By | March 5, 2012 115 Comments

Does anything work in getting a victim away from a sociopath?

Since Lovefraud launched in 2005, I’ve collected 2,850 cases—people who have contacted me to tell me about their experiences with a sociopath. In nearly 100 of these cases—3.4%—the person who contacted me was not actually the victim, but was a friend or family member who was trying to pry the victim away from the sociopath. For example, here’s an email that Lovefraud recently received:

I have a sister-in-law who is dating a married man, who claims he will be getting a divorce, which is still yet to happen. Now she’s pregnant with his kid so things are more serious. They were supposed to move out together a couple months ago, but when the day came he disappeared, then a couple weeks later she found out she was pregnant by him then they were in contact again. Anyways, they went ahead and got an apartment again, which he’s not living in because he is still living with his wife, so it’s a come and go when he pleases”¦ He’s using her! This is not his first child out of wedlock, in fact, he has no contact with the other one and he has now cheated on his wife six times! All these red flags, and all she does is cover up for him. I’ve noticed she’s been depressed and been doing irresponsible things with her health as a result of this guy! Everyone also bluntly tells her that she’s basically his whore, so she knows how everyone feels. What do I do to open her eyes?

Lovefraud’s standard advice in this situation is that there isn’t much someone else can do—it’s up to the person who is involved with a sociopath to open her own eyes and see what is going on. In order to break away, the victim must feel, and own, the negative emotions associated with being controlled and/or abused. This will spark the victim’s desire to get out.

The best thing loved ones can do is stay in contact with the victim, because the sociopath will try to isolate him or her. Friends and loved ones should be emotionally supportive of the individual, but not supply material support, such as money or a place to live. The idea, essentially, is to wait it out, and then, when the relationship crashes and burns, be there to pick up the pieces.

Dr. Liane Leedom explained this approach in her article, “How can I get my _____ away from the psychopathic con artist?”

I’ve sent many, many people the link to that article. But every time I do, it is so dissatisfying. Isn’t there anything a loved one can do?

I understand that people become deeply bonded to sociopaths, especially when they are emotionally and physically intimate, and more especially when they are pregnant. I wrote a whole chapter in my new book, Red Flags of Love Fraud, that explains exactly how this happens. Chapter 6 is called “Sociopathic sex and bonding,” and it explains the psychology and biology of how this powerful psychological love bond is formed.

Here’s a chapter by chapter summary of the book.

Still, I don’t like the idea of just waiting around the victim hits bottom. Sometimes, by the time that happens, the victim is so broken that there is no recovery. And sometimes, when the victim hits bottom, she is dead.

So, I ask Lovefraud readers: Have you ever conducted a successful intervention? If you were the friend or family member of someone in the clutches of a sociopath, were you able to get him or her out? How? Or, if you were the person bonded to the sociopath, did anyone ever do or say anything that gave you the strength to leave?

If anything works, please let us know. I’d love to be able to offer more heartening suggestions.

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i have never held a successful intervention, i haven’t been on the outside of a situation like that to do so.

but i do know that while i was with my spath, some of my friends were considering confronting me, as a sort of intervention, as they were afraid for my safety and sanity. they had seen the desctructive and eventually violent relationship my spath had had with his wife, and they didn’t want me to go end up in the same situation. they told me they decided not to do it because they thought i might get upset, and wouldn’t leave him anyway. they chose to make subtle hints about their disapproval of him, let it be known they were not too thrilled with this character.
these days, i’m very appreciative that i have friends that cared so much for me, but at the time, i may have felt like they were getting into my business and felt angry at them.i can say, i dont know if i would’ve listened to them anyway. i was already aware of all of the things they were going to tell me, and i just refused to believe it would ever effect me. i thought i was different i thought i could love him better and i thought i must be stronger than the wife was, that i would work it all out and have a happier ending.

i thought the same things about my involvement with an alcoholic. i had to hold an intervention for a dear friend with a drinking problem, as i feared for their life. it did not go over well, it nearly destroyed our friendship because he felt that i invaded where i had no right to. but i did let his family know of his problems, so at least people who cared were aware and able to have an eye out and offer support. in some situations, thats all that can be done i believe.

so the people who are reaching out on behalf of someone, trying to get them away from a sociopath, while it is not any comfort to them, i think in some ways just being there, being honest about their feelings about the abusive person and how they are effecting their loved one, sometimes that is the best they can offer.
trying to drag someone away from a sociopath is like trying to drag a bottle out of an alcoholics hand, in some ways. its very difficult, and can often make them want to be even closer to the sociopath, just like the alcoholic turns more to the drink when you try to take them away from it. there is something very addictive about the rollercoaster of the sociopath, the adrenaline rush you sometimes get while trying to survive them, the constant state of heightened alert. its very hard to come down from, even though you aren’t always sure its happening.

i think what gave me the most strength was my family, hearing the hurt in their voices when they tried to console me after whatever awful thing the spath said or did.
and i think that after i realized what was going on, having the support of my friends was very important too.
and then of course, finding this place and seeing that there were other people in the world who understood this absolutely bizarre thing that no one else seemed to grasp, that really helped me too.

maybe the people who are seeking help for a friend or loved one, could point them to this site? if they were willing to take a look, they might recognize themselves in some of the folks who are here, and get the strength to takes steps to get into a better place.

i wish them all the best.

Ox Drover


I have never, either personally or professionally, had a “positive” intervention. I have taken in a couple of people who were friends who finally DID leave their abusive partner, but I took them in with large bruises and contusions, not because I convinced them to leave. Even then some of those people have gone back to the abusive relationship or into another one just as bad.

I have two friends now who have sons in prison who are, in my opinion, psychopathic, but neither of those parents will “give up on my boy.” One set of parents at least listened to my information about psychopaths and didn’t seem to become angry at me about it, but I pushed it as far as I thought I could go and not alienate them.

In another instance, I had a friend whose BF was regularly beating her up, and she would have him arrested, then come to my house and play a rousing game of “oh, ain’t it awful” while sporting a black eye, THEN she would go down the next day and bail the arsehole out….after several times of this I said to her, “Marilyn, it is obvious to me that Dave is not going to stop slapping you around. I love you but from now on WE WILL NOT TALK ABOUT DAVE, we will talk about our kids or anything you want to talk about except DAVE.” That was the end of our friendship really,, and she ended up leaving her job, selling her house and moving out of state with him….I lost contact with her after that.

At times I have felt guilty about saying that to her, but other times, I have felt I responded the only way I could, and that was to tell her the truth. She was not going to change HER behavior either and he sure wasn’t going to change his.

I’ve had home care patients whose mates were abusing them and there was nothing I could say to get them to do anything. I’ve had patients who were in the DV shelters and they would go back to the abusers…

I wish I knew the answer, Donna, but I don’t know except to “be there when they crash” but each of us must make up our own minds about WHEN to give up that malignant hope that we have hung on to for so long. We each have to decide when to get out of denial.

Actually, the other day I told someone on this blog to buy two copies of your book, one for themselves and one to hold to give to a friend. That MIGHT get them to see themselves, or they may just toss the book aside and not read it. I’m out of suggestions.


A huge part of the problem is LOYALTY.
Maybe we need to write and entire BOOK on Malignant Loyalty.

A huge part of why I stayed with the spath is I just didn’t want to be disloyal because I promised I would be loyal. He accused me of cheating on him early on and made me feel terrible. He made it quite clear that he expected loyalty.

Maybe the way to get people away from spaths is the same way you get them away from a cult: kidnapping and several days of de-programming. But it’s hit or miss even then, isn’t it?

We need to get the message out in the mainstream so that everyone can spot a spath and know one when they see one.

Ox Drover

Sky, even “deprogramming” someone who is in a “cult” is risky, and may leave some folks in “kidnapping” charges. There was a big deal years and years ago about these people kidnapping their adult children and putting them through a deprogramming from these religious cults, like Jamestown type things…and the thing is you do not have the right to do taht to an adult no matter how deluded they are as long as they know who the president is and what month and year it is. (i.e.l are “sane”) People have the “right” to be STOOPID and wear aluminum foil hats as long as they are not planning to blow up a building or kill someone else, or don’t marry their 9 year old daughters to the prophet.

So the thing is that it must be persuasion and education, hopefully to prevent someone BEFORE they get hooked. But you know I WAS “educated” and I still was in DENIAL. So education alone isn’t the answer either. I wish I knew what was “the answer”

Ox Drover

Just a little quote today from my daily Dilbert I thought it applied to this article:

“Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion.”
-The Dilbert Principle (1995)


Excellent quote Oxy,
it kinda goes right along with the Seth Godin quote, doesn’t it?
It’s so good, it’s worth posting again:

shamed to not know

Society changes when we change what we’re embarrassed about.

In just fifty years, we’ve made it shameful to be publicly racist.

In just ten years, someone who professes to not know how to use the internet is seen as a fool.

The question, then, is how long before we will be ashamed at being uninformed, at spouting pseudoscience, at believing thin propaganda? How long before it’s unacceptable to take something at face value? How long before you can do your job without understanding the state of the art?

Does access to information change the expectation that if you can know, you will know?

We can argue that this will never happen, that it’s human nature to be easily led in the wrong direction and to be willfully ignorant. The thing is, there are lots of things that used to be human nature, but due to culture and technology, no longer are.


I am having a hard time processing this judgment stuff.

I mean, when I was a teenager, I decided to be a certain kind of person. And in a NORMAL relationship, all these values that I embraced and live by would be an asset, make me WORTHY. They only fail when I am in a toxic, or spath relationship and WHO LOOKS for an spath? I didn’t. Thought such a thing was easy to id, those were the loser guys.

My spath did not look like a loser. He came from a Old established family, he worked always. He was well known in the community, well thought of (appeared so anyways, truth is while they knew his name and face, few community members had any interaction with him except for the very shallow… i.e. socials at weddings/funeral. NOBODY had heart to heart talks with him, not even his “best friend” knew personal details about his opinions or experiences.) My husbands relationships with his parents is typical of the community, his ma is heavily religious and chose one son to be her special confidant. His dad is a tough cold farmer, strong as an ox, can be personal in a very superficial way, and his wife was his servant, not his friend or partner. Typical of their generation.

What carries this background into spath territory does not show up with casual observation. You’d have to be a trained psychologist LOOKING for it and then you might see clues but what they meant would only be revealed by talking to the VICTIMS.

Am I also a person of malignant loyalty as well as malignant hope?

In order to have been able to assess that, I’d have to know that my husband was spath. ANd that I didn’t know until AFTER I left him. I knew SOMETHING was wrong. It wasn’t until I found THIS site that the pieces made sense. Up to then, I thought my husband a Peter Pan Syndrome guy, an abuser, a fraud, self absorbed, a player, a backwards thinking logic person, arrogant. But I had no idea these were SYMPTOMS of an spath until I found LF.

I don’t like taking the qualities that make us human and then saying having those qualities makes us dysfunctional. I was not dysfunctional for being trusting, considerate, giving, not a quitter, and loyal to my husband whom I stood before God and community to pledge my troth forsaking all others until death us do part.

What made it dysfunctional was how an spath infected my life and used my good qualities, slowly, incrementally twisted them into weapons against me.

Not recognizing him for what he is was my problem. If I had known the animal, THEN I would have known what a waste of time he was (just like Michael is a waste of time b/c you can’t know what’s authentic -nothing- and why is he here since this is not a site for helping psychopaths?). Spaths are NOTHING but a poisonous WASTE in my precious life.



I totally follow the malignant loyalty comment. It’s not hope, but my loyalty that can be my worst enemy. It is one of the values highest on my list I think.

Ox Drover

What is “loyalty” except “hope”? I think the HOPE is what makes us LOYAL to someone who keeps wounding us. We expect/hope if we are and continue to be “loyal” that we will be repaid with better treatment and love in the future.

KatyDear, of course your GOOD points, your LOYALTY and your HOPE were the very things he turned against you. The things that made you a good friend, a good lover, a good family member, that loyalty and that hopefullness is what made you stay around when the treatment you got from him was abusive.

If you had been a person who had no loyalty, who had no hope, and wouldn’t stick around, you would not have been a very good friend, family member or lover.

The marriage vows are generally “for better or worse, for richer or poorer” which says “we will be there come hell or high water” are the things that make us who have loyalty and hope stick around for the better (we HOPE) when things are bad. Of course with a psychopath there never is any lasting “better” and any apparent “better” is just a fake to keep us loyal and hoping—against hope!

As for self-professed personality disordered people who come here to LoveFraud to “educate” us and interact with us, I have no desire to interact with them either, Katy. In fact, I have no desire to interact with anyone who claims to be a psychopath, on this board or off. I have no desire to interact with anyone that I think is a psychopath or high in P traits. My suggestion is if his presence offends you, just ignore him. Don’t let the presence of anyone who is offensive to you interfere with your own healing. This is an open board so anyone can read or post as long as they are not overtly offensive, so there isn’t anything we can do about that except not interact with them. He has come here before and acted badly and Donna deleted his posts and banned him and he would come back under another IP address and another name…it usually didn’t take long for him to be recognized though, and she would ban him again. The very fact that he kept returning showed that he did not have respect for the rules here etc. Maybe he has realized that Donna won’t put up with abusive behavior. So as long as he gets attention he will come back, but as long as he doesn’t become OVERTLY abusive, she will tolerate his presence.

I’m not going to let him bother me…so just ignore him, KatyDear, attention and bothering you I think is the point of it all. (((hugs)))


For me it’s something totally distinct, Oxy. I can be loyal without having hope.

Ox Drover

Here is a discussion of Loyalty I find interesting

Loyalty is usually seen as a virtue, albeit a problematic one. It is constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a person has become intrinsically committed. Its paradigmatic expression is found in friendship, to which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and countries do what they can to foster it.

Hope is of course an expectation, so there are some differences, but at the same time, I can see that there are also some of the same aspects. It would be difficult I think to have one without the other. But I guess that would be best decided by the philosophers.


IMO – loyalty is like trust – it must be earned.

Katy ~ your x may have used your good gualities as a weapon against you, BUT he did not destroy those qualities and they shine through everyday.


For me the two are also very distinct.
Loyalty means I’m willing to sacrifice for another. Whereas hope means I expect something back.

I’m loyal to a fault.

The spath even told me once, “You’re a very loyal person.” it came out of the blue, I couldn’t figure out why he said it. Now I know that it was a veiled insult, meaning, “You’re a dog I can kick whenever I want.” My spath frienemy, K, also said, “You’re more like a dog, I’m more like a cat.” I thought, “WTF? where did that come from? ”

I wasn’t loyal to K, like I was to spath. The reason he said it, was because he was actually spath’s friend (behind my back) and he knew that spath was using me as a “beard”.

In the end, I had no hope for spath and myself, I only stayed out of loyalty. I couldn’t bear to hurt him.

I only left when I saw that he was trying to kill me and NEVER loved me. Loyalty went out the door and I was right behind.

What people need to understand is that these are not bad traits: hope and loyalty. Neither is being wealthy or generous or beautiful. But spaths use our own power against us. They tempt us by saying, “look at all the power you have, why don’t you use it?”

Spath did that when he convinced his millionaire friend to buy a new helicopter then he came home and described the conversation. It sounded just like Satan talking to Jesus in the desert.

When we acquiesce to use our power at the behest of the spath, we take the first step down the slippery slope because he has ways of perverting the very best things about us.

We can avoid it and see a red flag by being aware when someone is appealing to our pride in our abilities and in the gifts that God gave us.

Ox Drover

Milo, I agree that loyalty should be earned. I have found that Patrick is “loyal” to his friends but not to me…DUH??? So why was I loyal to HIM? I also saw that son C was “loyal” to Patrick (until he realized that Patrick had sent someone to kill at least me and maybe him….and also that he saw that Patrick knew his “friend” was farking C’s wife…DUH?) Well, so much for loyalty to a psychopath, huh?

I realize That I have GIVEN my loyalty to those I loved, and I HOPED they would be loyal in return.

Of course it didn’t work out that way because not everyone is loyal to us…which shows me that they do not care very much about me if they have little to no loyalty to me.

Oh, well…I can’t trust someone who does not demonstrate that they do what they say they will do, and ACT like they care about me by SHOWING me they are loyal and trustworthy.


Very interesting discussion! I like the idea of malignant loyalty — that rings true for me.

For me, loyalty and hope are two different things. When I married my spath, I was hopeful for a bright and happy future with him, looking forward “hopefully” to the unfolding of it all… my marriage vows were about loyalty — they were the promise I was making.

At the time, naively, I thought he was making the same promise I was making. So, I don’t think I would ever be so stupid as to make a promise of loyalty in a wedding vow to someone who does not return that same promise. I believed in something that was not real. I didn’t hope for it. I simply believed it. It went without saying, without hoping.

That belief vanished one day, finally, when it FINALLY sunk into me that his vow to me was EMPTY. INSINCERE. (I didn’t even think such a thing was possible!)

When the belief vanished, my trust vanished. My hope for a bright future with him vanished. But my loyalty lingered on for a long time, even if it was in pieces. I defended him to people. I made excuses in my own mind for his abuse. I tried to “understand” the root cause of his behavior. I no longer believed he was sincere or that we could stay married, but he was the FATHER OF MY CHILDREN, dammit!! And I have to “honor” him for that — right? That is what I thought for so many years. That piece of loyalty remained, even though he had none for me, and THAT is what allowed me to be hurt, for years and years and years.

Because yeah, I was like a dog that allowed myself to be kicked and kicked and kicked and kept coming back for more because I thought I had made a promise, there was something there to honor, and I needed to just keep trying to be a good co-parent. To tell my kids, “you know, your dad loves you but he may not always know how to show it.” I never spoke of his abuse to me, to the kids. I hoped that maybe it was just an aberrant period in our marriage… and that they would never know that their father had abused their mother.

I didn’t set out to lie to my kids — I truly thought I was being a good mom by hanging onto a few shreds of this loyalty. No hope. Just loyalty.

Loyalty ties into respect. I wanted to respect and honor him at the very least, for his humanity — isn’t that what God wants us to do?

I’ve already passed through the spath-awakening stage and I’m beyond the hurt and angry stage, and getting on with the forgiveness stage. So… I am not loyal in my heart any more. I am not trying to honor him. But I’m not trying to condemn him anymore, either. And I’m forgiving myself.

There is no hope with him. It helps that there is no hope. It’s a more accepting way of being, which feels more peaceful. I see him more clearly and I don’t expect anything other than what he gives me in any given moment. And I view all of it as a pretense anyhow.

I will be kind and civil to him because I think it benefits the children and helps things go more smoothly. But I do it in the most gray-rockish, Stepford-ex-wife-ish way I can manage. I have no expectations and I will not be fooled by him again. So I offer a pretense of loyalty, but my real loyalty now is to my kids and myself.

And I’m full of hope for the future — but my hope no longer rests on the actions and behaviors and loyalty of other people. A bit of my trust in my fellow man is still damaged.


Oh yes, malignant loyalty. Now we are really getting to the meat of the issue; aren’t we? This is so true. They use that loyalty they see that we have and they exploit it to the point of laugh-ability inside themselves. They see us as weak and petty and not worthy of them so they become superior in their own feeble little minds.

I have no hope in my situation, FOR HIM. I do have hope for myself. I have always found that hope and loyalty are quite different and distinct as well.

Getting to the point of this post, ‘what’ would help a loved one break free of a ppath? — Strong support. Education. Awareness. I have said before, the educational and awareness program Donna has presented to her local High School is an absolute necessity in these days and times. To educate the children, all the children, who are our hope for the future. To that we MUST be loyal.

Education and awareness is not in itself the sole solution, I don’t think. It also takes a lot of interaction by caring and understanding people. I think what the victims want and need the most is a place to be heard. To have understanding ears and caring hearts to listen and to understand and just share some of the load by listening. Having someone to listen to our incessant ruminations created by the shock of the experiences we have encountered is so priceless. You don’t realize how priceless until you don’t have that kind of support. YOU all have been that support for me. I thank you from my heart.

I don’t know what the answer is to pull someone out of the nightmare. I do know that making them ‘aware’ IS one important key and factor. But even then, you have a tendency to disbelieve what you are seeing…

In the end, it IS ultimately the choice of the victim what they choose. To continue on in misery or to make concrete changes in themselves and to leave the misery behind. Someone once said I was a masochist because I could not leave this relationship. I couldn’t leave out of loyalty. Not hope as much as loyalty. I felt I owed that ‘staying power’. More out of commitment than affection.

Just my two cents.
Yes, my faith in humanity has slipped after this encounter too, 20years. Although I do not look upon everyone as being like this, I do recognize that all humans are capable of the same ugly qualities. It makes me very ‘unto myself’ and that isn’t all bad. At least I can be myself and walk around naked if I want. I don’t have to cook on demand nor wash dirty underwear.



When I was about 25, I had a doctor who was very cute and very interested in me. I pretended not to notice and I set him up with a friend of mine. (It didn’t work out.)

It’s not that I wasn’t interested, it’s just that I was loyal to my spath.

Sure could kick myself now!


skylar: i can relate but everything happens for a reason, i believe….who knows how that would have turned out!!!!!!!

i know what that kind of loyalty is like and when it’s not appreciated nor respected, kind of puts a damper on things…it’s unacceptable.



Actually Dupey, I couldn’t live with myself if I was the kind of person that just dumped someone when a better offer comes around. It’s not really about him, it’s about my self-respect – that’s why I couldn’t dump him for the cute doctor.

Unfortunately, that same attitude was used against me by the spath. I took responsibility for our relationshit, rather than insist that responsibility should be mutual.


I am proud to hear you say that skylar. I feel the same way: it’s about self respect. Absolutely. Sometimes that self respect can help us make the choices that we just know we should make or have to make.

Yes, I know they use that attitude and strength about us as a weapon against us. I always took responsibility for everything in our relationSHIT as well. That was my fault for accepting that in the first place.

I see all the flashing lights now, Dearie….

Have a good night, skylar: thank you for everything you have contributed to my healing. xxoo

Denise Guiney

Someone warned me but she should have been more specific and persistent and it would have shortened the process. I also warned someone and it worked. You need to identify clear lies, clear instances where a story told to one person as a significant other does not match the life history and events told to another person


I have had several successful interventions. It must be done slowly, as the victim needs to prepare and so does the family. It is rare that a victim can leave without family support. The domestic violence shelters in my area are full and underfunded.
The whole process takes about 7-9 months. I use a combination of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and biofeedback. The nervous systems of those involved with a sociopath are in an elevated hyper aroused state. The biofeedback allows relaxation and then use of supportive therapy and when trust has increased, CBT. The biofeedback is the necessary component in the beginning. It keeps the victim coming back as they feel the relaxation. They also begin to understand the change in their body when they leave the office and go back home to the sociopath. The family is also coached and biofeedback is used, it is difficult for family members to see their child return to the spath’s environment. It is usually a family member who brings the client to the session week after week. It is not cheap, as the victim usually has no health insurance and of course there are no funds available for alternative treatments. Part of the reason a victim cannot leave is the over responding of the nervous system. They begin to react to every trigger and they struggle with people outside of the relationship, while the spath feeds on the over reaction. Without this type of intensive treatment, it is amazing that anyone can leave.

I stumbled on this treatment when I left my ex. I had been introduced to LF and others in the movement. Still I had an unbalanced nervous system, I could not connect to so many people because of my reactions. When I was introduced to biofeedback, it was love at first treatment. I finally felt like my normal self again.


Well my spath left me for another woman cold turkey and was married to her within two weeks and she was immediately pregnant. I know the woman he ran off with before her (from me) he was also trying to convince to marry him and have a kid right away! I guess he had a agenda alright, but I threw a lot of crap in his way for a year or two before he finally got the job done! But I wrote out a step by step story of all he did to me and others and gave it to her in writing and the said, “Thanks I think”. To this day she is still with him, however I have heard he quit his job and they were really having a rough time of it! She has a facebook page and never is on it, I am sure he is controlling that! I am certain I seen him out without her with another woman at least once also! Anyway, she did not listen and is probably suffering as we speak. I feel so helpless…I just wish she would reach out and talk to me. I did see her one day and she waved and acknowledged me looking as if she wanted to talk to me!

Ox Drover


Unfortunately, most of the time there is no money for treatment of any kind…and getting the victim to GO to therapy is difficult too. Glad to know though that something works if you can pull it off.

Doony62, I have been warned about people I was interacting with who were psychopaths and I did not listen,, and I have also warned others and I did not listen…so been on both sides of the coin. LOL BOY I would listen NOW!!!!! LOL Makes a difference in my “hearing”


KatyDid on March 5 – I really like your commentary. Thank you!


I found something that worked to get me away from my experience with a sociopath. Abuse counseling at my local Abused Women’s Shelter. Statements from counseling such as “you can’t expect to feel better when you continue to take the poison everyday”, and “it’s not your responsibility to fix him or his behavior”, and “obviously he does not want your help with his condition and even resents your help and sympathy”. It took a while, but the messages finally sank in. I am currently scheduled for a court hearing, I filed a restraining order, and he counter filed a restraining order. After this, it will take me YEARS to recover financially. But the abuse counseling DID help me see that he is heartless and uncaring and nothing will ever change that.


Congratulations Debby!
You saved yourself!
That’s such good new to hear, that another person “got it” and got out.

I have been in so many situations where I see people getting involved in counterproductive relationships or “deals,” and I’ve tried so many different ways to talk them out of it or get them out of it. But when someone is convinced that this is the right thing, or entirely seduced by the appearance of something she really wants, I’ve discovered that the most direct ways of attacking this just don’t work. Criticism, opinions, analysis, suggestions, advice don’t work on these dreamwalkers. So I’ve developed different ways to think about it, and different types of influence.

One way to think about this is that I am, in attempting to influence a victim, competing with the influence of the predator. The predator has everything to gain from keeping her addicted, and from suppressing the rational self-protective aspects of her personality. His brainwashing includes all sorts of defensive elements to keep anyone else from influencing her. The demand for unquestioning loyalty is certainly one of them, as is the use of sex to keep her bonding hormones high.

Another way to think about this is that we are watching someone in the most intense learning experience of her life. No matter how functional she may be in other areas, the predator has found her vulnerabilities, the places where she is willing to give up control over her life for something that she believes is more important. These beliefs are key to her dilemma, and until she has enough evidence that she needs to change those beliefs, she will not be finished with this relationship. Even if he leaves her.

I don’t think I can speed up this learning process by attacking the relationship or even her dysfunctional thinking or behavior. She is already engaged in an internal drama that is more compelling than almost anything I can say, unless I am the social services taking her children or the doctor telling her that she is going to die or the sheriff turning her out of her house or whatever convinces her that she is choosing destruction over life, if she doesn’t stop doing what she’s doing.

However, there are some things I believe can help. These are strategies I use now with people who are behaving irrationally in pursuit of a dream:

1. Acknowledge, support and and encourage them in areas where they are still in control of their decisions. Applaud their achievements. Admire the character traits — like courage, creativity, persistence — that enable these parts of her life. My aim is to help her remember and feel good about her strengths.

2. Respond authentically to her painful stories. As agreenbean suggested, I show the normal human responses to experiences she is describing. Not analyzing them, or turning them to advice or lessons. Just trying to be a model for how people react normally. I say things like, “That must have been so painful, disappointing, scary, exhausting. If it were me, I think I’d be in tears, angry, confused, really wishing things were different.” I might ask how she’s doing, how she’s handling it. My aim is to get her to take her feelings seriously, rather than the stories she’s telling herself about how they’re wrong, don’t matter, or that she can handle it.

3. Introduce stories of analogous relationships into the conversation, from my own life or something I know about a friend, or found on TV or in a book that particularly struck me. There are a lot of kinds of abuse. It might be a show I saw about horrible bosses or the miners’ strikes in Pennsylvania. It might be about the difficulties faced by a friend who discovered that her child had been raped. Or about discovering that a friend had been stealing from me, or that someone I went to school with was injured in an accident when her drunken husband was driving. I don’t take the next step to compare it to her life. I don’t try to do anything that will trigger her defenses, but only share something I was thinking about, or something I felt bad about. My aim is only to resurrect her ability to think critically about people who hurt or take advantage of other people, the costs involved and maybe the ways that victims resolve their situations.

4. This is probably the touchiest thing, but it can also be helpful — talking about life after the relationship. Like everything else, this has to be handled from the perspective of my own feelings and thoughts, not as advice or pressure. I let her know that I’ve been thinking about how it will be for her when the relationship i over — no matter how it ends. She is probably unable to think much about life without the huge stimulator/stressor of the predator, and that is to be expected. Still, I can let her know that I’ve started putting together mental lists of what she might need when it’s over. Maybe a place to stay, or some new belongings. Maybe a therapist to help with her feelings about it. Maybe a job. Maybe a lawyer. There’s no way to tell exactly what she’ll need, but you’re telling her you’ll be there for her. My aim to encourage her to start imagining the next chapter of her life.

All of this is sensitive business. It’s work and it requires self-control. I can’t share opinions or judgments about her, what she’s doing, or her predatory partner. In every way possible, I’m talking about my own thoughts, feelings and challenges.

In my experience with people involved in these relationship, it is the only way to influence them. And it doesn’t do anything but, hopefully, stimulate the right types of thinking to help them move through the learning experience faster.

It’s hard to watch what they’re doing. Really hard. But sometimes that’s part of being a true friend, being with them while they’re suffering without blaming or judging. I think it’s also a message that they’re worth that kind of friendship.

I look at my own friendships through the years, and the ones that stand out aren’t the ones with people who pressured me to take better care of myself or who loaded me with advice or unwanted offers of help. Rather, they are the one with the people who stuck by me, no matter how wrongheadedly I was behaving, and helped me feel my feelings accurately and give them names. That may sound strange, but sometimes just hearing someone say that she would feel angry if that happened to her empowered me to name my feelings as anger. And that ultimately empowered to act as an angry person should, rather than as a doormat.


Thank you for your post. ESP this section: “Part of the reason a victim cannot leave is the over responding of the nervous system. They bein to react to every trigger and they struggle with people outside of the relationship, while the spath feeds on the over reaction. Without this type of intensive treatement, it is amazing that anyone can leave.”

I left but only when it got to the point where I thought my body was literally dying. I got it together enough to move, but then I collapsed for months afterwards, not healing, not recovering, not even really living. Days turned into weeks. THe pain was NOT going away. One day (must have been feeling better?), I told my brain that I was tired of hurting and since waiting for pain to stop wasn’t working, I decided to look at my body from a third person perspective and experiment on things to heal it. I went to the library and checked out every book on Brain anatomy/physiology they had. To even read the books, I had to go slow and take notes, not b/c I was stupid, but b/c I had lost the ability to comprehend and recall, I could not absorb. So I started small. I forced my brain to go on vacation (b/c I was unable to meditate) so I busied it with Sudoku. 10 minutes several times a day. I forced myself to sit in the sun, 10 min at a time. Everything was 10 minutes. I got lavendar scents, to change the smell of everything into something not normal for me. I stopped eating anything that I had ever eaten when I was with my husband. I did one thing though, I had afternoon tea, the whole ceremony, with bone china cups, real tea, heated pot, and a shortbread biscuit.

These are descriptions of simple things I did to interupt the toxic hold on my brain. As you wrote and I cited, my nervous system was constantly triggered… and I was a Farking nutcase, totally dysfunctional, unable to even remember to take a bath, going weeks without speaking to a single soul, only quick trips to a grocery in the middle of the night so I could avoid ANYBODY. I made NO eye contact, I don’t even remember if I combed my hair. I shut out the world.

I did these things, on my own, with no family, no friends, not a single soul to care b/c my spath made sure there was no one. My message to you is, if a person WANTS to live, and my drive to survive was instinctual, not conscious, there is a way. Can’t help thinking if I did it, there are Millions like me who have done it too. They are here of LF. I am so happy you were able to access your help. It’s a blessing. I have learned we all walk our path and mine is so similar to others that I have “me too” moments, but at the same time, our paths are as individual as we are. I think what helped me was that I was NEVER addicted to my spath. There was no drive to attach to him. At the end, I was staying, waiting to feel better, to get over a stroke, and terribly sick, dependent on a place to live so I could rest. I had desired who I married but who he became was repulsive to me and I avoided him, shutting myself into a room whenever he came into the house. I now can see the path to getting sick, I just didn’t see it when I was INSIDE the abuse.

Thanks for your words, they add to my healing.
ps I am an incredibly improved person. If you met me, now a competent, caretaking, joyfilled person, you would NEVER think me one step from a homeless nutcase, but I was!



I too was struck by the same comment by rebeccap.

And also by what you said, that you did these things on your own, without help or support.

That is also my story and experience… I mean, I did some things that were seeking support, like I went to a domestic violence support group for a short while, but no one came in and rescued me. No one tried. I don’t blame them — they might not have realized, since I did my part to put up a good front to the community.

Back to what rebeccap said: I had been told a few times by therapists, etc. that I was “emotionally reactive” and I needed to STOP!!! Well, I took that as a lot of criticism of who I was! I was offended. I didn’t understand what they meant. I believed that my ability to feel things intensely was a gift, and how dare they criticize. Also, I didn’t see how there was any way I could NOT feel my feelings — and so I felt criticized about that, too.

I have a different understanding now. Amazingly, I have become a lot less emotionally reactive. Now that I know what it is. But it was NOT through any sort of force of will, or any sort of listening to what those therapists told me to do and then just simply doing it. No, it was a very long, hard process, and becoming less emotionally reactive to my spath was a sort of side effect of that process… but it wasn’t anything I was ever able to consciously do: “hey you, stop reacting emotionally!” That just doesn’t work.

What worked for me was being willing and unafraid to look the beast in the eye and see it for what it was. At first it was icky and disgusting and scary. Then, after looking awhile, it was sort of boring and mundane. It is very hard to be emotionally reactive to something that is so … banal. It ceased being personal. It stopped being able to affect me.

But I don’t know how ANYONE could push me to get to that process any more quickly. I had to do the work myself. I think that’s the way it is with these Life Lessons (thank you, Kathleen H for putting it that way!)

I agree the best thing we can do for our friends who are victims is to not abandon them, but to just be there, watching and waiting with compassion (not meddling) and then, provide whatever validation and support they need, when the time is right. As Glinda says, “she had to learn it for herself.”

Ox Drover

Kathleen, GREAT INFORMATION! Very well put! All great suggestions for getting through to someone, or being supportive for those we can’t “get through” to directly. Thank you! Hope you are doing well!

Keep in touch, we miss you when you are gone too [email protected]

Allergic to Spandex

Oh my god, malignant loyalty.

I was tentatively working on a plan to leave the ex-spath back in 2003. And then in the fall of that year, he was finally diagnosed with cancer — prior to that, of course, I had been the Bad Guy for suggesting he take his severe pain to a doctor.

And I thought, “I can’t leave somebody with cancer.” And much, much later, I learned from a woman who had been his lover after he went into remission (but while we were still married, of course) that he told her he only stayed with me because my job had insurance.

I should have dumped him and run for president like Newt Gingrich, right?


Just about fell off my chair, LOL!


I have never tried to get anyone away from a sociopath. Usually I meet people AFTER they have gotten away and have a story to tell. But I once tried to do a one-person intervention with a co-worker who was taking anti-depressants and drinking hard liquor and doing other dangerous things. It backfired on me in a BIG way when she got very angry and attacked me, turning a few people in the office against me. The whole thing was incredibly hurtful to me. If I’d been able to find another job I would have. Fortunately, she just left. To my knowledge, she hasn’t changed, but she is still alive, so maybe she got some help. After that experience, I would think twice about trying to wrestle someone away from an addiction. I learned after a lifetime of trying to heal my sister and my mother that people all have their own path and I can only hold up a mirror of what I see. I cannot make them change.

Ox Drover

LadySweetG, Yea me too, ROTFLMAO that is really funny! LOL Of course he was “loyal” to you as long as he needed your insurance.

I had a sweet aunt whose husband was very physically abusive and she decided to leave the day the last child turned 18, on that day the SOB had a stroke and she took care of him bedridden the next 10 years until he died. Bless her heart! He was a BEAST!


On my journeys to recovery (I took many paths simultaneously to get better), I would ask myself if what I was doing looked like a crazy woman. Many times I had to answer YES. So I’d do things in order to not LOOK crazy. In other words, the behavior came BEFORE the mind healed. It took a LOT of observing my behavior and doing it different before my brain caught up. But at the same time, I was continuing the mind vacations, changing the smell of my home, I got plants from a woman who was moving away and took care of them, I listened to music (I had forgotten I LOVED music, my spath hated music and robbed me of my joy.) I MADE myself sit outside and read. I MADE myself interact with strangers just saying thank you to the store clerk… and sometimes I would get BAD feedback, bizarre looks, snootiness. But I realized they did that b/c of who THEY were, not b/c my spath poisoned them against me. They didn’t know me enough to hate me. WHen I think of it, it was a WEIRD journey, but b/c I’d been beaten down into such a NOTHING, it was a slog to get back to ME.

I applaud you for your journey. As I said, I experienced a LOT of me too’s here on LF, but still, EVERY ones recovery is their own individual path. Our brains have to figure it out; recovery builds upon resolution. I had to stop my brain from spinning before I could calm myself enough to read. I had to read b/f I could process more complex tasks. All, as you said, is done at the pace my brain could handle. It took years of abuse to destroy me, it took a while to regain my humanity.

Bless you. You know, your experience would surely help someone else at that abuse shelter, someone in your same situation needs what you didn’t get. Just a thought.




We all know that the victim’s eyes open slowly. Most people have to come to the conclusion that something is wrong on their own. If you attack their sociopathic partner, they will make excuses for them and defend their behavior.

I have an idea. I was thinking about this on the way home from my internship today. I am interning as a counselor and I was thinking about this in the context of one of my clients.

Suggest that the victim notice the behavior of their partner and write them down WITHOUT any interpretting, excuse making or meaning making.


He promised me X. He did not follow through.
He yelled at me today.
He called me stupid.
He cheated on me.
He said I did X to him but really, he did X to me.

Maybe this is too simple, but the “relationshit” (as Oxy says) is often all in the mind of the victim and not in the real details.

I think all the meaning we make for the behaviors and the “reasons” and the excuses are what sustain the relationship.

When we let go of those made up meanings, reasons, and excuses and are left only with the behaviors, maybe the picture would be more clear?

Perhaps this is too simple. I don’t know. I wonder what others think.

Also, knowing your story (I read the book) and knowing mine, I think James was far more sophisticated than the Bad Man. And they played this differently. Maybe naming the behaviors would have been harder for you since he was so clever.



I think you are right about the list.
After I married my husband, he kept telling me that I was remembering things wrong. That he didn’t talk down to me, say certain hurtful things, that certain conversations NEVER happened. So I started keeping a journal, b/c I was honestly worried that I was imagining things. (At one time, I had worked LONG hours and after too many 36 hr shifts, I would dream I was at work and when at work, I’d lean against a table and dream I was dreaming I was at work. So I worried that I was mixing up dreams and reality again.)

The journal became my proof that I was being gaslighted.
A list in the third person perspective, that would be hard b/c I FELT more things than had hard evidence. For ex: I FELT he was ridiculing me but when I followed up, he had an explanation that made me seem paranoid. I got set up a lot, where I would respond and then he’d do something b/c I had “driven him to it”. Took a long time for me to understand I’d been manipulated. My thing is that the list is difficult when the behavior is covert and implied… yet no less mindfarking, just more insidious.

But for overt behaviors, I think the list is perfect.


I think this wouldn’t necessarily work for anyone. It’s more of planting a seed, now that I think about it.

How did we get away, anyway?



Yeah.. I was wondering how this would have worked for a really sneaky Sociopath.

Do you remember my old article about The List?

The thing is, I did this… the list… AFTER I left him to help keep my brain on track when I started to want him back or started to think about the fantasy and not the reality.

I have used the lists idea with client’s in therapy as a therapy homework. It seems like it has been helpful… but what do I know? I only have training wheels on. :O)



Actually I think it’s a good seed for the victims of a sneak attacker. Writing down the incident and then the evidence WHY it felt that way helps to label behaviors being perpetrated. It’s a little detective work that is needed when someone is gaslighting a victim. I’d rather have been wrong; that there was a simple explanation. BUT what I NEEDED (rather than wanted) was to KNOW TO PROTECT MYSELF.

You see, one of the best benefits of my recording events in my journal was putting things on a timeline. For ex: My husband would say something didn’t happen b/c he was out of town that day. And yet, my journal was dated and timed, so I KNEW he was NOT out of town. That proved he LIED.

Therefore, a LIST might not have worked for me, but a TIMELINE application of a list would reveal what a Mindfarker he was.

Sometimes an idea is MORE than an idea. Don’t give up on it, EXPAND IT!

Ox Drover

Since most psychopaths LIE….when we catch them in a lie….write it down….I think the lies themselves as they accumulate would show a PATTERN.


oh yes, keeping track of the truths in your mind and sometimes ignoring the emotions helps you have a different perspective on things.

trust me.

i think the largest thing anyone can do for themselves if they are in the situation we have all been through is to continue believing in ourselves. remembering ‘who’ we are and ‘what’ we stand for and believe in and ‘what’ we find acceptable and not acceptable. just believing in yourself and putting yourself on that path TO yourself is the hugest one thing we can do to get out from under this ‘dark cloud’ that has hung over us far too long.

oh yes, keeping track of situations, words said, deeds done…definitely. when it gets to the point that you find it unacceptable, it is okay to turn the other way and to focus on ourselves and not feel selfish at all but self surviving.

love and blessings to you all…


Ox Drover

Once upon a time I was dealing with a woman I really didn’t know too well, and she told a very good story about how her previous employer had abused her….and how her boy friend/business partner had abused her and ya da, ya da.

My short term memory isn’t all that good any more, hasn’t been since the plane crash, but I was getting a gut feeling about this woman. So I wrote down some of her tales while they were fresh in my mind….and after a few days I began to see a PATTERN of things with her that didn’t add up….then she began to try to get me to “invest” in some things…and well, you know, I never did know all the truth about this woman, but I did realize that I did not want to be sucked into her “investments” or anything else with her.

When people abuse us, keeping a list of the abuse or attempted abuse attempts without the EMOTIONAL baggage that goes with it, just like Sgt. Joe Friday the TV detective when I was a kid “JUST THE FACTS, MAM” It won’t take a long list of these things for us to SEE that the person (separate from the emotions tied to them) is not a good fit for us as a friend/lover/ etc and it makes it easier to cut the “TIES THAT BIND.” I think.

When my old college buddy that I had taken to hanging out with started to kind of “get greedy” in various transactions we did, I NOTED those things—but I EXCUSED THEM—but the the last one, the changing a small but important agreement (the amount of dollars amounted to 56) but causing me a bunch of TROUBLE tipped it over the scale. My ANGER at this made me react and stand up, but if I had been more aware and less excusing of the PAST PROBLEMS the last one wouldn’t have been so upsetting emotionally I think and would have made it easier.

I think not only do we need to learn something (and I think Kathy Hawk’s methods described above sound GREAT!) about how to try to “get through” to others but we also need to be able to “get through” to OURSELVES when someone is being abusive.

The fact we met and dealt with one (or more) psychopaths or abusers doesn’t mean we won’t come across another one at work, our neighborhood or where ever. We need to prepare ourselves as well.


This is a timely article for us! My husband and I were in the position five years ago of being one of the whistle blowers on the man our niece was to marry. A liar, con artist, manipulator and fraud. We found this site and asked for assistance and learned so much about sociopaths and predators. Many of you predicted that we may not be able to get through to her and her immediate family. They were right about that and we were cast out of their lives.

Our niece did marry him, did stay with him several years and finally kicked him out. He was arrested within 10 months of that and has been in jail for almost 2 years. He pled quilty and worked out a plea bargain.

I thankfully can post this on 3/9/11 ~ he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, plus 3 years probation. He delayed his sentencing many times and thought he was the smartest person in the courtroom. Attempted to fire his public defender. Showed no remorse for anything he did.

Unfortunately, we have had no contact with our niece or her family. They all moved out of state and have nothing to do with any family. I am sure they feel like most of you, wanting to bury this away and never speak of it to anyone. The evil of this individual goes way beyond the money involved and the judge made a point of this throughout the sentencing hearings. She gave him above and beyond what the plea bargain was set at.

I now have faith in the justice system, and hope that judges like her keep up the good work.

Ox Drover

Dear Inquirente,

I vaguely remember your story. I am sorry that you at least did not reestablish contact with your niece after he was arrested. I am glad though that the justice system worked for you! I hope that your niece and her family do recover, but it is work and it must be focused and accepting of the TRUTH in order to heal. God bless you and your family.


not sure where to post..

Im new to this but I can relate to most of it. I dont know where to start. I have a plethora of lies and deceptions of which all were turned back on me and explained away. I met him online, my final shot. He was attentive, interesting and different. Eccentric. That was nearly a year ago. I broke up with him 7mths into it cos he lied incessantly and always had a story to cover. Things just got more and more strange. I took him back but his responses -where emotion was required- just didnt add up. So many things on the ’list’ he fits. I just wrangle with is it my issues or is he really a sociopath? my friends dont know him (he never came to anything to meet them) and think im going overboard when I call him a sociopath.
Too many doubts keep making me want to go back. But I know something is so very wrong there. I just wish I had something concrete to hold onto so I could maintain NC. and forget him. Its the weirdest relationship Ive ever had I just cant work it out in my head and that whats holding me back from moving on. My brain is toasted by his talk and charm. Promises that never came about, strange disappearances, ex girlfriends that hes lying about seeing, dodgy sex requests, idealizing and then devaluing. His manipulations and trickery. Im seriously going mad. Help me. Before this I was a confident professional (and outdoorsy) corporate fit and happy now Im a walking shell that crys most days and obsesses about this guy.


Dear Joss,
“welcome to the club”. You seem to “qualify”, unfortunately. It is normal to feel the way you seem to feel, completely un-normal. I recommend you to read the articles in the archive, for me the ones of Kathleen Hawk were very enlightening. In the beginning it will be about “them”, but will soon become a very important lesson about yourself. Please feel free to write here, anytime there is someone online. Unfortunately the Spaths are all over the world. Welcome.


Hi Everyone! Just celebrated one full year of no contact. This question really intrigued me. What exactly was it that opened my eyes finally and made me see that the reality that he created for me wasn’t real?

It was a text message from one of the six other women he was seeing/using. It was like reading something I had written myself. That woman lived my life! She knew things only I should have known. She had been played the same way I had. Each line of her text hit me like a slap in the face. “I paid the child support for his son in Cuba”, “he cries huge crocodile tears when he wants something”, “he’s a grown man, he can get a job, it was like having a 4th child”, “he cheated on me with at least 2 other women and threw it in my face”. And she repeated intimate details of our sexual encounters that only he and I should have known.

That text changed my world. There was no way I couldn’t believe her. It was my life she was describing, except it was her life.

So, my great idea is, and I’d love to see this done, a movie or tv series needs to be made. But instead of the psychopath character being the murderous Ted Bundy type, as most psychopath’s are portrayed, the character or characters need be the more common type that most of us have dealt with in our relationships.

Then we would have a movie to give to our friend to watch and hope they can see the similarity in their life with a psychopath to the one in the movie.

It can star Brad Pitt. -_-

Feeling good and loving life!

Denise Guiney

Hey Joss,

You are doing great working out pretty quickly that this is not a good thing when some of us here have not been so smart or perhaps been conned by guys even smarter than the one who tried it on with you. Your story sounds so familiar to me. What that scenario you described to very dangerous is vulnerability caused by children, a death or other trauma, or some kind of context which the con can exploit to intensify the situation and get uber sympathy. Do not go back. If something bad happens in your life do not let that make you vulnerable enough to go back to that person. Stay away, that person has their life compartmentalized and is probably doing the same thing to several other people just like you at the same time. Hang around and keep reading and also read up on PUA techniques. Your guy is using them on you and keeping it up. There should be a new abbreviation KIUA (keeping it up artists) or SAA (string along artists). I hate him for what he is deliberately doing to you.

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