Lovefraud recently received the following letter from a reader:
My ex has almost all the characteristics I have read on your site. He lies habitually, is financially irresponsible, and lets the burden fall on friends and family, and he started to burden me from the beginning financially on a small scale. I had hints in the beginning that he was a jerk when he disrespected my father (I wasn’t sure at the time if it was on purpose, or inadvertent), but at the same time it was confusing because he seemed so pleasant, helpful and charming. He also cooked for me every night and helped me with my kids, but as far as work goes, he was lazy and lied about working at times. He borrowed small amounts of money from me, which I stopped lending him right away; I was not stupid about him in that respect. At the end he lived with me for 4 months, and never contributed much financially, that’s one reason I ended it finally. And the lying got to be too much; I don’t know what I was thinking. I do not know of any infidelity, but I suppose it’s possible.
His family actually admitted to me that he lies all the time, that’s just him. He finally admitted it to me in a round about way that he does lie, but he said that his family finds it “endearing” of all things!!
He also got psycho when I broke it off, just like in your article — he even admitted himself to the hospital complaining of heart problems. He was there 2 days and was then sent home as being fine, and they sent him home with Xanex. While he was there he called me for pity, saying he was there because I broke up with him.
But what throws me off a little is that he appears to be, if anything, abnormally attached to his daughter. It seems overbearing at times. Later in our relationship I saw sometimes total disregard for her in other less obvious ways, which I found off. The other thing that throws me off is he was very physically affectionate with me, and very clingy, almost codependent that way. And he does have friends from childhood who live out of state (who I have met) but he’s lived in Florida for about 10 years and has no real friends here. He is very close with his family.
Could he still be a sociopath???
Psychopathy, also called sociopathy, is a syndrome. A syndrome is defined as “a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder, disease or the like.”
The key symptoms of psychopathy, according to Dr. Robert Hare, are the following:
- Glib and superficial
- Egocentric and grandiose
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Lack of empathy
- Deceitful and manipulative
- Shallow emotions
- Poor behavior controls
- Need for excitement
- Lack of responsibility
- Early behavior problems
- Adult antisocial behavior
However, not all psychopaths have all the symptoms. Plus, psychopaths can have the symptoms to varying degrees. For example, some—perhaps the one described in the letter—may not have a pronounced need for excitement. They may be content to find some chump to support them and then sit on their butts. But if the person had all the other traits—well, he or she may very well have the personality disorder.
Holding on to hope
I’ve heard from several Lovefraud readers who seem to be holding on to the hope that a person is not a psychopath because he or she doesn’t exhibit one of the behaviors. One woman said that although her boyfriend exhibited all the other traits, he never tried to get money from her, so maybe he wasn’t really a psychopath. Another wrote that her boyfriend would kiss her with what seemed like such depth of emotion—how could he be lacking in empathy?
One of the markers of a budding psychopath is that as a child, he or she is cruel to animals. My ex-husband, James Montgomery, seemed to love animals. He owned several dogs and took mine for a walk every morning. He brought home four exotic pets—a hedgehog, two sugar gliders, and a chinchilla. Once the chinchilla got loose and caught his foot in a humidifier, which sent him into shock. My husband performed chinchilla CPR, and the animal recovered. Did any of this make him less of a psychopath? Absolutely not. He was quite happy to take a quarter million dollars from me, cheat on me throughout our short marriage, have a child with another woman and then commit bigamy to marry her.
Don’t quibble about one missing trait
So, here is how I replied to the letter above:
There are degrees to which someone can be a sociopath—some are worse than others. It is also possible to have several personality disorders or conditions at the same time. This is called “co-morbidity.” Your ex definitely sounds like he has sociopathic traits, but he could also have other problems.
The attention paid to his daughter could be for show. Sociopaths often act like they care—when it is all a charade. The fact that he also disregarded her is telling.
Sociopaths are highly sexual. It may be difficult to tell whether there was actual affection involved.
Whatever his problems are, it is good that you are away from him.
If someone has come into your life who has most of the symptoms of a psychopath, don’t quibble about the one or two that may not be very pronounced. When most of the traits are present, run, don’t walk, for the nearest exit.