Psycho Squirrel

As I was trying to come up with an idea for this week’s blog post, my husband, Terry, made a suggestion: “Why don’t you write about Psycho Squirrel?”

Last fall, we started tossing peanuts in the shells to squirrels in our backyard. We were captivated by the show they put on as they acrobatically chased each other along the fence and through the tree branches. Plus, we liked being nice to our furry neighbors.

Most of the squirrels picked up the peanuts and scurried away, burying them to eat in the winter. A couple of squirrels, however, were smart. They learned that humans meant food, and every time they saw us, bounded over to the ground below our back deck. They’d sit on their hind legs, twitch their tails, and look up at us expectantly. Of course, they were rewarded with peanuts.

Aw, aren’t they cute?

Well, they started getting brave, and crept up the steps of the deck. We opened the back door, which led into the kitchen, and tossed out a peanut. The squirrels scurried away with the peanuts, buried them, and came back for more.  So then we squatted down low, cracked open the full-length glass storm door, and held the peanuts at their nose height. They were skittish at first, but soon began taking the peanuts right from our fingers.

They’d sit on the deck, hold the peanut to their mouths and roll it, as if looking for a place to bite the shell. Sometimes they ate the peanuts, and sometimes they ran away, buried them, and came back for more. If we weren’t right at the door, we could hear them tapping on the glass with their tiny claws.

Aren’t they cute?

We ended up with three “pet squirrels—”one day they all kept coming to the door like a tag team. Eventually, if they saw us, they’d leap through the trees to the ground below the deck and then run up the steps. When they saw us walking up the driveway, they followed. We started keeping a small ceramic bowl filled with peanuts on the counter next to the back door, so they’d be handy when our squirrel buddies showed up. We imagined that they really appreciated us when 18 inches of snow blanketed the ground and all their peanuts from the fall were hidden.

A few weeks ago, spring finally arrived, and we exchanged the glass in the storm door for a screen. We hadn’t seen the squirrels in awhile, but one showed up. She looked well fed, but still remembered how to beg for a handout.

I opened the screen door, held a peanut low for her, and she took it. She came back several times; I fed her about five peanuts. Then I had to go back to work. I closed the screen door, but the main back door was open to let the warm breeze into the house.

A couple of hours later I walked back into the kitchen and stopped short. The screen by the door handle was shredded—someone had broken into the house! Then I noticed the ceramic bowl was empty, there were broken peanut shells all over the floor, and a small yellow puddle on the counter.

The squirrel had chewed through the screen, eaten all the peanuts, and left. I couldn’t believe it. I shut the main back door—wood with glass panes at the top—so she couldn’t come back in. But she had learned well, and a little while later I caught her trying to climb through the hole in the screen again.

That was it. Now it was No Contact with the squirrel.

Terry took the screen out so it could be repaired. The squirrel didn’t know this, so when she next saw me in the kitchen, she leaped at the door, expecting to cling to the screen. Instead, she slammed into the regular door with its glass panes. With nothing to hold on to, she slid to the deck.

We stayed on the No Contact program, even though the squirrel kept following us around the yard and begging. No more handouts, no more bowl of peanuts on the counter by the door. In fact, since we couldn’t really tell the squirrels apart, none got fed. One overly aggressive squirrel had ruined it for everyone.

After a couple of weeks, hoping the pushy squirrel had forgotten that she had been sponging off of us, we replaced the screen, which had cost $25 to fix. It was fine for awhile, but the other day, I walked into the kitchen to find holes in the screen next to the door handle. She didn’t forget. But at least there were no peanuts on the counter, so the squirrel didn’t come in.

Now the screen needs to be repaired again. “That squirrel owes me $50 for the two screens,” Terry complained.

We don’t think the squirrel is going to pay. In fact, it’s probably going to cost us even more, because now Terry has decided we should invest in pet-proof screens.

Sigh. And it all started because the squirrels were so cute and we wanted to be friendly.

Posted in: Donna Andersen

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144 Comments on "Psycho Squirrel"

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oh, those adorable, penniless, screen-chewing, peanut-addicted sociopathic squirrels…this was spit-coffee-on-keyboard funny!

Hi Donna,
This post brings together a number of concepts I’ve been thinking about lately.

I recently heard a political commenter, speaking about our recent federal election, describe leadership races and elections, particularly how voters react/respond to potential leaders, as ‘atavistic’. That turned on a lightbulb for me, because I’d recently been thinking about human predators as being more atavistic than the rest of us. And atavistic behaviour is all about body language, both individual and group. I’d also been thinking about how the ‘masses’ of society generally prefer sociopaths/psychopaths to ‘earnest’ people, because when they’re in public mode sociopaths make people feel good, whereas earnest people are often raising alarms (which are warranted), and those alarms (if the danger isn’t immediately imminent) make people feel unhappy. Alarmingly, I’ve started to see a number of articles pointing out how public & business leaders who are higher on the psychopathic/sociopathic spectrum are more emotionally intelligent than others (a la Daniel Goleman).

To get to the point of your post: 1) I used to work in a National Park where no matter what your job you spend an inordinant amount of your time educating the public about WHY you shouldn’t feed wild animals (particularly predatory animals). 1) I currently live on an urban street in a large city where a coyote has killed and mauled several pets, and where, as is always the case, neighbours have been feeding it. It’s been very contentious (last year we had newspeople blanketing our street for weeks and my neighbours were on the news on a regular basis). Just like in the human predator situation, people seem to line up on either side. Those people who’ve been victimized – or know someone who has – want to make protection the primary consideration. There are people who portray this as “These are wild animals who have more right than we do to be here and we have no business eliminating this wild creature and isn’t it nice that we have these beautiful animals here, and isn’t it so wonderful that we’re living ‘harmoniously’ with nature?”, coming up against those who say “We have young children and we can’t let them play outside, what kind of insanity is this that we’re protecting this animal who has killed pets 20 feet away from their adult owners and 30 feet away from two-year old children?”

What neither side seems to realize, something all of us in Parks Canada learned over and over and over (ad nauseum), was that there is a fundamental difference between a wild animal – which is afraid of humans and poses minimal (meaning reasonable and predictable) threat – and a habituated wild animal which has lost its fear of humans and will do pretty much anything to get what it wants.

And, of course, the reasons never to feed wild animals are exactly your situation. There was a wonderful article (which I can’t find at the moment) which stated it perfectly. It said something along the lines of “If you feed a wild animal so that it comes to your door you aren’t ‘taming’ it. It is just as wild as it ever was. What you’re doing is bringing a wild animal to your door and making it change its habits to feed in human environments.”

Unfortunately many of us have been brought up with two primary “Walt Disney” views of life – both of which it seems to me are equally harmful: ‘cuddly’ wild animals and handsome princes/pretty princesses. Both of those ‘views’ of life are not much more than setups for victimization and the creation of harmful environments (as in your recent post about the next generation of victims – about your god-daughter after her confirmation).

What I find fascinating is what happens after people are educated. Once they realize how they are playing a part in creating a dangerous situation most people are reasonable and follow the example of you and your husband. They stop feeding the animal and check their yards to make sure that they are not inadvertantly leaving out ‘coyote bait’. But there are certain neighbours, very much like situations with human predators, who are knowingly protecting both the aggressive coyote AND the people who are feeding it, and subtly ridiculing those people who are trying to get the coyote to move on.

So it’s helped me to start seeing these types of predators as wilder versions of human beings, and to go into ‘bear mode’ when I spot one. And to give their protectors an equally wide berth.

I’ll include a couple of articles on why you shouldn’t feed predators – it’s interesting to compare this situation to its human counterpart – there are a lot of parallels!



There was an article (another one I can’t locate at the moment) which documented that every aggressive coyote killed in a particular location had human food in their stomach contents. So basically, it was humans who were rewarding bad behaviour who were increasing the problem, and that was why an education program was so badly needed. This article says something similar:

So here’s a tagline you could use for your education campaign: “Stop feeding the sociopath”.

There is a line from the last article I posted which I think says it all (and kind of proves my point comparing psychopaths/sociopaths with wild animals).

Read the following line, and then read it again but this time substitute the word ‘sociopath’ for ‘coyote’ and son/daughter/friend etc… for ‘dog’:

“If you think a coyote is trying to play or mate with your dog, chances are it is trying to eat your dog, so don’t let them run together.”

Annie, a very very good response to Donna’s very very good article.

ErinB and I both had bears come into our yards, find food and keep coming back….I have a bear trap set for mine for another few days, but like most mooches he has taken a powder for a few days and I am sure he will be back as soon as the trap is removed.

Of course in the case of the wild animals, we really are NOT taming them…and one thing I did learn when I was a wild life photographer and worked for my P-sperm donor who was also a wild animal dealer, not only filming animals but importing them, is that WILD ANIMALS are STILL wild animals. You can make them unafraid of humans but you can’t “domesticate them”—-even if you take a lion or tiger cub off it’s mother the second it is born and nurse it by bottle or on your family dog, it is NOT GOING TO BE A DOG OR A PUDDY CAT when it grows up, it will still be a lion or a tiger with the lion or tiger’s disposition, just no fear of man–which means that when it gets pithed, as large cats tend to do, it strikes out with teeth and claws just like it does in the world, and without any FEAR of humans.

That’s why I stories from people about how “sweet” my pet cougar is or my pet wolf, or my pet Pit bull dog….”sweetie pie” may not have hurt you YET but GENETICS WORK and you can’t domesticate an animal in one or two generations, a wild animal is a wild animal, and there is a reason our ancestors didn’t domesticate the zebra instead of the donkey….the zebra cannot be reliably domesticated no how many generations you have it in captivity….and they are very prone in anger to reach around and literally bite your arm off, they are NOT just cute donkeys in striped PJs. They are DANGEROUS animals. There is also a reason our ancestors domesticated the house cat and not the lion or tigers…..and house cats are only half-way domesticated just because of the nature of the beast.

Cattle have been domesticated for generations, but buffalo even if hand raised are still dangerous animals when they grow up who still must be very carefully handled by professionals in order not to get killed or seriously hurt. (rare exceptions)

Humans as a species have intermarried so that in most case the general disposition can’t be seen by just observing the “breed” or race or body type, the human species is pretty much a mongrel type, the only way we can decide whether one is trustworthy or whether like EB’s bear who found food and kept coming back, or whether like Donna and Terry’s Psycho Squirrel, if you treat them kindly they are willing to tear in and rob and destroy, and pith on the plate to show their contempt is to get close enough to assess the personality and behavior, the honesty, and compassion. Sometimes we end up like Terry and Donna with our homes or our hearts ripped open and damaged, before we even know our “friend” is a psychopath….I’m just glad they didn’t feed the cute little bear.

Oh, dear…I loved this squirrel post. So like the human psycho’s. The parallel is amazing.


‘We weren’t doing something stupid, like feeding squirrels.. ‘ glad that you see the error of your ways. snort. 🙂

edit: oops, had another line in there, that wasn’t yours. fixed now. Copy and paste can be dangerous!


Annie – Great post and lots to consider!

Your post should be a thread article, so that it gets the comment it deserves. Why don’t you ask Donna to use it as such?

Donna, you are absolutely right!

When I talk to people who have a relative or child in prison and they say “Johnny made a MISTAKE and robbed a bank.” I want to scream NO!!!!! HE MADE A ****CHOICE**** AND ROBBED A BANK.

A “mistake” is when you add 2 +2 and get 5, but getting a gun and going into a bank and demanding money is not a MISTAKE, it is a CHOICE.

There are times we make “choices” like you and Terry did with feeding the squirrels because we DON’T KNOW what the consequences will be in hand feeding wild animals (even squirrels) and those choices are UNWISE choices but are from lack of knowledge, not like the guy who goes into the bank with a gun to demand money, because HE KNOWS DAMN WELL IT IS WRONG TO ROB A BANK, BUT CHOOSES TO DO IT ANYWAY.

So sometimes we, in our lack of knowledge about psychopaths, make the “choice” to forgive someone’s lie, or dishonesty and to continue to TRUST them not to do it again in the future. By the time we realize that our CHOICE to overlook this behavior was a MISTAKE, we may be badly damaged.

What about dolphins? Are they tame and safe to train? They seem like the pets of the sea, but they are dangerous sometimes, and unpredictable. So are dogs, though. I know, random dolphin comment, but I’m curious. ^_^

Changed: That is the most quotable comment ever! I’m going to say that when somebody talks about squirrels next time.

Annie and Ox Drover: I agree with you both. Great posts!

Donna: This was a very good example. Not too long ago we invited my sociopath to dinner. He ate and left, nothing too bad. Then he started inviting himself to meals. He kept coming back to eat whenever he wanted to. Then he started coming over to do anything, without calling, and without being invited. He finally started to walk around OUR house like he owned the place. 🙁 He was just like this squirrel. Felt like he deserved everything and took it, after our kindness.

Dear Near,

I think if I got your story straight this P is your father, right? Well, change the locks if necessary, or if he comes again uninvited. Just don’t let him in, and say, “Dad this is not a convenient time right now, next time you would like to come to visit, please call first.” Then close the door in his face.

Near,, my experience with wild animals is that most are not “tameable” but a few are reliable as pets and not dangerous. Others may be for a while, then one day just kill you, like the unpredictability of fighting breeds of dogs, pet wolves and pet wild cats.

Even some domestic animals are dangerous if not controlled, pigs are one example and have in the past been responsible for killing people on a fairly regular basis and are capable if improperly controlled even today. Especially the males and females with small ones.

I have “taken in” people who needed a place to stay and had them do the same thing, Near—pretty soon it felt like they had the deed to my home and were allowing me to stay there at their grace. That sense of ENTITLEMENT to what you have.

I hate to sound like a total jerk but I seriously dislike squirrels, raccoons and so forth. I can’t stand it when people feed wild animals – or the stories you hear like the Japanese tourist in Yellowstone who saw a Bison on the side of the road and sent his 5 year old to stand next to it so he could get a picture and the kid was trampled to death….

I have several friends that feed these animals and have trays of cat food on their front porches and think it is so cute. I refrain from saying much as they just don’t get it. Amazingly enough the person I know who does this the most and has a large group of animals on her front stoop every night (she lives in the mountains) is also in the throws of a huge break-up with a person I deem one of those “shadow syndrome” types – there is a book by this name and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT – it talks about something I think Donna or Oxy recently posted on – how the person who is not a FULL BLOWN N/P/S is actually more dangerous as we see the normal parts and think we can love them enough to have them treat us well…

I have known this couple for 3-4 years and at first the way he treated her in public made me say to her that I hoped one day I would find a man who treated me as he treated her… but a few months in when she told me her man was in arrears on child support to a previous relationship of over 50K and she had been paying it for him I knew instantly what he was. And the more she told me the more I realized what she was dealing with – and she kept being very co-dependent and excusing his behaviors that she knew were wrong or fixing it for him. Now she is in terrible terrible agony as he finally left her after treating her miserably as she watched her beloved mother die of lung cancer…

I fully expect to hear about a mountain lion attacking and killing her dog or a big brouhaha on her front porch at some point in the not too distant future as those types of critters are seen up there on a not too infrequent basis.

The thing that got me on all of this is that a few summers ago as I sat in my dining room which is open to my living room I heard a tremendous noise in the pipe of my wood burning stove. I thought a bird had possibly gotten caught in it somehow (in mid July no less). Turns out a black squirrel had ripped the wood off of my chimney box and tore through the wire and metal cap / spark arrester to try and get into my house. Thank goodness I had the stove door fully closed at the time. The squirrels also for a time tormented my next door neighbor – got to nesting in her attic space and there were no pest control services willing to deal with it. We have a neighbor down the street that feeds the squirrels peanuts making them less afraid of the rest of us. They have come into my yard and not been afraid when I have tried to shoo them away – have instead become somewhat aggressive. This is all because one woman thinks it is okay – despite the rest of us asking her to please stop. I am sure if she had to pay for the pest removal of my neighbor and fixing my chimney box and cap she might think twice but as the damage is to other people she does not care. Sick.

I don’t think feeding squirrels is stupid, it’s normal human pro-social behaviour. After all that’s how humans and dogs evolved together and became a ‘team’ that helped both survive with better odds than alone. Most frequently it’s merely, as Oxy said, uneducated. Once you know that squirrels, unlike say the birds at your feeder, don’t know where to draw the line it’s easier to forgo feeding them, and recognize what seems to be cuteness for what it really is.

I think where the problem lies is with the disinformation we see around us, which teaches us to overlook and disregard boundary violations, both human and animal. If we hadn’t all been primed to not see and recognize when normal behaviour has started to change to something which is not reciprocal it wouldn’t have been such a problem. If you’d stopped feeding them the moment they started to target you with their ‘aw look at me I’m so cute’ tail-twitching and ‘poor hungry me – gee how’d I get onto your porch?’ looks I doubt you’d have had such a problem.

And, of course, I’m saying this as a person with a ‘criminal record’. I have a picture of myself and friends, from the time I first moved to the National Park, feeding a carrot to a deer through our sliding door. Feeding squirrels isn’t half as stupid as letting a full grown deer get part-way into your living room!

Near – I have to laugh at your post because I have the same problem with my children’s father. We have a fairly amicable parenting agreement but he seems to pop in and make himself at home wandering around the house, except for my bedroom thank God. I haven’t yet figured out how to graciously prevent some of it but I am working on it. We do have him to a meal once in awhile and vice versa but the going into the girls bedrooms and so forth and walking into the back yard to play with the dog a makes me uncomfortable like he is marking his territory and well you get it.

Ox Drover: Yeah, it’s my dad, again! How did you know? I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by mentioning him all the time. Anyway, I have started to tell him off sometimes. He called one time and told me he’d be at my house at 10, and I told him no. So then he tried to bribe me by telling me he’d bring breakfast and we’d all eat together. I still said no and then told him not to come over at all and that was just the way it is and to get over it. I wish I could do that all the time, but I felt bad after that. 🙁

Pigs? Are you serious!? I just stick with my little puppies. Beagles, mostly. I’m kind of scared of bigger dogs, like pitbulls. I’m very small, like 90 pounds, so I stay away from pitbulls and others like that. My uncle owns some and they constantly attack him and each other! 🙁

Yep, the sense of entitlement! That’s what I was trying to say. It is UNREAL! He is that way at his job too. Does nothing, but wants the most money. He feels he derserves it for all his hard work. :/

Oxy, great posts, as always, both the one about wild animals eventually turning on you no matter how tame they may seem at first, and about how one small favour can lead to squatters that its hard to get rid of. Also, the one about choice.

One/Joy – thank you!

Near – great point about dolphins (who doesn’t like dolphins – they’re so cute?!?), and sorry to hear about your P’s escalating behaviour.

Breckgirl – wow, oh wow. Nothing more dangerous than a mountain lion, and great points about the danger of the ‘shadow person’. I think your neighbour who feeds the squirrels and doesn’t care about how it affects her neighbours might just qualify as one. On the other hand, your friend who leaves food on their front porch in mountain-lion terroritory is just a big old accident waiting to happen. But not just to them, to everyone in the vicinity.

breckgirl: Yes! It is just like that. He even checks the mail sometimes! He tried to fall asleep in my mom’s bed one time! Crazy stuff, as he just wanders around and plays with my dogs too! I think we might have to throw manners out the window and just tell them to go away. Sorry I missed your post! Everybody here posts so quickly and I usually take my sweet ass time when I reply! ^_^

Annie: Yeah, dolphins rock. I just had a thought, though. Remember the movie Free Willy? Made everybody think killer whales were loving and great! Yet they hunt and murder sharks and are actually one of ther most deadly in the sea. That fits in great with your point on movies and their influence on kids and society.

Dear Near and Breckgirl,

What about the killer whale that killed his trainer not too long ago?

Setting BOUNDARIES for people is not only OKAY, it is NECESSARY.

It is showing others how they are allowed to treat you.

You set boundaries first VERBALLY. That is what you did Near, when you said “No, don’t come over at 10, don’t bring breakfast.”

Breck, your X may not be aware that he is overstepping by wandering around your home like he is now a guest but lives there….is he a psychopath? You said you had a fair at least co-parenting relationship with him. What you might do is to just tell him, “John, I’d appreciate it if you would just not wander all around the house when you visit here, but visit with Cutie Pie and Sweetie Pie in the living room or den.” He may have “his feelings” hurt or he may become angry, but IT IS YOUR HOUSE, AND YOU SET THE RULES FOR GUESTS, and he is a GUEST not entitled.

Near, same thing. If your dad shows up at the door, YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO LET HIM IN….IT IS YOUR HOUSE. If you don’t want ANYone there, you do not have to let them in or feel guilty. “I’;m sorry, now is not a convenient time, please call before you come next time. BYE!”

I had a “friend” (psychopath) that I had let “move in on” me and I had told her and her husband that they could not live here at the farm any more in their motor home….and she would come back adn take things when I was not home…so I told her,, “do not come here without calling first.” Well, she would catch me at a time she THOUGHT I might be gone and just show up at the gate and call JUST BEFORE SHE DROVE IN and she was surprised I was home and she said “Oh, but I wouldn’t have come in if you hadn’t been home.” Yea, right, she was going to drive 40 miles 1 way on the CHANCE I’d be home and NOT come in if I wasn’t here? DUH! Yea, I believed that– NOT! So I told her, “I think it would be best if you would call 24 HOURS IN ADVANCE next time you plan to come”….well, she never came back again….

They will continue to cross your boundaries as LONG AS YOU ALLOW IT AND DO NOT SAY “STOP!”

But when you set a boundary, you must be prepared to sever the relationship if they DEFY the boundary.

In January I set a boundary with a woman who had been my best friend for 30+ years—-and she violated that boundary and as bad as I hate it, and as much as I realize she is depressed and h er husband is an abuser, I will NOT BE TREATED the way she and he treated me when THEY INVITED ME to their house.

I am prepared to let go of any relationship where the person abuses me in a way that I find uncomfortable. It is a matter of respect and consideration. If people treat me with disrespect and unkindness, or mooch off of me, why do I need them in my life?

Near, I was thinking the exact same thing about killer whales. The whale which killed that trainer in California (or was it Florida?) was previously in Vancouver and had attacked trainers there before. But everyone just disregarded that, it seems.

There have been many reports of attacks by dolphins that get hushed up, because it would hurt tourist dollars. I’m out of my sphere of expertise here, but I think those attacks have more to do with how the dophins are being treated than any natural inclination to attack humans. They’re extremely intelligent animals who shouldn’t be used like animals in a petting zoo.

There was a fascinating post here a couple of years ago (by Kathleen Hawk?) about a book ‘The way of the dophin’ (or something like that). It was a business recommendation that advised taking a dolphin’s strategy to life. Most times dolphins are happy and carefree, social and nonaggressive (like carps) except when they encounter sharks. Then they become like sharks themselves and exchange bite for bite, attack for attack, until the sharks are driven off.

Oxy, we posted over each other. Great point about moving your boundaries outwards as exploiters are trying to push them inwards.

I’ve only ever heard to keep repeating yourself: “Please call before you come. Please call before you come. Please call. etc …”

Your way is much better.

Ox Drover: Yeah, I understand. I’m going to start making boundaries, even though I should not have any contact with him. This will be a start. Except I’m going to have him call DAYS in advance, not 24 hours. He’s not using my computer when he’s here anymore, I’ve decided. ^_^

Annie: Seems we were all thinking about killer whales! I don’t think it’s right that incidents are hushed in order to preserve tourist dollars, not just animal incidents either. I also don’t believe the animals should be thrown into a zoo.

Monkeys are also extremely intelligent and can use tools since they have hands, but they are also thrown into a zoo. Sad stuff really. I don’t mean to sound like a hippie here. ^_^

I wonder how many attacks are from animals that have been treated badly. I’ve noticed it in pitbulls. Some are so friendly and some are monsters. The ones that are monsters are usually chained all day to something or in a cage all day. Were they chained because they were agreessive before, or were they fine and then became this way from neglect? Just like the nature and nurture debate in humans.

Donna: TWIGGY!! I love him! *cuddles Twiggy* ^_^

A bit back I used the wolf puppy similar analogy as is very well fit my x-spath. I had all the warning signs but I took the wolf in because he was cute and quite and needed a home. I figured I would be one to tame him…

Oh yes, and the first thing he did when I brought him to my place was piss everywhere…


Too funny!

This is a good article, the comments to it as well.


I am not familiar with your story, but am interested in knowing more about what it’s like to have spath for a father, what your experiences were. My three kids’ dad is a spath – they think that he’s a great, fun guy – he lovebombs them, giving them whatever they want (even if it’s something that he can’t afford). Some of the things that he has done (in the past) have practically caused my heart to stop at times. To me, he’s a walking headache.

bluejay: I’ve spoken about it in the “everything about the sociopath invites us in” blog in some more detail. I also thought he was a great, fun guy. I used to look up to him when I was little. My parents divorced early on, though, so I did not grow up with him around. I learned about sociopathy and noticed his signs on my own. Then I remembered things about our encounters that weren’t weird at the time, but stood out later on after learning. A walking headache, no doubt.

How old are your children, if you feel safe telling me? I was around 5 and 6 when my parents divorced, and I thought he was a great, fun guy then.


I have two boys (14 and 11) and a girl (7). When I can, I’ll read your post under the article that you mentioned. What brought you to LoveFraud? We co-parent right now, the spath, friends, and family members watching the kids during the times that I work. The spath seems to be a good dad, liking the role. He has all the traits of a spath, though, being a very depressing reality for me. I dread the future – what the spath might do (he’s not totally law-abiding, so I worry about jail being in his future), how his actions will affect my children. I don’t want his stupidity to harm my children – that’s what I would prefer, but I realize that I can’t control (and I don’t want to control another human being) him – if he acts stupidly, he’ll get the consequences (like he should), reaping what he sows.

bluejay:Do your boys know anything about sociopathy yet? Have you told them what their dad is, or even told them the general signs without mentioning their dad? Maybe tell them the signs and see if they can draw their own conclusion. I was in middle school when I started to see my dad for what he was, right after I visited and spent time with him.

Then I realized all my visits with him were toxic and dangerous. I hope your kids are having better visits, but I don’t really know. I don’t want to scare you or anything, but my visits were horrible. He did drugs in front of me, his friends got drunk and fought with me, he lied to me. They started out innocent enough, or so I thought, but they got worse.

You’re in a tough spot. I ended up coming here after resarching online. Just kind of stumbled in. It’s a good place to be, especially in your case. ^_^ Too bad you have to co-parent, though. It’s bad enough to have his influence in the genes, but to have him around to… ugh.

FYI – for anyone interested in the “Strategy of the Dolphin” post by Kathleen Hawk I was mentioning, it’s here:

Admittedly this is going way out on a tangent; it’s not quite the same as mad squirrels going splat against Donna’s glass door! However, it’s a great post that helped me a lot when I first came here. And the way she describes boundary setting in relation to reciprocity was especially helpful to me.

Bluejay and Near,
There is a concept I’ve been thinking about lately in terms of teaching children how to protect themselves against future influence by manipulators &/or predators. I’ve termed it “immunization”.

My mother was a full-blown psychopath (sadistic bully type but well regarded by most people). And yet I believe that most people saw her, at least on some level, for who she really was but never said anything because it would have been like poking a hornet’s nest with a stick. The thing that did the most damage to me was that not only did NO-ONE ever say anything bad about her (they wouldn’t have dared), but no-one ever even spoke in general terms to me about the characteristics of a good person vs. a bad or unhealthy person. And yet if someone had just made the effort to explain to me that, in general, “these types” of behaviours are OK, but “those types” are not OK, it would have given me a basis to question her behaviour and immunize me against believing that it was my fault for somehow provoking her to constantly attack me. I wouldn’t have taken in the “you’re an unworthy person” message quite so deeply.

There are so many times where it’s just not possible to remove a child from being around an exploitatvie type of person, although we should try to do that whenever possible. But we also need to equip our children with self-defense that’s appropriate for their age and skill-level for those times we can’t. I’ve been thinking that there are probably all kinds of seemingly small yet significant ways to immunize a child against this kind of influence, in a way that doesn’t create unnecessary drama.

Not sure if any of this is appropriate to your situation, but thought I’d throw that thought out there.

Annie: Thanks for the link! It was very helpful for me, actually. I somehow missed that blog. I’ve read most things on here now, but there are some blogs I’ve missed. Thank you! ^_^

Yeah, I agree with little ways to make the children immune. That’s kind of what I was trying to say with the general signs thing. Of course, you put it in to a well thought out post instead of my random blurbs! ^_^

Annie—great idea bringing that article back up, it IS very appropriate to this discussion.

Bluejay and Near and Annie, I agree that kids need to be immunized from exposure to measles, mumps, chicken pox and PSYCHOPATHS! I think that concept is very VERY good!

We need to get Dr. Leedom in on this. I bett’ya she has got an answer. I am going to e mail her right now about this. I advise ALL parents who are co-parenting with a psychopath to get on her blog anyway.

Okay I just e mailed Liane about this question so maybe she will have some input, if not today maybe she can do an article about it. This is an IMPORTANT QUESTION and one that I think deserves some intense thought and not just a “one shot” answer. Of course a lot will depend on if the kid is visiting with the parent, living with the P parent, and the age of the child….lots of considerations.

I started a small blog on that topic (small things people can do to immunize children &/or help survivors) that I haven’t done anything with yet (it’s still in draft form). Would love your feedback if you’d be interested in taking a look. Bloggert has the address if you’re interested.

Edit: My goals are twofold:
1) to canvas survivors of severe child abuse to ask them if there were small things that people did (or they wished people did) that significantly helped them survive or deal with the abuse
2) to provide a list of ‘small things’ bystanders/witnesses of child abuse can do to help immunize a child that doesn’t put them at risk or draw them too far into situations they’d prefer to avoid. I want to make it easy for people to reach out to help in small ways, instead of making into a momentous effort that people just avoid.

Annie, you can forward it to me at [email protected] and I will take a look at it, or you can just send it to Donna and see if she’d like to publish it.

I like your “goals” and part of the problem I think is that “bystanders” don’t want to get involved in a situation where they think it might impact back on them for “tattling”‘

One of the concepts I tried to get across to kids in my care is that TATTLING (a no no) is coming and saying “Johnny called me a doo doo” and “TELLING” IS coming and saying “Johnny is playing with matches”

We don’t need to tattle but we do need to TELL!

Near, Annie, and Ox Drover,

I feel like I live my life, but I’m on alert (for bad things happening via the spath). My children are aware that I think that their dad is a spath (they’ve seen me reading books, going to this web site, etc.), getting REALLY familiar with the topic. My oldest boy has figured out that his father lies and steals (we believe he stole money out of his wallet last fall), also the spath is not a wiz with managing money. He has seen the sheriff come to our house (on more than one occasion) over various legal issues (eg. the spath owed taxes on his business, so the county was going after him, etc.). These encounters make me very anxious, taking a while to “shake it off,” feeling mentally stabilized again. The other two children adore their father, thinking that he’s a good man. I have to control my tongue when I talk about the spath, this I’ll admit. The spath is a financial nitwit (I really do hate namecalling, but this is a fact about this man). As far as my kids, they are the blessings in this ordeal, each one having a good personality, disposition. For me, I want to avoid, prevent my kids and myself from experiencing more embarrassing, traumatic experiences. I haven’t always kept my cool in the past when something has come to light that the spath has done. He’s a sneaky type of guy, doing things behind your back and when his actions are revealed, he has no shame or embarrassment, or he comes up with a b.s. story.


Any parenting suggestions is always appreciated, keeping the “notes” in my mental file (referring back to them at appropriate times). Your blog sounds like it will be helpful to others who could use some guidance in dealing with spaths. The more help, the better. Finally, the spath is not a sadistic type of person – he loves to spend time with his kids, going to ball games, scouting events, school activities, etc. He really has been a hands-on dad (from the time they were babies until the present), having told me that he doesn’t want to be like how his own father was, an uninvolved dad who didn’t know how to parent.


Donna – you have your haha on today!

This thread has prompted me to comment. I don’t have any kids, but my X spath has two and I am so afraid that they are going to be just like him. Especially his son. I pray for them all the time and hope that their mother will have good influence over them. I don’t know her, but everything points to her being a good person. The kids are at very critical ages in their development.


Breckgirl – wow, long time no see! I have an idea about your dinners with spath ex. Always meet at a restaurant or outdoors in a park for a picnic – and change your locks.


I love the parallels between squirrels and spaths! Priceless! One of the first things I thought of when reading this was how, when I run in a park near my house, the squirrels, who’ve been fed by park visitors, literally jump out at me on the path. They block my way, as if demanding to be fed, and I’m forced to go off the path to get around them. I’ve actually screamed and jumped aside, as it can be pretty scary when they seem to come so aggressively out of nowhere.

One of the ways my ex has tried to worm his way back into my life has been to ask me to go out to eat with him and our daughter, for her benefit of course in being able to have a “family” meal. Each time I fell for it (last time was a year ago), it started with an innocent meal, progressed to him pushing for us to be together more for “family” time, and culminated with verbal abuse as he accused me of leading him on. Never again!

I hope you get the article published on the blog, as it sounds very pertinent to my situation. I’m gathering info on anything I can do to try to protect my daughter from being further manipulated by her spath dad.

one/joy – thank you for your concern and no worries – my children’s father is NOT a spath The spath in my life was the man I dated after our divorce and he is a violent criminal at this point – has been in and out of jail and the psych ward for his craziness-thinks he is God or a King at various times – obviously not like that when we met but what I couldn’t see was he was on his way there…) – my ex-hubby is a very passive aggressive person and emotionally limited – avoidant relationship style. So we co-parent fairly amicably – of course I have to bend over quite a bit to keep things harmonious for my kids but they have gotten to an age where they get it and they would rather have limited contact with him and live with me most of the time – they wish for full time but don’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings. I have discussed with them how he seems to have no difficulty hurting theirs and they need to put theirs first – seeing as they are 9 and 11 and he is 56.

In fact I just finished a book on the three basic styles of relationship – avoidant, secure and anxious attachments and it blew me away. The book is called Attached by Levine and Heller – http://www.attachedthebook.com/ It is clear that the N/S/P’s and other disordered people are avoidant (although you can be an avoidant and not be an N/S/P) – this book reassures those of us who have been involved with avoidant relaters that truthfully 50-60% are secure relaters and the rest are anxious types or avoidants – even if you started out as a secure a relationship with a Spath can or probably will make you into an anxious type. As I read the book I was sitting next to my ex-h in a car as we drove our oldest daughter to her first week of sleep away camp. It was a long ride and I was reading the book and came upon a section the described the nightmare my marriage was as I sat next to him. Unbelievable experience and sense of loss of 15 years of my life due to the cycle that develops between avoidant and anxious. They talk about how it changes your brain and personality to be involved with them.

Here is the good news ladies – I am dating someone who is a secure relater for truthfully the first time in my life. My fears and doubts about being involved with anyone at all have diminished as I have learned to watch for the red flags etc – but even more this book helped me to see clearly the behavior my boyfriend engages in so very naturally – the clear communication, the supportive words and actions when he senses I am anxious – and none of it is an effort fr him but comes out of a natural way of being – being loving and kind. I wish for you all the same sorts of relationships with loving secure people. I hope I am raising my children to be the same.

You guys! I got jumped by a gang of Squirrels during a visit to Walmart. Somebody call the police! Five people died, hundreds maimed, and a few were mimed!! Mimes are scary! Nah, just kidding, except for the mime part. ^_^

Mustcahio: Ah, this all sounds familiar. We went through that as well. We went out with him for Easter to eat and then he made plans to go out in the future and even on other holidays like 4th of July and Christmas! It’s like he is trying to mark his territory and reserve his place so nobody else can move in on it. He didn’t say my mom was making a move on him, though. He sure did love that “family time” though! @[email protected]

Good for you that you said never again! That’s what WE need to do. He’s too boring to make dinner conversation with anyway. He can’t, actually. He is too empty, I guess, or maybe we don’t have anything in common. You know, since I’m not into his activities. 😛

Annie: I hope your article is published here too. Your posts are great, so this must be even better. ^_^

breckgirl: That book sounds AWESOME! Can you give me some bullet points on what makes the avoidant attachment? Nothing too long, if you don’t want to, but I’m very interested in that.

Good job on a healthy relationship! Most people don’t even understand how toxic past relationships really are until they are in a healthy one again. ^_^

Fun article Donna, I have to buy safflower seed for my birdfeeders. The squirrills dont like safflower seeds but if I put regular sunflower mix the squirrills will empty my bird feeders in a few hours, sometime scratching most of the seed on the ground..
My Xspath BF was happy with a peanut butter sandwich, he preferred that over a five course gourmet meal…he lived on peanut butter and rootbeer….

I’ll do my best. Essentially all people long for companionship – as you know in prison solitary confinement is considered the worst punishment.
The authors split people into types based on one of three styles of attaching to others. This comes out of research watching infants and their mothers etc.

There are “Secures” who are genuinely loving and not thrown off balance by the other person and are emotionally attuned.

There are the Anxious – who are loving and wonderful when in an unactivated state but when a perceived threat appears they basically become activated and over focus etc….

There are the Avoidant – they basically activate the anxious constantly as they seek relationship and then seek to escape and the cycle of attaching to an anxious person and then activating that person’s fear of loss and the anxious person then further activating the avoiders fear of being smothered – well you get it…

Secures can handle an attachment with another secure (best)

Secure and an Anxious – the effect of a Secure attach style on an Anxious attach style is phenomenal – calms them and allows them to enjoy their lives… (yay for me being in this situation and thank you honey even though you aren’t reading this)…

Avoidant style -> avoidants and anxious styles often end up together – and have difficulty breaking up. The Avoidant – like all people / styles often wants to be in relationship – but once in the relationship experiences great discomfort – feels trapped / smothered etc… And their reaction which is to distance themselves emotionally and or physically.

I will give you a personal example from my current relationship – my bf lives about 600 miles from me so phone and text is important daily. At one point early on he had asked why I rarely called as I did not call him except to return his calls. He wondered why and I explained that I did not want to bother him and he teased that yes he might just see my call and laugh as it rolled into voicemail. He was truly joking but he had hit on my secret fear of not being responded to – I then explained he could be sure I would not call as the thought of him laughing as he watched a call from me go to vm caused me upset and so I was not anymore inspired to call him now than before he had asked. My anxiety over an unanswered call made me choose not to call at all in order to avoid that as I know myself well enough to know that if a call was not returned in a relatively reasonable amount of time I would become nervous about the state of the relationship. I had been treated badly before and want at all costs to avoid feeling that pain again. I wish this was not true of me but it is and so I avoid putting myself in a position where I will suffer that anxiety.

My bf actually usually answers my calls and I have gitten more comfortable making them. He is a busy attorney. Today I called him and got his voicemail – left a message saying I was just calling to hear his voice and would talk to him later. I was okay as I know him well enough now (and he has made me feel secure enough) that it would take an extended period of time (a full day) before I would experience any concern. Later in the day I called again as I wanted to suggest something about an upcoming vacation. He did not answer this time either. A few minutes later while I was on the phone with a client I missed his return call. He left me a message saying he saw he had missed some calls and that he was having a crazy busy day but he loved me and missed me and he would call me at the end of the day “and oh by the way I love you”… He is a “Secure attacher” and he knowing that I might be upset at a 2nd unanswered call interrupted his business to let me know what was going on and to reassure me of his love for me. This may sound small to some of you but knowing that he cares about my feelings is huge for me. It is at age 46 a new experience for me as I have never been involved in an intimate relationship and certainly no one in my family of origin cared about my feelings. It was all about them always and I grew very good at putting aside my wants and needs to such a degree I often have difficulty even knowing what they are….

Near I don’t know if I answered your question. I do highly recommend the book as it explained so much to me about relationships – other than the one I had with the S’path but also shed light there as well. And I hope it will help me to teach my two precious daughters as well….

hens, ewwww, yuck, that’s a red flag.
seriously, it is, because it’s what little kids eat.
Have you ever seen a toddler going through a stage when he gets really finicky and then will only eat one thing for about a month? Spaths do that too.

My spath ate mostly cheerios during these times. Boxes and boxes of them. And canned peaches too.

I think that the infantile aspect of them includes their taste buds in many cases. They prefer the foods that little kids like, sweet stuff and not much variety.

Their palates are not very complex. Not that my spath didn’t like me to take him to fancy restaurants, but I think the point of that was just because he was taking from me and being waited on. In truth, he just would rather eat cheerios and sit around on the couch naked except for his teeshirt, sans diaper.


I am definitely the anxious type unless I do feel very secure in the relationship. The X spath was an avoidant as I can see all spaths being.

So funny you talked about your BF asking you why you didn’t call. My X spath asked me that at the very beginning of our relationship. That is just not me; I don’t call men even when I am in a relationship. I am just not the initiator much on that end. It drives me crazy though because it’s one of the things I think about when I ruminate. I keep wondering…why did he ask me that? He liked me that much that he WANTED me to call? Of course that is not it, but he made me feel that way. Obviously just another manipulation OR…he is so used to women falling all over him and the OW in triangulation was calling and texting him non stop…he probably wondered why I wasn’t doing the same! HA!! But I love that…it really did show him that I was different and not like the other bimbos running after him. But he dumped me, too…disappeared…went back to his wife. But you know what?? I felt OK about that. That is his wife and that’s where he is supposed to be. It felt better than him being single and dumping me if that makes sense to anyone.


Great observation about food and the spaths.

Louise, yes my S’path asked the same. I’m just not one to do that unless I feel super comfortable…

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