By February 4, 2016 34 Comments Read More →

For Sociopaths, It’s All About Them–Even When You’re Sick


Before I met “Paul,” (the man I married, who I realized about twenty years too late must be a sociopath) I had a friend who may not have known about sociopaths, but she knew to call off her engagement to “Mr. Right” because of a cold and a sandwich.

Make Your Own Damn Sandwich!

Carol was smart, motivated, kind, outgoing, upbeat, and gorgeous. She was clearly a “catch,” and she had come very close to marrying handsome, rich, well-connected “Mr. Right.”

One day, Carol was not feeling well and was lying on the couch amidst sniffles, cough drops, and tissues. Her fiancé chose that moment to ask her to make him a sandwich.

“If someone’s going to expect me to make him a sandwich when I’m the one who’s sick, and he just wants to be waited on, well, that’s that,” Carol told me. In that moment, she knew she was going to end the engagement, and she did.

I remember being shocked. Ending an engagement over who’s going to make a sandwich? Maybe he wasn’t feeling well. Maybe he didn’t realize how sick she was. Maybe he just forgot she was sick. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. (See how my “empathy” is setting me up to give someone the benefit of the doubt who doesn’t deserve it? I’m learning to be better about that.)

But, maybe Carol was right. Maybe there was no excuse for her fiancé asking her to make him a sandwich in that situation. None! It signaled inherent selfishness, entitlement, and perhaps a lack of empathy. It was a rare gift, as it allowed a glimpse of his real character. It was a deal breaker. Despite the lost money and dashed egos resulting from halting plans for the wedding, Carol ended their engagement.  She had no regrets.

Don’t Make Excuses; Pay Attention, Connect The Dots

With Paul, I brushed off the “Could you make me a sandwich?” moments, excused them away, and then forged ahead. In fact, I even patted myself on the back for being understanding, flexible, and giving Paul the benefit of the doubt—things my family had always encouraged me to do for people when I was growing up.  Big mistake!

What Happened When I Got Sick?

I got the flu before Christmas the first year Paul and I were dating. As New Year’s Eve rolled around, I was still weak and exhausted.  Paul and I decided to stay in and have a quiet evening, punctuating the New Year with a champagne toast. Even when I’m feeling well, I’m not a night owl, so by 10:30, I was fighting sleep and losing badly. I knew I could not stay awake until midnight. Of course, Paul would understand.

“I can’t believe it,” Paul said, making no attempt to camouflage his cutting tone. Then, shifting to his velvety voice, which distracted me from the content of his words, he continued, “Who can’t stay up ”˜til midnight on New Year’s? I love New Year’s Eve. It’s soooo romantic. Why don’t you just make some coffee? I really want to ring in the New Year together.”

Where’s The Empathy?

Caught off-guard, I made excuses for Paul’s behavior. Maybe he was looking forward to sharing our first New Year’s Eve together so much that he was just disappointed. Maybe he didn’t realize how tired I actually was. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Feeling guilty (as he must have intended), I made coffee, struggled to stay awake, and shared a New Year’s champagne toast with Paul before collapsing into bed.

In actuality, this was something else altogether: a red flag, although a subtle one. (After all, I was sick, but I wasn’t being rushed to the hospital.) Paul’s behavior reflected a complete lack of empathy for me. Even though I was physically and emotionally spent, Paul demanded that I prop myself up with caffeine so as not to disappoint him. He didn’t even offer to make the coffee! Someone who really cared about me would have been sympathetic to how I felt and maybe offered to make me a cup of chamomile tea and tuck me in with a gentle kiss on my forehead.

No Excuse For No Empathy

Paul’s trivial need to have me with him as the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve trumped my health and fatigue. Not making your ill partner or ill children the priority is apparently not just common to my experience with a sociopath, it’s common to other victims of sociopaths as well.  It was a theme that replayed throughout my marriage to Paul–even in situations involving our children’s health and in future situations involving my health when the stakes were much higher.

A red flag triggered by health issues (even a small ailment) should never be ignored.  It signals that someone might be a sociopath. No matter how trivial the health issue might be–Carol’s cold or my exhaustion—if your partner’s response shows a lack of empathy, run. (But, if your partner might be a sociopath, be sure to get advice so you can exit the relationship safely.)

Footnote—Discount Public Displays Of Empathy

How someone responds to you in public when you are ill isn’t a good indicator of whether or not they are sociopathic.  Remember, sociopaths are great actors and they love playing the role of attentive partner when there’s an audience. Adulation from others not only fuels them, but so does your confusion and distress caused by their inconsistent behavior. Being a doting partner in public and a dismissive one in private is a win-win for a sociopath.  A contrast between how a partner responds to your health needs in public versus in private may be another important red flag.

My own cautionary tale of unwittingly investing almost twenty years of my life into a relationship with a sociopath and sometimes diverting from the best path, is chronicled in my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via As I don’t get a “do over,” hopefully some of my painful lessons can help others impacted by these toxic people.

Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.

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34 Comments on "For Sociopaths, It’s All About Them–Even When You’re Sick"

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sorry abt typos hard to see the whole thing on my phone.

No worries! I always get the gist and understand.

Such a great article! Thank you for posting it.

In the early 90’s, after divorcing my overt narcissist and experiencing the smear campaign, the ugliness and the lies, (which took 5 years!), I was committed to making sure that I didn’t marry that, (whatever that was!), again. I didn’t know about Narcissism. I didn’t know that there is an overt and a covert. So guess what? The next man I married was a covert Narcissist. Sometime after we were married, one of my coworkers asked me, “So is life easier now?”. And I remember being really confused because the answer was no. It wasn’t easier. Why? I didn’t know. Public displays of affection, coldness in private. Public displays that we were a team, in private, I was doing it all. It was harder to figure out the covert N because he was so careful, so cunning.

The beauty of this personality disorder is that once you “get it”. Once you are on to “it”. It stops fooling you. Once you realized you are being played. You are being conned. Your very humanness is being used against you. You awaken to understanding the disorder and both it’s forms, overt and covert. And after some time you realize, they are one trick ponies. They do the same thing over and over and over. This gives you strength in understanding. But more than that, it showed me where my boundaries were weak. I am not sure where I first saw this, but the idea was the “The Boundary of Responsibility”. Because I had no boundary there at all, it was easy to take advantage of me. My giving heart, my kindness, was used, (and not just by my husbands, by family and so called friends too.). I have remarked that I felt like an extra pantry. People would just stop by, take what they wanted and leave. Why did no one care about me? I see now they took because I let them. I didn’t have a healthy boundary around responsibility. I didn’t care about me.

If I had been sick on the couch and ANYONE had asked for a sandwich, I would have gotten up and made it. I have come a long way. I now would have the healthy boundary to say, I love you, but I am not able to make a sandwich for you.

This has required letting go of everyone in my life but my son, (who is not an N). So I am standing at the dawn of my new life. I am not sure where it is going to take me, but I do know that I now carry with me and very deep understanding of Narcissism and some very healthy boundaries. Surely, my tribe of nice caring people are out there somewhere. I hope to find them.

I want to add that your friend who ended her engagement had great boundaries. She cared about herself. She cared about what kind of life she was going to have with this person who clearly didn’t care about her. She cared more about that than she did about money or status.

So moving forward, I really am not interested in having conversations with those who want me to make them a sandwich when I am sick, (been there, done that). I am looking forward to the wonderful souls that I will bring into my life, who would say, “you don’t feel well. Let me make you something to eat”.

When that happens, I think I might leap off the couch completely healed! (jk).

Have not posted here in awhile but this article hit home for me. Been away from my crazy ex for 2 years now and the garbage is still happening, unfortunately i have children with her so i can not totally ignore her.

I remember back around 2008 i got the stomach flu, i vomited 3 times that night and had the runs for 2 days as well as a high temp. Was dehydrated and exhausted and stuck on the couch for almost 3 days feeling and smelling like death, i could barely get up to use the bathroom. She came home from work one night and i managed to get the fire going and was on the couch close to it with sweats on and a blanket over me still shivering from fever and she proceeded to chew me out asking me if i was going to bother to stoke the fire or just be lazy. Never offered to get me anything the whole time either.

I will never forget that, how cold and nasty these people can be in your time of need no matter how many times you were there for them in their time of need.

I also had very early warnings through my sociopath husband’s attitude to my a brief spell of illness when I contracted a virus, which was probably a streptococcal strain but caused my fingers to swell up immensely and my body to endure intense stabbing pains and chills. I took to my bed for about 24 hours and was told to ‘pull myself together’ by the sociopath. Still I stayed and disregarded this comment (even tho I felt it cruel and unfeeling). Then, a year later I was 10 weeks pregnant with his baby and started to bleed with intense stomach cramp but he had planned for us to take his children to a Christmas Market and shopping centre the next day and I requested I stay at home as I wasn’t well. He called me a miserable, Self-centred lazy cow and so I went and actually miscarried in the toilet there. I still continued the ‘relationship’ as he came to see me in the day at the hospital, where he sat on my bed, making himself comfortable in his Army uniform, in the knowledge that his boss said he could take as long as he needed with me!

OMG…how horrible…and what a blatant SP asshole…

i hope that he is gone from your life.

Yes he has but he took me for everything I had financially too and has impregnated further women since but not remained with them or supported them financially. Some women he has also conned financially to a lesser extent than he did with me and he is so glib that he moves easily from one to another in 6-8 month periods usually.

OMG! I just had to comment. This was exactly my honeymoon. For a week before my wedding, I felt a virus coming on. I went to the doctor for some antibiotics to try to nip it in the bud and it worked. I made it through the wedding. The next day we were on our way to Hawaii and I woke up with a fever and aches. I couldn’t back out and hoped I would feel better later. I didn’t. I had a fever on and off for four days of our seven day honeymoon and everyday, my husband got me out of bed at 6:00am to take a tour or rent a car to go somewhere. He had absolutely no empathy for me and made me feel like I was the bad person for wanting to at least sleep in.

Thank you for this article. I have been divorced for 1 1/2 years now after 20 years of marriage. I still sometimes struggle with the feeling that maybe I could have done something to “fix it.” Your blog has helped me to move forward and understand that I am ok.

Great article. I was enlightened post my personal experiences with a narcissistic ex about the concept of the ‘benefit of the doubt’ (which came up in the article) and its inherent dangers. Something that we (victims of sociopaths) gave away far too easily in the past. Once you realise that your good nature can be manipulated it is clear that ‘giving’ away benefit of the doubt is in fact putting yourself at risk when there are signs that the other person may not be what they seem. Don’t give away the benefit of the doubt. You can reserve judgement – but never put yourself in a position of weakness just to be ‘nice’ to someone else or because they may have had problems in the past. We have all had problems. You should not be gambling your emotional well being on the chance someone is ok. They are responsible for themselves just as we are responsible for ourselves.

I have neighbors like that.

I had double pneumonia, and my ex-husband told me he was “so incredibly sorry, but he had to work,” leaving me at home alone with our three year old daughter. At one point our child was hungry, and I got dizzy just trying to heat up soup for us, and had to lie down before I fainted. I called him at work, but SHOCKER, he was not there. He had actually taken his mistress out wine tasting in a county two hours away, endangering not only my life, but the life of our child. He is now married to her, and I told her she was welcome to take him.

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