Loving the sociopath who’s spared you

(This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)

It can be hard to hate or despise even the most terrible human being so long as he’s inflicted his cruelty on others, but spared you. Take a sociopathic relative, even a close one.

If somehow he compartmentalized his life, lived a “double life—”in any case, if you learned that he treated you (retrospectively even) with an exceptional, aberrant mercy that he denied his victims, you might very possibly remain “loyal” to him. You might still even “love” him.

Various defenses are pertinent—such as denial, dissociative and other self-deluding mechanisms. Gratitude may also be present, expressive of a different defense mechanism: the “monster,” after all, spared you, but not others. He exempted you from the cruel fate he inficted on them, who were helpless to protect themselves, as you were too, only he spared you. So it may seem as if he were somehow “protecting” you from the  “demons” he unleashed on others.

This kind of analysis can engender, as I say, a form of “gratitude” and “loyalty” towards the victimizing individual; it is a variant of “identifying with the aggressor.”

Now it’s true that many, discovering the unseemly truth about someone close to them, even if they were spared the individual’s predations, will modify their view of the individual, bringing it into conformity with reality.

But not always.

I stress: sometimes the monster will retain his “backer.” And the chief point I stress is that his “backer” will probably be under the sway of twin, interrelated and twisted forces of logic—if he didn’t do this to me, then how could he have done this to them? And if he did it to them and not me, then he must have somehow “loved” me?

In either case, “I exculpate him.” In this way, I can remain “loyal” to him,without feeling I’ve transgressed my value system.

Thus disbelief (enabled by denial), mixed and confused with the fantasy of having been a special, exceptional object of his “love” (thanks to which he “amnestied” you from the cruel fate to which he subjected others) supports the rationalization to “stand by” him.

We are strange in the sense of this contradiction: on one hand, we are highly prone to judging others; on the other, we have the capacity to utilize defense mechanisms in the service of “withholding judgment” whenever the need arises.

We do both regularly—that is, regularly we relent to the tendency to judge, while often simultaneously exercising the detachment necessary to “not judge” sometimes disturbing individuals and their alarming stories of transgression.

Many professions, like that of psychotherapy, require the capacity to “suspend personal judgment” just so its practioners can work effectively with a wide range of stimulating, and sometimes disturbing, information.

Families have been torn apart by this psychological dynamic in a sometimes brutal clash of dichotomous positions. I’ve seen this more than a few times. A violator in the family has wrought it shame, perhaps public shame. The violator has perpetrated terrible things now known to the family.

Some family members revise their view of the individual and come to despise him, want nothing more to do with him, have sworn the individual out of their lives.

Other family (especially those who weren’t personally victimized by the individual) may  “stand by” the individual, “retain” their faith and belief in him; and thus a rift between the “factions” occurs, adding another layer of nightmare to the trauma precipitated by the violating relative.

This is a preliminary examination of this very complicated subject, to be explored in further depth ahead.

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yes, very recently, a spath I know went on a long tirade about spaths. She was eloquent, she knew what she was saying and how to say it. She was manipulating. It was all about making people believe she is a good person because she had plans to do evil later.

I knew a guy who played the same game. I knew what he was, but I watched while he did it. It was so convincing that my heart believed him EVEN WHILE my brain knew he was a liar. He told me all about how a spath woman had treated him. I’m sure it was true. I don’t doubt it at all because I have seen other spaths abuse him. But the point is that he was only telling me because he had the intent to abuse me and needed me to allow it.

The female spath was a much better manipulator than the male. In my experience this is usually the case, we females have better social skills.

In both cases, it DID NOT MATTER. I had seen the red flags. I knew both of their shallow lives and had seen their envy because I had given them rope.

Actually, I wouldn’t really call either of them spaths because they had terrible masks. They were what I call “failed spaths” –borderlines, narcissists, anti-social, and other PD’s but not the charming PURE psychopath that my ex-spath was.

The male even admitted to having shame, on a few occasions when I was explaining shame, envy and addiction to him.

My point being: the red flags are always right and these PD’s don’t change even when they appear to be your soul mate.

We don’t have to be afraid, we just need to know the red flags and trust them.


Skylar, you are 100% spot-the-hayell-on about the noises that issue from the holes in spath faces: it’s just NOISE.

OpalRose, I had found in 2009 for a completely different situation. Those 2 years of information, articles, and discussion prepared me for the nastiest betrayal I’ve ever experienced. And, that is the ONLY reason (I believe) that I didn’t entertain repairing the marriage once I discovered what the exspath really was.

When I consider the long-con and financial fraud, and I compare my experiences with those of others, I truly believe that the exspath had no compunction in seeing that I had an untimely demise. At the time, I was taking a whole load of medication for my medical condition that could very easily have killed me. And, spaths DO intend for their targets to die, either by their own hands, or by proxy.

And, please, dear Opal, put away the “feeling” of being “stupid.” You are obviously NOT stupid because you are able to articulate what you’re feeling and experiencing. You’re NOT stupid. I’m not stupid. None of the readers on this site are “stupid.” We were just exploited, on every level.

You have choices and options, and it is not my intent to cause anxiety or panic, but I strongly encourage you to “Do Something” to protect yourself, ASAP. I’m not suggesting that you dash out of the house with the clothes on your back. But, what I am suggesting is what OxD outlined. First, call the domestic violence hotline in your area that will put you in touch with every resource you need to exit that sham of a marriage. From legal counsel with an attorney that “gets it” about spathy to counseling therapists that also “get it,” there is help out there, I swear there is.

Gathering EVERY vital document, household bill, and invoice, along with birth and marriage certificates, insurance papers, financial records (including HIS financial account information), etc. and keeping these documents in a SAFE place (safety deposit box at a bank) outside of the house is vital. He won’t notice that these documents are gone because he’s busy with his own machinations, just as the exspath was. Drain your joint account down to ZERO and put that cash in the safety deposit box – it is not illegal, nor is it “wrong” when you’re going to need those funds for your own expenses.

Set your jaw firm, OpalRose, and start looking for a secure apartment, consult an attorney, and contact the local domestic violence hotline so you can build a network of support: You know what he is. Now, it’s a choice whether you will tolerate living like this, or not. And, you aren’t obligated to tolerate this just because you are in a contract of marriage. That’s all it is: a legal contract. There’s no meeting of souls, here.

Not all people who are interested in BDS&M are “bad people,” but they clearly have “issues” and ANY man or woman who hides such proclivities from their spouses is a danger. If they believed that what they were doing wasn’t “wrong” or disturbing, why would they go to such great lengths to HIDE this???? I know of couples who are comfortable with this expression of sexuality and they are OPEN about this. Not that I feel it’s necessarily “healthy,” but they aren’t LYING to one another. And, I knew that, if the exspath was lying about what he actually had been doing for nearly 15 years, then he was lying about EVERYTHING ELSE. And, after he left, I found this to be utterly true.

Your husband and the exspath are not trustworthy, on any level. NOT ANY LEVEL. The holes in their faces simply issue out noise, and that’s all. The noise adjusts to whatever their targets respond to, whether it’s threatening, wheedling, pleading, or disdainful. It’s just noise!

Brightest blessings, OpalRose……courage and resolve


Skylar – Louise – Truthspeak – I made my discovery in 2009. As I’ve made my way through this experience, everything thing I’ve learned has reframed both my marriage and my relationship with my mother (who was an uber-spath). Each thing I learn points out that it is / was worse that I thought it was. Every reality check is a shock.

Yes – yes – yes – everytime husband / mother talks it is / was lies, lies, lies. Yes – if they lie about one thing, they are likely to lie about other things. I remember being just flabbergasted at my mother’s funeral at the things people walked up to me and said. Even in her old age, she was manipulating and lying. It never changed. Husband will never change and it is worse than I thought it was.

Some people around me were soft pedaling it and I was losing perspective – again. So – thank you – thank you – thank you – for your help. Headed to work now. Bless you all. This site is a life saver – and I think that those who have lived it KNOW best how to advise and help – not those who may mean well but do not KNOW the demon.

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