Editors note: Here’s a letter Lovefraud received from a reader whom we’ll call “Charlotte18.” Donna Andersen’s response follows the letter.
About a year ago, my husband was arrested for kidnapping a couple of friends of ours. Since then, I have been discovering so many other nefarious things he was doing behind my back, such as stealing money for a living, having relations with other men, committing tax fraud, and the list goes on.
As I look back on our relationship, nearly every one of the items you listed on your checklist ring true for our relationship, but I was very blind to them before his arrest, except for the gaslighting. I called him out on that about three months before his arrest and he responded angrily that I was crazy and didn’t know how good I had it.
So recently, I have been preparing to write an autobiography of my painful experiences, and I’ve been looking through some of his journaling and writing. (He was a pack rat and kept EVERYTHING. Even writing assignments from grade school, high school and college.) As I’ve been looking through these, I’m noticing that all of his teachers only had good things to say about him. All of the letters he kept from friends only have praises of his character and amazing friendship. And he always seemed to me to be a wonderful person too, until I looked back at our relationship after his arrest with clearer eyes.
So my question is, can someone be a really good person and healthy psychologically, but then at some point in their adult life become a narcissist or a sociopath? Or is a narcissist always born a narcissist, and he was just able to hide it all through his youth and young adulthood?
We met when he was 19 and married a few years later. He was so very loving and romantic then. Looking back, I can’t really pinpoint when things started going downhill, but I’d say it was around 8-10 years into the marriage, so about when he was in his early thirties.
I’m struggling with this, because I know what is truth and I know that our marriage of nearly twenty years was a complete fraud on his part. I found out he was lying to me with absolutely no remorse for the full twenty years about having affairs with other men. But when I look back on his writing and the accolades he received from his teachers and friends, it becomes muddied and confusing.
Donna Andersen responds
First of all, I am very sorry for what you are enduring. It is such a shock to find out that everything you believed about your husband, relationship and marriage was a lie.
The subject line of your email asked, “Is he really a narcissist?” Based on what you’ve described, I think your husband could be diagnosed as having antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy.
All antisocials and psychopaths are also narcissists, but not all narcissists are antisocial or psychopathic. The difference seems to be in the level of malevolence. Narcissists are so focused on their own desires and issues that they don’t notice when they hurt other people. Antisocials and psychopaths know they are hurting others, but don’t care.
You said that your husband kidnapped people, stole money for a living and committed tax fraud. These are all criminal behaviors — especially kidnapping. Criminal behavior is associated with antisocial personality disorder.
His sexual behavior is also indicative of antisocial personality disorder. Let me be clear — I am not saying that homosexuals are antisocial. I doubt very much that he is homosexual, bisexual or even confused about his sexuality. Sociopaths typically have an extremely strong sex drive. But they also get bored quickly, so many engage in same-sex involvements because they want to manipulate the target, or they simply want to try something new and different. For more information, please read my previous article:
When you called him out on his gaslighting behavior, he said you were crazy and attacked you. This is a typical disordered response. Nothing is ever their fault. They try to turn the issues around and blame you. When someone blames others for everything that goes wrong, this is a big red flag that you’re probably dealing with an antisocial, narcissist or psychopath.
It’s funny that you mention your husband is a pack rat — my ex-husband was also. Not wanting to pry, I never looked through all his file boxes of papers — until I learned that he was cheating on me. When I finally went through his documents, I found evidence of his involvement with 20 to 30 other women — many of whom were asking for their money back.
You found documents from your husband’s grade school, high school and college years that were full of praise for him. So I’ll summarize your main question as this, “How could a wonderful young man turn into an evil sociopath?”
It is possible that your husband was, indeed, delightful while young. Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder typically appear around puberty. But in some cases, behaviors like lying can be seen in small children, and in other cases the behaviors may not appear until early adulthood. So while most sociopaths exhibit manipulative and exploitative behaviors as teenagers, some do not.
There is also the possibility that your husband was, in fact, disordered at a young age, and had everyone snowed. Last month I posted a link to an article on Quora.com that asked the question: “How do psychopaths behave as children, especially around other children their age?”
Several people who described themselves as psychopaths answered the question. One said, “Behaved very well around my parents and other figures of authority, because behaving well meant that I could get away with more if I were caught.” This guy knew exactly what he was doing while young, and maybe your husband did also.
So here’s a question for you. Why would your husband even have letters from friends that praise his character and their amazing friendship in the first place? I have several lifelong friends, and although I think they have good opinions of me, none of them has ever written me a letter to express it.
Did your husband ask for these letters? If so, why? Or worse yet, did he write the letters himself?
My psychopathic ex presented me with lots of documentation describing what a successful and heroic man he was. I later found out that it was all forged.
According to your letter, about eight to 10 years into your marriage, when your husband was in his early 30s, your relationship started going downhill. I’d say that your husband was probably disordered long before then, but he became less worried about keeping his mask in place. Perhaps he felt like he had control over you, so he didn’t have to try so hard.
Or, perhaps his bad behavior escalated. Remember, sociopaths get bored. Whatever his misdeeds when he was young, they were no longer interesting, so to get the same thrill he needed more dangerous behavior. Or, his confidence grew, so he thought he could get away with more.
There is also the possibility that he was always bad, and you simply didn’t see it. You were young when you met this man. Perhaps as you matured, you figured out that there was something wrong with his behavior.
What to do today
Everyone who realizes they were involved with a sociopath tries to understand what happened. You try to make sense of the situation, and understanding the disorder is important for that.
But the key now is to realize that there is no treatment and no rehabilitation for personality disorders. Now that your husband is a full-blown sociopath, he will never change. You need to do everything you can to protect yourself and your children.