More and less judgmental after the sociopath

Before my run-in with a sociopath, my philosophy was pretty simple: Do what you’re supposed to do, and you’ll stay out of trouble.

It worked when I was younger. I studied hard in school, did my chores around the house and earned lots of Girl Scout merit badges. As a teenager and young adult, I never ran with a fast crowd. My cousin did, and I saw what happened to her.

She should have known better, I thought. Those kids were nothing but trouble. They were hanging out and smoking dope. What did she expect?

Fast forward 20 years. I’m a single professional with a profitable small business. My philosophy seemed to be working out—I’d never been in any serious trouble. Then the sociopath swept into my life.

James Montgomery certainly didn’t look like trouble. He didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He often wore a sport coat with a handkerchief in the pocket. He hung around with local business leaders. But in two and a half years, this man destroyed my life as I knew it.

Montgomery spent all my money, distracted me from my business, and left me in serious debt. I was no longer independent and self-sufficient. I was shaken to my core. Obviously, my simplistic philosophy had failed me.

Now, 10 years after I left Montgomery, I am more judgmental—and less judgmental.

I am more judgmental because I know, through hard experience, that trouble in life is not always easy to identify. Trouble can come in seemingly harmless, even promising, packages. I have learned that I cannot necessarily take people at face value; I must exercise discernment before believing or trusting anyone.

And I am less judgmental because I realize that people can get into trouble, even though they didn’t mean to. You never really know the circumstances that lead to the decisions people make. Maybe, given the same situation, my choices wouldn’t be any better.

It seems that, after the sociopath shattered my black-and-white view of the world, I’ve acquired some wisdom. For that, I am grateful.

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65 Comments on "More and less judgmental after the sociopath"

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Donna…Thanks for hanging in there with all of us. It is so refreshing to know I am not alone. I was involved with the Sociopath physically for 24 years, and emotionally for 42 years – didn’t know I needed de-programming until I had the “aha” moment years later. Just this morning I realized that my reality was my reality during the past 42 years. Although I have come to see that what I THOUGHT was real with him (the years spent with him, our two children, etc.), was in fact an illusion of reality, it was MY reality at the time. I have had to grieve that what I perceived as one thing was really something entirely different. I believed what I needed to believe in order to survive. I was only 19 when I met him on the beach at Waikiki, and I am sure he thought I had
money. I was merely a nanny living with a family who took me to Hawaii to tend to the children while they were there. I have had to look at my part eventually, and have come up with the fact that I was extremely naive. I grew up in a Catholic school and attended private school all of my life up to that point. I was not street smart. I grew up with a Bi-Polar rageaholic father who wasn’t there for me growing up, and I was a prime candidate for a man to pay attention to me. Even at that young age, I still remember having a check in my gut as he approached me, but I ignored it. That was a costly mistake. As you, now I am more discerning and a lot wiser. Gifts have come as a result of this experience. I have had to go back and face the events in my past that I have tried to run from for these many years. This involves re-visiting my childhood and the trauma of those young years. I believe life is a journey, and this has been part of my path. Hopefully, now it will be traversed with better choices.

Wow! Donna, I can really relate.

I spent most of my life thinking judging other people was presumtuous, but judging myself was a duty. Now I struggle to like the new me, who is so…

emphasis added


Have you had this problem?

For that matter, has anyone else dealt with this? How do you feel about having become (gasp!) judgmental?

PS. There’s a really lovely divorcee who’s come into our social circle recently. She tells horror stories about her X. He sounds like an S. I want to believe her, and more importantly to believe IN her, because one of our best friends is falling for her. I want there to be a happily ever to this story, but I don’t trust my own judgement.

Dan and I deliberately introduced them. Really and truly, we played matchmakers for the first time ever!

I confided in my husband. “I want her to be a good person. I like her, but I don’t trust my own ability to see when someone’s bad, at least not until they’ve done considerable harm.”

He pointed out that she has great kids, which is absolutely true. I noticed this, and thought it was a good sign.

This new behavior I’m engaging in, this judging, just doesn’t sit comfortably with me yet. I don’t feel competant, but I’m afraid not to try. It’s an uneasy feeling. I hope it gets easier.

Dear Donna,

Another great article! Short but with many good “thinking points.”

Yes, I have become MORE judgmental in many ways….I no longer am tolerant of “bad behavior” and lies or liars….I am more tolerant and less judgmental of people in pain….but even those people in pain, I do my best not to “take care of” them, but to only be supportive, caring, and kind to them, but NOT enabling.

I no longer dispense trust to new people I meet as soon as I meet them. My trust is earned, easily lost by any sign of deception, and rarely restorable once lost. I no longer feel guilty about not trusting someone, or not giving them a “second chance” after trust has been destroyed through lies or manipulations. I also watch how people treat others and if they are treating me as “special” and not treating me badly, but are treating others badly, I assume that sooner or later they will be dishonest with me as well, and they are not able to gain my trust by this “special” treatment.

People who steal, lie, mistreat anyone or any thing, and do not keep their promises without a “darned good reason” are not people I want in my life or my “circle of trust.”.

Me too. I’m not sure if judgmental is the word. But more cautious. I know now that I can get into serious trouble in a way I didn’t know before. So I’m paying more attention to my environment and to my gut reactions. And I’m withholding, really withholding commitment, trust, buying in until time has passed and I’ve had an opportunity to gather a lot of data.

Like you, I’m not sure that if the same situation reappeared, I wouldn’t do the same thing. So I’m trying to ensure that the same situation doesn’t appear. That means changing myself so I don’t NEED anyone to get into my life that deeply. The loss is that I’ll probably never have another big, crazy, flaming love affair. There are too many internal checks in place now; I’m not attracted to getting so out of control. I realize, finally, that I’ve got a lot to lose.

But I think (hope?) that there is potential for another kind of relationship. One that grows naturally, while I’m doing something else. What is it they say about life? Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans. I suspect that real love happens when you’re not really looking for it, and discover that you’ve become more and more fond of someone you’re used to seeing.

Your post made me think of Myers-Briggs. I keep taking that test every few years, hoping that I’m moving a little more over to the judgmental side. I’ve always been off the charts on the perceptive side of the J-P continuum. Too understanding. Too aware of the circumstantial problems that people face. So far, there hasn’t been any movement. But I have learned how to say, “That doesn’t work for me” and mean it.

Elizabeth…Donna, Housie and all…I’ve always faced this, my stepfather never allowed us to express an opinion or talk back or there would be punishment. So naturally if you’re a ‘nice’ girl and that leads into being a
‘nice’ woman, you overthink your natural, individual reactions to things or
better yet, your JUDGMENTS of people and situations . And as I read book recommended here – How We Choose to be Happy, it’s timely that I’m making myself be less judgmental of others
and not just react (and sometimes OVERreact) to them and their actions
as well as be kinder and less judgmental of myself as I get clear about
what makes me happy. I ‘ve become more judgmental of people’s agendas and their characters from the very beginning now. It’s really a matter of letting people be who they are, observing, not judging or pointing fingers but having DISCERNMENT about who we choose to associate with in our lives. Many of our families have contributed to our tendencies to be attracted to dysfunctional relationships but now, in the present we can choose our own friends and lovers.

Right next to these entries are the ads about how women can “catch and
keep a man”…isn’t it ironic (or something) to see those ads when alot of
us have tried too hard to be the perfect mate or put men (or women) on
such a pedestal of power that we forget that basic skill of making ourselves happy first? Why in society are women especially coached
and almost shamed if they don’t ‘have a man’ and there are so many books, movies, you name it – trying to help us mold ourselves – both
in body and behavior to make sure we attract and continue to attract that ‘other’ who will supposedly complete us.

I just know I want MORE – I want to go after happiness in a healthy way now so it doesn’t just fall into my lap like a stray puppy – that somehow I feel obligated to adopt…And the two times I felt that ‘gut check’ that Housie mentioned, I got the two emotional/financial rollercoaster rides of my life…you can almost feel the wave coming…

Donna, Awesome article, and to all those who have posted, excellent dead on commentaries!
Persephone7- you said “why are women especially coached and almost shamed if they dont “have a man”… I dont understand either, and hope we are beginning to change that unrealistic propaganda. I’ve seen that millionaires club for dating show on tv. Like an alien of sorts, I sit there bewildered and frankly stunned at the desparation people are feeling to get ‘hooked up’ with someone- any one. No one (on those shows) seems to fathom that happiness begins within yourself. You must be happy within yourself or you will NEVER be happy with someone else. Another human being CANNOT and never will be able to fill all the voids that a happy, and spiritually contented person possesses.

I meant that a happy contented person does “not” possess- sorry.

Yes, I think about this a lot too. I was a fairly quiet, reserved yet strong and self sufficient person before the s. Almost too self sufficient. I have been on my own since age 16, mainly due to dysfunctional family dynamics. When I met the s, I have talked myself into liking him, even though something was really not right from moment one. He was so relentless and pushy in his courting, he said all the right things; I felt brainwashed and swept off in a current. Many times I have reasoned with myself: how could I not like all the attention? Maybe I just needed to open myself to other people etc, etc….quieting and rationalizing my own discomfort.

He came into my life projecting this upstanding, too-good-to-be true-all-understanding, humble, hardworking, feminist, punk-rock, tortured artist- genius persona.

Then during the 7 years I have found out the hard way that it was all a lie. I started becoming “one” with him, thought and judged people harshly like him. I was mean and tough, abrasive and condescending. I have turned away from good friends because the s did not like them, made fun of them. The s preached endless about how stupid all people were, how the two of us were special “we were the cult of two” and lived outside the realm if normal society.

He grew marijuana, smoked marijuana, constantly pressured me to partake in drug use, drinking, smoking and other unhealthy behavior.

To the outside world he was this upstanding, super helpful college professor.

He stole, lied, hated and felt completely justified and entitled about it. I felt his world view crept under my skin, invaded part of my self like cancer. I treated people like the s, so that I would be strong and cool in his eyes, although deep down I felt differently. He needed me to agree with all, and he would make these pep-speeches about anger and having anger fuel you “whatever does not kill you make you stronger” and such quotes. He had control over most of my life, he checked the garbage to see what I ate, he dictated when we ate meals, he checked the phone log to see what call I made. I had no idea at that point who I really was and how I could get out of this relationship. I wanted it to go away, but did not know how. I felt like it was somehow my fault because I could not keep up the fantasy woman role he has projected onto me. I felt worthless, but enough of my spirit inside deep down remained to know that there is more out there and not get married to him.
It is an ongoing project to eliminate the s’s voice from my reasoning. I often hear echoes of it. I realize how much his voice has controlled my life. For instance it took me a long time to go buy something (especially clothing) without thinking if the s would approve it. I know, I know, it sounds so weird. It was very liberating the first few time I answered that negative controling voice with “I don’t care…I like this and I will buy it.

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