By | August 7, 2013 35 Comments

Marrying a Sociopath: Where Were the Warning Signs?

By Quinn Pierce

Lately, when I look back over certain events in my life, it’s a lot like watching the same scene from a movie play over and over. You know, the part where the unsuspecting soon-to-be-victim is about to go into the none-too-welcoming basement where the deranged ax-wielding maniac lies in wait. It’s the scene we all watch wondering why she had to go down there in the first place, and why isn’t she concerned by the sudden power outage and strange noises? Why wouldn’t she go get the neighbor she just waved to seconds before, the one who was outside watering the flowers? We watch clue after clue slip past the victim’s senses while the ominous music plays in the background. By the end of the scene, when she walks into the danger that is more than obvious to everyone watching, we almost feel like she deserved what she got for being so careless and frustratingly naïve. I mean, what was she thinking?

And that is the question that has taken permanent residence in my thoughts since my divorce, what was I thinking?

Enjoying the Attention

But the reality is much different from the movie. There was no ominous music every time I stepped into a trap, and the signs were so well hidden under contrasts and contradictions, that even now, it’s like searching for pieces of a puzzle that is constantly changing shape. One thing I’ve learned about sociopaths is that they are exceptional con artists. They figure out what someone needs or wants and present themselves as the one who can provide that exclusively.

Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure out what my need was that made me such a beacon of vulnerability. I certainly wasn’t looking for a lifelong commitment, but I remember experiencing for the first time an overwhelming sense of feeling adored. I would never consider myself to be a romantic person, but I enjoyed feeling cherished and admired, like I was the most wonderful person in the world. And it wasn’t something that changed right away.

Establishing Patterns

Our first year of marriage was relatively uneventful. Maybe we were still getting used to the idea of being married and navigating all the new responsibilities, or maybe he was getting to know my strengths and weaknesses. I always described him as ”˜nurturing’; he had a caring and paternal quality that I found endearing. And that was one of the many contradictions of his personality. The truth is, those are good qualities in a partner, and a healthy person would not think these would be tools of manipulation used to control another. So, in that first year, he was laying down the groundwork to feed my self-doubt. The pattern quickly became: I was nurtured and praised when I needed him, and I was belittled and scolded when feeling strong. Again, I misinterpreted the positive attention and labeled it love and caring.

The Mask Begins to Slip

By the second year of marriage, he seemed less capable of holding the façade daily and his true personality started to surface. He pushed every limit to see how much control he could assert, but at the same time, he made it seem as though I was in control.

For example, I was in charge of the finances. That is not the typical case in abusive relationships. However, I was also the one responsible for all things financial— meaning, any time there was a problem or if we couldn’t afford to do certain things, it was my fault. I was constantly saving, scrimping, going without in order to make sure we had enough for our needs. He, on the other hand, began keeping out small amount of cash, buying things for himself, and setting the precedence for acceptable behavior.

In the meantime, he balanced the scales by doing things like sending me flowers regularly, and buying me things that other people could comment on. That was always a requirement; he tended to shower me with gifts that made others ooh and aah. It was a constant PR ploy, and he was polishing his image. I received two types of gifts over the years: the first was to make him look good while distracting me from his other behaviors; the second were apologies for some type of abuse that I hadn’t yet understood to be abuse.

The Comfortable Role

And there was one major component of my life that kept me from questioning his behaviors while constantly questioning my own, and that was having people close to me who reinforced everything my husband said and did. If my trusted sources of unconditional love and support were telling me that this is ok, why would I have any reason to think otherwise? And herein lies a major flaw of my foundational design, and the reason I walked into the basement without noticing the obvious warning signs: he was not the only sociopath in my life. My husband had simply stepped into a role that was familiar and comfortable to both of us.

The Paradox

There is a certain paradox of emotion associated with the sociopathic relationship. My husband could put me on a pedestal and make me feel like a queen, only to kick the pedestal out from under me at whim leaving me face down in the dirt. Maybe I was used to this rollercoaster of emotion, or maybe I craved those moments on the pedestal and that feeling of elation enough to accept the falls. Many times, I would make excuses for him, simply so I could enjoy that adoration when it came; it’s difficult to harbor anger towards someone who always seems so remorseful and sincere. And I no longer ask myself: why did you believe him? I had no reason not to. I had no idea he was insincere, and I trusted him.

Maybe if I were more aware of the character traits, or flaws, of someone without empathy, I would have known what to look for. For example, my husband cried at the drop of a hat. At first, it was startling to see, and I was overwhelmed with sympathy when he apologized under a flood of tears. Over the years, he would make remarks here and there about my ”˜lack of emotion’. Eventually, he would resort to calling me ”˜cold’ and ”˜unfeeling’.

In reality, nothing was farther from the truth. I had learned at a very young age to conceal emotions or run the risk of being yelled at and reprimanded by a mother accusing me of being dramatic. It wouldn’t be until I had my own children that many of these issues would finally come into a rational light, but early on in my marriage, I was trying desperately to please two individuals who could never be pleased.

Avoiding His Anger

Other missed warning signs were his escalating fits of anger. My husband would have tantrums that included slamming cabinet drawers, stomping around the house, throwing small objects and mumbling angrily under his breath. As uncomfortable as it always made me feel, I developed the coping skill of avoidance. I would stay out of his way until the storm passed, and then pretend it never happened.

The problem with avoidance is that it actually encouraged the behavior I was trying to avoid. He knew I dreaded the tantrums and he manipulated my decisions and my freedom with threat of this stressful, anxiety-inducing act. It was so much easier for me to give in to his wishes and avoid the fit all together.

So, over the course of 15 years, you can imagine how his control also escalated as he would push the limits each time. I suddenly found myself asking permission to go to dinner with my friends. In addition, I was now faced with the possibility of ”˜punishment’ afterwards, even if he agreed to the activity. I would return home to the silent treatment, accusations, put-downs, or maybe he would save the repercussions for a later date when he could bring up my excursions to justify his plans for going out with friends. For some reason, it made sense to him that my two-hour dinner in the evening was equivalent to his overnight trip to places unknown.

Maybe, if the behavior presented itself this way from the start, I would have been smart enough to run the other way, but the baby steps of control and manipulation led me slowly down the basement stairs. And when I reached the bottom, I couldn’t see the ax-wielding maniac underneath the mask of the man who promised to love me forever.


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Great article. Hit the nail on the head. The progression of what some of them do is so slow that you don’t realize most of what they said were lies and almost everything they do/did is a control tactic in some way.Even when I knew what he was I still didn’t realize what that entailed until I did some reading. Now after having been with one for five years and now not with him I think back on most things and know it was all his game playing and manipulation for the pure fun of it. I feel so sorry for his new target. She has money. He has none. Blows thru all his money. Has no retirement set up. Guess what he’s after. He’ll probably get it. He is what I call a very “successful” sociopath. Has everybody fooled. Except former targets.


I could have written this myself. For me it was 2 marriages and 2 different types of sociopaths. I too ignored the noises and the flags. A friend described it as putting a frog in cool water and slowly turning up the heat, finally cooking it to death before it could realize what was happening. Then it was too late to jump out. Thankfully at least we DID finally jump out before it was too late. Yes, we might be “damaged” but we are alive and we are not still being subjected to the toxicity.


You took the words out of my mouth: this article hit the nail on the head. I was nodding in agreement at everything as I read…ooooh that getting punished for something you had “permission” to do. I know that one well.


Great post! You said: “Maybe, if the behavior presented itself this way from the start, I would have been smart enough to run the other way, but the baby steps of control and manipulation led me slowly down the basement stairs. And when I reached the bottom, I couldn’t see the ax-wielding maniac underneath the mask of the man who promised to love me forever.”

This is exactly the reason why we should forgive ourselves. We can be the strongest people mentally, however, given the circumstances, how are we to know that we are being played. None (or most) of us would have allowed ourselves to become entangled in their web of deceit. We are justified in having become involved with the monsters that they have turned out to be. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Although it is the same story (different details) we hear over and over, it is most validating and helpful. Much love…


I am also the child of disordered people. It took therapy after the last relationship with the sociopath to just figure out that I’ve had a lifetime of abuse. I never knew anything different. I never knew what a healthy relationship even looked like.


YES!!! Being a child in a VERY disfunctional family you do NOT know what a “normal” relationship is like! I have been telling that to people and they look at me with that “deer in the headlights” look! I am 53 years old now. I have been in toxic relationships all my life almost and it has taken this long (and this site!) to help me realize that and learn from it enough to have a healthy relationship. I have one now and I see how different it is! I keep waiting for the “ball to drop” so I am taking it very slowly. We have been dating a year and engaged but still waiting to get married until I am ready. I have taken time to observe every behavior not only with me but with his children, friends, mother and everyone else he is with. He knows what I am doing. And he understands why. Heck, I could have hired a private detective and gotten less information than I have gotten on my own LOL! Anyway, there is HOPE for us! Ladies (and men) GET OUT if you are in one. It will only do more and more damage the longer it goes on. The NC thing was the best thing I ever learned and did. I can recognize sociopaths in everyday life now and I know how to deal with them (even coworkers) (firm and short). I am now done grieving the time I missed and finally grateful for what I have learned and thankful that I still have a life to finish living, a healthy life, not free of problems or obstacles but not TOXIC and damaging!


I have been remarried to a non-psychopath for 30 years and I am still waiting for the “other shoe” to drop. It is not rational, it is visceral…from too much all of my life.


For whatever reason, I refused to accept that the man who is in my life is a sociopath. I was never in love with this man, I liked him a lot. He would say he loved and adored me, which I hated because it was way too soon. Yet, I dismissed it as he was being grateful because I helped him. it’s 6 months later.. he lives with me, drives my car and I’m secretly writing this because he has access to my home emails. I stay at work longer so I don’t have to deal with him. I told him to leave on numerous occassions and he says he’ll just come back when the cops leave and says he knows how to get in! I’ve finally tricked him into thinking I’ll be going to live with him in another state… but once he leaves.. I’m moving.


I have a friend who is married to a man I’m convinced is a sociopath. He has all of the characteristics. They’ve been together for 10 years. When I met her she was relatively normal, but very sad. He was in prison for felony DUI. The day he was released they went out drinking together.

It’s 4 years later and I don’t really know who she is anymore. I’ve watched her adopt many of his behaviors – alcoholism, drug use, infidelity, a whole list of nasty stuff. Some of what she does, I know is to get even with him, to try to hurt him like he hurts her.

She posts things on Facebook constantly about how awful he is. I think it is try to shame him into behaving, and I think a lot of it is to get sympathy from other people. She gets a lot of sympathy from women – “all men are bad” – that sort of thing.

People have also tried to help – we give her a place to stay when he gets too far out of control, give her money to leave, etc. She has a tremendous support system. She never stays away for more than a few days and then she goes back. I hate to sound harsh but it’s not unfair to say that she uses people. If I question or show concern about behavior, either hers or theirs as a couple (the last time was me showing concern about some serious binge drinking), I am quickly discarded and she moves on to a different friend. She comes back in a few months and we talk mainly about the husband. It’s a very one-sided relationship.

From what she’s told me, she has a history of abusive relationships that goes back decades but she had never before married and those relationships never lasted this long. I’m wondering now if there’s more to her history than I know, things about those relationships she kept hidden. Maybe she and the husband are both disordered?

So have you heard of a partner who adopted the sociopath’s behaviors? Did she wear a mask when I first met her? I ask this because I’m desperately confused after I heard from her today, a couple of months after she discarded me again. I’ve met many people online who were victims of sociopaths, but none who behaved this way.


Thank you for your words Quinn! He is capable of violence, I know this.
He’s never ” hit ” me, but he makes a point of showing me how much stronger he is than me. He’s 6’3 250 lbs and I’m 5’4.
He holds me down so I can’t move, while saying things like if he raped me what would I do. He scares the living hell out of me, and I’m trying to hold on by being sweet and smiling and accomadating ( to a point)until I can make my move. Wish me luck, and I pray for all of the other women/ and men in my position.


The rape will come if you do not get out. It happened to me. The gradual escalation of violence and pretending to be something different destroys our defences. If he is hoding you down, physically restraining you and threatening rape, this is abouse much worse than hitting you. I hope you hurry up and make your move. Sending prayers.


Great article!
I have said it bofore, and I will say it again, as a reminder to us, as victims:
If you were able to see the signs in the beginnig so clearly, then our minds would be as EVIL and SOCIOPATHIC as theirs are. So let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, because 1)we were intelligent enough to see the signs, albeit much later, 2)we were able to leave; and 3)we have survived.


Shell thank you. I can never be reminded of that enough!!! It doesn’t help when unkind people make comments about “How could you have married him”? and “Why would you stay with such a jerk”? and “I can’t understand how you would be that blind”? I have learned not to share with very many people but the ones who do know that I haven’t been able to avoid (like coworkers and others) sometimes say these things and I have to remind myself they do not in ANY way understand unless they have been in my position!


Thanks for the prayers Delores! I’m trying to keep him as calm as I possibly can in hopes that All goes well with my plan.
And Lineete, you are right.. some people just will never understand how it happens so they end up being critical rather than helpful. Which is why my family doesn’t know anything that’s going on. Which is why I’m writing this from my job. just in case.
I hate to sound all ominous, but the truth is.. I never thought I’d be involved with someone like this either.


Holding you down is violence. He will escalate if you remain. You have no idea how much, or in what time frame. Don’t take a chance with your safety.

You can submit a report to family court and file for an Order of Protection. Here is how it works in NYC where I filed. Other cities may be different, so you should inquire:

I was pregnant at the time. He tripped me and I fell down a flight of stairs. He claimed I tripped because I’d gotten clumsy, but I knew he deliberately put his foot in the way. Another time, he struck me.

The court issued a temporary order immediately. It had a return date for a hearing. I had to serve him, and the police accompanied me. If they don’t do so in your jurisdiction, get a very strong, and large friend or family member to accompany you.

You should not remain where he has access to you. Before you serve him, take what you need out of your home and put it in a safe place. You may be able to go back for the rest of your things later, but he also may destroy what you leave behind so if you value it, take it with you.

A person who speaks to you about raping you is giving thought to it. Leave before he puts those thoughts into action.

Praying for your safety!


edge of sanity

I married a psychopath and was blindsighted by it all. So right! Never enough money for the family, but managed to do the things he wanted to do. The manipulative ways, the gaslighting,
and the slip of the mask was clearly seen. Whenever the mask slips, they usually take off, so that no one detects the real person. Clearly, the decomposition over the years, got worse, and
it was almost too late for me. I realized that no matter what I tried to do, I was screwed by his manipulative ways, and I knew the outcome was not good. I did loose everything, literally everything! The most important thing is that I have my sanity, which clearly gave me enough ammunition to fight back. I had to take what I could from the home, and the rest was given away by him. Beware of the snake! They will twist the truth, portray themselves as the victim, and people will believe them because they are that good. Protect yourself! Be astute at all times, because they have bigger and better for you. Please get out in one piece, and get your ammunition together, whatever you have against him, Keep your cards close to your heart. A psychopath does not want the truth revealed. Remember, stay away, and NO NO contact.
I recently heard from the spath-wanted to apologize and stated how he was sorry for the way he treated me-I never responded, and wrote to his atty a cease and dissist letter. You do not want the drama, or the possible injury from the spath. If I knew this 31 yrs ago, I would have been the first runaway bride. Keep smart, and do not let your heart rule you, go by your gut! The heart is treacherous.


Thank you for your prayers. I know everything you’re saying is right. This man has invaded every single aspect of my life. My job, my family and my friends.
It’s hard to see clearly and think rationally when he makes his threats if I leave him. Like threatening to burn my apartment complex down, or attacking people I work with, all in the name of loving me so much.
He says things like ” he can’t lose me and he is never letting me go”.
Him having to go to Texas is a Godsend! He HAS to go, according to him. My plan is in place. He thinks that I’m completely blind, which is why I’m on this site every day. I need to stay grounded with the truth or else I’ll get sucked in again! I just feel more comfortable with my plan. When he finds out that I’m not coming down with him and I’ve disappeared. He has less objects to release his rage on, I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone.


Tee I know that you are scared (who wouldn’t be?) but so many of us have done it and even though it’s hard, try to apply the “no contact” rule as soon as possible. Even if you HAVE to speak to him, I would keep it totally short and BUSINESS with absolutely NO meeting in person. Use whatever legal action is necessary. My restraining order is what finally got to mine. I was afraid it might push him over the edge but it was the best thing I ever did. They don’t want to be “found out” for what they REALLY are. I am praying for you. I also had to plan secretly and then let him know after I had already left and gotten to a safe place.


Thanks,Linette! Once he leaves, my goal is to not speak to him or anyone else he knows! He has friends ( or other victims, I should say) that will do anything for him, in spite of what he’s done to them. I see all of the posts of successes, so I do remain hopeful.
and I give a special Thank you to Love Fruad because it was this site that made me take off the cracked rose colored glasses and put together the true make up of this man. I couldn’t count how many websites I’ve been on trying to figure out what was wrong. Especially, since such a small percentage of the pop. actually being true sociopaths. I do feel stupid. I know, It’s not my fault but that doesn’t take away from the feeling. He reads like a text book on sociopaths, yet I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. I’ll come out of this.


I had a plan too. Lived in a nice home on the beach, boat, cars, etc… But I decided that leaving sooner than later would be better. I left with just my clothes and 91 cents . He never thought in a million years that I would or could. I had family that helped, friends that helped. He had told me there would be consequences, that I couldn’t go, but i proved him wrong. And it felt good. I regained my power, and have never looked back. I’ve rebuilt my life to the best its ever been, found work I love, and have peace when I close my eyes at night. I owe this site the fact that I recognized my ordeal as abuse. I had not ever seen verbal abuse in my healthy growing up home with my parents. It was very foreign to me. It wasn’t until this site that I realized that not only was this behavior wrong but that it would never end. If i could do it over, i may have tried to get more out of it materialistically. But in retrospect, the fact that I had nothing forced a fire in me to recover faster . And I have. He lives nearby, but doesn’t know where I live. I put in our divorce agreement that he is to have ZERO contact with me or my family in any way, direct or indirectly. So far it’s worked. Thank God. I’ll pray for you, that you will be able to leave sooner than later and for your safety.


I am 19 years old. I just recently got married to someone who I now suspect is a sociopath. I used to think he was just an outgoing person because I, myself, am rambunctious but now I’m not so sure. After doing some reading on the website I think I’m able to force myself to come to terms with the facts. One time we got in a physical altercation where he was holding me down and I couldn’t get up no matter how badly I tried; however, every time I was close he would hit me to subdue me. As if he wanted to just see me beneath him. He stuffed a hair accessory in my mouth and poured lotion in my eyes. At one point, I was almost up and he hit me twice in the face with a book. In my last attempt, he again hit me in the face with a different book. I went and stayed with my sister in law and her baby in order to keep myself calm and careful. When he came to see me he brought his father and said that we were having an “intervention”… But I realized he meant he was intervening on ME and not him. He had not a single scratch, meanwhile I was bruised head to toe, had a black eye, a swollen nose, and I could barely lift my arm for it being so sore. Eventually he broke down and apologized but everything was my fault. It always is. It’s like even if I am right, he can’t be wrong. Then just earlier this week, we were arguing and I fixed myself a glass of wine and was about to head outside and have a cigarette and he began grabbing me and stopping me. I didn’t want to fight so I just stayed still. I asked him to let me go so I could clear my head and he poured out my glass and bottle of wine and took away my phone (I was listening to music) and he tried to take my keys as well. Eventually he got tired of my resistance and decided he was going to leave. He took my phone with him and was gone for hours… I don’t know why, but I tried to hold him still and keep him from leaving and he left me crying on our front steps on my knees. He takes my phone often actually. One time he changed the phone numbers of my best friends’ contacts to his phone number. The most recent incident was just last night/this morning. He lied to me about having Halloween plans, but sent me a picture of the party. When my shift was over I called him and he told me that the party had ended about 20min ago and he was driving home but I could clearly hear the party in the background. When I got home he wasn’t there, I called him 52 times. He didn’t answer, and I waited up until 5:30 in the morning. I guess he called me a few times to tell me his mother was having surgery, but I had been awake since 9am the day before and was dead unconscious. He sent me a message saying “I need you right now my mom is having surgery… Some fuckin wife.” Then when he returned home, he was in a fit of rage. He dragged me out of the bed and tried to take my keys to the house and my car. When I asked him where he had been he spun the whole thing around telling me to check my phone before I say that he had wronged me. He even called the police and tried to have me arrested for not leaving the house or giving him my keys. I’m a full time student so he is the financially dominant one; however, when we argue he’ll be threatening me saying he’ll only let me leave with everything I’ve paid for. I’m not sure what to make of all this. He’s threatened to put me out but then turned up at my job crying and apologetic. I’m not sure if he’s sick or if I’m the sick one for being with him still.

kelsaples – you are enduring domestic violence. What you are describing are all the classic signs of a controlling, abusive, sociopathic personality.


You must leave. You must end it. It will only get worse and some day you might not wake up.

Turn to your sister or anyone else for support. Get out.

But be very careful – the most dangerous time for any woman in a violent relationship is right when you leave. It is best for you to leave when he is not home, and go somewhere that he does not know.

File for divorce. Retain an attorney and do not talk to him.

Have NO CONTACT with him.

He will probably either plead with you or threaten you. Either way, DO NOT HAVE CONTACT.

You are in a dangerous situation. Get out immediately.

Adding to what Donna said,they WANT you to feel confused;that either you are the sick one or somehow to blame for the problem.Unfortunately,this isn’t the normal situation…the daily struggles and strains faced along with the joys of married life.Totally different situation!Most people do not understand!


What Donna has told you is 100% correct and I’m going to give you another reason to get out……. YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THIS MAN’S CHILD! If you do, he will be in your life, forever in forms that can significantly diminish your life, and the life of your child.

Even if you break away, he will always be the other parent. Your child could be genetically pre-disposed to behave the way he is behaving toward you now, and at the very least, the manipulation you and your child will have to go through is beyond description.

No one has the right to harm a single hair on your head for any reason. He is unable to contain himself and the problem will escalate.

Get out immediately!



Its easier to control and manipulate a crazy person than a sane one. Yes that is part of their plan, keep us off balance and confused making us feel like we are crazy. That is a tactic of a sociopath, part of their game plan. I was non functional for the 3 years he lived with me. He just moved in and took over my life, of course i liked it at first, but soon I lost my identity and my reality,
I kicked him out, it didnt matter if he was the love of my life, I was living a nitemare. It took me years to sort it all out, he never cared a ratz ass about me, he was just using me and enjoying every minute of making me crazy…You never forget these people, but you do move on and learn much about yourself in the process…


Your story is heart wrenching. I’m sure it was difficult to think back over your history with your husband, so I appreciate you sharing. You sound like a loving mom and wife, who takes really good care of your family.

I’m so sorry to hear of what appears to be a very abusive situation for you and your children. It sounds like your husband is very aggressive and dismissive of you, and I bet his behavior makes you feel devalued and unloved. Are your children doing ok?
While, I only know a small bit of your story, I would certainly say that your husbands behavior is not the same as most kind, moral people of integrity, nor is his son’s. To me, your husband acts in ways that align with some type of personality disorder. You may find it helpful to continuing to read articles and post on this blog. If you have any questions, just ask anyone here, or you can email Donna herself.

Usually, when a wife has to ask if her husband is a sociopath, then there certainly is a problem. I’m so sorry for your heartache and pain. This is a perfect place to be if you are hurting and need direction. Welcome to the LF. This is a family of abuse survivors who would be eager to offer support. Post again soon 🙂

Writing it all out does help you see,doesn’t it?!Because the crazy-making,that is existance with a sociopath,leaves one guessing as to what is truly happening!!!

I certainly see red flags as I read your story!His jealousy towards you following your passion for music…especially with a male partner.Deliberately isolating you from your friend.Not wanting you to communicate with his father & stepmother.The prenuptial agreement that was supposeably the stepmother’s idea…yeah!The stepsister who worked her way in;your feelings were probably correct…she was probably actually a good friend doing him a favor!The fact that he publicly humiliated you and verbally abused you.The ‘son’ may be a son…and may not.Sociopaths have heavy sexual appetites.So he wouldn’t have been concerned by the things you were telling him.The fact that he is “never to blame”.He has to be the center of attention.I’m sure there were more.But that’s enough for you to see that you’re in a VERY SERIOUS SITUATION!Especially as you have young children;one being a daughter!You need to start making plans to get away!

I just read the above comment;didn’t realize that your children are now 18 & 21 yrs old.Do they both still live in the home?

Look up the term “gaslighting”…right here at the search feature.That’s what that crazymaking is called!


This man is abusive and you need an exit strategy.


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