family or close friends don’t ‘get it’. I recently had a big fight with my bf of 2 years over this. Last weekend he actually said to me that he thought that maybe the ex-spath ‘just needed to meet the right woman’ and ‘look what 5 sessions of counselling did for me’ implying that it might work for my ex too. I was dumb-founded to say the least! After 2 years of telling him what I’ve been through and of calling my ex a sociopath, he said that he couldn’t label him a spath. I lost it. SERIOUSLY!! I was furious. How dare he not believe me! How dare he question anything I say about the ex-spath or my experience when he wasn’t there. He should know me well enough to know that I would NEVER make this stuff up. I don’t think he expected the reaction he got because he promptly starting reading up on sociopaths and decided my ex was indeed a sociopath and he apologized. I am still struggling with why it took him 2 years to research it. I don’t understand that and I’m not sure I ever will.

Courage, two years after my divorce I too struggle with the non comprehension of my experience from people I love and respect.
What others see is that I am still trying to struggle with the logistics and financial devastation….but he has a great new life and seems happy!! Thus there seems to be something wrong with me because I have not “Moved on”….(gosh I really really dislike that phase!!!) I keep thinking that I was moving pretty well until the man caused me great intentional harm….the woundedness takes time to heal and the scars remain. But emotional scars are not easily seen or understood…..

Courage2Change and Imara….

Comments from both of you are so very true. Those who have not dealt with a sociopath find it hard to understand. I, too, would have likely felt that way if I hadn’t been dealt the blow of the ending of my relationship with a sociopath. He admitted that he lied to me so much, that almost anything I suspect is a lie probably was….imagine that! The day I sold my house to him (which all along I was leary of doing but fell for his manipulation), he looked me right in the eyes and said…”I was nice to you right up until close because I play this game better than you.” I will never forget those words. And, like many of us here, that is only a small sampling of what I dealt with.

I find that the best people to talk with about it are the participants on this site and others like it; professionals trained to assist or others who have actually been involved like we have.

What I’m trying to focus on now is the present. Also, I know that I was a good person throughout the relationship with my spath….I did not lie, cheat or manipulate. I left that relationship holding my head high as a result. That doesn’t mean the ending wasn’t completely devastating to me, because it was. But I know that I’d never in a million years treat someone with the disrespect that he treated me….NEVER!

Stay strong my friends. You will get through this…..

carolann

I totally know what you are talking about. Today one of my neighbors and friend intended to give me some advise in dealing with my divorce from a narcissistic sociopath. In her words she said ” what if you and your son are just nice to him and talk to him, maybe he will let you have the house, pay your sons college tuition and just have peace with him?” Normal people just don’t get it. You cannot “deal” with a sociopath. They don’t understand that the “no contact at all” is the only way we can go on with our lives. Honestly it took me about 4 months after my husband discarded me to realize this. I wish people would understand how manipulative and vicious these sociopayhs are. My only hope is that soon this 20 plus years nightmare will come to an end, I know I took the first step by filing for divorce and I truly believe that I can overcome whatever comes ahead of me. In my faith and as a Chrisyian I know I will prevail. At the end god is so much stronger than those evil spirits. Because he is a loving god.

Quinn: I am so confused by his behaviour…but I worry that I’m being too hard on him because of what I’ve been through. but then I think NO, I’m not. I would never do that to someone so why should someone do that to me…especially someone I love.

A little history – we went out for a year, I almost had a nervous breakdown due to the ex and 4 court cases I had against him. I was living with the bf at the time. I wasn’t sleeping, even with sleeping pills and was barely making it through the days. One night the bf’s family was having dinner at his parents and I said I didn’t want to go because it was hard for me to pretend things were ok when they weren’t. He got angry and kicked me and my son out. I went without a fight. I was emotionally drained at that point. He never had anything to do with my ex in this year.

Over the next 3 months he went to counselling. He said he learned why he did the things he did (mostly ex-wife baggage) and begged me to give him another chance. 11 of 12 months of our first year were great until he bailed on me when I needed him most. so we took it slow, I see he has changed – he isn’t as sarcastic and I feel more comfortable when we disagree on something, and he offers to be the go-between for me and the ex so that I don’t have to take the spath’s abuse anymore. I am so thankful he did that…and he’s done a great job with it. He says he will put my name on his house to prove he is serious and to give me security. He’s been renovating my house for me and asks nothing in return. So I see the good and it’s bigger than the small amount that made me scratch my head…until last weekend. and it’s totally thrown me for a loop. He has a great job that he’s been at for over 20 years, he’s super responsible with his things and his money, he’s close to his family and he’s generally good to me and my son…and he’s fun to be around most of the time. I guess I kind of figure he’s sane and that’s a plus too. LOL

I think I’m going to suggest counselling because at this point, I don’t trust him when he says he ‘gets it’. I don’t trust that he won’t bail on me again if the going gets tough for me….know what I mean? and I don’t trust myself to make this decision right now. I don’t know what to do.

Too smart ,
I absolutely agree with you. I could have never found the strength to go on after my husband discarded me without the help of god. My faith is the biggest support I have. One interesting fact is that everything went downhill with my husband after my son and I were baptized last year. I truly believe that by us accepting Jesus as our savior and lord, the evil spirit of my husband was defeated. He left about 8 months later and I think it was that my son and I were too strong in our faith. Today I know that god took him out of our life because he wanted us to have peace. Stay strong in your faith, god is a lobing god and he is able.

Mislead,
The apt is in my name only.Once I got my husband into the nursing home (he wouldn’t agree to it until all alone-so it was a couple of weeks after I left him),I cleaned up the other apt and packed and looked for somewhere to move.I was very fortunate to find this place.The manager is aware of the DV and when staff at the nursing home asked her if he could move in this building,in a separate apt when he got out of the nursing home,she told them “Absolutely not!Not only would I have his wife upset with me,but the people in the building would hate him because of what he did to her!”They were surprised. Because when he first went into the nursing home,I visited twice,but he evidently lied and made it seem the visits were ongoing.I went No Contact with him 11/7/12.It will soon be a year!

I just remembered that some years ago (in the 90’s) my mother had my husband hospitalized long enough to be evaluated.When the woman set down at a table to talk to me(I can’t remember everything she said),she said he wasn’t mentally ill,that he bordered more on ‘criminal’.I wonder if the hospital would still have those records?!

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