Editor’s note: My new book, “Senior Sociopaths — How to Recognize and Escape Lifelong Abusers,” goes on sale May 17. I’m posting a series of articles to preview the book. Today’s topic: “Married to a senior sociopath.”
No one intentionally marries a sociopath. We marry someone who seems to be loving, caring and shares our interests and values. It’s only later — sometimes many years later — that we realize the person we thought we married doesn’t exist.
My book, Senior Sociopaths, is based on surveys that I did with Lovefraud readers in which I asked them to describe their experiences with people who were age 50 or older and whom they believed were sociopaths. Of the 2,120 people responded to the first survey, 681 had married the sociopaths.
Marriages from hell
Survey respondents described lies, manipulation, gaslighting, theft, adultery, violence and abuse — although they didn’t see this behavior right away. Typically, when they met, their future partners were charming, loving, sexy and fun.
A total of 130 respondents met and married these partners while they were both in their teens or 20s. In these cases, hell lasted an eternity — 96% of the couples were together 20 years or more. In fact, when they completed the surveys, 72% were still married, although it’s more accurate to say that they were still trapped.
Changing at age 50
A total of 375 survey respondents, including those who married while young, reported that they knew the disordered individual both before and after age 50. They provided some of the most interesting data in the book — how sociopathic partners changed at age 50.
It didn’t seem to matter whether the marriages were long or short. Of those married five years or more, 82% reported that the individual changed after 50. Of those who were married one to four years, 73% saw a change at 50. Here is what they reported:
Meaner more abusive, cruel – 24%
The most common complaint, made by 24% of respondents, was that the disordered partner became meaner, more abusive and cruel. In fact, many respondents noted that he or she seemed to enjoy causing them pain. Here are some comments:
- She was a nightmare of constant verbal mental emotional psychological abuse.
- His narcissistic behavior pattern became intensified. He was cruel, a pathological liar, never apologized, projection, triangulation and gaslighting. He got much worse as I started emotionally disengaging.
Changed to different person – 23%
Many survey respondents — 23% — were shocked to realize that the person they thought they had married was gone, replaced by a total stranger.
- He got less able to fake empathy or sympathy. Kids described him as ‘crazy now.’
- Her true self came out. I found out that she was having affairs all throughout the marriage. Intermittently sober. Spent more money on boobs, veneers, plastic surgery, shoes, purses and clothes the older she got. Always had a new group of man-hater friends who were looking for sugar daddies.
Became cold, distant withdrawn – 22%
Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said that after age 50, their partners became distant, cold and evasive, showing no love or empathy. They withdrew from the family and sometimes didn’t come home. Several respondents described living separate lives, more like roommates than husband and wife.
- He became distant, spent thousands and thousands without talking to me about it. He was reluctant to do family things, he holed up in one part of the house, and kind of disconnected.
Cheating and double life – 20%
In response to the question about how their relationships changed after their disordered partners turned 50, 20% of respondents spontaneously mentioned cheating, affairs or a double life.
However, cheating was far more rampant than this particular survey question indicated. A different multiple-choice question asked about harm suffered in the relationship, and one of the options was, “If the individual was a romantic partner, he or she cheated on you.” Sixty-six percent of survey respondents said yes, he or she was a cheater.
More devious lying, manipulation, gaslighting – 18%
In the survey, 18% of respondents specifically mentioned increased lying, manipulation and gaslighting when asked how their spouses changed after age 50.
- She became more manipulative, kept me from my children, hid monetary manipulation.
- He got better at lying, more manipulative but better at disguising, better also at never showing his hand of ‘cards,’ more punishing, more devious, more spiteful acts, while smiling and acting nice and helpful, better at taking with the right hand while seeming to give with the left.
Anger, aggression, rage, threats, violence — 15%
Fifteen percent of survey respondents said they saw increased aggression, anger, rage, threats and violence in their spouses after age 50.
- Less controlling of his mood swings. Angrier, shorter fuse.
- At first he was a gentleman. Very interested and engaged. Love bombed the hell out of me. After 50 he was always angry. Wanted abusive sex 24/7. Wanted control.
Blaming, criticism, putdowns – 15%
Although blaming isn’t listed as a defining trait or behavior of exploitative personality disorders, it should be. Just about all sociopaths are prolific blamers. In the survey, 15% of respondents who knew their spouses both before and after age 50 experienced an increase in blaming, criticism and put-downs.
- I went from being on a pedestal to couldn’t do anything right. Lots of complaining and criticizing. Moving the goal post so I could never get it right. Blaming me for everything wrong in the relationship, saying I had issues. Triangulating me with the children. Creating near constant drama and chaos. I described the relationship as a roller coaster.
Control, isolation, stalking silent treatment — 13%
Power and control — that’s what sociopaths want from all their relationships, including marriage. Even when the relationship is over, they often want to maintain power and control. When asked how their spouses changed after age 50, 13% of respondents cited control, isolation, stalking and the silent treatment.
Marriage never gets better
The important point is that being married to a senior sociopath never gets any better, and almost always gets worse. So if you come to the conclusion that your husband or wife is disordered, the sooner you get out, the better.