lf2

LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: How can I help my children not suffer?


Editor’s note: Lovefraud has received another question from Andrea, who wrote in a month ago. If you have any suggestions for her, please share them.

I am looking for some strong advice on how to help my children deal with their father ”¦ my ex ”¦ who is a sociopath. We have been divorced for 4 years and I have been terrified of this man. Not so much physically, but more just afraid of his bullying and threats. Even though people have told me that his threats are just words and he cannot follow through on them, it is still hard when he is so confident that he is so right and I am so wrong. I have tried very hard to take the high road through all of this and he falls in this gray area between legal and illegal, but suffers no consequences. I have been told that once I stop letting him get to me, he will get bored and move on to someone else.

Recently, I have broken free of his hold and I don’t care anymore. I’ve started living my life and doing what I want. I’ve met a new man who was in the Marines and is an avid hunter. My son has expressed interest in hunting and went with him one day. My ex found out about it the night before and went insane. He told my son that he forbade him to go, but I told my son that he was with me and I was allowing it. My ex started calling the house at 1:15 in the morning and called for about an hour. I tried to talk with him one time, but it was ridiculous. He told me he would stop paying child support and would fight for sole custody if I let him go. (Wish I had that all on tape). Anyway, I let him go because there was no danger, he had an apprentice hunting license, and he was with me that weekend. Now my ex has decided to bully my son. It has been horrible. He is now threatening him and scaring him with things that he can’t possible do. Even though I try to explain to my son what he’s doing, it’s too hard for a 12 year old to comprehend. My son is withdrawn, angry and scared. He won’t talk to me very much, so I don’t exactly know what he’s thinking or how to help him.

How can I help my son (and daughter eventually) not suffer? Has anyone had any similar experiences? My biggest fear is that my son will just give in to my ex and do what he says to keep the peace ”¦ to get positive attention from his dad. The worst case scenario would be my son moving in with him when he’s 14 (something that my ex is working on because he knows it will hurt me). How much should I tell my children? How can I help them? We already have a pact that anything that happens at our house stays between us ”¦ terrible, I know ”¦ but it’s the only way to keep them safe (emotionally).

Thanks for any advice I can get.


Comment on this article

136 Comments on "LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: How can I help my children not suffer?"

Notify of

Andrea,
My heart goes out to you for the courage it has taken for you to survive and move forward with your life. I also have children with my ex Sociopath, and although they are older, it has been very difficult. I would suggest counseling for them to deal with this, as the counselor would be able to provide age appropriate suggestions for this issue that will be affecting them for the rest of their lives. I also suggest that you be very gentle with yourself, as I have had to deal with the guilt of being attracted to this person in the first place. Then I have to remind myself that I wouldn’t have my children if I hadn’t have met him. I had to learn the hard way that anything I said to my children about their father only caused them to pull further away from me and toward him, and my concern was, and continues to be, that he will harm them, not physically, but with the example he sets. There is nothing there for them to respect, and he has given them no role model to follow. I have had to realize that I can’t control the situation, but I CAN pray for my children, that out of this, good will come for them. I think this is one of the ugliest issues I have had to deal with – that my children will never know a father who loves them. Andrea, I am so greatful that you happened onto this site, and hope you will continue to watch for others who have had this experience. My prayers are with you and your precious children.

I just asked this question of Matt on another post. How do I let my kids know their father’s behavior is not normal, his g/f’s behavior is not what to look for in a women, my daughter 15 has no example of what to look for in a man.

And I offered a prime example of how to tolerate anything and make excuses for their dad -defend and uphold him – till now.

We know it is more dangerous for thewm to be around the NS emotionally – but what do we do?

Can our example really offset what they see from the other parent?

It is hard to heal ourselves let alone judge what will be best for the kids sometimes.

My D15 has limited contact because of his behaviors – by her own choice.

My son 10 is befuddled – confused – catching on -but still wishes away the bad stuff.

And his dad manipulates him l;ike a pro.

Is time on our side? Will the kids eventually come to their own conclusions?

Or is there a risk that due to their own personalities they are even more susceptible to the S?

My d has more sense than me and told me to give it up 3 years ago.

My son is a tender morsel and tries to please everyone -not good. Although he will express his feelings to me, he will only tell his father some things – and only over the phone.

OK – prime example. I just got a call from the after school care that my son was not picked up at the usual time.

Disney dad doesn’t even call to say he will be there an hour later than my son 10 is accustomed to.

And now I worry -do I have to go get him? This is why I never asked the moron to do anything – unreliable!!!!!

“How can I help my son (and daughter eventually) not suffer?”

Even as parents, we can do only so much to protect teach and guild them when completing their own autonomy. My youngest was at the age of 11 when his mother left him. Even through she wanted a relationship with both of my children either one wanted that from her. Too much wrong was done to both of them and they knew that even before we understood was a personality disorder was. My oldest at the time was 14 years of age even had the ideal that maybe if we didn’t call her, she would get the ideal and just quit trying to have a relationship with them. Sorry to say but that didn’t work. She just used the phone like a weapon and continued to hassle them by phone calls letters and birthday cards. Not until (again before we even knew about NC) we stopped all physical contact with their mother did she get the ideal. But then again, it wasn’t like she have any other choose. We cut all phone ties and correspondents and they never once responded whenever she sent them letter or cards. The last birthday cards were receive back in 2007. But they did both write just one letter to her in July 2006, which is as followed: *Note to reader their mother left them on May 22, 2006*

7-27-06 (Both received Birthday cards from her, but JJ was throw away. These cards were so surreal and I believe hurt them both emotionally. Anyway JJ told me he didn’t know what to believe in his card, in short what was a lie or what was the truth. J didn’t want it so I threw it away but wish later I didn’t. J Birthday card I saved but both cards said better much the same almost word for word..

hi J.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! (smiley face drawn)

I miss you a whole lot. I hope your summer is going ok.
I have been trying to call but no ever answers the phone. Im sending you some money to buy something you enjoy.
How are you doing? We are fine R is into everything- he gets yelled at and alot of time outs, he goes to a babysitter when I go to work, he cried at first when I left but now he is okay with it, it is storming here today, It is really foggy everyday-because where we are is in a valley there are alot of hills (mountains) all around us. I want you and Josh to come out and visit a weekend if you would like that.
You can call me anytime you want to I start work at 730 in the morining and im back home about 230 300 p
Please call me, I miss you. I love you xxoo
take care

love (smiley face drawn) mom

[her Wisconsin phone number]

Happy Birthday
Say hi to JJ,

Because the children would tell DC over and over again on the phone that they didn’t wish to speak to her on the phone and never would come and visit. As stated in the journal we all decided that maybe a written letter from both boys would get the point across to her. My sons both told DC many many times they didn’t wish to talk with her on the phone but she just refused to validate their wishes.

JJ’s letter was type:

D,

I have been meaning to write this letter so I can stop all this nonsense. first things first stop calling I don’t want to talk not now not never. Second this is the only letter I’m going to write so don’t write ever. cause I wont write back. got it. Third I don’t want to see you or visit you keep that in mind. forth don’t ever call my friends, they don’t need to get in tangled with this, also stop asking “how is your summer”, It sucks got it. not to say but I’m sick of the lies and the crap you keep saying, one other thing is me, J and dad cant be more happy that you left so stop calling and writing letters it just get us all mad again about your stupid stuff so let us be, got it. this is all I got to say so leave us alone.

PS. leave us alone

JJ signed….

J was handwritten:

I do not want to visit, see, or talk with you. I do not want to live with you. You made me feel bad, when you left and lied to me, you said his name was Williams but it was Worman. Why did you lie to me? don’t call me any more, I don’t want to talk wit you. I want to live wit JJ and Dad. Why do you keep calling us? I love R and hope he is doing fine I want this to end, stop calling me. Dont right back

p.s. My summer sucks how is your summer?

These two letter from my sons were the hardest letter I ever had to read. It still bring me emotional pain even to this day…..

Your children too like yourself will learn that having a relationship with a p/s is toxic and then they will just (“Recently, I have broken free of his hold and I don’t care anymore. I’ve started living my life and doing what I want.”) go on and live their own life’s but only when they are mature enough and understand this problem in their own way. People who suffer from PD’s do thing that destroy relationships. Never does it nurture or build them. We all get tired of being abused and use and then in the end just walk away from those that “just don’t get it”!

We are going on 3 years of NC currently. Sometimes this is the only way to have peace and one’s own happiness. But also remember that NC always come with a price and sometimes a very heavy price indeed….

Good luck, 🙂

Deaar Andrea,

I empathize with you so much. The Ps us every weapon they can lay hands on to hurt us, and children with them is the most punishing thing they can do….so they do it. to hell with teh children’s pain if he can make you hurt!

I think the counseling idea is the ONLY SAFE AND SANE WAY to possibly help your children and get through to them that his behavior is off base and that his rages are NOT normal.

I would suggest that you totally stop talking to your X. If you must communicate…short, no-emotion e mails. “You can pick up Son John at school at 3:45 on tuesday.” (and get receipts for these e mails when he opens them.)

Do not discuss anything with your x.

As for your son and daughter, I would simply tell them that “dad and I do not agree on how to be good parents.” or “Dad is very angry at me, and sometimes when people are angry at one person, they strike out at others…don’t take it personally. That doesn’t mean it is good to strike out at someone when you are angry, but many people do this anyway.”

Set a good example for your children, show them love, respect and conern and do the best you can under the circumstances and PRAY to whatever faith you hold! ((((hugs)))) and my prayers for you and your children.

Andrea, Good advice from all the Lf”ers. Oxy once again, perfect pitch…. ” we don’t agree one how to be good parents” amen to that. I will remember.

What it is about is control, the reason he “cares” is because someone else might have influence over his “possessions” the last hold he has on hurting you – little people he can brag about when they do him proud, people he can cry about how he doesn’t get to see, and so on ad nauseam.

Doesn’;t really make it any easier, just understand, it is not about you or the children or the hunting or the gun or the marine new boyfreind, it is about control.

No easy answers except NC to the extent that you can, and keep the high road, as far as the kids. Keep good records, watch your back. Have witnesses whenever possible, do you due diligence.

They are scum, and unfortunately scum floats to the top. Be a frog and sit on the lilly pad. Sorry for the pun.

It is brutal. Kids do get it eventuall tho’.. Just like we did.

Hope this is not to fatalistic, but realistic. When you give the kids a steady beacon of lines that can’t be crossed, they will eventually value what it took to do that. A heart. Empathy. Realism. Community. Conscience.

My sons are in their mid twenties, and it is heartbreaking, to say the least, to watch them cope with the reality of their dad’s unreality.

Mine played it perfect from a kids point of view for a very long time. And now he has “dumped ” them. We are all making our way, but the shining memory of his fake caring, his fake persona, his fake family guy, is still chilling. How could he get so invested in his own lie. Or how could he choose to just turn a page like that. There is no explaining or rationalizing them. They are not of us.

Hard to explain to an 11 yr old. Better not to try too hard iIMHO. Just love them. And trust yourself.
Peace and love

I think setting an example is a very powerful thing. Never lie to the children (santa/toothfairy/easterbunny excluded). I never, ever lie to my children- even when the answer isn’t warm and fuzzy. I give age appropriate answers- nothing graphic, but I don’t give false answers. I have credibility with my kids. They trust me because I have shown that I can be trusted. That’s power the xs will never have.

During the visitations, while they lasted, the s would tell stories and lie (i.e. open his mouth). After the visitation the then 7/8yo would tell me things the xs had said about me or what was going on. 7/8yo would ask me questions about the info. I would respond, “does that sound like something mom would do/say?” “Is that the right thing to do?” “Is that what you would do?” If my son was asking me these things, I think his inner barometer was going off. I wanted to lead him to and encourage listening to that inner voice and what BS smells like. I want him to learn that its ok to listen to yourself and to make choices that feel right- be they limited at his age. I never made excuses for whackjob s behavior either. Sometimes I simply said, “I don’t know why he did/said that.” I didn’t have to bash the s but I wasn’t making it sound “ok” either.

My kids are “lucky” in that he is no longer in their lives and I’m not having to undo weekly damage. I also try very hard to be extra loving…not blowing hot and cold as he was wont to do or pitting them against each by his affections. As time passed, the 7/8yo began to tell me things about bio-tard (I cannot possibly refer to him as dad-gack) that hurt his feelings. (There was also counseling during this time.)

I have now 9yo involved in sports- he has a support system with his coaches. He gets high-5’s and “way to go’s” from males he looks up to. I don’t date and I have no interest in risking my own wackadoodle dating preferences with my kids again, but my own father and my sister’s bf are good role models and take an interest in my boys. I KNOW it isn’t “the same” as a father, but they never had that with bio-tard either. It’s isn’t optimal, but it is good…and it seems to be helping. The 9yo isn’t so DESPERATE for attention from any guy who comes near. He seems much more settled.

I’m not implying that you aren’t doing these same things- I wanted to add to the other good comments here that I do think consistency and honesty are keys to keeping your kids grounded in reality in a sometimes unreal world.

I truly empathize trying to “co-parent” with an s. It really isn’t co-parenting, it’s damage control.

Dear Glinda,

Some really good advice….right on the nose! DAMAGE CONTROL. LO ROTFLMAO, how right on!!!!!

A dear friend of mine who has a P son is the mentor for her granddaughter. The little girl, I’ll call her Kim, says to her GM, “He tells me he wants to know what I think, and then when I tell him, he yells at me and gets mad. I don’t trust him.” Kim is 13 and she is already getting it. She is very fortunate that she has a wonderful, caring grandmother who gets it too!

This darling smart little girl is “getting it” about her father, that he CANNOT BE TRUSTED. Many children do get it if they have even ONE person in their lives that will mentor them, even one good parent who doesn’t play the “games” and is, as Glilnda said, HONEST with them.

I Like how Glinda put it about when the kids talked to her about what the P had said, she ASKED them “does that sound like me?” rather than saying “That lying so and so….!” Kids are pretty darned smart really, and they observe a lot that they don’t talk about either unless we encourage them. so I think that was a GREAT way to do it.

Good luck to all of you who have had to co-parent (damage control) with a P. Fortunately I didn’t have to do that! that is one adventure I missed, and I am so glad! LOL

Thanks Oxy.

Just for the record, my first reaction to my 7/8yo’s questions was, in my head anyway, “That lying rat bas-!” LOL But it just would have made me sound the same as the xs…I took a gamble that my son saw my behavior as I thought and tried to live my life. Whew! He seems to- big exhale! LOL

It will probably change about the time he turns 14…but as Mark Twain said, he’ll be impressed at how much I’ve learned by the time he’s 21 😉

http://www.crisiscounseling.com/Articles/Psychopath.htm

This is a very good start! And What he says about not trying to Get help is what we all already Know! The Preditory lifestyle.

http://www.hare.org/

The Authority on The subjects

Hello, Andrea. I’m so sorry for your situation. Below are some things that have helped me deal with 27 years, 9 children, and much suffering with a psychopath/sociopath/narcissist man of my nightmares.
Our most recent incident was last week’s poisoning of our son’s dog. He did it because I told him I was going to hold him in contempt of court for not following specific orders. (sometimes you never know how he will get even)…This makes 2 of this one son’s dogs in 2 years; and 4 dogs in total in the last 3 years-this is the price that the children pay for being his child.
***********************************************

1) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.-Matthew 6:34 KJV
I.E.–DEAL WITH ONE DAY AT A TIME DO NOT STRESS OVER WHAT “MIGHT” HAPPEN!
BE WISE AS A SERPENT but GENTLE AS A DOVE

2) Ingrain in YOURSELF and your children the 4 C’s concerning psychopaths (this includes childhood bullies, any family bully & workplace bullies-the world is FULL of them so better be prepared and aware):

The 4 C’s:
you can not CONTROL it (within their mind)
you can not CURE it
you did not CAUSE it
but you can COPE (admit the condition is FACT; get away if possible; strengthen your resistance to it)

3) prepare yourself in case one or more of your children become like him (watch for signs, cling to the 4 C’s!!!!

4) KNOW YOUR RIGHTS and those of your Children. Teach them to your children, post them around the house.
Here is a good place to start: http://www.newciv.org/ncn/cbor.html

5) TIME heals and reveals.
As I have taught these things to my children, they are able to identify his evil ways ALL ON THEIR OWN…this is SO important for them to be strong. They MUST be able to do this for themselves; it can not just be what you, or someone else, have “told” them.
They use these skills at school with power-tripping teachers and students as well. They do not “take” bullying like I did as a child!

Love and BIG hugs to you

Oh, one more thing…
Don’t beat yourself up that your children have to “deal” with this. They will come through.
There are children who have circumstances out of their control all over the world. Health issues, governmental, racial, etc…

You and your children are NOT alone.

😉

Dear Ewe,

VERY wise and good advice! You are a wise woman, and I know that wisdom has been EARNED AT A HIGH PRICE. Hugs

“I think setting an example is a very powerful thing. Never lie to the children (santa/toothfairy/easterbunny excluded). I never, ever lie to my children- even when the answer isn’t warm and fuzzy. I give age appropriate answers- nothing graphic, but I don’t give false answers. I have credibility with my kids. They trust me because I have shown that I can be trusted. That’s power the xs will never have.”

Glinda,

I believe this is be the most important part of being a parent, even for those who are lucky enough not to have gotten involved with someone that suffer from being a s/p. Children today have the ability to see through a “lot” of BS being told and given to them today. More so then we did. I really believe this is one thing that the now generation has going for them. Both of my sons can see through BS so quick it sometimes amazes me. Maybe because they both lived with a pathological liar for so long and saw the different between her and myself might be one reason?

But really I believe most children are feed so much BS for so long they catch on quicker then we did. Anyway Glinda yes, setting a good example and trying hard not to “sugar coat” everything to protect them, doesn’t in the end do the justice they deserve. Be honest and upfront with children and in the end they will walk away respecting you and not believing that you too are “full of it”..

James, I agree, everyone should be honest with their children and lead by example….but the responsible parent stuck with an xn/s has their credibility called into question more often. At work, it’s never insinuated that I’m a crazy liar…but the xs was more than comfortable making that allegation. If you lose your credibility with your kids- how does it make you different from the xn/s? It doesn’t- and the xn/s gets another wedge in.

Quicker to catch on? I dunno. I’m alot more jaded than my parents were- they believed in and raised me to believe people are basically good. Lots of people are- ALL are not. I never tell my son that there is good in everyone- that would be a lie. 🙂

I’m hoping by “walking away” you mean growing up and leading their own lives. In the not so distant future, my middle child will be a “grown-up” and I won’t be able to protect him like I do now. The xs will most assuredly try to reinsert himself into his life- and take him for whatever he can. I can only live my life as honest and decent as I can and hope everything I teach him about being a decent human being and a good citizen is stronger than the urge to “give dear old dad” a chance.

Of course Glinda this is no doubt a problem whenever we are involved with those that wish only for power-over and want recognition for themselves only. My youngest son told me (after she was no longer part of our family) of all the horrible things she told my son about me. I asked my son why he never said anything to me about this. JJ told me, “Dad I just tuned her out after awhile”. My ex s/p also tried to pin both my oldest son and me against each other which I believe might have been another reason he never told me half of what she told him about me.

I believe she might have also done this to get him to go with her when she left. But another thing my youngest also told me after she left is that he planned on leaving as soon as he turned 18, “just to get away from her” as he put it. But I also feel that it was me as well that he needed to get away from. God, That scared me the most! He too was suffering and I didn’t see it as I should have. This has been the hardest part of my personal shame. Good news is that after 3 years of NC that has changed. Both of my children know I love them and would never be able to just leave them like she did. The only regret I have after all this BS from her, is how I wished I knew about personality disorders like I do today. This information would have help me so much in dealing with her and what to do about it! “”If only I knew!— 🙁

“I’m hoping by “walking away” you mean growing up and leading their own lives.”

Yes that is right. Whenever we “walk away” from anyone, it can hurt and it takes courage and maturity.

Andrea, you have a chance to know this at LoveFraud. I hope you use this information here to learn and then teach your children how to protect themselves against those people that only want power-over them and will try hard to destroy any type of personal power. Those that suffer from s/p only want their children to stay “children” and then be there for whatever supply they can use them for. Their children are there as any possessions they own; just like a car toaster or a family pet. Their children don’t have a right to their own autonomy personal power and individuality.

Update:

Sorry it should read “my oldest”.. When will I learn not to blog at night when I am tired??? 🙂

To access the archives do you just click the ” archive page”? When I do it, I only get the April and May articles looping repeatedly…

It’s been my observation that my children understand cluster B personality disorders better than I do. For them, What is – IS. They pick up on it faster and cope better than I do.

I think that it’s helpful to have plenty of mentors and role models for your kids who are ethical and well behaved. That way there’s lots of modeling of appropriate behavior around the children.

By having lots of models of healthy behavior, the kids will realize that cluster B is not “What is”. At least, it doesn’t have to be. They can see the crazy making and constant drama for the “lifestyle choices” they are, and choose wisely instead of simply falling into sick patterns.

There are lots of “talks” that you could give your kids. Talk is cheap. Walk the walk, and associate with people who walk the walk. This behavior will communicate volumes to your kids. Your credibility will go sky high.

If you walk the walk, then if you must verbally address the issue of unhealthy behavior patterns, your words will carry great weight.

Hi all, Sort of on topic, Has anyone ever “won” with one of these people? Are there success stories from some survivors out there?

I am having a crisis of confidence, as I saw the ex P recently, at an event for my kids, and altho I avoided eye contact, his murderous look could be felt without even looking directly at him.

I am still fighting to expose his unspeakably vicious shenanigans legally, and for the first time have come to be really concerned about what kind of pandora’s box I may be opening. To the point that I worry about if he will try to harm my kids in some way if I really fight. I know his demeanor is intended to intimidate, but I also know that I am engaging a barracuda in a death match, or so it feels.

My personal financial survival is at stake, and I cannot see walking away at this point, yet his presence in the room, and how he sucked all the air out of it, has me gasping.

His “support” for my kids looks and feels very much like what James put so well

“Those that suffer from s/p only want their children to stay “children” and then be there for whatever supply they can use them for. Their children are there as any possessions they own; just like a car toaster or a family pet. Their children don’t have a right to their own autonomy personal power and individuality.

Can anyone share an experience of actually getting some justice?
To date I have been holding my own, keeping my mouth shut and being civil. It is so chilling that he can express all this rage at my getting out, when in fact he has betrayed me from day one, on every level. That he expresses all this fury, when in fact he has destroyed my future, my dream, my life, my family.

I am beginning to get the heebeejeebees about what the next chapter will look like, and keenly aware that my efforts may be in vain. Very sick feeling after almost two years of preparing for battle.

Insights appreciated.

Peace,

eyeswideshut:

“My personal financial survival is at stake…”

There’s your answer right there.

My personal experience was that these subhumans count on us caving. When I finally slammed back against mine for the money he owed me, he was genuinely stunned. I reported him to the IRS.

And there has been no response.

What I learned is that the only thing they RESPECT is the meanest son of a bitch on the block. If you don’t go after him, he will continue to torment you for time eternal. If you do go after him, it won’t be pleasant, but you may (a) get your money and (b) get some control over him by making him fear you.

EYES wide open

Stop! I advocate no attempt to get even! What goes around comes around ! You do not need to be the one to do it. Get them out of your life as much as humanly possible so you can recover ! Get them out of your head so you can do what is necessary to Heal. stop fighting them and move to a Higher state of being one without chaos and tramua and stress. Letgo LetGod There is no b etter revenge than to get your life back and your sanity! Peace be with You!

Dear Eyes,

JUSTICE is justice, NOT revenge. IF you can get Justice, go for it, but not JUST FOR GETTING EVEN.

Even if you do get justice though, they will see it as ‘revenge” because they did (in their mind) NOTHING bad to you.

IF you can recover something financially, I would say go for it, if the odds are bad, or if it isn’t much, then mark it a bad debt and go on….don’t waste your time. Just look at the BENEFIT vs COST ratio, and tehre is always a cost in dealing with them. It may not be in dollars but it is a COST. Good luck.

eyeswideshut, you’ve probably heard the comment that the only way to deal with a sociopath is to be a sociopath. You may not think you have it in you, but you do. Sociopaths are just stuck on one side of the human spectrum of responses, and there is nothing that they do that isn’t natural to us. The difference with us is that we can operate on both side of the spectrum — the “taking care of myself” side and the “how is this going to work for all of us” side.

So, I’m with Matt. But here’s the caveat (which also puts me in agreement with IT). This is not about vengeance. It is about taking care of yourself. There might be some features of what you do that look like vengeance, out of context. But your ultimate objective is to take care of yourself and your children.

As far as his evil eye goes and the air he sucks out of a room, that just means he’s being successful at getting what he wants — you feeling like he’s more powerful than you. I would suggest that you will become a lot more powerful as soon as you get clear about what you want. (Not what you don’t want, like for him to leave you alone.) But what you want in positive terms. You want your money situation settled in favor of you and your kids. You want to live in peace. You want you and your kids to have the freedom and confidence to move forward into a good life.

Knowing what you want is grounding, and helps to position him in your mind as exactly what he is. A nasty obstacle that needs to be disposed of before you can get on with your life. And will help you develop the necessary ruthlessness to do what needs to be done.

Ruthlessness is a word that gets an undeserved bad rap. There is a great book called “Thick Face, Black Heart” about an oriental philosophy of enlightened ruthlessness. All this really is taking responsibility for the costs, to yourself and others, of going after an outcome that you think is worth the cost. In this case, you have to live with the idea that your winning will probably involve his losing. If you can ethically handle that — and I think you have every reason to consider his losses unimportant — than you can move forward with clear eyes and determination.

At that point, you are his match, and really no different from him. He is after what he wants, and doesn’t care what it costs you. You are after what you want, and don’t care what it costs him. But you have a huge advantage. It’s something that he would like to think and convince you is a disadvantage, but it’s not. You have feelings for other people and you understand the social contract. His ability to navigate the feeling world is a shallow veneer that won’t hold up under pressure. He will show who he is when faced by people who don’t buckle.

If you want an example of someone who pulled off a successful fight against a sociopath for herself and her children, check for ErinBrokavich’s story toward the bottom of the thread under “After the sociopath, how do we heal? Part 8.” It will inspire you.

But the important thing about what she did was that it was about her, not him. It was about what she wanted, and what she did to get it. That kind of focus is the most powerful thing in the world. And it changes how we look at their behaviors.

Yes, they continue to be scary, because they have no feelings or scruples. But there is even power in knowing that. Once we starting thinking about their “typical responses,” we can begin to out-maneuver them. Clearly, if violence is involved, that out-maneuvering may involve bringing in the law doing whatever we have to do to protect ourselves physically, but in the mental game, you can win. You just have to be a sociopath in dealing with him.

Finally, anger helps. From Erin’s writing, I gather that she was fueled by anger. Being a sociopath is tiring. The emotional landscape is arid, and feeling people don’t like staying there. But anger is a wonderful thing when you’re dealing with a sociopath. It helps you be hyper-sensitive to what’s happening and to see through things quickly. It keeps you focussed on “making things right” in terms of your own wellbeing.

Back to vengeance. Sometimes it’s part of what we do to get what we want. My relations with my ex include warnings to him not to try to reenter my professional sphere (where I trained him to make a living). My objective is to keep him as far away from me as possible, because I know that nothing good ever comes from his proximity. He probably experiences it as vengeance. My intention wasn’t vengeance; it was taking care of myself. So a lot of this stuff depends on the eye of the beholder.

I know this is all pretty theoretical, as usual with me, but I’m sure some other people can talk about more concrete examples.

Wishing you righteous anger, a clear vision of how you want this to come out, and the will to do whatever it takes —

Kathy

EYESWIDESHUT:

YES, YES, YES…..I am here to tell you….IT CAN BE DONE!!!!!!
Everything Kathleen, Oxy, It and Matt stated is correct…..
You need to decide on YOUR situation, because we are all different people walking similar paths…keyword similar. NOT EXACT!
For me….NO QUESTION….140K in debt on CC’s, major heath obsticles, kids and assets.
I booted the S 18 months ago for the final time…..he contributed NOTHING, since date of seperation. I made strategic moves, it was tendious and tookover my life…..I didn’t feel I had a choice…I made that decision. I went full bore ahead like a heat seaking missil and hit the target spot on, on Wednesday the ‘funeral’ was held.
Kathleen is so right…..as horrid as it sounds….you are aware of sociopathic behaviors, you have educated yourself on them, you will need to slip into the role of a sociopath occasionally to do this. I used it all against him…..things he would never think I was capable of doing….(me either frankly), but I did it with one goal in mind. I first determined “who’ I could trust…..(very few people), if I had any question what so ever…they were out! Even my family. My kids never knew what I did…..creeping around in the middle of the night 4 am, taking my car back…..doing all the recon I needed and then some. I had tools, that ironically, he bought me for our ‘last’ x-mas together….oh, how he has no idea how he contributed to his own demise on THAT level.
You need the basics….digi camera, digi tape recorder. USE THEM!
Keep talkiing to people that you know, know him and see him regularly or even occasionally. Any tidbit of information is good, even if it seems unrelated at the time. I even went on a date with someone I knew had information…..OH IS THAT NOT THE TIP OF THE ICEBURG! Fabulous dinner with lot’s of information given, unkowningly by my ‘date’.
Plant seeds, not too many.
Keep your own reputation stellar, do not give any emotional responses to anyone in public. Stand up for yourself to others.
I heard over and over….”OH, your both crazy”…..I stopped a mutual friend one day after he made this statement and I said…let me ask you something…..you make this statement…..Have you ever been first hand witness to anything immoral, crazy, unethical etc…that I have ever done to yourself or anyone else YOU know of? He paused, and said…Erin….that’s a good point….No, I can’t say you have ever? I said, Have you ever heard of anything…OTHER THAN WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD BY THE S, that I have done that was even questionable? He said….No, really I can’t.
I asked him, well then why do you feel so comfortable making that statement in regards to me? Could it be your own inability to deal with the reality of manipulation against YOU by this man? it’s too overwhelming to put your arms around, so you are willing to discount me and my character for your own inablility to cope? He appologized and I left him pondering…..
Character and how you have conducted yourself in the past is CRUCIAL to being successful. DON”T EVER REACT, this is a set up…….as peessed off and violated as we are, and have every reason to react….DO NOT! Once we react, they can say to the world…..see, they are crazy…..see what they have done? Etc….
Ever wonder why women destroy cars, spray paint messages on homes like CHEATER, LIER, etc… break windows……I now believe it’s because mostly they have been pushed too far this is how they respond….I am sure we have all fantasized about this…..BUT DON”T DO IT! KEep it a fantasy. You know what I have done to the S in my fantasies…..HA! but no one knows this, hence it keeps my character and reputation in tact out in ‘society’.

I used MOST every resource I could use, …..and threw ethics out the window for this one.
You must remain balanced or you will tip your own scale. Pull back when it becomes too overwhelming. Use self control. (DANG, I learned about that), Dont EVER take chances out of desperation.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY!..
I have written ‘THE RULES TO RECON’.
My girlfriend and I joke about them EVERY DAY! We were a team. She is my rock, my counterspy, my coconspiritor, my partner against crime. We had a team. One day she would ‘take one for the team’ one day I was. We recruited ‘team members’ unbenknownst to them that played integral roles……Oh, the recon we have done together…Thank GOD I had her to walk my path with. We held hands the whole way.
She kept me grounded and honest with myself.
So anyways…..if you don’t have any other choice, and your not in a position to walk away…..I say go for it….but be totally prepared and keep your eyes WIDE OPEN!!!
I am here to tell you……
It can be done. You must take the fear out from of it all, and watch your back.

eyeswideshut:

When Kathy and I talk about “to get rid of a sociopath, become a sociopath” what we are talking about is you must turn off the guilt; turn off the love; turn off the understanding; turn off the compassion; turn of the pity; and turn off the rationalizing.

By turning off all human feeling, it is easier to frame whatever you have to do as “this is nothing personal, S. It’s just business. Strictly business.” You must view this as a fight for scarce resources — money, shelter, whatever your objective is. I can guaranty you, any odds you want to cover, that S is viewing things this way.

Besides, I’m going to pass on some advice someone on this site gave me when I first blogged on — “if you don’t go after S for the money he owes you, you will kick yourself forever.”

While I can’t speak directly to your circumstances, I have a pretty good feeling that if you don’t go after your S for the money, he will use it against you by enticing your kids with it every step of the way. When you frame the issue like that, having to fight back and not only getting the money, but maybe driving the S out of you and your kids lives, suddenly seems like a pretty good idea, doesn’t it?

Matt, IT, Kathleen, Oxy, Erin, Thank you thank you thank you. I am going forthwith to read Erin’s post on part 8 – Healing-

Your words are empowering and true. For the record, I am only seeking justice – there is no avenging the reality he stole-faked-gaslighted whatever, there is no revenge for the lost years of questioning, reading, dragging to therapy, self examination, trying,abandonement, fake and constant crisis, control, and joy killing.

Mine was very very subtle but brutal beyond belief, pshycologically(sp?) as I have discovered more and more as I peel the onion. And I am now convinced that they reserve a special scorn and bloody hatred for those that have seen them without their mask.

When it is over I can tell more details, but his behavior violates lots and lots of legal boundaries, and he is counting on me caving under his withering ill will.

Again, thank you all for helping me suck up some courage. I have gone this route because it is right- because I have rights-because I could not live with myself if I slithered away to destitution in fear. I know I need to fight the good fight, and yes – a little calculated ruthlessness will likely be in the cards.

And I do remember Dr. Leedom saying in a recent post that she would bet against the P’s in the long run, because eventually they screw up.

My ex P seems to get hung up on the petard of his own arrogance regularly.

You are a wise and noble team of survivors.

Peace

Eyeswideshutnomore….

Yes.

Its possible.

Key word. Prepared.

Other key words… no contact. no emotional responses. no self-inflicted fear…only fear instinctual/actual circumstances directed at you — then seek protection.

I won a judgment (small but still a victory).. I had copies of checks, messages, witnesses, etc..

Final key word…and you seem to already have found it….believe in yourself, your rights, your righteousness.

Be very careful about playing him at his own game for “payback, greed, he did it -so I can” which you dont seem to have in you… those types of actions may unexpectedly set you back….karma is good…when its good karma you are practicing for yourself!

Justice can and will prevail – but it too is a journey of sorts — you will be tested — but just stay true to yourself and what you believe in. Never engaging in one on one or face to face confrontation in or out of courtroom. You owe him nothing. No face time… Just calm, cool collected “Im done and moving on with my eyes wide open and my steady strong honest voice will be heard in court only” attitude.

The opposite of fear is gaining control of yourself, your surroundings your self-everything. But as oxy said having courage in the face of fear doesnt mean we wont fall sometimes, we just have to pick ourselves up and keep going doing the best we can!! ….(Sorry OXY, Im getting CRS…I TOTALLY botched what you said to me…but tried to make sense of it best I could)

Good luck EyeswideshutNOMORE! 🙂

Thank you Learned, I will stay the course and as a wise attorney once said to me, “keep my head high, my ears open and my mouth shut”.

I have just read Erin’s post back on #8 . Erin, I wept for joy for you reading that you perservered! you rocked!. And a judge got it! So happy for you and your children and for the lesson for all of us,

All your collective courage and wisdom, and sadly, bitter experience gives me strenght. Every day.

http://www.aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org/

Not that all this information is not Here at LF.

LF could publish it’s own Handbook! Thank YOU
EVERYONE!

Elizabeth Conley,

“It’s been my observation that my children understand cluster B personality disorders better than I do. For them, What is – IS. They pick up on it faster and cope better than I do.”

Very interesting insomuch that I too have see this in my own children as well. They seen to be able to see them quicker then myself. I wonder if having lived with one would allow them to have this ability? Maybe because they pick up of how different their own parents are and then maybe see it in others quicker and even their own peers? Also they have cope with it much better then I did. I just put it down to the resiliency of children but wonder if there isn’t more to it?

Before she even left (months) I asked my oldest son once why she couldn’t allow him to do something (walking to blockbuster to get a video game) and he told me “Dad, don’t you get it, she is crazy”. Well, at the time I too been having a lot of issues with her myself about a lot of her decisions and actions, but I just didn’t connect the dots at the time. Anyway, I did of course allow him to get his game but asked him not to tell her fearing her wrath as well. I myself often wondered how I survived all those years of eggshell walking manipulation and “crazy-making” and can only think if it wasn’t for my children I would have been gone years ago!!!!

They want to move the relationship along faster and also want to start a family just as quick (my ex s/p did anyway) because I believe they know children is also a form of control they can have over us. I also believe it might have something to do with supply as well.

eyeswideshut

“Hi all, Sort of on topic, Has anyone ever “won” with one of these people? Are there success stories from some survivors out there?”

Not sure what you mean by “winning”?

For me, I now see it like a war. In a war I heard once that there are “no real winner” during and after wartime. After a war there is only damage victims and then survivors. After a war we start to “rebuild” and cope with the memory and all those that died during this war. We bury the dead and live for the future. For me, this is the same for having this experience with a s/p. They are no winners just victims and survivors and a LOT of damage. Also even some people who did survive the war and didn’t die feel “guilty” asking themselves why did I survive when so many other people better then myself didn’t. I believe some of us might even experience this type of remorse as well. I believe having a history with any s/p is very much like a type of emotional “war” and in the end there are no real winners just survivors left to pick up the pieces and build for the future, our children’s future as well as for ourselves.

Saddam Hussein is now dead but the horror of what he did to his own people lives on….

“but in the mental game, you can win. You just have to be a sociopath in dealing with him.”

I have to agree that Matt Kathleen Hawk and ErinBrockovich have very good points of direction when dealing with a sociopath. That one has to at times think/feel like a sociopath to be able to deal with one appropriately.

I watched a show on how a investigator who studied “serial killers” talk about how he had to think like a serial killer to profile one and try to catch them before they killed again. He did warn viewers watching his show that it was dangerous insomuch that one might be “struck” in this dark abyss themselves and should be careful. But yes one needs to think and start to feel like a sociopath by numbing or “temporary” turning off some of our emotions and the way we feel about our ex s/p. But like the investigator I too would suggest being very careful. Not sure if this is winning but it is surviving which is all that is asked of anyone who have been duped into having a relationship with them. These people are deal breakers and deserve no better then what they themselves have done to other people. In the bible it tells us of sin, “if your eye causes you to sin then puck it out”. Maybe in a way this is what we must do with them insomuch that we must separate them from us even if that mean starting to think like a sociopath?

Some deep thought tonite James. I keep telling my self I won, that I didnt lose anything real. But I have never felt like a winner or victorious..The enemy has gone to win another battle and I am here feelng less than.. All the wars of my past I have surrendered too. The war I fight now has more at stake, and surrendering is not an option this time.

James:
WhenI came to this site I was terrified I had become a psychopath. I had been abused all my life by them (and other cluster B’s) and the last one tipped me over the edge. I never had the capacity to kill or hurt before. I knew that I would not be able to do ever kill or hurt anyone physically. After 54 years of abuse and the last p, I totally changed. I knew that I not only had the capacity to kill, but I wanted to kill (him). I had never felt such an all consuming rage and constant homicidal urge in my life. Up until that point, (and there had been other P’s who had abused me a hundred times more than him), I found it hard to even kill a cockroach.
I resigned myself to spending the rest of my life in prison as I felt I had no choice but to eventually kill him to get relief. I knew would be caught as I could not “plan” it, but rather just wanted it over with. I went on the internet and looked up serial killers, to see the consequences of their actions.
I saw there, that Ailleen Waurnos also had never been loved in her entire life and had been raped and abused in the extreme since she was a young child. She had become a totally paranoid serial killer who had lost the plot. She chose lethal execution because she said “hate runs through my veins, kill me, I want to leave this planet.” A psycopath would never choose to be killed. She had become a psycopath, but was not born one.
I was not a hooker but I totally identified with her. Thats why I thought I was a psychopath. I wanted to go kill every psychopath- intimate partner that i had ever had .And I knew the jails were full of Psychopaths so I had no choice but to then kill myself. ( Ask Donna!) I was past caring.
God intervened and shortly after I came across ‘lovefraud” with one of Oxy’s comments describing my exact situation.. I confessed how I felt and started to heal.
That wasn’t that long ago and all my rage to past P’s has gone Now I only have a big grudge against the last one. ..Which is a huge difference to homicidal rage!. All this in about a month!
I don’t know about “switching” feelings off and on. I can pretend to, but I can’t ACTUALLY do it. Which is the difference between us and them. But once you have been tortured for 54 years, without healing, I know you can easily become one…like Aileen.Although it is a different sort of Psychopath. It is not one who doesn’t feel. It is one who has felt too much and gone insane.

P.S. I have won because i am not on death row for ten years begging to be executed because of all the psychopaths in the world. I do not apologise for feeling sorry for Aileen Wournos.

Tilly – Wow – I am 54 – sexually abused – incest victim – neglect – sexually dysfunctional – a family full of toxins – a life time I have been at war to survive them – but kept puttin myself at their mercy. your post was inspiring – thank you

I don’t think people understand how strong the defense mechanisms of psychopaths really are.

“What they think and do is produced from a ‘rock solid personality structure that is extremely resistant to outside influences'”. -The Mask of Sanity

It is psychological warfare if you are dealing with a true psychopath. The only way to survive against one on an ongoing basis is to go into psychopath-mode. It can be done, if you know what you are dealing with.

P.S. I still believe the statistics (1-4%) are way too low. Psychopaths see nothing wrong with what they do. Therefore, no need to change. And no need to go to a psychiatrist and be diagnosed.

Tilly

Wish I myself could say I never “felt” that “rage”. That wish to “kill”. But that would be a lie. I have!!

But even in the service I never wanted to kill anyone. But that all changed with my ex s/p. I know I won’t kill because I love myself too much and therefore can love others. I might have these feeling from time to time but know I can’t do it. If I ever cross this line I know that I have indeed become the sociopath. Something I just don’t want to be…

Here is a poem about my feeling on this:

Narcissistic for a Day
By James

I woke one day, in a terrible way
Short with my children and not caring for their needs in anyway
Not talking with my wife, oh what a pig she is
She is always that way
Not seeing how special I am in every way

Getting ready for work, thinking how they don’t see me, oh the
wonderful me! Why, should I care about them in any oh way!

Going to work, I saw people who are fools
Just like tools that I can use and use
Not seeing how special and great I am and will always be
These objects are just for my fun and wants for whatever I need.

At work, I talked with Andy, oh what a fool he can be
taken my position that was promise to me
Why can’t Andy see, that it was meant for me
I’m so special, not like Andy can ever be

I came home oh, what a horrible day for me
Why can’t they see the wonderful me
I cussed at my children, so selfish they can be
My wife I told her I don’t need you and don’t
want you with me
You are just a pig, not special like me

The room got dark and numbest surrounded me
No feeling of love or caring for me
No one would talk or look at me
Oh, dear God what is happening to me

Awoke in a sweat wanting someone to hold me
Oh, what a horrible dream that happen to me
A Nightmare no no not a dream at all
A Nightmare it had to be!

How horrible it must be
To be a narcissistic being in every way and everyday
Oh no that’s not for me in any oh way

No, I love my children who are so
Special to me in their own special way
My wife so sweet and so kind to my children and me
Loving and special to us in all and each one in their own way
Oh no dear Lord, that’s not for me in any oh way
A narcissistic person I can never be not even for a day

Tilly,

Guess that’s why I see it as a emotional war and understand that surviving is the most I could ever want or need. I too read about Aileen Wournos and felt sorry for her too. She indeed never had a chance in my book and we all deserve at least that…

Hey Henry and yes sometimes I do get those deep thoughts. Hope all is okay and U are doing okay! I heard this song after my ex left and thought it was written for us.. Yes, I thought we were both in our own way “Crazy”. Not sure if you ever heard but I thought of it fitting for both myself and my ex. 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-sb6mfR9lQ

Hey James,
I sooo love Gnarles Barkley’s song “crazy”!! In the video, I am the cat with the machine gun ,(well that’s how I felt at the end of my last relationship). When I had a breakdown and they put me in the nut house, (after the solicitor) I used to sing that at the top of my voice and EVERYONE would join in!! The nurses would come running down to tell us to shutup. Soo funny!
Thankyou for helping me find one good memory of when i was in the nuthouse! xo

James, Very insightful poem and very true to form. Makes you wonder if they ever really feel “ANYTHING” negative about their self centeredness?

The emotions I’ve witnessed a S exhibit-lets see- anger,(due to not getting their way), feeling pity for themselves (due to not getting their way), UMM- I think thats about it.
My x N/P used to speak in the most monotone voice imaginable when he would say “I need to work on that” when talking about hideous things he had done, as if he was gonna change anything about himself. He appeared robot like. I thought at the time, it was b/c he was so sad that he had caused me so much pain.WHAT A JOKE ON ME..

Sabrina:
At the end of my relationship with my P, he always said to me, “whats in it for me ?” he would say it after everything I said. I never answered that question because I really thought he was joking. But then one day in the car, he said to me,” honey, when I say that, you’r supposed to say. “head job”. I said to him, “yeah right, like that’s gonna happen!”. And then he said, “Honey, Even if you don’t do it, you still have to say it ..go on..say it!”
I just looked at him and he was SERIOUS!
These memories came rushing back when I read your post, and I thought to myself, “what the hell was I thinking staying with him??????”
I too suspect he was closet Bi.

Tilly, Some of the recollections that pop into my head about my x N/P just blow my mind now. I know now that the mask slipped MUCH much more than the “fake” persona was ever there. He never really had to work that hard to fool me when I think about it. I just kept looking for any glimmer of that prince charming that I had seen glimpses of.

I think one “hook” they all use on us is to to repeat over and over certain phrases that endear us. Such as,from the very beginning, my x always said he knew when he met me that we were meant to be together, GOd had put us together. I asked how did you know? Didnt you ever wonder (like I did) if we’d make it? He said with all certainty NOPE, I NEVER ever doubted that we werent gonna always be together.
T he trauma bond was binding me like cement from the beginning.
I also suspect my x n/p is bi as well. He said once that men were really better looking than women b/c they didnt use make up, have to spend lots of time on hair, etc. to look good. I said well go sleep with a guy then. Ive never heard a guy say anything that bizzaar. I told him as much, he had no comment whatsoever.
He also had a really vulgar way of saying things, and LOVED scary, horrible movies like Saw. I never understood that. It bothered me , as I personally feel that those type movies are demonic and not right for me to watch. He would be estatic when another horror flick came out. I thought it disgusting.
Another weird thing that I have remembered- once while watching a tv program about the holocaust, I got the eeriest feeling that my husband could have been one of those horrible nazi concentration camp guards ,had he lived in that time. That he would have had no problem inflicting pain on prisoners. I remember thinking, this man is good and evil at the same time. OMG! I so knew…

P.S. How did I not realize , that you cant be good AND evil. Evil negates any possibility of good!!I was sooo messed up!!!!

Sabrina:
Mine used to say that he wanted to “give a man a head job”. When I said to him, “You are so gay”, he said “I’m homophobic!”. Then he would go on and on about it, telling all his male golf friends to tell me how he was homophobic! They were all alcoholics so I didn’t stay around them much as I would be bored to tears. Then he would come home and be absolutley PATHETIC! I’m positive he preferred men in every way but couldn’t stand the fact that in his family it would have made him a social outcast. He also liked horror movies too which I can’t watch. He was always watching crime channel ( I reckon to get hints on how to get away with anything he might do!). I liked it because I felt I would know how to spot a psychopath..little did I know there was one in the bed next to me!!

P.S. In retrospect all the things I thought he was joking about at the beginning of the relationship, (I used to think he was soooo funny and soo witty!), all of them he was serious about! Like you he was just vulgar to the point of disgusting! His language was just gross, loud, arrogant pig…yuk!

I mean “like you said about your P..sorry!

The other thing the P’s were all brilliant at was isolating me, making me their hostage without me even realising it. Every time I tried to do something for myself like go for a walk or go to the gym there would be a drama, an “emergency” or some other crap. My parents did this to me too. So I was well groomed for it.
All of them were so tight and secretive with their money. I was always the opposite, I always felt I must trust my partner or life isn’t worth living. What an idiot!
Its so weird how some days a whole bunch of stuff just comes up that you havn’t processed before.
I used to know a girl who lived with a psychopath, like I did, (our partners were “mates”). One day she told me she had found out that her partner had played up on her the night before with a young woman from the party we were at.
I was horrified. “How can you take it so calmly??” I asked.
She said to me , ” Well the way I look at it is , its one less for me”!
At the time I thought she was crazy. Now I think she was a whole lot saner than me!!!.

Tilly,

Yea! I too love that song and have it on my MP3 players so whenever I feeling sorry for myself I will listen to it and it always bring a smile to my face. Guess it’s called sound/music therapy but it works..

“He appeared robot like.”

OMG! Yes, I too can remember when she would get into that “robot mode”. Looking at me about something she did with that blank robot stare and tone of voice, like “who me?”.

Displaying regret without true regret; sorrow but not true sorrow. The emotions are so staged if this subject wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

Glad you enjoyed the poem. I wrote this one after learning about the NPD disorders. But also many of my poems also helped me let go of some of the anger hate and self pity I felt at times. Writing poetry was a new found ability I never knew I had until after our relationship ended.

Send this to a friend