By | September 17, 2006 3 Comments

Pop psychology doesn’t work with sociopaths

I remember the first time I had proof that my ex-husband, James Montgomery, was cheating on me.

Montgomery had talked me into giving him a credit card to use. He charged things on the card, and I paid the bills (a good deal for him). One time the bill came and it listed a charge for the Berlin Motor Lodge.

This is not Berlin, Germany. There’s a small town called Berlin not far from where I live in New Jersey. It isn’t much more than a blip on the highway.

Now, my ex was always away on “business.” But there was no possible business reason for him to stay at this budget motel that was only about 40 minutes away. The only realistic explanation was that he was there with another woman.

What should I do?

My first step was to verify the charge. I called the credit card company and asked to see the receipt. A few weeks later it arrived—yep, that was my ex’s signature. Montgomery had stayed in the motel and charged it to my credit card. He was cheating on me.

Consulting the experts

Now what?

I have a bookcase full of self-help and psychology books. So I got out a classic, What Every Woman Should Know About Men, by Dr. Joyce Brothers. This psychologist is an expert on family psychology. She wrote a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine for almost 40 years.

What does Dr. Joyce say to do if a woman finds out her husband is cheating on her? Ignore it.

Her reason is that if a woman confronts a man, it may mean the end of the marriage. The woman has to either throw the guy out, or allow him to stay, but then they both know that the trust is broken. If the woman doesn’t confront her husband, Dr. Joyce says, there’s a good chance that the affair is a passing phase and it will eventually be over and the marriage will survive.

I decided to follow Dr. Joyce’s advice. I did not confront Montgomery.

The king of advice

Today, of course, the king of relationship advice is Dr. Phil McGraw. I like Dr. Phil and his TV show. I like his no-nonsense approach, and I’ve seen him be very sensitive toward guests who are obviously struggling with their issues.

Dr. Phil has an extensive website, including an advice section. One web article is called Affair-Proof Your Marriage. Here are some of his tips:

  • If you want to have a good partner, be a good partner. Put 100 percent into your marriage.

  • Work on your marriage every single day—not just during the bad times. Wake up each day and ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make my marriage better?”

  • Make a plan together to renegotiate your relationship. If you’ve gotten off track, it’s never too late to get back to a better place.

Don’t try this with a sociopath

This type of advice may work if you are married to a normal person, but it sure doesn’t work with a sociopath. A sociopath is in a relationship with you for one reason only: to manipulate you into giving him what he wants.

As you try to be a good partner, a sociopath will cheat on you.

As you work on your marriage, a sociopath will siphon the life out of you.

As you try to renegotiate your relationship, a sociopath will escalate his demands.

I tried to be a good wife. I overlooked my ex-husband’s indiscretion, only to find out he had about six affairs during our two-and-a-half year relationship. I was supportive of his needs, and he put me into bankruptcy.

Sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated. You could buy every self-help book on and take him to every therapist in town, and he will not change.

This is why it is so important to be able to recognize a sociopath that’s come into your life. The standard advice from experts will make no difference. If you want to save your financial stability, your emotional well-being and perhaps even your life, your only option is to get away.

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I have just (2 months) seperated from my sociopathic husband. I found myself thinking “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough” when I read Dr. Phil’s tips. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t work with a sociopath. I am without a home (staying at a grilfrinds temporarily) in debt up to my eyeballs and stranded in Mexico. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride for me since I left him, doubting myself and my judgement regading ending the marriage until I had a flash of insight yesterday following an apologetic email I sent him that I needed to Google “spotting a sociopath” There he was! To a tee. There I was, to a tee. I remember having a flash earlier in the relationship (been marrried for 5 years, together for 6) that he was very likely a sociopath. I dismissed it. I know I have a rough road ahead but I know I am a surivor. My future is much brighter now than it was 3 months ago. My sociopath has an extensive history in “white collar crime” but of course he was always the victim. Even when he went to prison he was the victim. He even thinks he’s a victim right now because I took the satelite tv I was paying for when I left. Amazing distortions of reality and it’s all so textbook.


Donna, thanks for reminding us that since sociopaths don’t follow “the rules” (they don’t think the rules apply to them, I suppose) our own rules for interacting with people will not work with them.

The rules normal people use for personal interactions only apply to interacting with other normal people.

will be okay

I also spent way too much time wishing I had done things differently, thinking “then he wouldnt have cheated”. I am more and more beginning to ‘believe’ that it is truly a blessing that I caught him. I already wasted far too much time loving an evil man, who only pretended to care about me.

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