Divorcing A Sociopath: Avoiding Conflict and Other Mistakes

by Quinn Pierce

For a long time, I tried to keep confrontations with my ex-husband to a minimum.  I always thought that I could avoid causing my boys any further harm by just ”˜keeping the peace’.  I considered it a small price to pay if I had to tolerate inconveniences and insults in order to give my children a drama-less environment.

But, as is always the case when negotiating with a sociopath, the price was much higher than I ever imagined.

Good Intentions

I believed I was setting an example by taking the high road and not engaging my ex-husband in his game-playing antics.  Unfortunately, what I was doing was letting a bully set the rules and move the boundaries at will.

And while I thought I was helping my boys to feel safe and secure, I was acting in a way that made them think I could not protect them from their father.  If I couldn’t stand up to him when he tried to exert control and disrupt our lives with small, insignificant acts, how could I stand up to him if he did something really hurtful or scary?

I guess I didn’t realize that a sociopath will act the exact same way whether someone is nice or not.  It’s definitely true of my ex-husband.  The more accommodating and agreeable I am, the more he tries to take advantage of me and push past the boundaries I have set.  It seems as though his ultimate goal is always to have me engage in some type of drama, and so, he pushes until there is conflict, takes advantage of my conflict avoidance, or enjoys every second of his drama-filled arguments.

Unlikely Gifts

For me, it was something I had to figure out through experience, since it didn’t really register when anyone else shared this type of advice.  Which means it took a totally unexpected, and somewhat bizarre event, to show me just how misguided my judgment was when dealing with this man whose only consistent characteristic is spitefulness.

And that event occurred after I finally decided to reinstate a long forgotten rule of not allowing unexpected visits from my ex at my home.  Not long after my minor reprimand and reminder to him not to show up unannounced, I received two hate-filled emails from his new wife outlining every aspect of my life that she felt needed criticizing and judging.  Apparently, my life is just chock-full of reprehensible, despicable, and immoral behavior.  Actually, I was a bit jealous of the ”˜me’ she described with such animosity; in reality, my life is not nearly as interesting or well planned.

Unexpected Response

It may not seem all that unusual for a new wife to despise an ex-wife, but I was very surprised by the email attack by this woman.  For one thing, I had probably spoken to her for a total of five minutes in the previous two years.  Secondly, I never gave as much thought to her as she obviously did to me, and I found it unsettling that she had such strong opinions of someone she hardly knew.  Lastly, I actually encouraged my boys to have a relationship with this woman.  Ok, maybe I couldn’t say the words “step mom” without feeling ill, but I figured the boys would need all the support they could get when visiting their father, so I was actually relieved when he met someone who had children the same ages as mine.

This may provide some insight as to how I missed the warning signs when I married my ex-husband in the first place, since twenty years later, I still seem to have this naïve streak that gets me into these predicaments.

Waiting For The Opportunity 

At any rate, I needed to talk to my boys about this strange turn of events. I knew they would be hearing some less-than-pleasant things said about me next time they visited their dad, and I wanted to let them know that, although I was disappointed by the disrespectful and cruel email attacks, I really didn’t care what she thought about me and they should just ignore anything they heard.

What this incident did, however, was far more significant than learning how much anger and hate a virtual stranger held toward me. It gave my boys an opportunity to unleash all the emotions they had held in for two years.

Following My Lead

Once those floodgates were opened, there was no turning back for my boys.  All of a sudden, I was hearing details of their visits that I never heard before.  And, my boys were starting to speak up for themselves when staying over at their father’s house.  What’s more, they became very protective of me and were no longer pretending everything was fine at my ex-husband’s home.

I was stunned by the transformation of my children.  I realized that they were just waiting for the opportunity to talk about what it was like visiting their father’s house.  I had actually prevented them from expressing their concerns, opinions, fears, etc, because what I had considered to be ”˜keeping the peace’ had actually created an atmosphere that did not encourage the boys to speak their minds or share any negative experiences.

In Hindsight

In essence, by trying to prevent conflict and confrontation, I had caused more stress for my children.  I let a sociopath make and change the rules,-giving him his coveted control, while I appeared unable to protect the boys from his harmful behaviors.

I couldn’t believe the outcome of my actions were actually the complete opposite of what I had intended.  I guess I had continued a pattern of compliance from my marriage that I didn’t even realize was still happening.  It nearly broke my heart to learn this.

Better Late Than Never

It’s strange to think I am grateful for being verbally attacked by my ex-husband’s new wife, but I would say that I am.  She provided the catalyst to the events that would subsequently give my boys the opportunity to find their voices.

And I learned how important it is to maintain boundaries and not let the bully exert control.  I had become so used to avoiding arguments and conflicts that I didn’t recognize those situations that required me to stand up to my ex-husband.  He recognized that trait in me, and he took advantage of what he saw as an easy opportunity.

So, I am grateful.  I don’t know how long it might have taken me otherwise to figure out that my non-confrontational approach to my ex-husband was causing anxiety and stress for my children.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll email her back and thank her for telling me what a horrible, controlling, vindictive person I am”¦then again, it was really a pain to have to change my email address after her unsolicited opinions of my character flaws began flooding my inbox, so maybe I’ll just call it even.

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44 Comments on "Divorcing A Sociopath: Avoiding Conflict and Other Mistakes"

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yes, with them the more we allow, the more they perpetrate…mine used to run around with a kitchen knife to settle differences till I picked up the phone to call the police and he realised I meant business…he used to beat me up, saying I “made him do it”, till he got thrashed for that, and thereafter, he has never actually hit me though bringing a closed fist almost into my face or picking up a shoe to almost hurl at me are still ongoing…so yes, unless you turn the tables on them when the time is right you will be dished out much more than you can tolerate…

When I read your stories, I wish with all my heart that my husband would please cheat. Oh, PLEASE move on to someone else. I had so many children with this religious hypocrite that I don’t know how I will ever be free of him. He has insinuated himself into every nook and cranny of my life. With each “tick” of every positive stroke, is the “tock” of being stabbed in the back. With each attempt to further the distance between us, is his active campaign to ruin my name and reputation. I don’t live with him. That much I can say. But I live in the same town and that’s way too close. My youngest son, a son I love very much, lives with him and is subjected to his propaganda. Another daughter, an active heroin addict, and her five year old son also lives with him. This ex-Baptist preacher has hidden her addiction and arranges her transport to a male club “so that she can make some money”. I have had to make some hard calls concerning this daughter and it has unleashed an avalanche of abuse from him. I am “controlling, heartless, evil, emotionally unstable, and abusive”. I will file for a divorce, but I don’t think that will rid me of this tyrant.

Thank you so much for your feedback. I put it back up, and guess what? I don’t feel bad about it at all today. I spoke with him early this morning. I gave him a condition, I told him I wanted his undivided attention for thirty days. No more lies, he drops everyone else, and he treats me like he did in the beginning. That’s all I wanted, then he would be free. Now, I know what that sounds like, and I have no intention of getting back with him. I’m a behavior therapist…lol…I was going somewhere with my little plan.

As it happens, he reluctantly agreed. Very reluctantly, and I keep thinking my god, what is so difficult about being open and honest and honorable? Well, evidently, this is all my fault. lol Around noon today I spoke with him and he was in a rage. He had a meltdown. I called him out on some woman he is grooming in Arizona. Just like I outlined on the website. He was fit to be tied. At that point I had already taken the sites down, but, back up they went. Haven’t spoken to him since.

I find it outrageously funny the barbs he tried to throw at me, how his cheating and lying is my fault. You know, because I MADE him string me along, ask me to marry him, go thru my friends’ list on FB and call close friends of mine begging them to help win me over for him. He’s a piece of work. And I MADE him lie and cheat…lol…oh I just woke up with a whole new attitude. He insisted he wasn’t dating or looking to date last night on the phone. Suddenly there’s this woman, and he’s been active on Match. Of course.

It occurred to me he is flipping out because he knows what he has done is reprehensible. And he knows he is going to be caught in so many lies. He was threatening last night to call the police, and I said, “GO ahead.” I haven’t done anything wrong except try to hold him to his word. Get an apology, even if it was pretend. Why can they so easily lie about everything else, but if it is something you want, there’s no way you are getting it.

I can’t believe he wouldn’t go straight for 30 days, it was so little to ask in comparison. Anyway, the sites are back, I changed the intro, as I am *gasp* being punished by the ol’ freezeout, blocking game. Block on, bro. After his little fit on the phone, screaming at me for HIS choices as if was my fault, I was wide awake.

I have 17 websites. lol I may make them all psychopath recovery resource centers. He did remove the links from his resume, but not before I got a screenshot of it this morning. He’s so predictable. lol

And I don’t think there’s any way he can hurt me. I have done anything wrong. I’m not super excited how it’s going to look to a lot of our mutual friends, we went to Jr. High and High School together. But, c’est la vie. There’s not much he could do. I have solid proof of everything I’ve said. If he wants to sue me, fine, do it. I wasn’t planning on posting half of what I could post. He’s a coward anyway, and he knows I know too much. he just overestimated my tolerance threshold and my soft heart. I still really don’t love doing this, I am stunned he didn’t choose the easy way out. It’s probably something I don’t know, I’ll bet he’s already got a plane ticket to Arizona. lol gosh, there went my behavioral intervention plan. 😉

If you don’t learn anything else, learn this: HE WILL NEVER CHANGE. He is incapable of changing, of seeing or taking responsibility for his own behavior, he will ALWAYS LIE. There is no cure for his personality disorder. DO NOT underestimate him. He can and will hurt you if he wants to. Have as little contact as possible. I read the book “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner and it changed my life. After reading your posts I believe it will help you immensely too.
Be strong – you have your own life to live from now on. Focus on YOU, not him!! Every thought in your mind dedicated to him is one taken away from you.
Take a deep breath and start planning YOUR future.
Good Luck!

PoeticJustice let me first say that You Rock ! I just got back from your your site and I’m almost speechless, but wanted to say thanks for sharing that glorious bit of reality. Hopefully this will help you get quicker closure from the ordeal. Your comment about why couldn’t he give you even a fake apology- here’s a couple thoughts. Spaths are allergic to apologies. Mine doesn’t even like other people to say they are sorry and when we were first dating made it clear that whatever we were arguing about yesterday was done, forgotten. At first I thought it was the perfect application of kindness and moving on and resolving problems. Of course the problems were all because of her raging entitlement, deceptive nature, ect. You know typical spath stuff. Nothing was ever resolved. I was simply deceived and defrauded. It was a facade to hide the ugly truth that she will not take accountability for any of her selfish, destructive behaviors. The other thing that occurs to me is what you mentioned, that he knows it’s something that you want. Mine has done similar things withholding the one thing I asked for that I needed to hear from her regarding her past. She could have easily said the words. When you’re a pathological liar what does one more mean ? Nothing right ? I think it’s about control and dominance. It’s some sick twisted kind of power over us that they have. Did I mention that I despise sociopaths by the way ? Keep in mind too that although this guy as most of these types do prefers to work covertly, the old presumption that bullies are all cowards underneath is just not true. Take care, and watch your back.

So often I wish I could let others know about my ex and how he avoided military prosecution by a plea bargain. Especially since he’s a physician. I just have to keep thinking that one day he will face the judgement of God and that trumps all courts.

It’s been over 6 years I left and 5 years since the divorce from a long marriage with two grown children now. In regard to being a ‘nice’ person who tries to compromise and negotiate with a sociopath, I learned the hard way it just won’t work, not ever. There were plenty of well meaning people who advised me to keep in contact and be ‘nice’ in working out holiday plans, birthdays, taking turns in seeing the new grandchild, etc. I was also advised to read his rare e-mails or answer the telephone in case he had an emergency regarding the kids.

The result of taking such advice from people who have not lived with a sociopath proved to seriously delay my recovery and healing.
He had an agenda with any call or email with a goal of belittling me or making a request regarding the kids which, if I turned it down, was meant to guilt me. I learned to accept a call from him was akin to tossing battery acid on my body. These people are toxic; no other word quite suffices for me.

I’d still like to think of myself as being a nice person but after having had counsel with a wonderful female social worker therapist, I realized her words were the best. She said he was dangerous and I had minimized how covertly ugly he had been for a long time. I knew she was right; she had had 25 years experience with addicts, sociopaths, family issues.

These are people for whom one cannot risk giving the ‘benefit of the doubt’ philosophy. They crave the feeling they have a foot in the door. There was only one option for me and it was to cut off any possibility of contact ever. My daughter praised my decision but my son backed away and continues to stay in frequent contact with his dad. It is what it is. What matters is that I feel a great deal of peace and have enjoyed experiencing some joys in life with taking senior dance lessons, gardening, reading, laughing once more. Life can only improve when the thorn is not sticking us in the side. To all, much peace today.

Any advice on holding to boundaries when I know it will impact my child? For example, my ex is stating (not asking, stating) that he will pick our child up from school one day next week. Court orders say he can only pick up the child from my house at 6 pm. Yet obviously he has already talked to our child about it, as our child is asking why I am saying his father will be picking him up at 6 pm that day and not from school, and my child is saying he wants to see his father. I am absolutely certain my ex has told our child he will be buying him a new computer or something “big.” The ONLY reason I am considering letting it slide this time is I know my ex will be moving in the next few weeks, so visitation will be a null issue (he will use it as an excuse not to see our child). Do I hold firm to the court order knowing my child wants to see him? I know my ex…if I hold to the order he will tell our child it was my fault. I realize this is absolute bullying and controlling behavior on his behalf and the only reason he is doing it is to get to me. He has no interest in our child. This is the same man who missed his child’s birthday party by telling his child that he couldn’t attend because people there (his own family included) didn’t like him!

I think it’s your call ginny. I personally stick to my court order to the letter, but he’ll be here forever just to pi$$ me off…lol. I explain to my son that Daddy knows the rules and he needs to follow them just like I do. I find that if you give an inch, he’ll expect a mile….he’ll say ‘well she let me do it that time so I’m doing it whenever I want’. My ex tried to do that to me a few times too..telling me he was taking him when it wasn’t during the specified time or when I said NO because it didn’t work for me. I removed my son from the situation and let him come…then told him to leave. He called the police on me several times and I just explained the situation and they left. when access was ‘at times agreed by both parties’ it was too loosely defined. He abused it so badly. So now he ONLY gets him during the specified hours period. In your case though it’s from school. I think I’d be tempted to get there earlier and pull him out and take him out for ice cream or something and then take him to meet his dad at 6:00. but you’re the only one who knows the dynamics…so your situation might be different.

You should give the school a copy of the court order and your schedule so that they won’t release him to your spath. That’s what I did and the school is aware of the situation.
And you’re right – Sociopaths do suck!
BUT WE DON’T!! Be strong and carry on with YOUR life!
V2 – Survivor 2

Thank you victim2 and sociopathssuck. I will be sticking to the exact words of the order. It is just sick to me how he has no care about how what he does damages his child.

Hi Ginnynothers,
Follow the exact decree to the letter. Print out all 50-70 pages of the document and show it to your child. I pointed out the judge’s name and that the court and state decided laws for my child. I showed her her name on the decree and her parents’ names. I explained to her from the time that she was a toddler that I was going to follow all the laws about her. This confronts when her dad says “unfair” or how “mean” I am. I simply point to the law and explain that her dad and I agreed to follow this law. Where we were not able to agree, then the judge decided. My child is 11 now. This language of “following the law” makes sense. Early on, I was trying to be “nice” and would let my daughter spend the night with her dad on his Sunday night instead of asking that she be returned at 5:00p.m. according to the decree. Instead of viewing this as “extra time” or “bonus time” or a gift to be with his daughter, my narcissist ex got angry at me! He told me I was unable to “take care of our daughter” that I was a “bad mother” and that he was “doing me a favor to BABYSIT our child.” Lightbulb moment for me–no more Sunday overnights. I could give you hundreds of examples like that over the last 11 years! The only time I vary what decree says is if he wants to bring her back to me early!

Yes. Sadly, school has to be involved.

And remember these tips:
Do NOT talk to narcissist/sociopath on phone and as little as posdible in person.
Texts are short and factual. (Yes. Knee pads are at my house.) (Yes. Practice is at 6:30.) (No. The volleyball isn’t at my house.). I try to make texts shorter than a sentence!

Email might be slightly longer, but still only factual information.

My daughter knows that my texts are short and factual. She sees that I don’t engage or argue with her dad. He is still ranting about me in front of our daughter and is married to his third wife. My daughter has learned that her dad rants about her mom AND that I don’t say anything about him. She doesn’t like that and is smart to what is going on.

No matter what crazy thing he says to me, I don’t react or respond. Poker face. No reaction.

And my broken record phrase when I did talk to him was, “Is this about Child’s Name?” If it was not about our child, then I said I was hanging up and did.

Follow the decree. He will use it against you, but you are giving him an open door if you vary in any way from the details.

There is no give and take with sociopaths–they only take and manipulate.

Yes absolutely the no contact is the best advise I ever got. I feel so much stronger and much more “in control” than before. He cannot push any buttons, aggravate me or upset me. Simply because I changed my phone no and email. I has been over 4 months now. Before whenever I got an email from him my blood pressure went sky high because that is what he wants. I am sure there will be times in court when I have to face him but I will have my attorney by my side. He wants to destroy me and I still remember one if his comments ” when I am done with you, you will be pushing a shopping cart with your belongings and beg for money so you can eat ” . This is after 20 years. I decided I will not give him any more thoughts. He is not worth it. I am thankful for all the other women he had affairs with. Without then I would still be suffering his abuse. Often I wake up from nightmares hearing his “drill seargent voice” swearing and cussing at me because he had an “unhappy” day. Every day since he left, especially since no contact, is a happy and peaceful day for my son and I . And yes you are right I find pleasure in simple things. A sunset over the ocean where I live, a palm tree, somebody smiling at me. Simply because my life is so much more than what I ever shared with him. My true happiness is that my son and I escaped this life what was so much like hell for us. I hope his new narcissistic supply will feel the same way soon. Because he will never be able to love anyone

OH MY GOODNESS!!! I had a very similar experience! I had tried to keep the peace with my ex for 5 years, and we had an incident, that finally made me say enough. For 5 years I had gone to exhaustive lengths to “keep the peace” for the sake of my kids. First it was about taking the high road in our divorce to show my kids that they were loved and their parent loved them and got along for their sake. I NEVER said anything negative about their dad, in fact i did the opposite. We had seen nasty divorces and the effects on kids, and we were both “determined” to not do that to our kids. All the divorce literature says to keep your “disagreements” private and away from the children for their own mental health. i finally realized for him it wasn’t about the kids as much as it was about him saving face and continuing his facade of a “perfect dad”. He continued to torment me “privately” (emails, phone calls, texts, in person….he’d say the most awful things about and to me) and make passive aggressive comments to the kids about me. when this didn’t let up (but actually got worse), i searched for answers, anything to try to make the peace real. After therapy and reading so many books, I finally realized he’s an N. once i finally accepted he was an N, I read so much saying to not even engage your N, because it doesn’t matter. Yet another “excuse” to “Keep the peace”. Yet my torment continued. I silently endured it, continuing to say wonderful things about dad and his new wife, not only to my kids, but to the kids therapist, friends, family, our community. Doing anything at all costs to keep the peace. Finally, an incident happened this year (one of my kids was present for) that finally made me say “ENOUGH!”. I began to speak plainly to my girls about their dad’s behavior (not bad things about him, but that his behavior was not ok or acceptable). as you said, THE FLOODGATES opened!!! my kids finally seemed free to tell me everything they had been holding in for five years! They spoke about incidents they had had with their dad, about things going on at the other house, about how they wouldn’t tell their therapist because they knew she was telling their dad and they were afraid. oh my gosh!!!!! My “keeping the peace” as all the literature suggested I do, had actually taught my kids to stay silent. All of this allowed N to control the situation and us. OUR world was still revolving around HIM, and he was dictating how we felt, what we did, and worse, we were feeding his behavior by staying silent, excusing his behavior, and actually confirming and “building up” his false self image! I cannot tell you the freedom I and my kids have now that we are being honest about N. I can now REALLY help them cope and find ways to deal with their N father, who they are going to have to deal with for their whole life. They aren’t blaming themselves anymore, because they are starting to understand it IS NOT about them. I understand wanting to protect kids. but the advice to keep peace in these situations, was not the best advice. Honesty and shining light on truth is. Of course it has to be age appropriate to your kids. I haven’t used the N word with them (yet), and I don’t call their dad names or belittle him. But i do have honest conversations with them about what is and what is not acceptable behavior, and what are and are not acceptable ways to allow people to treat you. My kids now know I will stand up for them and myself when I need to, and I hope this will teach them to be able to stand up for themselves, and they’ll be able to avoid getting into a bad relationship like this when they are grown.

Good for you. Kids aren’t dumb. I learned not to make assumptive statements to my kids like “I know you love [Spath] and want to be there, but it is your time to be with me.” This assumes they want to be with the other parent, and if in fact they don’t then they feel guilty about it. If they are angry about the other parent forgetting birthdays or holidays, they may feel guilty if I assume they love the other parent [because kids can’t always acknowledge love and anger simultaneously]. So now I just stick to factual statements and leave feelings out of it unless the kids bring them up.

Hello. Interesting post. I’m currently going through separation and I’m certainly trying to “keep the peace”. I’m wondering if you were able to amicably divorce from your sociopathic spouse or if there was a court battle. I’m trying to get through divorce as quickly and peacefully as possible and from what I’ve learned it seems like the best way to do this is through an amicable divorce. I’ve tried convincing my husband to use but he’s not very cooperative at all.

Hi AlOttawa22, I equate my marriage to one as HELL and trying to divorce him the BOTTOM of HELL!!

They are masterful manipulators and will do anything and everything to continue the divorce process as long as they can to continue to break you down more, to have control over you & to prevent you from getting anything finically out of the divorce. They also will manipulate every person in court including the judge to sway things in their favor. Divorce court is really where my eyes opened wide to exactly how my ex manipulated everyone.

it was that bad for me. I would suggest that you look at the site One Moms Battle. com it’s an American site for those dealing with divorce & custody issues. They list divorce attorneys on their site (Facebook page) not sure if there are Canadian listed but you can ask as it has victims of narcissist abuse from all over the world (guessing by your name you are Canadian??). It’s a good site to connect with others going through the divorce process or child custody with a narcissist (sociopath).

Be prepared to battle. Try to keep your emotions out of it…not easy when dealing with a sociopath. Start the negotiation process asap and deal with negation each time you deal with you lawyer. Both lawyers & your ex will try to drag out the process. If your ex will not provide bills, bank statements go to the judge and demand these things if you need them. If you go to the big box book stores there is a section on “Financial divorce” look around at those books to get an idea of what you are entitled to then ask your lawyer if this is possible. I found that lawyers really dont care about your financial future they only care about their financial future and how much they will make off of your divorce.

In the states for instance if you were married more then 13 years you are entitled to a portion of your ex spouses Social security these are the things the divorce financial books will provide deal on while your lawyer may not.

Glad that you escaped his grips and glad that you found your way to Lovefraud.

btw One moms battle has a Facebook page if you decide to ask question on their Facebook page I would suggest that you open a fake email then a fake Facebook page so that you can chat freely without your ex, his/your friends seeing what you are chatting about.

Wishing you all the best.

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